Denny Fouts spent early spring 1941 away from the West Coast to work on a farm in Pennsylvania. It was the first step on a path he hoped would lead to a complete reformation of his way of life.
His adventures up to this point are the stuff of legends. He spent the late thirties hustling his way around Europe. A twenty-something of soul-piercing beauty, he drew eyes and lust from a catalogue of renowned and well-to-do lovers.
The war brought Fouts back to California, where he met Christopher Isherwood. Huxley had introduced Isherwood to the Vedanta Society and its spiritual leader Swami Prabhavananda.
Fouts was looking for a clean break from his former life. He meant ”to take a big plunge—get a shack in the hills, a menial job (as somebody’s servant) and immediately renounce everything: sex, drink and the Gang.” Fouts approached Swami and expressed his wish to become a disciple, but was rejected—what Fouts needed, Swami said, was not meditation but work.
Fouts then came into the orbit of Gerald Heard. Here was sympathy. Heard wanted to create a monastic community and felt knowledge of organic farming would be useful. It was Heard who arranged for Fouts to work and learn on the farm in Pennsylvania.
Huxley was forty-six at the time, Fouts twenty-six (Farash and Signer were college students according to Isherwood).
For Huxley souls hung in the balance. He was deep into his studies of Father Joseph, the mystic who ”took the wrong turning” and fell from the spiritual life. And what now of these young men writing him letters, sincere, bewildered, lonely? And Denny, turned away by Huxley’s own guru, what of him?
O, the endless work that is the spiritual transformation of determined dropouts and hustlers errant.
Denny Fouts eventually took the wrong turning and fell back on what used to be his charmed default. After the war, he tried to resurrect his prewar persona in the blasted theater of Europe. A gigolo of the wasteland. No dice. He died in Rome in 1948, aged 34.
In 1959, more than a decade after his death, Fouts returned to Huxley in a dream. In the dream, Huxley is again given an opportunity to help Denny, only to have it taken away at the last moment.
He saw Denny naked, on a horse. Riding along a precipice road, bounded by a cliff. There was a door in the cliff, into a cave. The horse threw Denny and he banged through the door and fell into the cave. He was very badly hurt. One of his legs twitched uncontrollably. He crawled back out of the cave on to the road and collapsed. Aldous was bending over him with extreme concern and compassion; then Aldous woke.
Details drawn from Christopher Isherwood, Diaries, Volume One: 1939-1960, K. Bucknell (Ed.), HarperCollins 1997, esp. pp. 118-154. Huxley’s dream is reported in the entry for Nov. 16, 1959, p.834.
Aldous Huxley | Denham Fouts
Author’s Collection of Autographs and Letters
Aldous Huxley to Denham Fouts, dated Feb 2 41. Typed letter on airmail paper. Corrections and signature in ink.