Quotes from Aldous Huxley’s first novel, Crome Yellow (1921)

Aldous Huxley 1927

I recently finished reading Aldous Huxley‘s first novel, Crome Yellow (1921). For those who only know the author from Brave New World, this is very much a departure, focusing as it does on a young man’s summer holiday at an English country estate. Using this as a premise, Huxley sets up a series of episodes satirizing the English country novel, as well as his nation and modern times in general. And yet, it actually contains what could easily be seen as a seed for Brave New World

In Chapter 22 a character named Mr. Scogan talks about how only madmen become great, that reasonable men never do. He details his beliefs of how saying man must wrestle power from the madmen, giving rise to the “Rational State.” This state, he says, will have “three main species,” – “the Directing Intelligences, the Men of Faith, and the Herd.” He says Denis (the main character) doesn’t fit into any of the three and would thus be killed.

Very interesting stuff indeed.

I’ve recently posted a detailed overview of the book, as well as detailed summaries of every chapter. In the future I foresee a number of posts related to this interesting novel, but for today I like to share some of my favorite quotes from the work, which I hope you enjoy – (Note: the page numbers correspond to the Bantam Books Classic edition, published in 1962)

“Two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes. Anything might be done in that time. Anything. Nothing. Oh, he had had hundreds of hours, and what had he done with them? Wasted them, split the precious minutes as though his reservoir were inexhaustible.” – (Page 1)

“A serious book about artists regarded as artists is unreadable; and a book about artists regarded as lovers, husbands, dipsomaniacs, heroes, and the like is really not worth writing again.” – (Page 13)

“Parallel straight lines, Denis reflected, meet only at infinity. He might talk forever of care-charmer sleep and she of meteorology till the end of time. Did one ever establish contact with anyone? We are all parallel straight lines.” – (Page 14)

“Things somehow seem more real and vivid when one can apply someone else’s ready-made phrase about them.” – (Page 16)

“One had a philosophy and tried to make life fit into it. One should have lived first and then made one’s philosophy to fit life… Life, facts, things were horribly complicated; ideas, even the most difficult of them deceptively simple. In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all was obscure, embroiled. Was it surprising that one was miserable, horribly unhappy?” – (Page 17)

“I can take nothing for granted, I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art, women – I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything that’s delightful. Otherwise I can’t enjoy it with an easy conscience.” – (Page 18)

“At the present time the Anglican clergy wear their collars the wrong way round. I would compel them to wear, not only their collars, but all their clothes, turned back to front–coat, waistcoat, trousers, boots–so that every clergyman should present to the world a smooth façade, unbroken by stud, button, or lace. The enforcement of such a liivery would act as a wholesome deterrent to those intending to enter the Church.” – (Page 34-35)

“‘This adolescence business,’ he repeated to himself every now and then, ‘is horribly boring.’ But the fact that he knew his disease did not help him to cure it.” – (Page 45)

“Eccentricity… It’s the justification of all aristocracies. It justifies a leisured classes and inherited wealth and privilege and endowments and all the other injustices of that sort. If you’re to do anything reasonable in this world, you must have a class of people who are secure, safe from public opinion, safe from poverty, leisured, not compelled to waste their time in the imbecile routines that go by the name of Honest Work.” – (Page 50)

“After all, what is reading but a vice, like drink or venery or any other form of excessive self-indulgence? One reads to tickle and amuse one’s mind; one reads, above all, to prevent oneself thinking.” – (Page 70)

“You’re in time to answer a question,” said Mr. Scogan. “We were arguing whether Amour were a serious matter or no. What do you think? Is it serious?”
“Serious?” echoed Ivor. “Most certainly.”
“I told you so,” cried Mary triumphantly.
“But in what sense serious?” Mr. Scogan asked.
“I mean as an occupation. One can go on with it without ever getting bored.”
“I see,” said Mr. Scogan. “Perfectly.”
“One can occupy oneself with it,” Ivor continued, “always and everywhere. Women are always wonderfully the same. Shapes vary a little, that’s all.” – (Page 74-5)

“Since the war we wonder at nothing. We have created a Caesarean environment and a host of Little Caesars has sprung up. What could be more natural?” – (Page 77)

“One is always alone in suffering; the fact is depressing when one happens to be the sufferer, but it makes pleasure possible for the rest of the world.” – (Page 77)

“The rising sun touched their faces. It was all extremely symbolic; but then, if you choose to think so, nothing in this world is not symbolical.” – (Page 102)

“One suffers so much,” Denis went on, “from the fact that beautiful words don’t always mean what they ought to mean.” – (Page 104)

“You are too much preoccupied with mere things and ideas and people to understand the full beauty of words. Your mind is not a literary mind.” – (Page 106)

“The technical, verbal part of literature is simply a development of magic. Words are man’s first and most grandiose invention.” – (Page 106)

“In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred women are as passive and innocent as the strawberries and cream.” – (Page 109)

“Whenever the choice has had to be made between the man of reason and the madman, the world has unhesitatingly followed the madman.” – (Page 111)

“If you want to get men to act reasonably, you must set about persuading them in a maniacal manner.” – (Page 112)

“It is humiliating to find how impotent unadulterated sanity is.” – (Page 112)

“Like every other good thing in this world, leisure and culture have to be paid for. Fortunately, however, it is not the leisured and the cultured who have to pay.” – (Page 116-17)

“Nature, or anything that reminds me of nature, disturbs me; it is too large, too complicated, above all too utterly pointless and incomprehensible.” – (Page 118)

“Would he ever be able to call his brain his own? Was there, indeed, anything in it that was truly his own, or was it simply an education?” – (Page 122)

“The trouble with the people and events of the present is that you never know anything about them.” – (Page 142)

“How gay and delightful life would be if one could get rid of all the human contacts! Perhaps, in the future, when machines have attained to a state of perfection – for I confess that I am, like Godwin and Shelley, a believer in perfectibility, the perfectibility of machinery – then, perhaps it will be possible for those who, like myself, desire it, to live in a dignified seclusion, surrounded by the delicate attentions of silent and graceful machines, and entirely secure from any human intrusion. It is a beautiful thought.” – (Page 142)

“Adventures and romance only take on their adventurous and romantic qualities at second-hand. Live them, and they are just a slice of life like the rest.” – (Page 144)

Aldous Huxley 1927
Aldous Huxley in 1927

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