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Two men of Their Time

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From the Godalming Museum Newsletter  -  Autumn/Winter2004

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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.  

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