Hoyt limns about a dozen of the descendants of John and Elinor Whitney who disembarked from England in 1635, settling in Massachusetts. Whitneys of ""the fair hair and long jaw"" became, over the years, prominent in ""the whole panoply of American life""--and that's about as close to a theme or an interpretation as you'll find here. Mostly, Hoyt dishes out hosannas: to Eli of the cotton gin and interchangeable parts--""he was a melancholy soul forever blaming Dame Fortune and Cruel Fate for his vicissitudes""; to two Whitneys named Asa who made their fortunes in railroads; to Josiah the geologist who surveyed much of California; to Myron the basso profundo who sang Carmen and La Boheme in English. Nor does he forget the ladies: Anne Whitney became a poet, sculptor, and womens' rights activist; Mary Watson Whitney overcame obstacles to become a luminary in astronomy at Vassar; and much later, Joan Whitney Payson bought the New York Mets, a team that ""needed mothering."" Though they had their share of yachtsmen and playboys, Hoyt thinks the family was more diverse and admirable than the Morgans, Vanderbilts, and Goulds whom he has previously saluted. The genealogy is sketchy, the prose is flaccid, the dynasty descends.