As if death isn’t bad enough, it seems an added insult to expire on the same day as a more famous person. Just ask Farrah Fawcett. Her death on the morning of June 25, 2009 was all but forgotten by the world a few hours later when Michael Jackson died.
Something quite similar happened 47 years ago today when not one, but two famous British men of letters, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis, passed away on the same day that President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas.
Aldous Huxley, the oldest of the three men, was born in 1894 into one of the most brilliant and talented families in British history. He was considered by many to be an intellectual of the highest order, and is best remembered today for his 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World, which has been required reading for generations of American school children. Another of his works, a collection of essays entitled The Doors of Perception (1954), got its name from a poem by William Blake; the same poem that later gave Jim Morrison the name for his band, The Doors.
Huxley was a major proponent of the use of hallucinogenic drugs in the study of mysticism and parapsychology. Of the three men, his death was undoubtedly the most pleasurable, as his wife administered LSD to him on his deathbed to aid him in his passage.
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898, and later became a faculty member of Oxford University where he developed a close friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, of The Lord of the Rings fame. After an agnostic youth, Lewis became a leading advocate of Christianity during his adult years.
While it’s likely that Lewis’ strong religious views would have precluded him from having much in common with the lifestyle of his fellow countryman Huxley, he did share an additional commonality with JFK: to their friends and family members, both men were known as “Jack.”
Lewis is best known for writing The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s fantasy novels that he penned over five years, beginning in the late 1940s. Since 1949, over 100 million copies of the books in the series have sold worldwide. The land of Narnia is currently being introduced to a new generation of youngsters on film. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third offering from the series, will be arriving in theaters on December 10.
Huxley’s most famous work will soon be finding a new audience. A version of Brave New World, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will debut next year.
This bizarre coincidence between the deaths of the three famous men and the date November 22, 1963, became the subject of a novel in 1982. In Beyond Heaven and Hell: A Dialogue Somewhere Beyond Death With John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley, author Peter Kreeft introduces us to the three men in Purgatory.
I suppose dying on the same day as JFK has one advantage: An entire generation knows what they were doing on the day that C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died.