Auchincloss, Louis (Stanton) 1917-
AUCHINCLOSS, Louis (Stanton) 1917-
PERSONAL: Surname pronounced Auk-in-klaus; born September 27, 1917, in New York, NY; son of Joseph Howland (a corporate lawyer) and Priscilla (Stanton) Auchincloss; married Adele Lawrence, 1957; children: John Winthrop, Blake Leay, Andrew Sloane. Education: Attended Yale University, 1935-39; University of Virginia Law School, LL.B., 1941. Religion: Episcopalian.
ADDRESSES: Home—1111 Park Ave., New York, NY 10128; and Claryville, NY.
CAREER: Admitted to the Bar of New York State, 1941; Sullivan & Cromwell (law firm), New York, NY, associate, 1941-51; Hawkins, Delafield & Wood (law firm), New York, associate, 1954-58, partner, 1958-86. President, Museum of the City of New York; trustee, Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation; former trustee, St. Barnard's School and New York Society Library; life fellow, Pierpont Morgan Library; former member of administrative committee, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1941-45; served in Naval Intelligence and as gunnery officer; became lieutenant senior grade.
MEMBER: National Institute of Arts and Letters, Association of the Bar of the City of New York (former member of executive committee), Phi Beta Kappa, Century Association, American Academy of Arts and Letters (president).
AWARDS, HONORS: D. Litt., New York University, 1974, Pace University, 1979, University of the South, 1986, State University of New York at Geneseo, 2002; New York State Governor's Art Award.
(Under pseudonym Andrew Lee) The Indifferent Children, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1947.
Sybil, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1952.
A Law for the Lion, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1953.
The Great World and Timothy Colt, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1956.
Venus in Sparta, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1958.
Pursuit of the Prodigal, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1959.
The House of Five Talents, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1960.
Portrait in Brownstone, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1962.
The Rector of Justin, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1964.
The Embezzler, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1966.
A World of Profit, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1968.
I Come As a Thief, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1972.
The Dark Lady, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1977.
The Country Cousin, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1978.
The House of the Prophet, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1980, reprinted, with a new introduction by the author, Transaction Publishers (New Brunswick, NJ), 1991.
The Cat and the King, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1981.
Watchfires, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1982.
Exit Lady Masham, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1983.
The Book Class, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1984.
Honourable Men, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.
Diary of a Yuppie, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.
The Golden Calves, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1988.
Fellow Passengers: A Novel in Portraits, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1989.
The Lady of Situations, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1990.
Three Lives, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1993.
The Education of Oscar Fairfax, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Her Infinite Variety, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.
The Scarlet Letters, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
The Injustice Collectors, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1950.
The Romantic Egoists, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1954.
Powers of Attorney, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1963.
Tales of Manhattan, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1967.
Second Chance: Tales of Two Generations, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1970.
The Partners, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1974.
The Winthrop Covenant, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1976.
Narcissa and Other Fables, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1982.
Skinny Island: More Tales of Manhattan, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.
False Gods, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1992.
Tales of Yesteryear, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1994.
The Collected Stories of Louis Auchincloss, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1994.
The Atonement and Other Stories, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
The Anniversary and Other Stories, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
Manhattan Monologues, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
Contributor of stories to the New Yorker, Harper's, Good Housekeeping, Town and Country, and Atlantic.
Reflections of a Jacobite (essays), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1961.
Edith Wharton, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1961.
Ellen Glasgow, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1964.
Pioneers and Caretakers: A Study of Nine American Women Novelists, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1965.
On Sister Carrie, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1968.
Motiveless Malignity (essays), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1969.
Henry Adams, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1971.
Edith Wharton: A Woman in Her Time (biography), Viking (New York, NY), 1972.
Richelieu (biography), Viking (New York, NY), 1972.
A Writer's Capital (autobiography), University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1974.
Reading Henry James (essays), University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1975.
Life, Law, and Letters: Essays and Sketches, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1979.
Persons of Consequence: Queen Victoria and Her Circle, Random House (New York, NY), 1979.
Three "Perfect Novels" and What They Have in Common (lecture; first delivered at Pierpont Morgan Library, January, 1981), Bruccoli Clark (Columbia, SC), 1981.
(Editor) Adele Florence Sloane, Maverick in Mauve: The Diary of a Romantic Age, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor) Quotations from Henry James, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 1984.
False Dawn: Women in the Age of the Sun King, Anchor Press (New York, NY), 1985.
The Vanderbilt Era: Profiles of a Gilded Age, Scribner (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) Hone & Strong Diaries of Old Manhattan, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1989.
J. P. Morgan: The Financier As Collector, H. N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1990.
Love without Wings: Some Friendships in Literature and Politics, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1991.
(Author of text) Deborah Turbeville's Newport Remembered: A Photographic Portrait of a Gilded Past, H. N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1994.
The Style's the Man: Reflections on Proust, Fitzgerald, Wharton, Vidal, and Others, Scribner (New York, NY), 1994.
The Man behind the Book: Literary Profiles, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
La Gloire: The Roman Empire of Corneille and Racine, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1996.
Woodrow Wilson, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.
Theodore Roosevelt, Times Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Also author of pamphlets Edith Wharton, 1961, Ellen Glasgow, 1964, and Henry Adams, 1971, all published by University of Minnesota Press. Contributor of essays to Partisan Review and Nation. Member of advisory board, Dictionary of Literary Biography.
(Editor) Edith Wharton, An Edith Wharton Reader, Scribner (New York, NY), 1965.
The Club Bedroom (one-act play; published in Esquire, December, 1966), produced on television, 1966, and Off-Off Broadway at The Playwright's Unit, 1967.
(Editor) Anthony Trollope, The Warden [and] Barchester Towers, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1966.
(Editor) Fables of Wit and Elegance, Scribner (New York, NY), 1972.
Author of four unproduced full-length plays and several one-act plays.
SIDELIGHTS: Although he also writes short stories and criticism, Louis Auchincloss has established himself as a highly prolific novelist of manners, the chronicler of New York City's old-money elite and those in satellite around such "aristocrats." According to New York Times contributor Charlotte Curtis, "Louis Auchincloss … is the nearest we have to a Henry James or an Edith Wharton of the East Coast's WASP upper classes…. Aside from his books' literary quality, their value has always been the detailed sociological reporting of what life inside these largely invisible families, their networks, their clubs and work places is like." Christian Science Monitor correspondent James H. Andrews called Auchincloss "the Anthony Trollope of America's Mayflower set," praising the author for his "urbane, erudite prose … and the careful explorations of his characters' intricate psychological landscapes and of the moral quandaries they face."
It is through Henry James, however, that Auchincloss himself claims his genealogy. James Tuttleton, in a New Criterion celebration of Auchincloss at 80, reported that "Auchincloss called himself a Jacobite because so much of his youthful reading was 'over the shoulder of Henry James.' To read the fiction of Proust, Trollope, Meredith, Thackeray, George Eliot, and Edith Wharton in the light of the criticism, fiction, and letters of James, Auchincloss observed, is to be exposed to the full range of possibility for the novel of manners, 'to be conducted through the literature of [James's] time, English, American, French and Russian, by a kindly guide of infinitely good manners, who is also infinitely discerning, tasteful and conscientious.' James, for Auchincloss, has been a 'starting point,' a 'common denominator'." Tuttleton went on to observe that "once started, Auchincloss has always gone his own way—often qualifying and contesting, as well as defining and enlarging, the social insights of the nineteenth-century novelist of manners."
While some critics have found fault with Auchincloss for writing almost exclusively about one class of people, others have commended him for, as Tuttleton put it, quoting Anthony Burgess, "the power with which [his] fiction 'presents the real twentieth century world, very sharply, very simply, very elegantly'." Tuttleton continued, "We cannot fully understand the workings of power in the United States—legal, financial, and social—without attending to his fiction, as Gore Vidal has rightly observed." In the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980, Patricia Kane observed how Auchincloss's choice of genre has affected his popularity, noting that his reputation as a writer "has been influenced by factors somewhat external to it. Both the novel of manners and the fictional characters called WASPs are not fashionable." New York Times Book Review essayist Webster Schott stated that Auchincloss "is far from the swarming hot center of American literary intellectualism; he's a museum of all that American writing valued before its World War I baptism of despair…. Buried in its own riches, his world exists like Shangri-La, lost to inhabitation." But Gore Vidal, writing in the New York Review of Books, saw it differently: "The world Auchincloss writes about, the domain of Wall Street bankers and lawyers and stockbrokers, is thought to be irrelevant, a faded and fading genteel-gentile enclave when, in actual fact, this little world comprises the altogether too vigorous and self-renewing ruling class of the United States…. Ofallour novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs."
Sandra Salmans reported in the New York Times that "some academics and publishers praise him as one of the few authors who write about the business world with a real understanding of its complexities and conflicts." Michael Upchurch, reviewing Auchinchloss's 2002 volume of short stories, Manhattan Monologues in the Seattle Times, took it a step further, writing, "Still, there's a sense in Manhattan Monologues—sharper than in his previous work—that beyond these individual dramas Auchincloss is training his eye on a larger picture: the century-long struggle between totalitarianism, socialism and capitalism that has unfolded in his lifetime. Capitalism clearly is the victor, but he is nothing if not cautionary about where its excesses can lead—which makes Auchincloss, who is sometimes regarded as an old-fashioned writer in his method and content, suddenly feel like a crucial voice of the post-Enron Zeitgeist. Perhaps, decades after his 1960s heyday, his time has come once again."
Auchincloss writes about Manhattan and its wealthy denizens because he himself can lay claim to such a background. The son of a successful attorney, he grew up in a life of privilege, attending the exclusive Groton School and Yale University. Aware that he wanted to be a writer and somewhat uncomfortable among the elite, he nevertheless left Yale after three years and took a law degree at the University of Virginia. After serving in the Navy during World War II he returned to New York City, where he worked as a trust and estate attorney for nearly forty years. A great many of his fifty-plus titles were written while he worked for a Wall Street law firm. According to Morris Dickstein in the Times Literary Supplement, Auchincloss's "work on wills and trusts, separation and divorce, gave him access to his characters' business as well as social lives. He got to know Wall Street as [Henry] James wished to but never did, and focused on money as much as on manners, betraying his class simply by writing about it."
The family as a social unit is important to Auchincloss's novels, many of which are multigenerational sagas. The House of Five Talents, which New York Herald Tribune Book Review critic E. C. Dunn called "the story of human beings, their complexity, their insecurity, [and] their magnificent failure to grasp and hold the full meaning of life," takes an originally middle-class New York family from 1873 to 1948, from a social-climbing grandfather to his heiress granddaughter. In another novel, Portrait in Brownstone, the author relates the history of the Denison family from the turn of the century to 1951. Granville Hicks stated in the Saturday Review that Auchincloss "tells the story in a neat, dry style that repeatedly gives great pleasure…. What distinguishes the novel is its subtlety." And Fanny Butcher wrote in the Chicago Tribune: "The warmth of the family ties, the family traditions make the novel a happy reading experience…. when Portrait in Brownstone is good it is very good. The author has a sensitive eye for human foibles, a sensitive ear for conversation, and a sensitive mind that ferrets out human emotions." Citing an occasionally disjointed plot, however, Butcher added: "If the book were more technically cohesive, it would be a fine novel instead of just a good one."
With The Rector of Justin, which critics regard as one of his best works, Auchincloss relates the story of Francis Prescott through the testimony of friends, coworkers, and relations. Hicks explained in another issue of the Saturday Review that the subject of The Rector of Justin "does not seem to promise excitement—the octogenarian headmaster of a small private school—and yet I was swept along by it, for the revelation of Prescott's character is fascinating…. We do come to feel the reality, the complicated reality, of Francis Prescott." On the other hand, Tuttleton noted that "Auchincloss's dramatic technique in this 'conventional novel of character' creates a built-in ambiguity comparable to that of James's The Awkward Age or, for that matter, to Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!" The House of the Prophet also uses the testimony of other characters to portray Felix Leitner (based, some critics have claimed, on editor and journalist Walter Lippmann), a lawyer, columnist, and public figure, who, in his later years, leaves his wife and betrays his best friend. While admitting that Auchincloss's style and "formal prose [are] so well crafted, so consistent, and so entertaining that you forgive him lapses you wouldn't forgive in a less talented writer," Christian Science Monitor reviewer Anne Bernays contended that "the people in this novel … don't really breathe; they carry ideas, rather than blood, in their veins." However, Times Literary Supplement contributor Charles Wheeler spoke of the novel as "a taut and elegant study of a distinguished American whose closest friends cannot decide whether they like or detest him."
Two of Auchincloss's novels from the 1980s draw on his own background. In The Book Class, he exposes the power held by "unliberated" upper-class New York City wives in the early twentieth century. The story shows the inner workings of a book club's members; the tale is related by the son of the now-deceased founder, through the reminiscences of surviving members. Washington Post Book World contributor Jonathan Yardley claimed that while the women "get affectionate and clear-eyed tribute in The Book Class … Auchincloss never manages to make the reader care about them; they never seem to matter, to be of real consequence, and thus in the end neither does the book. Intelligent and craftsmanlike though it is, The Book Class is Auchincloss going through the motions, sticking to his last." With Honorable Men, Auchincloss attempted "to come to grips with a long-standing American obsession—how the values, if not the beliefs, of our Puritan forefathers still permeate some of their descendants, and what is won and lost by adhering to them," wrote A. R. Gurney in the New York Times Book Review. In a New York Times Book Review interview with Herbert Mitgang, Auchincloss explained: "I used to say to my father, 'Everything would be all right if only my class at Yale ran the country.' Well, they did run the country during the Vietnam War and look what happened…. [Honorable Men] is my ultimate explanation of the Puritan ethic in our time." According to Yardley in the Washington Post, Honorable Men is "a novel about politics, but in no way is it a political novel. What concerns Auchincloss is … what shaped the men who determined the nature of [America's role in Vietnam] and pressed their cause even against clamorous public opinion. He is considering in fiction, in other words, the same men whom David Halberstam analyzed journalistically in The Best and the Brightest." And while Gurney saw "a tendency toward stuffiness in the writing that can occasionally settle over the book like dust," he added that with Honorable Men, "Auchincloss adds a significant work to his long and considerable canon."
Diary of a Yuppie focuses on antihero Robert Service, a man determined to succeed in the world of corporate takeovers and double crosses. Rory Quirk wrote in the Washington Post Book World: "Auchincloss unfolds this delightful and disquieting tale with his characteristic deftness, allowing Service to destroy himself in his own words through his damning diary entries…. This is contemporary fiction of the absolute first rank. It is fiction, isn't it?" As with some of his other books, Diary of a Yuppie has prompted critics to compare Auchincloss to famous predecessors. According to London Times contributor Andrew Sinclair: "Not since rereading [Fitzgerald's] The Great Gatsby have I felt a whole new class so economically taken apart…. [Diary of a Yuppie is] the most significant novel Mr. Auchincloss has written in his distinguished career."
Critics also consider the author a skilled short-story writer. Skinny Island involves a frequently implemented Auchincloss technique: that of revolving a collection of short stories around a central theme, in this case the "skinny island" of Manhattan. Paul Gray in Time suggested another unifying link: "The pieces are not just connected chronologically and geographically but by a common concern as well: the dilemma faced by comfortable people when they must choose between honor and expediency." And Washington Post Book World contributor James K. Glassman felt the work "conveys the insular, claustrophobic, dignified and rigid world that obsesses Auchincloss: Old New York." Glassman continued, "The death of society has always been one of Auchincloss's themes, but regular readers will find him here utterly pessimistic, his irony turned to cynicism. This writing on the edge of despair gives Skinny Island an urgency and an emotional kick that bring it close to his best books."
A story collection that also stands as a novel, Fellow Passengers reveals that the rich "are no different, emotionally or morally, from the rest of us; they just have money left in their checking accounts at the end of the month," according to Edward Hawley in Chicago's Tribune Books. Washington Post contributor Bruce Bawer called the stories "witty, charming and economical," and stated that "these tales have the pithiness of biblical parables or Aesopian fables," while also delivering a criticism frequently leveled at Auchincloss: "At times the dialogue feels not only formal but unnaturally stilted; and some of the characters' off-the-cuff literary references are hard to buy." Bawer concluded, however: "But no matter. This book—novel, memoir, short-story collection, or what-have-you—is at once a triumph of storytelling and an exemplary meditation upon the standards of conduct by which we live. Auchincloss accomplishes something that's not easy: Even as he delightfully celebrates the voyage of life, he delivers a serious reminder of the responsibilities we all have toward our fellow passenger on the trip." And Hawley advocated: "Readers familiar with Auchincloss's rich body of work will find much pleasure in Fellow Passengers, which is full of his characteristic insight and irony. For those who aren't, this is a good place to start."
Auchincloss once told CA that his retirement from law in 1986 gave him "lots more time to write … perhaps too much time." He has continued to produce novels, stories, biographies, and criticism, working most often with the publisher Houghton Mifflin. His 1990 novel The Lady of Situations was well received by critics, including Linda Gray Sexton, who described the book in the New York Times Book Review as "another stinging critique of American society and its poisonous snobbery." Gray Sexton added that the novel "has much in common with other distinguished novels of manners and mores: first impressions cannot be trusted, it tells us, and unexamined impulses can prove treacherous." In the fictitious but loosely autobiographical The Education of Oscar Fairfax, published in 1995, a Yale graduate and Wall Street attorney reminisces about the important people and pivotal events in his life. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the work as "sedate and diverting," concluding that the novel "reliably affirms [Auchincloss's] craft, depicting the maturation of character through time." Auchincloss continues to write, and another novel, Her Infinite Variety, was published in 2000, the author's 83rd year. It is the story of what an attractive and determined woman must do to progress in the mid-20th century business world. Literal Mind commentator Erin Stringer praised the language of the book but missed a deeper glimpse into the mind and feelings of Clara Hoyt, the protagonist. Carolyn See in the Washington Post declared that the heroine "isn't very infinite and doesn't have much variety. In fact, Auchincloss has invented his Clara as a bit of a self-absorbed fiend. Is he being ironic, wicked or simply accurate? At some level, as America's most refined storyteller and most delicate dinosaur, the author remains remarkably opaque in his intentions." The New York Times' Megan Harlan saw too much of the soap opera in the fast-paced novel and concluded that "Clara seem[s] like merely the shiniest cog in this glittering yet mechanical tale of money, power and changing mores." Carey Seale, however, in the Yale Review, noted that "from A Law for the Lion, which depicts socialite Eloise Dilworth's divorce from her unfeeling husband and her consequent ostracism, to 2000's Her Infinite Variety, which follows Clara Hoyt, daughter of a Yale college master, as she rises from New Haven obscurity through several marriages and her own considerable ingenuity to command a publishing empire, Auchincloss's novels constitute an admiring chronicle of the ways in which the women of prefeminist Old New York were able to achieve some measure of autonomy and, indeed, to take a central place in the city's cultural and artistic life."
In the short-story collection The Anniversary and Other Stories, Auchincloss's "mastery is apparent throughout," argued Patrick Sullivan in Library Journal. "These nine previously unpublished stories feature the author's usual preoccupations: the WASP aristocracy confronting moral dilemmas in the boardrooms, prep schools and churches of Manhattan, Westchester and Newport from the Gilded Age to the present," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Though the Publishers Weekly critic found the stories dated, Mary Ellen Quinn in Booklist claimed that Auchincloss's themes are universal, and that it is "easy to get lost in the author's elegant and restrained prose."
Auchincloss has also drawn commendations for his ability to portray the feelings and aspirations of women. "It is when he writes from the point of view of women, … rather than about their function from the strategic vantage point of men, that Auchincloss is at his best," declared Andrew Delbanco in a New Republic review of the author's Three Lives. "[Auchincloss] is on key when he follows the slowly dying spirit of rebellion in rich girls growing up in a world that still honors the principle of dowry. From the first kiss, they are handled with an air of possession by men who seek to purchase them as tickets to social position, and later we see them submitting—sometimes bitterly, sometimes with dignity—to the fact that they are thickening and losing their youth before the desire of their man subsides. It is through such Jamesian portraits of women that Auchincloss best conveys the hurt that sooner or later afflicts even his insulated rich—the … discovery that the self is worthless when separated from what it owns." Likewise, Washington Post Book World correspondent Arthur Krystal noted in his review of Three Lives that Auchincloss "is as adept at creating women as men, as capable of revealing callowness as intelligence, passion as bloodlessness." The critic concluded: "But Auchincloss has never been a mere observer; his fiction has always examined what makes life worth living and in so doing has encouraged us to do the same."
In 1994 Auchincloss released a collection of his favorite short stories, written over four decades. Chicago's Tribune Books reviewer Judith Wynn noted that The Collected Stories of Louis Auchincloss confirms the author's wisdom in writing about a subject matter some have deemed too exclusive and remote from modern concerns. "His bankers and heiresses gleam with drama and wit," the critic wrote. "His boardrooms, salons and business clubs bask in an affectionately ironic glow. Even his snootiest, least likeable characters are granted their distinctive moments of integrity and insight." Wynn continued: "Auchincloss's elegant prose and his clear-eyed moral acuity reveal the convoluted beauty of an intense social world that is sometimes mistakenly regarded as too WASPy, too exclusive, to interest readers of serious contemporary fiction. The Collected Stories makes that fading old Ivy League empire sparkle again, and it may well win this remarkable author the wider audience he deserves."
Further short-story collections have followed: The Atonement and Other Stories (published on the occasion of Auchincloss's eightieth birthday) of which Tuttleton remarked, "some sense of the volume is suggested by Auchincloss's recurrent themes: advancing age, moral retrospection, the decline of the WASPs, and the desire to atone for past ills and, toward the end, to set things straight"; Manhattan Monologues appeared in 2002, and, according to Upchurch, "In its pages, you can trace the changes in American sexual, marital, legal and corporate manners over the course of a century. If you're wondering what sort of people unleashed the hostile-merger craze on Wall Street or casually moved vast numbers of American industrial jobs overseas, Auchincloss can tell you. If you're speculating about the rules of adultery among our nation's elite in, say, 1937, he can tell you that too." As Reg Stout in the Journal Sentinel pointed out, "In these ten highly nuanced portraits, all infected with a Jamesian sense of language, Auchincloss turns to a select group of narrators—attorneys, bankers, diplomats, society matrons and sportsmen—engaged in a private monologue with readers as a way of explaining the true nature of their class."
As well as novels and short stories, Auchincloss has written well-received biographies (Edith Wharton, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Cardinal Richelieu, Henry Adams, for instance), an autobiography, literary criticism, historical sketches, essays, and he has edited books of other writers' works. Carey Seale perhaps understood the source of Auchincloss's difficulties especially with popular reviewers when she wrote, "As one might surmise from the list of his nonfiction works, which includes books on Richelieu, on women at Versailles, and on Corneille and Racine and a long essay on Saint-Simon, his roots lie instead in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in an age dominated, especially in France, by the neoclassical ideals of order, economy, and lucidity. It is these ideals that give shape to Auchincloss's work, and he is indeed, as Hortense Calisher has observed, a 'classicist' at heart. Perhaps, then, it is his close attachment to his intellectual antecedents that explains his declining popularity: each new book arrives like a time capsule from some forgotten epoch of grace and intelligence, awkwardly out of place in the world of Survivor and Wal-Mart, tract mansions and George W. Bush. But one suspects that Auchincloss might after all be happiest joining that class of writers with whom he has always seemed most intensely sympathetic, those whose half-forgotten books stand regally if dustily to one side, waiting to offer their riches to those who will seek them out."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bryer, Jackson R., Louis Auchincloss and His Critics: A Bibliographical Record, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1979.
Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.
Gelderman, Carol W., Louis Auchincloss: A Writer's Life, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
Tuttleton, James A., A Fine Silver Thread: Essays on American Writing and Criticism, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 1998.
American Bar Association Journal, February, 1972.
American Literature, January, 1972.
American Prospect, February 11, 2002, p. 43.
Barron's, May 16, 1994.
Biography, fall, 2000, p. 831; winter, 2001, p. 361.
Book, July-August, 2002, p. 81.
Booklist, September 1, 1997, p. 56; May 15, 1999, p. 1666; February 15, 2000, p. 1127; April 15, 2000, p. 1518; June 1, 2000, p. 1847; April 15, 2001, p. 1574; November 15, 2001, p. 543; June 1, 2002, p. 1677; August 2003, p. 1928; October 1, 2003, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of The Scarlet Letters, p. 298.
Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1962.
Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 1980; March 15, 1994, p. 14; December 30, 1994, p. 14.
Critique, winter, 1964-65; Volume 15, number 2, 1973.
Entertainment Weekly, October 31, 1997, p. 100.
Kenyon Review, autumn, 1965.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1994, p. 814; September 15, 1994, p. 1218; October 15, 2001, p. 1463; May 1, 2002, p. 588; September 15, 2003, review of The Scarlet Letters, p. 1137.
Law Journal, November 8, 1957.
Library Journal, February 1, 1997, p. 78; September 15, 1997, p. 104; June 1, 1999, p. 180; February 1, 2000, p. 115; April 15, 2000, p. 99; March 15, 2001, p. 124; November 14, 2001, p. 74; July 2002, p. 124; October 15, 2003, Robin Nesbitt, review of The Scarlet Letters, p. 95.
Life, April 15, 1966.
Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1984; December 30, 2001, p. R-7.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 2, 1992.
Lynx, spring, 1966.
National Review, May 1, 2000, p. 50.
New Criterion, October, 1997.
New Republic, March 29, 1993, pp. 36-41.
New Yorker, August 13, 1960.
New York Herald Tribune Book Review, September 11, 1960.
New York Review of Books, July 18, 1974; October 5, 2000, p. 19; April 11, 2002, p. 6.
New York Times, October 28, 1985; April 22, 1986; August 20, 2000; October 27, 2002, p. 29.
New York Times Book Review, March 19, 1967; October 13, 1985; May 24, 1987; May 8, 1988; March 26, 1989; May 28, 1989; July 8, 1990, p. 11; February 10, 1991, p. 7; February 27, 1994; September 11, 1994, p. 26; December 4, 1994; August 1, 1999; April 9, 2000, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, August 21, 1995, p. 44; August 4, 1997, p. 66; May 17, 1999, p. 54; March 27, 2000, p. 61; June 12, 2000, p. 50; November 19, 2001, p. 55; June 24, 2002, p. 37; September 29, 2003, review of The Scarlet Letters, p. 40.
Saturday Review, July 14, 1962; July 11, 1964.
Seattle Times, July 28, 2002, p. K10.
South Atlantic Bulletin, May, 1975.
Spectator, March 4, 1960.
Time, May 11, 1987; December 5, 1994, p. 96.
Times (London, England), January 29, 1987.
Times Literary Supplement, May 2, 1980; June 21, 1991, p. 20.
Tribune Books, (Chicago, IL), March 19, 1989; January 1, 1995, p. 1.
Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2002, p. W7.
Washington Post, September 11, 1985; September 28, 1986; March 28, 1989; August 11, 2000, p. C02.
Washington Post Book World, July 22, 1984; September 28, 1986; May 17, 1987; January 10, 1993, pp. 3, 10.
Yale Review of Books, Volume 6, number 2, spring, 2003.
Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/ (October 15, 1997), interview with Auchincloss.
Blogcritics, http://blogcritics.org/ (May 26, 2003), review of Woodrow Wilson.
Findlaw's Book Reviews, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/ (February 1, 2002), review of Theodore Roosevelt.
JS Online, http://www.jsonline.com/ (July 2, 2002), review of Manhattan Monologues.
Literal Mind: Raves, Rants, Reviews, http://literalmind.com/ (March 4, 2004), review of Her Infinite Variety.*