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Last of the Old Guard

Louis Auchincloss’s 65th novel finds relevance in Wall Street attorneys of a bygone era.

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Some people make the rest of us look like idlers. Case in point: Louis Auchincloss, who has written, on average, a book a year for six decades – even while practicing trust and estate law full-time for more than 40 of those years.

At 91, he’s produced his 65th book overall and 47th volume of fiction, Last of the Old Guard. The title refers to Ernest Saunders, a chilly New York attorney whose greatest passion is the law firm he founded with a Harvard classmate in 1883.

But Auchincloss, who was honored as a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy back in 2000, may well feel like the last of the old guard himself.

There’s something oddly comforting about reading this patrician novelist of manners, successor to Edith Wharton. You know, to a certain degree, what you’ll be served – rather like eating at an exclusive social club.

The food is rarely exciting, but it’s never alarming, either, and it’s impeccably presented. Manners are genteel, language is as proper and crisp as white linen napkins, and everyone is educated and well-heeled. It all feels like a throwback to a more gracious time.

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