Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans – Feud of Sophistication and Scandal: The Strained Bond between Truman Capote and The Swans – 01/Feb/2024

Feud of Sophistication and Scandal: The Strained Bond between Truman Capote and The Swans

Truman Capote, an American writer revered for pioneering the non-fiction novel with his masterpiece “In Cold Blood,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” faced a precipitous fall from grace in the high society he once lorded over due to his literary betrayal. His elite group of female friends, the so-called “Swans”—deeply wealthy and profoundly powerful women—were the collateral damage in this fall. This article delves into the complex relationship between Capote and the Swans, underlining the zenith and nadir of their once-flourishing friendship.

Rise to the Inner Circle: Capote’s Social Ascension and Acclamation by The Swans

Capote’s ascent within New York’s social hierarchy is a tale of charm, wit, and strategic engagement with influential personalities. He was known for captaining conversations at elite gatherings with his storytelling prowess. His coterie of Swans included the likes of Babe Paley, wife of CBS founder William S. Paley; Gloria Guinness, a socialite believed to be one of the most beautiful women in the world; Marella Agnelli, an Italian aristocrat; Slim Keith; Lee Radziwill; and C.Z. Guest.

These women were enchanted by Capote’s attentiveness and his eagerness to enshrine their glamorized lifestyles, finding in him both a confidant and entertainer. For years, this mutual affection thrived, with Capote securing a pedestal within the lofty echelons of mid-20th-century elite society.

The Unmasking: Capote’s ‘Answered Prayers’ Causes A Rift

The tide turned when Capote decided to incorporate these deep personal connections into his literature—the eventually unfinished work titled “Answered Prayers.” Intending to pen a novel that would reveal the underbelly of high society through thinly veiled portrayals of real people, Capote exposed the private lives of those he claimed as friends.

In a fateful excerpt published in Esquire magazine in 1975, he narrated sordid tales mimicking real events from the lives of his inner circle, causing irreparable outrage due to their betraying intimacy. Though never fully completed nor published in its entirety, “Answered Prayers” destroyed decades-long relationships.

The Swans’ Response: Outrage and Ostracization of Capote

The aftermath witnessed the erstwhile Swans closing ranks against Capote. Their indignation was expected; high society holds discretion as its unspoken credo, and its members found themselves mocked and scandalized through Capote’s insights-turned-betrayals.

This backlash rapidly isolated Capote—invitations ceased, whispered condemnations replaced adulations, and his prestigious status within New York’s elite was irretrievably lost. The Swans no longer saw him as their cherished companion but as a pariah who traded their confidences for literary sensation.

Capote’s Downfall and Final Years

Post-Esquire fallout, Capote’s life mirrored the decline typically reserved for fictional tragic heroes. As addiction and depression took hold, he grappled with the loss of his once-celebrated social edits uncontrollably celebrated social cycle uncontrollably celebratory social life with solitude’s stark reality. Despite ongoing attempts to reconcile publicly expressed remorse over “Answered Prayers,” his friendships with the Swans ended.

Capote passed away in 1984, leaving behind a complex legacy marked by unparalleled literary gifts enveloped in social infamy—an infamy that eroded much that he celebrated during the apex of his career.


  • Truman Capote was born on September 30, 1924, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • “In Cold Blood,” published in 1966, was one of his crowning achievements as a writer.
  • The term ‘Swans’ referred not only to their socialite status but also to their grace and beauty.
  • “Answered Prayers” took its title from a quote attributed to Saint Teresa: “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”
  • Esquire published chapters from “Answered Prayers” over several years, stirring turmoil each time.
  • Following “La Côte Basque 1965” excerpt publication in 1975, his fall from society was swift and brutal.
  • Image Description

    A monochrome image portraying Truman Capote with some of his ‘Swan’ socialites at a glamorous event from the 1960s. Set against a backdrop indicating luxury and exclusivity, they exude both confidence and connection—with elegance encapsulating their demeanor.