Knickerbockers, Brahmins, and Scotsmen

Last of the Old Guard, Louis Auchincloss, 2008

Louis Auchincloss

Louis Auchincloss, author of more than 60 books was named a Living Landmark of New York. For this reader, Last of the Old Guard is his first encounter with Auchincloss. Auchincloss died on January 26, 2010.

Theodore_Roosevelt henry adams
Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt <> Henry Adams

This novel is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look a New York Law firm from the age of the robber barons like the Vanderbilts and Goulds, of the late 19th Century through the New Deal. The two founding partners, one, Ernest, a Scotsman and one, Addie, a Knickerbocker are classmates at Harvard studying under Henry Adams. Another classmate is Teddy Roosevelt who Addie calls Thee. Embarrassed that his father bought his way out of the Civil War, Addie, almost 40 years old, joins Teddy and the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War and later serves in an administrative capacity in WWI.

Addie, descended from Peter Stuyvesant, who socially looks down on the nouveau riche 400 of the Astors, is the social and diplomatic partner with the old name contacts, and Ernest is the smart, tough, no holds barred lawyer, assuring their robber baron clients that the courts hold no fear or threat to their empires. The novel is written as a reminiscence of the Partner’s careers with accounts of famous, sometimes scandalous cases and family secrets.

Henry James

The partners are fond of the works of Henry James but Auchincloss’ own style is very matter of fact if old fashioned. Still, worth reading for the insight into the mindsets of some true masters of the universe.

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