Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow

Just over a year ago, we fea­tured a clip of an inter­view with Lau­ra Archera Hux­ley, wid­ow of British dystopi­an nov­el­ist and not­ed psy­che­del­ic drug enthu­si­ast Aldous Hux­ley. When he approached death’s door in 1963, he asked her to give him a dose of “LSD, 100 µg, intra­mus­cu­lar.” If you’ve got to check out, this sounds, by Lau­ra’s descrip­tion, like one of the prefer­able ways to do it, or at least a way that aligned close­ly with Hux­ley’s con­vic­tions. “There was absolute­ly no jolt, no agi­ta­tion,” she recalled on cam­era. “Noth­ing except this very qui­et — like a music that becomes less and less audi­ble. Like fad­ing away. [ … ] There was a beau­ti­ful expres­sion in the face. It was a very beau­ti­ful expres­sion in the face.” Let­ters of Note added much detail onto this spare account by post­ing a let­ter sent from Lau­ra to Hux­ley’s broth­er Julian not long after the writer’s death from laryn­geal can­cer. One page appears above, and at Let­ters of Note you can find scans of all of them plus a com­plete tran­script.

“I had the feel­ing actu­al­ly that the last hour of breath­ing was only the con­di­tioned reflex of the body that had been used to doing this for 69 years, mil­lions and mil­lions of times,” wrote Lau­ra. “There was not the feel­ing that with the last breath, the spir­it left. It had just been gen­tly leav­ing for the last four hours. [ … ] [Every­one attend­ing Hux­ley] said that this was the most serene, the most beau­ti­ful death. Both doc­tors and nurse said they had nev­er seen a per­son in sim­i­lar phys­i­cal con­di­tion going off so com­plete­ly with­out pain and with­out strug­gle. [ … ] We will nev­er know if all this is only our wish­ful think­ing, or if it is real, but cer­tain­ly all out­ward signs and the inner feel­ing gave indi­ca­tion that it was beau­ti­ful and peace­ful and easy.” Just above, you’ll find the video we pre­vi­ous­ly post­ed of Lau­ra’s briefer descrip­tion of the same events.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Aldous Hux­ley Warns Against Dic­ta­tor­ship in Amer­i­ca

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Aldous Hux­ley Reads Dra­ma­tized Ver­sion of Brave New World

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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