Crome Yellow

Themes

Huxley's satire on the fads and fashions of the time is generally based on real places and people. The description of the country house at which the characters gather is recognisably based on Garsington Manor, while Ottoline Morrell has been taken for the model of Priscilla Wimbush.[6] Scogan has been identified with Bertrand Russell,[7] Gombauld with Mark Gertler, Mr. Calamy with H. H. Asquith,[8] and Mary Bracegirdle with Dora Carrington.[9] Even small comic details sometimes have a foundation in fact, as for example Mrs Bunch's massive consumption of peaches as part of the war effort. Osbert Sitwell claimed that this was based on an anecdote he had told Huxley about his own father.[10]

Some incidents in the novel allow others to grow out of them. The story of Sir Hercules Lapith, Henry Wimbush's predecessor at Crome, has imbedded within it some 64 lines in Augustan heroic couplets, far longer than all the parodies of modern verse in the book. Its function is to give an insight into its author’s motives for creating his alternative society for dwarves at his home. At the same time it is a parody within a parody, since it appears as part Sir Henry's modern-day history of the house, itself a narrative within the main narrative.

Scogan's withering sketch of the contemporary novel whose subject is a sensitive young man’s development so appals Denis Stone that he destroys the first two chapters of the novel he has brought with him to continue at Crome. On the one hand this may have been directed at James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which had been published in the previous decade. But it has also been conjectured that Crome Yellow itself is a parody of the sort of novel Denis is dissuaded from continuing.[11] Here too the comparatively recent past model encapsulates the present text.

Conversely, a future text is prefigured in Scogan's prophecy of the "impersonal generation" that will "take the place of Nature's hideous system" by raising its children in incubators. "The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world." It is an idea that Huxley would revisit at greater length in Brave New World (1932), but by that time he had passed from satirising the self-absorption and consequent lack of a vision of a positive way forward following the destructive barbarism of the First World War[12] to examining aspects of the failure of humanity manifested in that war and its inevitable result in the 'Rational State' that Scogan proposes.[13]


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