BLOOD RELATIONS: The Rise and Fall of the du Ponts of Delaware by Leonard Mosley

BLOOD RELATIONS: The Rise and Fall of the du Ponts of Delaware

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The clannish, quarrelsome du Ponts have let down their guard and opened their archives--laden, it would appear, with gossipy letters--and the result is the biggest accumulation of family dirt yet. But that's all it is: the family business figures chiefly as a battleground, not as a joint enterprise. Nor do the scandals and feuds qualify as news; author Mosley (Lindbergh, Dulles) should know better than to claim, on behalf of his endeavors, that the du Ponts have been passed over as ""deadly dull,"" ""respectable"" bourgeois. But he has discovered, if that's the word, that Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954), who turned the family gunpowder business into a chemical giant, had a strong attachment to one particular young chauffeur (and no evident sexual interest in women, including his wife); and the book begins and in effect ends, four hundred-odd pages later, on that shifty, speculative note. Mosley is careful to say that no evidence exists of a ""physical homosexual relation""; one wonders rather why said attachment matters, one way or the other. And that's the trouble throughout: the lip-smacking disclosures, crude conjectures (""But what was it that drove her husband from the family bed?""), and tasteless toss-offs (""Jessie's great big bull had been spavined"") are just so much chaff. In particular, the focal 1915 fall-out among the three cousins--sober administrator Pierre, promoter Coleman, and popular mill-boss Alfred--who had taken over the company together in 1902, is in no way enlarged, or even enlivened, by constant references to Coleman's ""hot-and-cold-running chorus girls"" or Alfred's marital blow-ups. Just what happened is described, from one point of view or the other, in Marquis James' Alfred I. du Pont, The Family Rebel (1941) and the Alfred D. Chandler-Stephen Salsbury Pierre du Pont and the Making of the Modern Corporation (1971), while the family saga has been repeatedly, if none too substantially, recounted. In the du Ponts' incestuous wrangling, their combination of provincialism and hedonism, there's material for a Lillian Hellman to dramatize; but this is a shoddy affair--sensationalism posing as serious research.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum