The Devils Of Loudun, By Aldou

2321 words - 9 pages

'The Devils of Loudun', by Aldous Huxley 'The Devils of Loudun' is a historical account of religious fanaticism and sexual hysteria in seventeenth century France, and an investigation into the circumstances that led to the torture and execution of a local parson who, during a farcical ecclesiastical trial, was accused of having 'commerce with devils', and of bewitching a whole convent of nuns.Huxley's erudition was legendary (it was even said of him that he 'knew everything'), and the range of his knowledge is apparent when one considers the variety of references and digressions he uses to support his inquiries and perspicacious observations; he quotes with equal ease from enlightenment works like the 'Provincial Letters' of Pascal to the contemplative writings of the Zen Buddhists. As a psychological study 'The Devils…' offers a clear and convincing portrayal of unusual minds caught up in still stranger circumstances. As for the story, it is not at all surprising that Huxley chose to write about this particular episode in French history, as many of the events described exemplify themes that dominated his polemical novels and celebrated essays: present is the issue of man's 'ongoing obsession' with self-transcendence which was so pertinent in the excellent, infamous 'Doors of perception'; the dilemma that recurs throughout his fiction, that of the cloistered and suppressed mind dealing with passionate human emotion, is here in extremis. On a functional level, 'The Devils of Loudun' seeks to oppose humankind's tendency towards hypocrisy, malice and self denial, and expose some of the terrible results of those failings specific to the case: mutual temporary madness (or near madness) for nearly all concerned, and, when a scapegoat is found, death.Aldous Leonard Huxley was born on July 26, 1894, into an eminently academic family. His grandfather was T.H. Huxley, the nineteenth-century biologist and contemporary of Darwin, who was famous for popularising and defending the theory of evolution. His mother, who died when he was just fourteen, was a niece of the poet Matthew Arnold, and Aldous was a nephew to the Victorian novelist Humphry Ward. He suffered another blow upon the suicide of his brother Trevenen in 1914. The second illness to affect him early in life, after his Mother's cancer, was an eye infection which he contracted at the age of sixteen while studying at Eton. His vision was left permanently impaired, thus preventing any possibility of a scientific career. His brother Julian went on to become an eminent zoologist, while he recovered enough of his sight to study English at Balliol College in Oxford.He was unfit for service during the war, and spent his post-Oxford years visiting and working for lady Ottoline Morrell, the famous Grande-dame of literary circles and patroness of the arts. He met a great many literary figures at this time, such as D.H. Lawrence and Bertrand Russell, and several of them appeared as characters in his...

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