Two Men of Their Time
Aldous Huxley and Philip Heseltine
1894 saw the birth of two men, Aldous Huxley and Philip Heseltine. Aldous was born in Godalming, the son of Leonard Huxley, a master at Charterhouse School, and his wife Julia. Philip was born in London (at the Savoy Hotel) to Arnold Heseltine and his second wife, Edith.
They both lived for a brief time in fine houses. Aldous was brought up in Prior’s Garth, Godalming, which had been built by Voysey in 1901. Philip was to spend time in his stepfather’s family home in Wales, built by G. F. Bodley and Philip Webb in 1869.
Both boys went to private schools. Aldous, at 7½ to Prior’s Field, the school his mother founded in 1902, and then to Hillside Preparatory School in Godalming. At the age of 5, Philip went to a school just off Sloane Square, very near his home in Hans Street, and at 9½ proceeded to Stone House, a private boarding school in Broadstairs where he spent the next four years.
They both lost a parent when young. Aldous’s mother died just before her 46th birthday in 1908 when Aldous was 14. Philip’s father died in 1897 when he was not yet three years old. In 1903 his widowed mother married a wealthy bachelor from Wales. Aldous’s father also remarried and moved to London.
Both boys were contemporaries at Eton and both won scholarships in 1908. Aldous was a King’s Scholar and lived in the central College buildings. Philip started at the same time as Aldous, but Philip’s family decided it was ‘not the done thing’ for wealthy parents to accept a scholarship, so he became a fee-paying pupil, an Oppidan, in Warre House, one of the better houses where a Mr Brinton was the housemaster. Both Aldous and Philip were piano pupils of Colin Taylor while at Eton. Aldous was forced to leave the school due to an eye infection in the Easter of 1911 and continued at home with tutors to read Braille, type and play music. Philip had urged his mother in March 1911 to let him leave school. In May she agreed and he left in the summer.
Aldous and Philip both went to Oxford in 1913. Aldous went to Balliol College, having regained enough sight to study. In 1916 he gained a 1st in English and the Stanhope Prize. Philip went to Christ Church and, although not winning a scholarship, reported well on his work. However he left Oxford in June 1914 as a commoner and, after attending University College, London, for a term, decided to devote himself entirely to music.
When war was declared in August 1914, both young men were exempted service, Aldous due to his eye problem and Philip on the grounds of physical incapacity.
Aldous, in his last term at Oxford in 1915, first visited Lady Ottoline Morrell at her home at Garsington near Oxford, where she enjoyed entertaining. As Ottoline said: ‘Garsington was a theatre where, week after week, a travelling company would arrive and play their parts’. There Aldous met Juliette Baillot, the governess to Ottoline’s son. Aldous and Julian, his brother, were frequent guests and D. H. Lawrence was to introduce Philip, whom he had met at Oxford, to Ottoline. Philip found Juliette Baillot attractive, and Lawrence wrote to him, ‘If you are fond of Mlle Baillot, then marry her’. However Philip married Minnie Lucy Channing in December 1916 and it was Julian Huxley who married Juliette Baillot in March 1919, the same year that Aldous married Maria Nys, a Flemish girl he had also met at Garsington. Both Aldous and Philip had one child.
Both men were friends of D. H. Lawrence. Philip went to live with Lawrence at Zennor, in Cornwall, for a short time in December 1915. Later, Aldous spent time travelling with Lawrence in Italy and France. Aldous’s wife, Maria, typed the first edition of Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley in 1928 and Aldous edited The letters of D. H. Lawrence after the latter’s death in 1930.
They both frequented the Cafe Royal in London, the accepted rendezvous for writers and artists. In 1922, after attending a Promenade Concert independently with friends, the parties went on to Verrey’s in Regent Street for a drink and Aldous, meeting Philip, questioned him as to why he had grown a beard. Aldous, in his second novel Antic Hay (1923), portrayed Philip, with his beard, and also his wife who was known as ‘Puma”. In 1925. Philip wrote to his old music master, Taylor, to say he had identified himself in the novel.
Philip became well known under his pseudonym, ‘Peter Warlock’, as a writer on music, a pioneer editor of early music and a composer. He wrote a biography of Delius (1923), whom he had met at Eton, and organised a Delius Festival (1929). He was also a prolific and articulate letter writer and journalist.
Philip died on December 16th , 1930, at 30 Tite St, Chelsea, in unusual circumstances, from gas poisoning in his flat. His body was not taken to Wales, but to Godalming. His father’s first wife was from a Godalming family, the Hulls, and had been buried in the old cemetery in Nightingale Road, Godalming. His father had then been buried beside her and now Philip was interred in the grave of his father’s first wife. This was Philip’s only connection with Godalming.
Aldous moved to California in 1937 and lived there with his second wife, becoming well known as a novelist, short story writer, poet and journalist. He died in America from cancer of the throat on November 22nd, 1963 - the day President Kennedy was assassinated. His ashes were brought back to England in 1971 to be buried at Compton cemetery, where his mother and father had been buried.
The stories of both men follow remarkably similar paths and have a Godalming connection, in one case at the beginning and in the other at the end.