BOOKS: Ethnic Writer Bears Witness

Louis Auchincloss's stories chart the decline of a people

The moneyed, mannered east Coast upper class that Henry James described and Edith Wharton anatomized was an aristocracy in its own eyes, and a tribe of puffed-up burghers to the older and poorer nobilities of Europe. Its pretensions were exquisite and absurd, but for the few decades that the nation's financial strength was concentrated almost solely in New York City and Boston, its members had the power to impose their measures of status on the rest of the nation.

By the time Louis Auchincloss came along to write such Jamesian, Whartonian novels of manners as The Rector of Justin and The...

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