A Voice From Old New York: A Memoir of My Youth

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Authors: Louis Auchincloss
Tags: Literary, Biography & Autobiography
and where he found ample opportunities for charity from what seem to have been his adequate private means.
    In my day, the young, unmarried masters who gave so much to the intellectual life of a boys' boarding school were eyed quite closely by the often suspicious and wary members of the administration. A very discreet closet gay, particularly if elderly, might be tolerated on the faculty so long as no boy was ever given a suggestion of the teacher's preferences, but others less careful faced challenges. A popular and attractive master at Groton was let go for having a sentimental summer correspondence with a handsome boy—no touching even alleged.
    It was commonly said, at least in his French class of my year, that Mr. Regan, parading past our chairs as he spouted, with a perfect Gallic accent, from our text, would sometimes pause before a particularly robust boy and rub the back of his neck casually and sometimes even slip a sly hand down the back of his trousers, his fingers approaching the backside.
    He was playing with fire. How could he dare? Because he never went further. And knew he would never go further. The boy would never complain and knew he would not be listened to if he did. The groping could be explained as unintentional. Still, it was much commented on among the boys. We all love to bring the great down to our level or lower.
    Some years ago at the American Academy of Arts and Letters I encountered a fellow member, George Rickey, the world famous sculptor, then ninety, who, as a charming and very muscular young man, had briefly taught at Groton. I asked him to dine, and he replied: "Gladly, but on condition that we discuss nothing but Groton School in 1933."
    I agreed, and before our meal was finished we happed upon the old rumors of Jimmy Regan's sexual tastes.
    "Of course, even the faculty heard those rumors," he told me. "One day he invited me to go into Boston with him for a concert. We would spend the night at his club there, the Somerset. He drove me in his big Cadillac, and after the concert we went to his room where we undressed and got into our pajamas. He then placed a bottle of gin on the table between our beds. Now, I thought, if he ever tries anything, this will be it. We had a drink and went to sleep. Nothing happened."
    Nor do I think anything ever did. Jimmy Regan was a good and conscientious man. He did not believe that pedophilia was proper conduct for a teacher of male youth, and he was never going to give into its urges. Others might have different views; that did not concern him. What he was given to do in this life, he would do perfectly and that was all that need concern him. If he occasionally let himself show a trifle too much affection for a fine-looking youth, it could not possibly do the latter any harm, for even if the boy was not one to reject a same-sex relationship, he certainly would not choose one with a small, wispy old man.

    At last, after a dormitory party in which my every extremity was covered with flung ice cream, there was a lull in my persecution. The evening was broken up by the arrival of the kindly dorm master who rescued me and sent the others to bed. Then he helped me look for my dental biteplate, which had been lost in the fray. I told him it had cost my parents $100, an astronomic sum, and for the first time I burst into racking sobs. He was kind to me as nobody had been, found my biteplate, put his arm around my shoulders, and sent me to bed almost consoled. (He was the same man compelled to leave Groton after his letters to the handsome boy, but I always recall him with the deepest affection.)
    As I have said, a lull now followed, as it seemed my persecution had begun to bore its leaders. I even picked up one or two friends. Then I had an aggravated case of tonsillitis and had to go home for a couple of months, and finally it was, blessedly, summer. I behaved as I had been, by example, taught. That is, I made no mention of my unhappiness. Not a single

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