Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of my Father
Here’s an interesting biography of Robert Montgomery Scott, written by his daughter Janny Scott. It’s actually a family history, spanning four generations of a wealthy family that settled on what’s called the Main Line outside of Philadelphia. In the early 1900s, Janny Scott’s great grandfather acquired over 800 acres of rolling land in Radnor, Pennsylvania, named it Ardrossan, and built a stone mansion, plus many other luxurious homes, farm buildings and cottages to house his family and the people who worked for him. Most of the first three generations lived in various homes on Ardrossan, including cousins and sometimes less than enthusiastic in-laws.
Locals will recognize the family names and their roles in business and law, especially the financial services firm, Janney Montgomery Scott. Robert Montgomery Scott was also a longtime president of the Philadelphia Museum and the family had a strong presence in business and among the wealthy.
A playwright named Philip Barry met Janny Scott’s grandfather at Harvard and wrote The Philadelphia Story. The Broadway play was produced in 1939 and starred Katherine Hepburn. Her character was based on Edgar Scott’s wife, Helen Hope Montgomery. The movie of the same name hit the theaters in 1940 and starred Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.
Although united by wealth, there were plenty of divisions and a great deal of power struggles, plus a debilitating history of alcoholism in the family. Robert Montgomery Scott, who died in 2005, was a charmer and a schmoozer, but his later years were marked by this disease.
Janny Scott wrote this book in order to know her father a little better. A prolific writer, he left a lifetime of personal journals to her, which were both painful and insightful to read.
I enjoyed this biography because of its local interest and also because I like reading about mansions and their history. What strikes me most is how stunted many of these family members were and also how out of touch they were with the rest of the world. Interestingly, the author’s generation branched out and became independent in their lives and careers.
I recommend The Beneficiary to readers who like biographies and studies of family history.
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!