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Old Money: The Mythology of Wealth in America Paperback – June 1, 1997
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Top Customer Reviews
Aldrich, on the other hand, comes from one of America's old moneyed families (his grandfather was a prominent U.S. Senator at the turn of the century and his uncle was Nelson Rockefeller). Educated at St. Paul's and Harvard in the fifties, he was provided with all of the benefits that money can provide.
Unlike the modern ultra-rich, however, he was also provided a conscience and a sense of duty to his community. This book is, in large part, his effort to justify his own existence and that of his fellows to a society that often views them as little more than leeches who had the good fortune to be born into great wealth. In my opinion, and I suspect his as well, he ultimately fails, but he does provide the best defense of inherited wealth that I have read. In the course of that defense, he provides great insight into how Old Money thinks -- F. Scott Fitzgerald was right; they really are different from the rest of us.
Those who enjoy this book should buy a copy of Money and Class in America: Notes and Observations on Our Civil Religion by Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's magazine and himself from Old Money.
The brief panning reviews below mystified me as well as they did the other reviewer. Aldrich starts out not with anything construable as a "justification", but rather with a withering indictment of the source of his family's wealth -- in itself a mini-education in the dynamics of 19th century pork barrel politics. Aldrich's book is both a sort of personal exorcism of family demons that others would just as soon whitewash and preen themselves over, and a subtle and multi-dimensional account of a great many interrelated issues surrounding the institution of inherited wealth and privilege, and its effect on those both inside and outside the golden pale.
"Reasoned" and "balanced" are two other adjectives that suggest themselves with regard to the book's overall project. Outsiders may resent his occasional displays of sympathy for his motley compatriots in hyper-enfranchisement, but you'll have to search elsewhere (e.g. the better-written WASP Supremacy diatribes) for the "our shortcomings are colorful foibles, theirs are hideous crimes" pathology that afflicts the smug somnambulists of the Far Right.Read more ›
In a golden nutshell;
Old Money likes old schools, old clubs and old stuff.
Old Money likes other Old Money.
Old Money REALLY likes MONEY.
Old Money is bigoted (for the most part.)
Old Money is tradition and duty bound to serve the greater good, except when it's not.
Nelson Aldrich REALLY likes the word "invidious."
I'd only advise buying this book if you are SERIOUSLY interested in the subject. It's not a breezy, humorous read like (outsider) Paul Fussell's "Class." Aldrich doesn't write about what Old Money wears or what kind of cars it drives; he takes a microscope to what drives Old Money, while never betraying his class by revealing anything terribly unflattering that we didn't already know. And, he wants us to KNOW that he's no lightweight rich guy dilettante! Alors! M. Aldrich parle le Francais, ou bien, il a un bon dictionnaire Francais! Qu'importe? In English or in French, this is navel gazing at its most erudite.
The book is particularly enjoyable when he writes about recognizable figures; J.P. Morgan, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, JFK, Tommy Hitchcock, etc. Curiously, women do not figure prominently in Aldrich's Old Money enclave. Aldrich does eventually acknowledge Eleanor Roosevelt (quite well done), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Doris Duke.
The last two chapters are the best. "The Prince and the People" and "Hemingway's Curse" sum things up nicely, explaining exactly why Old Money has painted itself into a jewel encrusted corner.
One complaint: the index could have been more concise.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This entirely absurd treatise on the "nobility of old wealth" is the most ludicrous piece ever written by a fully deluded and perverse individual. Read morePublished on December 4, 2013 by Bartok Kinski
I started this little book yesterday, and since I am into lots of history at the present time, I think it will add to my knowledge of the early history of AmericaPublished on February 9, 2013 by Erna C. Mallory
The author is to be applauded for presenting an insider's view of established wealth. Almost every book ever written about Old Money is from rank outsiders falling back on... Read morePublished on February 4, 2011 by Old Money Guy
This is a perfectly good book. Not great book in the sense of works that change your philosophy (as might "The Art of War" or "The Prince"), but good in the sense of a book that... Read morePublished on October 31, 2008 by Preston L. Bannister
The author of this book makes no excuses for his own wealth, nor for what he's done with his life of privilage. Read morePublished on April 13, 2007 by Scott C. Locklin
The book was just what I expected. I had done some prior research on the topic, and the book confirmed my research efforts.Published on January 9, 2007 by Floyd Butler
This entirely absurd treatise on the "nobility of old wealth" is the most ludicrous piece ever written by a fully deluded and perverse individual. Read morePublished on June 28, 2006 by Oslo Jargo/Bartok Kinski
Please don't fool yourself. While I'm sure the guilt Mr. Aldrich feels for being born rich has been somewhat sated by his charming litte tome (might I mention the little known... Read morePublished on May 7, 2006 by zen