Elspeth Joscelin Huxley CBE (née Grant; 23 July 1907 – 10 January 1997) was a polymath, writer, journalist, broadcaster, magistrate, environmentalist, farmer, and government advisor. She wrote 30 books; but she is best known for her lyrical books The Flame Trees of Thika and The Mottled Lizard which were based on her experiences growing up in a coffee farm in Colonial Kenya. Her husband, Gervas Huxley, was a grandson of Thomas Huxley and a cousin of Aldous Huxley.
Life and work
Nellie and Major Josceline Grant, Elspeth Grant's parents, arrived in Thika in what was then British East Africa in 1912, when she was 5 years old, to start a life as coffee farmers and colonial settlers. Flame Trees... explores how unprepared for rustic life the early British settlers really were. Elspeth was educated at a whites only school in Nairobi.
She left Africa in 1925, earning a degree in agriculture at Reading University in England and studying at Cornell University in upstate New York. Elspeth returned to Africa periodically, becoming the Assistant Press Officer to the Empire Marketing Board in 1929. She married Gervas Huxley, the son of the doctor Henry Huxley (1865–1946) in 1931. They had one son, Charles, who was born in February 1944. She resigned her post in 1932 and traveled widely. During this period, she published her first works including Lord Delamere and the making of Kenya – a biography of the famous settler. In 1948 The Sorcerer's Apprentice – A Journey through Africa was published.
She was appointed an independent member of the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (the Monckton Commission). An advocate of colonialism early in life, she later called for independence for African countries. In the 1960s, she served as a correspondent for the National Review magazine.
Huxley's Red Strangers was republished by Penguin Books in 1999 and by Penguin Classics in 2000; Richard Dawkins played an important role in getting the book to be republished, and he wrote a preface to the new edition. However, as of 2006, Red Strangers was once again out of print. This work describes life among the Kikuyu of Kenya around the time of arrival of the first European settlers.
There is a biography by Christine S. Nicholls, Elspeth Huxley: A Biography (Harper Collins, 2002). Huxley was a friend of Joy Adamson, the author of Born Free, and is mentioned in the biography of Joy and George Adamson entitled The Great Safari. Elspeth Huxley wrote the foreword to Joy's autobiography The Searching Spirit.
The following are books by Elspeth Huxley.
- White Man's Country: Lord Delamere and the Making of Kenya (1935)
- Murder at Government House (1937)
- Murder on Safari (1938)
- Death of an Aryan [UK]; The African Poison Murders [US] (1939)
- Red Strangers (1939) (ISBN 0141188502)
- Atlantic Ordeal: The Story of Mary Cornish (1941)
- African Dilemmas (1948)
- Settlers of Kenya (1948)
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Journey Through Africa (1948)
- The Walled City (1948)
- I Don't Mind If I Do (1950)
- A Thing to Love (1954)
- Four Guineas: A Journey Through West Africa (1954)
- No Easy Way: A History of the Kenyan Farmers' Association and UNGA Limited (ca. 1957)
- The Red Rock Wilderness (1957)
- The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood (1959)
- A New Earth: An Experiment in Colonialism (1960)
- The Mottled Lizard [UK]; On the Edge of the Rift: Memories of Kenya [US] (1962)
- The Merry Hippo [UK]; The Incident at the Merry Hippo [US] (1963)
- A Man from Nowhere (1964)
- Back Street New Worlds: A Look at Immigrants in Britain (1964)
- With Forks and Hope: An African Notebook (1964)
- Brave New Victuals: An Inquiry into Modern Food Production (1965)
- Their Shining Eldorado: A Journey Through Australia (1967)
- Love among the Daughters (1968)
- The Challenge of Africa aka Afrika, een uitdaging (1971)
- The Kingsleys: A Biographical Anthology (1973)
- Livingstone and His African Journeys (1974)
- Florence Nightingale (1975)
- Gallipot Eyes: A Wiltshire Diary (1976)
- Scott of the Antarctic (1978)
- Nellie: Letters from Africa (1980)
- Whipsnade: Captive Breeding for Survival (1981)
- The Prince Buys the Manor (1982)
- Last Days in Eden aka De Laatsten in de Hof van Eden (1984) with Hugo van Lawick
- Out in the Midday Sun: My Kenya (1985)
- Nine Faces of Kenya (1990)
- Peter Scott: Painter and Naturalist (1993)
- Mit berühmten Entdeckern auf Abenteuer – Afrika
- Lyall, Sarah. "Elspeth Huxley, 89, Chronicler of Colonial Kenya, Dies," New York Times. 18 January 1997.
- "Elspeth Huxley, a Biography", Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd, 2006, webpage: ALownie-Huxley.
- "Elspeth Huxley on LibraryThing", webpage LThing-HuxleyElspeth.
- The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood, Elspeth Huxley, ISBN 0-14-118378-0; ISBN 978-0-14-118378-7.
- Elspeth Huxley: A Biography, by Christine Stephanie Nicholls, 2003, ISBN 0-312-30041-7.