Aldous Huxley published his first book, a collection of poems, in 1916, shortly after his twenty-second birthday.
The high summer of Victorian scientific optimism in which Aldous's grandfather had basked was long gone by the time Aldous reached intellectual maturity.
So — thanks in part to Grandpa Huxley's efforts — was the social atmosphere in which serious intellectuals, at any rate in the Anglo-Saxon countries, could base programs for social reform on evangelical Christianity, as Dr. The second and third decades of the twentieth century were notoriously an age of failed gods and shattered conventions, to which many thoughtful people responded in obvious ways, retreating into nihilism, hedonism, and experimentalism.
It began in 1911, when, at the age of seventeen, he was afflicted with a disease of the eyes (eventually diagnosed as keratitis punctata, an inflammation of the corneas) that for several months rendered him actually and completely blind.
Huxley reacted to this disaster with heroic fortitude.
It was the essays, though, that were the essential Aldous Huxley for a large part of his readership.
A star-struck young visitor at the Huxleys' California house in 1939 wrote that: "I had been bitterly disappointed with [Huxley's sixth novel ] and unsympathetic to religious experiences, but of course it was Aldous of the Essays, … There is, as department-store sales assistants say, not much call for it nowadays.The word "metaphysics" does not even occur in the index of the current best-seller about human nature, Steven Pinker's , nor does Prof. Most of us, if challenged to disclose our metaphysical beliefs, would probably offer a part-baked dualism.He wrote his first novel while blind (it was never published), and spoke of his affliction only to crack jokes about it.His cousin Gervas Huxley came into his room one bitter winter morning to be greeted with: "You know, Gerry, there's one great advantage in Braille, you can read in bed without getting your hands cold." Huxley's later description of the state of his eyesight at the time he went up to Oxford in 1913 was as follows: "I was left …Aldous's mother was a granddaughter of the great evangelical headmaster Dr.Thomas Arnold, the "Doctor" in , originator of the "muscular Christianity" style of boarding-school education for boys, and father of the poet Matthew Arnold (who was, therefore, Aldous Huxley's great-uncle). Arnold was an intensely religious man, who, when headmaster of Rugby, was reported to break down and weep openly in front of the whole school at the story of Christ's Passion.I make no effort to board them, and when the noise of each departure has died down, 'Thank Goodness!' is what I say to myself in the solitude." Those remarks preface a horrified review of the first non-silent movie to strike box-office gold, A beneficent providence has dimmed my powers of sight, so that, at a distance of more than four or five yards, I am blissfully unaware of the full horror of the average human countenance. Magnified up to Brobdignagian proportions, the human countenance smiles its six-foot smile, opens and closes its thirty-two inch eyes, registered  soulfulness or grief, libido or whimsicality with every square centimeter of its several roods of pallid mooniness. For the first time I felt grateful for the defect of vision which had preserved me from a daily acquaintance with such scenes.gentle, inquiring, fascinating, and fascinated too with every fact, every thought, hesitatingly brought out with the amazed inflection of his voice …" Huxley's essays have now been gathered together in six volumes by Robert S.Baker of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and James Sexton of Camosun College in British Columbia.