America is rich in stylized autobiographies, such as the classic ones by Henry Adams and Gertrude Stein, two distinctly different, but highly intricate examples of the genre. Writing an elegant prose, at times even a markedly old fashioned one, Lewis (referring to himself throughout either as Wilmarth or ""Lefty"") manages to create an unusually subtle picture of an austerely playful temperament and the upper middle-class world of civic responsibility and cultural interests where it has its being. Perhaps one should say had, since there is a valedictorian air in these pages, and one feels Lewis, born in 1896, looks back on the halcyon pre-WWI days in which he was nurtured as an Edenic past that has very little to do with the jumpy, affluent America of today. Lewis gained fame building the Walpole collection at Yale, his alma mater, and it is a measure of his literary talent here that he makes the dry business of libraries, university precess, research, and lecturing, an altogether sparkling intellectual adventure, with many finely etched portraits of his contemporaries (MacLeish, Acheson, Senator Taft), as well as chronicling in warmly ironic terms his personal passage through the years. A strangely seductive work, a wise, witty, generous panorama.