Books: Downfall and Upfall

I COME AS A THIEF

by LOUIS AUCHINCLOSS 231 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $6.95.

At his very best, as in The Rector of Justin, Louis Auchincloss can not only enforce sobriety and respect among his readers; he manages to convey some sense of the strengths and well-harnessed passions that underlie the propriety of his WASP characters. There has always been a strain of unintended comedy in this kind of mannerly fiction, however. The habits and rituals of Auchincloss's well-bred people—moneyed Protestants in the backwaters of the Eastern Establishment —are in themselves no more ridiculous than those of other groups. But the author is so...

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