LIVES| Louis S. Auchincloss, chronicler of patrician New York, 1917-2010

AuchLouis Auchincloss.

Louis Stanton Auchincloss, the scion of a venerated New York family, attorney and celebrated novelist died Tuesday evening at his Manhattan home. He was 92.

Born on Long Island on Sept. 17, 1917, Auchincloss grew up in an aristocratic New York that has largely vanished. Educated at Groton, Yale and the University of Virginia Law School, he served in the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. At Virginia, he discovered a passion for estates law; after the War, he joined the Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell.

His first novel, “The Indifferent Children,” was published under the pseudonym of Andrew Lee in 1947. In 1954, he joined Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, where he remained until 1987, practicing trust law. “The Rector of Justin,” for which he received the most critical praise and is perhaps best remembered for, was published in 1964. Other successes included “The Embezzler,” “Portrait in Brownstone,” and “A World of Profit.” His final novel, “Last of the Old Guard,” was published in 2008. In his chronicling of the decay of America’s ruling class, Auchincloss often found himself compared to the likes of John P. Marquand, John O’Hara. Still, his efforts are better compared to Edith Wharton, who also devoted her work to the people and institutions of Old New York.

In its obituary, the Times quotes Gore Vidal, an Auchincloss admirer:

“Of all our 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,” Gore Vidal once wrote. “Yet such is the vastness of our society and the remoteness of academics and book chatters from actual power that those who should be most in this writer’s debt have no idea what a useful service he renders us by revealing and, in some ways, by betraying his class.”

Mr. Vidal added, “Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives.”

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