Nelson W. Aldrich Jr., an writer and journal editor who unsparingly scrutinized his fellow heirs to America’s aristocracy, primarily in “Old Money: The Mythology of Wealth in America,” which one reviewer known as “a self-help book for those who have too much,” died on Tuesday at his residence in North Stonington, in southeastern Connecticut. He was 86.
The trigger was issues of Parkinson’s illness, his daughter Liberty Aldrich mentioned.
Mr. Aldrich additionally edited “George, Being George” (2008), an oral historical past that lionized George Plimpton, a fellow patrician and literary journalist, and he wrote “Tommy Hitchcock: An American Hero” (1985), a biography of the famed polo participant.
Mr. Aldrich “was driven by a need to understand, uncover, and explain to others the class he was born into; being a writer gave him the opportunity to do that,” Ms. Aldrich mentioned in an e-mail.
He did that almost all prominently and self-reflectively in “Old Money” (1988) and in a January 1979 cowl story for The Atlantic journal headlined “Preppies: The Last Upper Class?”
While the article parodied prep college college students, it additionally described a “Preppie ideal” as “a collective yearning; with respect to money, it is a yearning for a triumph — of class over income, of grace over works, of being over doing.”
“Gracefulness is less a gift than a standard,” Mr. Aldrich wrote, “something to measure up to, a performance.”
He went on: “The delight of the thing comes from the knowledge that it’s all contrived, that the effect of effortlessness requires a good deal of strain, that negligence requires attention, that indifference requires concentration, that simplicity and naturalness require affectation. The most delicious ‘in’ joke of Preppiedom is the anxiety everyone feels about being carefree.”
Reviewing the book in The Los Angeles Times, the writer Adam Hochschild wrote, “Aldrich’s voice is that of someone in a comfortable leather armchair, telling a story during a long evening over brandy and cigars at an elegant New York or Boston club — a men’s club, definitely.” He known as the e book “as thoughtful a psychological portrait of America’s aristocracy as we have.”
In The New York Times Book Review, it was Jane O’Reilly who known as “Old Money” a “self-help book for those who have too much,” including that rich individuals can be delighted “to discover that someone, one of their own, has defined both the essence and the existential quandary of being Old Money.”
Mr. Aldrich wrote insightfully concerning the drawbacks of an excessive amount of freedom, as personified by the lament of a member of a self-help group for beneficiaries of inherited fortunes known as the Dough Nuts, who complained, “Sometimes I feel as if everything I’ve done in my life has been a hobby.”
Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich Jr. was born on April 11, 1935, in Boston. His father was an architect and chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. His mom was Eleanor (Tweed) Aldrich.
“I was entitled to a IV rather than a Jr.,” Mr. Aldrich wrote in “Old Money,” however “I was persuaded that Roman numerals were pretentious.”
He devoted the e book to, amongst others, his great-grandfather Nelson W. Aldrich who after 30 years in politics — he was a Republican United States Senator from Rhode Island — turned a modest revenue from his wholesale grocery enterprise right into a $12 million fortune because of good funding recommendation and favors from pleasant robber barons.
Senator Aldrich, who was mentioned to have change into a millionaire shepherding laws for such robber barons, was thought of the daddy of the direct federal revenue tax and the Federal Reserve System. His daughter Abigail married John D. Rockefeller Jr., the one son of the founder of Standard Oil. Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, the previous governor of New York and former vp, was a cousin.
After attending the unique St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire and graduating from Harvard with a level in American historical past and literature in 1957, Nelson Jr. held a sequence of jobs: reporter for The Boston Globe, New York City public-school instructor, Paris editor of The Paris Review, senior editor at Harper’s Magazine and editor in chief of Civilization, the Library of Congress journal.
He additionally taught at Long Island University and City College of the City University of New York.
In addition to his daughter Liberty, from his marriage to Anna Lou Humes, which led to divorce, Mr. Aldrich is survived by Ms. Humes’s daughter, Alexandra, whom he adopted; his spouse, Denise (Lovatt) Aldrich; their daughter, Arabella; a son, Alexander Goldsmith, from his relationship with a companion, Gillian Pretty Goldsmith; 4 stepchildren; and 5 grandchildren.
For all his parodies of denizens of the higher lessons, Mr. Aldrich was not above being lampooned himself. With His Crowd mourning the demise of the restaurant Elaine’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2011 — one other class-conscious sanctuary — the poet Frederick Seidel, one of Mr. Aldrich’s former Harvard classmates, wrote:
Aldrich as soon as protested to Elaine that his invoice for the night time was too excessive.
She confirmed him his tab was for seventeen Scotches and he began to cry.
(Or was it eighteen?)
We had been the scene.
Now the ground has been swept clear.