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Originally published Sunday, December 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM



Laura Huxley worked to save husband's legacy

Laura Archera Huxley, a lay therapist and author who was the widow of Aldous Huxley, died Thursday at her home in the Hollywood Hills. She was 96. The...

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Laura Archera Huxley, a lay therapist and author who was the widow of Aldous Huxley, died Thursday at her home in the Hollywood Hills. She was 96.

The cause was cancer, said Dan Hirsch, a longtime friend.

Mrs. Huxley, who started life as a musical prodigy, devoted the nearly five decades since her husband's death to preserving his legacy and helping others — particularly children — achieve happiness.

She met her husband in 1949, 16 years after his anti-utopian novel "Brave New World" established him as a formidable thinker, writer and social critic. She married him in 1956, a year after the death of his first wife, and over the next seven years was his muse and partner in the explorations of consciousness that helped to spark the psychedelic movement of the 1960s.

After his death of cancer in November 1963, on the day of President Kennedy's assassination, she was determined to keep her husband's works from slipping into obscurity.

"What Laura Huxley did was devote her life and energy and vision to making sure this very important writer in the Western canon was still in print and widely published," said Jonathan Kirsch, attorney for the Huxley literary estate.

One of her last projects was to bring "Brave New World" to the movie screen. It is now in development with a major motion-picture studio, Kirsch said.

Mrs. Huxley also wrote several books, including an early self-help guide, "You Are Not the Target," a 1963 best-seller. She also wrote "The Timeless Moment," a 1969 memoir of her life with Aldous; "Between Heaven and Earth" (1974); "One a Day Reason to be Happy" (1986); and "The Child of Your Dreams" (1987).

Childless herself, in 1978 she founded a nonprofit now called Children: Our Ultimate Investment, which aimed to foster the optimal development of what she called the "possible human." It collaborated with schools in California and in Britain, working particularly with teenagers to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Mrs. Huxley once described its goal as "bringing children up loving the world, rather than fearing it as many children do."

When she met her husband, Mrs. Huxley was nearing the end of the first phase of her life — as a concert violinist. Born in Turin, Italy, in 1911, she was a prodigy who performed for the queen of Italy when she was 14.

She came to the United States in the 1940s to make her American debut at Carnegie Hall. She wound up in Los Angeles, where she played for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a few years. In 1948, she gave away her violin and went to work as a film editor at the old RKO Studio.

She met the famous writer when she was trying to promote a film she wanted to make about the Palio di Siena, an annual horse race in Italy. Director John Huston told her that if she could persuade Aldous Huxley to write the screenplay, he could help her get financing.

She wrote to the author, who had spent time in Italy and was living in the desert outside Los Angeles. When she received no reply, she was a bit miffed. She found his phone number and called him, unaware that the number belonged to a post office near where he lived.

"They asked me if it was an emergency," she recounted to the London Guardian in 2002, "and I said, 'Of course it's an emergency.' " The message got through, and she became a close friend of both Huxley and his wife, Maria.

After Maria died of cancer in 1955, he proposed to Laura in a roundabout way, asking if she had "ever been tempted by marriage." When she said yes, he asked, "Do you think it might be amusing to travel to Yuma and get married at the drive-in?" She again replied affirmatively, and they were married at a drive-in wedding chapel in Arizona.

He already had begun experimenting with psychedelic drugs, particularly mescaline. (His 1954 book on his experiences, "The Doors of Perception," inspired Jim Morrison and his band mates to name themselves The Doors.) He invited Laura to take LSD with him while listening to Bach's fourth Brandenburg Concerto, and they experienced "aesthetic revelations."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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