Waugh and Psychedelia

This week’s Spectator reviews a book by Rob Chapman about the history of psychedelic drugs. The title is Psychedelia and Other Colours . The book includes a consideration of the contribution made by novelist Aldous Huxley to the popularization of drugs such as mescalin and LSD.

Waugh was an admirer of Huxley’s early works such as Antic Hay, but he felt that the later works written after Huxley settled in California were inferior. A possible exception may have been After Many a Summer Dies the Swan which Waugh read as an introduction to his research on Forest Lawn cemetery for The Loved One (Letters, 247). The Spectator review by Ian Thomson quotes Waugh’s views as summarized in a 1955 symposium on Huxley, written before the furor in the press over LSD:

Evelyn Waugh was not alone in thinking that Huxley had gone bonkers in his American exile. (‘Huxley has done more than change climate and diet.’)

Waugh’s article on Huxley, entitled “Youth at the Helm and Pleasure at the Prow” and mostly devoted to a reconsideration of Antic Hay, is reproduced in Essays, Articles and Reviews (470).

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