Sketch of the Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes

Felix FRANKFURTER   |   Oliver Wendell HOLMES   |   Oliver Wendell HOLMES Jr.

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(FRANKFURTER, Felix) HOLMES, Oliver Wendell, Jr. Sketch of the Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Offprinted from: Dictionary of American Biography, Volume XXI. [New York]: American Council of Learned Societies, circa 1944. Quarto, staple-bound as issued, original cream self-wrappers; pp. 12. $3500.

First offprint edition, presentation copy, of Felix Frankfurter's biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., originally published in the Dictionary of American Biography, inscribed on the front wrapper: "For my friend ——————— with the esteem of Felix Frankfurter," with laid-in typed presentation slip reading "Compliments of Mr. Justice Frankfurter."

Renowned Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter wrote this thoughtful biography of his mentor and friend, fellow Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.—offprinted here for the first time—for a supplement to the Dictionary of American Biography. Holmes was 71 when he was first introduced to Frankfurter, then a bright, young lawyer assigned to the Bureau of Insular Affairs under Taft. The two were unlikely friends. Holmes had grown up in privileged in Boston, surrounded by the New England literati and the Transcendentalists, while Frankfurter was a Jewish immigrant who had left Austria just as he entered his teenage years. Moreover, Holmes was known for his cold, aristocratic personality, while Frankfurter was known for being off-putting and acerbic. Yet the two swiftly identified common ground in the law. Holmes was a proponent of a living Constitution and believed that law was ever-evolving, but practiced a passive judicial philosophy marked by restraint. Frankfurter was a pro-rights justice who nevertheless exhibited a reluctance to overturn decisions—particularly involving the legislative and executive branches—so long as they did not "shock the conscience." He frequently cited Holmes in those opinions dealing with judicial restraint. "Holmes has always been a difficult subject for biographers. He was a very private man, and toward the end of his life he burned a good number of his letters and implored friends to do the same. Eventually he agreed to let Felix Frankfurter write a posthumous biography, which was then stymied by Frankfurter's appointment to the Supreme Court. (Holmes retired from the court in 1932, at age 90, and died in 1935, just two days before his 94th birthday.) Frankfurter assigned the task to Mark DeWolfe Howe, one of Holmes's former law clerks, whose father wrote a biography of Holmes's father. But Howe never completed it; by the time of his own death in 1967, he had published only the first two volumes in a projected series, taking Holmes as far as 1882 and his appointment to the Massachusetts high court" (Nation). As a results, this is the only biography Felix Frankfurter ever wrote of his beloved mentor. It is a critical first-person source for any study of Frankfurter and Holmes. With laid-in typed presentation slip from Frankfurter.

Light toning, tiny dampstain to bottom edge, a couple small tears to spine ends. A near-fine inscribed copy.

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