Cover image for Mrs. Astor's New York : money and social power in a gilded age
Title:
Mrs. Astor's New York : money and social power in a gilded age
Author:
Homberger, Eric.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xiv, 330 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Looking at aristocracy -- The art of social climbing -- Aristocratic neighborhoods -- Going to the ball -- Ward McAllister -- Being Mrs. Astor.
ISBN:
9780300095012
Format :
Book

Available:*

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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Local History
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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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F128.47 .H69 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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On Order

Summary

Author Notes

Eric Homberger is reader in English and American Studies at the University of East Anglia.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

New York scholar Homberger (Scenes from the Life of a City: Corruption and Conscience in Old New York) gathers a dog's breakfast of research into his latest exploration of the Big Apple. The result is an intriguing and curious volume that can't seem to decide whether it's a coffee table book or a study of the psychology of late 19th- and early 20th- century American aristocrats. The idea of an aristocracy emerging from a fervently democratic society is oxymoronic, as Homberger points out, but for over half a century New York's upper class was peculiarly concerned with such a hierarchy. Ward McAllister's "Patriarchs," considered to be the elite of New York society, and Mrs. Astor's list of "Four Hundred" were the bread and butter of this era's snobbery; the latter half of Homberger's book delves into McAllister's and Astor's lives, chronicling their cotillions, lunches, amusements and affairs with considerable relish. The slightly whimsical last chapter, "Being Mrs. Astor," which begins with a description of that lady's last years (spent planning parties that her doctors had instructed her servants not to hold, and making purchases merchants knew not to send to her house), may be the best part of Homberger's book. His skill for bringing to life characters of a century ago saves the book from the occasionally tedious specificity of earlier chapters, which seem to have gotten bogged down by admittedly impressive research in newspapers and other contemporary records. Illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

This history is a rare find-a book of sophisticated scholarship that also makes for entertaining reading. Homberger's (The Historical Atlas of New York City) descriptive account of aristocratic life in late 19th- and early 20th-century America is an attempt to deal in nonfiction with a subject he feels is mostly understood through novels. New York's aristocracy may have been newer and more fluid than that of other cities, but it was still "a great lumbering elephant of a social presence." Paradoxically, the wealth and power of the social elites resulted not in a sense of freedom but a strangling anxiety to conform to the narrow rules of correct behavior. Mrs. William Astor, a central player in New York's world of aristocratic excess, was an arbiter of social acceptability while also working to keep the undesirables in their place. Homberger takes us to the extravagant balls that defined the social season, develops the rise of the media involved with social life, and describes the elites' tony neighborhoods. All this occurs against the backdrop of a city teeming with poverty, as illustrated by Jacob Riis's influential pictorial, How the Other Half Lives (1890). Solidly researched and a delight to read, this book is recommended for public libraries and for academic libraries with collections in New York history.-Bonnie Collier, Yale Law Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.