These letters trace what the editor James Sexton describes as Huxley’s “gradual transformation from witty jester to determined seeker of peace, both for himself and for mankind.” This generous sampling of over a thousand letters (about a tenth of Huxley’s output) opens with a note that Huxley sent at the age of seven to his brother Julian: “Thank you very much for the cyclopedia. I now know everything, from who invented dice to the normal temperature of the sea cucumber.” Huxley’s intellectual voracity, no less than his intellectual eclecticism, was already in evidence.

In early adolescence, Huxley was rendered nearly blind by a vicious bout of corneal keratitis; the affliction may have saved his life, since he was refused entry into Britain’s armed services during World War I. He remained on Oxford’s almost totally...


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