For years, the name Louis Auchincloss was no more than that to me, and in fact I think it may have been tangled or conflated in my mind with that of another literary lawyer, Louis Begley—a preposterous mix-up if so, given that the one survived the Holocaust while the other sailed through Groton and Yale. Then one day I stumbled across a used copy of The Rector of Justin (a fictionalized portrait of a Groton headmaster) and bought it on a whim. Deeply impressed by the novel, I wolfed down four or five more, all out of print. How could it be, I began to ask myself, that such a skillful and addictive novelist had such a low profile? And who was he? Although not generally all that curious to encounter writers in the flesh, I make an exception for those of advanced age, particularly when they’ve closely studied or been engaged with their time; to meet such people is to touch...


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