The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

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University of Chicago Press, 1992 - Biography & Autobiography - 374 pages
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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., has been called the greatest jurist and legal scholar in the history of the English-speaking world. In this collection of his speeches, opinions, and letters, Richard Posner reveals the fullness of Holmes' achievements as judge, historian, philosopher, and master of English style. Thematically arranged, the volume covers a rich variety of subjects from aging and death to themes in politics, personalities, and law. Posner's substantial introduction firmly places this wealth of material in its proper biographical and historical context.

"A first-rate prose stylist, [Holmes] was perhaps the most quotable of all judges, as this ably edited volume shows."—Washington Post Book World

"Brilliantly edited, lucidly organized, and equipped with a compelling introduction by Judge Posner, [this book] is one of the finest single-volume samplers of any author's work I have seen. . . . Posner has fully captured the acrid tang of him in this masterly anthology."—Terry Teachout, National Review

"Excellent. . . . A worthwhile contribution to current American political/legal discussions."—Library Journal

"The best source for the reader who wants a first serious acquaintance with Holmes."—Thomas C. Grey, New York Review of Books
 

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The essential Holmes: selections from the letters, speeches, judicial opinions, and other writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

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Oliver Wendell Holmes is a major figure not only in American law but also in American letters. Edited by noted judge and legal scholar, Posner, this excellent one-volume anthology offers a mixture of ... Read full review

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Among my favorite books. A fine collection of the best speeches and letters of a truly great, and self-admittedly flawed jurist and man. I have read this book and parts of it, countless times for comfort and inspiration. We read to know that we are not alone.

Contents

Aging and Death
3
Einstein Nov 24 1912 66 To Laski Dec 15 1917 67
17
Joie de Vivre
22
Culture and Personalities
48
The Life Struggle
73
Metaphysics
107
The Social Struggle
120
July 23 1925 140 To Einstein Oct 28 1912 141 To Laski
145
The Common Law
229
Cotton Oil Co 1903 226 LeRoy Fibre Co v Chicago Milwaukee f
271
Interpretation
287
Gravel Co v United States 1928 290 Gompers v United States
301
Corrigan 1921 310 Tyson f Bro v Banton 1927 311
311
United States 1909 324 Silverthorne Lumber Co v United States
333
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About the author (1992)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (August 29, 1809 - October 7, 1894) was an American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author based in Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets, his peers acclaimed him as one of the best writers of the day. His most famous prose works are the "Breakfast-Table" series, which began with The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). He was also an important medical reformer. Holmes was a professor of anatomy and physiology at Harvard College for 35 years. His literary fame came relatively early when in 1830 he published a few lines of verse in a Boston newspaper in which he objected to the dismantling of the frigate Constitution, which had served its nation victoriously in the Tripolitan War and the War of 1812. The poem, "Old Ironside," was a great success, both for Holmes as a poet and in saving the frigate. However, his medical studies left Holmes little leisure for literature for the next 25 years. That changed, however, with the publication of an animated series of essays in the newly founded Atlantic Monthly in 1857 and 1858, and afterwards published in book form as The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). Not only did these essays help secure the magazine's success, but also brought Holmes widespread popularity. Holmes as an essayist has been compared with all of the great writers in that genre, from Michel de Montaigne to Charles Lamb, but his compositions are closer to conversational than to formal prose. Later volumes---The Professor at the Breakfast-Table (1860), The Poet at the Breakfast-Table (1872), and Over the Teacups (1891)---extend the autocrat's delightfully egotistical talks, mainly of Boston and New England, in which Holmes was, by turns, brilliantly witty and extremely serious. During these same years, he also wrote three so-called medicated novels: Elsie Venner (1861), The Guardian Angel (1867), and A Mortal Antipathy (1885). Though undistinguished as literary documents, they are important early studies of that "mysterious borderland which lies between physiology and psychology," and they demonstrate that Holmes was advanced in his conception of the causes and progress of neuroses and mental disease. Holmes died quietly after falling asleep in the afternoon of Sunday, October 7, 1894. As his son, the U. S. Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote, "His death was as peaceful as one could wish for those one loves. He simply ceased to breathe." Holmes's memorial service was held at King's Chapel and overseen by Edward Everett Hale. Holmes was buried alongside his wife in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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