Huxley, Juliette (1896–1994)
Huxley, Juliette (1896–1994)
Swiss-born sculptor and writer who was married to Julian Huxley. Name variations: Lady Huxley. Born Marie Juliette Baillot on December 6, 1896, in Auvernier, Switzerland; died in 1994; only daughter and one of two children of Alphonse Baillot (a building solicitor) and Mélanie Antonia (Ortlieb) Baillot; attended École Supérieure des Jeunes Filles; married Julian Sorell Huxley (1887–1975, a biologist and writer), on March 29, 1919; children: two sons, Anthony and Francis.
Juliette Huxley was born in 1896 in Auvernier, Switzerland, the daughter of Alphonse Baillot, a building solicitor, and Mélanie Antonia Baillot . At age 19, Juliette left for England to find work in order to help pay off an enormous debt the family had incurred when her father's partner absconded with the profits from a joint law practice. Applying for a position as a governess, Juliette was hired by Lady Ottoline Morrell as a companion for Morrell's nine-year-old daughter Julian Morrell . For two years, Juliette lived and worked at Garsington Manor, the Morrells' stately home outside Oxford, where Ottoline entertained the lively circle of Bloomsbury writers and artists, among them Bertram Russell, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Dora Carrington, Vita Sackville-West, Vanessa Bell , Mark and Dorothy Gertler , and the Huxley brothers Aldous and Julian. Juliette married Julian in 1919.
The couple began their married life at Oxford, where Julian had secured a post as a zoology professor, and where Juliette would give birth to the couple's two sons, Anthony and Francis. Julian went on to posts at King's College, at the London Zoo, and, finally, as the first director-general of UNESCO, which took the couple to Paris. With each of her husband's career moves, Juliette met a new cast of fascinating characters, including H.G. Wells, with whom Julian collaborated on The Science of Life, and D.H. Lawrence, who rented a chalet next to the Huxleys at Diablerets in the winter of 1927–28, when he was writing Lady Chatterley's Lover. Huxley would also travel extensively both with and without her husband, journeying to Africa on several occasions (resulting in the book Wild Lives of Africa) and to India, Java, Bali, Thailand, Persia, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Following their stint in Paris, the Huxleys returned to London, which served as their home base throughout their later years.
In 1933, when her son was injured in a bicycle accident, Huxley hired the young sculptor and naturalist Alan Best to tutor the boy in clay modeling while he was confined. When Juliette took up clay modeling herself, she realized she had a talent. She subsequently served an apprenticeship at the Central School under John Skeaping and began sculpting in wood. "The deep joy of discovery led me to new perceptions of works of art, to natural forms in their beauty, enriching my life," Juliette wrote in her autobiography Leaves of the Tulip Tree.
The Huxley marriage underwent a bumpy period beginning in 1930, when Julian began to explore the world outside the conventional bonds of matrimony and urged his wife to do the same, assuring her that their love and trust in each other would endure. Both partners ultimately engaged in outside relationships; in her autobiography, Juliette writes of two lovers, the second of whom, Jason, disappeared at sea during the war. "It was a liberal exchange, a blessed sharing of new joys," she writes about her affair with Jason, "of new joys, of lazy beaches, silent woods and poetry; a happiness which for a few years nourished me and kept me sane, for it filled the vacant space and healed the wounded heart. I left off my Calvinist shirt and made friends with myself." Among her husband's paramours was 24-year-old May Sarton , who simultaneously became captivated with Juliette, then 39. While May's romance with Julian cooled, her deep love for Juliette endured, though it remained secret. "There was perhaps one week only of physical intimacy" between the women, writes Susan Sherman , who edited a volume of Sarton's letters to Juliette. The women corresponded throughout the 1940s, but Juliette broke off the relationship when Sarton threatened to tell Julian. Sarton and
Huxley did not communicate for another 27 years but resumed their correspondence in 1975, following Julian's death.
The Huxleys ultimately reunited. "Marriages crack but some survive; the storm passes," Juliette wrote of the reconciliation. "Much had been uprooted, leaving the ground bare and the trees stripped, ready perhaps for new growth, for different ideas and ways of living. We had come to the place where a choice had to be made." Julian, who suffered several nervous breakdowns in his lifetime, endured another in 1966, which left him in what Juliette describes as a "waste land." He recovered sufficiently to write his memoirs, then had a stroke in 1973. He remained in helpless confusion until his death on February 14, 1975. Juliette survived him by 19 years, dying in 1994, at age 98.
Huxley, Juliette. Leaves of the Tulip Tree. Topsfield, MA: Salem House, 1963.
Publishers Weekly. May 31, 1999.
Sherman, Susan, ed. Letters of May Sarton to Juliette Huxley, 1999.
Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts