The Atlantic Bookshelf: A Guide to Good Books

AMERICAN history seems but a short span when one stops to think that a man who studied Plato with Emerson and who was a lieutenant colonel in the Civil War is this year the author of one of the most notable new books. The man I refer to is Mr. Justice Holmes, son of Oliver Wendell Holmes, pupil of Emerson, close friend of William James. Mr. Holmes while yet a young veteran of scars (he was wounded three times in the war) made the most momentous decision in his life when he had to choose between philosophy and the study of law. He chose the latter, to the permanent endowment of United States jurisprudence.

Readers of the news, lawyers, and liberals generally, are familiar with the phrase, ‘Justices Holmes and Brandeis dissenting.’ In his excellent magazine profile Cameron Rogers states that Mr. Holmes’s outstanding quality, in the public mind, has been his belief that sectional lawgivers are better fitted to understand what laws their sections require than nine judges sitting at Washington. In his forty-five years’ service on the bench (twenty-eight of them in Washington). Mr. Justice Holmes has studied the immense complexities of the changing American life. And the opinions which he has arrived at are, as Professor Chafee of the Harvard Law School says, ‘literature, in a prose style which his own father could not equal.’