A few years ago I heard a quote from Elvis Presley’s manager where he stated that he always hoped he’d never die in an aeroplane with Elvis. When asked why he stated ‘I don’t like the billing.’.
C. S Lewis was one of the greatest British authors to have ever lived, and similarly across the pond Aldous Huxley was celebrated at around the same time. On any ordinary day, the death of either author would make headline news but the 22nd November 1963 wasn’t an ordinary day.
At 5:20pm London time, Aldous Huxley would drift away in a psychedelic haze. The author had advanced laryngeal cancer and made a written request to his wife Laura for an administration of LSD, living up to the mysticism he inspired during his life.
About 10 minutes later in Cambridgeshire, England, author C. S Lewis would collapse and die in his bedroom just one week before his 65th birthday. His death from end stage renal failure came about after a short illness.
On any ordinary day these deaths would be head billing, but both deaths were overlooked because a little under an hour later in Dallas, Texas, president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It would be days until people realised Huxley was dead, a full two weeks before the news of Lewis’ death would trickle through (something his son has stated he was grateful for).
We doubt there’s been a grimmer, deadly hour for celebrities (although 2016 has had a good run at it), and it inspired a huge amount of literature, song lyrics, books and quips.
My title for this article is inspired by the Sheryl Crow line in Run, Baby, Run ‘The day Aldous Huxley died’, we can’t forget King’s 11/22/63 either, a tale almost as weird as the day. But maybe the best homage to the events of the day is Peter Kreeft’s Between Heaven and Hell:A Dialog somewhere beyond death with John F. Kennedy, C. S Lewis, & Aldous Huxley. The book imagines the trio in purgatory, engaging in philosophical discussions on faith and is an interesting read.
So there you have it, the day that the literary world lost billing to one of the biggest events in modern history.