Here, in one of his better essay collections (The Vanderbilt Era, 1989; Life, Law and Letters, 1979, etc.), Auchincloss describes friendship among 16 famous pairs. Despite the richness of the figures he elects to write about, Auchincloss often recycles familiar material, as in his Fitzgerald & Hemingway and Hawthorne & Melville essays, adding little new to his apparent paste-ups from easy-to-hand biographies. One thinks contrastingly of D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature and at once is aware of the vividness and electricity missing from the Law Journal formalese that rules Auchincloss's imagination in those two pieces. He is better on Boswell & Johnson, where his style fits the Augustans; on Henry Adams and John Hay, a study that is quite moving; on Byron & Shelley, whose natures (Shelley the passionate idealist, Byron the cynic) drove them apart, with detestation on Shelley's part; and on the laughable ties between the monomaniacally egocentric and alcoholic Alfred lord Tennyson and his companion, Arthur Hallam. But one blinks at the clichÇs set forth as fine writing, as in his preface: "I know this will be disputed by some, but I stick to my guns. . .Now this, of course, will be hotly disputed. . .I will freely admit. . .I simply insist. . .Interdependence, however, must always be a carefully balanced affair. . ." Among other dual friendships handled here are those of Roosevelt & Hopkins, Emerson & Thoreau (quite lively), Edith Wharton & Margaret Chanler, and Woodrow Wilson & Colonel House (dull). Despite the above cavils: superior Auchincloss, with edgy, nervous, well-spoken writers and politicians for him to quote and think about.