Archie And Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age
Archie Chanler, heir to the Astor fortune, and Amélie Rives were the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald of their day: the money, the eccentric behavior, the scandals, and, eventually, the breakdowns. This biography of two late 19th-century American iconoclasts makes for fascinating reading. Famous for her scandalous (and wildly popular) fiction as well as her revealing self-portraits, Amélie exemplified the kind of girl an Astor shouldn’t be seen with, much less marry. For his part, Archie was in love, and paid no heed to family tradition or outrage. Both had strong wills, and, of course, that proved to be their undoing, with Archie ending up in (and escaping from) the famous Bloomingdale Asylum. A lot of space is devoted to Astor family background and genealogy, perhaps because it is better documented than that of the antebellum Rives family, which, while still acting as if their fortune was intact, really hung on to upper-class society by the thread of Amélie’s writing and escapades. Though somewhat overwritten in places, Lucey’s account of Archie and Amélie is a diverting read.