The prolific author’s last book is a farewell to a way of life that was gone before he was.
Including this memoir, Auchincloss (1917–2010) published nearly 70 books. Here the author looks at his coming of age not long after the passing of The Gilded Age, when the notion of “Society” was still in full flower. A scion of wealth, he was admitted to the New York Social Register as well as the New York bar. He was the ideal chronicler of Gotham’s smart set and an apt student of the upper echelons of a putative classless society. His narrative is the story of a writer who enjoyed the Auchincloss family brownstone, which was staffed by a cadre of servants, and who summered in the family’s place at Bar Harbor or on Long Island. He recalls fond memories of his nanny and presents elegant portraits of family and acquaintances. He passed through dancing school, Groton, Yale and the Navy. The author offers little about law school or the actual practice of law, which is fitting. Prose was his first love; his day job was at the firm, which he left at age 69 for a short turn at teaching writing. Throughout the memoir, the author’s prose is lapidary, graceful and eminently readable. In a world of postmodern letters, Auchincloss draws a curtain on a premodern, Whartonesque way of life.
An anthropological guide to the phantom politesse of Old New York, rendered as neatly as ever.