“Consistently gripping.… [I]t’s possessed of a zest and omnivorous curiosity that reflects the boundless energy of its subject.” —Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor
Oliver Wendell Holmes escaped death twice as a young Union officer in the Civil War. He lived ever after with unwavering moral courage, unremitting scorn for dogma, and an insatiable intellectual curiosity. During his nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, he wrote a series of opinions that would prove prophetic in securing freedom of speech, protecting the rights of criminal defendants, and ending the Court’s reactionary resistance to social and economic reforms.
As a pioneering legal scholar, Holmes revolutionized the understanding of common law. As an enthusiastic friend, he wrote thousands of letters brimming with an abiding joy in fighting the good fight. Drawing on many previously unpublished letters and records, Stephen Budiansky offers the fullest portrait yet of this pivotal American figure.
About the Author
Stephen Budiansky is a historian, biographer, and journalist whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, he resides in Loudoun County, Virginia.
Lively and engaging.… [A]t a time when progressives and conservatives alike are so sure of their own premises that America is more polarized than at any time since the Civil War, the ‘skeptical humility,’ as Budiansky puts it, that Holmes took from the war seems more elusive, and more urgently needed, than ever.
— Jeffrey Rosen - Washington Post
Budiansky’s account shines.
— Adam J. White - Wall Street Journal
A lively, accessible book.
— Noah Feldman - New York Times Book Review
Discriminating, genial, and admiring.
— Brenda Wineapple - Nation
Especially consequential.… Budiansky’s is now the most engrossing of the major Holmes biographies.
— Lincoln Caplan - Harvard Magazine
Superb.... A gracefully written narrative full of well-chosen detail.
— William P. LaPiana - Journal of American History
The longevity and complexity of Holmes’s life and judicial philosophy present a formidable challenge to a biographer. Stephen Budiansky has met that challenge in distinguished fashion. Weaving together Holmes’s private and public lives with a clarity that reveals what had often seemed obscure in previous biographies, this book also shows how Holmes’s experience as a thrice-wounded Civil War officer subtly shaped his social and juridical ideas during the next seventy years.
— James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
Stephen Budiansky’s Oliver Wendell Holmes portrays the ultimate giant of American law and intellectual history. In this stunningly researched and compellingly written biography Budiansky brings Holmes back to life. This is an astonishing look at what made our native jurisprudence genius tick. Highly recommended!
— Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and professor of History, Rice University, and author of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race
A lively and informative portrait of the great justice.
— Robert C. Post, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School