A family chronicle, based on letters of a great-aunt to the author's father, covering a period from just before the Civil War to after the turn of the century. Although the author admits to ""taking certain liberties in the name of romance,"" and although it seems certain that judicious editing has enhanced the flow of narrative, many incidents and period vistas are delightfully convincing. Correspondent Lily Violett remembers her 1859 New Orleans home from the vantage of a child of six (the fine, huge house, and summer treks to escape ""the Fever""). Also included are excerpts from letters of more remote ancestors (street scenes from 1838 New Orleans; and 1808 journeys on the Mississippi--rafts and boats poled by rough ""Kaintucks,"" and at night each pole topped by a lantern). Lily describes the family's flight from New Orleans at the Yankee invasion, and their return to the dust of Reconstruction with its hatred of the Yankees and freed Negroes (""Don't let this emancipation make you think that anything has really changed. . .""). After the war, family history is uppermost, beginning with Lily's father's tragic death in a shameful duel. There are many trips to Europe, and, in England, Lily Finds a lifelong love but also accepts ""spinsterhood."" There is a detailed account of the devoted courtship and marriage of the author's grandparents and its tragic conclusion. Finally: a roll call of resorts and grand hotels and a sad list of family deaths. Lily was not a stylist or pioneering social commentator, but her concerns reflect those of others of her time and situation, and the snippets of views from a vanished past always have an antiquarian appeal. Illustrated with family photographs.