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July 23 , 2010

Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes


Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes by Sheldon Novick (with a new preface by the author; 178,000 words, 25 illustrations)

Oliver Wendell Holmes is widely regarded as America’s greatest judge. Generations of law students have been and continue to be inspired by his passionate opinions and dissents. Holmes’s books and articles remain in print after more than a century and he is considered one of the great literary figures of his age. Sheldon Novick’s biography is the indispensable record of Holmes’s life for our time.

“Sheldon M. Novick’s ‘Honorable Justice’ is the first full biography based on unrestricted access to the Holmes papers... [Novick] is the type of scholar who, though trained in law, asks Harvard’s Arnold Herbarium to identify some leaves pressed into an old love letter... One opens his book with high hopes, and as chapter follows masterly chapter the hopes mature into admiration of author and awe of subject.” — Edmund Morris, The New York Times

“An ideal biography for the intelligent general reader... the fascination [Holmes] exerts, a combination of toughness and style, shines through this book.” — The New Yorker

“[Holmes’s life] is stuff for great biography and Sheldon M. Novick has given us just that... a work of original and exact scholarship... concise and readable, yet provides enough historical and legal background to enable the nonspecialist to read the book with comprehension and pleasure.” — Hon. Richard A. Posner, The Wall Street Journal

“The book’s strength lies in its fast-paced vividness of narrative and its steadiness of belief in the wholeness and stature of Holmes as a man... Novick tells Holmes’s story with verve, insight, and a command of his material. Even his footnotes capture the reader.” — Max Lerner, The New Republic

“[A]n account, drawing heavily on intimate correspondence, of a supremely gifted man’s journey... Mr. Novick combines a novelist feeling for the colorful incident, the social and cultural milieu, and inner sensibilities with a lawyer’s avid pursuit of facts.” — Paul Freund, The American Scholar

“[A]n articulate, well-documented, and accurate biography... a feat... an admirable book... that will be of great interest to both lawyers and lay people.” — Richard F. Wolfson, Legal Times

“Novick’s biography is superb in revealing Holmes. Clearly written and conveying the drama of a man active from the Civil War through the New Deal, it is biography on the grand scale... a scholarly and insightful portrait of a figure who seemed larger than life and now appears in both the majesty and weakness of his humanity.” — John M. Mulder, The Journal of American History

“... the first scholarly, book-length rendition of Holmes’s life... More than any scholar to date, Novick provides a compelling explanation of the impact that scientific and philosophic theories popular in Holmes’s day had on the Justice’s thinking...” — Harvard Law Review

“Novick’s biography... is widely and deeply researched and crafted with style and elegance” — Bruce Kuklick, Columbia Law Review

“A superlative book about a great man... This book deserves a readership far beyond the legal profession... [T]he footnotes [are] a treasure trove in themselves...” — James J. Fishman, Pace Law Review

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