Louis Auchincloss
Auchincloss receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Bush (2005)
Auchincloss receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Bush (2005)
BornLouis Stanton Auchincloss
(1917-09-27)27 September 1917
Lawrence, New York, United States
Died26 January 2010(2010-01-26) (aged 92)
Manhattan, New York, United States
OccupationWriter, lawyer
Alma materYale University
University of Virginia
Notable awardsNational Medal of Arts (2005)
SpouseAdele Lawrence
RelativesNina Auchincloss Straight (cousin)

Louis Stanton Auchincloss (/ˈɔːkɪŋklɒs/; September 27, 1917 – January 26, 2010)[1] was an American lawyer, novelist, historian, and essayist. He is best known as a novelist who parlayed his experiences into books exploring the experiences and psychology of American polite society and old money. His dry, ironic works of fiction continue the tradition of Henry James and Edith Wharton.[2][3] He wrote his novels initially under the name Andrew Lee,[4] the name of an ancestor who cursed any descendant who drank or smoked.[5]

Early life

Born in Lawrence, New York, Auchincloss was the son of Priscilla Dixon (née Stanton) and Joseph Howland Auchincloss.[6] His brother was Howland Auchincloss and his paternal grandfather, John Winthrop Auchincloss, was the brother of Edgar Stirling Auchincloss (father of James C. Auchincloss) and Hugh Dudley Auchincloss (father of Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr.).[7][8] He grew up among the privileged people about whom he would write, although, as he put it, "There was never an Auchincloss fortune…each generation of Auchincloss men either made or married its own money".

He attended St. Bernard's School, Groton School and Yale University, where he was editor of the Yale Literary Magazine. Although he did not complete his undergraduate studies at Yale, he was admitted to and attended law school at the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1941 and was admitted to the New York bar the same year.[1]


Auchincloss was an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell from 1941 to 1951 (with an interruption for war service from 1942 to 1945 in the United States Navy during World War II, which might have inspired his 1947 novel The Indifferent Children). He applied to join the Naval Reserve as an intelligence specialist on December 4, 1940 and was appointed as a lieutenant on December 1, 1942.[9]

After taking a break to pursue full-time writing,[10] Auchincloss returned to working as a lawyer, first as an associate (1954–58) and then as a partner (1958–86) at Hawkins, Delafield and Wood in New York City as a wills and trusts attorney, while writing at the rate of a book a year.

Literary career

Auchincloss is known for his closely observed portraits of old New York and New England society. Among his books are the multi-generational sagas The House of Five Talents (1960), Portrait in Brownstone (1962), and East Side Story (2004). The Rector of Justin (1964) is the tale of a renowned headmaster of a prep school like the one he attended, Groton School,[11] trying to deal with changing times.

In the early 1980s, Auchincloss produced three novels which were not centered on the New York he knew so well, i.e. The Cat and the King, set in Louis XIV's Versailles, Watchfires, concerned with the American Civil War, and Exit Lady Masham, set in Queen Anne's England. Auchincloss would remain close to New York again, however, in his later fiction writing.

Gore Vidal said of his work: "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.... Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives."[12]

Personal life

In 1957, Auchincloss married Adele Burden Lawrence (1931–1991), the daughter of Florence Irvin (née Burden) Lawrence and Blake Leigh Lawrence.[13][14] Her grandfather was prominent industrialist James A. Burden Jr. and her great-grandmother was Vanderbilt heiress Emily Thorn (née Vanderbilt) Sloane White. Adele was an artist, environmentalist and later became a deputy administrator of the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.[15] Together they had three children:[1]

He was president and chairman of the Museum of the City of New York and chairman of the City Hall Restoration Committee and was a member of the Century Association and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where he served as president.[1]

On January 26, 2010, Auchincloss died from complications of a stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.[1]


In his youth, Auchincloss was a "a Roosevelt-hating conservative."[19] Once, while attending Yale, he waved a sunflower (the symbol of Republican Alfred Landon) at President Roosevelt's passing motorcade. Auchincloss wrote conservative articles in Virginia Law Review, which have been described as expressing "a nostalgic and romantic idealism".[20]

In his adult life, Auchincloss was a registered Republican.[21] However, he voted for Democrat Bill Clinton explaining, "I think we’re moving dangerously into a have and have not situation...for the first time in 150 years the rich are sneering at the poor."[22]

Auchincloss described the Bush Family as “a big family of shits." He explained his decision to receive the National Medal of the Arts from President George W. Bush, saying, "I didn’t accept a prize from George W Bush, I accepted a prize from the President of the United States. Who am I to turn that down?"[21]

Awards and legacy

Significant collections of Auchincloss's papers reside at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia and at the Beinecke Library at Yale University. In addition, he was the recipient of the following awards and accolades:


Auchincloss wrote more than 60 books.



Auchincloss's The Great World and Timothy Colt (1956) was adapted for television in an episode of the Climax! series (Season 4, Episode 22; Broadcast 27 March 1958). Composer Paul Reif adapted Portrait in Brownstone into an opera upon which he was working at the time of his death;[29] it has remained unperformed.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d e Holcomb B. Noble and Charles McGrath, Louis Auchincloss, Chronicler of New York's Upper Crust, Dies at 92 The New York Times. Retrieved on January 27, 2010.
  2. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey (2004), Notes in Wharton, Edith (2004). The House of Mirth. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-59308-153-7.
  3. ^ "The novelist Louis Auchincloss talks about how he has been able to write fifty-four books – while also practicing law". The Atlantic Online. 15 October 1997. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  4. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 100.
  5. ^ A Writer's Capital, Auchinloss, page 113
  6. ^ Gelderman, Carol (2007). Louis Auchincloss: A Writer's Life. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-57003-711-5.
  7. ^ Birmingham, Stephen (1968). The Right People. Little, Brown. p. 326.
  8. ^ Buck, Albert H. (1909). The Bucks of Wethersfield, Connecticut. Stone Printing and Manufacturing Co. pp. 120–3.
  9. ^ Naval Reserve Register. 1944. pg. 39.
  10. ^ "Louis Auchincloss Interview with Don Swaim". Archived from the original on 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 1986 interview with Louis Auchincloss
  11. ^ In an essay discussing his novel The Rector of Justin, Auchincloss says he modeled the main character not on an actual boarding school headmaster but on "the greatest man it has been my good luck to know--" Judge Learned Hand. See Origin of a Hero, in Auchincloss, Louis (1979). Life, Law, and Letters: Essays and Sketches. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-28151-2.
  12. ^ Vidal, Gore (1974), "Real Class", New York Review of Books, Vol. 21, No. 12 (JULY 18).
  13. ^ "Blake Leigh Lawrence". The New York Times. 25 June 1986. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  14. ^ "ADELE LAWRENCE WED IN VERMONT; Bride of Louis Auchinoloss, a Virginia Law Alumnus, in Shelburne Church". The New York Times. September 8, 1957. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  15. ^ a b c "Adele L. Auchincloss, An Artist, 59, Is Dead". The New York Times. 8 February 1991. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  16. ^ "WEDDINGS; Tracy Ehrlich, Andrew Auchincloss". The New York Times. 23 May 1999. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Dr. Pennoyer, a Psychologist, Is Wed To John W. Auchincloss 2d, a Lawyer". The New York Times. 10 April 1988. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  18. ^ "Lauren Stewart Moores, Economist, Marries Blake Auchincloss, Architect". The New York Times. 5 June 1988. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  19. ^ Homberger, Eric (28 January 2010). "Louis Auchincloss obituary". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Piket, Louis (1991). Louis Auchincloss: The Growth of a Novelist. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 46-47.
  21. ^ a b Butterworth, Trevor (21 September 2007). "'The irony of my life'". Financial Times.
  22. ^ Carrier, David (1 October 1997). "Louis Auchincloss by David Carrier". Bomb Magazine.
  23. ^ "Louis Auchincloss".
  24. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  25. ^ "Review of Sybil by Louis Auchincloss". Kirkus Reviews. 17 January 1951.
  26. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (9 July 2008). "Valuable Lessons from 'The Rector of Justin'". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ Mallon, Thomas (19 December 2004). "East Side Story: The Ruling Class". NY Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-28.
  28. ^ Towers, Sarah (24 December 2010). "Sunday Book Review of A Voice from Old New York: A Memoir of My Youth by Louis Auchincloss". NY Times.
  29. ^ "Paul Reif, Composer For Films, Theater, More Serious Works". The New York Times. 8 July 1978. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  30. ^ Margaret Ross Griffel; Adrienne Fried Block (1999). Operas in English: A Dictionary. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-25310-2.