12 December 2019

BOOK: Catharine Pierce WELLS, Oliver Wendell Holmes : A Willing Servant to an Unknown God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019). ISBN 9781108475952, £ 75.00

Cambridge University Press is publishing a new book on Oliver Wendell Holmes.


Oliver Wendell Holmes was one of the most influential figures in American law. As a Supreme Court Justice, he wrote foundational opinions about such important constitutional issues as freedom of speech and the limits of state regulatory power. As a scholar and Massachusetts High Court judge, he helped to reshape the common law for the modern industrial era. And yet, despite the many accounts of his career, Holmes himself remains an enigma. This book is the first to explore the nineteenth-century New England influences so crucial to the formation of his character. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson's transcendentalism, Holmes belonged to a group of men who formulated a philosophy known as American pragmatism that stood as an alternative to English empiricism and German rationalism. This innovative study places Holmes within the transcendentalist, pragmatist tradition and thereby unlocks his unique identity and contribution to American law. Wells' nuanced analysis will appeal to legal scholars, historians, philosophers, and general readers alike.


Catharine Pierce WellsBoston College, Massachusetts

Catharine Pierce Wells is Professor of Law at the Law School of Boston College, Massachusetts. Wells has published more than thirty articles, with a focus in the fields of tort law and American jurisprudence.


Part I. The Soldier's Faith: Prologue: Memorial Day, 1884
1. Our comfortable routine
2. War is horrible and dull
3. The great chorus of life and joy begins again
4. For the Puritan still lives in New England, Thank God!
Part II. The Journey to the Pole: Commencement speech: Brown University, 1897
5. A black and frozen night
6. The loneliness of original work
7. The master of himself
Epilogue: the consummation.

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