Louis Auchincloss Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)
ph_0111201174-Auchincloss.jpg Louis Auchincloss Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Louis Auchincloss was born on September 27, 1917, at Lawrence, Long Island (later a suburb of New York City), the third among four children and the second of three sons. The Auchincloss family, Scottish in origin, had grown both numerous and prosperous in and around New York City, initially engaging in the wool trade but later branching out into the professions. Louis’s father, Howland, a 1908 graduate of Yale University, practiced law on Wall Street. Howland and his wife, the former Priscilla Stanton, saw to it that their children were raised “comfortably” but without ostentation, in relative ignorance of how well-off their family might possibly be.

Howland Auchincloss, although highly successful in a rather arcane field of legal practice, appears to have been what later generations would describe as a “workaholic” and suffered frequent nervous breakdowns in his fifties. Well before that time, young Louis would seriously question the hold of Wall Street on his father’s life and time. Priscilla Stanton Auchincloss was a strong, perceptive wife and mother despite numbing, often inexplicable inhibitions and “taboos,” possibly deriving from guilt feelings over the death of a younger brother when Priscilla was no older than six. It is from his mother that Auchincloss claimed to have derived his keen powers of observation and recall.

Beginning his education at the private Boyce School in Manhattan, Auchincloss enjoyed the companionship of such classmates as the future actors Mel Ferrer and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., before Boyce closed its doors permanently just before the Wall Street crash of 1929. By then, Louis was old enough to follow in the footsteps of his father and elder brother by enrolling at the prestigious Groton School in Massachusetts, a training ground for diplomats and statesmen. Feeling ostracized by his classmates in the aftermath of a schoolboy prank early in his Groton career, young Louis worked hard to distinguish himself academically, earning the high grades he sought but, as he later recalled, almost missing the real point of education. Auchincloss credits Malcolm Strachan, hired to teach at Groton toward the end of his own stay there, with reorienting his reading habits toward enjoyment and away from simple achievement.

Enrolling at Yale in 1935, again following the pattern established by his father, Auchincloss read widely for pleasure both inside and outside class, in time attempting a novel of his own based upon his social observations. When the manuscript was rejected by Scribner’s, not without some words of encouragement for the aspiring author, Auchincloss saw fit to read the rejection as an omen of sorts and to follow his father into the practice of law without wasting any time. Skipping his senior year at Yale, he actively sought the best law school that would accept him without benefit of a bachelor’s degree, enrolling at the University of Virginia as he turned twenty-one in the fall of 1938.

Avoiding the “temptations” of literature, either as reader or as writer, with all the resolve of a recovering addict, Auchincloss studied hard at Virginia, as he had done at Groton, soon discovering in legal prose and logic some of the same delights that he had found in literature. Determined to succeed both as student...

(The entire section is 1349 words.)

Louis Auchincloss Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Taken together, The House of Five Talents, Portrait in Brownstone, The Rector of Justin, and The Embezzler constitute the keystone of Auchincloss’s fictional universe, providing a credible, authoritative portrait of American society and politics from the late nineteenth century until well past the midpoint of the twentieth, a period encompassing two world wars and the Great Depression. In such later novels as The Country Cousin (1978) and The Book Class (1984), Auchincloss has often returned to the temporal setting of Portrait in Brownstone and The Embezzler, evoking the transitional period of the 1930’s with rare insight and skill. Throughout his fiction, Auchincloss is sensitive to the dilemmas of intelligent women in a society that expects them to be pretty, docile, and not particularly bright. The quest of women for independence and self-fulfillment is the subject of both The Lady of Situations (1990) and Her Infinite Variety (2001). Perhaps Auchincloss’s greatest achievement is that, although like Jane Austen, he limits his writing to his own experience, in the lives of his wealthy New Yorkers he find examples of every virtue and vice, every strength and frailty, every hypocrisy and self-delusion of which the human race is capable.

Louis Auchincloss Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

A second-generation Wall Street lawyer, Louis Stanton Auchincloss was born September 27, 1917, at Lawrence, Long Island, the summer home of his parents, J. Howland Auchincloss and the former Priscilla Stanton. Educated at Groton School and at Yale University, Auchincloss began writing as a teenager and submitted his first finished novel as an undergraduate. Although the publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons expressed interest in his planned second novel even as the firm rejected his first, young Auchincloss saw fit to take the rejection as an omen of sorts and embark on a law career with all deliberate speed. Actively seeking the best law school that would accept him without a bachelor’s degree, he left Yale University after three years and enrolled in1938 at the University of Virginia Law School, having presumably renounced literature for life.

In retrospect, Auchincloss’s impulsive decision to leave Yale University prior to graduation turned out to have been a timely one; after receiving his law degree in 1941, he was hired by the well-known Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell and was actually able to practice his profession for several months before the United States went to war, with a job awaiting him upon his return from inevitable military service.

Commissioned in the Navy, Auchincloss served in both the Atlantic and Pacific war theaters after an initial posting to the Canal Zone, an area little touched by the war, where he began to reconsider the option of creative writing. The young officer kept his...

(The entire section is 630 words.)

Louis Auchincloss Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Louis Stanton Auchincloss was born September 27, 1917, in Lawrence, New York, a village on Long Island where his parents owned a vacation house. Their permanent residence was New York City’s upper East Side, where Auchincloss has spent his entire life except for his years of education and military service. His parents, Joseph and Priscilla Auchincloss, were related to many prominent families in New York City society. Auchincloss attended the Bovee School for Boys and graduated from the prestigious Groton School, where his English teacher, Malcolm Strachan, fostered his literary interests. He entered Yale University in 1935 with plans to become a writer, only to withdraw several months short of graduation in 1939 after his initial efforts at publication had been rejected. Deciding instead to pursue a career in law, he received his degree from the University of Virginia in 1941 and worked briefly for the firm of Sullivan and Cromwell in New York before joining the U.S. Navy.

During World War II, Auchincloss served in Naval Intelligence in the Panama Canal Zone and as a gunnery officer on landing ship tanks off the coast of France. Later he was commanding officer on similar craft in the Pacific Ocean. Returning to Sullivan and Cromwell after World War II, Auchincloss again tried his hand at creative writing, this time with demonstrable success. His first novel, The Indifferent Children, incorporated some of his experiences in the Navy and used an...

(The entire section is 516 words.)

Louis Auchincloss Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Initially recognized as a younger competitor to John P. Marquand and John O’Hara, two novelists noted for their deft portrayals of business and society in fiction, Louis Auchincloss (AW-kihn-klahs) soon distinguished himself as their equal. Auchincloss’s name has come to be identified with the tradition of the “novel of manners.” Acknowledging his debt to Henry James and Edith Wharton, as well as to Marcel Proust and other European masters of the form, Auchincloss went on during the 1960’s to develop this genre in its contemporary mode.{$S[A]Lee, Andrew;Auchincloss, Louis}

Louis Stanton Auchincloss was born on Long Island, New York, the second son and third child of a successful Wall Street lawyer. The...

(The entire section is 814 words.)