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Full text of "Holmes Laski Letters The Correspondence Of Mr. Justice Holmes And Harold J Laski 1916 1935 II"

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Holmes-Laski Letters 

THE CORRESPONDENCE OF 
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES AND HAROLD J. LASKI 



II 
1926-1935 




HAROLD J. LASKI 

From a photograph, reproduced through the courtesy of Mrs. Harold J. Laski 
and by permission of the copyright owner, Pictorial Press? London, England. 



Holmes-Laski Letters 

THE CORRESPONDENCE OF 

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES AND HAROLD J. LASKI 

1916-1935 



EDITED BY 

Mark DeWolfe Howe 

With a FOREWORD by 

Felix Frankfurter 



I 



RSI 



II 



HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS 
1953 



Copyright, 1953, by the President and Fellows 
of Harvard College 



Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 

VOLUME I 
FOREWORD BY FELIX FRANKFURTER xiii 

I. 19161918 i 

II. 19191921 177 

III. 19221923 395 

IV. 19241925 577 

VOLUME II 

V. 19261927 sis 

VI. 1928 1929 1011 

VII. 19301932 1215 

VIII. 19331935 1425 

BIOGRAPHICAL APPENDIX 1483 
INDEX 1525 



Illustrations 



VOLUME I 

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES FRONTISPIECE 

From a photograph of the original painting by Charles Hopkinson in 
1929. Reproduced through the courtesy of the Harvard Law School. 

LASKI'S LETTER OF FEBRUARY 18, 1920 244 



VOLUME II 
HAROLD J. LASKI FRONTISPIECE 

From a photograph, reproduced through the courtesy of Mrs. Harold J. 
Laski and by permission of the copyright owner, Pictorial Press, London, 
England. 

A PORTION OF HOLMES'S LETTER OF MAY 12, 1930 1246 



V 



a 6 



Washington, D. C., January 3, 
Dear Laski: A happy New Year to you. It is delightful to think that you 
will be here. I agree with you that it would not be best for us to attempt 
to put you up. Among other reasons, you would have to climb so many 
stairs, but you will share our victuals at convenient moments and we will 
talk. And you shall have one more chance to see light on sovereignty. 
In actual fact I wouldn't think it possible for us to disagree had you 
not said that you thought Kawananakoa v. Polyblank 1 wrong. That chap 
Zane said that no one who thought it right could hope to be a lawyer, 2 
while I categorically and brutally think that one who doesn't think it 
right (I mean in the general aspects) simply doesn't understand what he 
is talking about. 

Your friend Smellie called yesterday and took luncheon here today. 
I enjoyed seeing him very much and learned only by accident that he 
was a "thin red 'ero" and had lost both feet in the war. Another man, 
Gates, 3 was here just before, from Frankfurter, whom also I liked greatly. 
But I have spasms of shame after I have seen these fellows to think of 
having repeated all my old chestnuts to them. Yet if we worried about 
repeating ourselves who should escape? 

I didn't know Vinogradoff was dead. I don't think him a great loss to 
the world of thought, judging by what I have read of his writing, but I 
agree that his Villainage in England was a good book. He was the first 
to print what I had noticed, the reappearance of the festuca etc. 4 in the 
manorial ceremonies. 

I should have liked to hear Pollack on the need for a philosophy of 
law. You speak of him as a man of 75, or, qu. Ms? 78. He has just cele- 
brated his 80th birthday and I have congratulated him as an infant just 
appearing through the trap door in the upper story of the old. 

I haven't had time to read Warren's volume 4 about our Court. 5 The 
other three I thought as good as could be from anyone except a very 
superior and penetrating intellect which I hardly think Warren has. I 
should call them first rate. 

I read Whitehead's Science and the Modern World. It seemed to me 
obscurely written, perhaps not so to mathematicians and it did not 
change my view of the universe. He's a clever man, but I doubt if he 
wields a thunderbolt. . . . 

1 Supra, p. 776. 

2 Supra, p. 180, note 3. 

8 Sylvester Gates, an Oxford graduate, was currently a special student at 
the Harvard Law School. 

* VinogradoflF had noted the similarity between the rituals of enfeoffment in 
manorial courts with those observed in Prankish law. Villainage in England 372 
et seq. 

5 Charles Warren's Congress, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court 
(1925) was not a fourth volume of his Supreme Court in United States History 
(3 vok, 1922). 



818 HOLMES TO LASKI [1926 

Smollett I haven't read since you were born. I thought him rather dull 
I believe in former days. 

Tomorrow morning we take a dry dive into a longish sitting, with its 
concomitant prepossessions. On looking at the schedule I see that we sit 
during the first three weeks of March. March 22 begins a 3 weeks recess, 
which I hope will be propitious for your visit. I can almost say a bientot. 

Jours ever, O.W.H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 9.1.26 

My dear Justice: Two delightful letters from you were waiting for me on 
our return from the Continent. We had a wonderful ten days there, 
mainly spent in looking at pictures and bookshops. I went to Amsterdam 
and saw some Vermeers which confirmed my general impression that the 
Dutch Flemish school is much more attractive than the Italian. I spent 
a day in the Plantin Museum, handling letters from people like Scaliger 
arranging for the printing of their books. And I found some pretty treas- 
ures of which the most interesting was the ms diary of an Antwerp mer- 
chant who came to England in 1632. He notes down all he bought here, 
and being evidently interested in literature some of the songs he heard 
in the street. Being a good husband he also takes down recipes for his 
wife of things like English puddings and notes, thus early, that the 
English do not know how to cook vegetables. I bought, too, a nice copy 
of the first edition of Descartes and an engraving of Voltaire by Moreau 
Le Jeune 1 which explains almost everything in the extraordinary man 
merely in the mouth and the sinuous twist of the nose. I like the Flemish 
country and if only one could, say, destroy about % of the Roman Church's 
influence there, one feels that one would get a flowering civilisation. While 
I was there I read two books which I do most warmly commend to you: 
(1) The Mentality of Apes by Kohler, which is simply thrilling, as attrac- 
tive a book as I have read in many a long day and (2) Folk-lore in the 
Old Testament by J. G. Frazer an abridged edition in one volume which 
I found full of interest. I met one Dutch lawyer of some eminence who 
seemed to know you and Pound and went up in my esteem until he added 
"that great figure, J. M. Beck." Then back here to get lectures ready and 
have some pleasant dinners and visit my favourite book-haunts and the 
National Gallery to see more Vermeers and find out what reproductions 
were good and purchasable. We dined the other night with Wallas and 
fought over some old but attractive fights anent the value of modern 
psychology in politics. Also a good dinner with Sankey, J. whom I like 
the more I see of him. He told me one delightful story of a man he tried 

*Jean Michel Moreau (1714-1814), illustrator of Rousseau's works and 
brother of the painter Louis Gabriel Moreau. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 819 

at Leicester last year who, before sentence was passed, explained to him 
that he was the only honest plumber in Leicester. The charge was one 
of coining and Sankey said that there was some disparity between claim 
and charge; "Oh," said the prisoner, "of course I keeps my 'abits separate." 
Did I tell you of hearing F. Pollock open a discussion on philosophy and 
law at which he was really admirable? I must add, by way of anecdotage, 
one sheer delight. Maurice Amos and I dined the other night with Hal- 
dane and the latter was recounting with a somewhat serene air the things 
that had made him contented with life. He had read philosophy; he had 
met the best minds of his generation; he had helped in some big events; 
and he had never passed an important dish at a public dinner. I wish I 
could picture to you the smile of happy benevolence on Haldane's tubby 
face as this grand climax came out. Amos said he felt that he ought to 
recite the nunc dimittis. Since I came back I have done but little beyond 
these things; but a bookshop adventure may interest you. I am talking 
to its owner, a man of about fifty. Suddenly a white-haired old fellow 
certainly around eighty approaches him. "Are you Mr. Bailey?" "Yes." 
"Mr. Angus Bailey?" "Yes?" "Don't you know rne?" "No." (a little doubt- 
fully). "I'm your Uncle Ezra who went to Australia fifty-eight years ago; 
and if your father's still alive I'm not coming into the shop." Luckily the 
father was dead and so the old man did come in. But the nephew later 
told me the history. The two brothers were members of the same Baptist 
chapel and quarrelled violently (about 1865) about anti-paedobaptism. 
They dissolved partnership and one went to Australia. They never spoke 
or wrote to each other in the interval. Their sons and daughters met, and 
the English nephew's son was actually married to the granddaughter of 
the old Australian gentleman. I had a chat with him utterly bewildered 
by London, amazed and chagrined to find that Darwin (whom he re- 
garded as a blasphemer) was buried in Westminster Abbey. The greatest 
man in 19th century England was Spurgeon, Australia was morally a bad 
country; the Presbyterians and Romans have it in their grip. He wasn't 
keen to stay in England. He had heard that in Iowa the Baptists were 
very powerful and he thought he would go out there and start a religious 
bookshop. He was a game old boy who asked me what I was and when I 
told him at once said with fierce simplicity "Another of them mucky 
Atheists?" He regarded research into natural science as sin. Poverty was 
one's own fault and Herbert Spencer (just dawning when he left Eng- 
land) ought to have been living. He was as young in spirit as when he 
left England and he fought at the crack of the pistol. Once I said that 
things change "Yes, young man, but God's truths don't change." I left 
him walking back to his lodgings like an old Covenanter a magnificent 
spectacle. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L, 



820 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

16 Warwick Gardens, 17. 1. 26 

My dear Justice: I came back yesterday from a week in Scotland to find 
your adorable letter. I envy you the patience that works through White- 
head's book. I began it at the behest of Bertrand Russell, but found it too 
far from me in mental point of view to get much headway. Russell says 
that we have not yet reached the point where we can distinguish between 
facts about relativity and mathematical operations which may have nothing 
to do therewith; I bought a couple of books for the train to Edinburgh, 
but I can't say I was greatly illuminated. But two books I have read with 
great pleasure, both by the same man. One is a History of Political Science 
since Plato (R. H. Murray) and the other the Political Consequences of 
the Reformation. They are both what I should call informing books, 
written from a full mind and a large heart, and the second, especially, has 
the great merit of making things clear that otherwise seem entangled and 
complex. Also he is a devout Austinian who accepts as obvious the con- 
clusions of Holmes, J. in the Polyblank case, so he will give you especial 
comfort, even though, thereby, he reveals to me the one channel of weak- 
ness in his mind. And I have been reading for the first time Burton's 
Anatomy of Melancholy and really liking it as an ideal book for bed- 
purposes. Queer and distorted that world is, but there is an ability pun- 
gently to reflect which is impressive. Also Vauvenargues, whom I find 
delightful and I pray you to procure a volume of his Maximes, preferably 
without editorial embellishments, and ask yourself if he was not the 
wisest man since Bacon. I admire endlessly that French gift of packing a 
lifetime's experience into a phrase; and he certainly had it in full measure. 
Also he is one up to Voltaire; for when the young and unknown army 
captain sent a sheaf of mss to the great man he struck the table with 
his fist and proclaimed genius on the spot. I mentioned this to Birrell who 
at once retorted that it is dangerous; he had done it once and the man 
next year got penal servitude for embezzling from his female admirers. 
Whence, said Birrell, I have been led to demand proofs of a sober life, 
preferably married, before I eulogise unduly in the public press. 

I had pleasant days in Scotland nice audiences to lecture to, and a 
pleasant series of academic dinners. But the people of interest were not in 
my own subjects. The best of them by far was a young Darwin 1 (about 
my own age or a little more), the son of Sir George. The moral philoso- 
phers, especially at Glasgow, were unco' guid, with a real theological 
flavour; and it was evident that the Rhine had overflowed the Firth of 
Forth for they were all devout Hegelians, and looked on the Cairds and 

1 Sir Charles Galton Darwin ( 1887- ); Tait Professor of Natural Philoso- 
phy, Edinburgh University, 1923-1936; Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, 
1936-1938; author of works on theoretical physics. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 821 

Bosanquet as demigods. When I doubted whether vitalism was anything 
but an expression of the degree to which physiology and bio-chemistry 
have still to progress, I was treated as a hare-brained extremist for whom 
respect is impossible. I met one old judge (Salvesen) 2 who just remem- 
bered Francis Jeffrey 3 and Cockburn, and was told by the former that 
Brougham once wrote in a day (I) three decisions for the Privy Council, 
(II) an article for the Edinburgh Review, and (III) most of a draft report 
for a Royal Commission. Jeffrey told this to Macaulay who said remark- 
able indeed; but still more so in that (I) the decisions were wrong, (II) 
the article was absurd, and (III) he (Macaulay) got the Royal Com- 
mission to reject the draft report. I was amused to find that a good 
deal of the supposed Scottish knowledge of Roman law is mythical, inso- 
far as complete ignorance of any book except the text on the lawyers' part 
is evidence of that. At least I mentioned people like Girard in vain; and 
I found the Regius professor of the Civil Law bewailing the fact that 
students found the subject too little related to their job. 

1 lunched yesterday at his kind suggestion with Lewis Einstein and 
found him entirely delightful. He gave me a good report of you, and I 
forgot time in the energy of discussion. He reminded me much of a 
balanced and more cultured Arthur Hill; and I was charmed by the 
interest he retained in what ought to have been his life-work. And today 
I lunched with Sankey as a farewell before he set out for assize. He had 
an old law lord with him, Wrenbuiy who was once Buckley, L.J. 4 The 
old gentleman told good stories of the bar in ancient days, but was over- 
anxious, I thought, about the steepness of taxation. And as he thought 
Malthus a "nasty old man" and "his disciples worse," I, as a good Mal- 
thusian was perhaps more energetic in rebuttal than the old gentleman 
liked. But ad finem he seemed placated for he said he would read Mal- 
thus, the which he had never done. Of such is the Kingdom of heaven 
for Wrenbuiy is a great figure in the Church. I also met a Bishop there 
who deplored the decay in the missionary effort among the Jews and asked 
my views. "I, my lord," I said, "am the corpse rather than the surgeon 
and I cannot be expected to subscribe to the cost of the operation." But 

2 Edward Theodore Salvesen (1857-1942), Lord of Session, 1905-1922, 
member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, 1922-1939. 

8 Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), Lord Jeffrey, Scottish judge and critic who 
was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review and was Judge of the Court 
of Session from 1834 to 1850 and as such had decided in favor of the "wee 
frees" in the Case of the Free Church of Scotland; see, supra, p. 20. It should 
be noted, perhaps, that both Lord Jeffrey and Lord Cockburn (1779-1854) 
died before Lord Salvesen's birth. 

* Henry Burton Buckley (1845-1935), Lord Wrenbury; judge of the Chan- 
cery Division, 1900-1906; Court of Appeal, 1906-1915. After retirement he 
continued active in hearing appeals to the House of Lords and the Judicial 
Committee of the Privy Council. 



822 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

he felt that if only there were special church services in Hebrew the gulf 
between the Church and the synagogue could be bridged. I do hope you 
realise fully that these men also are God's creatures. 

You notice that I have changed the format of these letters, 5 in the 
belief that it may give you aid and comfort in reading them. I'm glad my 
general American plan fits your views. I begin to get really excited about 
it, even to the point of anger when cynical friends say that the State De- 
partment will not give me a itet. But I shall be in America on March 27 
if I have to swim over. 

My love warmly to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

Washington, D. C., January 29, 1926 

Dear Laski: Two letters from you, delightful as usual, this week. The last 
this morning. I could not answer at the drop of the hat because I was 
so busy with the work here. But a recess comes on Monday, and all 
my opinions are written, up to date. Do you know I really am bothered 
by the old difference between us, if there is one, as to sovereignty, because 
as I understand the question it seems to me one that does not admit of 
argument. The thing to which I refer has nothing to do with the difficulty 
of finding out who the sovereign is, or the tacitly recognized de facto 
limits on the power of the most absolute sovereign that ever was. The 
issue is on this decision that you criticize, and even narrower than that. , 
If you should say that the Courts ought in these days to assume a consent 
of the U.S. to be sued, or to be liable in tort on the same principle as 
those governing private persons, I should have my reason for thinking 
you wrong, but should not care, as that would be an intelligible point of 
difference. But what I can't understand is the suggestion that the United 
States is bound by law even though it does not assent. What I mean by 
law in this connection is that which is or should be enforced by the 
Courts and I can't understand how anyone should think that an instrumen- 
tality established by the United States to carry out its will, and that it 
can depose upon a failure to do so, should undertake to enforce some- 
thing that ex hypothesi is against its will. It seems to me like shaking one's 
fist at the sky, when the sky furnishes the energy that enables one to raise 
the fist. There is a tendency to think of judges as if they were inde- 
pendent mouthpieces of the infinite, and not simply directors of a force 
that comes from the source that gives them their authority. I think our 
court has fallen into the error at times and it is that that I have aimed at 
when I have said that the Common Law is not a brooding omnipresence 
in the sky and that the U.S. is not subject to some mystic overlaw that 

5 In this letter and the two succeeding letters Laski widened the space 
between the lines. 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 823 

It is bound to obey. When our U.S. Circuit Courts are backed up by us 
in saying that suitors have a right to their independent judgment as to 
the common law of a State, and so that the U.S. Courts may disregard the 
decisions of the Supreme Court of the State, the fallacy is illustrated. 
The Common Law in a State is the Common Law of that state deriving 
all its authority from the State, as is shown by Louisiana where it does not 
prevail. But the late Harlan, Day, and a majority of others have treated 
the question as if they were invited to speculate about the Common Law 
in abstracto. I repeat that if you merely mean that we ought to imply a 
consent until it is denied in terms, I should think you were wrong and 
that I was better fitted to judge of that than outsiders, but that would be a 
specific question for a given situation, a difference about which could 
create no concern. 

Wednesday I had to preside vice the C.J. absent at a funeral and 
again today as he had caught a cold and was advised to keep to the 
house. The newspapers laid hold of it for a paragraph, and even one 
chap got a photograph in the literal five minutes that I gave him. It came 
out in the evening paper good but looking very old. It made me 
realize what a hungry lot the reporters are every trifle that will make 
a paragraph is, I suppose, cash to them. The other day there was a rail- 
road accident here and they were ferocious with the doctors and the 
nurses in a hospital who wouldn't let them interview the damaged engi- 
neer although they were told that it was a matter of life and death to 
keep him undisturbed. Queer, the way in which Beck has made an im- 
pression in Europe. I am rather sorry for him. He avows disappointed 
ambitions, I believe. A kindly man, but of an incredible egotism. I am 
not sure whether he has a naif belief in his own misfortunes, as some think, 
or asserts it to keep up his courage. He is clever, too, if he would only 
master something. Your account of the old Scotch quasi Covenanter was 
fine, also your anecdote of Haldane, also what you say of Burton and 
Vauvenargue's Maximes. ... I rejoice that you and Einstein took to 
each other. And I am much pleased by your discerning touch as to what 
"ought to have been his life work/' 

Your suggestion of possible trouble about coming here worries me a 
little. They have made troubles that seemed queer, but I have assumed 
(in perfect ignorance) that the exclusions came from some hint on the 
part of a government. If I were you I would make sure beforehand that 
there will be no trouble. I was remarking to Brandeis the other day that 
speech was freer in England than here, now, whereas in 1866 or 7 it was 
freer here and he mentioned some writer who had made this same observa- 
tion. I noted it as the striking of a bell when under Morley's editorship the 
Pall Mall spoke in a matter of course way of those who did not believe in 
Christianity. Much later I noted the complete change since my first visit 



824 HOLMES TO LASKI [1926 

when a lady whom I took down to dinner, having just been introduced to 
her asked me if I believed in it, and she turned out to be a Catholic. 
On the other hand when my friend Henry Cowper 1 was here in '67 he 
said I notice that you say you don't believe. 

Let me return for a moment to the matter of actions of tort. I hesitate 
as to what government should do because among other things I think the 
action has been a doubtful good in these days. Lawyers are on the look- 
out to trump up claims, which they prosecute on shares. I suspect that 
the substitution of a regulated insurance is a great improvement so far 
as it goes. With the government as it is here the trouble would be greater 
even than it is with the railroads. Of course the abstract proposition of 
justice is plain. On the general theme you must remember that I criti- 
cized Austin and dwelt on the independent sources of actual authority, 
before you were born, and that therefore it is no novelty to me. (The 
approach of 85 makes me pose as an old man. Pray for me. ) 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 

The President is getting to be recognized as a man of wit. I have heard 
several things of his saying that prove it. Long ago his remark that 
diplomas were not wolves in sheeps clothing looked that way. Stone, a 
good man, told me how he wished he had made a note of some of his 
saying that he heard when Attorney General. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 23.1.26 

My dear Justice: My travels, at last, are over. I gave a lecture on "Free- 
dom of Discussion" at the University of Wales last Tuesday and now I 
can enjoy seven weeks' peaceful routine. The discussion on the lecture 
was very amusing. Wales, as you perhaps know, is full of nonconformist 
sects, each convinced that it has a private recipe for salvation. My cue 
was to supply a kind of historic background for the dissent in the Abrams 
case; all the secular people warmly sympathised; all the religious thought 
it damnable and detestable that untrue doctrine should be permitted. I 
met a variety of eccentricities, including a professor of mathematics who 
has devoted forty years of enthusiasm to the discovery of the highest 
possible prime number. I mentioned a retired major (an F.R.S.) in 
London who has the same passion and was at once met with a stream of 
vitriolic abuse which was delivered with amazing energy. I suppose ac- 
cordingly that nothing leads to such really deep feelings as the pursuit 
of the definitively useless. I also have been to see the memorial exhibition 
of Sargent an amazing show. It's quite clear when you see the things 
en masse that his methods were French Manet comes to my mind. 
But I think there is a lot of trickery in them; the paint is so put on that 
1 See, supra, p. 323. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 825 

there is little or no inner coherence in them. I take it that a picture ought 
to be a complete whole; it seems to me that his are rather a catalogue, 
brilliant, insolent, but without emotion or inwardness and with little deli- 
cacy of perception. I hope I do not insult one of your idols; broadly I 
felt impressed but disappointed. 

Also I have been reading Ambassador Page's letters. 1 He produces on 
me the same kind of impression that Lowell does, a competent man of 
the world, not very profound, too often taking ignotum pro magnifico 
for his standard of judgment, a little prone to believe idle gossip, a tiny 
bit of a snob, and self-conscious of it, yet on the whole a thoroughly 
good fellow who cared deeply about America without having any great 
grasp of what it meant. . . . And I read the volume by Channing on the 
Civil War, mainly with the sense that he had been over-indulgent to the 
South. And I went to a brilliant lecture by a Frenchman, Pierre Hamp, 2 
who put the case for Pragmatism in exquisite French, and said some 
clever things of which the thing I liked best was the remark that Idealism 
represents the willingness of theology to insist that God is an abstraction 
in case his personality is found out. He mentioned one or two living 
people, especially one Meyerson, as of great importance and altogether 
radiated such charm that it was a delight to listen to him. I have seen, too, 
a collection of fifty unpublished letters of Descartes to Huygens 3 on 
Cartesianism which thrilled me. The great man straining to make a con- 
vert of one almost as great is really rather an attractive spectacle. And, 
even more interesting, I think, one of our students had discovered an 
unpublished ms treatise of Bentham which is a sequel to the Fragment 
on Government and dissects the rest of Blackstone in similar style. 4 It 
was a great chase, for parts of it were in one library, parts in a second, 
parts in a third. They all had to be pieced together, and it was only by 
careful insight that they could be arranged. If this had been a classical 
writer of bastard Latin in the late silver age, I suppose there would have 
been a great fuss about it; as it is, we had great difficulty in finding a 
publisher willing to do a critical edition. It really is a remarkable book, 
written before Bentham's style decided to anticipate the worst involutions 
of Henry James. The young fellow who found it, by the way, is an 
American from Columbia. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H, J. L. 

1 Burton J. Hendrick, The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page (3 vok, 1925). 

2 Pierre Hamp, pseudonym of Pierre Bourillon (1876- ), chef by inherit- 
ance and training who became a distinguished novelist and sociologist, author 
of a series of works under the general title, La peine des hommes. 

3 See Correspondence of Descartes and Constantyn Hut/gens, 1685-1647 
(Roth, ed., 1926). 

* Published as A Comment on the Commentaries (C. W. Everett, ed., 1928); 
reviewed by Laski, 18 Manchester Guardian Weekly 453 (June 8, 1928). 



826 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

16 Warwick Gardens, 611.26 

My dear Justice: A fortnight of rather hard work. First of all two public 
lectures, one of which, on Rousseau, I really enjoyed giving; and it led 
to an amusing onslaught on me by a clergyman who felt strongly that 
a man as bad in character as Rousseau could not possibly have written a 
great book. The other was in a series we are giving at the School on Adam 
Smith to celebrate the passage of 150 years since the Wealth of Nations 
was published. I lectured on him as a great political thinker and had a 
jolly time working out the contradiction between the theory he urges and 
the range of exceptions he admits. It is really interesting to see in Smith 
the meeting between typical a priori natural law and the historical method 
he had learned from Montesquieu. They don't fuse completely, and the 
result is a certain confusion. But the fairness of mind is remarkable, e.g. 
the detachment from the War of Independence with the plea for federal 
union and the possibility of a new Constantinople as the American capi- 
tal of the British Empire. And re-reading Rae's Life of Smith I found it 
impossible not to love both the old fellow and David Hume. They have an 
equanimity of mind which is very enviable. 

Of reading I have been mainly plunged into the matter of lectures. But 
one or two things arising therefrom deserve mention. Have you ever read 
P. M. Masson's Religion de Jean Jacques? much the best book on 
Rousseau, I think, ever written? Second, did you ever know the work of 
the economist Cliffe Leslie? I came to him from his essay on Adam 
Smith 1 and found him full of good things, often, indeed, remarkable 
things. And I read an admirable book of J. A. Hobson's called Free 
Thought in the Social Sciences 2 which would, I think, interest you 
greatly. It is a study of the obstacles to disinterestedness in thinking con- 
nected with human material and, in especial, its account of the use of 
scientific method in political economy as the tool of preconceived desire 
is, I think, beautifully done, especially as it becomes fatal both to Marshall 
and to Marx. One other book I have thought well of, though in a lighter 
way, is the Memoires of the French encyclopedist, Marmontel. He gives 
one especially a quite remarkable picture of the early days before and 
after the sitting of the States-General. It bears the impress of truth, es- 
pecially his interview with the academician, Chamfort, 3 whose ideas 
explain much of the course taken by revolutions. And it amused me to 

'The essay of Thomas Edward Cliffe Leslie (1827-1882), "The Political 
Economy of Adam Smith," is in his Essays in Political and Moral Philosophy 
(1879). ^ y 

Reviewed by Laski, 14 Manchester Guardian Weekly 154 (Feb. 19, 1926). 

"Sebastien Chamfort (1740-1794), French epigrammatist and man of 
letters, enthusiastically espoused the cause of revolution, but could not 
stomach the Reign of Terror and met his end by suicide. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 827 

find there most of the theory of social psychology which Graham Wallas 
et hoc genus omne set out in formidable tomes. Marmontel is, of course 
not one of the big people, and he absurdly overrates his own importance; 
and he quotes enthusiastic letters from Voltaire to him while in the Corre- 
spondence of Voltaire you find the latter saying to Diderot "Ce M. fera 
rien, il na pas le secret." And, finally, I have been struggling with Kuno 
Fischer's History of German [sic] Philosophy 4 which will, I expect, later 
repay effort but at present is largely bewilderment and pain. 

I must not omit the story I heard the other day of Bradley the meta- 
physician. Brodrick, the head of Merton, 5 was a notorious talker to whom 
a two-hour monologue was a normal incident. One day he came into the 
common room with a broken arm. "How did he do it?" Bradley was 
asked. "Trying to hold his tongue" was the retort. 

Of other things. A jolly lunch with the Swedish minister at which, inter 
olios, Alfred Noyes, the poet, and Baldwin were present. The former, I 
thought, a self-conscious fool. He acted the poet. "There are moments 
when I feel uplifted . . . perhaps three of my things will live . . . one 
is conscious of persons as colours. KTA"; but it was good to see the pro- 
fessional aesthete in action. Baldwin as always was simple and interesting 
particularly so on Lloyd-George. "It would be easy," he said, "to deal 
with him if he merely thought he was Napoleon, but he insists that he is 
the Twelve Apostles." He thought Asquith easily the finest speaker he had 
heard in the House, but Bonar Law much the most successful in holding 
it. He said the House in his experience is always kind to error and always 
ruthless to cleverness. He told us that on the average five hundred people 
in a year ask directly for knighthoods and peerages, and he had one de- 
lightful letter from a business gentleman beginning, "Appreciating as you 
must do my services to the Empire." I like his simplicity enormously. 
He doesn't set up to be a great man; and to a lady who made a remark 
implying that he was he said "Madam, I know myself in my bath to be 
as naked as most. . . /' 

I am very grateful for your kindness to my young colleague Smellie; he 
writes most happily of his visit to you. I have now booked my passage 
and paid for it on the Berengaria on the 20th of March. I shall, I think, 
go direct to Boston and spend ten days there; then on to Washington; and 
a few days in New York before I sail again. I need not say that the mere 
thought of talk once more gives me joy. 

My love warmly to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

4 Kuno Fischer, History of Modern Philosophy (Gordy, tr., 1887). 

* George Charles Brodrick (1831-1903); his career as lawyer, journalist, and 
liberal politician was followed by more than twenty years as Warden of Mer- 
ton College and amateur historian. 



828 HOLMES TO LASKI [1926 

Washington, D. C., February 7, 1926 

My dear Laski: This is after having been shut up for a week with a cold 
the grasshopper is a burden but luckily all my work is done, Following 
your suggestion I telephoned the Congressional Library for Vauvenargues, 
and, on my own motion, for Benjamin Constant's Adolphe. By and by 
I received an English novel with a name (I forget it) dimly approximating 
Vauvenargues and a note saying they would send The Constant Nymph 
the next day! Later I got what I wanted. Yes, Vauvenargues has some 
merit, but it was a misfortune to have his Maximes bound up in the same 
volume with La Rochefoucauld. Once in a while he seems to be ahead of 
his time and to hit the eternal, but in the main he is a gentle joy, not too 
pungent for the sick room. French talk about virtue and envy, etc. etc., 
doesn't nourish me greatly. Adolphe interested me to reread interested 
me by the reflections it suggested as well as by its acute analysis. How 
deeply concerned are the parties to the drama, and how little you care 
about them. The woman, of no intellect, could not expect to keep the 
man long, the man taking so seriously an absorption springing from the 
lumbar region. But I grow too detached with age. Perhaps I am too 
averse to any over-serious treatment of the personality as a definite indi- 
visible unit, needing self-respect and striving for God's respect, instead 
of a shifting nebula of uncertain outline and content varying with the 
[aurora?]. I swear I believe many errors and much unhappiness are due 
to the view generally taken, recommended by religion as a duty, felt by 
good breeding as a foundation, which in my opinion is the true sin 
against the Holy Ghost. But I am so much alone in my thinking that if 
I grew very articulate they would shut me up. 

I have spoken of the sickroom I am doing very well and have 
nothing to complain of, only am not much good for a few days. I am not 
making the most of my time but dozing and dawdling, and trying to feel 
irresponsible, A bientot. Jours, O. W. H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 1311.26 

My dear Justice: Everything now is arranged. I have my passage booked, 
a vise from your consul on my passport, and nothing to do except wait for 
March 20. 1 assume that I shall not be detained at Ellis Island, as I have 
never been divorced, am not an anarchist or a polygamist, and do not 
believe in the violent overthrow of established governments. I need not 
tell you how the prospect of talk with you both heartens me. It will be a 
great adventure. 

My chief news will, I think, please you. I have been given the chair 
of political science in the university. That means 33% on my income, the 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 829 

chief say in the teaching of the subject in the university as a whole, and 
the consequent chance, about which I care much, to make the department 
really important. I am very pleased about it, as there are all kinds of 
plans in my head for which I can now seek fruition. And if I can get 
someone like Eugene Meyer 1 to give me a small fund for the purpose of 
publication, I think I can get some good work into the hands of scholars. 
The competitive field was rather interesting. (1) A young Balliol man, 
conscious, I gather, of effortless superiority to the rest of mankind; (2) an 
Australian who explained in his letter of application that he would, if 
elected, make Plato "live again," an achievement in reincarnation which 
he had seemingly practised for some years in Sydney; (3) an elderly K.C. 
whose practice was beginning to dwindle and who built his claim on the 
ground that he had published an analysis of Austin for students; (4) a 
clergyman who had written a book to prove that the British empire was 
God's Kingdom on earth and "would welcome an opportunity to expound 
this vital thesis to a larger audience"; (5) an American whose name I 
know not but who informed the Board of Advisers that he had published 
sixteen text books and was now preparing his seventeenth. I was very 
solemnly interviewed and the clergyman has written to me regretting my 
election as it stands in the way of his doing God's work. I have written 
apologising humbly and suggesting that a university is really far too 
narrow a sphere for such a message. He thereupon replies that he is 
glad to see that I appreciate his importance and indicates that he hopes to 
occupy the chair at a later date. This I take to be a polite way of looking 
forward to my early demise. But as I hear that he wrote recently to the 
Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting his suitability for a vacant bishopric 
on the ground "of attainments which united the learning of Hooker to 
the persuasiveness of Jeremy Taylor," I presume that it is one of those 
cases where consciousness of great powers is rendered the happier by the 
sense of their frustration. 

The week has gone quietly in work. In reading I have mainly been 
busy with Clarendon whom I had not read since I was a schoolboy. I 
found him stately but irritating; and the impression is like you would feel 
if you found yourself naked amid an audience in full Court dress. Then 
a good dose of the Spectator which I found wholly delightful especially 
the attractive essay on the Bank of England. Also I read Trotsky's book 
on the future of England, 2 which I thought able in parts but also full of 
elementary misunderstandings of the British Constitution and the habits of 
our people. But what struck me more than all was to realise (perhaps you 
had noticed it) that the whole Bolshevik psychology is simply Hobbes 
redressed in Marxian costume. It's very interesting put in that way for 



1 Supra, p 506. 

8 Whither England? ( 1925 ). 



830 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

it throws a flood of light on recesses otherwise dim and explains, above ail, 
the terrorist element in their actions. What puzzles me in the book is the 
naivete with which an obviously able man assumes that ipso facto his 
violence is right and your violence wrong. His diagnosis of some of our 
statesmen has real insight; but, equally, some of it (to me) is absurdly 
wrong. Did I mention to you last week J. A. Hobson's Free Thought in 
the Social Sciences? I enjoyed that greatly; and I was impressed but not 
convinced, by a clever German book by one Hans Kelsen of Vienna, 
Allgemeine Staatslehre which puts the Hegelian case with, I think, great 
ability, even though its ability does not seem to me less disastrous. And, 
lastly, a good swig of de Quincey. Apart from the famous things, did you 
ever read his essays on political economy? Without being especially 
original, they are amazingly able statements of the classic Ricardian doc- 
trine; so much that I have asked the Oxford Press to reprint them cheaply 
for my students. 

I had a good bookhunt last week and found some pleasant trifles circa 
1640. But what pleased me much was to find a superb graving of Voltaire 
by Moreau le Jeune for a couple of pounds. It is done from a wax- 
statuette and brings out almost diabolically the verve and diablerie of his 
features. It is in pretty good condition, though you, as a connoisseur in 
these matters, would complain of the cropped margins. And one other 
thing I bought which, child-like, pleased me, namely a copy of Black- 
stone given by him to Mansfield for which I paid ten shillings. I was 
amused by the fact that the set does not show signs of much usage. Two 
or three pages in each chapter have not been cut. Eut, apres tout, Mans- 
field had no need to read Blackstone. 

I must not forget to tell you of the death of a fellow of Trinity Cam- 
bridge aged 97. His funeral was attended by a brother of 99. The latter 
was much distressed and said he had always told his junior that theologi- 
cal research was not compatible with longevity. "God," he solemnly told 
Rutherford, "does not mean us to pry into these matters." After the funeral 
the old man went back to Trinity and solemnly drank his half -bottle of 
port. He was asked his prescription for health and said with great fervour 
"Never deny yourself anything." He explained that he had never married 
as he had found fidelity restrictive as a young man. "I was once engaged, 
when I was forty," he said, "and I found it gave me very serious constipa- 
tion. So I broke off the engagement, and the lady quite understood." He 
was very anxious not to be thought past the age of flirtation. The vicar, 
he said, found his presence very helpful at evening parties. I thought he 
was sheer delight for it was all so absolutely unconscious, but, to my 
amusement, two deans were shocked beyond words. I took the old man 
back to London and put him on his way to the Midlands and have rarely 
had a better journey. Twice he refreshed himself lustily from a flask of 



1926] HOLMES TO LASK1 831 

claret and once insisted on my sharing it with him. He told me he still 
had his pint of champagne for lunch but that it did not mean to him what 
it used to do. 

Our love to you both, and every good wish, 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., February 21, 1926 

My dear Laski: This ought to be the last or the last but one from me 
before your welcome coming. I hope, I repeat, that you have made sure 
that there will be no obstacle to your entry here. I am ignorant as a child 
about it, beyond a vague notion that one is liable to be surprised. I don't 
know either of the books you mention 1 (Religion de Jean Jacques and 
Cliff e Leslie), and I vainly tried, though wobbly in my memory, for those 
volumes on the history of politics and the influence of the Reformation. 
It didn't matter much, for after getting away from the flabbiness of a cold 
I walked into the dentist's trap and am no free man. I have, however, 
touched off two little dissents so far as to get them in proofs one con- 
curring in a few words with a colossal piece of work by Brandeis, 2 and 
the other on my own, concurred in by him, for not [sic] applying the XIV 
Amendment to a state case that is before us. 3 Also I have read one or two 
books, the most notable Symonds's translation of Benvenuto Cellini, not 
read since boyhood when Roscoe's version was all we had. I could not 
but chuckle to think that I saw under Symonds's would be cosmopolitan- 
ism the inner domination of the "We don't do that in England," which 
is so apt to be the Briton's last word. I dare say the same local standards 
prevail elsewhere but I am more conscious of it with the English, although 
even Montesquieu taught one to associate Little Pedlington with the 
Boulevards. 

I recur to your letter to say that I read something of Hobson's years ago 
but was not impressed, but what you say interests me. . . . Yesterday 
p.m. I went to my shelves and took down two volumes nearly at random. 
One was a life and sermons of Whitefield, interesting mainly because he 
is buried at Newburyport. I think you prostrated to his coffin when we 
went over there one day. I didn't read much but was reminded of Sainte- 
Beuve and Pascal by his discourse on election and reprobation and of 
what is said of Edwards by his satisfaction in believing that most of us 

1 Supra, p. 826. 

Not identified. 

8 Probably in Schlesinger v. Wisconsin, 270 U.S. 230, 241 (March 1, 1926). 
The majority of the Court condemned a state statute, under the Fourteenth 
Amendment, which created an absolute presumption that gifts inter vivos made 
within six years of death were made in contemplation of death. Mr. Justice 
Stone joined with Brandeis, J., in concurrence in Holmes's dissent. 



832 HOLMES TO LASKT [1926 

are eternally damned. I found bis language rather surprisingly modern 
and direct. Soon I put him down and turned to the other, which was 
Volume 1 of an old 4 volume edition of Horace Walpole's letters which 
began with his remembrances of the Courts of George the First and 
Second, I find that so delightful for an irresponsible moment that I think 
I shall keep on. Hang it, one can't be seeking improvement all the time. 
Mostly I avoid books that don't help to strengthen the foundations or at 
least add a flying buttress, but if I ever am to be allowed any levity it is 
time for it now. Yet it doesn't come natural to say, My time for expecting 
to contribute anything is over serious amusement is all that is left. I 
dunno one goes up and down. I think that I will go forth and walk an 
inch and a half. I did so yesterday for the first time for a fortnight. If one 
has rather a nervous doubt it is astonishing how it gets on your nerves 
as if it made any difference if he knocked all my remaining talk down my 
throat. However, one must accept one's irrational interest in oneself as a 
way in which the cosmos keeps up the circulation in its extremities or 
secures local [illegible]. So fare you well for a time. I am a little anxious 
about your dates. From March 22 to April 12 we are adjourned, then we 
sit till May 10. I hope for the best. Affly yours, O. W. H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 21.11.26 

My dear Justice: A delight of a letter from you (29.1.26) warmed my 
innards. I don't think myself that there is much essential difference be- 
tween us on sovereignty except differences of emphasis. I agree (I) that 
the Courts must enforce law and take law to be a command of the U.S. 
or a similar authority competent to act; (II) that it is not possible to go 
behind that ultimate source of reference at present. I think myself that 
any state, the U.S. or other, should be responsible for the tortious acts 
of its agents, and I should ultimately like to see large functions e.g. immi- 
gration, tariffs, colonial control, in the hands of an international and not 
a state authority. And, internally, I should want to do all I can to 
make the de jure limits of the state coincide with the de -facto limits. 
Indeed, I suggest that if you will, wherever the word "state" is used 
substitute the word "government" and think of actual persons issuing 
orders that movement to concreteness makes the notion of a limit laid 
down by law quite intelligible e.g. I don't want the King in Parliament 
to be able easily to suspend Habeas Corpus; I want it to pay if its agents 
in the Admiralty invade a patent granted by the Board of Trade; I don't 
want a man of war to be able to evade paying damages if its captain has 
handled it carelessly, and so on. I gather that you would not vehemently 
dissent from all this even if you doubted its wisdom. 

It has been a pleasant week. First a happy dinner at Haldane's 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 833 

among others there Rosebeiy. He is like a professional fog and believes, 
a la Mantalini, that the world has gone to the demnition bow-wows. The 
only thing that pleased him was when I said that he spoke like an earnest 
Catholic bewailing the Reformation, for it enabled him to add that he was 
more like an earnest Catholic who did not really believe his own dogmas. 
Dilke's niece was there and while the women were in explained at length 
the injustice of fate in depriving her uncle of being a certain Prime Minis- 
ter. When they left, Haldane, Rosebery, and Gosse set to work and 
stripped Dilke naked of every quality moral and intellectual. I said to 
Haldane that they had left him only his money; no, said Rosebery, we 
leave him his whining hypocrisy. Also a pleasant dinner for Salvemini the 
Italian exile. 1 He made, I thought, one good remark to the effect that in 
Caesar's time he would have been invited a la Cicero to commit suicide; 
now he waited for some one else to kill the tyrant. He gave us incredible 
details of Mussolini, but I think truthfully. He is a first-rate historian with 
a real sense of evidence and I do not think would consciously lie. Also 
he gave us some wonderful glimpses of D'Annunzio in one of his purple 
moods. You must, please, remind me to tell you the story of D'Annunzio 
and the railway clerk. It is too long to write, but too perfect not to be 
told. 

In the way of reading I recommend strongly two things. The first is 
Mrs. Webb's My Apprenticeship a wonderful account of English 
opinion in the years 1860-90. You will like especially the illuminating 
glimpses of Herbert Spencer of whom she paints one of the most interest- 
ing and sympathetic portraits I have read. The other is Winfield The 
Sources of English Law, 2 a Harvard book which I thought both able and 
attractive. Birrell, who usually abhors law books, was enthusiastic about 
this; and he also put me on to a new American Life of Godwin by one 
Ford Brown 3 which I found so fascinating that I read it until two this 
morning in bed. I can't decide whether Godwin was in money matters an 
illimitable muddler or whether he was really a conscious blackguard. Cer- 
tainly he was without exception the most self-righteous person not in 
orders I have ever met; but it may be that his early training as a dissenting 
minister was responsible for that. There are divine glimpses in the book 
of Shelley and Charles Lamb the latter, as always, the most charming 
of human beings. I have also read a good life of Wordsworth who seems 
to me a loathesome creature. Birrell said he would give up all poetry 
after Shelley for the "Prelude" which appalls me, for though there are 
passages to which I respond I find intolerable longueurs. Are you a 

1 Gaetano Salvemini (1873- ); distinguished historian and anti-Fascist, who 
left Italy in 1925, and from 1930 to 1948 was lecturer on history at Harvard. 

2 Reviewed by Laski, 6 Economica 237 (June 1926). 

8 Reviewed by Laski, 3 Saturday Review of Literature 191 (Oct. 16, 1926). 



834 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

Wordsworthian to the hilt? He always seems to me in temperament what 
Harriet Martineau would have been if the latter had been dowed with 
poetic talent. Also I had a shot at some Proust, but I was bored to tears. 
It was like living in a hot house in which the residents compare notes on 
their paleness and measure their birth in terms of the delicacy of their 
skins. I do not believe that the analysis, however consummate in power of 
handling detail, of people who have no real human value or significance 
can possibly be as important as is made out. I believe in fact that great 
subject-matter as well as great formal skill is necessary to great art. If 
Rembrandt paints a peasant woman the history of the ages of land tenure 
is there; it is the power to universalise an idea in miniature that gives it 
significance. But you read Proust and watch a lot of silly marionnettes 
doing silly things in great detail and solemnity and there is no significance 
of moral or intellectual value in what they do. Nitchevo! as the Russians 
say, and I go back to Dickens or George Eliot with a sense that they really 
knew how to amuse or to illuminate and that one or the other is the 
story-teller's job. 

I imagine that this letter ought to reach you round about your birthday. 
You know with what eager affection I send you good wishes. Now the 
calendar must be set for 90. It is great to have you alive. But please take 
care; for I expect to absorb your energies for a relentless week of talk. 

Our love to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., March 4, 1926 

My dear Laski: (I always remember that damned My just too late. I am 
told that to omit it is like omitting the personal pronoun, as when one 
says "Have been very busy" etc. I don't believe it, but am bullied by the 
suggestion.) This is just a word to say how I am looking forward to 
seeing you and hoping this will catch you before you start. I have been 
mad with work, and distributed another little 14th Amendment dissent 
in which I shall have Brandeis and I think Stone, this morning 1 an 
opinion distributed Tuesday on patents that I hope I shall be allowed to 
announce on my birthday next Monday. 2 You warm my heart with your 
good wishes. No, I am not a Wordsworthian to the hilt, but I do think 
that whereas Mill spoke of him as the kind of poet that a man might 
learn to be, he had by flashes the power to utter the unutterable quite as 

1 Weaver v. Palmer Brothers, 270 U.S. 402, 415 (March 8, 1926). Brandeis 
and Stone, JJ., concurred in Holmes's dissent urging that Pennsylvania could 
constitutionally forbid the use of sterilized shoddy in the manufacture of 
bedding. 

2 Alexander Milburn Co. v. Davis-Bournonville Co., 270 U.S. 390 (March 8, 
1926). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 835 

much as Shelley. He stumps along by your side, a bore in a brown coat, 
and suddenly he goes up and you find that your companion was an angel. 
Proust gave rne pleasure that I should find it hard to analyze, but he 
brought back the feelings of youth and the romance that gilds it. Your 
general remarks I agree with, but Rembrandt could make not merely a 
peasant woman but a beef carcass sublime. I agree, however, in substance. 
You must see the infinite, i.e. the universal in your particular or it is 
only gossip. Did I ever remark to you that philosophy after its flights ends 
in a return to gossip? It goes ahead and formulates as far as it can the laws 
of the cosmos, but it ends in the purely empirical fact that the cosmos 
is thus and not otherwise an unrelated, unexplained datum, which is 
gossip and nothing else. I believe I saw the statuette of Voltaire of which 
you speak at an 18th century exhibition in London once. It had just the 
diablerie of which you speak and made a deep impression on me. 

Your old man seems a companion to an old woman I heard of who was 
asked what she had done to live so long and said, "Oh, I lived human." 
A bientdt. Aff'ly yours, O. W. H. 



192 Brattle Street 

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 29111.26 

My dear Justice: I have been here since Saturday, and the days with 
Felix and Marion are, literally and figuratively, bathed in sunshine. Haec 
olim meminisse juuabit. 

I propose next Saturday night to travel to Washington. So, if I may, I 
will come in to lunch on Sunday. Will you send me a line to say that is 
convenient? Ever affectionately yours, Harold J. Laski 



Washington, D. C., March SO, 1926 

My dear Laski: It is rejoiceable that you are here I did not realize it 
until your letter came just now I certainly shall expect you at luncheon 
next Sunday 1:30 o'clock, 1720 I Street. 
A bientdt. Affly yours, 0. W. Holmes 



On Board the Cunard R.M.S. "Berengaria" 
April 23, 1926* 

My dear Justice: I literally have no words to tell you what those days in 
Washington meant to me. I did not need to revise beliefs, or renew 
allegiance; those had been made in aeternum. But I found that all I had 
treasured as a great memory had the old beauty and more. I put it in 
1 A brief note from Holmes, dated April 5, 1926, is omitted. 



836 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

the treasure house of remembrance as among the great things I have 
experienced. To you both my old homage and affection made deeper and 
more intense by new richness. 

America has been a great adventure. To find Felix not less electric 
than ever, and to take up talk with him as though it ceased but yesterday 
was superb. And I am so much in agreement with many of the results of 
Brandeis's thinking that I had from him (apart from the fresh sense of 
his compelling charm) the satisfaction of guessing that my own diagnosis 
was not entirely wrong. New York was especially kind to me. Mack, J. 
especially helped me to meet Cardozo and Hough: 2 the former a nature 
as exquisite as his mind is perceptive, the latter a fine, masculine mind 
with something of the nature of Bluff King Hal at its base. I saw your 
ex-secretary Benjamin, 3 and his charming young wife. Morris Cohen I 
had a great evening with. He has mellowed greatly, and I was particularly 
glad to find that he and I (like you, I believe, too) had not dissimilar 
views on Pound. I met also a young physiologist from the Rockefeller 
Institute, Alfred Cohn, 4 whom you must sometime meet. He has, I be- 
lieve, a big reputation; but even more important, he has a wonderfully 
tempered mind. And the New Republic gave me a dinner at which the 
talk was quite thrilling; I learned much of an America too often hidden 
from the sojourner of so brief a moment as mine. I felt, again, too that 
with many limitations and a certain heaviness of method, Croly is really 
a big fellow, patient, curious, sincere and penetrating. So long as there 
are people of his quality around, your future as a nation is not without its 
guarantees. 

But this is not a letter so much as a salute. I need not tell you both 
how warm is my affection and how eagerly it greets you. I shall resume 
writing so soon as I am straight at home. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., May 13, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your letter from shipboard moved me in my marrow, but 
I have delayed in writing from day to day owing to the uncertainty and 
anxiety I have felt and feel as to your public affairs. 1 I suppose you are 
in the thick of it I have much confidence in the business sense of the 
nation but one can't talk freely while things seem to hang in the balance. 

2 Supra, p. 601. 

3 Supra, p. 457. 

4 Alfred Einstein Cohn (1879- ), distinguished and creative research 
physician; author of Medicine, Science and Art (1931), No Retreat from Rea- 
son (1948). 

1 See, infra, p. 838, note 2. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 837 

I shall say but a word or two therefore. (1) I also met Cardozo the 
other day and thought his face beautiful with intellect and character, I 
had only a limited chance to talk during the short time he was here 
with others. 

(2) I read with surprised satisfaction Murray's History of Political 
Science, etc. His slight whiff of the parson or the Hegelian at moments 
did not prevent my finding it most interesting and compactly instructive. 

(3) I am reading out of regard to my friend Wu, Stammler's Theory 
of Justice. I have read 228 pages and though he seems a noble-minded 
moralist, I confess so far it has been simply marking time, and with 
tedious iteration impressing upon the reader the difference between an 
abstract scheme regarded as applicable to all possible controls of the law, 
and the empirical contents. As I don't believe the postulate and think 
morality a sort of higher politeness, that stands between us and the ulti- 
mate fact force I am not much edified. Nor do I see how a believer 
in any kind of evolution can get a higher formula than organic fitness at 
the given moment. 

(4) Your impression of Croly is like my own, but he can't write and 
he tends to give a pedagogic tone to his discourse that makes me shrink 
from it, 

I tremble as I send this off but affectionate thoughts and hopes go 
with it. Yours ever, O. W. H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 2.V.26 

My dear Justice: Let us resume operations. I arrived home on Wednesday 
after a wonderful voyage, made still more pleasant by reading (a) 
Bowers's Jefferson and Hamilton which I really enjoyed and (b) Sand- 
burg's Lincoln, the first book I have read on him which makes you feel 
the bigness of the man even in those early years; and it is, besides, a 
really absorbing picture of life in the Middle West when it was still a 
frontier province. I hope you will take it to Beverly Farms for the summer, 
as I am sure you will get the same pleasure I did from it. I amend this, to 
avoid metaphysical objections, to the "same sort of." 

I had a most interesting visit in New York before I sailed. A dinner 
with Cardozo whom I found quite enchanting; it is not often that a mind 
so attractive goes with a character so sweet as his. I met, too, Hough 
whom I liked as one likes the bluff sea-captain type. He has, I should 
judge, a strong rather than a profound mind without much delicacy of 
perception but with an immense grip of what he has seen. I saw, also, 
Learned Hand, who is as attractive as ever. The sceptic in the judge is a 
great combination. But of all those in New York I was won, or re won, most 
by Morris Cohen. Not only the width of mind, and the ability to play with 



838 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

ideas, but a poise and a new equanimity which made him a really arrest- 
ing figure. I found (it made him even more attractive) that we were 
largely in agreement on essentials. We both thought Pound had reached 
the stage of repetition. We both thought idealism was done. We both had 
the same doubts of America. The New Republic people were very good 
to me, and I was again impressed by Croly s honesty and simplicity of 
character. And New York was given added delight by continual recontres 
[sic] with old pupils in the Harvard Club who surprised and touched me 
with the warmth of their greeting. 

Well, I am glad to be back; but I have rarely spent so interesting and 
profitable a time as those weeks with you all. It was not merely the joy 
of finding that the impalpables do not rust with time; nor even the acute 
pleasure that the feeling-out of other minds gives one (after all the 
greatest of pleasures). It was the experience of being plunged suddenly 
into a totally different civilisation with different assumptions at its base. 
If I wasn't entirely convinced, I was throughout fascinated; and the spec- 
tacle, all in all, is impressive. I am going to try and put some thoughts 
about it into the New Republic, 1 so, on the assumption that you will read 
them there, I shall not bother you with them twice over. For your private 
ear, I want to add that the days with you and Felix had a quality that one 
encounters only two or three times in life. I shall not forget them. 

I came back to find Frida and Diana both very fit; but we tremble on 
the verge of terrible events here and I do not know what will happen. 2 
I have a deep sense within me that before the general strike begins on 
Tuesday, Baldwin will somehow have found means of accomodation [sic], 

1 No such article was published. 

2 Since mid-April the crisis in negotiations between the miners, the employers, 
and the government had developed with mounting intensity. Since April 30 
there had been a total stoppage in the production of coal and on May 1 the 
Trade Union Congress announced that a general strike would begin on Ma)' 3. 
Mr. Baldwin, and even more vigorously, Mr. Churchill, Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer, treated the action of the Trade Union Congress as a lawless, revolu- 
tionary effort to upset the constitutional system. The Government, when the 
general strike took effect, stood by the proposition that it would not participate 
in negotiations concerning the shutdown of the mines while the general strike 
continued. On May 12 the general strike came formally to an end on the 
understanding that negotiations with respect to the coal dispute would be 
reopened forthwith. Those negotiations, however, fruitlessly dragged on, the 
miners stanchly refusing to accede to the employers' demand, supported by the 
Government, that wage reductions and longer hours were essential. The coal 
stoppage continued throughout the summer, and it was not until November 
that the miners finally returned to work, on terms far less favorable than those 
which had been offered to them in April. Laski wrote of the coal strike in 
122 Nation 578 (May 26, 1926) and of the general strike, id. 663 (June 16, 
1926). See also 56 Survey 416 (July 1, 1926). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 839 

for, as I wrote to him last night, the breakdown seems to me rather the 
misunderstanding of tired men than any ultimate difference. I hope so; 
for a general strike, if at all prolonged, would loose forces of a kind that 
make for changes too vast to come rightly or wisely without deliberate 
plan. 

The routine has begun, and I do not find it irksome even after those 
days of unrestraint. It is a little sad from the fact that one of the dearest 
of my colleagues died suddenly after an operation and a great teaching 
influence has gone. But one learns, I think, as one grows older that the 
vital thing is less to repine than to close the ranks. Inani perfungor munere 
is better accomplished by closer attention to one's job than in the weaving 
of wreaths. 

I did not, I think, tell you that I had some book adventures in New York. 
I did not find the one thing I wanted for myself a cheap set of the 
U.S. Supreme Court Reports. But I found the rarest work of the old 
Mirabeau the Legons [sic] economiques; 3 and, also the Laboulaye 
edition of Montesquieu for ten dollars, it being usually both rare and 
costly. This was the more attractive in that it was well-bound and, also, 
had the correspondence bound uniformly with it. And I bought the works 
of Fisher Ames on the advice of Rosensohn and found him an able and 
interesting fellow. Somme tout, 1 brought back some fifty volumes and 
one, Faxon's History of the American Frontier, I look forward to for new 
insight into America, 

Now I must end and go on with the vast task of arrears of correspond- 
ence. My love and homage to you both. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 23.V.26 

My dear Justice: A grand letter from you yesterday was like a fragrant 
scent in a dismal world. You can imagine that it has been a time of 
immense strain, made, I think, the worse by the fact that it was all per- 
fectly unnecessary. . . . You will not, I am sure, have been deluded by 
all the talk of revolution and challenge to the government. From first to 
last it was a purely industrial dispute carried out with amazing good 
temper and orderliness by millions of men who could not without shame 
see the miners' wages reduced to between ten and twelve dollars a week. 
I speak whereof I know; for I carried out the earlier private negotiations 
with the government on behalf of the unions, and the ultimate settlement 
was upon a draft I had written. This, of course, is strictly between our- 
selves; I have not even written it to Felix. And you will not need me to 
8 Presumably the Marquis de Mirabeau's Lettres tconomiques (1770). 



840 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

say that, on this issue, had the question of a challenge to constitutional 
government been in question, I should not have tried to help the trade 
unions. My own feelings were put admirably by Keynes in the New Repub- 
lic of May 19th. 1 It was a piece of bungling, due to hotheads in the 
cabinet who wanted to "teach labour a lesson." I come out of it with 
intense respect for the qualities of the working-man. And of those in high 
place with whom it was my business to deal, Baldwin and Birkenhead won 
new esteem from me. The first isn't able, but he really has character and 
an absence of vindictiveness, though he lacks strength of will. Birkenhead 
was amazing. Once you broke down his oratorical habits, he was resource- 
ful, quick, full of intelligence, and with a great flair as a draftsman. . . . 
Well, it was a fortnight's grim labour, which ought, at least, to enable me 
to write a much better book on communism than I could have done before. 
It also convinces me that there really isn't much to be said for "muddling 
through." You may win your end, but you pay a heavy price. The miners 
are still out, and unless there is a return to my basis, they will stay out. 
. Now we are trying to get the parties together on the old basis. But 
the miners having seen the basis thrown over once the general strike was 
called off were naturally suspicious, and it will, I fear, be a long job. The 
suffering in the mining districts is intense and I cannot find words to tell 
you what I feel about their powers of endurance. They have five and ten 
shillings a week strike pay, and they just set their teeth and bear it. In an 
ultimate sense, they are unbeatable people; for, as I told the Prime Min- 
ister yesterday, even if they lose this fight, they will strike again as soon 
as the tide of trade turns. They are Cromwell's Ironsides, and they do not 
know what it is to be beaten. 

As you can imagine, I have done no reading during these days; only 
since Wednesday, indeed, has life been normal again. We had a good 
two days in the country with the Webbs, after the strike was over; and 
last night Mcllwain came in and we had a grand book talk, in which I had 
that endless satisfaction which comes from seeing a man with a fine 
library envy you your own treasures. I have paged Graham Wallas's new 
book, The Art of Thought, but it seemed to me elegant trifling; and this 
a.m. in bed I read Hirst's Thomas Jefferson, with the feeling that he did 
not know much about his subject. But I can't really gossip until next week, 
when I shall be back in midstream. This is really only an interim word 
of affection to tell you both that the old landmarks stand. 

Our united love, Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 

1 Keynes, "The End of Peace by Negotiation," 46 New Republic 395 (May 
19, 1926). 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 841 

Washington, D. C., -May 15, 1926 

My dear Laski: This is a postscript to my rmnuscript of the other day, and 
is written to acknowledge your first letter from home as you say, on the 
verge of terrible events. My anxiety still makes it hard to write. The 
papers speak as if a settlement were coming, but I feel no security until 
the fact is accomplished. That Baldwin is on one side and MacDonald on 
the other seems to promise a rational result. I think I have told you 
before of going, 60 years ago, with Mill to a dinner of the Political 
Economy Club and finding the subject for the evening discussion to be 
whether the financial policy of England should be shaped to meet the pre- 
dicted exhaustion of the coal in 90 years. 

My ennui with Stammler continues, although some of his laborious 
applications of the Golden Rule have a little novelty in form. Lord, Lord, 
I wonder if you would get nourishment from him. I believe men have 
prolonged life by boiling their brogans. 

I am a wreck this evening, though somewhat restored by slumber, from 
having got up half an hour or more earlier than usual, hurried through 
dressing, and going and sitting in the sun on the steps of the capitol to 
see the Hopi Indians do their dances, winding up with the snake dance, 
though it was said they were not allowed to bring the full-fanged rattle- 
snakes that they played with at home, and had harmless serpents squirm- 
ing about on the stage, around their necks and in their mouths. Again I 
say to myself, the joy of life is the neglect of opportunities. However, this 
one is over and I am tolorably serene now. 

Do you know Miss Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant? She writes intimating 
a call by and by. We had a clever chat once and I think she will be 
better than Stammler. I have read some good pieces of hers, using superla- 
tives about people I did not know. I slightly suspect her of hyperaesthesia 
(not speaking pathologically), and yet she was very rational about Amy 
Lowell who was a friend of hers. Here the mere fact that a person is at 
ease with the more delicate allusions and assumptions of intellectual or 
literary interest distinguishes him. It may not go very deep. Many years 
ago Haldane said that the clever young ladies who seemed so on the hair 
trigger got their knowledge from reviews, not from the books. But I 
always have remembered what one of them said to me: "You Americans 
wait for us to finish our sentences/* 

The evening paper is calming. It seems to indicate that the worst is 
over. Also it says that the chap that started to fly over the pole in a 
dirigible has landed in safety after a silence that made one fear that 
he was lost. 1 



Amundsen (1872-1928) on May 11 had started from Spitsbergen on 
his dirigible flight over the Pole, He landed on the 14th at Teller on the Bering 
Sea. 



84 2 HOLMES TO LASKI 

My wife has read a very engaging book to me, Pupin, From Immigrant 
to Inventor. He is a Serb now at Columbia and Stone promises to bring 
him in some day. He speaks with a reverence for the saints of science that 
gives joy to my heart. m 

My love to you and yours and may this Bnd you all in peace. 
y Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 

Washington, D. C., June 4, 1926 

My dear Laski: An absorbingly interesting letter from you gives me the 
only light I have on the recent great affairs except an article by Keynes, 
no doubt the one you refer to. I received a letter from one of a different 
mode of thought speaking contemptuously of MacDonald, but I don't 
know why. I have no comments except my already expressed general 
impression that England as a whole appeared to great advantage. I have 
nothing to tell. I am in the details of approaching departure on Monday 
we adjourn. There were 29 certioraris to be examined this week, of course 
many opinions coming in at the last minute one dissent by me, con- 
curred in only by Brandeis, though I think it pretty plain. 1 One dissent 
from me by MacReynolds [sic], solus, concluding that the argument sus- 
tained by him "cannot be vaporized by gestures of impatience^ and a 
choleric 'obviously' " 2 which makes me smile, the more that I don't think 
it hits or is aimed at anything in my opinion but rather at my attitude 
at the last conference which I am afraid was not as respectful as it 
should have been. Poor MacReynolds is, I think, a man of feeling and of 
more secret kindliness than he would get the credit for. But as is so com- 
mon with Southerners, his own personality governs him without much 
thought of others when an impulse comes, and I think without sufficient 
regard for the proprieties of the Court. I don't mind the above a bit so far 
as I arn concerned, but I think it improper in an opinion. Formerly, 
according to my recollection, he was really insolent to Brandeis, although 
now there is at least a modus viuendi. When I was in the hospital he 
wrote a charming letter to me, which I shall not soon forget. I have had 
also business matters to attend to tax return, probate return, etc., 
but thanks to my secretary they are polished off. If left to myself I get 

1 Frost and Frost Trucking Co. v. Railroad Commission, 271 U.S. 583, 600 
(June 7, 1926). 

* Morse Dry dock and Repair Co, v. Steamship Northern Star, 271 U.S. 552 
(June 7, 1926), The dissent of McReynolds, J., as published concluded with 
the assertion that he agreed with the trial judge and ventured "to think that 
the argument in support of his conclusion cannot be vaporized by mere nega- 
tion." Id. at 557. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 843 

balled up by some detail every time. I have read nothing. I had a call 
the other p.m. from Miss Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. At parting she 
renewed the statement that she made on a previous occasion some months 
or more ago that she wanted to write about me. What a dame not learned 
in the law can find to say I don't know. I said that so long as I took no 
part in it people were to write or not as they liked. . . . 

The dentist has let me loose with his blessing and in short the waters 
are accumulating in the dam for a bust toward Boston next Wednesday 
evening. I expect that my next to you will be from Beverly Farms. 

Af'ly yours, 0. W. H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, SO.V.26 

My dear Justice: A delight of a letter from you is a landmark in these 
grim days. The miners are still out, and industry, as a result, is inflicted 
with a kind of creeping paralysis. We have won a remarkable bye-election 
in London, in which a government majority of two thousand was trans- 
formed into a labour majority of four thousand. It has given the govern- 
ment a fright, and we cherish a hope that it will persuade Baldwin to 
act, instead of standing idly by, doing nothing. It is all very well for him 
to protest that he loves the good and the beautiful, but that doesn't 
butter any parsnips. I gather that the nigger in the woodpile is the good 
Winston, who is never happy unless there is a fight. The other big event 
of the week is the new quarrel between Asquith and Lloyd-George. 1 I 
never thought I should live to sympathise with the latter, but here I 
think that Asquith has made a profound mistake by trying to set up 
standards of party orthodoxy to which no man can possibly be asked to 
conform. I don't know if you saw the correspondence? I don't suppose 
that since the Russell-Palmerston row over Louis Napoleon, one distin- 
guished statesman has ever so written to another. It doesn't seem possible 
that they should ever collaborate again; and it means, I should imagine, 
the definite disappearance of liberalism as a force in party affairs. It is a 
tragic ending for Asquith's career, but he has proved so utterly incapable 
of adjusting himself to the demands of a new age that the collapse was 
inevitable. Yet I am enough of a traditionalist to see with regret the end 
of power which goes back directly to 1832 and the great epoch of reform, 

1 On May 20, Lord Oxford, supported by other leaders of the Liberal Party, 
had written a letter to Lloyd George severely reprimanding him for his de- 
fection from Party policy in the matter of the general strike. The letter led 
to an acrimonious dispute between the principals and their supporters and 
finally in mid-June the controversy sputtered out with Lloyd George the clear 



844 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

and, indirectly to the Revolution of 1688. The funerals of historical entities 
are melancholy events. 

Frida and I used to know well the Miss Sergeant whom you have been 
seeing, and to like her well She had one or two aspects, e.g., admiration 
for Mexican Indians, which I thought a little ennuyant, but in general a 
woman of real taste and insight, without a trace of humbug, like that 
intolerable Gertrude King who struck philosophic attitudes for the ap- 
plause of a group of young lawyers all of whom were totally ignorant of 
philosophy. I cannot stand a certain pretentious Anglo-American type of 
woman who has all the latest "culture" on her lips, and is steeped in the 
latest slang of the market-place. The other day I was at tea with Birrell, 
and he had a visitor from Chicago who put him (and me) through a 
catechism about our "reactions" to this and that fashionable figure in 
letters. At last I told her frankly that I was a purely passive recipient of 
sensations who never dared to examine their meaning; and that the last 
biography I had read was Boswell. She looked at me in pure amazement 
and said that I must be very "out of things" at parties. I said that I very 
rarely went to parties. "Good heavens," she exclaimed, "what do you do 
with your time?" 

I have seen few people since last week as Whitsun has sent them away. 
But Mcllwain of Harvard has been here a good deal, and yesterday we 
devoted the day to a splendid book-hunt together. We bought a few 
choice items, of which my main prize was the Anti-Mariana of Roussel 
(1610) as rare a thing as there is in political literature and cheap beyond 
words at fifteen shillings. We saw things that make one weep with envy 
for the ampler purse. But we agreed that if one can buy illimitably half 
the joy of battle has gone. Mcllwain is a great fellow, with extraordinary 
knowledge, and a great fund of original ideas. He has a certain dourness 
of temperament, which may be the result of generations of Calvinism; 
but I know no historian in my line since Maitland who is so suggestive. 
The Harvard people ought to be very proud of him. 

1 hope that my articles in the Michigan and Harvard Law Reviews 2 
will have come safely to you. I think you will agree with them in general, 
for they are really humble exercises in discipleship. Certainly the Har- 
vard one is no more than the application to English conditions of Noble 
State Bank v. Haskell. Haldane, to my great surprise, is very hostile to 
the one on the judges. He denies (1) the possibility of good choice by 
judges and (2) that political influence really makes much difference. 1 
am not in the least convinced, for I can see in recent years here definite 
signs e.g. in Sumner of a definite interaction between his decisions in the 
Lords and the speeches he (very wrongly) makes there in eager defence 

2 See, supra, p. 808. 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 845 

of Toryism. It is as though you were to speak in strong defence of Cool- 
idge in the Senate and then to expect that cases to which the government 
was a party would come to you quite colourlessly. I wish that people 
could be persuaded to realise that judges are human beings; it would be 
a real help to jurisprudence. 

Of reading, a good deal in a quiet way. First the translation of Stamm- 
ler, which I do not find very impressive. He seems to me to be platitudi- 
nous and in the air, and to lack precision both of statement and ideas. I 
doubt, indeed, whether one can get a satisfactory theory of law deduc- 
tively from a set notion of justice. Analyse what judges do, explain why 
you don't like it, and make a skilful argument to show that your personal 
preferences had better be mine. But to dress it all up in categorical im- 
peratives and universality is, I think, to give very big names to very small 
beer. Then I read with extreme pleasure Declareuil's Histoire de droit 
frangais au 1789 an admirable book, the best on its subject I know. It 
is learned, acute and revealing, with not a little of Maitland's power of 
happy phrase. I think you would find it a good book for Beverly Farms. 
I tried to read Haldane's new book Human Experience but found my- 
self lost in Hegelian quicksands. It may be good, but I don't eat with 
pleasure that kind of apple and don't see why I should. 

Our love to you both. I think I shall risk sending my next letter to 
Beverly Farms. Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Beverly Farms, June 17, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your delightful letter met me here, forwarded from 
Washington. We stopped at the Touraine from last Thursday until Mon- 
day p.m. and then motored down with the faithful Beverly man cold, 
and the furnace in pieces, but electricity and wood fires kept us going 
until the furnace was up and started. I was really impressed in Boston by 
two things the South Boston Marine Pond and Aquarium and some of 
the harbor structures, and the Franklin Park Zoo. There was a sort of 
bigness of conception that reminded me of what Borglum 1 the sculptor 
recently said to us of a new class of young engineers with conceptions 
worthy of the country. Also I brought down from the Athenaeum a book 
by Carver, professor of political economy at Harvard, The Present Eco- 
nomic Revolution in the United States, which cheers my optimism. He, 
like myself, thinks the talk of class war is humbug and that we are find- 
ing a solution by the working men becoming capitalists, as illustrated by 

1 Gutzon Borglum (1871-1941), American sculptor, best known, perhaps, 
for his heads of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt 
carved on the face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. 



846 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

the Labor Banks and greatly increased deposits, stock purchases, etc,, etc. 
He defends capitalism which I still believe in, well, I was interrupted at 
this point and must hurry more than I meant to. You give me joy by what 
you say of Stammler you must now have received a letter from me 
expressing similar views. I thought Wu's appendix the best thing m the 
book and excellent. I shall read to my wife what you say of Gertrude 
King. It will make her chuckle. I can t say that I made much of her 
essays, as I remember them. God forgive me if I acknowledged them 
with soap. 

I have written to you how good I thought your essays, and my reserva- 
tions as to political appointments here although I always should be 
fearful of the effect of such considerations. I never have ventured to ask 
Taft what led him to make White C.J. I think that Hughes (whom I 
take it politics defeated) would have been fitter for the place. At the time 
I told McKenna, I believe, that he and I were the only two who didn't 
have booms going for us. 

One of my interruptions was 10 essays by children of 13 on Saving 
the Ship Constitution, which I agreed to judge. I am now going to the 
post-office to return them with my adjudication, and shall post this hoping 
that it will go promptly. Beveridge called yesterday. He is taking infinite 
pains with his Life of Lincoln, and has the sound notion that what is 
wanted is not opinions but significant and authoritative details, so massed 
as to tell their own story. I expect some chapters to read, anon. My love 
to you both. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 13.VL26 

My dear Justice: I hope so much that you will both have a really restful 
summer. In a fortnight I, too, shall be on vacation, and though, on ac- 
count of Diana's school, we can't leave London until August, the mere 
absence of the need to be at the School each day is a great prospect. I 
have much work to do; and a new course in Administrative Law to get 
ready for which I have many plans. 

The last fortnight has been varied entertainment. I spent a week-end 
in the country with our research students, talking over their problems, an 
enjoyable time. They are interesting young folk, full of life and vigour. 
About half the young women seem to me better fitted for motherhood 
than for technical enquiries, but, possibly, the path they have chosen is 
one along which marriage is secretly discoverable. Then yesterday, Mc- 
Ilwain and I went down to Oxford and had a great time book-hunting all 
day. I can't say we made any epoch-making discoveries, though we seem 
to have spent eight or ten pounds between us; but we had that peculiar 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 847 

thrill which comes from going into a room redolent with the faint musti- 
ness of old calf and feeling that almost any volume may turn out a 
treasure. We lunched with some of the younger history dons, and it was 
amusing to find how well they played up to the theory of what an Oxford 
man ought to be, At least, to me, the contrast between Mcllwain's fine and 
intense seriousness, and the Oxford man's air of avoiding the only sub- 
jects of which he knew anything made lunch something that only Charles 
Lamb could describe adequately. Then, also, I had a pleasant dinner 
with Birrell who is, at the moment, immersed in Swift and talked of him 
with so much charm that I was almost persuaded it was a matter of im- 
portance to make up one's mind whether Swift married Stella or not. 
Indeed so attractive did he make the problem of Swift that, after many 
years, I read Leslie Stephen's biography of him with real delight. Leslie 
is really the Prince of Biographers. He has no eagle-flights, but for essen- 
tial sanity, calm common-sense and quiet humour I don't think he has his 
peer in English literature. Indeed, I think he is, in a different way, as good 
as any of the French masters; and I believe a case could be made out 
for my pet thesis that outside Bozzy his Life of Fitzjames is the most 
perfect biography in the language. Frida here interrupts me to say it is 
his life of George Eliot, which I agree ranks very high; and the only book 
I regard as nearly as good is Maitland's biography of Leslie himself. Of 
other things I have read the new translation of Spengler's Decline of the 
West. One can't help being interested, and impressed by the command of 
vast theories; but I see no reason to suppose that he has made of history 
an exact science. Most of his results seem to me to depend upon the intro- 
duction of unnecessary rigour into the time-problem and a plentiful supply 
of new and mystical terminology. But he is clearly a fellow built upon a 
big scale and to pose problems, even if one can't solve them, is itself 
evidence of a critical spirit. I read, too, an admirable book of essays on 
the ancien regime by Funck-Brentano. They give one an excellent picture 
of its machinery and have real humour. Did I, by the way, speak to you 
of Declareuil's Histoire de droit frangais? There's a truly admirable book 
which makes even Esmein and Brissaud look pretty thin by his side. He 
has got the flair for ideas that Maitland had and I read every word of him 
with interest. Eke he put me on to a hypothesis I propose to prove pres- 
ently in detail: 1 That Bodin never propounded the theory of sovereignty 
associated with his name, that his ideas have no connection with Hobbes, 
consequently none with Bentham or Austin; that, on the contrary, Bodin 
is full of the idea of "fundamental" law which the sovereign cannot alter, 

1 Laski did not, apparently, fully develop this thesis in any published work. 
Cf. his Rise of Liberalism (1936) 32. See also his essay "The Tercentenary of 
Bossuet," 17 Manchester Guardian Weekly 254 (Sept. 30, 1927). 



848 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

and that this is true of all the royalist jurists of France Coquffle, 
Lebret, 2 Loyseau, etc.; that the theorist who really represents Austimsm 
in France is Bossuet and that he took all his ideas over from Hobbes and 
gave them the proper theological unction, I hope this does not bore you. 
I am full of the notion that a careful re-writing of the history of French 
politics from 1610-1715 will altogether change our notions of the course 
of European thought. And here I must interpolate one other hobby. Have 
you ever read the novels of Samuel Richardson? If you have not, I hasten 
to insist that I do not ask you to begin; but if you have, why is it not 
true to say that the fond of Rousseau e.g. the Nouvelle Heloise is in them; 
and, consequently, that the individualist strain in Rousseau is, so to say, 
the discovery in him of the Genevan Protestant as a result of discovering 
in the man whom all France was reading of ideas akin to his own. If ever 
I inherit two thousand pounds I shall certainly retire for two years into 
the country and write two volumes on these Frenchmen which, like the 
pamphlets of your friend Agassiz, will set eight men by the ears. 3 It is a 
subject that one can't help getting excited about. 

But this is my Hercules's vein. Let me end by being more mundane. 
Have you read a great detective story called The Murder of Roger Ack- 
royd by Agatha Christie. Do get it and read it with Mrs. Holmes in the 
evening. I defy you both, singly or jointly, to find the solution. Since 
Trent's Last Case, (the Odyssey in these epics) I know nothing in its 
class. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., June 6, 1926 

My dear Lash: This is an extra, slipped in between two storms, to say 
that I have read your two articles in the Michigan Law Review and 
Harvard Law Review 1 respectively, and think them both admirable. Of 
course I don't know the H. of L. decisions except by your report, but the 
attitude and general principle that you show has my sympathy and assent. 
One slight qualification. The political appointments here that I best recall 
have been good. I think Taft is all the better Chief Justice for having 
been President. Story, Taney and Chase were all good and I might 
add one or two more. I don't know many as political appointments but I 
am ignorant. Also I think that Presidents, if there is a large preponderance 
of their own party on the bench try to get one of the [other] side but it 
is not always easy. 

2 Cardin Le Bret (1558-1655); author of Traite de la souverainete du roi 
(1632), the classic apology for Richelieu's government. 

8 The anecdote referred to is not known to the editor. 

1 See, supra, p. 808. 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 849 

The C.J. has telephoned to me that he does not expect to be present 
tomorrow, so I shall have a number of odd jobs on my hands as soon as 
I get some papers from him. It is the adjournment for the term and on 
Wednesday I hope to leave for the north. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Beverly Farms, June 24, 1926 

My dear Laski: One of your ever delightful letters came this morning. 
Your account of the Oxford dons avoiding their theme in contrast with 
Mcllwain reminded me of how Bowen, when I tried to get him on serious 
subjects, dodged them with an anecdote. Following your order, I haven't 
read those biographies by Leslie Stephen. Perhaps I may this summer. I 
have obeyed your injunction and got Declareuirs Histoire de droit francais 
from the Law School and begun it. So far it is preliminaries that I imper- 
fectly understand without special maps and don't care much for, and 
forget, but le bon temps viendra, as old Fitzroy Kelly 1 said to my wife. I 
agree in your high valuation of Maitland's Life of Leslie Stephen. As to 
Spengler, I must have written when I was wrestling with volume I in 
German last summer. He stimulates with propositions that one doesn't be- 
lieve when one understands them, but finds no less stimulating on that 
account. A new untruth is better than an old truth. As to Bodin's notion 
of sovereignty, he certainly states the proposition that the law-maker is 
superior to the law he makes which doesn't seem to require much 
genius. If he believed, as Mcllwain says the English did, in fundamental, 
unalterable law, I should guess that that was rather an unconscious as- 
sumption than a theory. I never read Richardson in extenso, nor the 
Nouvelle Helo'ise at all. My wife won't read murder stories, but we should 
finish tonight Hangman's House by Donn Byrne. I don't see how it can 
end as well as it began, but the first half as least is superlative, if you 
like Irish stories. I told you last week of my best experiences in reading 
down here. 

We motored round Rockport this morning and I thought of you. I saw 
no changes since last year. Probably not enough has been done yet to 
amount to anything, but I hate to see them cutting out and carrying off 
the granite. I feel (with less justification) as the author of The Wheel of 
Wealth says of England's selling coal it is the workman selling his 
tools, or at least cutting out the foundations of his house. The automobile 
somewhat takes the wonder out of things by bringing them so near. In 
the days of horses this Cape would be full of remote mysteries that I 
might hope to pry into one by one. Now you can go round half the show 

1 Sir Fitzroy Kelly (1798-1880), lawyer, politician, and Lord Chief Baron of 
the Exchequer, 1866-1880. 



850 HOLMES TO LASKI [1926 

in two hours. But the charm to me is too great for familiarity to blunt it. 
It goes back to my first impressions as a child. 

This is a mean looking sheet to write on I shall try to get something 
better in Beverly. But there is such comfort in a block. Frankfurter has 
written, and I hope to see him and his wife next week. I can't offer to 
put up a married couple in these days we should have to give up our 
room and be at more bother than is reasonable for old people, but I am 
sorry, I dare say I forgot to mention that the Chief Justice, as the result 
of too much physical exercise, was kept in bed for the last week of the 
term. So I bossed the funeral. I have written to him, but it is too early 
for an answer. I hope and have little doubt that it was only a set-back 
requiring caution as he has to take care of his heart. I suppose all old 
people have to (I am not including him in that category). 

I have seen Beveridge full of his work. The trouble that he will take 
to verify a detail is admirable, the more so that details don't master him. 
His idea is to mass them so as to make them tell the story without com- 
ment. I should be surprised if he didn't supersede all that has been 
written about Lincoln before. Afffy yours, 0. W. H. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 19.VI.26 

My dear Justice: A delightful note 1 from you came yesterday. I am glad 
those papers of mine in the Harvard and Michigan Reviews won your 
approval. In general I don't myself mind an occasional political appoint- 
ment; e.g. I am well content to believe that Taft (I hope he is better) 
is a good appointment. But one also has to remember the political judges 
at the time of the Dred Scott case and their disgraceful correspondence 
anent it with the executive power; and the habits of men like Ellen- 
borough, Eldon and Kenyon give one furiously to think. A knowledge of 
affairs is, of course, invaluable, but one ought not to pay too heavy a 
price for it 

This has been a really peaceful week. The only engagement I have had 
was a party at the Russian embassy, where I had some good talk with 
one or two old friends. A reception there is a very amusing thing to see. 
The hauteur of a normal diplomatic affair is entirely absent. One sees 
many who would not appear in the entourage of the older embassies and 
many who are always at the latter never appear there. Our Foreign office 
always scrupulously sends a junior clerk, but the mighty most carefully 
absent themselves. The person there who interested me most was a 
Russian jurist with an unpronounceable name. He talked fluently eleven 
languages. The people I respect on the continent like Ehrlich and Duguit 

1 Supra, p. 848. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 851 

he recited on with great insight and common-sense. And he told me much 
that was illuminating and helpful about the working of the present legal 
system in Russia. It seems, if I followed him, to be a combination of 
executive justice and justice without law. In all political cases the problem 
rests entirely with the court, which means that, especially in matters like 
treason, the accused has very little chance. In smaller cases, the jury acts 
much more like a jury in medieval England in that it reproduces the 
atmosphere of trying a neighbour from personal knowledge. He himself 
was, I gathered, very opposed to the first, and well satisfied with the 
second. He told me that the new Russia has produced a remarkable 
literature about these things; but I had to take this for granted as it is not 
even translated into German. 

The rest has been reading and a hunt round one or two of the big 
London shops with Charlie Mcllwain. In the first, my main pleasure 
has been Fenelon whom I like. He has courage and imagination. Not, I 
hasten to add, the F6nelon of Telemaque who bores me stiff, but the 
Fenelon of the Dialogues and the Memoirs on practical affairs of his 
time. Acton showed, I think, singular insight in picking him out as one 
of the seminal influences of the 18th century. I read also a much-lauded 
German work Allgemeine Staatslehre by Kelsen of Vienna. It is very 
clever in the sense of being an exquisitely reticulated system; but like most 
Hegelian structure, it seems to me entirely false to life. In a somewhat 
different field, I reread Tom Jones for the first time in years. It was really 
gorgeous a great, human book that made one want to live in the 
same celestial block of flats with Fielding and talk things over with him. 
And, somewhat different again, I read Fontaine's Memoires of Port-Royal 
a most moving and exquisite account of its spiritual side by the most 
charming fellow of its second generation. 

1 must not forget (how could I forget) to tell you that since I wrote 
last I have met God. I was at a committee for the relief of the miners 
when Mrs. Besant turned up with the young man whom she announced 
as the new Redeemer. 2 I have never met a God before and it was a little 
embarrassing to talk to him. I did not like to mention the weather, as a 
comment on continuous rain seemed like an attack on his will. So I asked 
if he remembered any of his previous incarnations (he represents the 
Theosophists) and he told me thirty-three. He was a simple and un- 
affected creature who, I gather, has a gospel composed of a mixture 
between the Sermon on the Mount and the Veddas [sic]. What turned my 
stomach a little was the greasiness of his chief bishop who came with 

2 Mrs. Annie Besant (1847-1933), theosophist, had recently announced that 
Jiddu Krishnamurti, her prot6g6, was the new Messiah. Shortly thereafter 
Krishnamurti repudiated these claims. 



852 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

him; . . . Gods, in my own view, should be more careful in the selection 
of their prophets. But I grow blasphemous. 

I had a pleasant adventure in a cafe yesterday. I was having some 
morning coffee with my friend Siegfried Sassoon and we were having a 
heated argument about some modern men of letters. An old boy with a 
cloak, velvet jacket, flowing tie, and all the other appurtenances of the 
literary movement of the nineties sat near, listening with all his ears. 
Presently he came over, and in a booming voice asked to take part. We 
bowed and he made a long speech ending, "Sirs, I have not had such a 
happy hour since I first came here with Aubrey Beardsley, thirty years 
ago." The waiter told us he was an old journalist of the Wilde-Beardsley 
set who still was faithful to his haunt and, I dare say, peopled it still with 
the wan ghosts of memories. 

In the bookshops I have found little save a copy of Gentillet's attack on 
Machiavelli and one or two trifles like Balzac's Aristippe. I must wait until 
[ can get to Paris in August and have a real debauch. But I have bought 
from a German catalogue a complete set of Linguet's Annales politiques 
about the most valuable of the 18th century French journals and I 
count it cheap in perfect condition at two pounds. And next Thursday as 
ever is, I bid on the finest set of Bentham you ever saw, finer than yours, 
or the one I gave away, or any conceivable other. I shall be restless until 
I know it is mine, and fearful lest it soar above my means. It is a set such 
as one rarely sees. 

You I expect, are enjoying delicious sunshine. Here it is cold and wet, 
and the coal lock-out hangs over us like a dread spectre. Mr. Baldwin's 
new plans 3 proclaim him a typical Pecksniff, who has given way to all 
the worst influences in the cabinet. I am afraid peace is far away. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 3.VIL26 

My dear Justice: A letter from you this morning was refreshing beyond 
words. I have had a whole fortnight of sheer agony, examining students 
here, and in Oxford and Cambridge, for Ph.D. and D.Sc. degrees. It has 
meant reading about 5000 pages of typescript on about twelve entirely 
unrelated subjects, one of which only really appealed to me. Is there any 
worse ordeal in the world than a combination which involves boredom 
and a sense of duty? I have snatched at every diversion the time has 
afforded, but, but, it has been a heavy fortnight. 

And you meanwhile driving around Rockport I envy you a little, for 
that coast got inside my heart and a summer there, not only for proximity 

a On June 15 Baldwin had announced the purpose of the government to 
take action to lengthen the working day in the coal mines. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 853 

to you, would I confess, be attractive. Instead, I am going with Frida and 
Diana to the Ardennes, thence for a little to Geneva, and ending up with 
a week of bookhunting in Paris. But that will not be for three weeks yet, 
for there are committees to attend and articles to be written. 

Yet, as I say, I have had diversions. I went to All Souls for an examina- 
tion and spent a night there dinner on Sunday is, I gather, a great 
event and I can boast of having contradicted (very gently) an Arch- 
bishop. But he said that Montaigne was foul-minded and I count the 
provocation ample. Dons, I add, are a queer breed. Their conversation is 
either the interchange of inept and slightly malicious personalia, or gos- 
sip about the passing daily events such as a careful reader gets from the 
Times before breakfast. Or the state of the college cellar; or the probabil- 
ity that X will get a certain chair. I was not impressed, though I don't 
deny a certain mellowness in the atmosphere. Then a dinner with Hal- 
dane which was amusing as Bernard Shaw and Austen Chamberlain got 
on each other's nerves and the claws came out. The latter, I thought, gave 
the provocation by trying to be the Minister of State; whereupon Shaw, 
with incredibly brilliant insolence, began to prove that Foreign Secre- 
taries are by definition cynical and corrupt. Poor Austen, of course, tried 
to riposte; but he was like an elephant trying to catch an extremely agile 
wasp. And what complicated matters quite gloriously was the presence of 
an old society dame of the Gladstonian epoch, who backed up Shaw by 
recounting the amours and infidelities of the Victorian foreign secretaries 
since her girlhood. Altogether an evening such as one rarely gets outside 
a French salon. I had also a pleasant dinner with Sankey, J. where I 
heard one piece of gossip that will interest you. Slesser, the late Solicitor- 
General, said the government would probably create two new law lords 
next September one of whom would be Leslie Scott. I hope that is true, 
for he has several times in recent years been passed over for men who have 
not a tithe of his ability. One law story I must not forget to tell you. You 
will have heard of Lyons, the famous caterers, who are a Jewish firm; 
and you may know (1) that the Coliseum is a music hall, and (2) that 
the Trocadero is Lyons most chic restaurant. Recently in a case before 
Darling, J. the Coliseum was mentioned. "Ah yes," said Darling, "the 
place in Rome where the Christians were fed to the lions." "Doubtless, my 
lord," said Counsel, "but the Coliseum I mean is near the Trocadero, 
where Lyons feed the Christians." 

Of reading, there has not been time to do much; though I did thor- 
oughly enjoy Hoffding's History of Modern Philosophy a Danish work 
the translation of which was given to me by a grateful student who got 
his degree a little unexpectedly. And a new volume of Rousseau's Cor- 
respondence was really interesting; there is a problem in that fellow that 
one can't help getting excited about. Also I read, for the first time in 



854 LASKI TO HOLMES 

many a year, Godwin's queer novel Caleb Williams and I think I rather 
liked it. And Croce's book on history* which, though disgustingly trans- 
lated, and full of irritating Hegelisms is a work of real profundity. And 
by way of makeweight a very pleasant, ambling novel of Trollopes The 
Way We Live Now. He is like a good pack-horse, there is nothing 
specially attractive about him, but he always wears well Certainly this, 
which has no special merits, could not be left until it was read. 

I was very moved by your account of Beveridge. There is something 
fine and arresting about his tenacity, and I am sure that if he keeps his 
eloquence under control, he will do a valuable job. But the man I want 
to see tackled is Jefferson who, I observe, died a hundred years ago 
tomorrow. He is queer and big in a queer way; I wish I felt certain that 
I knew his secret. 

I think, if I may say so, that you attach overmuch importance to 
Carver's book. For your Trade Commission has just published a most 
interesting account of American income 2 from which it appears that one 
percent of your population holds over sixty percent of the wealth, and 
the total value of employee holding of corporation stock is less than two 
percent of common and preferred. Moreover nothing of this touches the 
problem of control I don't doubt that America will postpone longer than 
any other country the problems that come when one reaches the point of 
diminishing returns; but I don't doubt also that then your problems will 
be more serious, because of the degree to which your wealth is concen- 
trated, than they have been elsewhere. I'm glad you are reading Declareuil 
which, I think, is about 3 times as good as Brissaud. I found myself last 
night quite enthralled by the latter half of the book, even to the point 
of checking up (and confirming) some of his references. 

Did I write to you of my interview with Felix's Indian student? He 
turned up with letters and I invited him to dinner. I thought he wanted 
to talk law; but it turned out (1) that he wanted me to get him the post 
of Judge Advocate in India (2) to get a scholarship here for his brother 
(3) to recommend a treatment for his wife who suffers from constipation 
and (4) to get him appointed legal adviser to my fathers firm in India. 
Very respectfully, I declined to do any of these things. He, with great 
firmness, persisted in his requests. I declined still more firmly. He rose 
and said with the air of Hamlet, "Then all the recommendations of Pound 
and Frankfurter are as froth or foam?" I gather that he visited McCardie, 
J. and after a ten minute interview asked for a testimonial. I told all this 
to Sankey who produced a letter from a Babu in Bengal beginning 
"Father of Merciful Justice'* and ending "Hoping you will get me a soft 
job, I am your affectionate son/' 

1 History, Its Theory and Practice (Ainslie, tr., 1921). 
* National Wealth and Income (1926). 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 855 

I must end by quoting you my poem which appears pseudonymously in 
one of the weeklies. 

When Churchill came before the Judgment seat 
No angel sought for mercy to entreat, 
Silent they heard the sentence grim and dread 
To spend eternity with Birkenhead. 

Our love as ever to you both. Jours always affectionately, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 4, 1926 

My dear Laski: If I could have a letter from you with no duty to 
answer except when I felt like it I should like to get one every day. 
Pretty often too, I want to write but not always. The languor of age I 
suppose makes one lazy. I have had various odds and ends of a business 
nature, including paying bills, that have taken time and energy. To draw 
a single check and dispatch it properly takes an appreciable moment. In 
one way and another Declareuil has had to wait. I am much tickled to 
note the Frenchman in him and am pleased for other reasons also to see 
him pronounce a hobby of the great Sohm pure imagination. Sohm was the 
fashion when I was younger and I even then thought that there were 
reserves to be made. His vogue led me to realize that there is fashion in 
ideas as well as in bonnets. Then Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capi- 
talism came along the publishers said by his direction and I have 
just finished that. A charming and handsome piece of work. I wrote to 
him this morning and said, as bound, after an appreciative word, that I 
was an old skeptic and thought capitalism better than anything likely to 
replace it but that I got more intellectual companionship from you young 
prophets than from the older orthodox sages. Now I have typewritten 
chapters of Beveridge's Lincoln to criticize and at first reading I am 
afraid that I shall have to say that one, which must have cost much 
time, seems to me of questionable value to the story but I must read 
the rest and then go back before I can speak. 

I am delighted with your old fellow in the cafe with the reminiscences 
of Aubrey Beardsley. I think I once was told to call and called on Beards- 
ley's sister, but I am not sure, it may have been merely an actress who 
recalled meetings with him, and the French woman who wrote queer 
stories and reviewed those of other people in the Mercure de France 
Rachilde 1 that was what she called herself. Her book notices were 
good stuff, as I remember. I have not derived bliss from my encounters 
with actresses. I remember going with John Gray to call on one lament- 

1 Rachilde (Mme. Marguerite Valletta; 1862- ), novelist and critic. 



856 HOLMES TO LASKI [I 926 

ing over the rest -and as we came away he said consolingly well, she 
wasn't so damned respectable. Ellen Terry I thought insufferable. 

I had a letter from Leslie Scott who seemed to think Baldwin was do- 

* Lrtthis brief despatch count me one As ever affly yours, O. W. H. 

Beverly Farms, July 16, 1926 



My dear Laski: An expected and appreciated 
count of the dons' conversation reminds me of Baliol [c] in 66 
was there with Edwin Palmer.* The dons spoke French after the school ot 
Stratford atte Bowe and believed the formula that one Englishman could 
lick three Frenchmen. I probably have told you of Goldwin Smith- com- 
ing in at breakfast (I think) and saying, "I hear that Matthew Arnold 
is going to lecture on Celtic literature. I should like to know what Matt 
Arnold knows about Celtic literature." I read Caleb Williams when a 
t oy _ my fatiber telling me it was the best novel he ever read, or to 
that effect. DeQuincey I think says that it was impossible to disclose in 
the finale the contents of the chest as no possible disclosure would be 
adequate. But all my memories are over half a century old. I cant be- 
lieve that you really read all the books you mention. I don't doubt you 
read them as a good reader does, skipping by instinct, but I bet you 
didn't plod through every word of Declareuil as I am doing. I don t 
give much time to him, and for the first 300 pages, with some mitiga- 
tions that I believe I have mentioned, I couldn't imagine why you had 
put me on to him. Now that I am in the Kingdom I begin to see, and 
although there still are details that I hardly pick enough long enough 
to forget, I am getting pleasure and instruction. I don't accept your 
comparison with Brissaud to the disadvantage of the latter. I couldn't 
recite on him, but I thought he brought the doctrines of private law 
into relation with life in a way that I never had seen equalled. So far, 
there is nothing of that here. Declareuil deals only with institutions, 
Some amusing explanations, e.g. the responsibility of ministers for the 
King, and a general impression going further than anything I knew be- 
fore that England was a sort of provincial follower of French fashions 
in the origin of her institutions. 

As to Carvers book, I can't control his facts. He pleased me because 
he thought as I do that the capitalist regime was better than the pro- 
posed substitutes and didn't believe in class war. 

1 Presumably Edwin Palmer (1824-1895), Fellow of Balliol, classicist and 
archdeacon of Oxford. 

s Goldwin Smith (1823-1910), Cobdenite controversialist, who left Oxford 
for Cornell and Cornell for Toronto. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 857 

One of my few links with the living goes with the death of Miss Ger- 
trude Bell not that I had heard from her or seen her but once for I 
know not how many years but there was a time when I knew her 
pretty well and got some remarkable letters from her. I sadly see Pepys 
drawing to his end unfortunately I have nothing but a little cheap 
expurgated ten cents a volume edition here, but it is an ideal book for 
idle days. Some things that I had forgotten come up, especially in the 
use of words, such as mad for angry, which I should have supposed a 
modern Americanism. But there is always less modern than one thinks, 
as philosophers have observed since Solomon. I greet the budding laure- 
ate in you, as I do the historian in Beveridge. He is working along faith- 
fully, and really wants criticism. When I said cut out a number of pages 
that had cost a lot of work, he argued his case but showed no vanity 
or anything but a wish to get it right which I think creditable. He 
gets the Roosevelt Memorial Medal this year which I am glad of. I 
think there will be more trouble with his style than with his conception 
or his work. Affly yours, O. W. E. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 15. VII. 26 

My dear Justice: Very many thanks indeed for your letter refreshing 
beyond words. I have had ten hectic days, a dash to Manchester to make 
a speech at the farewell dinner to the retiring Vice-Chancellor of the 
university; a lecture to 200 Americans at Toynbee; a lunch to other 
Americans sent to me by Mack and Felix; a dinner to some German 
lawyers; and three committees and two articles. It has been a ghastly 
sweat, and I shall be relieved indeed when next week comes and I can 
get away to Belgium. I look forward to that, for I shall sneak away to 
Paris for a week to hunt books, and later to Geneva for a couple of days 
to lecture to the university. But it is clear that so long as I stay here the 
burst of visitors will make life unHvable. 

In the way of reading I haven't been able to do much. I read a very 
clever Essay on the Origin of the House of Commons, by one Pasquet; 
a new novel by Sinclair Lewis, 1 which I thought poor; a lecture by 
Keynes on laisser-faire 2 which was meritorious without being extraordi- 
nary; and a very good book by Norman Angell called Must Britain 
Travel the Moscow Road? an answer to Trotsky's lucubrations done, 
I thought, with great effectiveness. And I reread Plato's Republic in order 
to examine on a thesis. Not exactly idleness, but still reading that has 
been a little aimless in character. 

I have bought one or two things though. The best, undoubtedly, is 

1 Mantrap (1926). 

* The End of Laissez-Faire (1926). 



858 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

Le Bret, La souverainetS du roi, which was Mansfield's own copy, and 
though I doubt whether he ever read it, I like to think that he owned it. 
Also I got Baildon's Cases in the Star Chamber of which he printed 
only two hundred copies. And on a barrow in the Caledonian market I 
picked up a first edition of the Lettres provinciales in perfection as to 
state for sixpence and sold it to Quaritch for ten pounds. So I go to 
Paris with a good conscience. Did I, by the way, tell you that my gradu- 
ate students presented me with the 1557 folio of Sir T. More's Works. 
Ten of them this year got their doctorates, by way of being a record for 
one teacher in one year; and this was their very charming salute in 
passing. 

One or two people who have happed in would have pleased you. 
Notestein, 3 who is professor at Cornell, is a charming fellow, learned 
and light-hearted. I have told him to send you a clever paper of his on 
how the House of Commons won the initiative in legislation. Rosenthal, 4 
a lawyer from Chicago, whom Mack sent, seemed to me most able, and 
he gave me a lunch that in conception and execution was an epic. He 
was enthusiastic, by the way, about a federal judge named Sanborn, 5 
whom I do not know. Could you recite on him? And I liked much an 
economist from Columbia named (I think) Brightbrown 6 (or the other 
way about). He came from Felix, and like all the latter's envoys, could 
talk the humanities as well as economics. But one man was deadly. He 
came from Peoria and announced (I) that New York was Babylon (II) 
that prohibition was sanctioned by the New Testament (III) that 
America led the world because she was singled out by God to set an 
example to King-ridden Europe and (IV) that the night-side of London 
made him tremble for the virtue of his sons. I asked, humbly, if it was 
necessary for him to investigate it; he said he made a point of it wherever 
he went in order to emphasise the virtues of Peoria to the "folks back 
home." I asked if he had read Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but as he had 
not, the allusion went for nothing. My God, what a man! He would not 
buy an evening paper because it contained the racing results. 

I am sorry to hear your scepticisms anent Beveridge's Lincoln. I take 

* Wallace Notestein (1878- ), Professor of English History, Cornell 
University, 1920-1928; Sterling Professor of English History at Yale, 1928- 
1947. The paper referred to, "The Winning of the Initiative by the House of 
Commons," was the Raleigh Lecture on History for 1924 and is printed in 11 
Proceedings of the British Academy 125 (n.d.). 

* Leasing Rosenthal (1868-1949), public-spirited practitioner in Chicago. 

5 Presumably Walter Henry Sanborn (1845-1928), United States Circuit 
Judge in the 8th Circuit, 1892-1928, who wrote important decisions in anti- 
trust cases, and administered a number of important receiverships, 

Presumably James C. Bonbright (1891- ); coauthor, with Gardiner C. 
Means, of The Holding Company (1932) and of The Valuation of Property 
(1937). r y 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 859 

it that he lacks conciseness and sacrifices the perspective to the love of 
trifling detail. I met here the other day a man who had worked out that 
George Washington had connections in 52 places in England, and was 
going to visit them all. B. I fear has something of that temper. I always 
felt that his Marshall could be cut down by a third without essential 
loss. I wish I could have seen you presiding over the Court; sorry though 
I am for the cause. Hewart, C.J. told me the other day that a Welshman 
who spake not English described him to the interpreter as the "old bloke 
in the red bedgown"; at least you are free from that. 

Our love warmly to you both. I hear Chafee has just arrived here. I 
look forward to seeing him. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 29, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your latest calls for two or three counter mernos. 1) I 
saw Trotsky's book at the Athenaeum when by exception I went to Bos- 
ton to try on some clothes wondered if I ought to read it, but noticing 
that it was written more than a year ago thought it could wait. I am 
glad to know that he has been answered, and will let the two books 
cancel each other. 2) But I haste to correct a seeming impression that 
I am sceptical about Beveridge's Lincoln. I confidently believe that he 
will write the final life. I forget what I said, but it cannot have been 
more than that I wanted him to cut out some pages that I thought ir- 
relevant, and thought that he possibly had been getting too high an 
opinion of the South before the war (our war). 3) Sanborn is a distin- 
guishable Circuit Judge. I think I heard when I came on to the Bench 
that he had his name before the White House as a candidate for a place. 
I should think he was as good as some that have been promoted, but 
I should be inclined to speak as did the King in the ballad of Chevy 
Chase when he heard of Percy's death. 1 

Now for my turn. Thrice accursed man, why did you put me onto 
Declareuil? He does his work well I don't doubt, but out of his damned 
1061 pages, all read by me, not more than 100 have anything that I 
want (the account of the development of French law and the relation 
to it of the Roman and Frankish law). His decent but universal denial 
of anything that any German ever said gives me pleasure, but I do not 
understand your great enthusiasm. I should as soon get hot in praise 
of the Almanac. However, since then I have turned off some certioraris 
against next term, and incidentally have tucked in Pepys and some small 

1 The words were those of King Harry when news of Percy's death reached 
London: 

"Tve a hundred captains in England,' hie said, 
'As good as ever was he/ " 



860 HOLMES TO LASKI [1926 

matters and now am happily at leisure. Miss Sergeant indicated the 
possibility of calling here this afternoon but as it is rainy and she is^ in 
Brookline I doubt. Whether her calls have an ulterior motive in a notion 
that she once entertained of writing about me I know not, but I believe 
I told her that I didn't see that there was anything to say for a writer 
not in the law. My wildest excursion was to Gloucester last night to 
hear a master play on the carillon of Our Lady of Good Voyages a 
Portugese church. It moved me, though somewhat impaired by the in- 
terjection of Three Blind Mice and the like. I have seen Bob Barlow and 
Palfrey but know no personalities that would interest you. I turn 
from Declareuil to Nize Baby, Dryden's Dramatic Essays, Dorothy Os- 
borne's Letters to Sir William Temple, and Frankfurter's admirable 
article, which I shall finish as soon as I have signed this. It is on Petty 
Federal Offenses and the Constitutional Guaranty of Trial by Jury. 2 I 
envy you your trip which I hope has come off satisfactorily. I envy also 
the Provinciales which I wouldn't have sold yet I dare say you were 
right. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



16 Warwick Gardens, 2S.VII.26 

My dear Justice: I have packed a good deal into the ten days since I 
last wrote, including a dose of septic tonsillitis, which kept me in bed for 
six days. However, I am about again and quite fit, and I got a good 
deal of pleasant reading done. First I reread with great joy all of Jane 
Austen, who is really an ideal bed companion. I stick to Pride and Prej- 
udice as the best of them all, though I do not deny the immense art 
of Emma. I amused myself by trying to discover in Jane some semblance 
of interest in contemporary events, but I can only discover four faint 
references that suggest that the political scene was ever before her mind. 
What pained me was to note that in most of the novels I usually prefer 
the rejected suitor to the accepted e.g. in Mansfield Park I greatly dislike 
Edmund, and do like Henry Crawford, and I prefer his sister to Fanny 
Price who seems to me a quite intolerable prig who was quite obviously 
destined by nature to be an old maid and keep a pug. Of other things 
I read with real enjoyment Scherer's Life of Grimm a wholly delight- 
ful book, full of insight and delicacy; unfair to Rousseau, but that be- 
cause the new evidence was not then available. Then I read a good 
book by one Cru (an American of whom I know nothing) on Diderot 
and English influence of Shaftesbury in the 18th century. Did you ever 
read the Characteristics? I have tried twice and each time failed pretty 
completely. Did you ever try., and if you did, were you impressed? Then 

2 Frankfurter and Corcoran, "Petty Federal Offenses and the Constitutional 
Guaranty of Trial by Jury," 39 Harv. L. Rev. 917 (June 1926). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 861 

I re-read Leslie Stephen's English Utilitarians, a greater book the more 
one reads it. It is wonderful to be in touch with his common sense, his 
poise, his fairness, and his sly humour. I don't really think he has a rival 
among English critics. He hasn't the sudden and unexpected genius of 
Coleridge, or the level of brilliance of Hazlitt, but he has a width of 
mind, and an easy charm in learning that neither of them could approach. 
I thoroughly enjoyed, too, McTaggart's Hegelian Cosmology which, if 
you have it at hand, would, I think, give you real pleasure. The essays 
especially on sin, punishment, and society as an organism, are really 
first-rate. And I greatly enjoyed also (have I spoken of it to you before?) 
Hoff ding's History of Modern Philosophy. I don't know if you have read 
it. No other book I know is nearly so good for the purpose of discovering 
the sweep of the subject. 

But a truce to reading. I had one book-hunt with my friend Professor 
Neale of Manchester which was really exhilarating. First of all we dis- 
covered a quite new shop (in Hammersmith) and second, the man did 
not know the first thing about the books he was selling a combination, 
you will admit, that is as near the ideal as can be. We spent the mom- 
ing on the top of ladders, perilously swinging in mid-air. But the fruits 
of danger, my dear Justice, were worth the risk. I got for sixpence a 
volume three of a Jurieu of which by the luck of heaven I had the pre- 
vious two. For three shillings each I got two Recueil of the early French 
17th century which are as rare as they are desirable and neither of 
them is in the British Museum. For ten shillings I got the Aldine Tacitus 
in a contemporary morocco binding as delectable a copy as you ever 
saw; and for 7/6 I got Edward's Gangraena, the three parts complete, 
the usual price for which runs up to seven or even eight pounds. And 
one other book adventure I must record. There is an old bookseller here 
called Harding. I go to him a good deal to chat, though, as a rule, his 
prices soar beyond me. He is a good fellow, who lost a son in the war 
and another later and carries on the business now rather for occupation 
than need. When I went to see him the other day, he shyly asked me 
if I would accept a book from him as a word of thanks for pleasant com- 
pany and to my gratified amazement presented me with a copy of Bail- 
don's Cases in the Star Chamber of which only two hundred copies 
were printed with a most charming inscription. I was, as you can im- 
agine, really touched; and when I thanked the old man and suggested 
that we go out for a cup of tea, the tears stood in his eyes. "That's the 
thing," he said, "you treat me as a human being; most of my customers 
look on me as a machine for finding books for them." 

We have had one or two pleasant dinners here. One, for Croly, pro- 
duced some of the best talk I have had in many a day. The more I see 
of Croly, the more I respect him. He is so simple, so humble, and so 



862 LASKI TO HOLMES 

absolutely fair in his judgments. The other was for a group of American 
historians among whom you would know Mcllwain. But there was one 
from Cornell, Notestein, who was simply charming; and I have asked 
him to call on you if he ever gets to Washington. He will send you a 
paper of his on how the House of Commons won its legislative initiative 
in the 17th century which you will, I think, find most delectable. I also 
had a most amusing lunch with Glenn Frank, 1 the new President of 
Wisconsin University. He is, I should guess, what Felix calls a faker 
really charming au fond, but terrified of not being thought the real in- 
tellectual, with the result that statements such as "London is full ot 
Americans just now" are made with a grim tensity such as might be 
used in announcing the discovery of the law of gravitation. He was 
most anxious to go to the King s garden party, so .1 wangled an invita- 
tion for him. It was most amusing to see him take the most infinite 
pains over the right clothes, even to the purchase of a white top-hat and 
white spats, which I dared him to wear in Wisconsin. I saw Archie 
Coolidge for a moment and he told me the extraordinary fact that a 
colleague of his has joined the Benedictines. 2 He was working at Polish 
history and was thus converted. The ways of God's mercy are infinite. 
Polish history would send me to a sanitarium. 

We leave England on Wednesday for a month at Walsort-sur-Meuse, 
a little place tucked away in the Ardennes, about twenty miles from 
Dinant. I go on the 8th to Paris, to spend four days with Neale book- 
hunting; and on the 19th I go to Geneva for two days to lecture. But 
otherwise I shall have a complete holiday, writing in the mornings and 
playing for the rest of the time. 

Our love to you both. I hope the heat wave of which I read has not 
troubled you. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, August 5, 1926 

My dear Laski: Pleasures are ultimates and in cases of difference be- 
tween oneself and another there is nothing to do except in unimportant 
matters to think ill of him and in important ones to kill him. Until you 
have remade the world I can class as important only those that have an 

1 Glenn Frank (1887-1940), journalist who in 1925 had gone from the 
editorship of the Century to the presidency of the University of Wisconsin, 
where he remained in office until 1937. 

2 Robert Howard Lord (1885- ) had taught history at Harvard from 
1910 to 1926 and, becoming a convert to the Roman Catholic Church, studied 
for the priesthood, to which he was admitted in 1929. Besides being the author 
of a number of works on Polish history, he was coauthor, with Harold J. 
Coolidge, of Archibald Gary Coolidge: Life and Letters (1932). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 863 

international sanction in war. Therefore I pass without further remark 
your raptures over Jane Austen (well enough if you don't make too 
much row about her). She shines in the firmament of your world 
along with Declareuil. You are God of that, but the religion of taste is 
polytheistic. 

I wonder whether McTaggart's Hegelian book is one that Haldane 
recommended to me when we crossed together and that I purchased 
and read with much pleasure. I can't remember definitely. As to Shaftes- 
bury, I can't say whether it was his Characteristics or somewhat else 
of his that I read in times past, As the Characteristics have stared me in 
the face for years I am pretty sure it was they (them) anyhow I 
remember spotting modern [vistas?] and thinking that I saw a man 
ahead of his time. Hoffding perhaps I will send for. 

I have been browsing and idling for a few days. G. Moore turned me 
to Synge's Well of the Saints and I can't say how much I admired the 
genius of that play. The Irish more than any others have the poet's gift 
of uttering the unutterable, I think. I read Twelfth Night to see if a little 
girl was right in thinking S. long in coming to the point. Some twaddle, 
some unintelligibilities, the treatment of Malvolio brutal and tiresome, 
but as always a precious jewel in the head of the toad. I have spent 
two days in rereading The Moonstone, and still found it absorbing. Yet 
it has no other merit that I can see, except the coup de theatre at the 
end where the three men part for their pilgrimage and the moonstone 
shines once more from the forehead of the idol. That does truly tickle 
my melodramatic soul. I read in Everyman's, Dryden's Dramatic Essays, 
i.e., his prefaces, with much pleasure and some surprise. It made me 
feel that there were some who twigged Shakespeare from his own time. 
Also he is more than a razor he is a sting and says poignant things. 
But as you see I am not deeply engaged. When I read a book I read 
every word a bad sign and so am slow to tackle a new one. I hope 
you are having a happy vacation. Affty yours, 0. W. H. 



Walsort-sur-Meuse, 4.VIII.26 

My dear Justice: The postcard I enclose will give you some idea of the 
country-side here; it is really beautiful beyond words. As I write, I look 
down straight on to the Meuse, which is surrounded to a height of eight 
hundred feet by gaunt, grey rocks, half-covered by green firs. And for 
miles round its banks are dotted by small chateaux like the one you see 
on the postcard. This particular one dates from 1620, and is itself the 
transformation of an eleventh century abbey. It's a magnificent piece 
of architecture for all its smallness; the proportions are exquisite, and 
the glass in the windows has that peculiar half-purple tinge one finds 



864 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

in old buildings. The rooms inside are not exciting. The furniture is 
mainly the dull gold of Louis XIV, which always seems to me pompous 
and artificial, and the pictures, in general, are the fake pastorals of the 
Boucher period. But there is one Watteau landscape that is like a page 
straight out of fairyland. We are enjoying ourselves hugely, and it is a 
perfect rest. I write all morning, and in the early afternoon; then we 
walk after tea and again after supper. The place is small enough to 
make evasion of formality possible with all the comforts that represent 
civilisation. One or two social observations will, I think, interest you. 
Practically all the local peasantry are profoundly Catholic, and so far as 
the countryside extends, the deputies in the chamber are Catholic. But 
as soon as you move to the outskirts even of a small industrial town like 
Dinant, the church is a dead force and the deputies become socialist. 
It is interesting, too, that in the different hotels roundabout the head- 
waiters, who have mostly originated from the place, are all eager agnos- 
tics, anxious to explain to you that as soon as they got into the larger 
world outside, they saw that the church was an incubus. The politeness 
of everyone is almost excessive, and I incline to the view that the pecu- 
liar virtue of French is that it enables you to say nothing more formi- 
dably than any other language I know. One other thing has struck me 
forcibly. A large number of Dutch people come here, and, taken as a 
whole, they are the finest race of trenchermen I have ever seen. They 
breakfast solidly at 9, meaning every dish of it; at eleven you see them 
at coffee and bread and cheese; at one they are at the table with their 
napkins tucked in their necks, ready for siege operations; at four tea 
and cakes; at six-thirty a drink in anticipation of dinner; at seven they 
dine over five courses, missing nothing, and evading talk as an interrup- 
tion of serious business; then at 10:30 they have tea and cakes in prepa- 
ration for bed. One visitor here is a Dutch professor of history with 
whom I have had some talk. The other day I approached him while at 
dinner with a question, only to be met with the stern remark that he 
never spoke at meals! I must add that life among a small nation is most 
interesting. Their sense of national feeling is much more intense than 
in a great country like America or England. A writer of local reputation 
assumes the proportions of a world-figure. The Dutch historian was 
shocked beyond words that I did not know of a Dutch dramatist whose 
name, I think, was Wondel. 1 Surely I knew his Lucifer. I asked if he had 
been translated into English or German. No; I did not know Dutch. 
Ah! but he is the first dramatist of our time. I hinted gently that a word 
might be said for Shaw. This was waved gently aside. Shaw, of course, 

1 Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679), poet, translator, and dramatist; his 
play Lucifer (1654) was translated into English in 1898. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 865 

was a big man, but Wondel. So an historian who had written a his- 
tory of Java was pointed out to me with the same solemnity and rever- 
ence as I might show in asking you to notice Gibbon on the other side 
of the street. 

I feel a quite different person since we've been here, fit and rested, 
and very happy in being at work. So far, I have got my inaugural lec- 
ture roughly done, a plea for the historical study of politics on the 
ground that one cannot get the perspective of one's ideas in any other 
way. Of reading I have done but little that would interest you, I fear; 
mainly communist pamphlets which have been chiefly noise, except 
one or two by Lenin and Trotsky, in which one detects at once the hand 
of the really big man. Also Anatole France's Eergeret at Paris which, 
apart from the Dieux out soif, I like the best of all his books. On Sunday 
I go to Paris for four days book-hunting, and I look forward to that im- 
mensely. I have one or two new addresses, and as the day comes nearer 
my heart panteth after the quays, as the hart after the brooks. 

And I must not forget to tell you that on the way here Frida and I 
celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of our wedding-day by buying our- 
selves two etchings by James Ensor, whose work I expect you know. 
One of them is the cathedral at Antwerp a large one (12 x 8) with 
the square in front alive with a crowd, and as you look closely, you see 
that about every person in it is doing some little task with a gesture or 
an expression that gives them life. The other is a study of the quay at 
Ostend, and is a delicate piece of witchery rather in the manner of 
Whistler. The man we got them from had a collection of Ostades that 
made my mouth water, as also one of Rembrandt's which was in finer 
condition than any I have seen at a dealer's. But this last was not for 
sale as the town has bought it. While in Antwerp I stopped again to 
look at the Plantin Museum and sat on the chair where Justus Lipsius 2 
used to correct his proofs, and saw the letter to him from Casaubon 
regretting L's conversion to Rome. 

1 like most all that you write of Beveridge's attitude to his book, for I 
imagine he is pretty sensitive to criticism; those ebullient people usu- 
ally are. I wish it had been Jefferson or Taney, C.J.; they are the peo- 
ple about whom I want to read a really first-rate book. By the way, and 
without connection, I must not forget to say that we dined on two suc- 
cessive nights before we left with Shaw and Haldane, each celebrating 
his 70th birthday. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 

2 Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), Belgian Latinist best known for his edition of 
Tacitus. His early fluctuations in faith came to an end in 1590 when he re- 
turned, forgiven, to the Catholic Church. 



866 HOLMES TO LASKI U 926 

Beverly Farms, August 20, 1926 
Shatt I direct to you as Professor or Esquire? 

My dear Lasld: Your account of the Dutch trencherman delighted me 
and what you say about small places. Did you ever read Little Pedling- 
ton? If not, do make a note of it. It is what my father used to call a 
seed book. The Vondel you mention, the author of Lucifer, which was 
supposed to have given Milton hints for Paradise Lost, suggested Wen- 
del so far that my father bought his portrait. I have it, it is engraved by 
Janus Lutaa who in turn (or his father I think himself) was etched 
by Rembrandt, you may remember the etching, a third state hangs in 
my dressing room. Vondel is called Olor Batavus. I think I also have 
his works! Ensor I know only by name if by that. A few of Ostade'^s 
etchings I love. I have poor states of those that I like, but many I don't 
care for. 

Well, I have finished Hoffding, and thank you as much for recom- 
mending that as I damned you for putting me on to Declareuil. The 
book is already a little old, but really excellent, and his brief criticisms 
are pungent. He has the best short account of Kant that I remember. 
Eminent persons who have counted and have disappeared I (unlike 
you) forget as fast as I read about them, but I get the movement. One 
thing that bothers them all, I suppose from theological presuppositions, 
strikes me as twaddle the "problem of evil." Of course the universe 
is a mystery and its manifestation of life in seemingly isolated frac- 
tions but, given that, evil is simply death the end of a transitory 
manifestation. The withering of a leaf, the sickness of man, the struggle 
for life, all are normal sequences of the datum as are frauds and 
murders. The philosophers seem to me to put their mystery in the wrong 
place, as spiritualists and Catholics do their miracles. I consider the 
above remark good, and with that and the end of Hoffding propose to 
pass to lighter themes. I mean to begin by sampling Guedalla's two 
books which lie upon my table Fathers of the Revolution and The 
Second Empire, If they amuse me enough not to count the pages I may 
read them. I notice that Hoffding refers to Memories of Old Friends 
from the Journal of Caroline Fox (Tauchnitz) which sounds as if it 
might be interesting. I may send for it. (Of the Mill-Carlyle period, 
converse of eminent persons, noted rightly by the journalist.) To one 
who reads every word articulately, as I do, it is a more serious job to 
tackle these histories, etc. than to you who read down the page instead 
of across. I suppose I could drool along over other sheets, but I drive 
out in a few moments and as it is possible that by stopping now I catch 
tomorrow's (?) boat, I stop anticipating your next adventure. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 867 

Walsort-sur-Meuse, Belgium, 14.V1II.26 

My dear Justice: I came back yesterday from Paris to find your delight- 
ful letter. 1 My conscience pricks me about Declareuil; I plead only in 
mitigation of sentence (1) that I really enjoyed it (2) that Mcllwain 
and Haskins share my view that it is a first-rate piece of work. But you 
will note that I begin with a confession of guilt. And, after all, you have 
been comforted by Pepys. Do you find pleasure in Horace Walpole? I 
remark that I ask a question and do not make a recommendation! 

My friend Neale and I combed the bookshops in Paris for five days 
with infinite joy. We went to see two pictures (Vermeers) and did a 
theatre (Cyrano de Bergerac); and we dined with Alvord the American 
historian 2 very pleasantly. But otherwise it was grim hunting. The Quais 
yielded a little; but they have now little that is old except theology and 
even a pleasant 17th century binding cannot reconcile me to sermons. 
We had talks with some of the old bouquinistes there, one of whom had 
a hobby of collecting incunabula, and, to my virgin ignorance, talked 
of them well. One had been a great friend of Renan and told me with 
huge malice of his contempt for priests. But, in general, they are a de- 
caying race and the trash, especially pornographic trash, they display, 
is abominable. But inside some of the shops was very different. I got 
some sixty things I badly wanted names like Jurieu, Linguet, Coyer, 3 
will explain the line of country over which I travelled. You know the 
exquisite feeling of being in mid-air on a ladder with the prospect of 
infinite treasures above your head. For the most part I eschewed mo- 
dernities, except for an occasional out of the way thesis. I was proud of 
what I got, but the joy was in the hunter's zest and in talk with the 
booksellers. One, Gougy, had a shop which A. France used often to 
frequent, and I spoke to him of France's knowledge of books; "pretty 
fair," he said, "but" (with immense pity) "he did not know that the 
1590 (?) Montaigne had a blank half-title." Champion was a delight 
to talk to, for he is a real scholar whose own books are of high quality. 4 
He is very impressed by the young American students who come to 
p a ri s their interest in work and their determination. He also told me 
that his father was bookseller to J. R. Lowell and that the latter once 

1 Supra, p. 859. 

9 Clarence Walworth Alvord (1868-1928), historian of the Illinois Territory 
who was Professor of History at the Universities of Illinois and Minnesota. 

8 Gabriel Frangois Coyer (1707-1782); friend of the men of letters of his 
time and almost a man of letters in his own right; author, inter alia, of 
Bagatelles morales (1754) and La noblesse commercante (1770). 

4 Pierre Champion (1880- ), editor and scholar, was the son of the 
well-known bibliophile Honor6 Champion (1846-1913) and was the author 
of historical and biographical studies. 



868 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

refused to buy a first edition of Moliere for 200 francs because it was 
too expensive. You can imagine that they were full days. I add that I 
was glad to be back here; for the peace of this place after the noise of 
Paris is attractive beyond words. 

I have, of course, read little since I wrote last week. But I must men- 
tion, because I liked it so much, Anatole France's Sur la pierre blanche. 
You may not know it, tho' I expect you do; if not, I conjure you to read 
it, if only for the simply exquisite conte of S. Paul and the Roman pro- 
consul. You may doubt the philosophy at the end, but you will not fail 
to yield to the pure magic of the style. I had also to read (dolorous job) 
a book by an Indian on comparative administrative law to review it, and 
I thought it pretty poor. These Indians will seek to write in the grand 
manner, with the result that they irritate one's sense of words beyond 
endurance. On one page I counted 74 nouns with adjectives and thirteen 
without; on another 36 had two adjectives and only 18 one. What gain 
he hoped thereby to win in heaven I know not. The one other thing I 
read was the Christmas Carol with Diana and I don't know which of 
us loved it most. Dickens certainly had the gift of tears; and why the 
impossible conversion of Scrooge should make one's eyes wet at the 
twentieth reading when one knows exactly what is to come I don't know 
one bit; but there it is. A good letter in the New Statesman the other 
day pointed out that Dickens probably did more than anyone in his 
generation to make men see the commonsense of Bentham, and I im- 
agine that is true. Who wouldn't be a law reformer after reading Bleak 
House? or in favour of school inspection after Mr. Squeers, or factory 
laws after Hard Times. The world belongs to those who know how to 
tell a story well; and it is only after them that the poets come in influ- 
ence. 

By the way I want you to tell me if you know of a Dutch poet named 
Vondel? (Have I asked you this?) I found no one in France to bear 
testimony to him and the Dutch here swear by him. 

But I must pack; for tonight I go to Geneva and until next Saturday 
I shall have no peace. 

Our love to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Beverly Farms, August 27, 1926 

My dear Laski: You renew my job by another letter from Waulsort sur 
Meuse, the precise place of which on the map I know not. I readily ac- 
cept the judgment that Declareuil's work is first rate. My howl was 
only because the greater part of it concerned facts that I am not study- 
ing and forget at once. You ask in connection with Pepys whether I 
find pleasure in Horace Walpole. I should be surprised if I hadn't writ- 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 869 

ten or said that Pepys and Walpole were the two books that would occur 
to me first when I didn't want to be bothered with ideas and yet didn't 
want to waste my time. Not that I have read more than a volume or 
two of Walpole but I wish I had him here now. . . . Your account 
of your Paris experience makes me feel envious and old. I have little 
to tell of myself I think I mentioned reading Guedalla's two books, 
Fathers of the Revolution and Second Empire the latter much the 
fitter subject for his pen. Since then only a mystery tale by E. Wallace: 
A King by Night good of its sort. I hung over it for a day. 

Yesterday my leisure between driving, etc. was taken up with an article 
that my dear Wu sent me from China. 1 I wrote three opinion-size pages 
to explain why I didn't think it a source of new light but one hates 
to do that kind of thing to one who commands all one's affection and 
esteem. I told him that I thought his studies in Germany had affected 
him a little with their own systematizing habit, that Kant's and Hegel's 
systems had gone into the waste paper basket and that they would have 
done better if they had confined themselves to their profound apergus. 
Their systems, pace Haldane, have burdened and bored the world to 
get rid of them. Now for a few odd moments I have taken up to read 
a third time Lethaby's admirable little book on Architecture in the 
Home University Library. If I can find another story I shall read it 
but I think it just as well to idle a bit. The other day I went again 
around your adorable Rockport, stopping to look at the house built 
wholly of newspapers that I must have told you of last year. The papers 
are glued together into boards, and now chairs, tables, etc. adorn, also 
made of newspapers rolled into tubes. I believe the man, whom I didn't 
see this year, is an expert electrician building this house was his 
amusement. . . . Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



As From 16 Warwick Gardens, 22.V11I.26 

My dear Justice: I came back from two thrilling days in Geneva 1 to find 
your letter. Of course I accept your polytheism, adding that I would 
not embark upon persecution even for the sake of Jane Austen. I ask 

1 Probably "Scientific Method in Judicial Process/' 3 China Law Review 7 
(July 1926), reprinted in Wu, judicial Essays and Studies (1933) 26. Holmes's 
letter to Wu concerning the article is printed in Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, 
His Book Notices and Uncollected Papers and Letters (Shriver, ed., 1936), 
186. 



1 In Geneva Laski had delivered an address, "International Government and 
National Sovereignty," before the Geneva Institute of International Relations. 
It is printed in The Problem of Peace (1927) 288. 



870 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

you to note my moderation, for men have oppressed in much worse 
causes. 

1 had never been to Geneva before. The city itself, to begin with, is 
quite lovely. The vast lake, the sun-flushed mountains, the peak of Mont- 
Blanc with the snow crowning its summit are not easily forgotten. To 
look over the bay by moonlight is one of the memories to be cherished. 
Then the old houses are attractive. And in the town library I read 
Rousseau's Confessions in the original manuscript and letters to him 
from D'Alembert, Diderot, Hume, all, of course, known, but all, with 
their faded splendour, giving one the sense that one had suddenly be- 
come a contemporary of them and that if one went outside into the sun- 
light, Montesquieu, maybe, would be just around the corner. 

To this must be added the pleasure of finding what was, from my 
point of view, the best bookshop I have ever entered. Even now I trem- 
ble to think what I might have missed had I not gone. Original editions 
of Rousseau, Jurieu, contemporary criticisms of them, answer to Mon- 
tesquieu (still uncut) circa 1748-50, all at a price that rarely averaged 
more than a dollar, and was frequently less. I spent, I think, five pounds; 
and I must, I think, have bought seventy things all of which are undis- 
coverable in England, and long sought for by me with sighs of longing. 
The hunt in that musty room with my heap of discoveries growing 
bigger and bigger as the hours went by is unforgettable. Next year I 
must certainly visit Lausanne and Basle. These Swiss places, through, I 
suppose, the Calvinist tradition, have accumulated the kind of literature 
I want in a size I have never yet experienced. 

The League itself was not especially impressive. I saw some old Ameri- 
can friends Manley Hudson, Herbert Feis, 2 Raymond Fosdick; 3 and 
I met James Brown Scott 4 who, I whisper quietly, did not seem to be 
a great man. I met also Zimmern, but he is now a crusader for the League 
and nothing but the League and to a sceptic that does not help discus- 
sion. The place itself, as the centre of the League, has become the 
most amazing medley of nationalities; and one finds oneself continually 
searching for an interpreter to find out what some Czech or Pole is try- 
ing to say. On the other hand the International Labour office does im- 
press. One has the sense that fertile thinking is on foot and that really 
effective work is being done. The real genius of the place is an Irishman 

2 Herbert Feis (1893- ), economist and public servant, was associated 
for many years with the International Labor Office of the League of Nations. 

8 Raymond Blaine Fosdick (1878- ), lawyer, man of affairs, and au- 
thority on police administration. 

4 James Brown Scott (1866-1943), energetic administrator of, and prolific 
writer on international law. 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 871 

named Phelan, 5 who has a good deal of Felix's quick, nervous charm. 
He has a power of speculation that kept me up till four one morning 
and a hatred of organised religion that gave me immense pleasure. This 
last conversation was a kind of round table fight over what the Russian 
Communists would call theses Phelan and I against Fosdick and an 
American bishop whose name I do not remember. We argued that no 
religion can be certainly established and that the mere beauty of its 
profession does not entitle us to claim any other sanction for it than the 
inherent appeal of that beauty. The bishop wanted to force people to 
believe as the only way of saving the world from anarchy. He was the 
mildest persecutor I ever met, but grimly certain that the world was 
lost, and unwilling to see any virtue in the power of reason. We met 
there also a Bolshevik from Moscow who was just like a medieval in- 
quisitor. His calm certainty that Marxism was an ultimate truth and 
that one could go to Das Kapital as one goes to the Bible when a Chris- 
tian, made Phelan say that for Communists Marx was the incarnation 
and Lenin the second coming a remark that combines the charms 
of truth and blasphemy. 

I came back last night to our last week here. We go next Friday to 
Antwerp for two days and then home. This really is an interim letter, 
for I have two weeks' English correspondence to answer and I am writ- 
ing to you as a relief to my irritation over business letters. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Beverly Farms, September 3, 1926 

My dear Laski; Your account of Geneva and your book adventures there 
move my envy but I too have had my adventures, although on a less 
impressive scale, both external and literary. One Wednesday, two days 
ago, we went to Plum Island and sat upon the white beach, longer than 
the old Hoffman House bar, stretching out of sight, with the black-blue 
ocean illimitably in front, and a few mackerel gulls zigzagging swiftly 
overhead infinite space and air. Then returning we stopped at the 
old house that you will remember in Newburyport, which was hard by, 
and renewed the old sensation of the yard thick walls, and the daughter 
of the house, now its mistress, came out (as there were a lot of girls 
inside whom we didn't want to disturb) and made me proud of the 
old Yankee race though I horrified her by saying that I believed in 

5 Edward Joseph Phelan (1888- ), British economist of Irish birth; after 
many years with the International Labor Office, he became its Director Gen- 
eral in 1946; author, inter alia, of The British Commonwealth and the League 
of Nations (1931). 



872 HOLMES TO LASK1 [1926 

"My country right or wrong." Yesterday we went to a noble old house 
in Marblehead of which I spare you the description but found there an 
elderly Marblehead woman in charge who again made me proud of the 
Yankees. Returning I found a woman with proofs of a photograph that 
I weakly let them take the other day. I expounded that it was not my 
job, but my wife liked the photographs so well that she let me in for 
$74 before the short seance ended. This p.m. we have been at the studio 
[of] Kraska [sic] 1 in Gloucester to see a model he has made for a com- 
panion piece to the fisherman that stands at the head of Gloucester 
harbor of which probably I wrote to you last year. This is of the Glouces- 
ter woman and again moved me. Also I liked the man. He said he came 
from England (Norfolk). 

In the way of reading, not much, but impressing. I've read, in a trans- 
lation, not having the French, Le pere Goriot an odious story. I don't 
think the reproduction of ugly or hateful things always justified by the 
genius it may display justified aesthetically, I mean of course. When 
I got enough for the moment I turned for a tooth wash to the little ex- 
cellent book on Rome in the Home University series and the Plutarch's 
Lives referred to there. It is an ever fresh surprise to see how many of 
the axiomatic media got from life by men of the world you find in the 
old books. My father quoted Tom Appleton, 2 a noted wit, for "Give us 
the luxuries of life and we will dispense with the necessities" which 
is Menger's 3 "les gens pour qui le superflu est le nScessaire" previously 
hinted at by Balzac, and now in the life of old Cato I read of Scopas, 
a rich man, saying "It is just these useless and unnecessary things that 
make my wealth and happiness" which comes pretty near, etc. etc. 
Now I have nothing on hand and have taken up the Antigone in the 
intervals of paying bills, and leisurely preparations for the return to 
Washington at the end of the month. Did you ever read Leacock's ac- 
count of a Greek play given by college boys? It is balm to a wounded 
soul. It is in Over the Footlights, a book I recommend "Oroastus, a 
Greek Tragedy, attributed to Diplodokus." 

A day or two ago I received a parcel marked "Personal, Confidential 
and Urgent" and in another place "From Society for the Propagation of 
the Word among the Heathen; Subcommittee for the Illustrious Heathen" 
and began to swear to myself, noting only the first words of the last. 
I opened and found Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (which, like Emerson's 

1 Leonard Craske, supra, p. 781. 

2 Thomas G. Appleton (1812-1884); Boston man of letters. 

8 Carl Menger (1840-1921), founder of the so-called Austrian school of 
economics which emphasized the factor of subjective value in the explanation 
of economic phenomena. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 873 

cannon shot, seems to have been heard round the world). I suspect an 
ex-secretary who was here with his wife a few days ago. 

And so adieu for the moment. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



16 Warwick Gardens, MX. 26 

My dear Justice: We got back here yesterday from Belgium, and are to 
spend a week in Manchester with my people before serious work begins. 
Meanwhile I am arranging new books, and finding out what is happening 
to the world. 

We spent three delightful days in Antwerp on the way home. First 
we bought two etchings by Ensor, to celebrate our fifteenth wedding 
anniversary how I wish I could show them to you. One is the town- 
hall at Ostende, as delicate a thing as I have seen, and the other the 
pier at Middlekerke which for suggestive beauty really is in the class 
of Whistler. We are both so excited about them that we keep taking 
trips to the dining-room where they hang, and they somehow seem (as 
Frida said) to justify our marriage. Then I found four books in Antwerp 
of first-rate value to me. One, especially, a Recueil de pieces interes- 
santes of 1590, had in it the first relation I can discover not in English 
of Drake's voyage round the world. Altogether, looking over what I 
bought abroad I am well content; for when the School of Economics 
eventually inherits my library it will at least have a significant collection 
on the history of social thought. 

We spent a day also just outside Antwerp with friends. A perfect 
scene fl a t dunes with the old Flemish houses fading into them, and 
good talk. One of the houses was Camille Huysmans, 1 the Socialist 
Minister for Education in the present Belgian government and a very 
attractive fellow. He told me remarkable stories of Lenin, whom he 
knew well in the days of exile; and he took me to see a most interesting 
survival of the old common system where the Flemish peasant still has 
a right to fish, wood, and pasturage for one cow or two sheep. I talked 
to some old peasants there and found, to my amazement, that one of 
their deepest convictions was absolute loathing of Spain. Why, I could 
not understand until further talk revealed that it was the memory of 
Alva and the Spanish infantry which had been handed down as a legend 
of hate; and Huysmans told me that Alva still exists throughout Flanders 
as the nursery bogy for naughty children. 

The one positive thing I have done since we got back is to read H. G. 
Wells's new novel, Volume I 2 (there are to be three). It's a remarkable 

Camille Huysmans (1871- ), Socialist statesman, was Prime Minister 
of Belgium from 1946 to 1947. 

a The World of William Clissold (3 vok, 1926). 



874 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

thing episodic, formless, and rather stuttering as most of his things 
are; but queerly alive and vivid and stimulating. Incidentally^! think 
it c'ontains the best criticism of socialism I know. I hope it will come 
your way. I have read, too, coming over, Anatole France's Sur la piene 
blanche, which I thought exquisite (Frida interrupts to say the word 
is not strong enough); and its one indecency is quite brilliant. The 
young girl prays at the statue of the 'Virgin, "O thou who didst conceive 
without sin, help me to sin without conceiving." I shall send you this in 
the pocket edition in the hope of (a) tempting you into reading it and 
(b) relieving my conscience a little in the way of Declareuil. And I 
must not forget to say that in our last days at Waulsort I was lent an 
excellent book by one Felix Sartaux [sic] called Foi et science au moyen 
age* which interested me enormously. It might not unfitly be called a 
modern footnote to Haureau of the sixties who wrote on the Scholastics; 
and I found especial interest in its account of medieval science. It is 
quite a short book, and I believe it is going to lead me further than I 
ever intended to go a sure proof of quality. 

I have kept rather hidden these two days in London in order to work 
off arrears of letters. A mass of things accumulates; books to be acknowl- 
edged; reviews to be done; and university business. One day I must 
acquire a secretary, but I fear that is far distant. The Germans, with 
great kindness, are beginning to notice my work and send me books; and 
I am rather baffled as to whether I am in duty bound to read them or 
no before I acknowledge them. One man, for instance, sends me a huge 
tome on Plato's theory of law and I gaze upon it fondly with a feeling 
that if it were in English I would happily turn over its pages, but that 
German with an average of ten footnotes to a page is less inviting than 
might be. So also with a Frenchman who sends me the first of three 
volumes on the later Jansenists. A great failure is, I suppose, at least 
contingently a great tragedy, and to me to see or read a great tragedy is 
always a Katharsis; yet with Diana at my elbow clamouring to be read 
to, and Huckleberry Finn as the book, somehow or other the last Jan- 
senists are rather far away. 

Other news, I fear, there is none. Politics, at the moment, are dead; 
and the only big event in the next ten days is the necessity of correlating 
exarn papers for the B.Sc. final. That I hate; for I have the baffled 
sense of disbelieving in examinations without knowing how to replace 
them. 

Eliot's death, I suppose, was expected. 4 I take it for granted that he 
was a great man. I only saw him twice, when I found him impressive 

8 Felix Sartiaux, Foi et science au moyen dge (1926). 
4 Charles William Eliot (1834-1926), President Emeritus of Harvard, had 
died on August 22. 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 875 

but harsh. Your father, if I remember aright, held him in great esteem. 
He must have done much for Harvard, and certainly he makes Lowell 
dwarf-like. But I am not sure that a smaller, more intense Harvard 
would not have been finer; at least I always feel that in the Law School 
which I respect above all other educational places. 

My warm affection to you both. I shall write once more to B. Farms 
and then try you in Washington. Ever devotedly yours, H. ]. L. 



Beverly Farms, September 15, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your last letter tells of your return and among other 
things of a book by Sartaux [sic] which you call a modern footnote to 
Haureau. I read Haureau once with interest, although I believe I was 
assured that there was a better book by someone else, and I wish I 
might read this, but we leave here at the end of next week. I wonder 
what you mean by saying that it is going to lead you further than you 
ever intended to go. Do you mean in reading? I remember that Haureau 
impressed me by showing Descartes more indebted to the scholastics 
than I had supposed. As to a book on Plato's theory of law, it seems to 
me that that can wait. I saw the other day, possibly in Hoffding, a ref- 
erence to the Antigone. (Don't you always say Antigone although the 
Greek accent is Antig6ne? I am aware that the o is short) for the state- 
ment that no one knows where the law comes from. As the reference 
suggesting it did not give the lines I am rereading it, though I find the 
chorus a difficulty even with Sir G. Young's translation alongside. I find 
that Antigone is speaking of the divine law 1.456.457: aXX' ae( TCOTS vj 
TauTa, y,ou8e!g olSev e OTOU ^pavr], 1 but it fits pretty well the notion of the 
common law as pictured by Mcllwain in Coke's time even. I shall try to 
reread Sur la pierre blanche, but my rather vague recollection is that I 
didn't like it. A. F. does not alway hit me although I bow to Les dieux 
ont soif. 

I am not doing any serious reading, but give the best two or three hours 
to admirable drives, and have done a little more Balzac with continued 
dislike for the pictures of envy and malice and thirst for luxury. I imagine 
that I still should get pleasure from the Contes drolatiques but I have 
them not here. I bought them during our Civil War with Dore's illustra- 
tions, and have them on my shelf of horrors in Washington. Speaking of 
the Civil War, I believe that I am becoming a sort of mystical hero to 
two or three small boys, cousins or neighbors, as a survivor who was in 
that show. The grandmother of one asked me for an autograph for him, 
and an aunt stipulated that I should give it to her so that her boy could 

1 "[For their life is not of today or yesterday! but from all time, and no man 
knows when they were first put forth." (Jebb, tr.). 



876 HOLMES TO LASKI [1926 

stick the addressee for a quarter, to get it. So I wrote telling the lad that 
64 years ago on the 17th I was at Antietam and nearly killed. I like to 
boast of my grandmother who died at about that time and who remem- 
bered moving out of Boston when the British troops came in. I think Lord 
Percy occupied her father's house as my father told me that probably he 
had had his head powdered before a looking glass that is now in my 
parlor at Washington but Rice, late of the print department, Congres- 
sional Library, knocked it out by saying that his grandmother with whom 
he had talked remembered the old French war which was earlier than the 
Revolution. An epitome of (my) life: my first books ends (designedly) 
with the word "explained" my last with the word "unknown." Sat prata 
biberunt. I close the gates. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



16 Warwick Gardens, 19JX.26 

My dear Justice: You must forgive my long silence, but I have been over- 
whelmed since I last wrote to you. First there was a visit of a week to my 
people in Manchester, which was not unattractive, but very exhausting. 
You see the atmosphere is so strange to Frida that I have to be, so to say, 
on duty all the time to see that she is comfortable. It isn't that they don't 
like her, on the contrary. But it is the meeting of two quite different 
worlds, and my job is to be the medium of adjustment. So while I am 
there I neither read nor write, but simply talk hard from morning till night. 
Then we had the problem of this house. The landlord had the option to 
terminate the lease next March, which he has done; and he offered to 
renew it only on terms which no professional salary could cope with, in 
addition to wanting us to take on a studio at the back at 150 pounds a 
year. As he offered to renew the lease only for 14 years we should have 
been paying a heavy rental for nothing at the end. So we decided that the 
path of wisdom was to find a new house and if possible a little freehold 
so that all we spent on it would still leave us with a TUOU oro) we knew to be 
ours. After wearisome hunting we have found and bought a delicious 
little Georgian house ( 1796 ) about five minutes from where we now live. 
It has one disadvantage a railway in the front. But it has beautifully 
proportioned rooms with Adam ceilings and fireplaces, an attractive lit- 
tle garden, and we think that with some five hundred pounds spent on it, 
we can make it a real joy to us. So sometime in the next few months we 
shall move there and you will have to accustom your envelopes to a new 
address. 

As you can imagine, this has taken time and energy and I have done 
little else. But we managed a delightful dinner with Redlich at the Francis 
Hirsts' just before he set sail for America. (You know, I expect that he 
is to teach jurisprudence in the Law School for three years.) He is a 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 877 

great conversationalist, and we wandered easily over the universe. We 
agreed in liking Jefferson more than Hamilton, in thinking that Destutt de 
Tracy 1 was a wrongly neglected figure, and in elevating Tocqueville above 
any similar person in the 19th century. I had to fight both him and Hirst 
over Leslie Stephen, whose books they rated low; and over you whom 
they accused of undue contempt for Aristotle and Plato. I argued (I hope 
fairly) that your "contempt" was simply an insistence that you must see 
with your own eyes first and adjust your scheme in the light of their 
criticism rather than bow the knee a priori. I wonder much how Redlich 
will fit into Harvard. He has great incisiveness and is very "European." On 
the other hand he has warm affection (who could not?) for Felix and I 
think he is counting much on that friendship as the certain basis of con- 
tent while he is in America. But you will, I gather, be seeing him in 
October, I hope, and I shall look forward to your impressions. 

We have been putting up this last week my friend Neale who is 
professor of history in Manchester. He is very able indeed, and I had 
the joy that comes of watching the intense earnestness of the scholar 
hunting down documents. He is working on the history of parliament 
under the Tudors, and especially under Elizabeth, and he is like nothing 
so much as a dog that has found the scent. He makes the evenings 
pleasant for he has fallen personally in love with Elizabeth, and as Frida 
regards Mary Stuart as an unjustly treated woman, I can hound them on 
to combat in great style. Also several Germans have been to the house, 
one of whom, Palyi, 2 strikes me as the cleverest economist I have met in 
many a day. They are an amazingly grim set of men on their subject, and 
their zest for categories appals me. To ask a German, for instance, to 
define administrative law is to invite a metaphysical tyranny which only 
a thunderstorm can avert. They use words that I (who speak German but 
slowly) have to unravel in sections and by the time I have managed to 
construct a reply they have proposed alternative terms as long as I Street. 

Of reading, I have done little. I reread Butler's Way of All Flesh, with 
some chuckles but much more with the feeling that it was like Noah's 
sons uncovering their father's nakedness. I have read a charming account 
of the salon of Mme Helvetms by one Guillois, and a new novel (not 
very good) by Galsworthy. 3 Also we went to the play to see his new 

1 Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836), father of "ideology " 
a science of ideas sufficient, according to its author and disciples, to bring 
certainty to the political and moral sciences; his admiration for American ideals 
was reciprocated by Jefferson, who sponsored the publication of Destutt de 
Tracy's work as A Treatise on Political Economy (1817). 

2 Melchior Palyi (1892- ); following a distinguished career in Germany, 
both as teacher and as economic consultant to financial institutions, Dr. Palyi 
left Germany in 1933 and pursued a similar career in the United States. 

*The Silver Spoon (1926). 



878 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

piece Escape but it was, though nobly acted, a weak evasion of his 
problem. X is in jail for manslaughter under circumstances that make you 
sympathise with him. He escapes from Dartmoor in a fog. The play is 
the hunt and the attitude of the general public to helping him. Most of 
them do. But the real problem is not the helping of a gallant army officer 
penalised for an accident, but the old "lag" who has no use for the ac- 
cepted social standards. I think Galsworthy at bottom is a weak senti- 
mentalist whose life is built round a shrinking from even the necessary 
cruelties of life. 

Our love to you both. Do have a great term in Washington; and greet 
Rockport for me. Ever affectionately yours, H. }. L. 

Washington, D. C., October 3, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your letter telling of your visit to your father's and your 
hunt for a house was forwarded to me here, and gives me unusual pleasure 
even for a letter of yours. The simplicity with which you tell of domestic 
circumstances and your assumption of my interest and sympathy delights 
me. Perhaps it is rather late in the day for me to remark on such things 
and not take them for granted, but still they give me a happy pleasure. 

I wonder what can have given Redlich or your illegible host (Francis 
Hust?) whom I do not recognize, the notion that I had a contempt for 
Plato and Aristotle? I revere them, and have reread Dialogues of Plato 
and read Aristotle (whom I know less well) of recent years. I simply 
apply to them what I apply to all the past, my belief that the present 
conception of the universe and man's place in it is more delicate and 
profound than ever before which I think is obvious. Don't you? 
Apropos of Redlich, you call him a great "conversationalist" a common 
phrase. I always wonder why the adjective termination al is put into the 
noun. Galsworthy I mainly pass by on the other side and can't criticize 
in detail. I think I remember having read very beautiful descriptions of 
nature by him. 

We got here Wednesday morning and things now are in pretty good 
shape for tomorrow's beginning. I have gone over (now and in the 
summer time) 57 certioraris and have a big stack of them still awaiting 
examination. I have called on the C.J. but have not seen him, and have 
missed a call from Brandeis who came when I allowed myself the let-up 
of a drive in the park yesterday morning. I did have a call from Hough 
(L. Hand's colleague) which gave me much pleasure. He has praised and 
criticized and chaffed me in articles in which, as in his opinions, he has 
a spicy tongue. I liked him greatly. He talks simply and straight one 
was willing to trust him at once. Also he spoke with affection and appre- 
ciation of Felix, which went to my heart. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 879 

No reading for some time, I expect. I took advantage of the time saved 
by the C.J.'s being out to whisk over to the Congressional Library to 
look at an article to which I had been referred on Leibl l whom 
Spengler Untergang des Abendlandes cracks up as one of the last of 
the great, and about whom (partly because I couldn't remember the 
name) I have been vainly curious since 1924. There was only one repro- 
duction of an etching, but there were others of drawings and paintings. 
I couldn't make up my mind off hand on what I saw whether he was more 
than a man who thoroughly knew his job. That is, I didn't clearly detect 
a great poet, or one who had profoundly new things to say. And I don't 
think that we yet have exhausted what man can learn of, or feel about, 
the universe which you fellows, who propose to reshape it, will admit, 
I think, 

I forget whether I have mentioned an excursion into Balzac, in transla- 
tions that happen to be in the house at Beverly Farms, Pere Goriot, 
Cliouans, Un grand homme de province a Paris, and a popular French life 
of him. I don't like him or enjoy his books. Bob Barlow was talking about 
him, said in substance, You don't find what we call a good fellow outside 
our crowd, which has a certain truth. Their damned envies, jealousies, 
and mean tricks make me tired. But perhaps I should qualify Barlow by 
saying that one who does not know London or Paris but only this country, 
cannot quite realize the fierce temptations of social ambition. Still, there 
is too much of the boor and the snob about Balzac with all his genius. I 
prefer the British laugh from the guts. 

One of the most universally applicable of quotations, which comes up to 
me in many places, is Caesar's et superest ager but I will plough no 
more today. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



16 Warwick Gardens, SO.IX.26 

My dear Justice: This letter is written on the verge of term, with all the 
tensity which comes therewith. I seem to have spent the last four days in 
a whirl of new students, black, brown, yellow, and white, adjusting their 
impossible perspectives to rationality. They are really adorable people 
the Hindu who asks you simply to be a father to him; the Chinaman 
who is naively surprised when you tell him that you know nothing of 
ancient Chinese political theory; the American (from Iowa) who uses the 
word "sociological" as though it were in itself pure magic. They keep one 
at it, but I am still in the mood where they seem to justify almost all the 
energy one spends on them. 

Since I wrote last I have had a good deal to do. A week-end in 

1 Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900), German painter who passed from an imitative 
phase to a more forthright and self-sufficient realism. 



880 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

Cambridge for an adult education conference with the extra job of find- 
ing a successor to Haldane as its president. 1 I had a long talk with the 
latter there at dinner. He interested me enormously in a number of 
ways. First, the regions where his mind simply doesn't function at all 
e.g., in the quality of historic mindedness. Rousseau to him is simply a 
body of doctrines which have no connection with space and time. Second, 
I was interested in the great art he has I suppose the supreme adminis- 
trative quality of getting people to do things. And third I realised the 
immense power as a factor in social life that comes from having experience 
of high office. It persuades half one s audience to take pronouncements 
as valid because of their origin. Haldane e.g. urged that much more at- 
tention should be given in education to mathematics. Now if there is 
one thing I am certain of it is that beyond a certain elementary point, 
mathematics are a permanently closed subject to the larger part of man- 
kind. Yet I heard distinguished professors of classics getting up one after 
another and saying that without a grasp of Einstein men lost a significant 
part of the heritage of mankind when they must have known (I) that 
they themselves didn't and couldn't understand relativity and (II) that if 
it were proposed to make mathematics after say the elementary calculus 
compulsory they would fight like cats to prevent it. And I must not for- 
get the other side. Rutherford had a great German physicist staying 
with him who had never read a line of Goethe, the ancient classics, al- 
ternative sciences, did not know anything of history, abstained from the 
study of politics, and relaxed by reading the higher mathematics. He was 
a Nobel prizeman, obviously a genius in his line, and, as I said to Haldane, 
he cared nothing for % of the heritage of mankind. I added (Haldane 
dissenting strongly) that apart from physics I refused to regard his pro- 
nouncements on life as having any more interest or importance than those 
of a bricklayer or a waiter less perhaps. But of course he had views 
about everything and could not be made to grasp the possibility that e.g. 
a knowledge of liquid hydrogen did not entitle one to judgments upon 
how a civil servant should be chosen. 

Of reading I have done something. The new W. W, Jacobs gave me a 
lot of pleasure 2 I think Sam, Ginger, and Russet, are really creations 
of whom anyone could be proud. Then an admirable hook on the French 
Revolution (not new) by one Chassin called La genie de la Revolution, 
and a good one on Babeuf who had been a mystery to me but who in this 
book by his aide-de-camp Buonarroti turns out to be quite simply a Lenin 
manque. I picked up one or two nice books in Cambridge, and a nice 17th 

1 Mr. Justice Sankey succeeded to the presidency. An account of the Cam- 
bridge conference is in Haldane's Autobiography (1929), 319-322. 

2 W. W. Jacobs, Sea Whispers (1926). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 881 

century engraving of the great feudist Loyseau that I think would attract 
you. 

One other adventure I must record, but for your private ear only. I 
drafted some letters for the miners in their struggle with the government, 
as a result of which I went with them to Downing Street the other day. 
The change in Baldwin since I saw him last was quite tragic. He had be- 
come hard and a little cynical and impatient of all criticism. We had some 
private talk and I found that he was a most curious mixture of the senti- 
mental phrase and the hard act. Churchill who was there was bigger and 
more skilful in every way he knew how to negotiate, Baldwin merely 
.blundering uncouthly. 

I send this to Washington as I expect your Court begins on Monday. 
At the moment I am very barren of American news. Felix has been un- 
accountably silent to the point even of leaving me worried as to whether 
he is well. But the spare hours are full I expect with him and I remain 
patient. 

My love warmly to you both. Now that term is at hand I hope to have 
more interesting things to say. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 9.X.26 

My dear Justice: These have been difficult days, with more work than I 
really like. First the hard work of beginning term, with the long procession 
of students to be interviewed, theses to discuss, and lectures to prepare; 
with only an occasional relief as when a Sikh who is 42, about 6 ft. 2 in 
height, and weighing about 16 stone, asked me to be a father to him. And 
there has been a sudden epidemic of German professors to be entertained 
one or two of them very charming, but, in the main, real heavy- 
weights. I have learned from them at least one thing of great value, that 
the adjective "sociological" means "indefinite." When X tells you that he 
is going to treat his subject vom sociologisches standpunkt, it means that 
he isn't clear what he is going to say about it. And Dorothy Kirchwey's 
father 1 to lunch well-meaning, I thought, but rather dull. I annexed 
my colleague Jenks (whom you know) to entertain him, and was vastly 
amused by the elaborate compliments Kirchwey paid him. Indeed some 
of them were so carefully balanced that at times I thought they would 
topple over. Then, too, I have had all the documents to study for my 
first case as a member of the Arbitration Court, and as I cannot, like you, 
look into my docket and find 2000 cases, I have, as Felix would say, 
sweated blood over it. It's a good case, I add, with room for the display of 

1 George W. Kirchwey (1885-1942), law professor and criminologist, was 
the father of Holmes's and Laski's common friend, Dorothy Kirchwey (Mrs. 
Larue) Brown. 



882 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

ingenuity; but we don t sit until next Tuesday so I have little notion of 
how these things work out as yet. 2 

Of reading but little, though at least 3 things must be mentioned. First 
the second volume of Wells's new novel, Clissold, which, with some bits 
of bad taste, I thought quite masterly. He has an amazing power of vivid 
insight, and a courageous frankness which it is impossible not to admire. 
People complain of his attack on the King; yet if I may whisper it, I think 
the things he attacks the King for are justly put and have exactly the 
incidence on social affairs that he indicates. Certainly, in my own experi- 
ence, the people at the top are helpless mentally and morally before 
royalty; I have seen even a girl of brains and courage like Elizabeth 
Bibesco 3 tremble with excitement at a garden-party because the Duchess 
of York asked for some words with her; and at the Institute of Philo- 
sophical Studies the largest attendance we ever had at its executive was 
when the Prince of Wales, who is its patron, took the chair. People of real 
distinction, like Balfour, stood by him with an air of religious deference 
which was frankly nauseating. The other book is sheer delight one of 
the wittiest things I have read in many a year. It is by the authoress of 
Elizabeth and her German Garden and is called Introduction to Sally 
I do beg of you and Mrs. Holmes to read it aloud over solitaire you 
will have some of the best comedy you have ever experienced. In a more 
sober line I have read a book by one Chassin called La genie de la Revolu- 
tion which Morley commended years ago, and is quite excellent, and a 
study of Mme. de Geoffrin and her salon 4 which is nearly as good as the 
writer's Life of Julie de Lespinasse. There is one adorable story in it of 
Fontenelle. The latter had a nephew "sat, laid, fat" (I quote Fontenelle) 
who took ill; the old writer, who was then 90, spent days at his bedside in 
misery. At last the vigil began visibly to affect his health and Mme. de 
Geoffrin urged him to come home assuring him that the nephew would 
recover. "That," said Fontenelle, with tears in his eyes, "is just what I 
fear." Do you know a better definition than that of what the French mean 
by esprit? 

Of other news but little. I had one interesting evening in Bermondsey 
where I talked on Burke in a converted stable to 200 dockers and had a 
most intent and intelligent audience; and a great night with the young 
folk at the School where they received the freshers and were as delightful 
and irresponsible as only undergraduates can be. Also I have (with Frida's 

2 The Case of Postmasters and Assistant Postmasters (#1256), 8 Industrial 
Court Decisions 306. Laski had recently been appointed a member of the 
Industrial Court, a post which he filled until his death. 

8 Princess Bibesco was Asquith's daughter, Lady Elizabeth Asquith. 

* Pierre Segur, Le royaume de la rue Saint-Honore: Madame Geoffrin et sa 
file (1897). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 883 

approval) definitely finished the purchase of the house, to which I think 
we shall go in about Xmas time. We went over it again and fell in love 
with it a second time. It will, I expect, exhaust my financial powers for 
a bit; but it exercises the usual magic of ownership and I always seem in 
these money matters to fall on my feet so long as I do not bother unduly 
about them. It is a great thing to know that one has a TCOU <TT0 from which 
only a revolution can move one and to be able to change about the house 
without fear of or permission from some landlord ten degrees removed. 
Did I ever tell you that between ourselves and the ultimate ground 
landlord of our present house there are actually six sub-tenants. 

For the rest I have been hard at my book on communism which moves 
slowly on its way. 5 I emerge as an admirer of Lenin who was a master of 
courage and strategy. But I emerge also with the conviction that tolera- 
tion and good will, bourgeois as they are, outweigh in virtue all the other 
qualities in the world. And the dogmatism that is the price of a commu- 
nist scheme seems the more unlovely the more one examines it. However 
you shall judge for yourself in the spring of next year when the little book 
comes out. 

I have been rather baffled by receiving a number of circulars from the 
Harvard Law School asking for money. I don't like their scheme. A 
professorship of legislation seems to me merely foolish, and one of crimi- 
nology dubious because likely to give a myopic view; and I don't want the 
Law School to grow bigger it's already over-big. Accordingly with some 
doubts I have decided to do nothing for the scheme and send a gift to 
the library instead. I'd like much to know what your views are about 
this. To me it looks as though Pound had been trapped by the illusion 
of size. 

Our love to both of you. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



16 Warwick Gardens, 16.X.26 

My dear Justice: Your delightful letter, written just as the Court had 
resumed, went to my heart. I imagine [you] as a small islet of mind 
in a seething ocean of certioraris. And that court of yours reminds me that 
I had my first judicial adventure the other day when I sat to hear a post 
office case in the Civil Service Court. 1 It was very interesting, and the 
standard of argument was, throughout, very high. And I liked my col- 
leagues, the more especially, I suppose, because they gave way to me on 
two points in the decision. It was a new experience to write it, and 
I certainly learned much about the art of phrasing in the endeavour to 

5 Communism (Volume 131 of Home University Library, 1927). 



1 See, supra, pp. 881-882. 



884 LASKI TO HOLMES 

find words they were willing to accept. We, alas, cannot have dissenting 
judgments; and that will, doubtless, one day cause me pain. But I 
certainly enjoyed the first dip in the judicial ocean. 

This week Frida came along with me to Edinburgh and Glasgow, 
where I had to give some university lectures. At Edinburgh we stayed 
with the Kemp Smiths, 2 he being a philosopher (vide his book on Kant) 
and a most charming person. Scottish academic society is very interesting 
it has a flavour quite its own. No other world exists for it, and men 
have a tendency to regard themselves as distinguished because they are 
professors in Edinburgh University. It was queer to meet one emeritus 
professor of law (aged ninety-three) whose grandfather had been a 
student of Adam Smith at Glasgow which takes one straight back to 
the middle of the eighteenth century; and the old gentleman told me 
of Carlyle's visit to him in the sixties when he asked C. what he thought 
of J. S. Mill and was given a scornful "He has nae roots in his mind" for 
an answer. I frankly enjoyed his reminiscences, which went right back 
to the Disruption of 1843, better than anything else except' Grant's 
bookshop where I bought several books that maketh the heart to rejoice, 
including an 18th century Moliere with plates by Moreau le Jeune in 
6 volumes for a pound. Glasgow was more modest in itself but less at- 
tractive partly perhaps because everyone I happened to meet was 
godly and a Hegelian and my mild expressions of scepticism about the 
latter were not well received. When, for instance, in my second letter 
[sic] I soberly and grimly took the general will to pieces, I saw the face 
of the professor of moral philosophy look like an avenging angel. It 
became his job to propose a vote of thanks to me; and with an unction 
that I dare not even try to convey in words he warned the youth present 
that this "iconoclasm about ultimate truths" was a path he did not advise 
them to tread in their own lives; then, raising his sobbing voice, "it 
leads to the slipping precipice of disaster." My withers, as you can guess, 
were not wrung, but I had great difficulty in stopping myself from making 
a satirical reply. 

We came back to find that the way is now open for planning our new 
house, and we are plunged in catalogic mysteries about fireplaces, parquet 
floors, and other such things. My one triumph will be a series of cup- 
boards at the base of the bookcases in which myriads of pamphlets can 
be kept, and an armchair upon which I can write by the adjustment of 
one of its arms. The house pleases us the more, the more intimately we 
examine it, and I think that two months of decoration and overhauling 
will make it a really attractive thing. 

Outside of Scotland, I have not seen people since I wrote last as I 

2 Norman Kemp Smith (1872- ), Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at 
Edinburgh, 1919-1945. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 885 

have been busy on my book. But I have read one or two things, including 
I hasten to mention, a quite admirable detective story called The Murder 
of Roger Ackwyd by Agatha Christie which I commend to your evenings 
and defy you to solve honestly. And for lecture-purposes I have been 
rather deep in Plato, often with irritation, but also with deep admiration. 
From what you say, I should not dissent. There are parts of the Phaedo 
which I rate as high as anything except supreme poetry; and the 
Apology, the Crito, and certain pieces of the Republic, have given me 
great comfort. But if Plato had not written them, there would not, I 
think, be any reason to think of the Laws, the Statesman, or the Meno, 
as other than third-class. On the other hand, Aristotle never fails to 
refresh me; and though, of course, his literary appeal is nil, the more one 
reads him the more one has the sense of the incomparable common sense 
and judgment the fellow had never loose, always perceptive, and 
always balanced. And while I am on these Greeks I desire to emphasise 
two heresies ( a ) I think Aristophanes a pretty poor sort of person 
rather like H. L. Mencken and (b) that Xenophon hasn't any of the 
qualities I read that he possesses in the books. The fault, doubtless, is 
in me; but the other day I heard Mackail 3 talk of "the faultless 
simplicity" of Xenophon and picking him up for the first time since 
school days, I was literally bored to tears. On the other hand by my 
bed in Edinburgh was put the Greek Anthology and there I think endless 
eulogy is amply justified. 

You will, I expect, have neard that Asquith has resigned the liberal 
leadership. 4 I'm sorry, not only because a landmark goes from English 
public life, but also because it really means, I fear, that the party rank and 
file had decided to cleave to Lloyd-George. Asquith has had terrible 
faults, and very limited horizons; but I know no man in our public life 
more loyal or more generous. He has been lazy and self-indulgent and 
indecisive, but no one has ever lost anything by trusting him and he 
has never been charged with deception. I hate to think of him having 
to yield before a fellow like L-G who hasn't a principle anywhere in his 
composition. And the latter is so vindictive that he will set himself out 
to ruin people like Simon who stood by Asquith. Ramsay MacDonald 
said to Frida at the Labour Party Conference that he had never known 

8 Presumably John William Mackail (1859-1945), classicist, literary his- 
torian, and biographer; his works include Select Epigrams from the Greek 
Anthology (1906). 

*In early October representatives of the Liberal and Radical Candidates' 
Association had urged Lord Oxford to take the leadership in restoring unity 
in the Liberal Party. On the 14th, however, Lord Oxford announced his resig- 
nation of the leadership of the Liberal Party, pleading that his age made it 
impossible for him to undertake the formidable task of eliminating dissension 
in the Party. 



886 LASKI TO HOLMES 

a peaceful hour since he entered Parliament, and then added, not less 
truthfully, no peaceful hour, either, when he was out of it. Politics is 
certainly the grave of the ultimate decencies. 

Well, I must go to dress. I dine with Sankey before he goes off on 
assize, and shall meet the new judge, Clauson, 5 of whom good things are 
said. But of this, next week. 

Our warm love to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

Washington, D. C., October 13, 1926 
My dear Laski: You were harried and bothered about writing your last 

and I am about answering it. The Lord knows when I can finish the 
few words I begin now. Before I refer to what you say and before I 
forget it: Do you remember Zane whom you ran against in some 
criticism and who has had whacks at me and I believe Pound? 1 During 
the war he excluded by one stroke all consideration of any work by 
German jurists another wiped out Hobbes, Bentham and Austin, and 
in short left one to suppose that there was nothing worth considering 
except what he as yet did not see fit to reveal. Incidentally he said that 
anyone who thought my Kawananakoa case was law might give up all 
hope of ever being a lawyer which was rather hard on me. I saw a 
notice by him of VinogradofFs Custom and Right, 2 in which at last he 
praised and seemed to think Vinogradoff the greatest jurist of the last 
50 years, I have sent for the brochure ... and though I have had no 
time to read it yet I have a deep inward conviction from V's book in the 
Home University Library 3 poor and his book on Villenage good 

(I forget the title) that Vinogradoff was a distinctly finite being 
not I should think to be named in the same year with Ehrlich. You 
know more about him. Am I wrong? 

I agree with you, totis viribus, as to mathematics. Postulates depend 
on insight, man's greatest gift one man having it in one direction, 
another in another. Mathematics like other reasoning starts from postu- 
lates, and in my very limited observation, mathematicians show little 
insight in the postulates that they accept. Of course I can speak of them 
only outside their special province, but it has struck me with mathe- 
maticians here and I might add Bertrand Russell, and Haldane [il- 
legible] in philosophy, although I was not thinking of them when I 

s Sir Charles Clauson (1870-1946) was Judge of the Chancery Division from 
1926 to 1938 and from 1938 to 1942 was Lord Justice of Appeal. In 1942 he 
was raised to the peerage as Baron Clauson. 

1 See, supra, p. 180. 

2 35 Jale L. J. 1026 (June 1926). 

3 Common-sense in Law (1913). 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 887 

began. They say math teaches accuracy of thought. I should think it was 
the last thing to have that effect, as it is the place where an undistributed 
middle is almost impossible. A is always A and X, X. You learn accuracy 
where you have to do the quantifying. How I should like to run on 
but I can't, and must go to work it is Friday now. We have an off day 
and I am more busy than ever in the moment of leisure. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Washington, D. C., October 23, 1926 

My dear Laski: Imprimis congratulations on your purchase of a house. I 
think it adds to the pleasure of life to own your own headquarters. For 
although when I first came to Washington I was in another man's house 
with his furniture, without my books, and working in a room where his 
marriage certificate, sporting and other prints, occupied the walls, and yet 
had a good time, it wasn't near so good as it could have been if I had 
been here. Secundo What is it about your being member of the arbitra- 
tion court? What is the Court? and all about it? This is your first mention. 
If I may venture a hint, I hope you won't be too keen after the display of 
ingenuity that you mention. I was afraid from your account that you 
rather overdid it when you were on a jury. 3. As to the contribution to 
the Harvard Law School I have shared your impression so far that I have 
not forked out, and talking with Brandeis today found that he was even 
more decidedly of the same mind. I don't remember the proposed pro- 
fessorships now, but several of them struck me as more than doubtful. 
Beside what you mention, wasn't there one on the History of the Law. 
I wouldn't endow that. 4. As to the attitude toward royalty, of course I 
have been struck by the same thing. I remember in the middle of an in- 
teresting talk at a garden party at (Buckingham?) palace the lady I was 
with broke off to rush and adore as some royal children went by. But I 
don't think you should call it nauseating. It may be, and I don't doubt 
often is not snobbish, but just a kind of religious exaltation, an ideal of 
loyalty, really to England, personified. It is not relevant but I add that I 
think Thackeray quite wrong in assuming that it would be discreditable 
to be pleased to walk down Pall Mall arm in arm with a couple of dukes. 
It very probably would mean only satisfaction at evidence of one's own 
importance which it is not base to feel, only foolish to believe (unless 
you are a Christian) . 

I have just been impressed with the doctrine of relativity in a different 
sphere from Einstein's and one that doesn't require a knowledge of mathe- 
matics although much used. At our conference yesterday p.m. (for now 
it is Sunday) we had some rate cases, the question being whether the rate 
fixed by the N.Y. legislature for gas companies in New York was con- 



888 HOLMES TO LASKI 

fiscatory and so, unconstitutional. 1 We solemnly weigh the valuation of 
the property and all the tests and decide pro or con but really it is 
determining a line between grabber and grabbee that turns on the feeling 
of the community. You say the public is entitled to this and the owners 
to that. I see no a priori reason for the propositions except that that is the 
way the crowd feels. I tell them that if the rate-making power will only 
say I have considered A. B. & C., all the elements enumerated, we accept 
the judgment unless it makes us puke. It is like the ideal of woman on 
one end you have the dames of the Decameron who care only for God 
and man," at the other a peaked, elbowed school marm who talks on high 
themes and thinks man a superfluity of nature. A given community fixes 
its conception somewhere midway according to the dominance of com- 
panionship or dimples. 

As to the communists I have little doubt that I shall agree with what 
you say. I take no stock in any scheme for remaking society that begins 
with property instead of life. And that means that I don't care much for 
any scheme that could be thought of now. I utterly disbelieve all postu- 
lates of human rights in general Those established in a given society 
stand on a different ground. But I grow like my school marm above in 
what I am writing. 

Things have gone pleasantly with me so far, and the constant over- 
pressure of the last three weeks will abate somewhat with our short ad- 
journment tomorrow. I shall fire off an opinion 2 and have only one to 
wr jt e on a matter that interests me much and will let in about an inch 
of theory contra some English intimations in your cases. 3 

Affectionately yours, O. W, Holmes 



61 Warwick Gardens, 23.X.26 

My dear Justice: Your ever-welcome letter has just arrived, and I must 
answer it before I sit down to a ghastly brief 300 pages long on the wages 
of Admiralty surveyors which I have on Monday in the Civil Service Arbi- 
tration Court. 1 Your mention of John Zane comes to me a little faintly 
down the years as of one who wrote boisterously but without learning in 
the Michigan Law Review. I should not, as now informed, take anything 
he said very seriously. I have that little book of VinogradofFs about which 
there isn't, I think, any reason to get excited. I knew V. pretty well. He 

^Ottinger v. Consolidated Gas Co., 272 U.S. 576; OUinger v. Brooklyn 
Union Co., id. 579. In each case the Court held that the rates established by 
the legislature were confiscatory. 

2 Palmetto Fire Insurance Co. v. Conn, 272 U.S. 295. 

3 Deutsche Bank Filiale v. Humphrey, 272 U.S. 517 (Nov. 23, 1926). 

1 Case of Overseers Admiralty ( #1258), 8 Industrial Court Decisions 316. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 889 

had immense learning of which he always made a great parade; but I 
never thought he had an incisive mind, and apart from that famous paper 
on folkland 2 and the admirable preface to his Villainage in England 1 
never could get really excited by him. He always struck me as immensely 
pontifical and he always took disagreement very badly, indeed, like most 
Russians, he seem[ed] to regard it as a moral offence. I remember writing 
in some Oxford paper when Korkunov's Theory of Law appeared that I 
thought it consisted chiefly of pompous commonplaces elaborated without 
regard to their insignificance. Vinogradoff replied in an angry letter that 
the book was of seminal importance. I retorted that discoveries like the 
remarks (I) that law is the index to the mind of a people (II) every 
legal system in the Western world bears the impress of Roman law might 
be true but did not justify excitement to which his response was that a 
professor could not be expected to argue with an undergraduate on these 
matters. I drew my deductions accordingly and did not frequent his 
Omnicompetence thereafter. I thought, too, that his volume of introduc- 
tion to Historical Jurisprudence was all swiped from Pound without ade- 
quate acknowledgment. But I grow profane. De mortuis nil nisi bunkum! 
Much has happened since I last wrote. First and foremost a really de- 
lightful dinner with Sankey, J. who was in great form. He told me much 
of his colleagues that was amusing. The new Lord Justice, Lawrence, has 
such a bad temper that the bar has privately suggested its hope that he 
and Scrutton, L.J. will not sit in the same Court; that Horridge, J. was so 
overwhelming in a recent assize that counsel for the plaintiff lost his 
temper and said that if the judge would come down to the bar and argue 
like a man he would deal with him faithfully; that the C.J., Hewart, made 
a speech in Latin recently and was complimented by an eager Welsh 
counsel on his skill in Greek! I went, too, to dinner with Jaeger, 3 the great 
German classic [ist] who has succeeded Wilamowitz 4 in Berlin. He was 
most attractive and his hostility to Aristophanes for daring to satirise 
Socrates was one of the most charming things I have seen. He told us one 
great story of Mommsen hearing that Max Miiller 5 had been appointed 
professor in Oxford. "Have they then no humbugs in their own country" 
said Mommsen, "that they must deprive us of grounds for grumbling." 

* "Folkland/" 8 English Historical Review 1 (1893); reprinted in 1 Vino- 
gradoff Collected Legal Papers (1928) 91, 

3 Werner Wilhelm Jaeger (1888- ) was at the University of Berlin from 
1921 to 1936. Professor Jaeger then moved to the United States and since 1939 
has been University Professor at Harvard; his best known work is Paideia: The 

'Ideals of Greek Culture (3 vols., 1939-44). 

4 Swpra, p. 50. 

5 Friedrich Max Miiller (1823-1900); comparative philologist and orientalist 
who from 1848 until 1894 taught at Oxford and did much to popularize the 
theory of Aryanism. 



890 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

He was the old-time German gelehrte, modest, interesting, eager to ex- 
change ideas, and with a pride in his job that was impressive. Yesterday, 
I gave my inaugural lecture at the School, a copy of which I shall send 
you as soon as it is printed. 6 I greatly enjoyed it, for it gave me an op- 
portunity to write a manifesto against the psychological school which talks 
a lot of nonsense these days. My old tutor, Ernest Barker, was in the chair 
and made a most charming speech, pleasantly flavoured with recollections 
of my sins as an undergraduate; and Haldane and Beveridge spoke most 
kindly as my compurgators. In some ways it was a difficult job for I had 
at once to eulogise Wallas and plead for my own view of the job. I hope 
he liked it; but I do not really know. One other interesting day was a 
meeting with the Trade Union Council to see if we could find a basis for 
approaching the government on the miners' lockout. We failed, but I was 
most impressed by the shrewd commonsense of the trade union officials, 
especially of J. H. Thomas. 7 For a sturdy and well-informed insight into 
practical politics I have never met the equal of these fellows. On the other 
hand, it was very difficult to make them bend their minds to the wider 
problems beyond. And when it came to research, the idea did not mean 
the same thing as it did, for instance, to Tawney and me. They thought 
of it as something one turned a clerk on to; the idea of research as dis- 
covery was literally a thing that had never presented itself to them. 

Your comment about my scepticism on mathematics gratified me as, 
I suppose, agreement does. But it has a curious sidelight that will amuse 
you. We have been having a fight in the Board of Studies about the con- 
stituent parts of the degree; and Tawney and I have been fighting against 
statistics as a compulsory subject. Bowley, 8 its professor, is probably the 
greatest expert in his job in this country. He was a senior wrangler, a 
Smith's prizeman, an F.R.S. and so forth. He made a passionate speech 
on the importance of statistics as the one discipline like to give accuracy 
of mind. In support of his contentions he presented some tables of stu- 
dents* work which, as I took great pleasure in pointing out, did not con- 
tain one accurate calculation. His additions and subtractions were so 
wrong that most of his deductions were meaningless. His colleague also 
presented a large number of theses built, if you please, on three students' 
work. Tawney asked if he would publish a paper built on the analysis of 
three cases. He got, of course, an ardent "no." But it did not occur to 

8 On the Study of Politics: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered at the London 
School of Economics and Political Science on 22 October 1926 (1926); re- 
printed in The Danger of Being a Gentleman and Other Essays ( 1940 ) , S3. 

7 See, supra, p. 626 

8 Sir Arthur Lyon Bowley (1869- ); Professor of Statistics, University 
of London, 1919-1936; author of innumerable works on economics in general 
and statistics in particular. See supra, p. 716. 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 891 

either that they must apply the same principles to themselves as they did 
to other people. 

We are having a fascinating time getting our new house put into order; 
and I think Mrs. Holmes would enjoy our hunts round for the oddments 
of Georgian furniture which give the note of completeness to the rooms. 
At the moment we are searching for the perfect Chippendale sideboard 
not an easy thing. We have a perfect 17th century carved oak chest for 
the hall; you would, I think, endorse it as a work of art. And for my study 
I have had a large photograve taken of the National Gallery Portrait of 
old Hobbes a most noble head with a mouth that is a marvel of ob- 
stinacy. And a small one of old Prynne which I have bought not because 
I like him but because, as Maitland said, old Prynne munching crusts 
in the Tower while he copies out records is an heroic figure. 

My love to you both. Do not do too much. Life is more even than the 
largest possible number of certioraris. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Washington, D. C., November I, 1926 

My dear Laski: Is it that you are more suggestive Is it that when I 
am swimming in the law I have few ideas outside of it? Is it ? Why is 
it that I so often write half my letters in answer to questions that your 
letter evokes? I don't know what Carlyle's remark about Mill meant to 
Carlyle, but it seems to have an obvious truth in it. Carlyle's thoughts 
were rooted in his temperament, his prejudices, and his imagination 
Mill's were detached by reason. People pay higher for luxuries than for 
necessaries and Carlyle's pictures may outlast Mill's thoughts but I doubt 
if Carlyle gave the world as great a shove as Mill. I have forgotten what 
I said about Plato but I believe I have given him his dues of love for the 
things you mention. 

I feel much as you do about Aristophanes, bar passages no longer re- 
membered by me when he says beautiful things but the fun of the 
ancients! Excuse me. Plautus I thought not as good as a circus or on a 
higher level when I peeked into him a year or two ago. Why you snub 
Mencken in that connection I don't quite see. I have read what I didn't 
care for in him but I took much pleasure in a volume of Prejudices. 
Xenophon I haven't looked into except the Memorabilia since I was 
young, except that a glance at one of the translations at our house at Bev- 
erly led me to wait for better days. 

You tell me of a new judge but as yet nothing of my dear Leslie 
Scott I do want to see him on the Appellate Court. We adjourned this 
morning. My last opinion a case assigned to me on Saturday has 
come back in proof from the printer and after I have sent it out I have no 



892 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

duties to speak of except a trifle of 8 certiomris that came in this morn- 
ing. I mean to read Wallas's Art of Thought though I believe you ^did 
not care much for it and his antecedent synopsis did not look like a flash 
of lightning and a brochure of Vinogradoffs [of] which I hope to think 
lightly for reasons of personal malevolence as I explained the other day. 
It was so very highly cracked up by your friend John M. Zane. 

Tuesday 2d. I mean to go out presently to look for some witch hazel 
which my wife always gets on this day. I don't know what the day is, (it 
should have been before Halloween), or why, except for the flower of a 
bush that blossoms at this time. Returning to the fun of the past, it dies 
quicker than the tragedy, I suppose because more generally dependent on 
circumstances or special powers of mind. Artemus Ward I found last 
summer had little that lasted a few memorable things based on the 
eternal, but largely mannerisms that no longer please and make one won- 
der that they ever did. Ditto of a good deal of Shakespeare. The fun of 
the middle ages is generally, so far as I know, the dirty talk of boys. All 
of which I believe I have said before. 

Beveridge has sent me another chapter which I now have opened and 
begun to read. It is interestingly told but I hate to go over the squalid 
preliminaries to the war as I hate to reread of the blunders and worse of 
the war itself and its sequel. I don't see any great good to Beveridge in 
my reading, beyond a few corrections of English and some occasional 
point when my memory or local knowledge helps but I think I have 
encouraged him a little when he has been feeling down. Brandeis wishes 
that he had taken Taney (Marshall's successor) instead of Lincoln but 
as he had a stomach for it I think Lincoln was the better choice. It is not 
the kind of undertaking that would have tempted me, but no biography 
simple or auto would. I like more abstract themes. I get letters from 
time to time suggesting everything from my views of life to my recollec- 
tions of my father which move me only as bores to answer. I believe this 
sums me up. My opinion has gone forth and when the irritation of the 
remaining small matters is over I shall look out on a blank world and try 
to take my ease. Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Washington, D. C., November 5, 1926" 

My dear Laski: Your letter October 23 came just after your Inaugural on 
the Study of Politics and I have just read both, with equal pleasure. The 
address seems to me admirable both in its specific suggestions and in its 
exaltation of the service of thought. I notice with interest that you have 
added affection for Sankey to admiration of him. 1 I wish I knew more 

1 Laskf s Inaugural lecture ( supra, p. 890 ) was dedicated to "my friend Mr. 
Justice Sankey with enduring affection." 



1926] HOLMES TO LASKI 893 

of his work. I am delighted at what you say about Vinogradoff as it con- 
firms the prophecy of my soul. I shall read him directly. 

My work is over for the moment, but leisure comes, never. When law 
and life run short of chores the wondrous tale's filled up by bores. 
However, I have had some enchanting drives and yesterday p.m. went 
to my first and only show for years The Barber of Seville to see 
Chaliapin, but alas he filled only a subordinate part and didn't give my 
wife the impression that I wanted her to get that I got in London from 
Ivan the Terrible. 

I sympathize with the preparations for a house of your own, but there 
is a feeling of money in the background that makes me doubt if you know 
how we felt at Mattapoisett when we decided to invest in a wheelbarrow 
for manure to take the place of a [illegible] drawn by a bit of rope or 
the joy we used to have when we lived in rooms next the Athenaeum and 
would skip off to the Museum to take 50 cent seats and sneer at the nobs. 
You talk of Chippendale I was devilish glad to get pine boxes for my 
books. Not, though, that I don't believe you have shown more resolution 
in that way than ever I was called on to show. I don't forget that. 

My secretary, 2 a very nice lad, has taken some walks with me. This 
morning I showed him the Soldiers' Home with the blue sky seen 
through the gold of the tulip trees, then over to the Adams Saint Gaudens 
statue in the Rock Creek cemetery, then whisking across the town to 
Arlington in the uncertain effort to tread the turf under which I shall lie 
before long. I found a spot, but whether it was like it or it I know not. 
I have returned Beveridge's chapters with some general criticisms that I 
hope were not unjust. I think he seems unduly impressed by the Southern 
point of view, which I imagine is new to him, before the war an un- 
fortunate atmosphere, if I am right, for a book on Lincoln. However he 
honestly and sincerely wants to get the facts and let them tell the story. 
Of course I was nearer to the events than he, and I don't think I'm preju- 
diced although in my day I was a pretty convinced abolitionist and 
was one of a little band intended to see Wendell Phillips through if there 
was a row after the meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society just before the 
war. How coolly one looks on that question now but when I was a 
sophomore I didn't like the nigger minstrels because they seemed to be- 
little the race. I believe at that time even Pickwick seemed to me morally 
coarse. "Now his nerves have grown firmer," as Mr. Browning says, and 
I fear you would shudder in your turn at the low level of some of my 
social beliefs. With which, adieu for the time. I suppose this will just 
miss a boat, but will muddle through in time. Affly yours, 0. W. H. 

2 Thomas G. Corcoran (1900- ); later renowned for his role as anony- 
mous counselor of President Roosevelt and thereafter private practitioner in 
Washington, D. C. 



894 



LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 



16 Warwick Gardens, 11. XI. 26 

My dear Justice: A perfect delight of a letter from you warmed the cock- 
les of my heart. It came after ten days in which I had been peculiarly 
driven, and gave me a sense that there are things behind the endless 
paperasserie in which I seem to have been deluged. Let me first answer 
some of your questions. Leslie Scott, I gather, is talked of for a lordship 
of appeal when a vacancy comes; but the proposal to create a place for 
him which was, I believe, privately made failed because the Lords are 
well up to their cases and there would have been opposition. But the 
talk says that he will certainly get the next big post. I hear, poor fellow, 
that he needs it, as he has lost a good deal of money in Russia. As to my 
own Court. It deals with disagreements between the government and its 
employees and means sitting with a permanent president and one other 
person about once a month. So far I have sat on five cases and thoroughly 
enjoyed them. It is an invaluable experience to me as I learn a good deal 
not otherwise knowable of the inner workings of the civil service; and I 
see its results reflected in certain alterations of previous judgments which 
at least proves that my mind has not yet closed! 

Since I wrote last I have been overwhelmed. First helping Frida to 
make decisions about the decoration of the new house. She is a wonder- 
ful person, and my new study, from the point of view of comfort, will be 
even an advance on this one. The miseiy has been the packing of my 
books with a view to having that ready the day we move in. So I write 
with not a dozen books in this room, and, consequently an indefinable 
emptiness in the heart. And I have sat on myriads of committees at 
the School, the Labour Party, and what not which were all necessary, 
but built on the basis of a world in which there is no time. Also, as chair- 
man of the mediation board of the co-operative societies. 1 I had to settle 
a dispute about the wages of some 1000 men; and four nights of evidence 
plus the writing of a reasoned decision is not done with a flick of the 
eye. And I had to give a lecture to a conference of workingmen which, 
following one by Hugh Cecil, 2 I took rather special care to make informa- 
tive and found, as a result, that it was more laborious than I expected. 
Finally, having been elected a corresponding member of the Deutsche 
Gesellschaft filr Sociologie, I had to compose a rather elaborate address 
of thanks for their proceedings. The result has been that both reading and 
writing from my own standpoint have rather gone by the board. 

But there has been one delightful encounter that has been a light amid 

1 Laski was one of a panel of chairmen of the National Conciliation Board 
of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. 

2 Lord Hugh Cecil (1869- ), who became Baron Quickswood in 1941, 
was the author of Conservatism (1912); see, supra, p. 603. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 895 

toil. We went the other day to lunch to H. G. Wells. That, in itself, was 
delightful. He is at once attractive and impossible, always stimulating, 
always suggestive, flashes of great insight and not an iota of profundity. 
I pointed out to him that in one lunch he dismissed 8 philosophers, 6 
novelists, and at least a dozen statesmen as worthless. Mostly, he was 
right; usually for the wrong reasons. But there I met a Frenchman, Abel 
Chevalley, whom I do, do greatly wish I could bring round to 1720. He 
was a diplomat, at one time Ambassador to Poland, and his hobby is Eng- 
lish literature. We probed each other at Wells's as gentlemen should and 
found we wanted to go on, so on Sunday he came and spent the morning 
here. He talked as I imagine Renan talked a grave humour in which 
the irony of the receptive spectator is the predominant note. "Taine" (I 
quote some of his remarks) "thinks that criticism is a branch of obstetrics; 
but he does not see he is delivering a child whom the parent insists is 
supposititious!" "Every aristocracy should be religious: ceremonial to a 
nobility is like a finely chosen perfume on an elegant woman." "Chateau- 
briand made God in his own image, and looking upon his handiwork 
declared that it was good." "Dickens was greater than Thackeray because 
he loved more greatly." I select, of course, at random, as I remember. 
I wish I could sketch you the eager little man, with his eyes lit up, his 
hands gesticulating, unable to sit still through excitement. One of his best 
remarks was on Galsworthy. "He is so sensitive that he will not see 
through his characters for fear of causing them pain." We discussed 
everything the classics, the French Revolution, Russia, and he was al- 
ways suggestive and always well-informed. One or two of his judgments 
interested me greatly his high regard for M. Arnold as critic (he has 
"justesse'}, his contempt for Macaulay, his insistence that of all English 
writers Hazlitt had the best natural taste in the nineteenth century. I 
wish so much you had been there. We parted vowing to meet in Paris 
as soon as may be. And he sent me today a book on Deloney, the English 
novelist temp. Elizabeth that is full of good things. 

What else? A little reading an excellent book on Plato by A. E. 
Taylor, not to be read all through, but, wisely skipped, very helpful 
especially (me judice} on the Protagoras and the Laws. A book of much 
charm by Henri Tronchin, on his ancestor the Genevan doctor who was 
a friend of Voltaire. A pleasant novel by an American lady named Edna 
Ferber called Showboat which was, I think, indicative of great promise 
unless it is the work of an arrived author whom I in rny ignorance know 
not. And those vast opinions, sent me very kindly by Brandeis, in Myers 
v. U.S. 3 in which, frankly, I thought the case for dissent so obvious as 

3 272 U.S. 52. A majority of the Court held that a portion of an act of 
Congress requiring the consent of the Senate to the President's removal of post- 
masters from office was unconstitutional, despite the fact that the executive's 



896 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

hardly to need even your page. For a power to create a post is surely 
a power to create its conditions; otherwise your President would be an 
intolerable autocrat. 

Beveridge is a wonderful fellow to stick at his job with that devotion. 
My only doubt is the old one is a new life of Lincoln likely to add so 
much, either in outline or in detail, as to make it worth writing? I do 
not know, hence, doubtless, my scepticism. I'd rather see a real life of 
Jefferson. Harcourt sent me the other day a biography by A. J. Nock 
which I thought pretty thin stuff. And I find Jefferson so real a puzzle 
that I should be deeply grateful for a book which dug deeply into the 
sources. Certainly had I continued to live in America that is the job to 
which I should have devoted myself. 

My love warmly to you both. Don't spend too much time on certioraris; 
and remember BirreFs advice to me for leisure periods while there is 
life there is Dooley. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

Washington, D. C., November 23, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your letter (Nov. 11) is most interesting, and tells me 
about what I didn't know before, your appointment to the Industrial 
Court, although I still have no idea beyond what you give me of its and 
your functions. I should think it would be a very valuable experience to 
you. I appreciate your sitting in the empty room. I worked in one for 
my first year here, as I believe I have told you, with the marriage certifi- 
cate of the lessor and pious, relieved by sporting, prints. 

We began sitting again yesterday, adjourning at 2 for luncheon and 
McKenna's funeral a truly kind soul. The clergyman said that when 
his daughter told him a few days ago that he had been a perfect father, 
he said, "only a decent gentleman." I suppose like the rest of us he had 
his vanities but I think he also had humility. Some of the brethren took 
so long with their discourses that we shall take some time this morning 
in finishing I am not reached yet. I have one case that interests me 
much, on the time at which the mark is to be valued in a suit here against 
a German bank, when the demand was made at a time when the mark 
was worth much more than when the suit was brought here (to leach 
money in the hands of the Alien Property Custodian). 1 It interests me 
because the dissent by Sutherland McReynolds, Butler, Sanford, accord 
seems to me to illustrate, as so many cases do to my mind, the notion 
that the law is a brooding omnipresence in the sky, as I once put it. When 

power to name postmasters was conferred by an act of Congress. Holmes de- 
livered a brief dissenting opinion, and McReynolds and Brandeis, JJ., each 
wrote elaborate dissents. 



1 Deutsche Bank Filiale v. Humphrey, 272 U.S. 517. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 897 

a man asserts a legal right he must refer to some law that creates it, and 
I say that the only right that the plaintiff had was a right created by the 
German law and that was a right to so many marks and nothing else 
not to the value of so many marks in other commodities at a given 
time but to so many marks when the suit was brought. The tendency 
of some English and other cases is contra, but they none of them that I 
have seen seem to me to go to the bottom of the business. I think the 
same thing turns up on the question of rights against the sovereign, or 
center of legal authority however you name it. Borchard has a long article 
on this last theme in the last Yale Law Journal 2 interestingly learned 
but to my mind helpless when he comes to this proposition. Also I have 
just reread Bacon's Essays many shrewd thoughts and some noble lan- 
guage. I think I wrote the other day that great works survive largely by 
sound. Style seems to me fundamentally sound. But you could get more 
intellectual stimulus from a current number of the New Republic or the 
Spectator why read him then? I think the question not entirely easy 
and I should advise a young man to read mainly books of his own time 
until his views begin to be settled. Then he will begin to extend his 
boundaries. There is philosophy in knowing the vicissitudes of thought 
through which one's crowd has gone before getting to where it is and 
it is pleasant to be cultivated, and so forth and so forth. At the same 
time every summer when I read a few pages of classics I have an anxious 
sense that it would be easy to waste time upon them. Of course pleasure 
is self-justifying but to me reading of old literature is but a moderate 
joy a nutpicker and a shagbark when you might have a slice of 
something better with less trouble. 

1 had a line from Beveridge rather gloomy over his work. It is not the 
kind of job that I should care for but I have no doubt that it will be 
the life and the only one when he has done. Also this evening a letter 
from Wu. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 

16 Warwick Gardens, 21.XL26 

My dear Justice: A grand letter from you was an oasis in the midst of a 
heavy week. But now, thank heaven, things will go more quietly until the 
end of term. Last week the outstanding thing was a paper at the Socio- 
logical Club by Sir M. Amos (whom you may remember) on the need 
for scientific jurisprudence. 1 I wish he would print it, for especially its 
analysis of the sins of Pound was a masterpiece. His argument was that 

2 Edwin M. Borchard, "Governmental Responsibility in Tort" (Part I), 36 
Yale L. J. 1, November 1926). 

1 See Sir Maurice Sheldon Ames, "Some Reflections on the Philosophy of 
Law," 3 Cambridge Law Journal 31 (1927) which is evidently a portion of 
the paper referred to. 



898 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

a good many of Pound's "objective" results turn out on investigation to be 
derived either from an unconscious expression of need he feels, or from 
the way in which he classifies his material, the assumptions of classifica- 
tion not being tested. The whole paper was a superb tour de force, witty, 
eloquent, and full of curious knowledge. I was particularly struck by a 
devastating attack on Stammler which in general seemed to me unanswer- 
able. Minor events were a visit to Manchester and one to Coventry. On 
the first I had a delightful evening with Alexander the philosopher, whom 
I have known and loved ever since I was a boy. He was discoursing on 
his spiritual history and interested me greatly by saying that what first 
turned him to philosophy was reading Hobbes, being certain that he was 
wrong, and not knowing how to prove it. We had much talk about 
Spinoza, whom he rates extraordinarily high giving him a moral in- 
sight which only Plato equalled. I launched out at Hegel and argued that 
much of his reputation depended on his obscurity and that he failed to 
see that metaphysical speculation is meaningless unless it begins by ad- 
mitting that its anthropocentricity is proof of its incompleteness; if a worm 
wrote a philosophy it would have a different scheme of values altogether. 
Accordingly the only thing we can say about ultimates is that we have 
no right to say anything. If you guess, that is faith and incapable of proof. 
A theologian there was angry, arguing that the pragmatic proof of duty 
is entirely satisfactory. Alexander interested me much by saying that he 
thought a moral science possible by compiling codes of behaviour and 
relating successful conduct to generality therein. But, ultimately, he and 
his colleagues seemed to me to be mystics who want a deified X in their 
equation as a point d'appui when the machinery doesn't grind out the 
good and the beautiful. 

Coventry was a great experience. I spoke there in a lovely 14th century 
hall with a piece of tapestry at its back which simply defies description. 
That had some perfect Tudor portraits, one, especially, of Mary Tudor 
by Zucchini which explains the Elizabethan reaction against Catholicism 
better than most histories. It was, by the way, amusing to see the satis- 
faction of the Mayor in an horrific picture of Lady Godiva, their patron 
saint. For fear of libel, my memory suppresses the name of the artist; but 
he made Lady Godiva a giantess with breasts like mountains, a fit mate 
for Gog or Magog; and she sits on a poor little palfrey which would cer- 
tainly have invoked the Society for Preventing Cruelty to animals, could 
it have spoken. But the Mayor pointed it out to me with rapture and the 
Tudor portraits, I gathered, were nothing by the side of this gem. I spoke 
there with my friend Oliver Stanley, 2 a young Tory M.P. who is Derby's 

2 The ancestor of Oliver Stanley (1896-1950) would seem to be Edward 
Stanley, fourteenth Earl of Derby (1799-1869), three times Prime Minister 
and always the sharp-tongued critic of those with whom he disagreed. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 899 

second son. He told me some amusing stories of an ancestor who held a 
cabinet post in the sixties. The old boy lived in Westmoreland and was 
passionately fond of shooting. From August to February he stayed in the 
North and not even the Franco-German war brought him to town for 
a cabinet meeting. All the departmental papers were sent him there, and 
when Palmers ton who was Prime Minister, protested at the expense of 
(I) a daily messenger in a reserved compartment (II) a special coach to 
the minister's country home, 14 miles from a railway, Stanley replied "One 
must have some return for serving the country." Certainly those were 
spacious days; the old gentleman, by the way, got a cabinet minister's 
pension and on his death it was discovered that he had assigned it in 
equal parts to (I) his wife (II) his favourite ballet-dancer and (III) the 
head-waiter at his London club so that a certain port was reserved for 
himself. His elder brother remonstrated with him for his loose ways of 
life to which he replied, "Damme, my dear brother, look at Pam; I can't 
let the P.M. down by being better than he is." He left a will in which a 
thousand pounds was put aside for the son who could guess which Prime 
Minister in his period (1830-68) had not committed adultery; and the 
answer was Peel, who, he said, was "too damned proud to break the 
commandments; it would have given God a hold over him and Peel never 
asked a favour from anyone." He really must have been the perfect 18th 
century nobleman, brought up on the principles of Chesterfield and con- 
vinced that the world was made for his personal amusement. Yet ex- 
traordinarily shrewd. Charles Greville disliked him greatly and would 
never go to the Privy Council when the old fellow was Lord President. 
Stanley said nothing about it and Greville was piqued that his absence 
was not commented on. He sent an emissary to investigate to whom 
Stanley replied, "Tell the puppy I never look at my footman's face." But 
I must not fill this letter with anecdotes. 

I have had one or two nice book-finds lately. In Manchester I picked 
up a beautiful first edition of Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus for 
half-a-crown; the bookseller having catalogued it under old Hebrew be- 
cause of the quotations from the Old Testament. Also I found there Mans- 
field's copy of Coke's Institutes which merely had his name in, but is, 
I feel, pleasant to possess. I had one big failure. Bracton's Note Book is 
out of print, and I have searched vainly for one. A Coventry bookseller 
had a copy and I thought the chances were he would not know its value. 
I enquired the price and was staggered when he said fifteen guineas (it 
was published at three). I asked why so much; he said, "Well, Professor 
Laski, I heard you speak last night and I concluded you knew a good 
deal about books. So when you pick out a modern book from my stock, 
I reckon it is worth something and I fix my price accordingly." I got him 
down to twelve but he would not move from that, so I had to leave it, 



900 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

being sad though wiser in the ways of booksellers. Frida by the way, has 
picked up an old Persian rug for my study with the inscription woven in 
"Tread softly upon this, for the maker took pains in weaving it." Don't 
you think that is charming? 

I had a long note from Felix yesterday, full of his crime survey of 
Boston 3 and the incredible Sacco-Vanzetti case. 4 I hope the latter is set- 
tled, for, otherwise, the working-classes will disbelieve in Massachusetts 
justice. 

Our love, as always, to you both. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., December 4, 1926 

My dear Laski: A long desired letter meets me on my return from con- 
ference this Saturday p.m. I am enchanted with your talk and wish that 
I could match them but I have little except personal news. I am wor- 
ried about my Chinaman Wu who wants to come here for a year or two 
and get 3 or 4,000 a year, delivering a few lectures. I wrote to Frank- 
furter who doesn't hold out much encouragement. Wu wants it for his 
soul's sake connecting it also more or less with me. I have an honestly 
disinterested desire to help him. I cant help fearing that he may waste 
himself in deserts of philosophizing under the, as I fear, too great in- 
fluence of Stammler out of whom as yet I have got devilish little 
not of course that philosophizing is not the chief end of man but it is 
only useful when expended on a copious supply of crude facts which 
I fear he may not be in the situation to accumulate. Perhaps having to 
stick it out, if he has to, will be a good test for the fire in his belly, and 
if he comes through, his greatest lesson and his greatest triumph. Just as I 
begin this letter I am shown a long screed about me by Miss Sergeant in 
the New Republic. 1 I rather wince at having a woman talk about me (in 
public) but I am surprised at some of the things she had got hold of 
e.g. a letter to Bill James giving some notions that later I expressed in 
print. As to the rest I say no more than that women's rhetoric is different 
from that of men and that I hope my friends won't laugh at the praise. 

8 The Harvard Survey on Crime and Law in Boston was currently under 
way under the guidance of Felix Frankfurter. 

*On October 23, Judge Webster Thayer, before whom Sacco and Vanzetti 
had been tried and convicted of murder, had denied the motion of the defense 
for a new trial. A few days later an appeal was taken to the Supreme Judicial 
Court of Massachusetts. 



1 "Oliver Wendell Holmes/* 49 New Republic 59 (Dec. 8, 1926) ; later re- 
printed in Fire Under the Andes (1927). 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 901 

I tried a little to turn her from the plan a year ago and until recently 
didn't suppose she was pursuing it. 

I am reading a book by John Dewey, Experience and Nature. Wu put 
me on to it saying that it was a great book and mentioning that it had 
amiable words about me. I give you my word that it was this former re- 
mark that set me to reading it and I think Wu was right. It is badly 
written in the sense that the style makes it more difficult than the thought 
but even in the writing it gives me the feeling that Walt Whitman 
gives of the symphonic. Few indeed, I should think, are the books that 
hold so much of life with an even hand. If you asked me for a summary 
I couldn't give more than a page of ideas, but the stimulus and the quasi- 
aesthetic enjoyment are great and the tendencies those which I agree 
with. I have read but half of it as yet for my time is limited. My legal life 
goes on serenely a little while ago I wrote a case in which I expressed 
the result in terms to suit the majority of the brethren, although they 
didn't suit me. Years ago I did the same thing in the interest of getting a 
job done. I let the then brethren put in a reason that I thought bad and 
cut out all that I thought good and I have squirmed ever since, and swore 
that never again but again I yielded and now comes a petition for 
rehearing pointing out all the horrors that will ensue from just what I 
didn't want to say. 2 I think the opinion will be altered "by a few words 
that satisfy the majority and that I privately think really mean my prin- 
ciples, and all is serene again. I wish very much I could see Amos's paper 
that you tell me about. I am afraid that I should agree with it more than 
I want to though I have no unwillingness as to Stammler good man 
though he be. My love to you all. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



16 Warwick Gardens, 4.XII.26 

My dear Justice: Overwhelming days! But next Friday sees the end of 
term and I hope then for six weeks of such peace as a bookless house will 
give. I have finished my book on Communism a hard twelve months' 
job done and await that evil hour when proofs convince you that it 
was folly to write. But at least I have given it to the publisher on the 
pledged day and that I take to be virtue. 

2 It seems likely that the recent case referred to was International Stevedoring 
Company v. Haverty, 272 U.S. 50 (Oct. 18, 1926), the one case at the October 
1926 term in which Holmes had written an opinion and in which a petition 
for rehearing was filed, It appears that no action on the petition was taken. In 
its decision the Court held that stevedores engaged in loading operations were 
to be treated as seamen within the meaning of that word as used in the Jones 
Act. There is good reason to believe that the earlier opinion mentioned by 
Holmes was that in The Pipe Line Cases, 234 U.S. 548 (1914). 



902 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

We have been out a little. A grand dinner with Sankey to meet the 
C.J. 1 He's a good classical scholar, but a mean little soul, who lives on 
trivialities and has no intimate zest for the law. He praised Dunedin 
much and Sumner a little ("an able dog") but otherwise had nought but 
jeers for the weakness of X or C. I frankly disliked him, even though he 
had flattered me by asking to meet me; for I respect fidelity to colleagues 
even though they are fit for the hangmen. But Sankey more than atoned 
especially when he had a great fight with Dean Inge upon Christianity. 
The Dean isn't very good at personal controversy and between ourselves 
he doesn't know his texts any too well And he uses big phrases like "eco- 
nomic law" without any real knowledge of their meaning. The result was 
a grand massacre which I quite thoroughly and deservedly enjoyed. Then 
a good party with Charles Trevelyan, 2 to meet his father, the historian, 
Sir George. I like the old gentleman hugely. It was a first-rate experience 
to hear tales of Macaulay from the angle of the favourite nephew; and 
memories of Palmerston in his prime. He put Pam higher than I should 
have done and Peel lower; and he was very interesting in his tremendous 
admiration for Alexander Hamilton. He seems to read very widely, and I 
was amused at the vehemence with which he trounced one Nock for a 
bad life of Jefferson he had just read. Then a good dinner with the Webbs 
whom I find more and more satisfying in their thoroughness and recep- 
tivity. They are at work on the history of the poor-law 1689-1835 3 and 
had much of interest to me to communicate. Frida started the hare of who 
was the best talker they had ever known and I was astonished to hear 
them say with great emphasis that it was Mrs. J. R. Green. They rated 
Bernard Shaw very high, but said he was too obtrusive and sulked if he 
was talked down. I put all this to Birrell last night, and he said he would 
put Dean Church 4 first for charm in talk and Liddon 5 for eloquence; then 
Birrell-like he added reflectively "Those judgments must be true for 
they come from a Nonconformist." I add a tale Birrell told me which I 
like. He dined at Trinity, Cambridge in 1902 and Butler, 6 the Master, 
proposed the health of the College. He referred to the great part Trinity 
played in the world and added that "it was well to remember that, at 



Hewart, supra, p. 763. 

2 Sir Charles Trevelyan, Bart., politician and civil servant. 

3 The fruit of their labors was English Poor Law History (3 vols., 1927- 
29). 

4 Richard William Church (1815-1890), friend of Newman, select preacher 
at Oxford, Dean of St. Paul's, and historian of the Oxford Movement. He was 
noted for his telling style as writer and as preacher. 

5 Henry Parry Liddon (1829-1890), canon of St. Paul's and lecturer at 
Oxford, who was an intimate and devoted admirer of Dean Church. 

8 Henry Montague Butler (1833-1918); before becoming Master of Trinity 
lie had been headmaster of Harrow, and dean of Gloucester. See, infra, p. 1350. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 903 

this moment, both the Sovereign and the Prime Minister are Trinity men." 
Birrell replied for the guests. "The M aster, " he said, "should have added 
that he can go further; for it is obvious that the affairs of the world are 
built upon the momentous fact that God also is a Trinity man." Butler, 
says Birrell, never forgave him that. 

In the way of reading I have had some pleasant experiences. First I 
have read Workman's Life and Times of Wyclif (Oxford) which is wholly 
admirable, especially on Wyclif s philosophic views. Then a book by one 
Catlin of Cornell called The Science of Politics (Knopf) 7 which I do not 
agree with, because I think it is nonsense to try and make politics an exact 
science; but I liked the sweep of the fellow's mind and he writes really 
well. Third I have read a brilliant German book by one Haym Die rornan- 
istische Schule which is really first-rate and quite exciting. Finally, through 
picking it up cheaply, I read Hume Brown's Life of Goethe which, with- 
out being inspired, was thoroughly satisfying. It told one all one wanted to 
know and avoided lyricism, and one felt at the end that one knew what 
the fellow was like. But, in the way of reading, I think the most amusing 
thing was acting as a referee for the Historical Review for a paper sent in 
(by an Indian) on the corporation. The gent impressed the editor by his 
immense apparatus of learning something like 20 notes to the page. I 
was able to show that it was a mosaic, five pp. of which came from 
Saleilles, another section from Victor Morawetz, 8 a part from Michoud, 
a page from me, and a peroration from Gierke. The gent's own contribu- 
tion were eight Indian references in his footnotes. Sic transit gloria mundi. 

Your marks case is very interesting. My colleague Gregory was a wit- 
ness in a similar one before the Mixed Tribunal here and had no difficulty 
in taking your view; and . . . the Secretary of the Tribunal, tells me that 
except for the first year, every case of a contract to pay marks has been so 
decided. I had not seen that poor McKenna was dead. I liked him because 
one always had a sense in his opinions of both growth of mind and a 
genuine effort to understand. 

I am not disinclined to agree with what you say about reading. But I 
am pretty sure that the essence of the scholar is to see the roots of his 
period pretty far back and to travel along the road. When I get a student 
who wants to do political philosophy seriously I like to pick out a mod- 
ern problem of some size and ask him to explain how it came to be a 
problem. But I find, also, that knowledge of Plato and Aristotle doesn't 
compensate for ignorance of yesterday's Hansard. Tm not, however, al- 
together sure that I agree with you about style. I used to revel in Pater; 
now I find him unreadable and I imagine that many have gone through 

7 Reviewed by Laski, 119 Nature 519 (April 9, 1927). 

8 Victor Morawetz (1859-1938), American lawyer and author of a leading 
treatise on corporations. 



904 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

my experience. Yet it is a great style in its way. On the other hand few 
things are as ugly as the style of Kant or Hegel and yet the mind of each 
is irresistibly big once you sit down to them. Admitting all the glories of 
simplicity and clarity, isn't it true that there are things so complex that 
one can't be either simple or clear about them without violating the ma- 
terial? I tend more and more also to the view that the big man in each 
age is the man who asks the new questions it is in a position to answer 
if asked. Literature ought to be divided into what pleases and what de- 
stroys. The first is eternal if it deals with ultimate things; the second 
passes; but it is bigger because it clears the path. 

But I must end and go to bed. Our warm affection to you both. 

Ever yours as ever, PL ]. L. 



Washington, D. C,, December 15, 1926 

My dear Laski: Your letter just arrived worried me a little as it seems to 
impute to me views that I cannot have meant to express as I never enter- 
tained them. 1. When I speak about the literature of the past in flippant 
terms I expect to be taken humorously, of course. Because, although I 
think that if we are sincere with ourselves we get much more first hand 
pleasure, yes, and profit, from the books of our own time, I deem it al- 
most essential to our own thinking to understand its genesis, so far as 
may be. Certainly I have spent a good deal of time on books of other 
centuries and I don't know what I should be without it. Also I am far from 
denying real pleasure derived directly from past literature apart from 
thinking about it. I am inclined to say that the greatest literary sensation 
I ever had was in reading Dante (with a translation along side) in 
spite of all that I disbelieve, smile at or abhor. 2. As to style never can 
I have said or implied that simplicity and clarity were what I most or 
even very highly value as compared with other things. I quite agree with 
what Harry James said to me in our youth that many things have to 
be said obscurely before they can be said clearly. When a man is perfectly 
clear he is talking what is commonplace to him when the effort of 
thought to him is over. I think I said and I think that the main element 
of style properly so called is sound but that is a different matter 
and may be no more than a question of how one uses words. As to clear- 
ness I have just read a book by John Dewey on Wu's recommen- 
dation Experience and Nature of which I could not have summed 
up a chapter or a page and which I should find it hard to give any 
intelligible account of, yet which to my surprise I thought truly a 
great book. I mention that he quotes me in it as one of our great Ameri- 
can philosophers, and pleased me thereby no little, only to say that that 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 905 

was not why I read it and is not why I think it great. I think it so be- 
cause with all its defects of expression, he seems to me to hold more of 
existence in his hand and more honestly to see behind all the current 
philosophers than any book I can think of on such themes. But after him 
Henderson on The Federal Trade Commission is an easy task although 
j golluped up the former with enthusiasm and do the latter as a useful 
task. 

I shouldn't think Birrell would have dared to make his joke about God 
being a Trinity man in a speech such as you describe. I am delighted at 
what you say was said about Mrs. J. R. Green. I am very fond of her 
although I haven't seen her since I last was in England and have heard 
from her but only rarely. I stayed with her a week when she lived facing 
the Thames above the House of Parliament and had an adorable time. 
She is a heroine as well as a very gifted woman. Dean Church and Liddon 
are only names to me but I suspect they could not be the types of what 
I admire. Bowen was a good talker but he turned off serious subjects 
with a story. Win. and H. James were pretty near superlative in their 
respective days Bill more especially I think. 

We sat on Monday to accommodate lawyers who had come from a 
distance and then adjourned for three weeks. I had but one opinion to 
wr ite which I circulated this morning and my other work is done. If I 
don't feel bound to go to the dentist to be looked over I have some happy 
leisure ahead. I mean to make my wife inspect me and see if she can 
see any reason for my going. Dentists should be treated as I read in my 
youth that embalmers were in Egypt when their dirty job was over 
pursued with stones. But on the whole I seem to have reached for the 
moment a sleeping equilibrium too soon to be upset I fear. The army 
taught me some great lessons to be prepared for catastrophe to en- 
dure being bored and to know that however fine [a] fellow I thought 
myself in my usual routine there were other situations alongside and 
many more in which I was inferior to men that I might have looked down 
upon had not experience taught me to look up. 

Ever affly yours, 0. W. JL 



16 Warwick Gardens, 1S.XII.26 

My dear Justice: A fortnight has elapsed since I wrote last, and I am full 
of apologies for not writing. But I have been busy with two things. First 
the government appointed me arbitrator in a dispute as to whether miners 
not yet taken back to the mines in Durham were entitled under the Act 
to unemployment relief, and I had to go North for three days and hear 
argument. Then, an uncle of mine died in London, and, my father being 



906 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

in India, I had to make all the arrangements about his funeral and the 
inquest (he had a sudden heart attack) which took time once more and 
was rather nerve-racking as I am unaccustomed to these things. 

The Durham experience was very interesting. The Act says that no 
man who is "unemployed as a direct result of a strike or lockout shall 
receive unemployment relief: quaere, after a settlement when the men 
are ready to work what is the meaning of the word "direct"? The govern- 
ment argued that it meant a condition which made the pit unable to give 
work to all its former employees. Appeal was taken by the men and both 
sides agreed on me as the arbitrator. I had little difficulty in holding that 
"direct" meant only during the continuance of a strike or lockout and 
that once an agreement to resume work had been made between the 
parties unemployment was indirectly connected only with the strike or 
lockout. I amused myself by making the basis of my decision an early 
opinion of the present attorney-general I who had so held in the previous 
Baldwin government (1923) an opinion which counsel on both sides 
had completely overlooked. So I took the high line and said that though 
I thought a similar decision could be reached on ordinary canons of statu- 
tory construction, I preferred to rest upon the applied instructions of that 
eminent lawyer, etc. The satisfaction is that six thousand men will receive 
eighteen shillings a week until the pits can be got to full work again. 

I read with a good deal of pleasure Miss Sergeant's piece about you. 
There were things I should not have said, and there was a sort of staccato 
rhetoric I did not like. But on the whole she said much that is wise and 
true; though I should have liked certain remarks of Maitland and Leslie 
Stephen to be quoted. And I should have said that your influence on les 
felines came from the fact that you wholly lacked complacency about po- 
sition which enabled you to argue on the basis of intellect and not of 
eminence. And I should have added that teste H.J.L. you have the 
supreme art in friendship the gift of talking through silence. But on the 
whole she did well. I of course pride myself that I could have put in 
the intimate touches she missed. That is of course my vanity. 

You worry me a little about Wu. I should have said that he was off on 
a wild goose-chase. A man who is in medias res can't expect to have the 
carpet rolled out for him. His job is to stick to his last and make leisure. 
Obviously he has brains, and, not less obviously, he is badly needed in 
China. And Stammler is likely the better to fade away there. Of course I 
don't nowadays know the openings for his like in America; but I should 
guess they were few. 

Since I last wrote I have made one or two pleasant purchases. The best 

1 Sir Douglas McGarel Hogg (1872- ), first Viscount Hailsham, sub- 
sequently was twice Lord Chancellor, 1928-1929, 1935-1938. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 907 

are the works of one Richer 2 of whom you probably have never heard, 
but who revived Gallicanism in France in the early 17th century and 
made possible the movement of which Bossuet and the Declaration of 
1682 are the outcome. My set (bought from the catalogue of a bookseller 
in Nice) belonged to the Abbe Gregoire 3 whom you may remember as a 
priest who went over to the Revolution and had much influence in those 
times. Also I bought a quite fascinating attack on Rousseau's mile by a 
Jesuit contemporary which accuses him of wholesale plagiarism and cer- 
tainly drives some points home by references to contemporaries now for- 
gotten. But my best find was in a book-box in Kensington. One Lange 
wrote a La Bmyere, critique sociale which, though published in 1909, 
is terribly scarce and costs five or six pounds. I have searched for the last 
three years for a copy but in vain. Now, yesterday, I walked up Church 
Street, Kensington, and this, uncut, was the first thing I saw in the six- 
penny box. I almost feel inclined to give it a dinner in celebration. 

We are still working away at the new house. But I hope that the first 
week of the New Year will see us safely removed thereto. I have all the 
books on the shelves, though without arrangement; and I expect to spend 
next week trying to bring some order out of the chaos. May I give you the 
address, and ask you to write there after you receive this. It is Devon 
Lodge, 5 Addison Bridge Place, W. 14. I wish you could see it, for with 
its tricksy little Adamisms brought out, it is becoming a charming little 
cottage. 

Of reading I have done but little. I took a couple of volumes of Horace 
Walpole to Durham, but I liked the letters from Mme. du Defiand to him 
better than his to her. But I have reread Boswell with joy unutterable. It 
is, I think, a mistake to dip into him; it's the whole picture that is the 
thing. I like, by the way, the story in Birkbeck Hill's notes of the meeting 
between Johnson and Adam Smith: J. "Sir, you are a Whig dog." A.S. 
"Sir, you are the son of a whore." I wonder if five people lived in the 
18th century who dared to say that to Johnson's face. I read, too, a grand 
detective story which I recommend very strongly The Three Hostages 
by John Buchan. If you liked The Thirty-Nine Steps, you will like this. 
And I commend strongly The Legacy of the Middle Ages by a group of 
writers, with quite charming pictures and half-a-dozen admirable essays. 
Also, have you ever read the works of Thomas Deloney? He was an 
Elizabethan who wrote novels for the ostler and the 'prentice; I think he 
is really remarkable and there is an insight into character which makes 
him well worth the price of admission. The Oxford Press have an edition 

2 Edmond Richer (1560-1631); author of Libellus de Ecclesiastica et Politico, 
Potestate (1611), a vigorous defense of Gallicanism. 

8 Henri Gregoire (1750-1831), Jansenist advocate of a Gallican church. 



908 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

and I wish you would have a peep at him in the Library of Congress. 
Our love to you both. And may 1927 be all that it ought to be. 

Ever afectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge 

5 Addison Bridge Place, W. 14, 29. XII. 26 

My dear Justice: A joyous letter from you was a relief in the turmoil of 
moving house. In the last ten days I have arranged over five thousand 
books on shelves, and I never realised how impish they are until I tried 
to unpack them. The third volume of Montaigne insists on hiding itself 
behind the fourth volume of Gibbon; and it is impossible to recognise the 
eleventh volume of Carlyle upside down. However, they are done, and 
my room is almost in working order. But I never, no never, want to move 
again. 

I don't think I dissent from your remarks on the classics, so long as the 
emphasis is clear upon the value of knowing why we have come to think 
as we do. And much of the older literature seems to me vastly overrated. 
I get no pleasure from Ovid, little from Pindar, and not much from the 
Latin historians outside Tacitus. I think the Greek orators enormously 
overrated. I could point to half a dozen speeches by Bright and three or 
four by Lincoln that seem to me every whit as good as the best ever got 
off by Demosthenes. I do enjoy Seneca and Cicero, especially the Cicero 
of the letters. And I think pieces of Sophocles and Euripides go with cer- 
tain pieces of Shakespere and Shelley as the embodiment of what is 
most superb in the human spirit. But I am pretty clear that I would give 
most classical literature up quite gladly for Dickens, Balzac, Shelley, 
Thackeray, George Eliot, and Maitland. And if someone could write about 
our times as Carlyle lectured to his, I'd put him among my gods as well. 
The past is only useful insofar as it aids us to be genuinely our con- 
temporaries; otherwise, I'd rather read the last good detective story and 
have done with it. 

Since I wrote last week not much has happened. The most interesting 
thing was a dinner at Haldane's when he and the Prime Minister and I 
talked confidentially for a couple of hours. You can't help liking Baldwin. 
He is far from intellectually first-rate, but he is good a kind of Colonel 
Dobbin to whom you could turn with your troubles and be comforted. 
He interested me much by saying that Churchill was quite the ablest, 
and Bonar Law the shrewdest, mind he had encountered in politics. He 
had a high opinion of your present Ambassador Houghton; 1 and an 
amazingly low opinion (this between ourselves) of his predecessor Kel- 

1 Supra, p. 700. 



1926] LASKI TO HOLMES 909 

logg. 2 After our business talk we settled down to this kind of gossip and 
one story I must not omit. A canonry of Westminster fell vacant. Three 
hundred clergymen wrote in to him, urging their claims. He was im- 
pressed by one man who forwarded a list of his books which looked most 
formidable from their titles and said that he would not have ventured to 
ask for the post had it not been that access to great libraries meant every- 
thing for the future of his work. On enquiry it turned out that books with 
such titles as Progressive Redemption, The Church in the Sub-Apostolic 
Age, etc. altogether thirty of them concealed a lunatic who was de- 
voting himself to proving that the British were the lost Ten Tribes and the 
Kaiser a Jew. 

It being Xmas week, my reading has been light but excellent. The 
publisher sent me a one-volume Pepys, charmingly illustrated, and I fell 
completely under his spell. Really he is better than Horace Walpole, for 
he still knows how to take delight in things and lacks the pose of ennui. 
For I declare with my hand on my heart that no one with any brains is 
entitled to ennui in a world as interesting as this one is. I told a clergyman 
who dined here the other night that the great mistake of religion lay in 
its refusal to build upon the small daily incidents the joy of finding a 
rare book, the unexpected visit of a dear friend, the contemplation of a 
picture. But he dwelt on the heights of prayer which has always seemed 
to me a first cousin to blasphemy. If I went to church I should, I fear, 
like Pepys, be interested in the pretty lady just behind the third column 
on the left. I reread, too, in bed Felix Holt. Have you read that in recent 
years? It is really very moving. Also a delectable story by one P. G. 
Wodehouse called Piccadilly Jim which I urge you and Mrs. Holmes to 
chuckle over. I made Frida read it, and last night was awakened by 
shrieks of laughter from her bed. She had wakened up and recalled one 
of its incidents which almost reduced her to hysteria. 

Have I (I think not) told you of my delectable book-find. One Lange, 
in 1909, published a La Bruyere critique sociale which is an invaluable 
commentary not only on him, but on French social life in the 17th 
century. It is now what the dealers call excessively rare and the only 
copy offered to me in the last three years was 450 fr. which I thought too 
much. On Xmas eve I went to Mudie's where there was a sale of foreign 
literature and there I found this treasure for two shillings. And for five, 
I got Atlay's Victorian Chancellors, a delightful book for bed-reading, and 
a photograph of Leslie Stephen by Mrs. Cameron 3 which would really 
make your mouth water. I must say that some of those Victorians did 

2 Frank Billings Kellogg (1856-1937), American Ambassador to England 
in 1924 and Secretary of State in the Coolidge cabinet. 

8 Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), Friend and photographer of illus- 
trious Victorians. 



910 LASKI TO HOLMES [1926 

look the part though, also, some of them, like Henry Taylor, looked 
better than they were. And that reminds me that I have two most 
wonderful pictures of Hobbes about 6x6; would you like one? They 
are quite small, essentially things to stand on a mantlepiece. But I know 
few heads quite so massive or so inspiriting. I have been going round 
the National Portrait Gallery, and I was enraptured by Hobbes, Selden 
and Locke, beyond all others. I liked Newton, but thought him curiously 
effeminate. And the picture they have of C. J. Fox seemed to me the 
finest personification of good nature I have ever seen. Do you know it? 
He has a vast hat in his hand, and a belly (it is not a stomach) that is 
definitely Gargantuan in its splendour. Another thing that struck me 
there was the almost feline cruelty of Jo Chamberlain's mouth. But this 
needs an essay not a letter. 
Our love as always to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., January 1, 1927 

My dear Laski: A happy New Year to you and yours. Your last letter has 
some remarks about Wu that please and relieve me. I had felt and written 
to him in the same general direction. I cannot see the profit that 
Stammler has been to him except as he may have introduced him to other 
philosophic reading. I don't tell him that, but I did hint that contact 
with actualities might be better for him than easy philosophizing in 
comfortable circumstances. I am a little afraid that he may feel as if he 
had more to say than he yet has in fact, as some of the things he has 
sent to me seemed to be statements of the well known with a feeling 
of discovery. When a man realizes a truth he feels as if he had dis- 
covered it. I have seen the same thing in others and am not sure but 
I haven't caught myself in the same illusion. I say your judgment re- 
lieves me, for I much desire Wu's welfare and have asked myself whether 
I ought not to bring out some appreciable sum to help him to his desires. 
I don't think so but one is suspicious of oneself. 

I have little to report in the way of reading. Since finishing Dewey's 
book and a law book by Henderson on the Federal Trade Commission so 
many things have come in to be done including an opinion to write and 
many to read, that I haven't had much time. A Life of Loyola by 
Sedgwick is the only item I think of. Very well done I should think, 
but beyond the desirableness of not being blankly ignorant I don't care 
a damn for Loyola. A martyr's efficiency on postulates blindly held 
that today one doesn't even respect. There is something of that even 
in Pascal, but with Loyola it seems too childlike and childish. Loyola 
was a hero. Hell is full of heroes. I feel as I did when the late McCabe 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 911 

(a friend of mine from Richmond) 1 began to talk about gentlemen. I 
told him nobody could know whether he was a gentleman or not. The 
question was whether he was a breech or a muzzle loader. If the latter 
he might get on a pedestal and feel as large as he liked but the world 
would pass him by. I mean by the world the few thousand men in the 
principal cities who as B our get says constitute the civilized world. 

On Monday we begin to sit again and I expect a hard month. But 
everything is done up to now and the year opens pleasantly and hope- 
fully. I hope my brethren don't make allowances for me as an old man, 
but they are very pleasant and kind to me, and I feel happy with them. 
Also conscience made me go to the dentist and after worrying me and 
doing some work he let me go and I don't mean to go near him again 
until I have to. I believe Congress has increased our salaries, which I am 
glad of although I have enough now. 2 I couldn't live as I do on my salary. 
And as no doubt I have said before I think an intelligent and regulated 
avarice is one of the vices to be recommended to the old. There is no 
headache in it. But the great thing is not to have to think about the 
matter, and I don't. I couldn't tell you with certainty what my present 
salary is, and I never on either bench stirred a finger in the matter of 
my pay. I have been too happy to do the work. 

Every good wish to you all. Affly yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 11.1.27 

My dear Justice: Vacation is over, and term has begun, quite the hardest 
term of the year. But it is over with a flourish. We have finally moved in 
here, and, practically, everything is straight; decorators feebly linger 
in odd corners, but even the stair-carpet is laid and I feel morally com- 
plete. It looks as though we are going to be well satisfied with the 
house. It is smaller than the other and more compact. But it has much 
more character and charm, and it gives both Frida and me studies that 
are amazingly attractive for the purpose of work. I can write with you and 
Felix, Maitland, Brandeis and Morley gazing not without benignity upon 
me, with Mill, Hobbes and Locke near at hand. With such omens who 
could fail to do good work? 

We were both rather tired after the exertions of moving in. So we 
went down last week to the Webbs for a couple of days, and had a most 
pleasant time. Their virtues, if I may so phrase it, have to be dug for; 
but I rate them high. They are open-minded, convinceable, eager for new 

1 Supra, p. 322. 

2 In February 1927, a bill was enacted increasing the annual salaries or 
Associate Justices from $14,500 to $20,000. 



912 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

knowledge, and warm-hearted. She has a curious love of religious 
mysticism and an unsatisfied appetite for religious ceremonial which 
baffle me a little, as also certain relics of society judgments of the 
eighties. For instance she regards Balfour as a significant person, apart 
from politics, where I should judge his work significant in a statesman 
but otherwise mediocre. We discussed all manner of things, agreeing that 
George Eliot was the greatest woman in the 19th century and that Mrs. 
J. R. Green was the best woman conversationalist of the last thirty years. 
We enquired why Haldane was so good at most things and yet not 
superlative in anything and I heard, for the first time, the story of his 
engagement: the lady, a typical society butterfly, turned him down 
because the then reigning "great dame" Lady Londonderry sneered at 
him for not being a hunting man. Could anything be more English? Of 
other things I tried in vain to persuade them that Scott and Byron had 
qualities of permanence and that there was rarely any point on a book 
about methods of social investigation. This last I believe is most im- 
portant. Anyone who researches has, if he has a real contribution to 
make, to find his own sense of values in material, and I believe all the 
rales that truly count and most of the alien experience he will find 
helpful could be put down on a sheet of notepaper like this. But both 
Wallas and the Webbs have a vast sense of long and painful excursuses on 
things like the taking of notes, the method of personal enquiry, and so 
on which I believe to be sheer waste of time. 

From them I had to go on to Somerset to speak, of which the only 
advantage was that I saw the ruins of Glastonbury by moonlight, a weird 
but impressive spectacle. And on Sunday Nevinson came to dinner, back 
from Bagdad, the Sanjak of Novi-Bazar, Damascus and Palestine. As 
always he had great adventures as when his car got stuck in the desert 
and they had to be fed from aeroplanes sent out on a wireless call to 
Basra. He had a grim tale to tell of the French in Syria, and was pre- 
pared to write an epic on the fleas of Arabia. But I think his prize 
tale was of the Iraqui lawyer in Bagdad who was a student of Western 
jurisprudence and was emphatic that Mainaust was a great man. Nevin- 
son was stumped until he found that it was the child of a godless marriage 
between Austin and Maine. The jurist, he said, was a simple soul whose 
chief ambition was to meet the Lord Chancellor of England whom he 
fondly believed to be Lord Brougham on the principle, I suppose, that 
natures so varied as Brougham's are necessarily eternal. Last night, to 
complete the tale, we went to see the play founded on the Constant 
Nymph and so entitled. If it comes to Washington I do conjure you 
both to go and see it. A little formless, but it makes one feel the con- 
trast between the unconventional and the artificial as no play I have 
ever seen. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 913 

A very little reading. A novel Jew Suss, a translation from the German 
and, I swear, the finest historical novel since the Cloister and the Hearth. 
... An adorable book on The Saint-Simonian Religion in Germany by 
a Miss E. M. Butler which is a brilliant tour de force especially anent 
Heine, witty, imaginative, and about as bizarre a tragi-comedy as I 
know. Should it come your way, I am sure you will have a great after- 
noon with it. Also an attractive book by one Daniel Mornet on the 
French Romantics which gave me apergus, perhaps of the insignificant, 
but assuredly of the insignificant who knew how to be delightful. 

And let me add one thing that has pleased me hugely. A year ago an 
Irish-American came to me and asked for the loan of ten pounds to get 
back to America. I liked something in his ways and risked it. Months 
elapsed and I entered the loan amid the great unpaid. Lo and behold 
comes back the ten pounds with an admirable letter on American con- 
ditions and a pound to give where I please in gratitude. Isn't that 
admirable? 

Our love, as ever, to you both. Afectionately always, H. /. L. 



Washington, D. C., January 18, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your last joy-giving letter has had to wait two or three 
days for an answer because I have been so hard at work my Sunday 
job having been to write a decision against a very thorough and really 
well expressed argument by two colored men one bery black that 
even in intonations was better than, I should say, the majority of white 
discourses that we hear. Your mention of Wodehouse led my wife to 
try, not yet successfully, to get Piccadilly Jim but also to read to me 
Mostly Sally which is good sport. Leave It to Psmith ("the P is 
silent" the hero remarks) made me roar. In fact Wodehouse is unsur- 
passed if equaled by anybody in power to make me guffaw. I note 
Felix Holt. Last night Redlich dined with us and was most agreeable. 
We talked for four hours which is more than I can stand without fatigue, 
especially after having listened to four hours of argument in court, but 
which did not bore me for a minute. Redlich is instructive, suggestive and 
personally pleasant altogether a dear. I was delighted by his appreci- 
ation of you and Felix. He mentioned as to be read: Gilbert Murray's 
essays, Tradition and Progress, and Felix Holt may have to wait for that. 
You mention Seneca as one whom you enjoy. A morning's ramble through 
his letters gave me the impression of admirable platitudes of morality 
with good touches as when he suggests to his younger friend, that per- 
haps it never has occurred to him that his slave may be a better man 
than he. But I decided to let him wait for better days. Of course I should 
like the portrait of Hobbes but do you remember the very vivid and, 



914 HOLMES TO LASKI 

for England, remarkably well-engraved likeness in the volume that you 
and Felix gave to me? I always have meant to try to find out who could 
have done it. The date of the edition is 1750 and I should not have 
supposed that there was any English line engraver that could have done 
it at that time but my dates are wobbly. I had not thought ot 
Chamberlains face as cruel but his daughter Miss Beatrice Chamber- 
lain, whom I knew intimately, when she was talking of the conduct ot 
England and met an objection on the ground of morals at times had 
a look of cynical unscrupulosity that brought out a wonderful likeness to 
her father. I think I had the cheek to quote Thackeray to her: At this 
moment her ladyship's resemblance to the late Marquis of Steyne became 
positively frightful/' This is after many years and does not purport to 
be accurate. Zimmern sent me his Third British Empire a month ago 
and I haven't acknowledged because I do not know where to address him 
have you a notion? Also I have not yet read the book. I should more 
readily if it dealt with the Greeks. 

Also a story, Green Forest, with kind remembrances from Nathalie 
Sedgwick Colby the authoress who I find is wife of a quondam 
Secretary of State 1 and whom I knew temp. Wilson but why she 
should send it to me I know not. I suppose I must read and write 
thus runs the world away. I am not getting nuggets of wisdom from the 
arguments I hear or anything but practice in English from the run of 
opinions that I have to write yet I am busy as I can be and am kept 
breathless till after dinner and solitaire. I agree with you as to ennui 
and yet life strikes me sometimes as my hobby of prints does a few 
superlatives and a finite number of fairly interesting things. How can 
man take himself seriously when his view of life changes as the wind is 
south or west? However my view is cheerful now and would be 
hilarious were it summer Rockport in your little house with you. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 

Devon Lodge, 21,1.27 

My dear Justice: I have had a week in bed with a nasty dose of influenza; 
hence my silence. But I am down today, and to be out again on Monday 
so that titie world approaches normal for me. Your letter was a delight, 
and I was glad that you agree with my view of Wu's plans. Indeed, were 
it not for fear of the omnibrooding presence of Pound I think I should 
whisper that much of the German jurisprudence about which he gets 
so excited is stuff that a man should take in his stride without putting 
on one side a definite period of intensive study for it. To be informed 
by Kohler in five hundred pages that law is part of the Zeitgeist seems to 
Cambridge Colby, supra, p. 312. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 915 

me singularly irritating; for it implies that it might be something else 
which I venture to disbelieve. I add that I am in general rather appalled 
by the vast aids to research in the social sciences which America is 
developing. X writes to me that he has been given a fellowship of 3000 
dollars to write a report on the birth-control movement in England; 
Frida, who is the Secretary of the labour party committee on the matter 
tells me that a full and adequate account of it could be done in a couple 
of days. Y writes from Wisconsin to say that he is to spend two years in 
Europe studying comparative personnel administration in the public 
services. Now (a) the literature on all this is now so vast that it needs 
digest rather than addition; and (b) personal observation for two years 
is about ten times longer than the subject requires. I look down the long 
list of theses being done on these things in American universities and not 
more than two or three per cent of them seem to me more than the 
repetition of work already done or the elaborate proof of things too 
obvious to need proof. Meanwhile the things that really need research 
get neglected partly because they are not easy, partly because they 
require not a peripatetic student armed, cap a pie, with letters to all 
the crowned heads of Europe and Asia, but a man in a room who knows 
his material and sweats blood to get an idea. But all this may be bad 
temper. All I can say is that I think the results attained by the new 
dispensation could be reached at one-tenth of the cost. 

I had a good time of it in bed with books. First, I had a long pull 
at Trollope, always with delight even though I knew every taste of the 
liquor. Then, with the great interest, I read F. W. Hirst's Early Life and 
Letters of Morley. It's a little too long, as biographies usually are, but 
it kept me enthralled all the way through. I don't think Morley quite 
the size that Hirst as disciple does, e.g. I do not mention him with 
Burke. But he was quite certainly the finest Englishman I have known 
personally, and I think Hirst makes you see why. I was a little surprised 
at one or two things. Morley's immense admiration for Frederic Harrison 
means nothing to me. I never, to my knowledge, read a page by him 
that seems first-rate. And L. Stephen comes less into the picture than 
I imagined. I should have made a guess that on the side of religious 
belief Stephen had more influence on Morley than any other person, 
though less, of course, than the cumulative effect of his studies on 
18th century France. And I had the same amazed sense I always have 
of the way in which obvious and banal speeches by politicians seem to 
each other epoch-making. That still exists, and I suppose the poor dears 
believe it. But I am sure that one of the results of being immersed in 
the actual conflict is to build things on personal influence of which the 
latter is the effect and not the cause. I don't deny, of course, that men 
influence events; but I think insiders tend to think that men are mountains 



916 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

when measurement over the whole map makes them molehills. What is 
above all curious in the book is the enchantment of Gladstone's person- 
ality. Even people like Huxley, who detested him, seem to have felt it; 
and I know no book which gives you any reason, except vigour of mind, 
to see in him anything that makes you feel any special moral or intel- 
lectual insight. All that he wrote is commonplace; and I cannot see that 
his speeches are in the same intellectual class as those of Bright. Indeed, 
the instinct of the contemporary working-man, who doubted Gladstone 
and clove to Cobden and Bright, seems to me thrice right. There is 
nothing in him of Lincoln's instinctive perceptiveness, or of the originality 
of people like Hamilton, Yet, except Chamberlain, all of them are knocked 
over by an hour of his company; and a great gelehrte like Acton never 
goes into his presence except on his knees. What is the secret? Another 
interesting book I read was a study of Trollope by one Michael Sadleir. 
It had all kinds of interesting gossip in it; but what I think amused me 
most was a review of The Belton Estate, one of the simplest and most 
charming of his novels, by Henry James who declared it to be totally 
devoid of mind. And I read one novel which, on my knees, I pray you 
to read. It is called Jew Suss and is by a German named Feuchtwanger. 
I take an affidavit that it is the finest historical novel I have ever read. 
It's a picture of a German ducal court in the 18th century. To say that 
is nothing, though its reproduction is a miracle of historic atmosphere. 
The real thing is the detailed play of character and motive the putting 
into action of life as full of sound and fury and signifying I do not quite 
know what. Buy or beg or borrow it, please; and do not let Mrs. Holmes 
omit it from her hawk-like purview. ... I began a vast compilation by 
Charles Warren on the history of your Court, but I did not find it was 
made for bed. 

Well, next time I hope to be about the world again and able to write 
more sanely. Yet this, as you know, brings my love and greetings more 
antique. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., January 28, 1927 

My dear Lash: When a man has been busy pronounce hizzy which 
abridgement I use for hurriedly busy he is cramped at the end and 
can't expatiate at once at least I can't. I think you can, so that fact 
and the hope that I may not be too late to catch tomorrow's boat 
imagined by me, since before the war, to sail on Saturdays will lead 
me to be short. We have adjourned and I am hoping for 3 weeks of 
leisure though the C.J. dangles a political case over my head. Fired 
by Gilbert Murray, Euripides is on my table once more, and, who would 
have thought it? Ovid. He, G.M., says such pretty things about him (0). 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 917 

I, with you, had postponed Ovid to my Xth eternity and after I should 
have written my work on Anthropology (1st Aeon) mastered Mathe- 
matics (2nd Aeon) and other unconsidered tasks accomplished, should 
take up literature. The whole of which I suppose would take but a 
few years. 

I agree with you as to Balf our outside of politics a very agreeable 
man but I thought his books one for ladies' centre tables. But then I am 
afraid that I once told Bill James that his discourse on free will would 
please the ladies and Unitarian parsons. I remember once complimenting 
a young lady to Haldane, having understood that he was attentive to 
her, or had been, but he thereupon spoke sardonically of how young 
women talked about books on the strength of having read reviews, etc. 

Again I agree with you on the methods business. I have no use for 
them. Taking notes, keeping diaries, etc., etc., may suit methodical 
minds, they don't suit me. 

I told you how I liked to hear Mrs. J. R. Green praised. She is a 
great friend of mine though it is long since I have heard from her. 
When you see Nevinson again remember me to him. I envy you for see- 
ing him. 

I have done nothing but write a little law, read a lot of applications for 
certiorari and opinions by others, etc., but hope to do better by my next. 

As I write this there is brought to me the life of Bernal Diaz del 
Castillo by R. B. Cunninghame Graham. Tommy Barbour lent it to me 
years ago, a chap that was with Cortez and tells a marvellous tale. To my 
joy it seems to have been reprinted though not marked 2d edition. As I 
remember it a priceless book. Affty yours, O. W. H. 



Washington, D. C., February 4, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your letter of the 21st reached me yesterday when I was 
distraught with details paying my income tax, fussing about a regis- 
tered bond, expecting your Ambassador 1 and his wife (pleasant creatures 
she suggestive of Mona Lisa to me) at luncheon and a call to be 
made afterwards. This morning finds me free and serene. You speak of 
\y u a letter a few days back informed me that he had been appointed 
judge of what seems an important local court 2 so I expect that his 
yearnings will be appeased for a time. I do greatly desire success for 
him and have great hopes. He never mentions local disturbances. He 
seems to live in his world of thought. As* to Frederic Harrison and Glad- 

1 Sir Esme Howard (1863-1939), later Baron Howard of Penrith, was British 
Ambassador in Washington from 1924 to 1930. 

2 John C. H. Wu had recently been appointed a judge of the Shanghai 
Provisional Court. 



918 HOLMES TO LASKI 

stone I agree with you. I talked with both of them. F. H. when I first 
saw him was a Comtist I always supposed his good English was one 
cause of his standing. The only thing I ever learned from him was to 
turn from Hobbes to Bodin but that was something before the 
days of Figgis ni jailor. Gladstone had a voice like Emerson's and in 
'66 seemed to me the one man who was like an American. He came 
out to meet you and had gusto but, bar his financial speeches of 
which I can't judge, I never read anything of his that didn't impress me 
much as Roosevelt did when he ventured into the higher reaches. I seem 
to remember a discourse by T. R. which the N, Y. Sun pronounced great 
but of which Remy de Gourmont made as it seemed to me deserved 
sport. 3 Possibly I have mixed up two deliverances but I am pretty sure 
that they were eiusdem generis. Also my Secretary who knows more about 
it than I, agrees, as I have every inclination to, with what you say about 
the expeditions of students for research, from here. He says they take 
any theme, the easiest, that will give them a visit to Europe. 

I am rereading John Dewey's book Experience and Nature with 
the same opinion as before but with some mitigation as to his style, 
There are moments that suggest that he could write well but then 
comes obscurity. Still there is very little that I have not articulately 
grasped as I went along, though I shouldn't like to be called on to 
recite. I think it a profound and illuminating work. I am not sure that 
you would agree, but I shall stand firm. But I get up rather late and go 
out to drive from 11:30 or 12 to 1:30 and am apt to get a snooze in the 
afternoon and after 9 p.m. play solitaire and listen so I don't go 
ahead at your pace even if I could read as fast which of course I 
can't. I have a delightful book on Fishing from the Earliest Time by 
William Radcliffe sometimes of Balliol College, Oxford which I read 
some years ago and which I may reread. G. Murray's stimulus was short 
lived. I couldn't but believe that he read into the /3ax%ae things that 
weren't there and although he made me appreciate the reasons for 
Ovid's long reign, a reading of one book of the Metamorphoses was 
enough. I appreciate the felicities but I couldn't go on reading silly stories 
merely because they had been taken seriously by people who couldn't 
get Dewey and who would have burned him if they could have or be- 
cause they were a good lesson in style. 

The time has come for me to go forth and so I will wind up abruptly 
with eternally springing hope that this will go tomorrow and carry 
my remembrances. Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 

3 The reference is, perhaps, to Remy de Gourmonfs observations on Roose- 
velt's address delivered at the Sorbonne in 1910 during his zestful European 
trip; Remy de Gourmont, Epilogues, 1905-1912 (1913), 162. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 919 

Devon Lodge, 1311.27 

My dear Justice: I am humbly apologetic for so long a silence. But for 
the last four week-ends I have had to be away at Oxford, Cambridge, 
Rugby and Nottingham and they have eaten up my time. They were 
very interesting; but I was left with one or two impressions which I 
hazard for discussion. I am sure, first, that it is excessively bad for dons 
to live the cloistered life. They lose all sense of proportion and they get 
to loathe contradiction. Moreover absence of contact with the great 
world outside makes them magnify the inconceivably little into the 
enormously big. One don at Oxford entertained me (quite uncon- 
sciously) for an hour with an involved tale about a struggle with the 
University Press over the size of Greek type in a forthcoming text of 
Lucian; and he must have literally exhausted the vocabulary of vitupera- 
tion in his anxiety to prove his point to me. At Cambridge a charming 
fellow at Magdalene was eaten up with indignation because another fel- 
low of the college had changed his first name to acquire an inheritance; 
that seemed to him to take an undue advantage of one's parents. I 
indicated humbly my willingness to change my name for a worthy sum 
to which his angry retort was that like every damned radical I had no 
regard for tradition. Of Rugby and Nottingham where I had to speak 
to workers' classes I was distressed by the tendency, especially of the 
university speakers, to idealise the working man and to attribute to him 
virtues and interests in which other classes were held not to share 
proportionately. It was, for instance, regarded as cynical on my part to 
suggest that the main hope of the working-class was either unknown or 
broadly a hope of ceasing to be the working-class. And when I said that 
the phrase "emancipation of the working-class" was meaningless without 
a schedule of details they obviously thought me a flinty person lacking 
in heart. My chairman, the professor of economics, was hugely cheered, 
for, as I put it, offering Gardens of Eden for twopence a dozen; and my 
denial of a royal road to learning was not popular. 

In between, I have done a little dining. One most pleasant dinner with 
the Swedish Minister 1 to meet Austen Chamberlain. The latter is a 
curiously wooden person, who talks on stilts and never ceases to be 
foreign minister. Ramsay MacDonald, who was there too, shone by 
comparison. But what amused me most was Graham Wallas's effort to 
explain to Chamberlain how he could improve his thinking by exploring 
his foreconsciousness in the early morning. The scene was beyond words. 
Wallas in deadly earnest, Chamberlain without the remotest knowledge 

1 Baron Erik Palmstierna (1877- ) was Minister in London from 1920 
to 1937 and author of works of political and religious subjects. 



920 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

(a) of who Wallas was (b) what his foreconsciousness was, and (c) 
anxious not to be dragged into discussion of this deadly unknown, and 
Wallas determined that his victim should not escape. Then a jolly dinner 
at Haldane's of a little committee we have on trade union law. I have 
never seen Haldaae to better advantage, for here we were in the realm 
of detail and he showed his real powers as a legal administrator. As 
a rule, he suffers from a passion for vagueness and incoherency, but 
that night he was certainly a big man. Your friend Jenks, who was also 
there, was quite admirable too and enlivened by a certain dry humour 
which pleased the trade union officials greatly. And I had a jolly dinner 
with Nevinson who told me of his adventures in the desert near Mecca. 
At one point they got stuck in the mud for four days and had to wireless 
to Basra for food. This was brought them by aeroplane and dates and 
bread were dropped therefrom. "At last," said Newy, "I understood 
how the Israelites got their manna from heaven." 

Of reading there is not much of excitement. I reread Whitehead's 
Science and the Modern World, with even more admiration than before, 
but with a still complete inability to know what the chapters on God 
and Abstraction are about. Also a quite charming book on the Romantic 
Movement in France by one Louis Reynaud with a particularly interesting 
discussion of the influence of Swift on Voltaire. And a book on Spinoza 
by one Brun[s]chvig which sent me back to F. Pollock's book with a 
satisfied sense that it is quite easily and preeminently the best account of 
Spinoza there is. I think possibly today one would emphasise more the 
influence of Spinoza on Hegel, and the significance as a mode of thought 
of the geometrical method. But, otherwise, I have nothing but admiration. 
I must not, either, forget to add that I read after many years Wilamowitz's 
Aristotle and thought it a mighty book. Of novels, nothing worth men- 
tioning except a shocker by Agatha Christie called The Big Four which 
would be a good accompaniment to solitaire. 

You seem to have had a heavy time recently; and I was relieved 
enormously by the Court's decision on the Senatorial power to investi- 
gate, 2 though I thought Jim Landis had already made an unanswerable 
case thereon in the Harvard Law Review* I am sending to you in April, 
my friend G. P. Gooch, the historian, whose work you will know, but 
whose charm and sweetness you have still to taste. Wallas, by the way, 
leaves for America on Tuesday and is, I believe, to live next door to 
you for some months. Do look into his mind and tell me your thoughts. 

Two items of news I reserve to the end. I may go out to Wisconsin 

2 McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (Jan. 17, 1927). The Court, without 
dissent, reaffirmed the Congressional power to conduct investigations. 

8 James M. Landis, "Constitutional Limitations on the Congressional Power 
of Investigation," 40 Haw. L. Rev. 153 (December 1926). 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 921 

in the spring of '28 for a couple of months; if so, I shall have May in 
Washington and hereby provisionally engage your evenings in advance. 
Second, you will be glad to know that Leslie Scott has-been made a 
privy councillor. I hope that is a prelude to something more substantial 
My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, Harold J. Laski 



Washington, D. C., February 25, 1927 

My dear Laski: A letter, most interesting, as usual, comes from you to 
enliven the first week of a sitting, in which as yet we have encountered 
nothing very exciting. I should think that what you say about the dons 
was human nature everywhere and marked in England. I am more than 
pleased at your attitude about the working-man and the royal road to 
knowledge. The eternal effort to discover cheap and agreeable substitutes 
for hard work and talent has been the object of many sneers from me. 
I thought skirt dancing when it appeared years ago a type. To evoke 
the hope that you were going to see more the next high kick was to take 
the place of the laborious gymnastics needed to make a danseuse. Some 
of the modern painting strikes me in the same way although I am 
told that certain authors of what seem to me monstrosities are mas- 
ters of the whole business. Of course I have thought the same way as to 
the working man. I am sorry at what you say about Austen Chamberlain 
I haven't seen him since lie was young and then only casually. 
But his sister was a very dear friend of mine and I should like to believe 
the best of him. The scene between Wallas and him must have been 
amusing. I hope I shall see the former and also Gooch. I hope also 
that I shall be here to welcome you in 1928 but as I shall be 86 
about the time that this reaches you I don't venture confident predic- 
tions. Since my adventures in philosophy and fishing I have read nothing 
and have tried to enjoy a few moments of irresponsible idleness, driving 
and sleeping, but I am afraid that I am industrious an ominous tend- 
ency. My wife is reading Pickwick to me, omitting the stories and my 
pleasure is renewed. Next Monday I hope to fire off a few sardonic re- 
marks in a dissent on the Constitutional powers of the States, 1 beyond 
that I am vacant. And I must stop and go to court. 

Affectionately yours, 0, W. Holmes 
I thought to write more. 



Devon Lodge, 24.11.27 

My dear Justice: At last I can look forward to an uninterrupted vista; 
last week-end, when I went again to Oxford, was the final adventure 
' Tyson and Brother v. Banton, 273 U.S. 418, 445 (Feb. 28, 1927). 



922 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

away until next winter and I breathe again. It has been interesting but 
tiring, and the great gain of an assurance that this university is the place 
for me. All Souls, where I stayed this week, is most pleasant and hos- 
pitable, but one gets really bored with the continuous round of small 
talk about small persons, and the deference paid to the good and great 
is a little painful. For example, at All Souls was Amery, 1 the colonial 
secretary; we were talking of America and he expressed the view that it 
was nauseatingly materialist and appealed to me. I said I thought, in 
that respect, it was much the same as England or France, but being 
richer could more obviously fulfil its desires. This was just like a bomb- 
shell. A cabinet minister had been contradicted (which is not done at 
All Souls') and the conversation was at once turned to the memory of 
a late fellow on which there could be agreement! Also the adulation of 
Vinogradoff bored me; I think him an inferior Pound, but he was spoken 
of there as though he was Savigny and Maine rolled into one. They are 
a queer set of people with no open windows on the world. One man had 
spent forty years on the mss of Ovid, of which he is just publishing an 
account. I asked him if the results were significant, and he said that he 
had seven important amendations of the usual text. I add that he was 
happy in his discoveries which possibly should mean silence on my part. 

1 have bought one or two books I should like much to show you. First, 
for ten shillings, an exquisite 1556 Aristotle's Politics with a text as black 
and a type as lovely as you can imagine, luxury, of course, but most 
pleasing. Then a first edition of Diderot's Pensees stir la nature which I 
had never read. It is tremendously interesting especially in its emphasis 
upon truth as mathematical in its nature the interesting reaction of 
Newton. I bought also a complete set (for 7/6) of Boulainvilliers 2 the 
French reformer of the age of L. XIV. I can't say he is important, but he 
shows one or two interesting things the persistence of the influence of 
Hotman's Franco-Gallia, the persistence of the idea of fundamental law, 
and, even more, the influence of Spinoza which he is half-ashamed to 
confess. Also a fine Grotius in the Barbeyrac edition which is really 
something of a miracle in the way of skilful and learned annotation, cer- 
tainly better than any modern edition I have seen. But I add that look- 
ing into the text which deals with general political philosophy I don't 
think Grotius is very impressive. He merely marshals effectively ideas 
which are trie commonplace of his time, and I should argue that Suarez, 

Leopold Stennett Amery (1873- ), politician, was Secretary of State 
for the Colonies from 1924 to 1929. 

2 Henri, Comte de Boulainvilliers (1665-1722), defender, both against the 
King and the people, of the rights of the noble families particularly his 
own. His published works, all posthumous, include Histoire de I'ancien gou- 
vernement de 'France (1727) and Essai de metaphysique (1731). 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 923 

Soto and Bellarmine and, especially in his realm, Franciscus de Victoria 
are much abler and much more penetrating. Still these are attractive 
things to have, and they give one an aesthetic sense of satisfaction when 
they lie on the shelves. 

I haven't been out once to a meal since my last letter and the evenings 
have gone mostly to Spinoza, on whom I have to lecture next week in 
honour of his tercentenary. I can't say, beyond general exposition, that 
I have discovered much of any real import. I can, I think, show that he 
really conceived himself to be answering Hobbes by adopting the latter's 
principles and using them to diverse ends, and that he really influenced 
Hume far more deeply than is generally supposed. I must say how im- 
pressed I am by F. Pollock's Life which is the better the more one knows 
of Spinoza; and I must drop a hint to you that Spinoza's letters are really 
extremely interesting and extraordinarily revealing in a way that phi- 
losophers' rarely are. I think T. H. Green really failed altogether to un- 
derstand him and that, in general, he has not been given the width of 
authority that is his due. 

I met yesterday a most interesting Russian barrister who now practises 
here, and of whom I propose to see more. He was appalled at the techni- 
cal skill and philosophic ignorance of the average English barrister. He 
told me a glorious story of having quoted to the House of Lords an opin- 
ion of Shaw, CJ. of Massachusetts and being met with a blank stare of 
amazement and the obvious need on his part to refrain from further de- 
velopment. And one pleasant thing deserves record. In his Russian days 
he used to buy largely from the famous old German bookseller, Prager 
of Berlin. After he left Russia and settled almost penniless in London 
he ordered a book there and received it without a bill. He sent a cheque 
which he received back with a slip of paper: "Prager doesn't take money 
from political exiles until they have the chance to re-establish them- 
selves." I wonder of how many booksellers such a story could be told? 
This fellow, by the way, was a pupil of Mommsen's in Berlin and he 
said the latter's seminar was a great theatrical entertainment. The class 
stood while the master made his way to his desk, and anyone of the 
students who was called upon was so nervous that he would turn white 
with excitement and one young fellow was so overawed by the great 
man's acceptance of a correction that he promptly fainted from joy. 
Those must have been great days! I had an Indian student the other 
week who asked me to explain to him my theory of political obligation. 
When I had done, he said, quite simply, that it was sad to think I had 
spent so much time on elaborating pure moonshine. Which reminds me 
of a story I must not omit. Two years ago we accepted an Indian student 

named M . After six months we got rid of him on the ground that 

there was no prospect of his ever getting a degree. Later we accepted 



924 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

an Indian named A . M was assigned to Professor Cannan; 3 

A was assigned to Professor Dalton. 4 About a month ago Cannan 

wandered into Dalton s room and found him interviewing A . He 

expressed surprise that M was still at the School Dalton explained 

that this was A . Cannan insisted he was M . The resulting 

investigation showed that M was A , and that being turned 

out under his own name he re-applied (from India) under his family 
name and being assigned to a different supervisor escaped detection for 
nearly a year! That is, I think, a great tribute to the ingenuity of the 

East." 

Our love and greetings to you both. Ever yours, ti. J. L, 

Devon Lodge, S. III. 27 

My dear Justice: A delightful, if brief, note from you was heartily wel- 
come. I am glad you broadly share my view of the Oxford dons. Constat 
inter nos that it doesn't apply to special cases, but as a general rule. I 
think it not unfair. Curiously enough two of quite the best younger men 
have left Oxford this week for the reasons I tried to set out. I don t think 
that the atmosphere matters so much if you are immersed in a discipline 
remote from normal life. But otherwise it is devastating. 

Since I wrote last week, all the events of life have taken place, so to 
say, in the realm of the mind. The main thing otherwise was a dinner 
with Spender the journalist 1 and one with the Army officers of the 
School. The first was the usual gloom about the state of the press with 
which W. Lippmann will have made you familiar, diversified by some 
wonderful anecdotes about Northcliffe. The best I think was that Spender 
once protested to him against telling the public (in 1899) that the Boer 
War would be over in a winter campaign. Northcliffe simply had in the 
circulation manager and showed Spender that his optimism had sent up 
the sales: "You see," he said, "I am right." The other, in its way, was 
fascinating; they are all charming fellows, distinguished in their profes- 
sion, and with all the limitations of their profession I got on splendidly 
with them especially when it came to explaining to them why trade 
unions can't be made illegal, and why it is possible to doubt whether 
God consciously planned the British Empire, One sweet soul said he had 

8 Edwin Cannan (1861-1935), economist, for many years a teacher at the 
University of London. 

* Hugh Dalton ( 1887- ) was Reader in Economics at London University 
from 1925 to 1936. 

1 J. Alfred Spender (1862-1942), liberal journalist; editor of Westminster 
Gazette, 1896-1922; author of numerous books on history and public affairs. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 925 

never been a Christian until Foch began his offensive and then he found 
the conclusion irresistible. I sought to explain that the inference was not 
direct, but I do not say I succeeded. 

Apart from this, the great experience of the week has been reading 
Winston's two final volumes on the war. 2 I hope greatly they will come 
your way, for I know nothing finer or more revealing. He is, I guess, 
wrong about Jutland, and throughout he is over-rhetorical. But he makes 
you see the job of directing the war in progress as no other work except 
Ludendorff that I have read. And he convinces me that in a democracy 
at any rate you can never get the right relationship between soldiers and 
statesmen. Either the former are too powerful and try to shape policy 
(which they don't understand) or the statesmen interfere with technical 
detail which is beyond them. You must not miss the great description 
of November 11, 1918 where Winston is gorgeously picturesque on wait- 
ing for Big Ben to strike the hour and the vast emotions aroused by the 
first stroke; of which the point is that Big Ben did not strike that day 
as it was being cleaned. Poor Winston! Huxley's "beautiful hypothesis 
killed by an ugly little fact." But he has written a very fine book. 

Otherwise I have been reading mainly for lectures, as I have been 
giving some advanced graduate ones on English political ideas since 
1875, and thus rereading Mill, Maine, Fitzjames Stephen, Carlyle and 
Arnold. Many things strike one, first and foremost the immense influence 
on them all of Tocqueville, and second the certainty that the events of 
'48 were a kind of watershed in the century after which you either had 
faith in democracy or you didn't. Of them all Arnold, I think, had by 
far the deepest insight and Stephen the most masculine mind. Maine in 
his own line was I dare say extraordinary; but as a political philosopher 
I don't think he had gone much further than Tocqueville and India. 
Carlyle interested me greatly. One simply can't read him without a stir 
and a throb; yet ask yourself at the end what you have been stirred about 
and it is very difficult to reply. Duty, the ever-lasting pen, the heroic 
man, the folly of speech but except that there is the poetic instinct as 
no other prose writer of the period had it, and the perception of a man 
when he met him, I doubt the positive element. I think he killed the 
influence of Byron which seems the more enormous the more one reads 
but killed it for what? Did I, by the way, ever remark to you upon 
my pet thesis that one of the great lines in intellectual development 
(modern) is Spinoza Lessing Goethe Carlyle and that this school 
converges with Montesquieu Burke Gentz Savigny Maine to 
form the philosophy and tactic of conservatism? A good deal, I think, 

2 Volumes III and IV of Winston Churchill's World Crisis (1927) dealt with 
the war years from 1916 to 1918. 



926 LASKI TO HOLMES 

could be usefully said by way of illustrating this: and it is surprising 
how little has been written to defend conservatism of recent times in a 
philosophic way, 

This letter, I believe, will come shortly after your birthday. You know 
how ardent my greetings are. If my Wisconsin plan comes off, I shall 
hope faintly to celebrate it with you next year. I have leave for those 
two months from here; now it all depends on the terms Wisconsin offers. 
But mingled with my greeting is the plea to you at all costs not to resign 
during the year. If I may venture to say so nothing you write on the 
Court suggests fatigue of any sort or kind; and the especial note you 
strike no one else could. Indeed I doubt whether the kind of approach 
you make would be made by any one else except Learned Hand and 
Cardozo and I gather that their elevation is not within the realm of the 
possible. Hence my entreaties! 

One exciting adventure of ours you will like to share. Frida went 
motoring to Somerset last week and found in a cottage an old oak chest 
in perfect condition. The man said he would sell it for five pounds. She 
bought it and when it came home it had a Tudor rose in the panels. So 
we had a man in to look at it from Bond Street and he acclaimed it is 
certainly not later than 1580 and in quite perfect condition, worth, he 
thought, eighty or ninety pounds. So behold us watching jealously all 
who eye it and with the proper pride of ownership. 

Our love and good wishes to both of you, 

Ever affectionately yours., H. ]. L. 



Washington, D. C. 5 March 17, 1927 

My dear Laski: An answer to one letter was skipped and one that comes 
this morning must get but a hasty word. My birthday came in the middle 
of a lot of hard work and I haven't known which way to turn let me 
get a new pen. You speak of lots of things that interest me what you 
say of Winston (Churchill's?) book and the troubles between soldiers 
and statesmen, reminds of Patten (Development of English Thought) 
"the sensualist in the field is always at war with the Mugwump in the 
home office" 1 I don't stop to verify but quote from recollection many 
years old. I always used to say that Fitzjames Stephen was an 18th cen- 
tury British controversialist, and he brings down his bludgeon with a 
whack. Carlyle I never think of except as an artist. He didn't care for 
truth as such, but only as it was pictorially available. As old James (the 
father of W. & H.) said of Mrs. Browning "She uses the name of the 

1 In Patten's lingo the sensualists are the active men of strong conviction 
the warriors, priests, and capitalists while the mugwumps are the specula- 
tive and frail intellectuals critics, not actors. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 927 

Divine Being as a pigment." As to the convergence you speak of to form 
the philosophy of conservatism, I listen with much interested silence. 
I have had some cases that interested me and a dissent in which I 
had a whack at "police power" and "dedicated to a public use" as 
apologetic phrases springing from the unwillingness to recognize the fact 
of power 2 one upsetting a Philippine judgment declining to accept a 
British judgment in Hong Kong 3 and one very plain one upsetting a 
Texas Statute forbidding negroes to vote at Democratic primaries. 4 I have 
been kept humming and still am I can say no more now except that I 
am as ever Aff'ly yours, 0. W. Holmes 

Some one wrote to me that it was said that I said I should not resign 
until God Almighty notified me (which is a fiction of the papers), and 
asking what warrant I had for thinking there was one. I did not answer as 
I thought it impertinent. 



Devon Lodge, 20.IIL27 

My dear Justice: The last fortnight of term ended with a bang. I had 
something to do every night, and I have never looked forward so eagerly 
as to the next six weeks. However, I am having a brief holiday in Paris, 
at one stage, and one in the New Forest at another, so that I may recover 
freshness. 

And these days have been most interesting. First of all I count a visit 
to Canterbury, where I had to lecture. I had never seen the Cathedral 
before and it is certainly one of the things that sweep you off your feet. 
It is not only the vast sense of historical association, but its calm, its 
majesty, and the paintings circa 1150 in St. Gabriel's chapel. The latter 
interested me enormously for I should have guessed that they show clear 
traces of Byzantine influence. And I met there a delightful old Canon 
who was at the meeting of the British Association at Oxford and heard 
Huxley smite Bishop Wilberforce. 1 He said that the sensation was beyond 
words, and that on him, as on many others, it was a revelation of moral 
power such as he has never seen again. The clergy, he said, were like an 

2 Tyson and Brother v. Banton, 273 U.S. 418, 445. 

8 Ingenohl v. Olsen and Company, 273 U.S. 541. Holmes wrote for a unani- 
mous court. 

4 Nixon v. Herndon, 272 U.S. 536 (March 7, 1927). Holmes delivered the 
opinion for a unanimous Court. 

1 The occasion was that on which Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (1805-1873), 
"Soapy Sam" to his contemporaries, sought to refute the impieties of Darwin 
before the British Association. Huxley, challenged by the Bishop to state 
whether the ape in his ancestry was on the maternal or paternal side, expressed 
his preference for descent from an ape to the ancestry of such a bishop as 
Wilberforce, with such vigor that Lady Brewster, in the audience, fainted. 



928 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

army in confused retreat, whose commander has failed them, listening to 
an exhortation from their enemy which they try not to believe is true, 1 
had, also, a fascinating lunch with Winston Churchill where we fought 
over politics in solitude for three hours. Several things there interested 
me hugely. (1) The politicians assurance: if I could pronounce judgment 
on one thing with the same aplomb with which he settled a dozen, I 
should be very happy. There is not a trace of scepticism in his nature. 
(2) His sense of values. The scientist, the philosopher, the great artist, are 
for him children remote from the real paths of life. He has no sense at all 
of long-term influence. He feels that men don't go into politics for fear of 
failing there, not because they literally don't want to. (3) 'The rhetorical 
character of the political mind. It was very easy for him to slip from close 
argument into peroration and I was never sure that he really grasped the 
difference. I went, also, to an admirable lecture on "public policy" by 
Winfield of Cambridge, which contained one perfect sentence: "Public 
policy means the best judgment of distinguished men of the world as 
distinct from persons learned in the law; English judges have regarded 
their own views as the highest expression of the former category." I met 
there Roche, J. 2 who is a charming person. He told me that when he first 
read Cardozo on The Judicial Process it was a bombshell to him; he never 
realised that things like that went on in his mind. Examination convinced 
him that they did and he began to explore. At sixty he discovered Mait- 
land and, as he put it, underwent the phenomenon of conversion. I said 
I wished he would bite the other judges. He replied that most of them 
were vaccinated against the dangers of speculation by their careers at the 
bar. In a very different realm I took the chair at a discussion on trade- 
unionism opened by the secretary of the Trade Union Congress. 3 He was 
very able; but what impressed me most was his explanation of many 
habits and practices we regard as destructive as the definite relics of the 
old Combination Acts. As an example of the overmastering influence of 
dead tradition, the thing was amazing. 

In the way of books, I have had some nice finds. Item, a superb copy 
of La Roche-Flavin's Treize limes sur les parlements which throws 
great light on the whole problem of fundamental law, Then, second, a 
nice copy of Saurin Traite de conscience, one of the best Hugenot de- 
fences of toleration with notes in the margin which I believe to be in 
Bayle's hand. Third a contemporary attack on Voltaire which is one of the 
jolliest jeux d'esprit I have read in some time. It is not often that a theo- 

2 Alexander Adair Roche (1871- ), Baron Roche; Judge of the King's 
Bench Division, 1917-1934; Lord Justice of Appeal and Lord of Appeal in 
Ordinary, 1934-1938. 

3 Mr. Walter M. Citrine (1887- ), later first Baron Citrine, was General 
Secretary of the Trades Union Congress from 1926 to 1946. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 929 

logian (pardon me!) is capable of wit; but this fellow, massing Voltaire's 
lies and trickeries in a general way, makes them more deadly than he 
could ever have done by solemnity. 

In the way of reading, I have mostly been confined to work. But I read 
Felix's little book on Sacco and Vanzetti and thought it a neat, surgical 
job. Also the Webbs' new volume on the English poor law before 1835, 
which, like all they have done in that Local Government series, is quite 
masterly. And, breathe it low, a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, called Picca- 
dilly Jim in which I thoroughly delighted. I read, too, Miss Haldane's 
George Eliot, which she sent me; but I cannot say it impressed me very 
much. She seemed always outside her subject. George Eliot was a great 
woman; but I don't think it is necessary to get excited about Romola, 
which is Wardour Streetery, or Daniel Deronda; and it is necessary to say 
that Middlemarch is one of the supreme English novels of the 19th cen- 
tury and quite patently inferior to the great romances of either Dostoievski 
or Tolstoy. One's life isn't different because of Middlemarch; but one is 
never quite the same after either the Brothers Karamazov or War and 
Peace; and I should put Anna Karenina only just below those. Which 
somehow reminds me that I picked up the other day Contarini Fleming 
which I had never read. Dizzy must have had a really sublime contempt 
for the English nation to publish such stuff, or, alternatively, the most 
weird attitude to himself of any man who ever stood in the front rank. 
For it is the weirdest mixture of Behmen, 4 Cagliostro, Byron, Rousseau, I 
ever looked at; and except for the light it throws on Dizzy himself, en- 
tirely worthless. 

Well, I must end. I have to make an index to my little volume on Com- 
munism a ghastly job; and I must get it done by tomorrow. 

Our love to you both. I expect you are driving by the Potomac to see 
the cherry-blossom. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., March 31, 1927 

My dear Laski: Yours of March 20 just received and read and I was just 
about to say I had a breathing moment in which to answer, when, as I 
wrote your name a fat package came from the C.J. to be read. But it 
shall not stop me. You are right in thinking that I have been driving by 
the cherry trees and in one way and another trying to be unscrupulously 
idle for a few days. But it is almost impossible. When law makes no 
demand some bother of business pops up. However all is going well 
enough. 

4 Jacob Behmen (or Boehme) (1575-1624), mystical shoemaker whose 
philosophy assigned to will a position of central importance and emphasized 
the conflict between opposites, resulting finally in a new unity. 



930 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

Graham Wallas called here the other day and took luncheon today. I 
find him a most pleasant creature so pleasant that I haven't Inquired 
too curiously how much we have or have not in common in the way 
of opinions, beyond the general agreement of tolerant and civilized men. 
Don t talk to me of Huxley. I thought him a boor on the only occasion 
when I saw him I would lock him up with Andrew Lang and a few 
others and put S.O.B, on the door of the cell. Per contra Wallas lent me 
Cardozo's first book and I read it and was reinforced in my conviction that 
he (C.) was a sensitive, high-minded, delicate dear but I think your 
friend Roche, J. ingenuous if the book opened new vistas to him. 

I don't get your point as to the effect of the old Combination Acts. 
On the other hand I also read a sentence by the Treasurer of the American 
Federation of Labor that made my heart jump up with joy and hope 
that it was true "Labor and capital are now talking the same language 
that of the Informed economist' " although he goes on that their 
differences are still acute. I haven't yet succeeded in getting Piccadilly 
Jim. I have received the Life of Lord Bryce. 1 I was fond of him and ex- 
pect to find it interesting but it came at a moment when it emphasized 
what I was reflecting apropos of Pound that knowledge is a danger- 
ous diluent of thought. The poison of the sting is thinned out and made 
innocuous by too large an infusion of facts. One perfectly estimable side 
of Bryce left me cold the pleasure he took in the society of admirable 
people like Charles Eliot who don't open the romantic perspectives of 
life yet as I say that, I hesitate for Charles Eliot wrote "the business 
of the scholar is to make poverty respectable" a saying that has com- 
forted me in my day in the days when I lived on George Herbert's 
"who sweeps a room as for Thy laws" etc. and Browning's "Grammarian's 
Funeral." And didn't the good man when I wrote to him on his 90th birth- 
day give me a kind of schoolmaster's summary of myself in four pages 
quarto though I said don't answer. Let me walk delicately before the 
Lord and it's a rum business that of opening the romantic side of 
life. Some men who have done it for me would not be suspected of such 
a possibility by most of Boston. Old Norman 2 (you may have known some 
of the many sons whom I saw bear his coffin on their shoulders ) , a splen- 
did old Philistine who had fought his way to wealth Frank Parker 3 
the most squaretoed seeming of anglicised yankees who had a green 
baize door to his office with "Mr. Parker" on it was counsel for the 

1 H. A. L. Fisher, James Bryce (2 vok, 1927). 

2 George H. Norman (1827-1900) of Newport, Rhode Island, had made a 
large fortune in civil engineering and the promotion of water works in the 
United States and abroad. Following Norman's death, Holmes is quoted as 
saying that few people he had known "have had so high a pressure of life 
to the square inch/' Boston Evening Transcript, February 5, 1900, p. 10. 

8 Francis Edward Parker (1821-1886), 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 931 

Barings and the Cunard Co. etc. but who had an inner fire that he 
didn't show often. Decidedly the men who have made life seem large and 
free would not always be picked out by the crowd. 

I take it that Felix's book is a bit of heroism on his part and I 
vaguely hear has brought criticism upon him. Naturally I can't talk about 
it but it has left painful impressions. Disraeli I know more through 
Thackeray than himself though I have read one or two of his things. 
I thought Anna Karenina the biggest ever when I read it but was bored 
by War and Peace. I suppose I am too old now. They made quite a row 
on my birthday which shows that I am really old. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 2.IV.27 

My dear Justice: I got back yesterday from a memorable week in Paris 
one of the most intellectually exciting holidays I have ever spent. 1 
People, sights, books, all seem to unite to make things interesting. Of 
people there are some I must mention. At a conference I met Jusserand 
with whom I spoke about you. He looked very fit and eager, and is evi- 
dently most warmly esteemed. He wanted to know all about my visit to 
you and how you both were and what you were thinking about life. I 
met, too, Andre Gide, the novelist. He is amazingly impressive, a queerly 
interesting mixture of the Hugenot who has met Rimbaud and Mallarme. 
Then, too, I had a lunch with Briand 2 who interested me enormously. 
He lives in the moment, and yesterday, with him, is ancient history which 
only the archaeologist will study. He is supple as no persons existing else- 
where. He knows exactly what you want him to say and is skilful in the 
art of pleasing in a quite remarkable degree. Also Rene Lalou, 3 the critic, 
a kind of Faguet de nos jours, clever, witty, and eloquent. One or two of 
his phrases, "historiquement Platon a eu une trop bonne presse"; "Bossuet 
a fait une religion pour des rois"; "Le Frangois est ne malm et meurt 
sceptique au sein du bon Dieu" were admirable. I had all I could do to 
digest these experiences; and I recovered the sense that few peoples have 
the French power to play with ideas. They are not, I think, originators; 
but in subtlety and analytic power they are extraordinarily impressive. I 
saw, too, some interesting things. First the Exposition Louis XIV at the 
Bibliotheque Nationale mss of Racine, Arnauld, Saint -Simon, pictures, 
etc. The interest, I think, was in the little things their intense f ormal- 



impressions of France are recorded in "A Little Tour of France/' 
50 New Republic 292 (May 4, 1927). 

2 Aristide Briand (1862-1932) at this time was Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

8 Rene Lalou (1889- ), author of Histoire de la litterature fran$aise con- 
temporaine (1923), and Defense de rhomme (1926). 



932 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

ism, the feeling you had of an overmastering power outside them to which 
they had to conform. And I met one La Ronciere 4 at the Bibliotheque who 
showed me a thrilling map which he believes (with very strong evidence) 
to be that out of which Columbus took his plans for America. I went, also, 
to the Luxembourg and saw some Cezanne which were unforgettable 
especially the still life paintings which had a vigour quite enthralling. 
In the way of books I did very well. I got some great folios of the early 
lawyers, Guy Coquille, Lebret, Loyseau, one or two more of Jurieu, some 
interesting Fronde pamphlets, some contemporary anti-Rousseau material, 
and some stuff on the early history of toleration in France which, when 
written up, will I think be quite new to the historians. And some modern 
books were interesting especially Lalou's quite enthralling Littemture 
jrangaise contemporaine. I was struck in meeting the men of letters at the 
degree to which they are bound up in groups and stick to them. One old 
professor told me a glorious story of Victor Hugo. The great man used to 
entertain on Tuesdays and the crowd in the street would stop by the 
open windows just to catch the sound of the master's voice. One or two 
general things are worth saying, perhaps. One gets the impression that 
the Church gains ground especially among the youth in the universi- 
ties. The world in general is so confused that they cling to it as an anchor. 
Also the degree of discredit into which parliamentary institutions have 
fallen is as remarkable as it is painful. To take a politician as dishonour- 
able a priori is commonplace wherever one goes; and one hears continually 
of the need "passer par quelque phase d'anarchie a une nouvelle syn- 
these" On the other hand I am quite clear that France is on the verge 
of a great intellectual renaissance. Granted the confusions of the moment, 
it is the confusion of bigness. Valery the poet, Gide the novelist, one or 
two younger men like Dauden, 5 Giradoux [sic], Lalou, are I think, the 
precursors of a great period. It may be that I respond quickly to a sym- 
pathetic environment; but I should say that the next ten years will give 
France a different intellectual prestige from that of any other country. 
And in herself she is more at peace. Most of the war-hate is dead; they 
laugh at us and you instead of sneering; they dislike only Mussolini. Him 
they flagellate in the comic press and the music-hall and, interestingly 
enough, always as a threat to peace. I believe that they genuinely desire 
European appeasement. 

4 Charles de la Ronciere (1870-1941), historian and biographer; he wrote 
of the map in question: La carte de Christophe Colomb (1924). According 
to Samuel Eliot Morison, the foremost authority, there is much reason to doubt 
the accuracy of La Ronciere's belief: 1 Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea 
(1942), 134, 143. 

5 Not identified. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 933 

Of things read one or two tilings would I think interest yoti. Lasserre 
Le romantisme francais would show you how the demand for order and 
authority makes its appeal. Fay's Panorama litteraire is a most skilful 
summary of intellectual tendencies in the last twenty-five years. And 
Parodfs Philosophic frangaise moderne is good. There is, I must add, a 
tremendous interest in Nietzsche; the shops are full of translations and 
commentaries. That, I believe, is a good sign for Nietzsche was cosmo- 
politan and it is a great thing for Frenchmen to shake off their insularity. 
I add that I have just read Fisher's Life of Bryce which I found very dull. 
Bryce is like the industrious apprentice who always marries his master's 
daughter and never makes a mistake. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, Harold ]. L. 



Devon Lodge, 15.IV.27 

My dear Justice: I hope that by the time you receive this, you will have 
had a call from Ramsay MacDonald; I wrote to him and to Esme Howard 
that he should look in on you. For he is a likeable fellow and I think you 
would have had a pleasant hour. 

My main experience since I wrote you last has been a dinner at which 
I sat next to a genius. He was, I gathered, a poet in his second year at 
Oxford. He began by asking me if I liked his work; I had, very humbly, to 
confess that I did not know it. "Perhaps not," he said pityingly "as yet I 
have only done four things that will live." Then a pause; silence from me; 
my poet, with an effort, "But at my age Shelley had hardly done more." 
It is, I think, to my credit that I took him seriously and asked him to sum- 
marise his view of life. "The poet," he said, "is a reflection of the world- 
spirit. When I write, I feel as though I carry all peoples and all experi- 
ences in my womb." I said it must be a heavy burden. "Yes/ ? he said, "I 
try not to be too conscious of my mission, I play bridge for relaxation/* 
He thought well of Dante and Shakespere. Homer, and especially Virgil, 
were very overrated. Rimbaud was the greatest of Frenchmen "I fancy 
myself a twin soul with him" but no German had ever written poetry. 
Goethe was without lyrical powers. (He could not read German.) He 
would never marry. A poet, like the bee, must sip from countless flowers; 
matrimony must be a tie. I cannot express to you how miraculous he was. 
He pitied my profession. He told me that "on a low plane" my books were 
not without merit. He said he was sustained amid material cares by the 
knowledge of eventual immortality. He had no religion; but he sometimes 
recaptured an experience in Catullus or Shakespere's sonnets or Sappho 
so vividly that he was tempted to believe in pre-existence. I keep the final 
thing for the last "Have you relatives?" "A father." "What is he?" "The 



934 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

best known black pig-breeder in Berkshire." I told my hostess that at any 
time I would break any engagement to be permitted to sit next to her poet 
again. 

Outside of this I have been amiably busy without undue exertion A 
wedding of a cousin; a visit to Bradford to give evidence before a munici- 
pal commission on the undesirability of a separate university there; a re- 
view of Fisher's Bryce; 1 and a good deal of reading towards a quarcen- 
tenary estimate of Machiavelli which I have to get done before the end 
of the month. 2 I must not forget to urge you to read a brilliant novel by 
Anne Sedgwick called The Old Countess which has great qualities and 
a certain Greek economy of line. Otherwise my main joy has been Don 
Quixote which I enjoyed as I have rarely enjoyed a book. I have had a 
good deal of pleasure, too, from Saint-Simon's memoirs, especially his 
glorious self-esteem, and his portraits of the people he did not like. But he 
is like Horace Walpole. You are glad he lived, but very grateful that you 
did not know him. 

I was depressed by the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 
the Sacco-Vanzetti case. 3 Not only has Felix made me feel that, at the 
least, a new trial was essential; but also the feeling here is very deep that 
the whole thing is an injustice characteristic of the American courts, and 
it is a thing difficult to combat. Frank, 4 Mooney, 5 and this in fifteen years 
is unsatisfactory. It makes me distrust the jury system were it not that 
Thayer, J. suggests that the average judge is not a whit better. And it is 
especially disappointing to have it come in a state where judges are ap- 
pointed and not elected. 

I was amused by your remark on Andrew Lang. I met the other day 
in Manchester an old journalist who had a complete set of everything he 
wrote and proposed in his will to order them to be burned. I found that 
he loathed Lang as the most wantonly insensitive person he had ever 
met. Birrell told me the root of it was passionate ambition on Lang's part; 

1 The review has not been located. 

2 "Machiavelli and the Present Time," 249 Quarterly Review 57 (July 1927). 
8 On April 5 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts announced its 

decision that it was powerless to review Judge Thayer's most recent action in 
denying the defendants a new trial. On April 9 Judge Thayer sentenced the 
two men to death. 

*In August 1915, Leo Frank, a Jew who had been convicted of rape and 
whose death sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment by the gov- 
ernment of Georgia, was lynched. Over Holmes's dissent the Supreme Court, 
in April 1915, on jurisdictional ground had refused to review the conviction of 
the defendant; Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 345. 

5 Tom Mooney (1885-1942), on the basis of testimony known by the 
prosecuting officers to be perjured, in 1915 was convicted by the California 
courts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was not until 1939 
that he was pardoned by Governor Olson and released from jail. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 935 

he could not bear to see other people even within sight of success. I take 
your word for Eliot's bigness. I only saw him once, and was impressed by 
his vigour and alertness. But nothing I have read of him suggested to me 
originality or distinction of mind, and I imagine that it was the vivid 
personal contact that gave him his power. Graham Wallas is a dear, but 
he is really more self-absorbed than is decent, and constructs lions for 
himself (which he proceeds to slay) where to other people they seem 
merely tame cats. At bottom Wallas is a bishop manque. He has the germ 
of unctiousness and would, I think, like to do good. But he has done fine 
work and sacrificed something for his opinions. I wish you could meet 
his wife, who is the real item in the series. She has a mordant though 
winsome wit which is at once cleansing and devastating. Nothing escapes 
her and her defence of him against his own weaknesses is one of the 
most exquisitely tender things I have seen. 

But I must end; for Frida's taking Diana to the country for a fortnight 
and I want to see that they leave adequately. My love to you both. Write 
to me soon. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Devon Lodge, 23.IV, 27 

My dear Justice: It has been a busy week; for I have been roped in to 
help the trade unions in their fight against this incredible Bill of Bald- 
win's, 1 and most of my time has gone in conferences with lawyers and 
politicians guessing at its legal consequences and the best way to awaken 
a public opinion about the issue. It's frightfully interesting; and not the 
least interesting side of it is the lawyers' sheer ignorance of trade union- 
ism. You may remember an old plea of yours that lawyers should be 
taught political economy. That was never so forcibly brought home to me 
as now. I send you a comment of mine on a letter of Wrenbury's which 
will explain the kind of problem we have. 2 The fight, I fear, will be very 
bitter, but if we lose the elementary right of combination will go; and 
we shall be back in the old bad days before the repeal of the Combination 
Acts. It's worth struggling against that. 

Otherwise my main job has been writing a quarcentenary article on 
Machiavelli an interesting job, though difficult because it is so hard 
to say anything new. But I hope I have brought out some points too 
rarely noticed, and, at least, I thoroughly enjoyed reading him. I expect 

1 On April 4 the government introduced its Trade Disputes and Trade Unions 
Bill. Its most significant objectives were to make a general strike illegal and to 
outlaw sympathetic strikes. After long and bitter debate the Bill, with some 
modifications, became law in late July. Laski wrote of the matter in "Mr. 
Baldwin attacks the Trade Unions/' 51 New Republic 63 (June 8, 1927). 

2 The enclosure is missing. Lord Wrenbury's letter was in the London Times* 
April 18, 1927, p. 11. 



936 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

with this letter you will receive my little book on Communism. You know 
with what affection it comes to you; and I have a belief that you will 
sympathise with its general tone. However, that you will tell me, I know, 
with the full frankness of friendship. 

Of other things there is not much to record. Perhaps the most amusing 
arises from a visit of mine two years ago to S. Wales where, one evening, 
an old miner entertained me with tales of the mines sixty years ago. I 
said, in a moment of enthusiasm that these reminiscences would make a 
good book. Yesterday arrived a ms of 600 pages full of long disquisitions 
on his religious beliefs of which the sum seems to be that the outstanding 
thing in his life was when, in 1879, he read the sermons of Whitfield [sic] 
he realised that Calvinist Methodism is the only path to heaven. I have re- 
turned the script with as kind a letter as 1 can; and have written over my 
heart, "Surtout point de I'enthousiasme" I had also a visit from a gentle- 
man who amused me much. He was one of these crack-brained currency 
cranks who can solve all social questions by the multiplication of paper 
money. He wanted me to write a preface to a book he has written. I 
refused, on the ground that I knew nothing of finance. "You must learn" 
he said, and offered to give me free instruction in return for a preface. 
I had great difficulty in getting rid of him and he told me that, like all 
professors, I was harsh, unsympathetic and pontifical. I ask you frankly 
whether one can be a Christian, (or even a Judaeo-Christian) in a world 
so composed. 

In the reading line nothing of supreme interest to tell. The most inter- 
esting thing was a brief and quite exquisite little biography of Wesley 
by Dean Hutton (Macrmllan) which I think you would both like. It 
paints and explains; it is less than 200 pages; and it really tells you all 
you want to know. I have also had to read and review a vast work on 
the modern state by J. A. R. Marriott 3 which seemed to me to say quite 
obvious things quite obviously at intolerable length, but which the 
"Tories'* thought of indispensable value. I also bought and read in bed 
again William James's Letters. They are really entirely delightful, and his 
sly digs at Henry do my heart good but, as you know, I am a heretic 
about the latter. In bed, too, I reread Acton on The French Revolution 
which is, I think, in its queer, allusive way, about the most profound thing 
there is on that portent. But there is still a great essay to be written on 
its political philosophy, as on its political precursors. Have you, by the 
way, ever read Lanfrey on the Church and the Philosophers in the 
XVIIIth Century? That is the way to deal with the black gentlemen. You 
assume that they are vicious. You insist that they cannot be sincere. And 

8 Laski's review of Sir Jolm Marriott's The Mechanism of the Modern State 
(1927) has not been located. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 937 

the result is the proof that they are blackguards. The only thing wanting 
in him he writes with superb verve is the inability to dip his pen 
in the blood of churchmen. I really enjoyed him; for a thoroughly angry 
anti-cleric is a heartening spectacle. Birrell, by the way, whom I met at 
tea told me a good story of Leslie Stephen. The latter called on Morley 
at his house in Surrey and they had a two hour jaw on literature. As 
Stephen took up his hat to go he said to J.M. "Oh! by the way, you know 
that the Germans have taken Sedan?" And Birrell added that this was the 
proof of Stephen's greatness "he never magnified incidents into events." 

I hear with joy that you and Brandeis have dissented in a labour case 
where emphasis was demanded. 4 I await the decision with eagerness. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., April 25, 1927 

My dear Laski: It is ages since I have written but I couldn't help it. 
I have been very busy and last week was rather under the weather with 
my insides. As probably I have told you I have had all forms of belly-ache 
known to the law except Asiatic cholera. So I have to mind my eye. How- 
ever it is all quiet along the Potomac tonight (or more strictly, this morn- 
ing). 

Your Paris experiences are wonderfully interesting what you say 
about the literary groups falls in with an impression I got from a book by 
a French interviewer in the time of Zola. The fierceness with which each 
crowd spoke as if divided by a gulf when to me they looked as like as 
Chinese or had the same flavor throughout like herrings in a box. As 
to a renaissance I heard a similar prediction for this country the other 
day that from the chaos of doubt and ruins of the old times would arise 
a generation of philosophers and poets. I am not quite sure I think it 
was from Wallas. Wallas has come here two or three times and I infer 
rather liked it as he said that he should telephone on his return in May, 
He now has gone to lecture elsewhere. My secretary thinks that he doesn't 
lecture as well as he talks. I of course have had no chance to hear him 
ex cathedra his talk is very agreeable. I have done nothing but law 
my opinion for this morning is held up by McReynolds for a dissent. That 
which was given to me Saturday evening and was written yesterday con- 
cerned the constitutionality of an act for sterilizing feeble-minded people, 

4 Bedford Cut Stone Company v. Journeymen Stone Cutters' Association, 274 
U.S. 37, 56 (April 11, 1927). Brandeis, J., with Holmes concurring, dis- 
sented from the majority decision that under the Sherman act a strike against 
nonunion materials was unlawful. 



938 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

with due precaution as to which my lad tells me the religious are astir. 
I have just sent what I think to the printer. 1 

The Chief has given me a pretty interesting lot of cases this term and 
I have enjoyed writing them. I am always afraid that he is considering my 
age &c. and giving me easy ones but Brandeis seems to think not. 
Frankfurter's book on Sacco and Vanzetti and the case itself has kicked up 
a commotion and Brandeis says that Beacon Street is divided. Bishop 
Lawrence 2 and others of the elect, like Charley Curtis (jr.) taking the 
side of the accused per contra Bob Grant (ex probate judge and au- 
thor) 3 called yesterday and gave me a moderate statement tending rather 
the other way. The wife appears and summons me to Court. Therefore a 
premature adieu. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Washington, D. C., April 29, 1927 

My dear Laski: You have written delightfully interesting letters to which 
you have received inadequate replies as I have fewer things to tell and, 
as I wrote a day or two ago, have been driven hard and for a few days 
rather below par. I am all right now, but fate is plucking the leaves from 
the old tree rather fast. The day before yesterday came a telegram from 
Mrs. Beveridge telling of her husband's death that morning. And yester- 
day a letter giving me my first news of the death of Lady Castletown one 
of my oldest and most intimate friends. 1 Beveridge was a surprise al- 
though some years ago I got the idea from his doctor that he was running 
the machine too hard. I shall miss him until I am missed. Lady Castle- 
town had had a stroke coming on top of other trouble so that her death 
seemed probably a release, but it makes a great gap in my horizon. It is 
a great fortune for me to have the friendship of some of you younger men. 
Tom Barbour turned up also two days ago far from well but he went on 
to Philadelphia yesterday and I hope will have no serious trouble. Apart 
from events all my ideas are in the law. I have had some rather interesting 
cases the present one, as I believe I mentioned, on the Constitutionality 
of a Virginia act for the sterilizing of imbeciles, which I believe is a 
burning theme. In most cases the difficulty is rather with the writing than 

l Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (May 2, 1927). Holmes, for a majority, sus- 
tained the constitutionality of Virginia's sterilization statute. Butler, J., dis- 
sented without opinion. 

2 Supra, p. 109. 

8 Robert Grant (1852-1940) was later named to the commission appointed 
by Governor Fuller to consider the application for the commutation of the 
sentence on Sacco and Vanzetti. The commission recommended execution of 
the sentence. 

1 Supra, p. 782. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 93 

with the thinking. To put the case well and from time to time to hint ai 
a vista is the job. I am amused (between ourselves) at some of the rhe- 
torical changes suggested, when I purposely used short and rather brutal 
words for an antithesis, polysyllables that made them mad. I am pretty 
accommodating in cutting out even thought that I think important, but a 
man must be allowed his own style. At times I have gone too far in 
yielding my own views as to the reason for the decision. Years ago to 
finish a case that had been dawdled with for many months I struck out 
my reasons and put in what I thought at least inadequate and appear in 
the books as sanctioning what makes me blush. 2 This time, though I had 
said, Never again, I did the same thing in a milder form, and now as then 
have to accept criticism that I think pretty well justified. However, sooner 
or later one gets a chance to say what one thinks. I believe today is our 
last day of argument except one case on Monday. And the so-often- 
expected and near-coming leisure seems to be near at hand. Apart from 
the light stuff that I hear in the late evening I have read nothing, except 
at odd minutes to reread Murray's History of Political Science, which I 
believe you put me on to a good book very ill written. I think I shall 
do some other rereadings when I get the chance. Fred Pollock's Spinoza 
for one and possibly a little of the old man himself. He comes nearer to 
me than most of the old. I am much pleased with your poet. The English 
are more ingenuous and innocent than we, even if capable of deeper 
abysses. And the particular swagger of poets as admitted to deeper in- 
timacy with the cosmos than the rest used to aggravate and now amuses 
me. I gather that your lad was quite young. Probably he will get a jolt 
someday that may open his eyes. I should think you would be curious 
to look up his product. 

How solemnly men have taken themselves. Theology has helped it. If 
there is to be the revival that you for France and Wallas for America 
predict, I hope that a corner-stone will be that speculatively man is in- 
teresting only as part of the cosmos, and that he cannot assume that he is 
specially needed as its confidential friend. The time for departure to Court 
has come and I must say adieu pro tern. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 7.V.27 

My dear Justice: Two most welcome letters from you. They remind me to 
adjure your abdominal organs to behave themselves, I write with the bit- 
terness of one who has been for two days in a diarrhagic coma, the more 
intensely felt because each spasm has been disturbed by the telephone. 
* Supra, p. 901. 



940 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

But much of my pain disappeared on reading Felix's reply to that in- 
credible Wigmore. 1 Nothing is more delightful than a really great surgical 
job. Certainly if I were Wigmore I would turn my attention to lesser 
artists in dissection. 

Life here is rapid because of this Trade Union Bill. I send you a letter 
of mine with which, I think, you will agree; and if it is not a bother, I 
would like you to hand it on to Brandeis. The problems are less interesting 
than settling whether a feeble-minded Virginian is to remain virgin, but, 
as Carlyle said, they make "bonny fechtinY' 

The most pleasant thing since I wrote last was a dinner with Sankey, J. 
to meet three of his colleagues. One, Mackinnon, J. 2 a new man, I found 
delightful for he was a real shark on Jane Austen, Dr. Johnson, and Pepys, 
and made me feel a worm for my ignorance. Another was, I gather, a 
great swell in commercial cases; but he seemed most interested in incomes 
at the Bar, wherefore I led him up the garden gracefully. He said that 
J. Simon was making sixty thousand a year, so I invented a quite imagi- 
nary Bonville-Smith (don't you think Bonville a neat touch) who now 
makes 100,000 and never appears in Court. The others nodded 
solemnly and the poor judge was quite persuaded by the third glass of 
port that he knew of him vaguely, but had no idea he did so well. A 
killing little K.C. was there whose only passion in life was Waterford 
glass. He had been to America twice to see two pieces and had no notion 
that America had anything of interest except these. We talked of cathe- 
drals and mentioned Salisbury. He pointed out that near the Cathedral 
was an antique shop where he got a goblet c. 1776 for eight pounds, Had 
he been to die Cathedral? No; he had not realised it was open on week- 
days. I add an attractive dinner I gave at the School to introduce Church- 
ill to some of my younger colleagues. He was like a great actor playing a 
part. He did it supremely well, and, I think, enchanted them. But he left 
me convinced that a political career is ruinous to one's simplicity. He 
searched always to end a sentence with a climax. He looked for antitheses 
like a monkey looking for fleas. At one time he was so asseverative about 
loyalty to the state that I was tempted and asked him to define what he 
meant by the state. I then fully understood why a wise minister rarely 
answers supplementary questions in die House of Commons. But he is a 
good fellow, incurably romantic and an arresting mind. His tendency to 

a The exchange of letters between Felix Frankfurter and Dean Wigmore 
appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript from April 21 to May 11. Wigmore's 
letters were infected by the petulance of a panicky patriot. See Joughin and 
Morgan, The Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti (1948) 260-262. 

2 Sir Frank Douglas MacKinnon (1871-1946), Judge of the King's Bench 
Division, 1924-1937; Lord Justice of Appeal, 1937-1946; author of On 
Circuit (1940), 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 941 

classify into black and white arises, I suppose from his profession. All 
statesmen are theologians who have not taken holy orders. 

Wallas writes me with enchantment of his visits to you. I gather he has 
been Brahmmlsing at Boston and seeing Felix. I wish you had met his 
wife who is adorable, with a touch of malice that does one's heart good. 
Have you seen Redlich at all? You do not mention him; but I imagine you 
must and have felt, as I, that few minds are richer or more stimulating 
I did not know your friend Lady C. But I must not forget to tell you that 
the other day at Haldane's Mrs. Holmes, please, must hear this, 
Lady Oxford was talking of eyes and said that in the *90's, you had a 
provocative gleam that might easily have tempted her had occasion of- 
fered; and old Lady Horner was emphatic in the same direction. I must 
say that these English friends of years ago have you most vividly in 
memory. 

Your word of Beveridge's death was the first note of it I had seen and 
I was deeply shocked. I thought him not more than fifty-five; and I liked 
him greatly. He was more expansive than I can always grasp, but his 
affection was sincere and his devotion to his job unmistakable. Could 
your secretary put his wife's address on a card for me? I would like to 
send her a note of sympathy. 

In the way of reading, I have little of significance to tell. I have been 
mostly on Rousseau and the hard grind of a big case before the Industrial 
Court where we may make the Government miserable by saying that 
certain classes have been done out of a million. But in books I await in 
trembling excitement for the result of a telegram to Holland. If it comes 
off, I get the book I have searched for since 1912. But I got the catalogue 
at one remove; the book is cheap; the bookseller does not know me; the 
book is searched for; I hardly dare to hope. Yet when I tell myself that 
even if I miss it, the world will still go on, I have a sense that it may be 
less bright than before. To be a book-collector is bad for the heart. But 
what does the heart matter compared to being a collector? 

My love to you both. Get that stomach better, please. Sterilise all the 
unfit, among whom I include all fundamentalists. 

Ever affectionately yours, E. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., May 12, 1927 

My dear Laski: Bad days these for writing or reading (anything but 
cases and certioraris) and I can't send more than a bulletin. When I 
thought my work was done new stuff came pouring in and there has 
been no rest. Your book on Communism came shortly after your letter 
and in crevices of time I have read half of it. It seems to me, if I may 



942 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

say so, that your writing has improved again and I find it deeply interest- 
ing, interesting not only in itself but in suggesting the rationale of the 
differences between us. The deepest no doubt turn on what we like, 
as to which argument is useless but there are also differences in theory. 
I have no respect for the passion for equality, which seems to me merely 
idealizing envy I don't disparage envy but I don't accept it as legiti- 
mately my master. If I am to consider contributions they vary infinitely 
all that any man contributes is giving a direction to force. The architect 
does it on a larger scale than the bricklayer who only sees that a brick is 
laid level. I know no a priori reason why he should not have a greater 
reward. Kant did it on a larger scale than the architect. But you know my 
views on that. I think the robbery of labor by capital is a humbug. The 
real competitors are different kinds of labor. The capitalist by his power 
may turn a part into directions that you deem undesirable but if he 
does he does it because he thinks a body of consumers will want the 
product and he is the best prophet we can get. Some kind of despotism 
is at the bottom of the seeking for change. I don't care to boss my neigh- 
bors and to require them to want something different from what they 
do even when, as frequently, I think their wishes more or less suicidal. 
It is not really theory but a prophecy that the crowd having got the power 
will use it to smash this or that that lays the foundation for much of the 
fundamentally innovating talk. I think it playing with fire and if I were 
not reduced to a nearly exhausted spectator, should say I will take what 
precautions I can and abide the result reminding you that it may be 
you as well as it may be I that is hurt. I should rejoice if as you say you 
had written over your heart "Surtout point de Fenthousiasme." I am 
amused by your currency man I don't know but they are the hatter-est 
kind of social tinkers. I wrote and delivered a decision upholding the con- 
stitutionality of a state law for sterilizing imbeciles the other day and 
felt that I was getting near to the first principle of real reform. I say 
merely getting near. I don't mean that the surgeon's knife is the ultimate 
symbol. Your description of Lanfrey on the Churchmen has its parallels in 
every cult. The abolitionists as I remember used to say that their antago- 
nists must be either knaves or fools. I am glad I encountered that sort of 
thing early as it taught me a lesson. 

Well, dear boy, I wish I could go on but opinions and certioraris are 
waiting to be attended to and this must let me out. My homage to the 
missus. Ajfly yours, 6. W. H. 



Washington, D. C., May 20, 1927 

My dear Laski: (I) Before anything else let me give you the requested 
address of Mrs. Albert J. Beveridge viz. #4164 Washington Boule- 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 943 

yard, Indianapolis, Indiana, or at least that was it a few days ago. I sup- 
pose from the papers that before long she will go to Beverly Farms 
Massachusetts. 

(2) Insides all right. I hope yours are! . . . 

I have had no leisure till the last two days when I have had pleasant 
drives and read Lawrence's book Revolt in the Desert. I asked Wallas 
who has just been here at luncheon what the inducement was. He spoke 
of it as a contribution to the war which of course would make it 
perfectly intelligible but I got the impression of a previously existing 
hobby. Probably I was wrong. I haven't quite finished your book. You 
state the pros and cons fairly but with an implied sympathy for beliefs 
that I believe to be noxious humbugs that grieves me. I feel as if the 
idem sentire de republica tended to become less keen between us. Either 
I am wrong or your present associations and reflections are leading you a 
little further in a direction away from our common ground. Wallas is a 
very pleasant fellow. I do not feel as if increased familiarity meant in- 
creased intimacy but he is cultivated and says a thousand agreeable 
and more or less suggestive things. What an advantage all Europeans have 
in learning so much of our historic environment through their eyes not 
to speak of object lessons in art &c. Of course faculty is more important 
than education but certainly we are heavily handicapped. The melancholy 
of the languid spring and of having finished work for the moment is upon 
me. Luckily I no longer think such things important as I don't think 
man so, except from his own point of view or as part of this universe. If 
the prophecy that Graham Wallas was mentioning of the return of the 
ice cap in 1700 years may be accepted, perhaps it would cool our enthu- 
siasms. 

The afternoon grist of duties comes in and I must turn aside to opin- 
ions and letters to be answered. Then I will sleep and cheer up. 

Affly yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 21.V.27 

My dear Justice: Your letter was indeed a delight; and though I should, 
I think, deny almost the whole of your economic diagnosis as born of a 
philosophy contradicted by the whole trend of modern fact and analysis, 
I enjoyed every word of it. I add that it is at bottom the economics of the 
soldier who accepts a rough equation between isness and oughtness. I 
see no validity in such a creed except upon principles I would deny at 

the stake. 

Life has been a little overwhelming this past fortnight. I have sat on a 
big civil service case in the Industrial Court which has so far occupied 
three days. I have been chairman of a Conciliation Court in the 



944 LASKI TO HOLMES 

Co-operative Industry where, the case being left to me as independent 
arbitrator, I had the satisfaction of establishing the six-day instead of the 
seven-day week for milkmen an obviously desirable change; and I have 
been acting as legal adviser to the trade unions on the present Trade 
Disputes Bill with the advantage of reciting judicial opinions to them and 
their opponents on the unwisdom of words like "intimidation" and "coerc- 
ing the community" drawn from your old Massachusetts opinions. Also I 
had one great adventure with Frida which, psychologically, was most 
interesting. We motored to Cambridge for the day and, on the way back, 
skidded on a slippery road. The steering-gear went wrong and for one 
minute we found ourselves headed straight for a stone wall at the bottom 
of a ditch. It was certain death and in that one minute I found that I 
certainly thought of these things: (I) Was there any danger of Diana 
receiving a religious education from her grandparents? (II) If Frida sur- 
vived me, would I leave enough to make her comfortable? (Ill) Who 
would succeed me in the university? (IV) What a pity I had not finished 
my book on French political ideas? (V) Would people remember to let 
Felix know what had happened? (VI) What a curious contrast between 
an hour ago in Cambridge and this moment. But just as everything 
seemed ended the car turned slightly and grazed the wall on its side 
instead of the front with the result that beyond a slight shock we were 
absolutely untouched and after changing a buckled wheel able to proceed 
home safely. It was intensely interesting even if uncomfortable; and I 
was struck by the rapidity with which the mind went on working, as also 
by the continuity of its operation. So far as I know consciously neither of 
us had any sense of fear; it was rather a sense of fate. The thing was there 
and one simply awaited the result like the fifth act in a drama. 

We saw Chafee in Cambridge and hope to have him here next week. 
I had a good gossip with him about the Law School and found to my 
interest that he shares my doubts of Pound and the illusion of bigness. I 
also had tea with Lowes Dickinson and heard much of the problem of 
the unmarried don after he had passed the meridian an interesting 
issue. Dickinson was very definite that the semi-monasticism of the older 
universities is a mistake. It may, he thinks, suit the great man with a 
40-year magnum opus to finish. But the average don is then conscious of 
powers that begin to sag a little, of new generations pressing on behind, 
of lonely evenings and lonelier vacations; above all, he said, of the inert- 
ness of an institutional routine instead of the freshness of a home. 

One or two things I have read I must mention to you. A remarkable 
American book, which I beg you to take at all costs to Beverly Farms 
Main Currents in American Thought by V. L. Parrington, 2 volumes (Har- 
court) which is, I think, pretty nearly a masterpiece. It is learned, well- 
written, and most stimulating; and it makes America part of the world 



HOLMES TO LASKI 945 

instead of an independent hemisphere. Do please read it and let me have 
your views. Second a Russian novel by one Vieressiev called Deadlock 
which is quite remarkable. It is a study of a tiny town in the Caucasus 
during the Revolution which is taken one day by the Reds and retaken 
the next by the Whites; and it studies the effect of change in the villagers 
and others. I found it extraordinarily illuminating. It bears the obvious 
marks of truth. It is well-translated and gives one a glimpse of an experi- 
ence we ought to know and are never likely to see at first-hand. I read, 
too, the much-vaunted Napoleon by Emile Ludwig. It is something of a 
tour de force and powerfully written. But I found myself wondering 
where Napoleon ended and Ludwig began; and the style in places was 
nothing so much as Mr, Alfred Jingle turned historian. Much more arrest- 
ing was Ducros's Rousseau which comes as near I think to solving that 
enigma as we are likely to get; and it has a chapter on Rousseau and 
religion which is quite masterly. Also I should note a pleasant life of 
Burke by one Bertram Newman, which tells the story pleasantly and 
straightforwardly and has an interesting sketch of political life in 18th 
century England. It has no apergu of its own but it is a good bed book in 
its way. 

My love to you both. You must be pining for Beverly Farms. 

Ever yours affectionately, H. J. L. 



Postscript, Washington, D. C., May 21, 192? 

My dear Laski: Another day has come I have finished your book and 
I don't feel quite so seedy as I did yesterday wherefore this p.s. Of 
course I appreciate what you and Keynes say, that the Russian Com- 
munism is a religion and therefore cannot be expected to be just. But I 
don't see why sympathetic understanding should be confined to one side. 
Capitalism may not be a religion but it commands a fighting belief on its 
side and I don't at all agree to describing its tyrannies with resentment, 
as coming from bad men when you gloss those on the other side. I think 
that most of the so-called tyrannies of capital express the economic neces- 
sities created by the pressure of population a pressure for which capi- 
talism is not responsible and for which communism has offered no remedy. 
If I praised or blamed (which I don't) either one, I should blame the 
communists as consciously and voluntarily contemplating their despotism 
whereas on the other side it is largely unconscious and the automatic re- 
sult of the situation. I may add that class for class I think the one that 
communism would abolish is more valuable contributes more, a great 
deal more, than those whom Communism exalts. For as I said the other 
day, the only contribution that any man makes that can't be got more 
cheaply from the water and the sky is ideas the immediate or remote 



946 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

direction of energy which man does not produce, whether it comes from 
his muscles or a machine. Ideas come from the despised bourgeoisie not 
from labor. With which I shut up and go for a capitalistic drive from 
which I hope some little joy. 

We look at our fellow men with sympathy but nature looks at them as 
she looks at flies and some of her dealings are hard but should not be 
attributed to those who from the accident of position happen to be her 
instruments. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 29.V.27 

My dear Justice: Your letter was a delight indeed. And even though I see 
a real disparity between us on intellectual problems, I can't say I greatly 
mind. For your scepticism drives me back each time on first principle 
which is an admirable thing for me. A good deal of our difference is, I 
think, due to our different civilisations. You are living amid a system 
where the classic principles of capitalism still work successfully, I amid 
one where the growing inadequacy of that machine is most obvious. In 
the result you, broadly, are satisfied, I, broadly, dissatisfied with the classic 
economics. You see a general adequacy which makes you believe in eco- 
nomic liberty; I see a general inadequacy which makes me believe in 
economic equality. We are looking at different materials and drawing, 
naturally, different results from their contemplation. I add that I think 
you have not taken account of an immense new body of experience in 
economic matters, and that you do not allow enough for necessary modifi- 
cation of economic principle as it meets that new experience. Also, I think, 
you are over-occupied with pure theory and make quite insufficient allow- 
ance for a friction which makes pure theory relatively negligible in its 
operative influence. However, one day I shall set this all down at length 
in a short book and then, I hope, I shall drive you to revise your first 
principles. And I add (not without malicious joy) a reminder of your 
young friend's warning about building philosophies on fears rather than 
hopes. 1 

I have been fearfully busy this last week. A big case in the Industrial 
Court took two days from me; I had to lunch with MacDonald and talk 
to him about our Trade Union Bill and we had a dinner for Chafee of the 
Law School to meet some judges and politicians. Add to this a report I 
have been asked to do for the Inter-Parliamentary Union 2 and you will 
guess that I have not slumbered. But there have been joys on the side. 
Felix's second dose to Wigmore gave me pleasure. I cannot make out 

1 Supra, p. 9. 

2 "The Present Evolution of the Parliamentary System," Inter-Parliament art} 
Bulletin for 1927 (n.d.), 81. y 



1927] LASO TO HOLMES 947 

what has happened to the latter, for he is not usually so ignorant or so 
absurd. And a letter from a madman in a workhouse who wrote to me 
that having just read my Communism he thought he ought to inform me 
that he was an illegitimate brother of Karl Marx was not without its 
pungency. I was afraid he might come to see me, but, so far, Providence 
has been kind. Also I had a delightful lunch with Sankey, J. who told me 

a good story of who has wangled himself on what grounds I 

do not know into being called a K.C. wherefore in the Temple, on 
account of his inability to get a brief, he is known as the "artificial silk." 
Sankey also told me that on a recent Assize he and his colleague dined 
with a nouueau riche who had gold plate on the table. The judges care- 
fully refrained from comment and the host's face grew longer and longer. 
At last, when the ladies had left, the poor man could stand it no longer 
and burst out, "I suppose it would need diamonds before you gentlemen 
would lower yourselves to make a kind remark." 

In the way of reading not much of special excitement. Best of all, 
Ducros's Rousseau which is at once the most sensible and learned discus- 
sion I know and a well-told tale. And he interested me in that he was the 
first person I have read on R. who makes out an intelligible case for 
Therese Levasseur. Also he summarised admirably the whole issue be- 
tween R. and Voltaire where, I think, most people go wrong. I don't really 
think it is possible to doubt that Voltaire's Sentiments (Tun citoyen did 
provoke Rousseau's insanity, and, also, the writing of the Confessions. If 
it is available I think Ducros would give you pleasure down at Beverly. I 
have been reading pari passu with this the lesser known things of Rous- 
seau such as the Letter to Beaumont and the Reveries. The first is surely 
controversy at its highest level and makes you feel the genius of Rousseau 
as nothing else I know; the second, emotionally, overwhelmed me and 
was especially fascinating because of the resemblance of its essence to 
Wordsworth. I wish I had an extra life, or a year's leave, to write a book 
about Rousseau; there is so much that could be usefully said that is no- 
where in the literature. Especially I should like to show the relation of 
his philosophy to that of Burke and how the two men converged to form 
one stream of influence in the 19th century. 

My bookhunting, I regret to say, has been a series of gloomy tragedies. 
I missed the book from Holland by a day. I missed a Bentham on which 
I bid at auction by five shillings through trusting a bookseller (who 
bought it for himself) instead of bidding in person. I missed, also, a very 
cheap set of the English Reports (70 pounds) at a country sale where I 
could not go. The only relief is the prospect of our summer holiday in 
the Savoy Alps which means that I can get to Geneva, Berne and Lau- 
sanne which always yield fruit unobtainable elsewhere. On the whole, the 
English shops yield but little nowadays and they have become (thanks 



948 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

to Americans and Japanese) very expensive, But I still hunt cheerfully 
and the actual joy of the chase is certainly as keen as ever I have known 
it. 

I am sending you separately a little French book on beggars which may 
amuse you. I don't know if you have ever looked at the contemporary 
Tudor literature-on the topic, e.g. Awdelay's Confraternitie of Vagabonds, 
or if you know the delightful book of Aydelote's Elizabethan Rogues and 
Vagabonds. If not, the temptation of the title ought to be strong, and it is 
every whit as good as the title. And I do beg of you to read at all costs 
and come what may Helen WaddelTs The Wandering Scholars which is 
the most wholly delightful, and original book on the middle ages pub- 
lished in the last generation. If you will but get it and begin you will 
arise and call me thrice blessed for having been its sponsor. And do not 
forget Parrington's Main Currents of American Thought of which I spoke 
last week. That is really arresting and instructive. 

My love warmly to you both. Heretic though I am I find that my eyes 
look still to 1720 as the centre of my Transatlantic affections. 

Ever devotedly yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., June 1, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your letter is the last or last but one that will find me here 
if all goes as we expect. Boston 8th, Beverly Farms the Saturday or Mon- 
day following. Of course the first thing is your escape and your reflections 
in the moment of imminent death. They do not surprise me as I have had 
several experiences of that sort, and always have found that when you 
are in the trap it seems perfectly natural and you think on that footing. 
But it changes in a flash if you see a chance to get out. You put well a 
philosophic rather than economic difference between us. I do accept "a 
rough equation between isness and oughtness," or rather I don't know 
anything about oughtness except Cromwell's a few poor gentlemen 
have put their lives upon it. You respect the rights of man I don't, 
except those things a given crowd will fight for which vary from reli- 
gion to the price of a glass of beer. I also would fight for some things 
but instead of saying that they ought to be I merely say they are part 
of the kind of a world that I like or should like. You put your ideals or 
prophecies with the slight superior smile of the man who is sure that he 
has the future (I have seen it before in the past from the abolitionists 
to Christian Science) and it may be so. I can only say that the reasoning 
seems to me inadequate and if it comes to force I should put my [illegi- 
ble] on the other side. 

I am glad at what you say about Pound and his illusion of bigness. I 
never have contributed until a few days ago, when my secretary said they 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 949 

have got Pound's money but really need some to pay professors and do 
some building, whereat I sent $100 and some doubts whether I was 
right especially at this moment. I understand that owing to the hold-up 
just before Congress adjourned and the failure to pass necessary bills our 
salary will not be paid this month or next so that I am calculating a 
little closely so as not to have to borrow. I presume it will all come in 
later with a rush, but the interruption is unpleasant. 1 

June 2. A new and pleasant day has come. My work is done and I am 
divided between the business of packing one small trunk to be sent to 
Beverly Farms and presently going out in a motor with my wife. When 
in doubt let pleasure prevail over duty. One of the ways in which I avail 
myself of my limited plutocratic advantages is to send my trunk by express 
rather than have the bother of taking it with me and sending it on from 
Boston. Yet I have scruples. I wouldn't, I think, smoke dollar cigars. To be 
sure I am content with 12 cent ones, but I think I wouldn't even if I 
wanted them, on the ground that I ought not to avail myself of my power 
to levy that tax on the total stream of products. You see we of the ex- 
terminand class have some conscience. I have had my drive and luncheon 
at Rauscher's as our women have left. Do you know how beautiful the 
Potomac is? We often drive up to the Chain Bridge some miles up 
cross and come down on the other side or return on our steps. I wish I 
could go on to Ball's Bluff where over 65 years ago I climbed those banks 
but I doubt if I ever shall. 25 years of wishing have gone by and it 
does not grow easier except in the roads and means of travel. In a few 
minutes when the victuals have settled I will turn to my modest packing. 

I have made a note of your Parrington Book on American Thought for 
Beverly Farms. Also Morley's Diderot. So I shall have something to read 
at once beside my own volume of opinions which it is a first task to page 
and index. I am pleased with this year. Apropos of your talk with Dickin- 
son about the dons, I think Leslie Stephen used to speak of those who 
lived on the reputation of a book that they were going to write. 

"Weft fire away my lad I wish that we didn't diverge as much as 
we seem to but I am afraid that I am no less convinced than you. 
Everyone thinks that he can account for the opposite convictions of his 
neighbor. Affectionately yours, O, W. Holmes 



Beverly Farms, June 14, 1927 

My dear Laski: This paper marks the arrival at Beverly Farms and the 
receipt of a letter from you, which leads me to say a word more about 
our differences. I don t profess to know anything practically theory is 

x ln March a Senate filibuster had prevented the adoption of the Urgent 
Deficiencies Bill. 



950 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

all that I can bring even to the law. But theory sometimes leads one to 
keep in mind fundamental facts that one more versed in detail may for- 
get. You speak of an immense new body of experiences Hum have 
you had it? The modern books that I have read have seemed to me drool 
on their theoretic side. But if you should say that you are dealing empir- 
ically with an empirical case I should listen respectfully. For I perfectly 
admit that if you have the power on your side and find that present ar- 
rangements cause you a discomfort that you can shift to somebody else, 
you probably will do so and I should bow to the way of the world. I 
thought, however, that you also were theorizing and stating or intimat- 
ing things that you deemed ultimately desirable and evidently what 
you desire and what I desire are appreciably different. So we will put up 
hedges to keep the unpleasing out of sight. When you write your book 
that you think can upset my theories I will read it if I still am going 
but you seem to be a trifle cock-sure. 

I wish I had had your book-talk before I left Washington as I have 
a good book of which I forget the name, author and almost the theme, 
which deals with the rogues in literature. I'm afraid I shall not receive 
your little French book until I get back as only letters are forwarded. 
I make a note of Helen Waddell The Wandering Scholars and will try 
for it. I couldn't set eyes on Parrington while in Boston it had been 
taken out from the Athenaeum. The Corner Book Store didn't have it and 
I didn't want to order it without inspection. I may try again later but 
I want to begin and for a few days have no piece de resistance. I brought 
down a little book, Pourtales's La vie de Franz Liszt which I haven't 
finished. The portrait of him as a young man is loathly and I bet he 
didn't smell good but Liszt and Wagner are noble and impressive. 
They care more for art than for themselves. Perhaps that is true of all 
who work with an ideal, and no doubt those gents are a little theatrical. 
I will wait until I finish the book to see what I think of the subject. I get 
the impression that the ladies who tumbled to him were facile, as were 
those of Casanova, given certain preliminaries in his case music and 
fame. But I should judge that he did his anti-Malthusian damnedest 
which reminds me Fred Pollock speaks of Saint Jane (Austen). I shall 
speak of Saint Malthus. Affectionately yours, O. W, H. 



Devon Lodge, 5.VI.27 

My dear Justice: Since I wrote last, I have had a stroke of ill luck; for I 
had a bad dose of influenza whence, I do not know with the result 
that the last week has passed mournfully in bed. However, I am up and 
about again; and at least I have had a good dose of books in bed. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 951 

Of them the most interesting has been Gibbon whom I took in at the 
rate of a volume a day in Bury's edition. The effect is really overwhelm- 
ing. He has a poise, a sureness of foot, and a rationality which make you 
forgive him everything. And the sweep of the thing is beyond words. I 
was very moved by Bury's notes; for he makes it clear that, the Eastern 
Empire apart, it is detail rather than principle that modern criticism cor- 
rects; and that, after 150 years, is a thing that cannot be said of any other 
eighteenth century work. Then I read a charming thing on Mabillon and 
the Benedictines by de Broglie an exquisite picture of an exquisite 
cenacle of scholarship. The controversy between Mabillon and Ranee is 
most attractively done. 1 Probably, like so much French work, the outlines 
are too lucid; but it is a book one can read comfortably with the sense 
that a number of instincts are simultaneously satisfied. I read also Emer- 
son's essays in the Morley selection I must add with greater pleasure 
by far than I expected. There is really poetry in him, and amid much 
sententiousness a good deal finely observed and even more finely said; 
and the famous bit at Harvard showed that he was not merely clerical 
in temper. Also a fascinating book on Robespierre a defence of him 
by Albert Mathiez who is now, after Aulard, the most learned man on the 
Revolution. I can't say I find the defence convincing; but I think Mathiez 
explains his man better than others. For after all if R. had been only 
what Morley makes him out to be he could never have beaten Danton. 

I have been amusing myself, too, by reading a good deal of old Hobbes, 
with what pleasure you can imagine. One thing struck me most forcibly 
and that is that in explaining him nothing has been made in the books of 
the really obvious fact that his view of human nature is simply Calvinism 
set down in naturalistic instead of supernatural terms; and that anyone 
who reads the old Arminian controversy will perceive without much diffi- 
culty where he got his notions from especially as we know how in- 
terested in it he was. And that leads me to the further reflection that not 
a little of the explanation of the Calvinist view is that it provided a basis 
for controlling human nature in that period when the exuberance of the 
Renaissance and the "follow your impulse" theories of Luther had re- 
leased it from bondage and tended, accordingly, to make it a dangerous 
thing from the standpoint of government. Also I add the reflection that 
too much is made of the singularity of Hobbes's view. In the secular field 
abroad he is very akin in substance to La Rochefoucauld (whom he prob- 

1 Jean Mabillon (1632-1707), Benedictine scholar, challenged by Le 
Bouthillier de Ranee (1626-1700), the abbot of La Trappe, to defend the 
studies in which Maurists were engaged, published his Traite des etudes mo- 
nastiques (1691) and Reflexions sw la reponse de M. L'abbe de la Trappe 
(1691-92). 



952 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

ably knew) and the Jansenists, whose works he had probably read. In 
fact I should like to see an essay on Hobbes's contemporaries pointing 
out how greatly he reflects a very general environment and transcends it 
only in his ability to get rid of a good deal of theological rubbish. 

You can imagine that I was delighted to see that the Governor of 
Massachusetts had appointed a commission to enquire into the Sacco- 
Vanzetti case Lowell, I imagine, would be fair; and I think you have 
some confidence in Judge Grant though I remember that at the time of 
the Harvard inquisition into me he tended to look upon radicals as noxious 
insects. The other man I do not know even by name. 2 But a reading of 
Felix's book ought to lead them to the salient points and result in a full 
pardon. It would be terrible to have an unsatisfactory ending with the 
Mooney case so recently before the attention of Europe. 

I have been able to buy one or two pleasant things from catalogues. 
The nicest is a fine eighteenth century Locke in 4 vast quartos and bound 
by Roger Payne. 3 It looks most ample and the correspondence is singu- 
larly attractive on a big page with margins wide enough for annotation. 
Then I got, too, a 3 volume collection of the Remonstrances of the Parlia- 
ment of Paris in the 18th Century which is extraordinarily revealing. For 
it shows conclusively how absolutely abhorrent to them was the Ency- 
clopedist Movement. In their way these lawyers were as prejudiced, as 
narrow, and as ignorant as the priests. Their hostility to reform makes one 
wonder not why the Revolution came but however it came to be post- 
poned for so long. 

We have just arranged our summer holiday, We propose to go to 
Argentiere, a tiny place at the foot of Mont Blanc and half an hour from 
Chamonix. Sankey, J., who knows it, is lyrical about it, and it appears 
from photographs to have scenery beyond words. Do you know the 
French Alps at all? I like the idea of the place as it is only 2 hours from 
Geneva and I can go and pillage what are, from my standpoint, the three 
best bookshops in Europe, which I have been aching to see again since 
I was there last year. There is one place especially where one can spend 
the day going through 17 and 18th centuiy political philosophy in perfect 
comfort and one's finds are limited only by one's pocket. And it is near 
Grenoble where there is a shop I have never seen. This to me is a lyric 
and I assume that the prospect even at 3500 miles makes your heart qud 
hunter beat a shade faster. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

9 Samuel W. Stratton (1861-1931), physicist and President of the Massa- 
chusetts Institute of Technology, was the third member of the Advisory Com- 
mission which Alvan T. Fuller (1878- ) had appointed on June 1 

3 Roger Payne (1739-1797), London's eccentric bookbinder whose work was 
notable for the originality of its design. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 953 

Devon Lodge, 19.V1.26 [sic] 

My dear Justice: I think I envy you a little the peace and quiet of Beverly 
Farms. Since I wrote last life has been a heavy round of necessary jobs 
unavoidably to be done. First the wearisome business of correcting exami- 
nation papers. Then three hard days at the Industrial Court on an ex- 
traordinarily complicated case where neither counsel nor witnesses were 
very helpful. Then a couple of outside lectures long promised. Finally a 
report for the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the prospects of Parliamen- 
tary Government. 1 But there have been compensations. First a splendid 
talk with Redlich who came here to dinner. It rejoiced my heart to hear 
of his enthusiasm for Felix; and hardly less to know that he thought (as I 
think) that Mcllwain is the best man in the college. He takes very much 
our view of Pound, and (entre nous) was not very impressed by the new 
plans for the Law School. 2 Redlich is a brilliant fellow 1 do not know 
five people who talk better than he does and he made me feel in the 
case of my half-dozen ultimate friends in America that my heart has not 
misled my intellect. -How could one help liking a fellow like that. Then 
Gooch turned up and gave me an account of his American Odyssey. It 
was interesting that Harvard to him meant Felix, Haskins, Mcllwain. 
Pound he thought learned, but felt that he let the scaffolding obscure the 
building; and intellectually he thought Morris Cohen the ablest academic 
mind (including Whitehead) he encountered. So all my swans really are 
swans and I throw my hat up to heaven! 

Of reading a little. Beard's two vast volumes for the business of a re- 
view. 3 I thought them interesting because they arranged reams of fact 
that I had not had arranged before in my mind; but I had the impression 
of disappointment one might have in visiting a place and finding that 
the photographs had told one all one wanted to know. On the other hand 
T. R. Glover Democracy in the Ancient World I do warmly recommend. 
It is a fascinating and beautifully written pendant to Zimmern's book 
written by a real scholar who is yet no pedant. If that comes your way, 
please do not let it pass by. I read, also with great pleasure, the two 
volumes of Michelet on Louis XIV 4 which are like Carlyle at his best 
not over-zealous for accuracy, a passionate partisan, but emphatically a 
man who knows how to get hold of a period and explain what it is about. 
And finally with sheer delight though with grave doubt as to whether it 

1 See, supra, p. 946. 

*The reference is probably to a new program of graduate research which 
was to be facilitated by the expansion of the school's buildings. 

* Laski reviewed Charles and Mary Beard's The Rise of American Civilization 
(2 vols., 1927) in 41 Nation and Athenaeum 584 (July 30, 1927). 

* Volumes XIII and XIV of Jules Michelet's Histoire de France ( 17 vols., 
1852-67) are concerned with the reign of Louis XIV. 



954 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

is true, Miss Harrison's Themis which gives you the excitement of going 
over a mountain on a Ford; you don't know what is going to happen to 
you next, but the view is superb while it lasts. 

I was amused to hear that Congress has defaulted over the judicial 
salaries, 5 What exactly is the technical position? In view of the guarantee 
that judicial salaries shall not be reduced in the holder's life I don't under- 
stand why there isn't the analogy to our Consolidated Fund which would 
make them run on, whatever happened to the more questionable problems 
of expenditure. But it must be extraordinarily inconvenient if Congress 
often has fits of the kind! I remember well when I was at McGill Uni- 
versity with a salary (God save the mark!) of fifteen hundred dollars that 
the last week of each month was a nightmare through the fear that some 
extra expenditure we had not allowed for might turn up. One awful 
month Frida was ill and we had the choice between paying the doctor's 
bill and the rent. Luckily I remembered that I had in London an etching 
of Seymour Haden's and we sent home a night letter ordering it to be 
sold and the proceeds telegraphed to us. We just scraped through, but I 
decided then that debts are die child of the devil and, apart from one 
book account, I have always paid cash on the excellent principles laid 
down by our friend Micawber. That reminds me, by the way, that there 
is an admirable piece at one of the theatres here called When Crummies 
Flayed. They have dug up a play of his period and put it on as he might 
have done it with his company beginning with a prologue in which 
Mrs. Crummies recites "The Blooddrinker's Burial." It is really gorgeous 
and one gets the real flavour of Nicholas Nickleby from a quite new angle. 

Our love to you both. Give my greetings to Rockport. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, June 16, 1927 

My dear Laski: The little French book was sent on and I have just opened 
it and read your letter. Both delight me. I do envy your book hunting 
and I sympathize with what you say of Gibbon although he told me 
nothing that I wanted to know. I was equally impressed with his greatness 
and with the changes in the emphasis of our interests. On themes of 
perennial interest the Roman Law and Christianity I should think 
from what I remember that he was behind the times, now. I have finished 
the little book on Liszt. You would read it in 2 hours. He was great in 
his treatment of Wagner, and women seem to have offered themselves to 
him up to the end. The writer treats him as a great originator in music. 
Of that I know not but I do not believe that music is the highest ex- 
pression of man. Do you? I have just received from the old Corner Book 
5 Supra, p. 949. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 955 

Store, Hasldns, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century and Motley's 
Diderot I expect pleasure at least from the last, Haskins in his first 
few pages seems rather verbose in explaining that the changes of history 
are not accurately adjusted to centuries but I have only peeked into 
him. Also I doubt if he writes very well but eminent authorities are 
cited in the advertisement to show that he is a swell on his theme. Also 
the book is from the Harvard University Press. Why is it that the literary 
style is so different from that of talk? I am apt to hear the words as I 
read (which shows, I should think, that I am a slower reader than you) 
and the literary style makes them seem unreal. I don't see why men should 
not write in the same rhythm as they talk. Owen Wister once told me 
that a sentence of mine puzzled him until he read it aloud as he thought 
I should and then he understood it. Which I am far from quoting to my 
credit but my prejudice remains. 

I have received two copies of an English paper The Commonweal 1 
which no doubt you have seen, and which simplifies the problems of life. 
"The rent of land belongs to the people; the first duty of government is 
to collect it and abolish all taxation" People for the most part believe 
what they want to their postulates are rooted in their total experience 
and life. Those of us who flatter ourselves that we have intellectual de- 
tachment only get one story lower in our personality and in the end 
are trying to make the kind of world we should like I doubt if I should 
like the world desired by The Commonweal. 

I haven't said a word about the great excitement of these parts Lind- 
bergh. What pleases me is that one hears no detracting word genius 
provokes envy but when a man bets his life on his own skill and cour- 
age and wins the bet against long odds no one can do anything but praise. 
We came away just before the Washington reception our passage was 
engaged long beforehand and all arrangements made, so we didn't 
change. I am content to admire at a distance. I am as nearly idle as I 
can be and enjoying beautiful days and beautiful country as much as 
it is in me to enjoy such things. Later I expect to diversify with certioraris. 
Them we have always with us. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 28. VII. [sic] 27 [28 June 1927] 

My dear Justice: It is good to know that you are settled in at Beverly F. 
and, as your letter suggests, in fine fighting trim. My mind at the moment 
is a little full of anxiety about Sacco and Vanzetti and I shall be glad 
when the next week is past and their future is certain. Otherwise my 
spirit has been given sustenance by the decision of the Government here 

1 The periodical was edited by J, W. Graham Peace for the Commonwealth 
Land Party. 



956 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

to reform the House of Lords on the worst possible method. 1 That is one 
of the few subjects I really know something about and I can, I hope, add 
a little to political wisdom anent it. 

Life has been most busy since I wrote last. Exam papers, candidates for 
the doctorate, a new assistant to replace a young colleague who has gone 
to a better job, and dinner with Haldane and Graham Wallas. With the 
former good legal gossip of the kind you know well; and with the latter 
some first hand news of you and much explanation of why he is peculiarly 
valuable to Americans. He is a good soul but I think more incurably self- 
centred than any man I have ever met. He told me with simple honesty 
that he had done for this generation what Bentham did for the early 19th 
century and I hadn't the heart to be other than credulous. He selected as 
the important Americans people who seem to me quite irrelevant; and he 
expatiated on the theme that organisation produces the great thinker 
which I cannot possibly believe. Organisation will develop the great man's 
hypothesis, but it certainly does not produce the great man. And I must 
add a visit to York to speak where I saw the Cathedral bathed in moon- 
light one of the most exquisite sights I have ever seen. 

In reading, mainly Beard's two vast tomes on America, badly written 
and full of irritating clicMs but immensely suggestive, and a couple of 
volumes of Hazlitt which gain especially Winterslow by rereading. 
Also a not uninteresting German novel by Thomas Mann called The 
Magic Mountain rather long but with apergus which made it worth the 
adventure. 

Americans are beginning to turn up. Harvey Davis, 2 a Harvard physi- 
cist was the first, a clever and attractive fellow buried in thermodynamics 
and emphatic that Henry Adams's ignorance of the second law of the 
same was quite devastatingly complete. Then Notestein from Cornell, a 
first-rate archivist who is editing D'Ewes' Journals and is full of curious 
lore upon parliamentary procedure in the 17th century. Of others I must 
not omit a charming American instructor who explained that he could 
only stay a fortnight but would like to be put on to a little problem about 
which he could put an essay into one of the learned journals. I explained 

1 In late June the government had indicated its intention at an early date 
to propose reforms in the constitution of the House of Lords. The plan as 
outlined would have reduced the size of the Upper House, made provision for 
the choice of a part of its members by the House itself, and given the recon- 
stituted body a share in the enactment of revenue measures. To the Labour 
opposition, and to many Conservatives, the reforms as outlined seemed to be 
designed to frustrate democratic government and to serve as a means of 
forestalling socialism. 

2 Harvey Nathaniel Davis (1881- ); Professor of Mechanical Engineer- 
ing, Harvard University, 1912-1928; President of Stevens Institute of Tech- 
nology, 1928 to date. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 957 

that I had no suggestions to make so we talked, and learning that he 
was interested in Bentham I suggested that Bentham's Constitutional 
Code needed reprinting with an introduction. He did not know of it; but 
by the time he is ready to leave I am sure he will have it done for he 
set to work on it like a body of mechanics assembling a Ford car. Nor 
must I omit a Chinese Christian who was returning to take up a professor- 
ship in China where he would teach Sociology, Chemistry and pastoral 
theology. Who can doubt the elasticity of the human mind? 

Of book-hunting I have done none, alas, for I reserve my money and 
my energies for Geneva. I did, indeed, at York pick up a copy of the not 
infrequent Testament of Colbert which had belonged to Mme. La Pompa- 
dour and was so bound that one caught the atmosphere of the lady pretty 
1 clearly; and I bought there for a guinea a fine mezzotint of Reynolds' 
Burke which seemed, if the dealer was honest, to be the second (and best 
state). But these were trifling asides. 

I had an interesting dinner here of half-a-dozen young Tories from the 
House which I wish you could have attended. Two of them were really 
able, and defended their creed with something of the gusto of Thrasyma- 
chus. Two were traditionalists who wanted the eighteenth century back 
and thought of the Rockingham Whigs as the best in English history. One 
was a fire-eating Fascist whose simple remedy for discontent was the wall 
and the firing-squad. The other was a Disraelite Tory who was nearer to 
me in sympathies than many of my own party and about as attractive 
as they make them. They were most pleasant lads who still retain a good 
deal of that noblesse oblige which is so very attractive at its best. 

Other news, for the moment, I must postpone. College, heaven be 
praised, ends this week, and then I can settle down to reading and some 
writing, and a greater stability of date in writing to you than has been 
possible in this ghastly term. Tomorrow, I add, is my birthday and I 
spend it doing Quaritch thoroughly. 

My love to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 1, 1927 

My dear Laski: This morning there comes a delightful and desired letter 
from you busy about many things to me as near idle as I can be. I have 
read little the most serious book: Morley's on Diderot. Morley seems 
to me a razor not a sting and the finest edge of his thought a little 
blunted by respectability. I did Haskins, The Renaissance in the Twelfth 
Century a great wrong by the first impression that I told you of. I 
found him very interesting and instructive although already it seems 
years since I finished the volume. Yet I believe my last letter answering 
your last, was written as I was beginning it. It seems as if I had men- 



958 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

tioned The Road to Xanadu I can't have. I didn't read the whole of it 
but the best 100 pages, a search into the materials for "Kubla Khan ' in 
what Coleridge had been reading is an admirable bit of work. Not a name, 
not a thought, hardly an adjective that is not traced, so that all that was 
needed was a dream, opinion and genius and the writer fully appre- 
ciates the genius needed to produce the poem. Then a French tale 
La nuit kurde, by Bloch of which I do not see much use, depicting the 
melodramatic doings of a young warrior, of which it is enough to mention 
his emulating a spider by screwing a woman while he killed her by biting 
and, put in as an extra, chewing her throat. Then a few pages in a long 
book about a woman who writes would-be poetry and tales by the ouija 
board. 1 Pretty much drool to my mind but exciting the admiration of 
the commentator. It is a comment on man when he absorbs himself in 
a system or an atmosphere Catholicism Hegel Spiritualism it 
doesn't matter what, he soon loses all relation to outside standards, and 
becomes a satellite of the sun around which the system turns. I don't 
see how we can help smiling at ourselves so arbitrary, irrational and 
despotically given are our ultimates. I feel as if I were wasting my 
patrimony when I am not producing articulate words and merely re- 
ceiving impressions that lose their form when I turn my back. An artist 
would feel just the opposite each yielding to a compulsion of nature 
as he yields to the outside world, and having no better justification than 
that he desires to live. Why? Why do I desire to win my game of solitaire? 
A foolish question, to which the only answer is that you are up against it. 
Accept the inevitable and do your damnedest. Meantime I do receive 
impressions in my daily drives that are full of charm and that at least 
enrich life if they don't enrich me. I can't get it quite straight in my 
memory whether Redlich came to us last winter but I agree to all 
that you say about him. Frankfurter and Mrs. called the other day and 
gave me much pleasure. His Progress Report of Harvard Survey of Crime 
and Law in Boston impresses me greatly and makes me believe when 
heretofore I have been a sceptic. I should rejoice if he produced what 
promises (at least to my ignorance) to be a great and noble work. I had 
only a glimpse of Gooch and wished that I had seen more but I sup- 
pose he was busy and so my talk ends in the doubtful hope that this will 
catch tomorrow's boat. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 9.VIL27 

My dear Justice: It has been a hectic fortnight since I wrote last. One of 
my young assistants resigned; and I have been chasing round the universi- 
ties to find a suitable successor. Also I have been busy helping the Labour 
1 Probably Walter Franklin Prince, The Case of Patience Worth (1927). 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 959 

Party to draft a scheme for the reform of the House of Lords. 1 That has 
taken time, and has been a finicky business even though it has been most 
interesting. In the way of pleasure certainly the most pleasant thing was 
to be a guest at the annual dinner of the Society of Teachers of Law. 2 
Sumner and Tomlin 3 were the other guests and, especially the former, 
they made admirable speeches. Sumner has a most attractively dry wit; 
and his observations on the new Law of Property Act and on the relations 
of bench and bar were brilliant. One remark of Tomlin's amused me, that 
lawyers were to commerce what barnacles were to a rock. F. Pollock was 
to have been the chief guest, but he took ill as you will probably know; 
and it was very moving to hear the quality of the tributes paid to him in 
sending him good wishes. We have had one or two dinner parties here for 
the American tourists, of whom certainly the best-looking and much the 
most pleasant was Freda Kirchwey, 4 the sister of your old favourite, 
Dorothy La Rue Brown. Of the others I did not make very much; though 
I must in due decency add that they were all upright and purposive gents 
determined to see all whom they could see and more. One was so moved 
by my library that I had to part him forcibly from a copy of Jurieu's 
Lettres pastorales for which he had been searching for years. Another 
offered to publish my Mill mss with notes by himself as he was looking 
for suitable material. One professional wife (from Colorado) was quite 
wonderful. She told Frida that she did not like the West as "the social 
tone was low"; and on enquiry, it appeared that she herself derived from 
the upper reaches of Fort Wayne, Indiana! Oh God! O Montreal! Another 
visitor was a Frenchman who had some trouble with his digestive organs 
and was deeply interested in their operations. Introduced to a lady he 
explained to her in charmingly broken English his difficulties as thus: 
"Lobster I vomit much; shrimps, a tiny vomit; strawberries, oh so sick; 
chicken pleasant and quiet; p&che Melba enormous vomit," until I, a 
generous soul, came to the lady's relief by side-tracking him on to Mon- 
taigne which was his other hobby. 

In the way of reading I have not been able to do much. I read the new 
volume of McMaster 5 with some enlightenment in detail but not much 
in principle. He seemed to me to neglect all the essential problems for 

1 See supra, pp. 955-956. Laski wrote briefly of the proposed reform of the 
House of Lords in "Present Tendencies in British Politics/' 51 New Republic 
192 (July 13,1927). 

2 See Journal of the Society of Public Teachers of Law, 1928, p. 63. 

8 Thomas James Cheshyre Tomlin (1867-1935), Baron Tomlin, Judge of the 
Chancery Division, 1923-1929; Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, 1929-1935. 

4 Freda Kirchwey (1893- ) was managing editor of The Nation, 1922- 
1928, and since 1937 has been its editor and publisher. 

6 John Bach McMaster, A History of the People of the United States during 
Lincoln's Administration (1927). 



960 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

the sake of conveying elegant chit-chat, I re-read after years Tom Jones 
with perfectly unrestrained delight quite easily the greatest novel of 
the 18th century; and Squire Western is certainly one of the mighty 
triumphs of fiction. I read too a most interesting novel about India An 
Indian Day by E. Thompson which Knopf publishes in New York. I think 
you and Mrs. Holmes would find it a good book for solitaire-reading for 
it's a first-rate story and its portraits ring true. In the way of work books 
nothing very much. Felix sent me a book on administrative law dedicated 
to him and Pound by one John Dickinson, whom I do not otherwise 
know, but he seemed to me to say in 400 pages what he could fairly 
easily have said in forty; and he cited authorities to prove statements so 
obvious that one got thoroughly bored. In a very different line I thor- 
oughly enjoyed a book by one Carcasone Montesquieu et la constitution 
jrangaise au XVIIIme siede which, though too long, was thoroughly in- 
teresting as showing (I) the sources of Montesquieu and (II) the direct 
French influence up to 1790. It's the kind of book for which one is grate- 
ful partly because the job doesn't have to be done again and partly be- 
cause the fellow saves one much and reasoning [sic] by careful summaries 
of forgotten books. I add that he suggested to me that a French bluestock- 
ing of the period (Mile. Lezardiere) 6 sounds like a disciple who would 
richly repay investigation. Also a charming book on Diderot by Ducros 
which without novelties put its points forcibly and well. Oh! I must not 
forget a new life of Brougham by Aspinwall which put that extraordinary 
person in the clearest imaginable light; with an unforgettable picture of 
him in his old age sitting by the Woolsack, spitting on the carpet and 
wiping it in with his feet. If the book goes to the Athenaeum I hope you 
will take it out, for it would give you some pleasant hours. 

I have bought nothing since my last letter owing to journeys and the 
need to spend in Geneva next month always an occasion. I am anxious 
to get away; but I have three cases in the Industrial Court, an examiner's 
meeting, and a dinner with the P.M. before that interesting day can come. 
I note with interest your remarks on music. I don't disagree. I like it as 
one likes mustard with beef. But (I) I can't stand opera which seems to 
me incredibly artificial e.g. Carmen with a vast soprano of 60 bursting 
into song at impossible moments. (II) I can't stand musicians who, in my 
experience, are poseurs to an impossible degree, without views on life, 
and not really intellectual in any effective sense. But I add that I have 
great comfort from my pianola which stands by my desk and fills in some 
empty hours; and the other day I went with Frida rather under protest 

6 Pauline de Lezardiere (1754-1835), disciple of Montesquieu and author 
of Theorie des lois politiques de la France (4 vols., 1844); her resolution to 
discover the principles of constitutional government through study of sources 
was formed when she was fifteen and never was weakened. 



HOLMES TO LASKI 961 

to hear some negro spirituals (if they are music) and was deeply moved 
thereby. But I grow profane. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 8, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your letter of the 28th comes this morning and gives me 
the usual pleasure. I notice with amusement the innuendo in your remark 
that I seem in fine fighting trim. Really I almost have sunk from the world 
of ideas. I read little and for pleasure a French life of Disraeli 1 and 
Coningsby the last as far as I have got gives me pleasure and recalls the 
departed splendors of which I caught some last glimpses e.g. a lady 
driving in London with two outriders on horses of the same color as 
those in her carriage. But I am peeping back into glory as yesterday I 
began what I never expected to read, The Story of Philosophy by Will 
Durant. I had thought of him as a vulgarisateur, and how could one who 
calls himself Will write anything on philosophy that I should care to hear 
(notwithstanding the case of our dear Chief Justice). But he is uncom- 
monly good as far as I have got. Which means that I think his account 
of Plato excellent. He brings out authentically the hints of future thought 
better than I ever have seen it done. He passes rather more lightly 
than I should if I were introducing a young reader over the considerable 
infusion of twaddle and the ease with which the "merciless logic" of 
Socrates very generally could be smashed. Also he tells the story inter- 
estingly. Graham Wallas did not exhibit that self estimate that you men- 
tion. Nor did I think of him as specially self-centred though I am not 
surprised. He used to come in rather familiarly, although by appointment, 
to luncheon I am afraid more because he liked the victuals and the 
atmosphere than for any special interest in what I had to say. We found 
him pleasant and companionable which I dare say was a mutual im- 
pression rather than anything more considerable. Gooch, I think I told 
you only looked in for a fleeting instant. I won't read Beard and possi- 
bly may accept your recommendation of Parrington's Main Currents in 
American Thought or I may hold myself excused by having tried once 
to get it and failed. I don't hanker for it greatly. Your mention of your 
Chinese-philosopher brings up the thought of my friend Wu. I have not 
heard a word from him since the troubles in his neighborhood became 
acute and I am anxious. To return to Wallas of course circumstances 
don't make great men (though talking of William Allen I once said 
"great places make great men") 2 but there is a French book of which 
Lester Ward gives an account, showing how large a proportion of the 

1 Andre Maurois, La vie de Disraeli (1927), 

2 Speeches, 51, 54. 



962 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

greater names in France came from Chateaux and university towns 
the moral being that there are mute inglorious Miltons and that oppor- 
tunity may bring out or the want of it obscure the first rate. I could jaw 
with you with joy. Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 18.V1L27 

My dear Justice: A jolly letter from you cheered me immensely. I have 
just emerged painfully from the welter of examinations, together with a 
series of cases in the Industrial Court in which I have been torn between 
the obvious incapacity of the applicants and the low standard of living 
from which they suffer. It has been rather like Midler v. Oregon 1 again, 
in which you have to keep a tight grip on your head lest your heart run 
away with you. 

And the callers have been innumerable. American professors, German 
civil servants, French students an unending stream of people who want 
information about things for which it is most difficult to find words. And 
the students who want jobs, always the best jobs, or who want to write 
books and think that you write a book in the same way that you eat an 
egg. Life is a peculiarly full thing at the moment and I more anxious than 
I can remember to get away. 

I add that there have been some admirable reliefs. First of all a novel 
by P. G. Wodehouse called The Small Bachelor which is one of the very 
funniest books I ever read, so much so that my guffaws in the tube where 
I finished it must have produced the conviction of my insanity in my 
neighbours. Then I read a most interesting book by one Coleman Phillip- 
son called Three Criminal Law Reformers quite excellent essays on 
Bentham, Romilly and Beccaria and as I was pretty ignorant of the 
last and do not read Italian with any pleasure I enjoyed it greatly. Also 
a book you would, I fear, go miles to avoid has interested me much 
by Feret, La faculte de theologie a Paris 1400-1760, which is extraordi- 
narily informative about debates and ideas which are, doubtless, long 
dead but are still fascinating to read about. 

Also I have been reading a first-rate life of Domat, the French legal 
philosopher, and have been much interested in the obvious relation be- 
tween his ideas and Port Royal. And George Trevelyan's Life of Macaulay 
which is really almost as good as Boswell. I wish I had that healthy cer- 
tainty about myself and my age that Macaulay had about himself and his. 

I have bought some nice things. First the 1606 translation of Bodin in 
a beautiful copy. Next a copy of Justus Lipsius's Politics with all the 
appendices complete. A first edition of Pascal's Pensees out of pure vanity 
of acquisition and the fact that it was cheap, and an engraving of the 

'208 U.S. 412 (1908). 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 963 

Romney Burke which would, I think, even make your mouth water. But 
I reserve myself for Geneva which I await with ardour. 

We have been to several dinners. One at the Foreign Office to the 
Egyptian Prime Minister 2 was hideously formal I was the only undeco- 
rated person there and though smiled upon most sweetly I felt constrained 
by the inability to speak forthrightly. I sat next to a dame who was 
weighted with jewels and thought no novel of quality had appeared in 
England since Robert Elsmere. She told me that the modern aristocracy 
was too cheap and that all the present evils were due to the fact that 
men and women nowadays married beneath their rank. She blamed the 
King strongly for allowing the Duke of York to marry outside the royal 
circle. I asked her what was to be done if they fell in love outside the 
"royal circle" and she replied with simple aplomb that they could take 
mistresses. But, alas, I could not answer her back and so provoke other 
pearls; and it spoilt my evening. We dined, too, with Graham Wallas who 
spent an hour outlining his new book to me. I gathered that its theme is 
the need for imaginative insight in statesmen which I take to be true and 
perhaps a book may be suitably written of the theme. An American lady 
there Bacon if I heard the name rightly was very bitter about 
Beard's book which she thought deliberately wicked; no one who read it 
would gather from it that Roosevelt was a great man. I suggested that per- 
haps he wasn't and she positively snorted. But my best story is due to 
Frida who went to a drawing-room meeting on birth-control addressed by 
a lady of, Frida says, the amplest ugliness she has ever seen in a human 
being. The lady's point was the supreme glory of chastity; birth control 
was bad because it was yielding to temptation without accepting responsi- 
bility. "I," said the lady, "have often been tempted," (I forget to add that 
she was an insistent virgin of 50) "but I have always accepted the con- 
sequences of my faults." Could anything possibly be more glorious? 

You will be glad to know that Sir F, Pollock has made a first-rate re- 
covery from his operation and is at home again. 3 He is a remarkable fel- 
low. A cousin by marriage of his whom I met the other day told me that 
at a challenge he turned a report of a House of Commons debate into 
good Latin doggerel without a dictionary. Which reminds me of an epi- 
gram now on the rounds which I must not omit: 

I cannot help but think it odd 
And jealous too of the Lord God 
To go on ruling, when instead 
He might give way to Birkenhead. 

8 King Fuad and the Egyptian Prime Minister, Abdul Khalik Pasha Sarwat 
of the Liberal Party in Egypt, were in London in July, kying the groundwork 
for efforts to draft a treaty of alliance with Britain. 

8 See 2 Holmes-Pollock Letters 201. 



964 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

Which reminds me again of four exquisite lines of Belloc: 

The accursed power which waits on privilege 
And goes with women and champagne and bridge 
Broke; and democracy resumed its reign 
Which goes with bridge and women and champagne. 

I think that worthy of the best of Martial. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 23, 1927 

Dear Laski: There are no such entertaining events, I fear, at this end as 
those you tell me of. I received from the Clerk's office a big bag of 31 
certioraris and I was willing to bet on my surviving long enough for it 
to be worth while to diminish the pressure of next term by examining 
them now. I returned them this afternoon. Also I have been visited by 
counsel in two cases of men about to be executed, seeking a stay until 
certioraris could be brought. They both came from McReynolds' Circuit, 
and as the first concerned two negroes who had been tried and convicted 
of rape in a court room protected by machine guns I now suspect that the 
lawyer wasn't very anxious to find McReynolds who dissented from an 
opinion I wrote in a somewhat similar case but I did not think of that 
at the moment and granted the stay with a statement of the difficulties 
to be encountered further on. 1 I wrote to McReynolds about it and had 
a very nice letter from him this morning in reply. The second application 
I denied and if the expected came to pass the petitioners were executed 
last Monday. 2 

Cranks as usual do not fail. One letter yesterday told me that I was a 
monster and might expect the judgment of an outraged God for a decision 
that a law allowing the sterilization of imbeciles was constitutional and 
for the part that I had taken in other decisions that were dragging the 
country down. Then your friend (? he quotes you) Professor Borchard 
of Yale sent me reprints of learned articles about the relation between 
states and law 3 that so far as I read them I thought irrelevant to the 
decisions that I have written. I told him that I rather thought that you 
agreed with me (when the point I had to deal with was understood) and 
that if not I should think that you are off your beat and had gone astray. 
He seems a really learned man but as he signed a brief which, if my 
memory is right, sought to hold the Soviet government liable in an action 

^Not identified. The earlier case was, presumably. Moore v. Demvseu* 261 
U.S. 86 (1923). H y 

3 Not identified. 
* Supra, p. 897. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 965 

here for things that it did under its law in Russia 4 I venture to doubt 
his judgment. 

I have been too busy to read much of anything. I have on my table 
Spinoza's Ethics for rereading but haven't begun it. I think I told you of 
my other books except perhaps Lord Chesterfield's Letters a pretty 
good old sportsman most of what he says and copiously repeats is 
sound though I think his prohibition of laughter is narrow, and now- 
adays his horror at the thought of his son's learning to fiddle would seem 
extravagant. I saw for the first time the other day a little theatre in the 
woods that enchanted me built by an Englishman named Buswell 
a man with good looks and flattering manners. His house is part of the 
structure which might be four hundred years old and looks down on a 
charming fresh water lake that he created, and away over the woods be- 
fore the Eastern Point of Gloucester and the sea. My wife thinks that she 
yielded to my desires as I believe that I repressed my doubts to please 
her in getting tickets for and going to a diminutive presentation of Faust 
(opera) last Wednesday evening. It was our first outbreak for years and 
whoever was guilty we enjoyed ourselves greatly. They were very con- 
siderate to me, or to my age and advantages and a pleasing dame gave 
her hand down the steps. I am glad of what you say of the expressions of 
good will etc. to F. Pollock. I had just heard and had written to him. I 
understand all is going well. I hope so as he is a very dear friend. Once 
more forgive this paper. Affectionately yours, O.W. H, 

Beverly Farms, July 28, 1927 

My dear Laski: You will have gone to the Continent if not returned from 
it, when this reaches England, but your letter deserves an immediate 
answer. 1 1 stopped here to order The Small Bachelor from the Old Corner 
Bookstore. Wodehouse can make me do what Lord Chesterfield says a 
gentleman should not do, break from the well bred smile into the loud 
guffaw, and as nil humani &c. I do not eschew the laugh good old boy, 
Lord Chesterfield. To read his letters puts Johnson in the wrong. I have 
just read another life the third down here after Liszt and Disraeli 
that of John Sargent by Evan Charteris which interested me by its 
subject and its author and when I read it by its execution. I don't think 
Sargent himself, however, would have interested me greatly, had I known 
him beyond a visit to his studio with H. James. 2 He was musical, to be 

* The reference is probably to Wulfsohn v. Russian Socialist Federated Soviet 
Republic, 266 U.S. 580 (1924), in which the Court dismissed the writ of 
error to the New York Court for want of jurisdiction. 

1 Supra, p. 962. 

2 See "The Letters of Henry James to Mr. Justice Holmes," 38 Yale Review 
410, 432 (March 1949). 



966 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

sure, and that may stand for complexities not otherwise manifest; but a 
man whose aim was to set down what he saw strikes me as a little too 
concrete for my more abstract taste. Now I have a volume of Everyman 
with a translation of Spinoza's Ethics which I am rereading at odd min- 
utes. Of course his theological machinery seems to me passe, but his con- 
ception of the universe his view of good and evil as human not cosmic 
formulae, &c. make him come home to me more than any philosopher 
of the past even though he does think he has got God in a trap when 
he snaps logic on him. 

I envy you your purchases such as the first edition of Pascal's Pensees. 
If I weren't so old I should try to snap up a morsel here and there, but it 
seems foolish at my age although I don't regard a moderate and intelli- 
gent avarice in the same way. I think I have observed before that I am 
trying to realize that a happy hour is an end in itself and does not need 
justification. So I oscillate between the extreme points of Rockport and 
Nahant and take in unimproving delight. I turned down by your house 
the other day in honor of you. I think it is unchanged, but that there are 
more structures in the neighborhood. I saw a paradise the other day. An 
English chap, good looking with conciliatory manners, having acquired 
cash, as I take it, built for himself a house and theater on an eminence in 
a wood from which you look down on a fresh water lake before it on one 
side and in front, over the forest, the Eastern point of Gloucester and 
the sea. There is near a mile of wandering through the wood, a public 
park, before you reach this hall on the edge of it and feel as if it were 
fourteen hundred and something. Taking the look of this man and the 
theatrical characters &c. I should think that there might be wild moments 
there sometimes. I broke through all my rules and went with my wife to 
a miniature opera, Faust, and enjoyed it hugely. It looks as if before long 
we should have more places worth seeing here than in Europe were 
it not for the fatal absence of history. But I recur to my axiom that not 
only all society but most romance rests on the death of men and where 
the most men have died there is the most interest. A good time to you 
and may Geneva not disappoint. Affty yours, O.W.H. 



Grand Hotel du Planet 

Mont-Roc, Sur-Argentiere 

Haute-Savoie, France, 2.VIIL27 

My dear Justice: We arrived here on Sunday after an enchanting journey. 
Views like Annecy and its lake where Rousseau lived with Madame 
de Warens and Chamonix are beyond words. But here is enchantment 
on enchantment. The hotel looks out on the massif of Mont-Blanc an 
awe-inspiring spectacle, the sun on the endless snow and the dull grey 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 967 

rocks which look grim even on the brightest day. And the perpetual sound 
of the waterfalls is like silver music. One or two discoveries will interest 
you. The hotel belongs to an old guide, famous in his day, named Terraz. 
He used to take Leslie Stephen up the Matterhorn in the seventies, and 
was a warm friend of Whymper. 1 He remembers Stephen warmly and 
cherishes a photograph of him, all beard and eyes. The first day we were 
here we hit upon Stanley King 2 and his new wife on their honeymoon 
you remember the late pseudo-philosophic lady whom Felix and Lipp- 
mann cultivated and a little later there turned up Manley Hudson of 
the Law School who is ending a world-tour here. Well! It is a great place 
for a real rest, and even after two days I feel that many of the cobwebs 
have been blown away. 

I have read a good deal lately, above all Lowes's Road to Xanadu 
which came to me for review. Like you, I found it a little difficult at 
first, especially a kind of forced brightness about the style; but as I read 
on I became completely captivated and was thoroughly convinced that 
its theme is justly made. Also it pleased me mightily to have independent 
confirmation of my loathing for Wordsworth who irritates me even more 
than the theatricality of Byron with his oppressive and officious goodness. 
And I am sure out of my own experience that the deliberate activation 
of the unconscious is an invaluable way of attaining ideas. One finds so 
often that a theory hangs just beyond the fringe of capture and that 
search is illusory. Then to forget the chase and turn elsewhere does mean 
that an unexpected moment produces the idea effortlessly often enriched 
and decorated. Mind you, I think Lowes illustrates the process without 
explaining why the process is. But that I do not doubt is the ultimate 
mystery. 

My last fortnight at home was a nightmare. I sat on the Court for six 
days with two appalling cases full of detailed statistics which meant the 
endless compilation of tables of new wages for half-a-dozen grades of 
work. Then, when the President and I had agreed, my Treasury colleague 
dissented, and we had another vast arithmetical effort in order to reach 
a compromise. 3 I was, too, plagued to death by a variety of visiting pro- 
fessors, all of whom had to be lunched and provided with introductions 
or bibliographies. Also two committees at the House of Commons before 

1 Edward Whymper (1840-1911), artist and mountaineer, whose ascents of 
Mont Pelvoux and the Matterhorn in the 1860's were great achievements in 
the history of Alpine climbing. 

2 Stanley King (1883-1951), lawyer and businessman, later President of 
Amherst College from 1932 to 1943, was at this time engaged in business in 
Boston. He had recently married Margaret Pinckney Allen. 

8 See cases #1327 and #1328, 9 Industrial Court Decisions, 477, 486. The 
other two members of the Court were Harold Morris, President, and Frank 
Pick. 



968 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

which I had to give evidence and one of them asked for a plan which 
meant two heavy days work that I ought not to have been asked for. Then 
old Ashley 4 the economic historian died suddenly, and as I had a high 
admiration for his work, I felt it a duty to accept the Manchester Guard- 
ians request for an estimate of him; so I spent a good many hours polish- 
ing my sentences the most difficult of all types of writing I think. And 
the sum of it was growing fatigue and irritation and I rejoiced as never 
before when I saw the cliffs at Dover moving away. 

Our plans here are simple. We shall stay, I think, until the end of 
August. In between I shall slip into Geneva. But beyond that I shall vege- 
tate here with a few books and a paper on the Natural History of the 
Cabinet which I want to write light-hearted and amusing. 5 Take this, 
please, as an interim announcement of survival. Next week I shall be 
capable of philosophy. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Grand Hotel de I'Abbaye 
Tdloire, Lac d'Annecy, Savoie, 9.VIII.27 

My dear Justice: With us, as I expect with you, everything is obliterated 
except the decision of the Sacco-Vanzetti case. 1 Frankly, I do not under- 
stand it. The evidence, on any showing, seems to us at this distance in- 
credibly thin. The whole world revolts at this execution; and it will 
remain, with the Frank case and the Mooney case, one of those judicial 
murders which make the mind reel I agree fully with all that Felix says 
of Lowell in this case. Loyalty to his class has transcended his ideas of 
logic and of justice. 

We stayed in the mountains a week. It was magnificent, but the height 
did not suit Frida with the result that we moved to this place which is 
adorable. I do not know if you have ever seen this lake a jewel nestling 
amid mountains. It is the centre of Rousseau's country a few miles 
from Les Charmettes where he lived with Mme. de Warens. The hotel 

4 Sir William James Ashley (1860-1927), economic historian whose long 
academic career had taken him from Oxford to Toronto, Harvard, and Bir- 
mingham Universities; author of The Tariff Problem (1907), The Economic 
Organisation of England (1914), and The Bread of Our Forefathers: an En- 
quiry in Economic History (1928). An anonymous notice of his career, pre- 
sumably by Laski, is in the Manchester Guardian for July 26, 1927, p. 18. 

5 "The Personnel of the English Cabinet, 1801-1924," 22 Am. Pol. Sci. Qu. 
401 (May 1928), reprinted in Studies in Law and Politics (1932), 181. 

1 On July 27 the Advisory Committee submitted its report to Governor 
Fuller, and on August 3 he announced that he found no justification for inter- 
vention to prevent execution of the death sentence. On August 23 Sacco and 
Vanzetti were electrocuted. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 969 

itself is a partially transformed eleventh century abbey and we dine in 
the great refectory with the stone walls and the great beams still in per- 
fect preservation after 800 years. Near by is where Taine wrote most of 
his history; and in the village is the tiny house where Berthollet 2 the 
chemist was born. I wish I could even begin to describe the beauty of the 
scene; but you will find it in the early books of the Confessions and I 
will not strive to compete. I add that it is curiously different from any- 
thing I have ever seen the French word "doux" describes it. There is 
nothing remotely savage except the mountains beyond and the peasants 
seem to cultivate every inch of the soil with vines and walnut trees. The 
lake itself is a miracle of sapphire blue and in the evenings the varied 
lights on the water make pictures as exquisite as I have seen. 

Of writing I have done but little. I have played a little at a paper on 
the personnel of the English cabinet, about which I have collected some 
most amusing statistics and I have done bits of a paper on the idea of 
fundamental law in France [in?] 1789. But I cannot claim serious devo- 
tion in either. Partly I have been too lazy, and partly I have been dis- 
inclined to do other than reflect and read and walk. I add that we did a 
glacier before we left Argentiere and it induced in me sheer horror. You 
I believe used to climb in the old days, and I only venture a humble 
tribute of grace to your nerves. 

So I have mainly read and talked. A fine detective story The House 
of the Arrow by A. E. W. Mason which I warmly recommend pour 
rectifier le solitaire certainly the best of its kind I have read since Trent's 
Last Case. Carcassone's Montesquieu which on close reading is extraordi- 
narily illuminating and convinced me of my pet hobby that most of the 
history of the period needs to be redone. To understand him I am sure 
that one has to get the perspective of what has gone before Dubos, 8 
Boulainvilliers, 4 and the general controversy over the nature of French 
constitutionalism under the ancien regime. And when one does that it 
becomes clear that there is a real relation between institutional develop- 
ment in France and England. Also Montesquieu so viewed throws light 
on the fact that he and Machault 5 and Voltaire are the heads of a sect 
which professed Anglomania and were vehemently opposed certain ob- 
servations of Rousseau about English liberty showing the degree of doubt 

2 Claude Louis Berlhollet (1748-1822); distinguished French chemist who 
was born near Annecy and began his studies at Chambery. 

8 Jean-Baptiste Dubos (1670-1742), abb<$ of Notre Dame de Ressons, and 
learned historian of the origin of the French nation; author of L'histoire critique 
de TStaUissement de la monarchie franpaise dans les gaules (3 vols., 1734). 

* Supra, p. 922. 

6 Jean-Baptiste Machault D'Arnouville (1701-1794), controller general of 
France who raised a hornet's nest of clerical protest in seeking to reduce the 
ecclesiastical immunities. 



970 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

which Montesquieu and his school aroused. Certainly the historical book 
on M. is still to seek. Ehrlich's paper in your number of the Law Review 
was the best general treatment of him; but it left much to be done in the 
light of issues which E. hardly could know about. I read also a history of 
the University of Paris by Jourdain a very revealing book which 
made one realise how very modern and Anglo-Saxon academic freedom is; 
the quarrels of the Sorbonne in the 17th century are monuments of per- 
verted dishonesty in which one professor seeks to do in his colleague over 
differences of doctrine without a shadow of suspicion that decency would 
forbid. Also I read Dostoievskf s Brothers Karamazov which it is difficult, 
as you read it, not to recognise as the greatest novel in the world. 

I have been living, as you can imagine, in a milieu where conversation 
is not easy to discover. A French priest whose main interest is the miracles 
of Lourdes; an Englishman home on leave from Egypt to whom bridge 
and tennis were the essence of life; another Englishman who has no in- 
terest outside climbing and building bridges; a French professor of chem- 
istry who is still living on war psychology and devoting his years of retire- 
ment to the proof that all German chemical discoveries were made by 
Frenchmen. I tried to persuade him that such quests were a waste of 
time, but he was, of course, unpersuadable. I had an amusing hour with 
the cure who was distressed that I did not share his interest in Lourdes 
and tried to explain to me that he had seen miracles there I offered 
scepticism in terms of physiology and he was all on fire with indignation. 
I asked him if he had ever considered the metaphysics of miracles and 
te answered that I had the disease of curiosity. His only worry, I 
gathered, was that there were no signs of the conversion of England to 
Rome. But he thought a great conversion, the Prince of Wales, for in- 
stance, might take place and then God would work a conversion in those 
cold English hearts. You will be amused to hear that the only Americans 
of this generation he had ever heard of were Cardinal O'Connell, 7 Presi- 
dent Roosevelt and Chief Justice White. I asked why Roosevelt and he 
said that he was in Rome when R. visited the pope! 

Our love to you both. I hope your weather has permitted a voyage to 
Rockport And that you have read Parrington. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Beverly Farms, August 18, 1927 

My dear Laski: A letter from you, delightful as usual, shows you on your 
vacation, and rather unusually, I should say, taking an incidental pleasure 

8 Supra, p. 77. 

7 William Henry O'Connell (1859-1944), Catholic Archbishop of the See of 
Boston from 1907 to 1911, when he was elevated to the cardinalate. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 971 

in nature. You couldn't help it with Mont Blanc in front. The Swiss moun- 
tains, as my father said to me before I first went to Europe, stretch your 
mind. Meantime I am in the main quiet here. But I have not escaped the 
Sacco Vanzetti case. Stirred I guess by Felix, Arthur Hill has come in to 
the case and last week appeared here with other lawyers and reporters 
tagging on to try for a habeas corpus from me relying on a case I 
wrote. 1 They were here two hours and a half and said all that they had to 
say and I declined to issue the writ. 2 I said that I had no authority to 
take the prisoners out of the custody of a State Court having jurisdiction 
over the persons and dealing with a crime under State law that the 
only ground for such an interference would be want of jurisdiction in the 
tribunal or, as according to the allegations in the negro case that I wrote 
where a mob in and around the court ready to lynch the prisoner, jury, 
counsel and possibly the judges if they did not convict, made the trial a 
mere form. They said these facts went only to motives (I suspect having 
another Massachusetts case of mine in view) and what was the difference 
whether the motive was fear or the prejudices alleged in this case. I said 
most differences are differences of degree, and I thought that the line 
must be drawn between external force, and prejudice which could be 
alleged in every case. I could not feel a doubt, but the result has been 
already some letters telling me that I am a monster of injustice in 
various forms of words, from men who evidently don't know anything 
about the matter, but who have the customary readiness to impute evil 
for any result that they don't like. The house of one of the jurymen was 
blown up two or three nights ago and I was deeply touched on the 
evening after Hill's departure to find Tom Barbour at my door wanting 
to bivouak on my piazza against the chance of trouble. Of course I said 
no, and I found later that he had just returned from four nights in sleep- 
ers where he can't sleep as the berths are too short for him, and was 
nearly worn out. Generous and gallant, hem? The papers this morning 
say that Hill announces an intent to try me again in connection with an 
application for certiorari? So I have no perfect peace. I believe I men- 
tioned that I was reading I now have read, Spinoza's Ethics the 
most valuable result a new article in my Bill of Rights viz: No man shall 
be held to master a system of philosophy that is fifty years old. Comment. 
All that any of the philosophers has to contribute is a small number of 

1 Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86, McReynolds, J., dissenting. 

2 Holmes's opinion of August 10 denying the writ of habeas corpus is in 
5 Record of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case (1929) 5532. 

8 On August 20 counsel for Sacco and Vanzetti presented a petition to 
Holmes praying for an extension of time for applying to the Supreme Court 
for writs of certiorari. Holmes's opinion denying the petition is in 5 Record of 
the Sacco-Vanzetti Case 5516. 



972 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

insights, that could be told in ten minutes. But, especially if he is a Ger- 
man, he has to make a system and to write a big book. In 50 years, more 
or less, the system goes to pot; posterity doesn't care for it but you 
have to read the book to get the author's apergus and novices think 
that the system is the thing and that they must master it, whereas the 
old hand knows that really it is simply working two tons of sand to get 
a tablespoonful of gold, and probably he knew the substance of the in- 
sights as part of his general knowledge, before. I care more for Spinoza's 
than for the other old ones but I don't believe his postulates or yield to 
his logic. What I care for is an attitude and a few truths that are inde- 
pendent of his machinery. If I have said all this before, forgive me. I have 
sent for two books by (Ludwig?) on Napoleon and Kaiser Wilhelm. I 
think you praised them and John Morse 4 strongly admired them. I being 
empty and lazy concurred. I have done over 50 certioraris for next term. 
I shaE send this to London as safest. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 

Hotel Victoria, Geneva, 19.VIIL27 

My dear Justice: I need not tell you how much I sympathised with your 
difficulties in the Sacco-Vanzetti case. I cannot see that you had any 
alternative, and I suppose the event must move to its tragic end. But I 
wish I could make people like Fuller realise the immense damage his 
action has done to the good name of America. This case has stirred 
Europe as nothing since the Dreyfus case has done. And to me, at this 
distance, and with the reliance I have on the substantial accuracy of 
Felix's picture, it seems that it is indeed another Dreyfus case. 

Minora canamus. We came here on Wednesday after ten quite perfect 
days at Talloires. We are staying just outside the town with an amazing 
view of Mont Blanc from the window. My first visit was to my bookselling 
friends of which, perhaps, the results should be described as solid rather 
than brilliant. I got a further substantial body of contemporary Rousseau 
criticism, some invaluable pamphlets on the Oath of Allegiance contro- 
versy under James I, some good contemporary criticism of Montesquieu. 
The prizes I wanted were not; but I would not part with any of my pur- 
chases. And the joy of the chase, the running of one's eye over row upon 
row of musty volumes with the special palpitation that comes when you 
hit on an attractive title these are thrills you know and share with me. 
I have seen a good deal of the League of Nations people here, and found 

*John T. Morse, Jr. (1840-1937), cousin and intimate friend of Holmes, 
who wrote the first biography of Dr. Holmes, and was editor of and con- 
tributor to the American Statesmen Series of biographies. 



1927] LASZI TO HOLMES 973 

them very attractive, especially the German Dufour 1 and the Englishman 
Salter. 2 I heard, too, a dazzling address by the Spanish critic, Madriaga, 3 
which was, doubtless, persiflage, but done with a grace and a verve which 
were most attractive. The amusing (and amazing) thing to me is the 
vast population of Americans one sees. They are, literally, unending 
professors of both sexes, travellers, business men. You are the conquerors 
of the world. These folk have an easy certainty of their position, a deter- 
mination to know, a relentless obstinacy (especially the women) which 
leave me breathless. One professor from Iowa presented me with four of 
his books on a subject that does not interest me one iota, and was un- 
moved by my dual protest (a) of ignorance (b) of an inability to read 
Midwestern local history seriously. I had to take them and in the face of 
his relentless determination I merely succumbed. Another lady asked me 
for a bibliography of the principal political writers 1200-1900 and was, I 
think, genuinely offended by my gentle hint that I was on a holiday. But 
I have heartily enjoyed talking to the officials who are extraordinarily 
interesting from the very novelty and width of their experience. It is a 
new thing to watch a committee at work on which an Italian, a German, 
a Japanese and an Argentinian are all arguing. And I have had a jolly 
dinner here with my old friend Lowes Dickinson whose books you 
know and we dissected life as gentlemen should. He has a mellow 
sweetness about him that is irresistible; and if only he did not think 
Goethe's Faust the supreme human achievement, it would be difficult for 
us to disagree. 

1 was glad to note that you saluted Rockport for me; glad, too, that you 
are with me on the subject of P. G. Woodhouse [sic]. Here I found one 
I had not known before called Sam the Sudden and it tickled me as much 
as any of the others. To more sober reading I make no pretence, partly 
out of the pleasure of talk with people, partly because I am on holiday. 
We stay here till Wednesday when we leave for Paris. We shall stay 
there until the 29th and then home. I shall not be sorry, for more than a 
month of idleness is bad for anyone. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

a The reference is probably to Albert Dufour Feronce who in 1927 was 
Under-Secret ary General of the League of Nations. 

2 Sir Arthur Salter ( 1881- ) at the time was Director of the Economic 
Section of the League Secretariat. 

3 Salvador de Madariaga (1886- ), man of letters and diplomat, at this 
time was director of the Disarmament Section of the League Secretariat. His 
address to the Geneva Institute of International Relations in August 1927, is 
printed in Problems of Peace, Second Series (1928), 124. 



974 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

Beverly Farms, August 2,4, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your last letter shows you stirred up like the rest of the 
world on the Sacco Vanzetti case. I cannot but ask myself why this so 
much greater interest in red than black. A thousand-fold worse cases of 
negroes come up from time to time, but the world does not worry over 
them. It is not a mere simple abstract love of justice that has moved 
people so much. I never have read the evidence except on the limited 
points that came before me. As I remember the time of the trial I always 
have appreciated the difficulty in getting a dispassionate verdict when 
everyone was as excited as everyone was in those days. I also appreciate 
what I believe was the generous knight-errantry of Felix in writing his 
book. But I see no adequate available reasons for the world outside the 
U.S. taking up the matter and I think your public and literary men had 
better have kept their mouths shut. There were two applications for 
habeas corpus to me, the first presented by Arthur Hill, the last on differ- 
ent grounds the night before the execution, by other counsel, 1 both of 
which I denied, as I thought them beyond my power, on the case made. 
There was also an application for a stay until the full Court could consider 
granting of a certiorari, which also I denied, as I thought no shadow of a 
ground was shown on which the writ should be granted. 2 There was no 
way that I knew of in which the merits of the case could be brought 
before us. Of course I got lots of letters some abusive, some precatory 
(and emotion from women) all more or less assuming that I had the 
power of Austin's sovereign over the matter. (Forgive my mentioning so 
contemptible a personage.) The most sensible talk I have seen was a 
letter by Norman Hapgood, who recognized the humbug of talking as if 
justice alone was thought of. Not having read the record I do not consider 
myself entitled to an opinion on the case my prejudices are against 
the convictions, but they are still stronger against the run of the shriekers. 
The lovers of justice have emphasized their love by blowing up a building 
or two and there are guards in all sorts of places, including one for this 
house for a few days, which left to myself I should not have thought of. 
A review of Circus Parade by Jim Tally in the New Republic begins 
"Jim Tully is so goddam hard-boiled that his spit bounces," 3 which made 
me guffaw when I read it and again when I remembered it in the watches 
of the night. The only reading I have is Napoleon by Ludwig, but I have 
to confess that his great Napoleon rather bores me. Living in a somewhat 
narrow groove I am not interested by men whose view of life does not 

1 The published records do not contain this motion or Holmes's ruling 
thereon. 

2 See supra, p. 971, note 3. 

8 52 New Republic 26 (Aug. 24, 1927). 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 975 

interest me. I shall take refuge in some more certioraris that have come. 
Whether it was as my wife thinks the long jaw with Arthur Hill over the 
case or something that I eat, this being the time when I am likely to have 
a little trouble, I have been below par for a few days but I am on the 
up-grade with nothing more than the occasional discomfort of wandering 
zephyrs in the cave of the winds. I wish I had a book that hit me where 
I live. But all is for the best in the best of possible worlds. 

Affly yours, O. W. H. 



Beverly Farms, September 1, 1927 

My dear Laski; Your Geneva experiences are interesting and some of 
diem amusing as you meant them to be. I am interested rather specially 
at Dickinson's opinion of Faust. It is a theme on which I am not settled. 
As to part 2 I hold my peace, silently not believing those who think it 
great. It seems to me that you can't rescue a drama that does not interest 
as such by asserting ulterior significances. If you put a thing in dramatic 
form your first obligation is to make it a success as a drama. My recollec- 
tion is distant, but it is of a piece in which the artists happening to be 
available at the moment are introduced to do their specialties. Song and 
dance by Homunculus etc., etc. 

The echoes of Sacco and Vanzetti grow fainter, but I got an abusive 
letter this morning and the police will guard my home at night for a day 
or two more. The New Republic had an article that seemed to me hysteri- 
cal. 1 My secretary 2 who turned up last night and who worked with Felix 
thinks that he wisely dropped the subject after the case was passed upon 
by the Governor's committee and that his general frame of mind is to 
drop the matter as finished. So far as one who has not read the evidence 
has a right to an opinion I think the row that has been made idiotical, 
if considered on its merits, but of course it is not on the merits that the 
row is made, but because it gives the extremists a chance to yell. If jus- 
tice is the interest why do they not talk about the infinitely worse cases of 
the blacks? My prejudices were all with Felix's book. But after all, it's 
simply showing, if it was right, that the case was tried in a hostile atmos- 
phere. I doubt if anyone would say that there was no evidence warrant- 
ing a conviction, and as to prejudice I have heard an English judge sock 
it to the jury in a murder case, in a way that would have secured a re- 
versal in Mass., if the jury had not, as I thought rightly, corrected the 
prejudice of the judge. As you know, I believe, I held that I had no power 

Probably "The Ominous Execution," 52 New Republic 30 (Aug. 31, 1927). 

8 Arthur E. Sutherland, Jr., of Rochester, now Professor of Law at Harvard; 
his father (1862-1950) was a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, 
1906-1919. 



976 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

to grant a habeas corpus and that I ought not to grant a stay, if I had 
power, on an application for certiorari, as I thought there was no case 
for the writ. I wrote an opinion on the spot, but left it open to apply to 
another Justice. They then went to Brandeis who declined to act on the 
ground that he had been too closely connected with the case. My secre- 
tary says that thereafter a N.Y. paper called The Worker had in its 
window "Brandeis, Pontius Pilate," and followed the analogy describing 
him as washing his hands of innocent blood, etc., etc, How can one re- 
spect that sort of thing? It isn't a matter of reason, but simply shrieking 
because the world is not the kind of a world they want a trouble that 
most of us feel in some way. Well, I shan't expect to bore you about this 
again. 

Not much else to tell. I have been seedy but am all right again. Lady 
Bryce has been here and gone. I have read very little, Ludwig's Napoleon, 
nearly finished. Napoleon bores me. W. Lippmann's Men of Destiny came 
from him yesterday. I see admirable writing in it. It winds up with a 
pretty thing to me when I was 75 3 eheu fugaces that really touches 
me. Mighty good talk about others so far as I have read. Also Diehl, "Fig- 
ures byzantines, vol. I, borrowed yesterday and not looked at. I heard an 
interesting suggestion from him, that when the Crusaders took Constan- 
tinople the people there regarded it as an incursion of barbarians. Huns, 
who couldn't appreciate the beautiful Greek civilization. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 2.IX.27 

My dear Justice: Along with this, there goes to you a copy of The States- 
man. 1 It is, of course, mainly a \eu d'esprit. But it is full of commonsense; 
and I hope it will pleasantly pass an idle hour. 

I found your very interesting letter about Arthur Hill's visit when we 
came home on Monday. Of course you had no alternative. If you sought 
to probe motive the state courts would have no raison d'etre; and though 
I think the decision a tragic one, I see no other course. The negro case, 
obviously, is not in pari materia. 2 The execution deeply affected me. We 
were in Geneva when it happened. The riots there were very bad; and 
both in Geneva and Paris the ill-feeling against Americans is obviously 
profound. What has angered thinking people most is the incredible re- 

8 "To Justice Holmes/' 6 New Republic 156 (March 11, 1916). 



1 Sir Henry Taylor's The Statesman: An Ironical Treatise on the Art of 
Succeeding (1832) had just been republished with an Introduction by Laski. 

2 Moore v. Dempsey, supra, p. 971. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 977 

mark of Borah 3 that it would be "a national humiliation if any account 
were given to European protests." As one Frenchman said to me, "if we 
have to mobilise five thousand troops to protect American lives and prop- 
erty, we are at least entitled to consideration." 

We left Geneva last Wednesday and went on to Paris. There I had a 
really thrilling time. The first day I gave up to showing Diana historic 
sights; and the ancien regime through the eyes of an intelligent child 
absorbed in Dumas was an interesting novelty. I discovered that she ad- 
mired Richelieu and loathed Mazarin; but that Dumas had made Fouquet 
her real hero. In the Louvre she interested me much by a distinct and 
even passionate preference for Leonardo's Beatrice d'Este to everything 
else there; and a loathing for the masses of Delacroix which augurs hope- 
fully for the future. I add that we were lucky enough to find a small 
collection of Meryon's etchings, and I spent a very satisfactory morning 
with them. The next day I devoted, to people. A breakfast with Briand. 
Lord Crewe 4 who was there, said that Austen Chamberlain loved France 
as though she was a woman, to which Briand at once replied, "Mais la 
France doit exercer les privileges dune maUresse" He was very troubled 
by the breakdown of the Anglo-American naval conference 5 and vehement 
in his denunciation of naval and military experts. "Ce bon Focli," he said, 
"pense que les frontieres de notre France doivent etre a San Francisco a 
une cote et a Vladivostock sur I'autre." He is an amazing creature like 
Felix in his capacity to get the best out of people; unlike him in his in- 
ability to keep to one theme for more than ten minutes. I lunched with 
Aulard, the historian of the French Revolution and met some of the 
younger men in that line. They were all learned and "bien documentes" 
but like footnotes in the great man's work. One was at work on one frag- 
ment, one on another; none of them had large interests beyond his section 
of the archives. They all talked well, (all Frenchmen talked well) and I 
was very struck by their general agreement that Lord Acton's book was 
much the best treatment of the Revolution in English. In the evening I 
dined with my old friend Chevalley, about whom I have written to you in 
the past. We had a great talk first on Montaigne, then, with a clever 
abbe, whose name I did not catch, on the degree to which Bossuet bor- 
rowed from Hobbes and Spinoza (more than Frenchmen like to admit) and 
finally with dear old L6vy-Bruhl on Bayle in which he rejoiced my heart by 
affirming the philosophy of scepticism against a handful of les jeunes who 

8 William E. Borah (1865-1940); independent Republican, ardent isola- 
tionist, and United States Senator from Idaho, 1907-1940. 

* Robert Crewe-Milnes (1858-1945), first Marquess of Crewe, was Ambassa- 
dor in Paris from 1922 to 1928. 

5 The United States, Great Britain, and Japan had participated in a naval 
disarmament conference at Geneva in June. It had broken up, however, without 
agreement. 



978 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

were all ardent Bergsonians and made the elan vital a vehicle of transi- 
tion to an ugly sort of fascism in which action for its own sake was impor- 
tant and thought in the nature of a disease. Saturday I spent book-hunting 
with great results. On the quai I found every work of Richer, the first of 
the 17th century Gallicans, which I did not already possess; one a copy in 
a superb tooled binding. I got a heap of contemporary attacks on Mon- 
tesquieu some of them rare beyond words. I got a fine Descartes, and 
a very fine first edition of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. But what, 
I think, pleased me most was to buy a first edition of the Nouvelle Heloise 
for twelve francs and sell it across the road to a fashionable bookseller for 
600 francs. That enabled me to get a large number of modern works I 
wanted especially a new and delectable edition of Montaigne. The Sun- 
day we spent out near Versailles showing Diana the castle in the morn- 
ing and then wandering further afield. In the evening we dined with 
Larnaude the late dean of the Paris Law School. He was a scholarly old 
gentleman but absolutely wrapped up within the confines of French law. 
He knew the names of Littleton, Coke and Marshall but of no other ex- 
ponents of the Common Law. He had read Maitland but thought him 
inferior to Viollet; and he was uncertain whether the greatest of all law- 
yers was Cujas or Domat. It was an interesting type of mind in its narrow 
wav sure itself, inflexible, putting aside doubt or criticism with an 
exquisite politeness as completely irrelevant, I could not make out why he 
had asked me to dine until I discovered that he had read an essay of 
mine on administrative syndicalism and wanted to explain its errors to me. 
But his standpoint was that of the second empire (when he began to 
teach), and when I quoted eminent living Frenchmen in my support, he 
put them gently on one side and with a serene self-confidence that was 
charming. Only once did I disturb his complacency and that was when 
he mentioned Mile, de Lezardiere as an 18th century writer hardly in- 
ferior to Montesquieu. I explained that her qualities were chiefly due to 
her fidelity to the Esprit des lois and the old gentleman was so astonished 
that I knew her that he could only repeat "Tiens! Elle est connue en 
Angleterre!" It was like peeping through a curtain at a bye-gone age. 

I expect this will reach you as Washington begins to loom near. Who 
is your new secretary? I have a faint hope still that next spring may see 
me in Washington. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 10. IX. 27 

My dear Justice: Let me say one thing about the Sacco-Vanzetti case and 
I have done. I was strongly for re-trial because (I) Felix in whose judg- 
* Supra, p. 907. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 979 

ment I have great confidence made me fee! that the evidence was not 
satisfactory; (II) because the conduct of the judge during the trial did 
not suggest an open mind; (III) because at -least one of the jurors had 
prejudged the case. I don't think the analogy of the negro is in point be- 
cause there the problem of political prejudice does not arise. I add again 
that I am warmly with you so far as your Court is concerned. I do not 
think it was in any aspect your business, 

Since I wrote to you last I have spent a .week-end in Manchester and 
some busy days here. In Manchester I had one glorious experience I 
would not easily have foregone. I stepped from the train and at the bar- 
rier found a policeman's hand descend heavily upon my shoulder. Looking 
up I heard a genial Irish voice say with satisfaction, "Well, Toscini, we 
have been expecting you; come quietly." I never refuse an invitation that 
has the prospect of interest so I walked quietly and silently to the police- 
station. I was then charged as Luigi Toscini with being concerned in an 
Italian jewel-shop robbery in Manchester on the 6th August and was 
asked if I had anything to say. I said yes, and explained who I was. After 
a minute or two my accent must have been revealing as the entire police 
force of Manchester seemed to arrive and apologise. I was then driven 
into a whiskey with the Inspector and spent the next three days in re- 
ceiving grinning salutes from policemen on the streets. You will admit that 
it was a distinguished arrival. I admit that, on the evidence of photo- 
graphs, it was a perfectly reasonable mistake. The police were so re- 
lieved that I made no fuss that I do not believe I could now be arrested 
in Manchester. 

While there I had one interesting dinner with Alexander the philoso- 
pher. He pleased me by saying that F. Pollock's book on Spinoza was 
easily the best; and he would have pleased you by his insistence on the 
superiority of S. to other philosophers. He interested me greatly by his 
admiration for Bergson and told me that in his judgment the most arrest- 
ing figure in European philosophy today is Meyersohn [sic] and in Amer- 
ica Morris Cohen. He made little of Dewey whom he thought overrated 
and thought James a psychologist with a turn for metaphysic. He told 
me, too, one good story of a Roman Catholic student who, on hearing him 
relate the history of Giordano Bruno accused him of Anti-Catholic preju- 
dice. Alexander explained briefly the facts and asked what else he could 
say. The student said that Bruno's morals were bad. A. asked him for 
evidence to which the student replied that he did not indulge in un- 
savoury literature! When I got back I found that Frida had arranged a 
jolly dinner with Gilbert Murray who explained to me why I do not find 
comfort in Greek poetry as I should. He recites it really exquisitely so 
that in the onomatapoeic phrases the very purpose seems to stand out, e.g. 
in iuoXu<pXoicr{toKp he can make the thing ring in your ears. But he amused 



980 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

me by putting Homer at the top of the world and poor Virgil in a fairly 
low class. I said I thought this the typical prejudice of the sophisticated 
for the simple as when the- jaded businessman weeps over a Barrie play. 
He talked magnificently about Euripides and the Greek Anthology; and 
he made us both see more beauty in Greek adjectives in Homer than I 
should have thought possible in an ear so insensitive as mine. When he 
ended up by denouncing Proust I could have hugged him, for the latter 
bores me beyond words. Yet some one else there called him the most 
significant Frenchman in fifty years, and he was a man who really knew 
French literature. Yet I find elaborate descriptions of the insignificant 
really foreign to the effectiveness of art. Are you a Proustian and have I 
my shoes on holy ground? 

I have done some reading in a mild way. A pleasant book on English 
economic history by Lujo Brentano 1 the old Vienna economist a 
wonderful feat for a man of 80, well abreast of modem research. A charm- 
book on Saint-Simon, the diarist by Rene Doumic which I commend to 
you. A really informing work by one Allen [sic] Nevins on the American 
states 1773-89 which I thoroughly enjoyed and Fanny Burne/s Evelina, 
which is adorable. Birrell, whom I met in the street yesterday, told me 
that Cecilia (which I have not read) is better and the Diary better still. 
But I am not a diary-lover unless of people like Barbier who really effec- 
tively paint the portrait of an age, and Birrell is so omnivorous that he 
can even read the poems of inspired 18th century washer-women and 
bricklayers (see Tinker, Natures Simple Plan) and enjoy them. He told 
me that the other day he lunched with Lloyd-George who was cursing 
some Parliamentary colleagues for wrongheadedness; upon which Birrell 
said he always defined liberalism as the power to suffer fools gladly in the 
conviction of imminent salvation. I think you did meet him once, if I am 
not mistaken. Really he is one of the most delightful people in England. 

I have had some luck, too, in the book-buying way. I got a very fine 
set of Saint-Simon's political writings for a ten-shilling note; and a splen- 
did Parkman at auction for even less. I tried hard for a set of the Supreme 
Court Reports but it soared beyond my purse, and I had to content my- 
self with the history by one Charles Warren for ten shillings which I 
bought on the ground of cheapness without any other knowledge of value. 
I invested, too, in a fine De Maistre in 6 volumes at a shilling a volume. 
All this from the library of a defunct master in chancery who had taste 
and discrimination. 

Our love warmly to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

1 Presumably Lujo Brentano, Eine Geschichte der wirtschaftlichen Entwick- 
lung Englands (3 vok, 1927-29). 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 981 

Devon Lodge, 24.IX.27 

My dear Justice: It has been an exciting fortnight; and I have only not 
written because I have been overwhelmed. First I had to act in the Indus- 
trial Conciliation Court of the Cooperative Societies, which took three 
days; but I emerged as arbitrator with the satisfaction of knowing that 
henceforth thirty thousand employes are henceforth entitled to ten days 
sick leave with pay in the year. It was a grim struggle, especially the 
difficulty of disclosing no views in the private discussion after evidence, 
in case it should be left to me (as it was) to decide; and I had the pleas- 
ure of hearing that neither side knew what I should do. Then I was sud- 
denly asked to act as arbitrator between the Treasury and certain civil 
service unions on the meaning of an agreement about over-time (it sounds 
Irish) for non-overtime classes in the clerical division and that meant three 
days with dull documents and an attempt to establish where reasonable 
overtime without pay might be said to end. I decided that a non-overtime 
class ought to give 52 hours without extra pay and receive a grant beyond 
that. As neither side was completely happy with the result (the Treasury 
opposed all concession, the men wanted the pay to begin at 44 hours) I 
imagine I did substantial justice. But you will imagine that these cases 
have meant some grim hours of work. 

But some pleasant interludes. Last night we had MacDonald to dinner 
and talked over the universe. He is a fascinating creature. To watch him 
is like observing a really temperamental prima donna. He is brilliant, 
jealous, eager for applause, quick, incoherent the last person who ought 
ever to lead a party. He dismayed me a little by his vivid certainty that 
God is on his side; hardly less by his perception of politics as a struggle 
in a theatre between contestants for the limelight. I was amused, too, by 
his pose as a connoisseur of the arts which seemed to mean legislation 
against Romneys and Gainsboroughs leaving the country; and I do not 
think he appreciated my remark that I rather wanted legislation to make 
Goyas and Degas come in. He spoke most warmly about America where 
he seems to think the future of culture lies; and with the Calvinisms con- 
tempt for Latin countries. I told him that he would have got on admirably 
with John Adams and found Jefferson wanting in delicacy and taste. Then, 
too, a dinner with Sankey to meet Scrutton L.J. Do you know the latter? 
I thought him quite one of the best minds I have met in many a day 
quick, wide-reaching, passionate about his work. He appealed to me 
greatly by avowing a complete scepticism in re the greatness of Cairns and 
clinched my admiration by his remark that judges should learn more 
political economy. He told me that as a young man he met you at F. 
Pollock's in the 'nineties but only as an undergraduate meets a master 
a great fellow. So too is Sankey who got off the remark that Mansfield 



982 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

made law with the air of Moses receiving the Tables from the Lord. And 
I lunched with Churchill who has been reading American history in the 
vacation and is full of envy of A. Hamilton. Nothing, I told him, better 
explains his own temper than that he should be unmoved by Washington 
and Lincoln, incapable of seeing anything in Jefferson, miss the signifi- 
cance of the West, and fasten on the one man in the record, who, with 
big purposes, was anti-democratic, anti-idealistic, and incapable of ulti- 
mate generosity. It was also an amusing index to the culture of our good 
and great that until he read Hamilton's life, he had never heard of Mar- 
shall C.J. and did not know that Madison was a President of the U.S. I 
went also to dinner to Arnold Bennett who was like a very clever nouveau 
riche asking you not to forget the power of the purse, even while he 
emphasised his contempt for mundane things. But he did interest me by 
explaining, as I thought with great power why, to a novelist, Dostoievski 
is by far the greatest man in his line and why the Brothers Karamazov 
is the proof of it. 

In reading, several things I ardently recommend. First and foremost 
C. E. Montague's Right off the Map one of the cleverest and best 
written satires upon mores anglicanae I have ever come across. Do, do 
read it over solitaire. Second a delightful edition of Voltaire's Lettres 
philosophiques by Lanson full of fascinating information about its sources 
and influence. Third an attack of great power and interest by a Chinaman 
named Hsiao on my political views called Political Pluralism by which I 
hope I profited as certainly I enjoyed it. 1 Finally a tip-top Histoire de 
Jansenisme by Gazier which was to me full of illumination not only as 
completing Sainte-Beuve, but also as making one see the place of the 
movement in three centuries of French history. When your first batch of 
opinions are written I hope it may come your way. Frida interrupts me at 
this point to say (rightly) that I must recommend Denis Mackail's The 
Flower Show, especially to Mrs. Holmes, for it really hits off the contours 
and hierarchies of an English village with the most amusing slyness. Next 
week there is a new P. G, Woodhouse [sic] with which I hope to salute 
the beginning of the academic year. 2 

Sir, I have had a great book adventure. I got a catalogue from Paris 
over which my heart panted as the hart after the brooks. Four of the 
Jurieus, three contemporary criticisms of him Haureau's Philosophie 
scholastique, Bayles* Oeuvres diverses, a run of the best ten years of the 
Mercure de France. So I decided that these things come but once in a 
lifetime sold the Encyclopedia Brittanica presented by an extinct uncle, 
telephoned to Paris and they arrived. One Jurieu, La decadence des 
empires was as lovely as it was rare in contemporary red tooled mor- 

1 Reviewed by Laski, 54 New Republic 197 (March 28, 1928). 

2 Not identified. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 983 

occo with the arms of Vauban the economist-engineer. 3 Including the 
telephone, I spent only a ten-pound note; and as I got sixteen pounds for 
the Encyclopedia, 1 am awaiting most anxiously for the fellow's next 
catalogues as this was A-L and M-Z has Montesquieu, Pascal, Rousseau, 
Voltaire as prospects over which the eyes may light and the jaws work 
as they did with the young clerks when Porthos dined with the wife of 
the Procurator to get his equipment for the campaign. 

Another week of freedom and then term begins. But my department 
has doubled itself and I have as a result two new young men. So I am 
hopeful that the year will be restful and that I can largely bury myself in 
French history. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J, L. 



Devon Lodge, 2.X.27 

My dear Justice: A letter from you last night was a happy prelude to 
term. 1 I have had a busy week, with no interludes that can be called 
pleasurable. Students, committees, reports from mom till eve. Some of 
the first were promising; and there was a Chinaman whose English was 
so devastating that for an hour I thought he wanted to write a thesis on 
the history of the alphabet only to discover that he wanted in fact to 
write on the history of the abacus in accountancy. And I entertained a 
queer professor of criminal law from the middle west who was anxious 
to know how our police arrest files de joie and prayed my aid for help 
in seeking permission to go round at night with the police. He explained 
that he had done this in Berlin, Paris, Vienna and Buda-Pesth. I said that 
it was perhaps a vocation like any other but did he in the end find out 
more than the fact that arrests took place where there was undue solici- 
tation. He said that so far he had no clue to the technique, which made 
the investigation more important than ever, so I made him happy by a 
letter to the Commissioner of Police. Another queer soul was a lady from 
Buffalo who came with an introduction from an old pupil of mine. She 
had heard that I was good at finding books; could I tell her where to 
get a complete set of first editions of Charlotte Yonge. I tried to be as 
serious as I could and only at the end asked her why she wanted that 
gravy-like writer. It turned out that someone in Buffalo's "literary circles" 
had made a hit by having a complete set of first editions of Ouida's works 
and this was the spirit of pure rivalry. So I sent her away happy and felt 
that God must really feel sometimes that I have the temper of an angel. 

8 See, supra, p. 737. 



1 The letter referred to is missing. 



984 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

Nor must I omit to tell you of the vicar of Hadleigh, Suffolk, who wrote 
to me in hot indignation for reprinting Taylor s Statesman. An immoral 
book; nothing about Providence in it; a mean code without any sense of 
how God works in our lives. So for four pages, and enclosed a copy of his 
Parish Magazine with a marked article on success proving that there can- 
not be success unless God blesses your work. I wrote back thanking him 
for his communications which I assured him would have the attention 
they deserved. 

I have had little time for reading this week. But I have read and en- 
joyed Maistre on the Gallican Church, which is a superb piece of con- 
troversy, and a very good novel by one Beatrice Seymour called Three 
Wives. Also I have been delving a little into some contemporary mss 
about Boussuet in the British Museum and discovered some notes about 
him as a young man which are exceedingly interesting. The writer (evi- 
dently some kind of church spy to Mazarin) says he is able and learned, 
but above all things compliant and anxious to suit his opinions to those 
whom he encounters. Now that is, I think, the real Bossuet. For if you 
take the crucial instance of the Declaration of 1682 2 I could I think show 
from his correspondence (a) that he was an ultramontane before the 
Declaration (b) that he did not believe it while he was drawing it up and 
(c) that he did not believe it afterwards. Yet he has the impudence to 
refer to the Archbishop of Paris as a valet for his strong Gallicanism. But 
I enclose a piece I have written on Bossuet for the Manchester Guardian 
which is at least an exercise in careful denigration. 3 

1 picked up one nice thing this week a copy of the Abbe Saint- 
Pierre's Polysynodie. Now I am waiting anxiously for replies to orders I 
sent to Nice and Paris for books. The latter had a copy of Buonarroti's 
Histoire de Babeuf (which I have never seen for less than 600 fr.) for 
20 fr., and the former had what, from the description, I take to be a first 
of La Bruyere for two dollars. The latter is interesting because, as I ex- 
pect you know, La Bruyere altered the first six editions in the direction 
of continuously greater severity towards the court; and it would I think 
be worth while tracing the evolution of that extra dose of indignation. 
And I bought a fascinating Dictionnaire des Iwres Jansenistes by a Jesuit 
(1724) which has given me a training in the art of invective such as you 
would envy me. 

2 Bossuet, distrustful of the Jesuits and therefore wary of supporting Papal 
claims of supremacy, was reluctant to acknowledge all the claims of Louis XIV 
and therefore in drafting the Declaration of the French Clergy in 1682 sought 
to find a middle ground between the Gallican and Ultramontane positions. 

8 "The Tercentenary of Bossuet," 17 Manchester Guardian Weekly 254 (Sept 
30, 1927). 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 985 

Well! I must begin to get my papers together for my lectures. I hope 
the voyage to Washington was accomplished in comfort. Take care, and 
do not have tornadoes in I Street. 

Our warm love to you both, Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L, 



Washington, D. C., October 9, 1927 

My dear Laski: A delightful letter from you, 24th, deserves more than 
it will get a too frequent happening. For until this moment I have been 
almost overtaxed. The usual business on arrival, but more than usual, with 
an overhanging atmosphere of certioraris filling every crevice, and an 
abnormal Washington heat that tackles the vitals. The result of everything 
was that at the conference yesterday p.m. we didn't finish the work and 
I have no opinion to write today for which I am thankful, as it seemed 
too much. I shall have my hair cut and try to finish the certioraris on 
hand, knowing that a new lot will come tomorrow. My last secretary, 
Corcoran, was admirable in doing all that was possible to save me trouble 
and he seems to have imparted the ferment to the present one Suther- 
land son of a N.Y. lawyer and ex-judge. Of course I read nothing but 
records of cases. I am much interested by what you say of MacDonald, 
Churchill, Scrutton et al. but the Histoire de Jansenisme must wait for 
better days. Montague's Right off the Map? possible but I don't do 
much in present affairs outside the job. I remember reading Haureau's 
book 1000 years ago and being surprised to see how much Descartes 
owed to the scholastics but in what particulars I have forgotten. There 
is a good article about Brandeis in the Nation of October 5 by Norman 
Hapgood. 1 I believe that Brandeis deserves all the praise that Hapgood 
gives him and I am glad to have him get it. There is inserted a sort of 
caricature sketch of B's face that I don't think pleasant, although by way 
of caricature it catches something of him. The brethren seem in fair con- 
dition except Sutherland, who is off for a month. I don't think there is 
any organic trouble but he is rather down, I infer. I have not seen him. 

My hair is cut with opposite effect to Sampson's [sic] but still instead 
of working all the afternoon I should like to lie down and sleep in spite 
of a long night in bed. 

When we called on the President he asked me if I had enjoyed the 
summer. I said, Yes towns that had celebrated their 300th birthday 
noble cliffs and broad beaches with young ladies who didn't wear 
trousers. He said when he reached my age perhaps he should notice them 
and that ended my conversation with the Executive. 

Now for the certs. damn theml Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 

*125 Nation 330 (Oct. 5, 1927). 



986 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

Devon Lodge, 15.X.27 

My dear Justice: You must forgive my lapse in not writing last week; but 
I was in bed with a nasty dose of 'flu which made the reading of P. G. 
Woodhouse's [sic] Sam the Sudden the only bearable form of activity. 
But I am all right again; and if a little wan, still fit for the job. 

A good deal has happened since I wrote last. First a first-rate case on 
the Industrial Court in which I had the joy of making the Crown abandon 
the claim of privilege for a document they quoted without putting in; a 
practice which I think abominable. Second a jolly tea-party with Hough- 
ton, your Ambassador here, whom I like greatly and with whom I found 
much community of spirit, especially after the discovery that he had the 
right views about you and Brandeis. Then a dinner here for Allyn Young, 
our new Professor of Economics, who comes from Harvard. He is an 
extraordinarily able fellow, a little slow, and without the razor-edge I 
I like in a mind, but perceptive and wise and intelligent. ... So life, 
aided by Mr. Wodehouse, has had its pleasant interludes. Also I won a 
guinea from Sankey, J. by predicting the new Appeal Judge (Greer, J.) 1 
whom he proclaimed an impossible appointment. How goodly are thy 
tents Jacobs! 

One or two nice things have come my way. I found in a French cata- 
logue an excellent copy of Dreyfus-Brisac's great edition of the Social 
Contract the one edition which (a) gives you a sense of its real relation 
to the MSS (b) the other parts of Rousseau which amend and illustrate it 
and (c) parallel texts from the other mighty which show definite parallel- 
isms of thought. I have found it very useful. First it convinces me that 
near to Book III Rousseau changed his mind on much as a result of meet- 
ing Montesquieu. Second I think his attitude to religion and a good deal 
in particular of the religion civile was determined by a real acquaintance 
with Spinoza, and third I think that any effort to make Rousseau the 
author of a really consistent body of political doctrine is quite impossible. 
He is simply a great prophet in the same sense that Isaiah or Carlyle was 
a great prophet. Also I have been reading (to review) The Correspond- 
ence of George III 2 the last roi de metier we ever had and I find it most 
interesting. Character B, Brains E, obstinacy A+, ignorance D; yet, 
strangely enough, the letters show quite clearly that merely to remain for 
long at the centre of affairs gives an authority and a flair unmistakable 
even in a petty and stupid man. The misinterpretation of America is won- 

1 Frederick Arthur Greer (1863-1945), first Baron Fairfield, Justice of the 
King's Bench Division of the High Court, 1919-1927, Lord Justice of Appeal, 
1927-1938. 

2 The review has not been located. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 987 

derful. Right on from 1765 he thought the Americans revolutionists 
because they denied the validity of the Stamp Act. Yet to my thinking 
their view was much that of the Channel Islands today or of Ireland be- 
fore the Act of Union and could have been supported by a very remark- 
able body of evidence. And I have read a charming book on Pascal by a 
young colleague of mine named Soltau, a little too religious for me, and 
hostile to Jansenism at all the points where I should be favourable, but a 
most skilful portrait of much the greatest Frenchman of the 17th century. 
And I went to the funeral of Mrs. H. G. Wells a dear little soul with 
whom Frida and I have passed many a pleasant hour. If, by the way, you 
cared to write him a note I think he would like it much for he is very 
unhappy. (His address is Whitehall Court, London, S.W.I.) I know he 
cares much about you and would welcome a word of sympathy. 

Of other things, there is not much to report. I refused to sit on a govern- 
ment committee to deal with the relations of police and prostitutes, on 
the good ground that I knew nothing of the problem, and was amused to 
find that they replaced me by an Oxford don of whom Rivers the an- 
thropologist once said admirably to me that he was constitutionally inca- 
pable of seeing the distinction between a man and a woman. Also I re- 
fused to go as a fellow to Oriel after the freedom of London the narrow 
environment of an Oxford College would, I am sure, be intolerable, 
though, of course, the leisure would be attractive in its way. Frida inter- 
rupts me to insist that I must strongly recommend you both to read 
Walter Lippmann's book of essays which she says are admirable. I have 
not seen them yet, but she is a very good judge. 

Our love to you both. I write amidst fog such as only England can 
create. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., October 28, 1927 

My dear Laski: A delightful letter from you, just arrived consoles me by 
its explanations of delay, since I also have slipped a cog. I have been so 
pressed and oppressed by work that I simply haven't had a chance. But 
the weather is clearing we adjourn next Monday and all my cases are 
written, up to date. Let me answer one or two items that you mention. 
Imprimis I did read W. Lippmann's essays before I left Beverly and 
quite agree with your wife, uninfluenced, I swear, by the reprint of some 
words about me when I was 75. I thought the notices of Mencken and 
Sinclair Lewis A-l. 

2. I will try to write a line to Wells but one is so helpless on such 
occasions tie more so that the Godly common-places are not available, 
as he wouldn't want 'em and I could not use 'em. 



988 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

3. I am glad you got your guinea, but it shows how old I am that the 
names now are all unfamiliar to me. Why don't they put in Leslie Scott? 

4. Why do you call Carlyle a great prophet? Because he shows the 
influence of the Old Testament? He seems to me a man of imaginative 
humor who didn't care a damn for the truth except for its decorative pos- 
sibilities and had no particular insight into it present or future. Perhaps 
I go a little farther than my fighting line but I indicate my animus. 

I can understand you as to Rousseau although I doubt if prophet is the 
word that I should use, when I consider his reputed influence on what 
happened in France and his very manifest influence on German phi- 
losophy (Kant and Hegel). 

I have read nothing except records and a short Essay on Conversation 
by Taft's brother and The "Canary" Murder a good detective story. It 
amused me to see in the advertisements quotations from notices of a for- 
mer and I presume similar work that spoke of it as not only a story but 
literature. This one has some slight affectations of culture done in French, 
put into the mouth of the detective but seemed to me to want every- 
thing except the fundamental one a real puzzle, the answer concealed 
to near the end, and things kept moving. I believe that in some past time 
I have heard of or even read works of literature but from September 30 
to October 31 1 have known and shall know nothing but law. I may have 
remarked before but if so I repeat that it is harder work to live at 
86 than at 26 56 or 76, but still the gusto has not departed. My wife 
tripped and fell when she was out star gazing one night at Beverly and 
I don't think that she yet has recovered from the shock but we went 
out early this morning and I took an hour off for an adorable drive in the 
Rock Creek Park. Don't tell me that you have to go north for brilliant 
color. It was an ecstasy. Brandeis generally comes with me as far as my 
house, driving home, and we go by the Potomac and around the Lincoln 
Monument, to get the wrinkles out a little. He is as good as ever. I owe 
a line to Frankfurter I owe everybody but hope is not dead. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 23.X.27 

My dear Justice: I picture you as a ghost, palely wan, wandering amid a 
vast ocean of certioraris, I hope you will emerge scathless, and not, like 
your most distinguished predecessor, disappear as the clock strikes mid- 
night. 

I have been pretty overwhelmed. A case at the Industrial Court, a lec- 
ture (very good!) to the Fabian Society on Victorian Democracy, a din- 
ner with Hewart, C.J., a couple of articles, and what you will find in the 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 989 

last paragraph of this letter was much for a week. The Fabian lecture 
pleased me, for Bernard Shaw came out with his typical onslaught on the 
Victorians as hostile to new ideas. He gave as an example the refusal of 
Henry Sidgwick to listen to him at the British Association in 1888 when 
he urged the taxation of urban land values, Sidgwick, he said, denounced 
the plan as criminal and left the room in disgust. Whereupon I produced 
Sidgwick's own account of the debate, written to J. A. Symonds the day 
after, full of eulogies of Shaw and saying that the general position com- 
pletely convinced him. 1 I have never seen Shaw at a loss before; but this 
was really what your compatriots call a "sock-dologer." How amiable and 
kindly a thing is a good memory. Hewart interested me a good deal. He 
is obviously clever and quick and pungent. But he has no Weltanschauung; 
he knows nothing of law in the sense that Pollock knows law; and he has 
real contempt for those who seek to know law in that way. He is an at- 
tractive intellectual parvenu, really attractive because so alert. It was 
amusing to contrast him with a real German gelehrte, Gerland of Jena, 2 
who was there. The latter was heavy, but he really knew, and his obvious 
horror at the ease with which Hewart committed himself on things of 
which he knew nothing e.g. the German law of libel was most attractive 
in its way. Gerland had the scholar's horror of committing himself with- 
out full independent examination which is, I suppose, fatal to action, but, 
still, a quality in favour of which I keep a sneaking prejudice. I must add 
that there was a French fl&M-academician there, Bremond, 3 whose 
talk was quite marvellous and quite as marvellously wrong-headed. He 
was a mystic devot who has written illimitably on S. Francois de Sales, 
Pascal, Newman et al and he thinks James's Varieties of Religious Experi- 
ences the ultimate key to everything. He was anti-papal in the French 
Gallican way, but with that curious certainty that Rome will ultimately 
triumph with which argument is quite impossible. When he spoke of the 
Pope as the embodiment of the Holy Spirit I asked him how he reconciled 
that view with the technique of the conclave as given e.g. in such things 
as the election of Alexander VI and he replied almost casually that these 
things cannot be understood by an unbeliever. I said "You mean that a 
sense of evidence is distressing" and I gather that he meant that, but 
preferred to say that faith has knowledge to which knowledge itself is a 
stranger. 

In reading I have got through Ludwig's Bismarck with some pain. I 

1 See A. S. and E. M. S., Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir (1906), 497-498. 

"Heinrich Gerland (1874-1944), distinguished jurist; author, inter alia, of 
Die Englische Gerichtsverfassung (2 vols., 1910). 

3 Abbe Henri Bremond (1865-1933), humanist churchman and critic; author 
of Histoire litteraire du sentiment religieux. en France (11 vols., 1915-33). 



990 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

was interested, but I think he faked his evidence to get a conclusion 
which is certainly not there. I also read the Life of Henry Wilson, the 
Field Marshal who seems to me to have revealed his own foolishness in 
his diary about as fully as a man can. It is a fair proposition, I think, that 
diaries of men who enjoy their own nudity ought not to be published 
unless they are as interesting as Pepys. Otherwise it is really too distress- 
ing for the observer. I read, too, a Trollope unknown to me before The 
London Tradesman, sketches of types, which, without being mighty, was 
full of his shrewd insight and would, I am sure, greatly please Mrs. 
Holmes. He is particularly good and wise if you share my outlook 
on the need for reticence in tradesmen. 

I now end with my real story. I saw a pretty box in a second-hand 
furniture shop which (1 foot by 2 feet) seemed to me a kind of 17th 
century desk and Louis XIV in decoration. It was locked and there was 
no key. I asked the dealer the price and was told it was three pounds. 
I thought Frida would like it and brought it home as a present. We got 
in a locksmith to make a key and when this arrived it contained 80 uncut 
tracts of the Fronde many of them really rare, and not one of them 
available in any modern reprint. Some were things I badly needed for my 
book; eleven are not at the Bibliotheque Rationale and 36 are not in the 
British Museum. Do you wonder I kept this to the end, or that for at 
least a month I shall go about with a light in my eyes? 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

Washington, D. C., November 3, 1927 

My dear Laski: The ghost that you say you picture is solidifying down 
a bit. I got through my work yesterday and through some business 
bothers today and when my nerves have quieted down I shall feel like 
a human being. I am doubting whether to say a few biting words in a 
dissent on the differences between a penalty and a tax, but don't quite 
know whether I shall take the trouble. 1 If I haven't acknowledged the 
things that you have sent me, I have appreciated them and just now 
was rereading the admirable appreciation of Bossuet, 2 which makes me 
think of Racine about whom I once wrote to you. When one strikes 
fundamental differences of taste, especially national ones, one can but 
bow the head (keeping up inside a silly little desperate conviction that one 
is nearer the center of things than the other fellow) . We think of poetry 
as uttering the unutterable, and don't care a damn for the most admirable 
lucidity as compared with the most confused hint at the infinite. So 

1 Campania General de Tabacos de Filipinos v. Collector, 275 U.S. 87, 99 
(Nov. 21, 1927). 

2 Supra, p. 984. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 991 

coming nearer to Bossuet we don't warm up to allegorical figures of 
Commerce and Plenty and other abstractions and coming nearer still 
we prefer one touch of passion or of first-hand perception of truth to 
well modulated tremolo and majestic platitudes. But I dare say a noble 
oration might be made in defense of platitudes as against our transitory 
novelties, even though hot ones. 

I wish we sympathized as much with regard to the social structure as 
we do in many of our literary and philosophical judgments. But I haven't 
your intellectual respect for Shaw. I think he is a mountebank though 
a very gifted one and I don't care tuppence what he thinks. But I dare 
say I should like to see him. Your box story is beautiful suppose the 
dealer should sue you for the value of the contents that you have ap- 
propriated. I dare say your answer would be complete but an argu- 
ment could be made. Suppose instead of pamphlets the contents had been 
current money say 1000 do you think that you could maintain 
a claim of title? If I thought the difficulty serious I should not speak of 
it but I regard it merely as a slight stimulus to inquiry. I suppose that 
I ought to give some time to a German essay which the writer sent to 
me intimating that it was more or less inspired by my book and was im- 
portant, but there is so much bread in proportion to the sack in most 
German theorizing that I shiver on the brink. 

I wish I might hear something of Wu in China. My fears become seri- 
ous. I suppose you have not heard anything. I feel as if I might be on the 
verge of culture in some form at least when I get through a little book 
Rationale of Proximate Cause by Leon Green, Assistant Professor of Law 
at Yale dedicated to the memory of (a Texan?) John Charles Townes, 3 
"Lawyer, Judge, Dean, Teacher He came nearer the ideal in each than 
any other man I have known" &c and I never heard of the paragon. The 
author is a cocky gent who dogmatizes about cases more than the notes 
in a law student's Review and thinks he is revealing more than as yet 
I can see that he is. You tell of more interesting things. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 5.XI.27 

My dear Justice: I have had my annual dose of 'flu, which is the reason 
for my silence last week. However, it has gone, beyond a certain lassitude 
which is, I suppose, inevitable. And I have been busy entertaining W. G. 
Thompson, 1 die Boston lawyer, whom Felix sent to me. We both liked 

8 John Charles Townes (1852-1923), Texan practitioner and judge, and 
teacher of law at the University of Texas. 

1 William G. Thompson (1864-1935) had been chief counsel of Sacco and 
Vanzetti in the later phases of the case. 



992 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

him greatly. I like that type of Yankee simplicity and shrewdness. And 
he moved me much by his account of your patience and helpfulness when 
he and Arthur Hill interviewed you in August. 

We have been about a little. The most interesting, I think, was a dinner 
with Tout the historian. 2 In a dry way, his work is, of course, first-rate and 
important. But the thing which attracted me was the fact that he is about 
to visit America for the first time, and he spoke of it as if he were en route 
for Abyssinia or Tahiti. Beyond an occasional historian in his own life, and 
some related academic people, it was literally an unknown idea to him. 
He thought of the Mayor of Chicago 3 as the typical American; of the 
farmer as a Texan desperado who fired from the hip, or alternatively, 
through the pocket; of the businessman as someone engaged in organising 
a panic. What had completed his conviction that America was still track- 
less wild was the fact that in the hotel you do not put your boots outside 
the room to be cleaned. I disillusioned him as gently as I could. But he 
was obviously baffled and a little disappointed that he was not setting out 
on a desperate adventure. Frida thought I had made him angry because 
I had destroyed his excuse for not taking his wife. 

We motored down to the Webbs for a day and had a good talk. I had 
an amusing argument with her about the influence of aristocracy in 
England. I said that France and America had discovered significances in 
social equality unknown here; and that the English religion of inequality 
had plastered our cabinets with third-rate men there for no other reason 
than care in the selection of their parents. She disagreed; but not I think 
with cause. Then we had Haldane to dinner and we fought with vigour 
over the allied question of the social influence of the monarchy. He tried 
to maintain its value as an imposer of standards. We challenged him to 
produce a single realm of life in which it had successfully done so; and I 
must say I think he made a sorry showing. Then a lunch with H. G. Wells 
who talked with unreproducible brilliancy about the modem novel. 
Dostoievski was, he said, the supreme practitioner, then he put Balzac; 
then George Eliot; then Fielding; then Turgenev. Of the Americans he 
put Hawthorne first, both for style and matter. He rated Henry James high 
but thought him bewildered by the convolutions of life with the result that 
he lost his way and never saw a man or a plot as an idea. We visited also 
Bernard Berenson the art critic. , . . Did you ever see him? . . . 

In the reading line, bed of course has meant big opportunities. I read 
with real interest S. E. Morison's History of the U.S. since 1783, careful, 

2 See supra, p. 661. Professor Tout was a visiting lecturer at Cornell Univer- 
sity in 1928. 

3 William Hale Thompson (1869-1944); Chicago's mayor, 1915-1923 and 
1927-1931, whose principal joy was in pulling the tail of the British lion. 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 993 

sober and convincing narrative, with a pleasurable flick of the whip every 
so often. Then the Greville Diary, in its unexpurgated form; a disgusting 
piece of editing but full of gloriously malicious gossip and invaluable de- 
tails on cabinet-making and the relation of the Crown to ministers. And 
on Brougham the new matter is as good as a play. He quite obviously had 
a streak of definite insanity in him. In a very different line I have got 
much instruction out of J. M. Robertson's Short History of Freethought, 
which is most revealing on the diverse currents of diverse ages, and their 
connections. Now and again he makes a comment which shows that he 
has not read the book he is writing about, but in general it is sound work 
with a proper Voltairian spirit of "ecrasez Tinfame" I reread Adam Eede 
with infinite enjoyment, and Wells's Tono-Bungay, which I incline to 
think is the best of all his writings. And a reprint of pamphlets 4 gave me 
so much pleasure that I put a copy in the post to you. They are so short 
that you can read them in between arguments; and as some are old 
friends you will, I am sure, recapture some early moments of pleasure. 
Our love to you both. I whisper that if some money comes in I have a 
half-formed plan of a month in America at Easter. 

Ever affectionately yours, E. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., November 16, 1927 

My dear Laski: A good letter from you just opened and read. I am very 
sorry that you have been down and hope you will take care of yourself and 
be cautious for some time. I am glad that you liked Thompson the Boston 
lawyer. He made a very favorable impression on me. The further I get 
away from the S. & V. case the more I am convinced that it was hardly 
the occasion for kicking up a row that the facts did not justify. (I am not 
thinking of Felix's book.) The New EepuUic has seemed hysterical to me 
and when (if my memory doesn't deceive me) it talked of Governor 
Fuller's Sadie or Sadish thirst for blood I thought it ridiculous. 1 1 am sure 
of the root of the adjective after all liberals can talk twaddle as well 
as the old fogeys. 

I had a fierce Sunday to do two cases one a case that has been 
postponed because of doubts, the other an effort to escape by construction 
from declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional Sutherland is ill and 

*A Miscellany of Tracts and Pamphlets (A. C. Ward, ed., 192T). 

Perhaps Holmes recalled an editorial comment of August 31, 1927, in 
which it was suggested that Governor Fuller and his advisory committee were 
"filled with an almost sadistic satisfaction" in seeing Sacco and Vanzetti as 
symbols of the poor and resentful classes in society. 



994 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

it looks as if I should have not less than 3 with me as against the more 
arbitrary result. 2 

Monday the work begins again and although I have had some heavenly 
days off I haven't had as many as I wanted, and I am not unreasonable in 
my demands, for I thoroughly enjoy the work when not too crowded. 

I never wrote to Wells as you suggested. Somehow I did not feel fa- 
miliar enough. Without somewhat personal relations it seems an intrusion 
to write to a man about intimate losses. 

I have read nothing to speak of. I did reread Selden's Table Talk in 
Fred Pollock's new edition with renewed appreciation of the shrewd 
sceptical old bird, who drew conclusions from his learning, I like your 
capacity for getting pleasure from all sorts of books. I read most of them 
I read with sweat upon my brow and noting how many pages there are 
and how far I have got. I think I mentioned Walter Lippmann's last vol- 
ume as an exception. He is a born writer. How many big books I have 
read mainly to learn that I didn't believe them, because I was afraid to 
leave the fortress in the rear, although I was to find as I expected that 
the guns were wooden. But of course one learns something from them, 
even Karl Marx. Works intended for pleasure generally give me but a 
mitigated joy e.g. your beloved (and F. P/s Saint) Jane Austen. I 
imagine that I still could take pleasure in Scott, but I have been a little 
shy of later years. One big book of Dostoievski I didn't finish. I think it 
was called The Idiot or some such name. It showed great gifts, no 
doubt, but I got enough. Ditto as to War and Peace though I finished it. 
I once read Phineas (Phinn, Finn?) with pleasure but that was the end 
of Trollope. 

If I am sardonic perhaps it is because a big filling has jumped out of 
my front tooth at a moment's pause from my writing so that I must haste 
to the dentist in the morning, just as I was promising myself to give him 
the go by. This world is transitory and a damaged judge is of little value. 
Adieu till next time. Affectionately yours, 0. W. H. 

Devon Lodge, 13.XI.27 

My dear Justice: This week has been rather saddened by the death of my 
brother-in-law. In a sense, it was a merciful relief. He had been wounded 
at the Somme in 16, and had been an invalid ever since, hardly knowing 
a day without pain. But death is always a stark fact, about which one can 
*Blodgett v. Holden, 275 U.S. 142 (Nov. 21, 1927). In an opinion 
concurred in by three others, McReynolds, J., found portions of the Revenue 
Act of 1924 unconstitutional. Holmes, with Brandeis, Sanford, and Stone, JJ., 
concurring, found it possible so to construe the statute as to save its con- 
stitutionality. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 995 

say nothing; and it is difficult for a complete sceptic like myself to bring 
any comfort in these matters to people who (Frida, of course, apart) 
want essentially confirmation in what you believe to be illusion. I at least 
could not bring myself to give it; and I found that I was on the margin of 
brutality in a way which was very painful. 

That apart, I have been excessively busy. I had to write the article 
on Bolshevism for the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 and a hellish job it was. 
They gave me 5000 words; and I found I had committed the elementary 
sin of collecting enough material to write five or six times as much with 
ease. The only comfort I have is that I now move with assurance amid the 
mysteries of a hundred sects all with uncouth names; and, as yesterday 
when lunching with Churchill, an attack on Bolshevism generally can pro- 
duce from me one of those tantalising diversions into the particular so 
irritating to ... [one] who desires, quite naturally, to live on the plane 
of the universal, Churchill, by the way, was most amusing. After three 
years at the Exchequer he believes himself to be a financier of genius 
with a full insight into the great mystery of the gold standard. So 
I teased him gloriously by asking with the guile of simpl[icit]y all 
sorts of elementary questions. What did he think would happen if 
the South African gold mines doubled their output? Did he approve of 
Irving Fisher's theory of a compensated dollar? Didn't he think the 
burden of proof was on those who accepted the quantity theory of money? 
If 4.86 is better than 3.19 for the pound sterling why is not 5 better still? 
He did not (neither did I) know the answers; but all his satellites waited 
for papal bulls which did not come. As all this came on top of a denunci- 
ation of the Labour Party for its inability to understand the questions the 
City has to face, I am afraid I thoroughly enjoyed it. I add that I like him 
much; and I greatly enjoy his unique power of convincing himself as he 
goes along by the sheer force of his own eloquence. I was amused too by 
his obvious contempt for most of his colleagues except Birkenhead; and 
his pity for Lloyd George as a fellow adventurer whose boat has missed 
the tide. He interested me much by the remark that to him as a young 
man Joe Chamberlain seemed like an English Robespierre in the making; 
and Haldane, who was there, added that Edward VII was always a little 
afraid of Joe because of his radical activities in the 'eighties. It was amus- 
ing to see at that table how much still the English aristocracy is a close 
corporation. All of them were in some degree related to each other (ex- 
cept Haldane) and they were discussing the engagement of the Duke of 
Argyll's heir to the daughter of Beaverbrook, the great newspaper owner, 
as a most distressing thing. They make their small talk charming and very 
graceful; but their ignorance is really colossal. Churchill had never heard 

*3 Encyclopedia Britannica (14th ed., 1929) 824. 



996 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

of Port-Royal; the lady next to me thought that the Richelieu of Louis 
XV's reign 2 was the great Cardinal and was shocked by his amours of 
which she had just read, as she thought, in reading about his great- 
nephew; and another person there when Churchill spoke of a visit he had 
received from a descendant of Madame de Stael looked so blank that I 
had to explain in an undertone. But they know all the current books, or 
pictures or plays, about which there is gossip. They have an absolutely 
immovable opinion of all the politicians and the novelists and the painters. 
They are charming people who do not know that other worlds exist, or 
that any can compete with their own. One said of Esme Howard, the 
Ambassador, that it was a shame to send a decent fellow like that to 
Washington. Another asked me if there were any decent histories of the 
United States; and a third opined that "those Yankee fellows want taking 
down a peg or two, you know." One lady said to me that she was so sur- 
prised by Ramsay MacDonald's charming manners, "and his father, you 
know, was only a workman." I felt that the times of Charles Greville were 
really less distant than one was sometimes tempted to think. 

You, I gather, float from case to case; though I hope you are at the 
moment in the leisure of an adjournment. When real leisure comes, do 
read Sam Morison's History of the United States which is really an ad- 
mirable performance. And I commend an American novel which I thought 
really good Growth, by Booth Tarkington, an unknown name to me. 
I have been reading, too, a very good translation from the Italian 
Ruggiero's History of European Liberalism which, particularly in its ac- 
count of Italy and her writers opened new vistas, though when I came 
across the noun Jusnaturalism I confess I was almost tempted to put the 
book aside. 

I do hope Mrs. Holmes has recovered from the fall. What you say of 
Brandeis warms my heart; I know he on his side reciprocates it fully to 
you. When he writes to me he never fails to make you the centre of what 
he has to say always with a pride and affection that are wholly de- 
lightful. 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 20.XI.27 

My dear Justice: Let me begin with the bad news. The publisher of my 
Communism has gone bankrupt; with the result that instead of the four 
hundred pounds he owes me (it has sold some forty thousand copies) I 
shall have, I understand, about ten pounds. As I had counted on that 

2 The Due de Richelieu (1696-1788), Marshal of France, was the grand- 
nephew of Cardinal Richelieu. 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 997 

for my American holiday at Easter, it means, I fear, that I must postpone 
it until the French book is done. It is, I think, bad luck, to have written 
a "best seller" and then to be deprived of the fruits thereof; but I see no 
other way of meeting it except to shrug one's shoulders and go on to the 
next thing. 

I was distressed at your news of Wu's silence; for I have heard nothing 
of him for fifteen months; and in that seething cauldron anything may 
happen. Your tale of the Yale lawyer with the declamatory dedication is 
superb. I once thought of a little anthology of dedications, for especially 
in the 17th and 18th century some are magnificent. I have a book by Dr. 
Nathaniel Johnston The Excellency of Monarchical Government (1686) 
inscribed to "My Lord Widdington and others of the learned and noble 
gentry beneath whose feet I am but a worm to be crushed" which gave 
me pleasure; and in our own day the dedications (worth a visit to the 
Library of Congress) of Roland G. Usher's 1 books are eminently in the 
grand tradition. I was glad to note that Felix had dedicated his book on 
your court with charm; 2 though I thought (not that I should say so to 
him) that he had broken a butterfly on a wheel in devoting 400 pages to 
an analysis of what really was worth an article. 

I have had a busy time since I wrote last. A jolly dinner with H. G. 
Wells who gave forth judgments with vigour. Item, J. M. Barrie had never 
written a line worth a damn (warm consent) ; item, Henry James spent his 
life pursuing a vain shadow; item, Santayana had sacrificed essence to 
form; item, Herman Melville was easily the biggest of all the Americans 
as Dostoievski of the Russians. He was off to France for the winter and 
full of reckless gaiety so that the evening was a delight. I don't know a 
more stimulating fellow in England. Then dinner with Haldane at which 
Baldwin was the other an amazing evening, with Haldane trying to 
make out (Great God!) that Gladstone was the most important English- 
man of the 19th century. Baldwin and I argued in politics for Disraeli; in 
speculation for Darwin. But old Haldane was hearing the magic voice 
and the heaven-sent gesture and was immovable. Baldwin contributed the 
amusing fact that when a judgeship is vacant an average of 100 K.C/s 
write in to explain their charms but when a Regius professorship is vacant 
he has to go out searching for news of the man. Modesty of the scholar, 
said I; no, said he, for most of those to whom it is offered think them- 
selves too big for it. ... 

1 Roland G. Usher (1880- ), Professor of History at Washington Uni- 
versity, St. Louis, best known for his The "Reconstruction of the English 
Church (2 vols., 1910) and The Rise and Fall of the High Commission (1913). 

2 Frankfurter and Landis, The Business of the Supreme Court (1927) was 
dedicated "To Mr. Justice Holmes, who, after twenty-five terms, continues to 
contribute his genius to the work of a great court." 



998 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

De aliis, not very much is to be told. In reading I have read one 
charmer, Haussonville s Salon de Madame Necker, which has letters of 
Gibbon in the calf-love stage beyond all price; Feuchtwanger s Ugly 
Duchess, in many ways a remarkable picture of the Germany of circa 
1350; and Villey's Sources de Montaigne which is an amazing piece of 
scholarship. But, for the most part, I have been finishing an article on 
Bolshevism for the Encyclopedia Britannica and ploughing through dreary 
wastes of Bolshevist literature. No one, I fear can call it in the least ex- 
hilarating except the elect, and I, alas, am not of them. Did I tell you that 
I had traced the origins of the famous "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" 
to Babeuf? As that is Marx s chief claim to strategic creativeness, and as 
I dislike Marx intensely it gave me peculiar pleasure, as there is little 
doubt but that he had read Babeuf with great care. 

I have bought one or two nice things. From the library of Bury the his- 
torian I got the Abbe Saint-Pierre's works a great rarity, and especially 
interesting in bulk like that because the resemblance to Bentham is then 
so very striking. And from France one or two nice eighteenth century 
things, especially a defence of toleration by Holbach which is quite re- 
markable. Given a month's wanderings in France with a free hand and 
I think I could make this library of mine a useful tool in the period 1610- 
1789. Anyhow you shall see when you come to read volume one of the 
magnum opus. But I want Goldast's Monarchia most badly, and it still, 
with striking persistency, refuses even to come into the auction rooms. 

My love warmly to you both. I hope Mrs. Holmes has fully recovered 
from her fall. Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Washington, D. C., November 23, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your old friend John W, Zane has written a book The 
Story of the Law md James M. Beck writes a letter of introduction. 
Beck, you may remember, is an ex-solicitor-general and thinks that only 
strokes of ill luck prevented his being Ambassador and on our Court. 
Zane has an irritating ability, at once undeniable and unsatisfactory. Evi- 
dently he has read a good deal, but he seems a parvenu in the world of 
intellect, from his arrogant dogmatism and, unless I am wrong, his some- 
what painstaking introduction of quotations or allusions that he thinks 
you will not expect. The book is intended for popular reading and does 
not contain new ideas but it tells the story in an interesting way and with 
a sense of actuality. He begins with man in a pack and works down. Of 
course, there is more of the "would" in proportion to the "did" than we 
are accustomed to in these days. You remember how reconstructors of 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 999 

the past a century ago were accustomed to say that in the hunting stages 
men would do this and that &c. &c. Wells has begotten a progeny. We 
had the story of philosophy last summer and here the story of the law 
and there are others. Wells I think produced a work of art. Whatever his 
faults of detail he makes you realize the world and the story of man as 
one and realize something of what it was, This book so far as I have 
read has a similar merit in a less degree and is well qualified to make 
semi-civilized men out of the quarter civilized. But the conceit of the 
writer is amazing and I am sure that divine providence arranged that 
Beck should introduce him. 

Nothing else to tell. We are sitting again. All my cases and a dissent are 
fired off and I begin fresh and empty. I have had nothing as yet that 
excited my enthusiasm but there is a dim spark of interest in the mean- 
est case. I had a letter from A. Hill saying that Frankfurter will write 
nothing more about Sacco and Vanzetti for a year. I hope it will be longer 
than that, as I think all those who were interested on that side seem to 
have got hysterical and to have lost their sense of proportion but I 
don't refer to his book in saying that. He has published also a good one 
on The Business of the Supreme Court. He is so good in his chosen busi- 
ness that I think he helps the world more in that way than he does by 
becoming a knight errant or a martyr though I don't undervalue or 
fail to revere his self sacrifice in his excursions and alarums. I might say 
something similar of another friend of mine. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Washington, D. C., November 29, 1957 

My dear Laski: Just as your letter came I received a parcel from the 
China Law Review with a judgment by Wu, of late date and I suspect 
the address to be in his handwriting but he used to be an eager corre- 
spondent and he has been silent for more than a year, so that I don't quite 
know what to make of it as no written word explains. You speak of him 
in your letter which makes me mention him first. After finishing Zane's 
book of which I wrote to you I had a few hours which I filled delightfully 
with your Miscellany of Tracts and Pamphlets very good reading 
and if one used those methods, worth resorting to for new words or tricks 
of speech. My judgment of Zane was not changed as I read on. There 
were some things that seemed to me disproportionate toward the end 
and renewed surprise at the boorish dogmatism of one who pauses in a 
history to reflect on the advantage of being born a gentleman. But the 
story interests and is made pretty real and actual, a grandchild of Wells's 
book. 



1000 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

I am truly sorry about the publisher of your Communism in every 
aspect. As to Frankfurter's dedication, do you know that I didn't discover 
it till 3 days ago? A letter from A. Hill said something about the dedica- 
tion which I did not understand I looked at the book and had to cut 
that page, when lo! I was quite overcome. It touched and pleased me 
much. 

Isn't it queer what you tell me about the K.C/s writing when a 
judgeship is vacant! I remember one or two cases of men who wrote on 
to Eliot and then to Oxford stating their claims to honorary degrees 
I am happy to say in vain. As to your other themes, I remember years 
ago being moved by Barrie's Window in Thrums and I have seen some 
of his short plays with sentimental emotion. I am inclined to agree about 
Herman Melville with considerable qualifications and as to Gladstone. 
Little as I admire him in the higher intellectual spheres, I should have 
thought him more important than Disraeli. I am glad you can bore a 
gimlet hole in Marx, as I think him a humbug (I mean in his reasoning), 
and he almost beats Zane for patronizing side. . . . 

Our cases haven't been specially interesting but we have one on where 
a man is going to try to make out that for a city to go into the gasoline 
business is contra the XIV Amendment. Also I hear that they have pro- 
posed a nationwide referendum on the drink question. I am amused at 
the recurring question as to Coolidge's meaning in saying that he didn't 
"choose" to stand for a third term. 1 I regard the expression as perfectly 
good English and presumably saying just what he meant. But those who 
justify it generally go no farther than to speak of it as a local usage. I 
must get 15 minutes reading and I have barely time for it so I shut up. 
I think of things I want to say to you and forget them before the time 
comes to write. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, S.XII.27 

My dear Justice: If my memory serves me right, next Thursday is the 
25th anniversaiy of your entrance into the Court. I need not tell you how 
warm my congratulations are, nor how affectionate. It has been a great 
thing for America in particular to have you there, and, in a larger sense, 
for the common law jurisdictions of the world. Made antiquae virtutis! 
I have had grimly busy days. A case at the Industrial Court, in which 
the briefs alone were a thousand pages, has occupied four long days; and 
we have still to finish conferences about it. And I have had three lectures 
to give of the irritating kind that one promises months ahead and forgets 

1 On August 2, 1927, President Coolidge had released his famous brevity; 
"I do not choose to run for President in nineteen twenty-eight." 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 1001 

about until the night is on you. But much has been flavoured by a grand 
dinner at Sankey's to meet a number of deans and bishops. I have never 
before met the breed in bulk and a queer lot they are. First their 
ignorance of their own ecclesiastical history is appalling; I talked of the 
Donatists and not one of them knew what Donatism was. Secondly they 
were all incapable of intellectual honesty. For example I asked them if 
they thought anthropological discovery affected the place of the sacra- 
ments in theology, and they all said of course as regards Roman doctrines, 
but not on the Anglican side. Then we talked much of the next Arch- 
bishop and for them the essential quality they desired was tact; and tact 
meant what American politicians call "availability" X would not do be- 
cause he was labour; Y was too high; Z too low. A was ideal very 
colourless but he had never spoken on dogmas and being 68 would not 
reign long enough to disappoint the younger men on the episcopal bench. 
I would not have missed the occasion for worlds; I left feeling like Vol- 
taire. And as I left Sankey gave me a beautiful folio translation of Machia- 
velli (1675) which provoked a vast and bucolic dean to regret that it 
was a translation. He personally always read him in the original Latin. 
O God! O Montreal! Also let me chronicle an amusing dinner at which I 
sat next to a great lady whom I will not name. She had just come back 
from America. How distressing it was! So uncouth, so uncultured; rather 
like England before there were railways. The Americans were so con- 
ceited. They lacked an aristocracy to give them the grace of cultivated 
tradition. Thence to books. Did I know the works of Julia Freer 1 (do 
you?)? There was a great historian, learned and yet naughty! So many 
love stories. She adored love! There was no love in America; it was all 
money. England was losing ground because the working-classes wanted 
money just like the Americans instead of loving their betters as they did 
when the queen was alive. The Prime Minister ought always to be a peer 
it gave confidence to know that one of the right kind was in office. In 
the old days peers were always Prime Ministers. I breathed the names of 
Pitt and Peel and Gladstone which she swept aside with the sublime 
ejaculation "canaille." I of course encouraged her by unconcealed ad- 
miration. She confided to me that her ambition had been a salon but the 
arts, alas, were dead. For instance only last month she had invited Kreis- 
ler to dinner and asked him to "bring his fiddle" to play afterwards and 
he refused. "These artists get so much money nowadays that they are 
getting above themselves." And the girls of today! Words failed her be- 
yond the remark that of the daughters of her twenty closest friends not 
one was a virgin. I, of course, must know that. I disclaimed all knowledge 
as tactfully as I could. "Ah! but you are a man, and no man thinks of a 
1 Not identified. 



1002 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

woman except as an object of seduction." This from a hag of sixty with 
four chins and the dress of a girl of nineteen, the professional and perma- 
nent ingenue. I could have listened to her effortlessly all day; and she 
was so convinced that she was profound and important. 

In the way of reading I have had little time for other than work 
mainly St. Augustine. I wasn't very profoundly impressed, except by a 
certain unmistakable dexterity and fullness of mind chiefly out of Plato 
and Cicero. He seemed to me to run away from all his real problems, and 
to lack altogether the ability to judge oneself that makes Spinoza so 
formidable an analyst. Curiously, I was less moved by the magna opera 
than by the letters some of which, e.g. No. 185, struck me as the work 
of a first-class administrator; and in general I offer the bet that there is 
no originality left in Bossuet after you have made your way through 
Augustine. He did have the effect on me of wanting to know more of 
Roman Africa which I have marked down as an enviable subject for 
leisure. The Zane you mention I do not know even by name, but I should 
like its exact title if you have it at hand. I cannot, I fear, quite bear the 
thought that there is the hand of J. M. Beck upon it for the latter always 
seemed to me an intolerable pompous ass I remember his remarking 
at a Gray's Inn dinner that "Pollock had quite a standing among American 
lawyers" which is like an undergraduate explaining that his fellow thought 
well of Bentley. 2 I think I wrote to you that Felix's book seemed to me 
over-elaborate for its theme. The essential stuff could have been put in 
100 pp and the mass of notes were I thought not worth the labour; but, 
of course, I speak here as an ignoramus on the subject. Another book I 
have been reading with much pleasure is J. M. Robertson's Short History 
of Freethought in which I have just got to the middle ages really 
learned and revealing. It confirms me in my old belief that religion ought 
to make God abdicate if he knows anything of its habits. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., December 15, 1927 

My dear Laski: My thanks for your references to my 25th anniversary. 
I think that I should have forgotten it had not Brandeis and a few others 
sent me kind remembrances and a little later Frankfurter's articles in the 
Harvard Law Review 1 reinforced his dedication which I did not dis- 

2 Richard Bentley (1662-1742), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, whose 
monumental classical learning has seldom been excelled. 

1 "Mr. Justice Holmes and the Constitution/' 41 Haw. L. Rev. 121 (Decem- 
ber 1927). 



1927] HOLMES TO LASKI 1003 

cover until a letter from A. Hill referred to it. You are better than usual, 
if possible, with your account of the Dean who reads Machiavelli in the 
original Latin, and the great lady with her penetrating criticisms of 
America and her revelations about her friends (and of herself). I haven't 
had time for reading yet, but I have got off my only opinion, a bothering 
one, and received it back approved from the Chief, Brandeis et al. 2 and 
have done my certioraris, so that now all that I have on my conscience 
for the next two weeks, is to try to make up my mind whether some gas 
rates are confiscatory 3 (Harlan used to call it confiscatory) and the den- 
tist. At odd minutes I have read your little book of Tracts and Pamphlets. 
Among the later ones I was rather touched by Wesley and stirred by Tom 
Paine. I should have been slightly nauseated by Newman had he not 
been too remote for anything but curiosity. I haven't quite finished Kings- 
ley, the only one not read. He makes me squirm, even while I dislike him 
as a wholesome parson imbued with convictions that I do not share. 
Zane's book is The Story of Law. John M. Zane, Ives Washbum, pub- 
lisher, New York. You did know of him and were savage I forget 
exactly the occasion. You will be pleased to know that he said in an article 
that anyone who thought my Kawananakoa v. Polyblank decision right 
might give up all hope of being a lawyer. In this book he dismisses Plato 
as incredibly conceited, as formerly he dismissed all German law specu- 
lation (but that was during the war) and spit on his hand and wiped all 
the sequence from Hobbes to Austin off the slate. He never has told, so 
far as I know, what the great philosophy is that takes the place of all 
these but I guess he thinks there ain't no such critter but just the sensi- 
ble practising lawyer to be found in John M. Zane. He affects the tone 
of scholarship yet somehow seems to me a parvenu in the business. But I 
think he has told the story very well for its purpose. Perhaps you will 
regard it as an index that he seems to consider Vinogradoff as the great 
jurist of the century. Vinogradoff was learned, but so far as I have come 
in contact with his thought on legal themes it has not struck me as im- 
portant. Do you agree? I am not malevolent in my attitude to Zane, but it 
tickled all that is evil in me to have him introduced and recommended 
by Beck. (There are many who suppose that Beck is a great constitutional 
lawyer.) I never read anything of Si Augustine except the Confessions, 
which interested me, though I couldn't recite very well on them now. You 
don't surprise me as to Bossuet, nor very much about Augustine, but on 
the latter I don't know enough to speak. I see no one except the JJ., and 
the rare caller who gets in, like your Ambassador and his wife, both of 

2 Probably Equitable Trust Co. v. First National Bank, 275 U.S. 347 (Jan. 3, 
1928). 
8 The case has not been identified. 



1004 HOLMES TO LASKI [1927 

whom I like sincerely. I haven't yet got free from the cramp of continued 
application that I have felt ever since I have been here. I suppose I may 
live to expatiate free again. 

My love to you all and a merry Xmas. Yours as ever, 0. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 12.XIL27 

My dear Justice: I imagine that this letter ought to arrive about Xmas. 
You know how warm are our good wishes to you both, 

I was relieved to hear that you had received signs of life from Wu. I 
enquired at the Foreign Office here about him and they have sent out an 
enquiry. Could you let me have his exact address? They say that with it 
they can obtain exact information adding that it will take some time. 

I was amused by your further account of Zane. It reminds me a good 
deal of a colleague of mine at McGill University who used to commence 
his courses on English Literature by explaining that attendance thereat 
did not constitute a personal introduction to him as a man of his birth 
and breeding could not possibly know students outside the lecture room. 
Only last night I was told of a young man who applied for the post of 
secretary to Curzon. The latter asked if he was married. "Yes" said the 
applicant. Curzon hoped his wife was a lady; if so when they were in 
want of an extra woman for dinner she might be put on the list of avail- 
ables. The candidate thereupon abruptly explained that he was no longer 
a candidate. "Dear me," said Curzon, "do you think it fair to deprive your 
wife of the social opportunities she could have by dining with us?" Could 
the sublimity of insolence really go farther than that? 

The days since I wrote last have been very full of that disease of com- 
mittees which accumulate about the end of term. And students have 
poured in relentlessly including an American who only wanted me to 
ask Lloyd-George for him who had bought peerages while he was in 
office; and a German who presented me with an article upon the social 
theories of Graham Wallas in which in twenty odd pages (odd in a dou- 
ble sense) he compared him to thirty-one different German sociologists. 
Nor must I omit the Chinese student who wanted us to let him do a LL.D. 
and on investigation turned out to be the son of one of the most eminent 
pirates now operating in Chinese waters. You must admit that an aca- 
demic life offers the prospect of very varied experience. 

The most pleasant person I have encountered at all intimately these 
last weeks is our new professor of economics, Allyn Young, who comes 
to us from Harvard. I don't know if you ever encountered him in his 
Washington days. I find him learned, simple, and well-balanced. He 
agrees with my main feelings about education, especially in the view 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 1005 

that half the people now doing research, especially on the co-operative 
plan are quite unfit for it. His affection for Felix and F. J. Turner is of the 
right intensity; and he entirely dislikes the Harvard Business School. 
These are the beginnings of wisdom. I had him in to dinner the other 
night with Bonar the economist, and it was a delight to hear a series of 
conflicts about purely scholarly matters e.g. where the physiocrats got 
their ideas of natural law from, what is the most unintelligible sentence in 
Hegel (a good subject for an anthology) and the real nature of Mrs. J. S. 
Mill. I also had an adorable lunch with Birrell who told me he had been 
reading the early Fathers of the Church and had been completely con- 
verted to Manichaeism by the official proofs of its heterodoxy. He said he 
had been going through his fee-book and found that after he took silk 
all his biggest fees came from cases he had lost. We discussed the present 
bench and he took the interesting view that, on an average, the political 
appointments were vastly inferior to the non-political. I told him of Felix's 
arguments about the value of a grasp of affairs through political experi- 
ence in his book and Birrell denied this with vigour. He insisted that the 
lawyer appointed direct from politics always showed hostility to experi- 
ments in the direction which ran counter to his own political views 
that the word "reasonable" was something he could not interpret "reason- 
ably." Which, as he confirmed my private prejudices, pleased me much. 
With great deference, I submit that you, Learned Hand and Cardozo 
would not have been better judges by coming to the Bench from a politi- 
cal career; and it is surely significant that Bowen, Blackburn and Mac- 
Naghten were all non-political while Jessel was a dead failure in the 
House of Commons. 

In the way of reading there is, I fear, but little to record, for I cannot, 
I fear, hope to persuade you to follow my footsteps through the dreary 
track of S. Augustine. More pleasant was a good detective story by one 
Crofts called Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy and a charming 
fantasy by an American writer named Thornton Wilder called The Bridge 
of San Luis Rey. Otherwise I have not found time for experiment on any 
scale and Augustine produced in me a sense of irritation. Theology cer- 
tainly needs faith as a compensation for its incredible prolixity and any 
bigger draught of it would make me a militant atheist anxious to do bat- 
tle with the credulous. 

I had an amusing book-adventure. I found a nice copy of a 16th cen- 
tury Aristotle the Politics with a coat of arms on the binding. I paid 
ten shillings for it and then went on to a shop where the bookseller prayed 
me to re-sell it to him. I changed it there for a nice Locke in four quarto 
volumes. When these came home Alexander, the philosopher, was having 
tea here. I opened the Locke and he immediately sighed with envy and 



1006 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

offered to exchange something for them. I acquiesced and am now the 
possessor of John Adams's Works in ten volumes. Frida is urgent that the 
process of exchange should stop there lest I end up with the Law Reports 
and drive her to found a new house. 

I go North on Thursday for a week to give two lectures at Manchester 
University. Then home for Xmas and then a few days on the Continent 
before term begins. I think Antwerp, and if the money holds out, on to 
Amsterdam. 

Our warm love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., December 24, 1927 

My dear Laski: Your account of Curzon and the man who applied for the 
post of Secretary is striking and British. There was a simplicity and single- 
heartedness in Curzon's insolence that almost made it cease to be such 
an English quality that to such a double-dyed sceptic as me is impressive. 
To be cock-sure is to have power. It comes in curious contrast to what I 
was saying yesterday to Brandeis. When we were boys we used to run 
tiddledies on the frog pond in the Common that is jump from piece to 
piece of the ice, each being enough to jump from but sinking under you 
if you stopped. I said having ideas was like running tiddledies if you 
stopped too long on one it sank with you. The thought was suggested to 
me by reading a collection of essays on The Social Sciences and Their 
Inter-relations edited by Ogburn and Goldenweiser Houghton Mifflin 
& Co. The writers seem to take it for granted, as indeed do the scientific 
men whom I see, that the Spencerian straight line evolution is a dream 
that there is no sufficient evidence that the matriarchate preceded the 
patriarchate (as a general fact) that the original promiscuity is an inven- 
tion of the anthropologists &c, &c, &c. I think I will cease straggling and 
be an old fogey for how the devil one can write decisions and do what 
the newspaper men call keeping abreast with the times I do not see. 
Before I forget it: Wu's name is John C. H. Wu and his headquarters 
or address used to be ll a Quinsan Road, Shanghai and a paper that 
I received lately containing a decision of his I think came from the same 
address. He was a member of the Shanghai Provisional Court. But if he 
is there and all right and if he sent me the decision I can't imagine why 
he has not written to me for so long. ll a Quinsan Road seems to have 
been the headquarters also of The Comparative Law School of China 
Law Department of Soochow University described on the title page of 
the China Law Review Volume 1, 1922-24 as the publishers of the 
periodicals with that address. 

It is Christmas Eve and I am so interrupted and upset that I will not 
try to continue except to send you every good wish. I have had two 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 1007 

presents from disconnected men of a bottle of whiskey which raises a 
misgiving in the mind of a careful observer of the Volstead Act but recalls 
the prayer Lead us into temptation. 

Affectionately yours, O. W, Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 28.XIL27 

My dear Justice: I have lived in a whirl of business since I wrote last. 
First two heavy cases at the Industrial Court which caused me pain and 
woe in the mere discovery of the facts, but in which I hope we have done 
substantial justice. Then a visit to Nottingham to speak at the University 
there; then to Manchester where I lectured twice and spent a week-end 
with my people. One lecture amused me a good deal. I spoke on the 
prospects of parliamentary government and one young man I should 
guess a briefless barrister, at least I hope briefless deplored my failure 
to preach a return to the great ideals of Athens where the citizens 
gathered in the market place and spoke their mind to Pericles. So ,1 
pointed out, as nicely as I could, that if an English citizen wandered into 
Downing Street and spoke his mind to Mr. Baldwin he would certainly be 
fined a guinea for disorderly conduct and probably remanded for exami- 
nation by a mental specialist. When I got back there was the necessary 
excitement of Xmas and now we are busy packing for a week in Antwerp 
during which I hope though a little vaguely to have a look at the book- 
shops of Amsterdam. 

I thought Felix's piece in the December number of the Law Review 1 
quite excellent in tone and temper, though he did not say one of the 
tilings I should have said, namely that comparing what you write with 
the judgments of Marshall you give a useful sense of a complex world 
into which with great effort a few sign-posts may be driven while Mar- 
shall always seems to suggest that the world is a damned simple place 
and he especially knows all about it. Somewhere lingering in me is a 
suspicion (dare I utter it) that Marshall is rather an overrated person 
and that he would have been much happier with sturdy Philistines like 
Field and Brewer and Peckham than with civilised creatures like you and 
Brandeis. I add that I was amazed by the article by Pound which followed 
on Felix's; 2 at first it didn't seem to me to mean anything and a second 
reading convinces me that if it does, what it has to say isn't particularly 
worth while. If ever a man lived beneath the tyranny of categories it is 
Pound, and the habit of thinking them realities seems to grow on him. 
A page of Morris Cohen is worth a whole article by him. 

1 Supra, p. 1003. 

2 "The Progress of the Law: Analytical Jurisprudence, 1914-27" (Part I), 41 
Harv. L. Rev. 174 (December 1927). 



1008 LASKI TO HOLMES [1927 

In the way of reading I have not been able to do much. I read the 
autobiography o Haydon the painter 3 which the publisher sent me and 
thought it a painful and morbid document. Then a really excellent book 
by one Allan Nevins (whom otherwise I do not know) on the American 
States from 1783-9, full of curious and quite fascinating detail a 
worthy book for an idle afternoon. And a long train journey made me 
pick out Maitland's Leslie Stephen which is, I swear, the second biog- 
raphy in English, Leslie's Life of Fitzjames being indubitably the best, 
I was grateful for details of Zane for whom I have sent. Evidently he 
does not know BirrelTs definition of a gentleman a man who makes 
his opponent in controversy say "I wish I had said that first." But from 
your remarks I infer there is the prospect of instruction. 

I had one book adventure in Nottingham that will please you. You 
perhaps know Forsytes Cases and Opinions in Constitutional Law a 
really rare book which sells for eight or nine pounds. I bought it in the 
market-place at Nottingham for 7/6. When I got to Manchester my 
brother's eyes fell covetously on the Forsyth and he spoke strongly about 
the imminence of his birthday. I, therefore, with unshed tears, presented 
it to him. The next day, in Manchester, I saw a copy for 5/ and, of 
course, gladly bought that. Going to the University to lecture I met 
Powicke the historian 4 on the bus, I having the book in my hand he 
cried out that he had looked for Forsyth for twelve years without ever 
seeing a copy outside a public library. I, moved by his obvious, though 
discreet, envy, and liking Powicke in every way, thereupon insisted that 
he take rny copy and thereby, let me in honesty add, recognised that I 
sealed him to myself forever. So I returned to London feeling that one 
could possibly, at least in the realm of books, push the Sermon on the 
Mount too far. Lo! cometh Xmas day and my assistants send me, with 
their warm regard, a copy of Foisyth with the name of Lord Bowen upon 
the fly-leaf. My dear Justice, cast thy bread upon the waters if thou start- 
est with assistant like mine. 

I was much distre^ed by a note in Felix's paper which indicated the 
death of young Henderson. 5 I did not know him well, but all I knew sug- 

a Probably The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon, 
1786-1846 (Penrose, ed, 1927). 

* (Sir) Maurice Powicke (1879- ); Professor of Medieval History, Uni- 
versity of Manchester, 1919-1928; Regius Professor of Modern History, Oxford, 
1928-1947. 

5 In 41 Harv. L. Rev. 126, note 15, Professor Frankfurter had referred to 
the untimely death of Gerard Carl Henderson (1891-1927). Henderson, while 
a law student, wrote The Position of Foreign Corporations in American Con- 
stitutional Law (1918) and later published The Federal Trade Commission 
(1924). His widow was the daughter of Professor F. W. Taussig, the Harvard 
economist, 



1927] LASKI TO HOLMES 1009 

gested a mind of real penetration and candour. It must be a heavy blow 
for Taussig. 

Of other things there is little to tell, though I wish I could transcribe 
a talk in Manchester with a youth of eighteen convinced that he was 
born to write and urgent that I should tell his father (a wealthy cotton- 
broker) that a couple of thousand a year was the debt parental toil owed 
to filial genius. My refusal (I abridge an epic) ended with his hint that 
middle-aged failures never lend a helping hand to the new generation. 
He knew all the cliches of Ibsen by heart, 

May 1928 bring you both all that I am eager it should! 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L, 



VI 



Devon Lodge, 8.1.28 

My dear Justice: We got back yesterday from a divine week in Antwerp. 
Talk of the best kind; food that even I appreciated as different; two per- 
fect etchings; and a host of old books the mere finding of which was 
ecstasy. The man I enjoyed most there was an old Belgian Jesuit who 
had been for nearly forty years a missionary in China. Religion had ceased 
to have much meaning for him and he had, I think consciously, devoted 
himself to Chinese anthropology. He was a brilliant fellow, with that 
suave sensibility which makes the Jesuits so much the ablest and most 
attractive of all the Catholics. I asked him how he had managed to stay 
so long without being moved; he said that he always arranged his diseases 
at a suitable moment. I asked, too, much about his religious work. He said 
that he went over convinced that he had a great mission and stayed con- 
vinced that he was being humanised. Did he ever have religious doubts? 
Yes, but when they came anthropology was an antitoxin. Had he ever seen 
evidence that the Chinese were influenced by his teaching. Answer: a 
good Chinaman will not be harmed by Christianity, and a bad Chinaman 
is less likely to starve if he becomes a Christian. After all, he thought, it 
was good for China to know that Confucius and Lao-Tse had their Euro- 
pean confrere. He objected to no form of religion except Baptists; the 
latter he disliked because they really thought their dogmas were impor- 
tant. The only Christian dogma to which he clung was the necessity of 
beautiful music in the church positively; and, negatively, the aesthetic 
horror of extempore prayer. Another attractive person was an antiquarian, 
who kept one of the finest engraving-shops I have ever seen; you would 
have revelled in his Rembrandts and Whistlers and Rops. He told me 
that he started as a boy in the shop he now owns. Thirty years ago the 
proprietor was going to sell it; but Leys, the Flemish painter, could not 
bear the notion that the place where he had coffee every Friday at eleven 
might possibly cease to exist and persuaded a Belgian millionaire to lend 
my friend the capital for its acquisition. Now it has become a kind of 
centre for the artists of Antwerp and from dawn till dawn you can hear 
why Rodin was bourgeois, why Cezanne is the greatest of all artists, why 
Maeterlinck is tenth-rate, that etatisme is a crime against humanity, that 
il faut soufrir pour etre dScore, and so on; all the most obvious back-chat 
of an artistic milieu, and yet all fresh and living because so deeply felt. 
The book-hunting was adorable, even though I did not, as I hoped, get 
to Amsterdam. For the first two days I drew a blank, there being nothing 
but old Flemish books; but I later found a man with a heap of things in 
a stable and therefrom recovered a volume of contemporary criticisms of 
Montesquieu, one of them intensely interesting since it attacked his in- 
dulgence for the government of England and argued that on his own 
principles English success in the art of government had no relevance to 
the conditions of France. I found a charming volume of Abbadie, Les vies 



1014 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

des hommes de lettres illustres with a most attractive account of Descartes 
therein and a book by one Gin, of which I fear you may not have heard, 
but which is important for me as it shows the influence of Bodin in direc- 
tions usually unrelated to his ideas, 1 1 bought also a new book by Thibau- 
det, the French critic, called La repubticque des professeurs, a kind of 
history of French thought since 1900 which is as brilliant and as brilliantly 
written a book as I have read in many a day, Altogether a most satisfac- 
tory visit. And I spent a day in the Muse Plantin and sat in the chair 
where Lipsius corrected the proofs of his texts with the fear of Scaliger's 
criticisms in his mind, not without emotion. The house we stayed in (an 
architect-friend's) was itself a poem. Built in 1405, most of the original 
remains, especially its exquisite interior court, and its perfect Gothic 
fagade. Really it is a crime that you and I cannot have a month in Europe 
together so that I could show you my Paris and my Antwerp and my 
patch of Prague that I would not change for the wealth of the Indies. 

Thanks for the address of Wu. I have written to Austen Chamberlain 
and asked him to make suitable inquiries discreetly and you shall hear at 
once. The court I believe still functions which, at least, means one has 
ground for hope. But in China just now one ceases to expect anything 
but the worst. 

I came back to a flooded London and a dinner party at Bernard Shaw's 
where the guest was Chesterton. They both, I thought, talked clever non- 
sense interminably under the impression that it was metaphysics, and 
Chesterton acted as though the creation of a paradox is proof of genius. 
Shaw (to speak in your private ear) rather bored me. He talks as though 
he knows that Europe is listening at the keyhole to what he says; and he 
has, consequently, a reckless disregard for truth where this is in conflict 
with sensation that I really find a painful thing. And the adulation which 
surrounds him is irritating beyond words. He says something which makes 
you revolt; you contradict; and his audience looks at you as though you 
had spat upon the Eucharist. When e.g. he and Chesterton maintain that 
there has been no intellectual freedom in Europe since the middle ages 
what can you do except be vehement. Yet with his audience that kind of 
cheap paradox is greeted as an ex cathedra pronouncement from Rome. 
I am permanently anti-papal. 

Our love warmly to you both. Please take great care in the cold weather 
that I read of in Washington. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 

Probably Pierre Gin, Les vrais principes du gouvernement frangais (1777), 
an attempted refutation of Montesquieu and Mably. 



HOLMES TO LASKI 1015 

Washington, D. C., January 11, 1928 

My dear Laski: A double extra delightful letter from you this morning 
with the wonder tale of Forsyth a work of which I remember the out- 
side better than the inside and your astute remarks on Marshall. You 
may recall on reflection that in our Collected Legal Papers we had a few 
remarks on that sage which led Roosevelt to doubt whether I was the 
right man to appoint to this bench. I only think you should not make it 
a trait of Marshall especially it was the mark of the time, a god-fearing, 
simple time that knew nothing of your stinking twisters but had plain 
views of life. Story and Kent seem to me similar in that way and I 
never have noticed any marked or extraordinary self-satisfaction to Mar- 
shall. They were an innocent lot and didn't need caviare for luncheon. 
I am all in the law again and reading next to nothing. I do constantly 
miss my friend Rice who was boss of the print department. That depart- 
ment offers a rather finite sphere of interest but there always was a little 
mystery of possible enchantment when I went over for a morning with 
him and perhaps still more when I thought of going over without 
going. I haven't bought a print since he died bar a Japanese trifle or 
two which I don't count. 

Last night I set my wife to reading to us a Japanese woman's account 
of her bringing up and life that interests me much. (A Daughter of the 
Samurai by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto. Doubleday Page & Co.) Her ac- 
count of one of the old Samurai after the new order had come in was like 
the most moving tales of the old French noblesse. She last sees him as 
doorkeeper in a shop, opening and shutting for those who in her youth 
would have touched the earth with their foreheads when he rode by 
but with the same old dignity and little smile. My first Japanese student 
was like that. He was given 2 swords when he was 12 and told he could 
draw one when he chose but that if he did he must kill either the other 
feller or himself before putting it back. 

As you say that you expect instruction from Zane by reason of what I 
said, I protest I hardly think much instruction, but, as I said before, a 
realizing sense of the movement of the law in a less degree the kind of 
thing done by Wells and oh my lights oh my liver introduced to 
the public by that other great man Beck! I am pleased to notice how 
frequently our estimates agree. 

Last night in my hour off after dinner, being unwilling to take up 
anything that I must finish if I began it, and having nothing particular in 
mind, I browsed a bit in the Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which 
embodies all my convictions so far as I have seen, and once in a while has 
a wrinkle that had escaped me e.g. the distinction between "especially" 
and "specially" but I think my instinct would have kept me right. It 



1016 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

led to a misgiving for a moment after I had written especially on page 1 
of this (last line) but I believe it is right. 

You see how dry I am when I am in the Chamber of the Law, but I do 
wish you and yours all good things for the new year. It has begun pleas- 
antly for me. Your address Bridge Place has given me a slight apprehen- 
sion for you as to the floods but I hope an idle one. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 21.1.28 

My dear Justice: Your delightful letter of January 12 [sic] was very wel- 
come; and I was glad that you did not feel unsympathetic to my heresies 
about Marshall. The floods here were pretty ghastly in places like the 
desolation of a tidal wave. But the position of this house in a cut de sac 
renders it, luckily, remote from any prospect of inundation. Two maids 
in the house of a friend of ours Haldane's niece were actually 
drowned as they slept in bed. 

I have had a very busy time since term began. First a good deal of 
writing to do, some of it, as a piece on Rousseau for the Yale Review, 1 
really pleasant as making one think out a judgment in general terms; 
other parts, as book-reviews, irritating because you have never quite the 
space to say what you want. Then I have had some lectures to give be- 
yond my ordinary work; and the melancholy business of committees. If 
academic people are Plato's philosopher-kings, I think I am in favour of 
government by the ignorant. Yesterday I was at a board for over an hour 
which devoted passionate energy to the question whether the title of a 
thesis should be "Lord Odo Russell's Embassy in Berlin" or "Anglo- 
German Relations while Lord O.K. was at the Embassy" I have rarely 
seen such heat; and my tentative suggestion that the matter was not really 
very important won only grim head-shakings and the expression of a fear 
that I was undermining the standards of the university. On the whole 
I am not very impressed by government by dons. They are remote from 
life; they have what the Freudians call an "inferiority complex" about 
business; and that makes them wrangle interminably about petty details 
without much regard to their importance. 

You will have seen about Hardy's burial in the Abbey to me a mel- 
ancholy spectacle. First the old man deliberately did not want it; and 
second I object on principle to the Church getting kudos from men who 
reject its doctrines. I never thought that men like Shaw would take part 
in a ceremony which was built on dogma Hardy spent his life in deny- 
ing; but I suppose even a neo-Jew like myself cannot quite grasp what 

^'Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau," 17 Yale Review (N.S.) 702 (July 
1928). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1017 

burial in the Abbey means to Christians. His death made me reread some 
of his things. I marked him up for power and sense of the beauty in 
nature; but I thought some crude and most of the poetry in no sense 
poetry at all. But Tess and Jude and The Mayor of Casterbridge were 
assuredly in the great tradition. 

In reading, I have had rather a jolly time. I read Paul Masson's Reli- 
gion de J. J. Rousseau, certainly the best explanation of him that there is, 
and above all valuable because it makes so very plain the relationship of 
R. to the religious reaction of Chateaubriand and his period. Then Miss 
Haldane's Life of Descartes, good journeyman's work. It did not make me 
admire Descartes unduly as a person that cold self-centredness is singu- 
larly unattractive, and the tone of his letters to Christina of Sweden makes 
one literally sick. Then I read the new volume of Queen Victoria's Letters, 
which I do urge you at least to turn over if they come your way. She was 
just like the popular conception of the Kaiser except that she was the 
formal head of a system able to neglect her opinions. Vicious, obstinate, 
ungenerous, the creature of flattery, and with no power at all of self- 
criticism. If Dilke and Chamberlain had known what she was saying of 
them at the time, Republicanism in the eighties would have been a seri- 
ous business. And finally curious juxtaposition I have been reading 
St. Thomas Aquinas for my lectures and finding myself literally thrilled 
by the perverse ingenuity of his mind. I am quite sure that in an extra 
life I should devote my days to the study of medieval philosophy, and 
especially that exquisite problem of the Arabs as a medium between 
Greece and the medieval world. Aquinas getting William of Moerbeck 
sent to Greece to find more accurate mss of the Politics is a fascinating 
spectacle. 2 

1 have bought, too, some pretty things. Two nice volumes of Holbach 
go far towards making my set of him complete; and I was tempted by, 
and feel for, the new national edition of Descartes in which I find the 
correspondence most attractive. Mersenne 3 is an attractive person; and one 
feels that he had a good many qualities like to those of Felix. Then a 
glorious folio of Loyseau, and a not so handsome one of La Roche-Flavin's 
Treize livres des parlements which gives me the French juristic tradition 
from 1600 D'Aguesseau, and interests me enormously because I think 
I can see in it one day the prospect of a comment on what Bodin was 
trying to do which might be provocative. I went, the other day, to 
Sotheby's to bid on a book; and there I saw some Rembrandts that were 

2 William of Moerbeke (ca. 1215-1286); classical scholar and orientalist and 
the first translator of Aristotle's Politics. 

8 Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), theologian, mathematician, and philosopher 
whose warm friendship for Descartes was proved when he became his ardent 
defender in Paris when Descartes was in exile in Holland. 



1018 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

literally as fine as the day they were taken from the copper, But they 
brought prices which made me fade silently into the darkening shadows 
of Bond Street. 

We have hardly been out in the last fortnight through pressure of work. 
But I have had a tea with Birrell and a dinner vyhich it may amuse you to 
hear of. Birrell was very full of a book by Birkenhead called Points of 
View. "He thinks/' said Birrell, "that if he spits in the street men will 
think it the waters of Heaven." He has satisfied himself that Demosthe- 
nes, Cicero, and Burke combined to give him birth; and having satisfied 
himself that this is so, he has compelled every half-wit in London to take 
him at his own valuation. I said to Birrell that he seemed to feel very 
strongly about Birkenhead. "Wouldn't you?" said Birrell. "I met him on 
the street fust now and the fellow had the insolence to say that Lamb was 
not a loveable person." I wish I could reproduce the tone in which the 
words "the fellow" tumbled from Birrell's mouth. Another great remark 
of BirrelFs was that the new school of poetry (the Sitwells et al.) seem to 
think that Apollo played not the lyre but a brass band. At dinner I sat 
next to a great lady whom I leave unnamed. She asked me if I were a 
Theosophist and I said I was afraid not. Then for 20 minutes she ex- 
plained its glories to me and begged for my adhesion. She even offered to 
meet me on the astral plane but not on Tuesdays and Fridays when she 
had engagements. She told me that she vividly remembered living in 16th 
century Italy where she was Lucretia Borgia, and that in retrospect there 
was a cloying sweetness about her sins. Afterwards, her husband asked me 
if she had told me this; I had to admit it. "There have been moments/' 
he said, "when I wished I was the Borgian Pope." But the husband told 
me the best thing I have heard in many a day. An Irish farmer and his 
wife go round the Dublin gallery. He calls out the number of the picture, 
and she announces its title from the catalogue. She reads slowly and gets 
a little mixed. They stand in front of a nude by Degas and he calls out 
"901" to which she replies "Queen Elizabeth preparing to receive the 
Spanish Ambassador." But I grow profane. 

My love warmly to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., January 23, 1928 

My dear Laski: This begins a letter that I don't know when I can finish 
seeing that I have a five to four case just assigned to me in which I am 
the doubting fifth. 1 But I must say that you stir depths when you speak of 
showing me your Paris and your Antwerp. Also I am charmed by your old 
Belgian Jesuit and delighted at your experience with Shaw and Chester- 

1 The case has not been identified; perhaps it was Casey v. United States 276 
U.S. 413, infra, p. 1027. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1019 

ton. I have told you often that I didn't care what Shaw thought about 
anything that I regard him as he once described himself as a mounte- 
bank good to make you laugh but not to be taken too seriously. When 
Chesterton tackles fundamentals he seems to me incompetent. When he 
utters paradoxical epigrams he amuses me but as to him also I don't 
care what he thinks. 

'Tis done my opinion has gone to the printer and I hope even that it 
may convince Brandeis who took the opposite view. Two generations 
ahead of me there was a well known lawyer in Boston, Charles G. Lor- 
ing, 2 whom my mother-in-law pronounced a really good man because he 
never took a case that he didn't believe in perhaps a more sardonic 
way of putting it would be that he believed in every case that he took. 
My senior partner 3 was a student in his office and one day Loring working 
on a brief said "I pursue this investigation with increasing confidence" 
a good touch of human nature which I now illustrate, having convinced 
myself quite comfortably. Dear me how can man take himself so seri- 
ously in view not only of the foregoing, but of the fact that a change 
in the wind or the electrical condition will change his whole attitude to- 
ward life. Of course he can't help being serious in living and functioning, 
but I mean in attributing cosmic importance to his thought and believing 
that he is in on the ground floor with God. This interjection comes up to 
me so often that I can't help repeating it often as I probably have uttered 
it before. 

1 was amused last night by a number of the Mercure de France sent 
to me by Gerrit Miller 4 with an article intended to show that Casanova 
when he wrote his memoirs in his old life was an omnivorous reader, and 
as the reporters say in their rancid language abreast of the times 
that therefore various coincidences with a work by Diderot then attributed 
to the Chevalier de la Morliere, with Faublas and with Restif de la Bren- 
tonne, indicate that he had read the works referred to and heightened his 
memoirs with high lights from those sources. 5 If you are a Casanovan this 
may interest you. C's book did me good at a critical moment just when 
I had got out my Common Law and had some symptoms that for the 
moment I mistook for a funeral knell. It is an amazing work as no doubt 
you know. There is also a queer article on Goethe which I hardly glanced 

2 Charles Greeley Loring (1794-1867'), enthusiastic conservative and lead- 
ing member of the Boston bar whose energies were devoted almost exclusively 
to professional affairs. 

8 George Otis Shattuck (1829-1897); Holmes twice paid public tribute to 
Shattuck's memory: 14 Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 
(2nd Series) 367 (November 1900); Speeches, 70. 

* Supra, p. 737. 

5 Edouard Maynial, "Les memoires de Casanova et les conteurs francais du 
XVIIP siecle," 201 Mercure de France 112 (January 1928). 



1020 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

at that interprets the seeming babble of the witch in Faust as a summary 
of mystic doctrine and I believe the key to the poem and to Goethe. 6 
Probably I have told you, for you know all that I know, of seeing on the 
fences just after our war an advertisement ST 1860 X and saying and 
proving to myself that if one accepted that as a revelation of the ultimate 
secret one would be surprised at the corroboration that a fortnight could 
develop which may be taken as an appendix to the second page of this 
letter. 

Also I have bought the new edition of the Greville Memoirs and per- 
haps may read them and give serious thought a rest. They profess to be 
unexpurgated although abridged, and to contain much that was left out 
in former days on account of the Queen. But all reading is still in antici- 
pation until the opinion is sent out. It is curious how many cases open 
some, little it may be, vista of legal speculation, if the general interests 
you more than the particular. I remember that the first time I was in 
London Henry Adams remarked that interest in general propositions 
means the absence of particular knowledge a good caution for the 
young but not true throughout life. I am not afraid to confess the foible. 
My secretary 7 at this moment tells me of a little girl who told her mother 
that another little girl had white things in her head that bite and her 
mother was alarmed, needlessly she meant teeth. I had a drive in Rock 
Creek Park this morning, and walked down to the big open air bird cage. 
There is a new one now below it and two smaller ones but revocare 
gradus [sic] and to walk back up the little hill I found a hardish job 
age creeps on. It was delightful all the same. And so I wait for your next 
adventures. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 

We have had almost no snow as yet but February I always fear. 



Devon Lodge, 28.1.28 

My dear Justice: Today we got the distressing news that Felix's mother 
was dead, and I feel for him so deeply that I find this distance from him 
loathsome. Words of comfort on paper seem somehow to make one more 
conscious of isolation. I had a great affection for the old lady. She had 
such devotion to Felix a sure way to my heart such sterling com- 
monsense and so vivid a personality. There stands out always in my 
mind a dinner with Gertrude King 1 when the latter was explaining her 
exploits in Russia. "And did you learn the language?", asked Felix. 
"Enough," said the great lady, "to get what I wanted in the shops." 

"Pierre Masclaux, "Le grand oeuvre de Goethe/' id. 80. 
7 Arthur E. Sutherland, Jr., supra, p. 975. 



1 Supra, pp. 503, 618, 621. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1021 

"Ah/ 7 remarked Mrs. Frankfurter, "when one has the money, one can 
buy in any language." Twelve years after that strikes a happy chord in 
my memory. 

It has been a busy week. I have been arbitrating alone between the 
Borough of Aberdeen and its employes, and though the procedure was 
stately and dignified, it was hard work. And I had to deliver a founder's 
oration to a little secular society which descends straight from the Ben- 
thamites; and though I knew what I wanted to say, I had a fancy for 
that polish in saying it which means a retirement into the corner to con- 
sider one's adjectives. However in my reply to the debate I achieved 
what I thought a not unhappy remark. A clerical gentleman who had 
come to denounce did his duty vigorously, and represented with com- 
plete adequacy theological knowledge circa 1500. He spoke of my eulogy 
of the cleansing effects of Voltaire as "a shameful eulogy of a shameful 
career" and congratulated himself on the hope that God would deal with 
me. So I permitted myself to point out the danger of thinking that the 
deeper the woolliness of one's mind, the more one would be identified 
with the lamb of God, and left it at that. 

I have been reading a good deal, though mostly in the line of work. 
One book Le rdle politique des protestants 1688-1715 by Dedieu 
has been a revelation, for it shows that Bayle's very eminent adversary, 
the Calvinist minister Jurieu, was throughout the last twenty years of 
his life a spy in the pay of William III and Anne; which, naturally, makes 
one alter a good deal one's sense of his ideas and aims. I wish I knew 
whether Bayle had guessed this. It would give a very different colour to 
the famous Avis aux refugies and his subsequent contortions if he had. 
Then I have been working rather hard at Babeuf for a school lecture 
and discovering that when one gets at the texts now rare and almost 
irretrievable a good deal of light is thrown on Marx's views about 
political tactics that as he raped Saint- Simon for one set of ideas, so 
he raped poor Babeuf for others; and I can't find that he made even a 
passing reference of thanks for what he took. Another impressive book 
was Cahen's Condorcet which explains a noble man nobly. And in a 
veiy different line I pray you both to read the recently re-published The 
Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden. She wrote it in the thirties of 
last century and after seventy years of silence someone gave it forth once 
more. Frida and I both think it not unworthy of Jane Austen; and its sly 
humour and the firm outline with which its characteristics are drawn and 
(for me not least) its happy ending are altogether charming. I had also 
one shock. I re-read Hardy's Desperate Remedies, and found the style 
abominable and the incident forced and unnatural. I mentioned this to 
Gosse at a meeting and he told me that he put it, apart from the Return 
of the Native at the head of everything Hardy had written. So much for 



1022 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

the value of my judgment! I also turned over a gift of poems by the 
young moderns and found in it four lines by J. C. Squire which should, 
I think, rank very high in quality, brevity, and point. They ran just as 
follows: 

How Odd 

Of God 

To Choose 

The Jews. 2 

Something worthy of Voltaire in that! 

Among a variety of visitors this week one has pleased us immensely 
a young American playwright by the name of Behrman. His play The 
Second Man has made a great hit here, after, I gather, a great success 
in New York. But he remains absolutely simple and unaffected, and I 
watched the hero-worshippers, especially female, crowd upon him with- 
out turning his head. And when someone asked him what in his success 
gave him most pleasure he said quite simply that perhaps the Americans 
who helped him to escape from Russian pogroms 25 years ago would 
now feel that their effort had been worth while. I thought that fine and 
I envied him the opportunity of such a feeling. Compare it with a young 
poet who, like himself, had a conscious metaphysic. I told this to Birrell 
at tea on Tuesday and he said that he once had seen a man treat George 
Eliot rudely: "I sat down in a corner," said Birrell, "and prayed to God 
to blast him. God did nothing, and ever since I have been an agnostic." 

Our love to you both. I must not forget to tell you that Sir Austen has 
sent out to our people in China for full enquiries about Wu. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., February 5, 1928 

My dear Laski: A most amusing letter from you of January 21 of academic 
discussions and government by dons Hardy, and his burial in the 
Abbey (I haven't read Tess or Jude and somehow shrink from them) 
reading Masson on Rousseau, then Haldane's Descartes, Queen V's 
Letters (I dare say you are right about her my prejudices are with 
you but I suppose there is good to be said) etc. purchases and 
tickling tales of Birrell and the husband of the theosophic dame. I have 
no such yarns. Indeed my only gossip is from the Greville Diary new 
edition. I don't like the mode of editing, or the sensational headings to 
chapters, but I am entertained by his disillusioned pictures of the Royal 

2 Laski was mistaken in ascribing the lines of William Norman Ewer to 
J. C. Squire. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1023 

Family and the eminent statesmen of the time. He pictures most of them 
as dishonest and doing fishy things for office. 

I made a mathematical conundrum in that connection: X = > oo to 
find the number represented by X? answer No. 1. The old Duke of Wel- 
lington seems to stand highest in Greville's respect non obstant some 
incapacities as a statesman. I didn't realize before the constant appre- 
hension that George IV and William IV would fall into their father's 
malady. Indeed Greville seems to think that they did, more or less. Do 
you remember a sonnet written by a lady, I should guess near the time 
of Lord Melbourne (qu. Mrs. Norton? I think not) ending as nearly as I 
can remember "I had a friend who was all this and more"? I have 
listened to a good deal of Miss Gertrude Bell's correspondence with 
pleasure as perhaps I have mentioned. I had some good letters from 
her once but only a few. But my wife turns back to Miss Kingsley 1 
who is her pet. I saw her also once or twice, but when I was wanting to 
talk to some one else. Did I ever tell you of our converse? I said she was 
lucky to have seen the world before it was cut up into 5 acre lots 
which seemed to be its destiny. "Oh, I don't know/' said she, "Central 
Asia was easier to cross in Marco Polo's time than now/' I wish now 
that I had made more of my opportunities. If I last a little longer I shall 
go into the last survivor business and swagger on "I remember's." I 
have some good ones for this country and some old English judges 
and generals and Barry Cornwall 2 who was a friend of Charles 
Lamb and went to school with Byron. Apropos of Lamb (and Birken- 
head) you remember that Carlyle dismisses him rather contemptuously 
as a snuffy person or something of that sort and although I am far 
from justifying either B. or C. I suspect that there should have been 
drawbacks. I doubt if he or Dr. Johnson would have smelt good. It gave 
malignant joy to read (in Ste. Beuve?) of someone's saying that Louis 
XIV smelt like a charogne. He has a stout heart who when he visits a 
cathedral thinks more of that than of his pinching boots. 

I am breathing free this Sunday p.m. I have readjusted an opinion 
to hold (I hope) the bare majority that I have on my side and have 
a week ahead before we sit. But one always has something to do and 
when I have I always am worried until it is done. I have a worrying 
nature Brandeis says he has not. One generally can get the better of 
it if one happens to think of thinking about it. After reflection one can 
meet even great things calmly. The trouble with little daily fidgets is 

*Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900); scientist, traveler, and author of 
Travels in West Africa (1897). 

8 Barry Cornwall ( 17.87-1874), the pseudonym of Bryan Waller Procter, poet, 
lawyer, schoolmate of Byron, and friend of the literati 



1024 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

that you don't get beyond the bother of the moment. My rambling on 
in reply to your tales reminds of the story of Alcott going into a shop 
and wanting two yards of cloth; "I cannot give you money for it as 
I do not approve of the use of it and have none, but I will converse with 
[you] to the value of the cloth." I hope you will not repine at the 
exchange. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 

Devon Lodge, 711.27 [sic] 

My dear Justice: A perfect delight of a letter from you yesterday reminds 
me of how much there is to say. The most pleasant thing that has hap- 
pened since I wrote last was a lunch here with Siegfried Sassoon, the 
poet, and S. N. Behrman the American playwright. We talked for hours, 
and almost in all with assent. Sassoon, particularly, on the poets was 
extraordinarily interesting especially his insistence that Poe and Emer- 
son of all Americans had the purest lyric gift, and his contempt for the 
jingles of Kipling and his school did my heart good. And Behrman is a 
delight. A Harvard lad, in his simplicity, eagerness, unspoiltness, he re- 
minds me a good deal of Felix. London has been lionising him, and his 
poise in the face of the dinners of the elect did my heart good, and I 
was especially won by his contempt (you will agree) for the supposed 
philosophy of Shaw and the sugar-and-cream of Barrie. Then we had a 
most pleasant dinner here with Allyn Young, the economist, in which 
we talked over research, and agreed warmly that most of the expenditure 
upon cooperative enquiries in the social sciences where A directs B, C, D, 
etc., co-ordinating their results, is piffle. A man must live by his own 
materials, and the experience of them by another is no more adequate 
than an attempt to know the Year-Books by reading Fitzherbert. An 
assistant can tell you something, but not too much, of what to look for, 
but the intuition which turns the key in the lock only comes from constant 
brooding over the materials. In other words, as I put it to you e.g. 
if you want to bear the child you must endure the pregnancy; and in 
this realm, an obstetric metaphor is peculiarly in place. Then we went 
to dinner to the Asquiths, in some ways a little pathetic. He is obviously 
failing physically, and she is as obviously resentful at his resignation of 
the leadership of the Liberals. The result is that the talk is for the most 
part one long condemnation of everybody either for allegiance to Lloyd- 
George or weakminded acceptance of Asquith's resignation. One feels an 
angry shrillness in it all which makes you realise vividly the utter poison 
of power. They (the politicians and their wives) obviously cannot bear 
exclusion from the centre of things. They feel in prison, and their minds 
fail to concentrate on anything outside the central illusion. He is quite 
different from his women folk serene and immersed in reading. But 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1025 

they feel that a devil is at work which keeps its saviour from the English 
people. 

In reading, one or two things have interested me much. The first part 
of Wilson's life (Ray S. Baker) is well worth the adventure. It confirms 
my old views that he suffered from being not a moralist but a theologian, 
and the women ruined him by adulation. He lacked the ability (my main 
quality) to look at himself and laugh at the notion that there are some 
people who really take him seriously. But in his great fight at Princeton 
I was quite wholly on his side. He had a great conception and his op- 
ponents were impossibly mean and petty about it. Then, secondly, The 
Cabala by Thornton Wilder which I conjure you to read. As near as I 
can describe it, it is a short philosophical novel, exquisite in style, with 
one unforgettable portrait (a cardinal) and a delicate antiquarian flavour 
that I lack the power to convey in words. Third, a book by one Sait on 
the party-system in America, which, unlike most text-books, I thought 
both accurate and amusing. And finally a critical study of Bayle by one 
De[l]volve which I thought both fair and illuminating. The more of 
Bayle I read the more I find to admire; and there really isn't very much 
of the 18th century that is not implicitly in him. De[l]volve makes crystal 
clear the intellectual succession and as he writes really well, the book is 
a distinct joy. 

Also I have bought some pleasant things. The one I should most like 
to show you is fascinating because almost unknown. It is called Abrege 
de Bodin and was written, I think, by a lawyer named Lavie in 1754. 
The fellow had the wit to see that Montesquieu was greatly influenced 
by Bodin with the result that he discusses each carefully in terms of the 
other and makes a distinct critical contribution of his own. Then I found 
two more small Holbachs which, if Barbier's Dictionnaire be right, means 
that I have all his works with one exception and the acquisitive impulse 
receives a momentary sense of satisfied harmony. You speak of Casanova. 
I read him five or six years ago with delight. He interested me as being 
with Mercier, 1 Retif, and Chateaubriand, the obvious result of Rousseau's 
discovery of the fascination of egotism in literature. Something Byronic 
in his poses; and a feeling for the richness of experience that is attractive. 
And I like, too, his contempt for the life ascetic since I have always had 
a sneaking sympathy for James's definition of good as the satisfaction of 
demand. Finally I bought Lenormand's [sic] J. ]. Rousseau, Aristocrate 
(1790) which is one of the ablest attacks on the gent I have ever read 
and I don't in the least know who Lenormand was. 

1 Louis Sebastien Mercier (1740-1814), dramatist who renounced the classi- 
cal tradition in French tragedy and, denying the achievements of philosophy 
and science, insisted that the earth was flat and was the center of the sun's 
orbit. 



1026 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

You will share my pleasure in today's announcement that Sankey, J. 
has gone to the Court of Appeal a too long deferred appointment. 
Atkin, L. J. has gone to the Lords vice Atkinson a very good nomina- 
tion, though I regret it deeply that Scrutton whom I greatly admire, 
should have been passed over again. They say it is due to faults of temper 
but bad-tempered judges have been promoted before. While I speak 
of the Bench I must not forget to tell you that a young colleague of 
mine has discovered a vast collection of private opinions on prize-law 
written by Stowell when on the Bench for the use of the Admiralty. They 
are the more interesting because they are often his best opinions in the 
making and you can trace out the way his mind moved to his conclusions. 
If we can get the money, we propose to print them. 

And I end with a story. Theo Mathew 2 is the son of Mathew, L.J. and 
a witty junior at the Inner Temple. The other day, when lunching there, 
he found his usual table full of Hindus, negroes, Angolese and Chinese 
with one lone Englishman. Mathew walked up to him with outstretched 
hand saying "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Could perfection go further? 

Our warm love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Washington, D. C., February 18, 1928 

My dear Laski: Two A-l letters from you one closely following the 
other and ending with the admirable tale of Matthew [sic] I suppose 
it was his father that took me to Court one day to witness a trial before 
Sir A. Cockburn in which M. was counsel on one side. Cockburn 
seemed to be busy correcting proof it was supposed of his charge, in 
the Tichborne case, while the trial went on. I was much struck by the 
way it was conducted. One side stated the facts the counsel on the 
other side at a certain point: "I shall have to trouble you to put on evi- 
dence upon that." If he did it didn't take long and Cockburn said he 
would direct a verdict. Thereupon one side said that he should like to 
be allowed to address the jury which he did in a short argument 
and then Cockburn charged strongly on the side for which he had been 
inclined to direct the verdict and the jury found accordingly without 
leaving their seats. Then one juryman stood up and said, "I understand" 
(a certain fact, I forget what) to be so and so." "No, no, no" said the 
others but he had put his finger on what seemed to me the point in 
the case which I thought the judge and lawyer had overlooked. The 
jury put their heads together discussed a little among themselves, and 
then brought in their verdict the other way I thought rightly with 

2 Theobald Mathew (1866-1939); son of Sir James Charles Mathew (1830- 
1908), judge in the Queen's Bench division. Versions of the son's wit were 
preserved in his Forensic Fables (1928) and their sequelae. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1027 

little help from Judge or lawyers. My memory may have distorted things, 
but that is the way I have remembered it for many years. I don't believe 
that I need to explain why it seemed to me to illustrate what Judge John 
Lowell 1 said to me when I was a young lawyer: "They do everything on 
honor in England." Well, this p.m., our last conference before going in 
again on Monday for 4 weeks of argument. I had but one case to deliver 
a majority opinion of no great interest Brandeis dissenting 2 but 
at the last minute McReynolds said that he wanted to write something 
(against the op.) and so it went over it is rather aggravating to have 
things hang up in that way because the Judge doesn't take the trouble 
to be ready. He has three weeks of vacation for it. I tried to put a shovel 
full of coals on his head by handing him my prospective dissent where 
we stand 5 to 4 unless he changes his mind, and where he has the 
majority opinion to write which he has not started on yet. 3 I despise 
the notion that I think some of the last generation had that it was like 
opposing counsel in Court and that it would be fine to spring something 
unforeseen on the other side. I read them my views in another case 4 in 
which the following vote showed that I was in the minority but on which 
I will have my whack if I live, if it is my last word. 

Brandeis and I are so apt to agree that I was glad to have him dissent 
in my case, as it shows that there is no preestablished harmony I have 
had almost no time to read having had two hours of driving on pleas- 
ant days. I have finished Greville's Diary and that is about all. I think 
I mentioned Demogue, Notions fondamentales du droit prive which 
I was compelled to get hold of by the remarks of Morris Cohen in an 
essay. Demogue is a good man evidently but for 100 pages he has told 
me nothing that I didn't know substantially has illustrated to me 
that some problems are not dug down to the foundations as well as with 
us and yet I haven't the moral courage to stop but feel obliged to 
toil on through 559 more pages in a print that tires my eyes for fear of 

1 Supra, p. 4. 

2 Holmes delivered no opinions on February 20. On April 9, Holmes delivered 
the Court's opinion in Casey v, United States, 276 U.S. 413, which Lad been 
argued on January 11. Dissenting opinions were delivered by McReynolds, 
Brandeis, Butler, and Sanford, JJ. The majority sustained provisions of the 
Anti-Narcotic Act which made the absence of revenue stamps from pack- 
ages of drugs prima facie evidence of unlawful possession. The majority also 
found that the government was not chargeable with entrapment of the de- 
fendant. 

8 Not identified. 

4 Quite probably Black and White Taxi Co. v. Brown and Jellow Taxi Co., 
276 U.S. 518 (argued January 13 and 16, decided April 9, 1928). Holmes in his 
dissent, concurred in by Brandeis and Stone, JJ., objected to the theory that 
Federal courts in deciding common-law questions arising within a particular 
state could decide the law as they saw fit, without regard to state decisions. 



1028 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

missing something or because I don't like to back out. Your last letter 
but one was the first news I had had of the death of Felix's mother. I 
referred obliquely to it in writing to him but could not do more. 

I vehemently disagree with the "contempt for the jingles of Kipling" 
I agree that Kipling's attitude toward life seems to me wanting in com- 
plexity and not interesting but it will take more than Sassoon to con- 
vince me that Kipling ought not to stir the fundamental human emotions. 
I think he does and that simple thinkers often do. A student of mine 
long dead 5 spoke with contempt of the fighting lines in Henry V. His 
widow was a mainstay of the sympathizers with Sacco and Vanzetti. I 
was not with him. Aff'ly yours, 0. W, H. 



Devon Lodge, 20.11.28 

My dear Justice: A letter from you 1 as always a delight reminds me 
that nearly a fortnight has gone by since I last reported. In mitigation, I 
plead the state of public business. I have had to write a vast obituary 
notice of Asquith 2 for the Manchester Guardian; sit twice on the Indus- 
trial Court; go to Oxford to lecture; and entertain twice for Hocking, the 
Harvard philosopher. 3 Add to that a cloud of committees, and you will, 
I hope, accept the explanation and say that there has been no contempt 
of court. 

I was much moved by Asquith's death. He wasn't, I think, a great 
man, for that word ought to be kept for the originator or the man who 
profoundly changes by skill in adaptation; and beyond the limit on the 
House of Lords he was not, I think, the author of anything big. But he 
brought qualities to politics which are rare; absolute loyalty, supreme 
lucidity of mind, refusal to truckle to the mob, and a sense of honour as 
exquisite as I have ever met among politicians. He had the great defect 
of finding decisions difficult. But he really was a great gentleman with 
less of the rancour in his temper than any of the political breed I have 
met. There is no one quite of his type left, and this new world of a 
stunt press and a devotion to the slogans of the market-place makes it 
difficult to hope for more of his kind. Inani perfungor munere. 

Oxford interested me a good deal, though in some ways it was depress- 
ing. I was struck by the complacency of the dons and the preciousness of 
the undergraduates. The former clearly thought that the world was an 

5 Probably Glendower Evans (1856-1886), who had been a student in 
Holmes's law office in the fall of 1881. 



1 Supra, p, 1022. 

2 Lord Oxford and Asquith had died on February 15. 

8 William Ernest Hocking (1873- ), Professor of Philosophy at Harvard, 
1914-1943. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1029 

oyster they had opened, and their ignorance was profound. They each 
had a little patch to cultivate and they saw no reason to go outside it. And 
talk of America produced the astounding view that the great Americans 
of today were Lowell and Murray Butler. I mentioned books like Parring- 
ton or Beard in vain. When I was told that there was no great political 
thought in America and summoned the period from 1780-1840 as my 
compurgator and argued that only the greatest epochs could compete 
with it I was met with polite incredulity. And I was irritated by the 
immense volume of clericalism everywhere. Jesuits, Puseyites, Dominicans, 
Cowley Fathers, you met them at every turn. The times demand a Vol- 
taire to show what the whole farce means. One college was rent in twain 
over the practice of auricular confession; another was passionately ex- 
cited over the reservation of the Sacrament. Some men devoted their 
energies to preventing the scientists from having any more buildings in 
the Oxford Parks. Big sweeping views, a sense of the vastness of our 
problems, the excited hunt for novelty, these didn't exist. I tried names 
Meyerson, Morris Cohen, Thibaudet; but they meant nothing. And I 
left feeling that the glories of London where one might be a small fish, 
but where, at least, the stream rushed by in the torrential excitement was 
worth a hundred Oxfords. The reply, I gather, is the virtue of the life 
contemplative; but that assumes the fact of deliberate reflection on great 
issues and of that I saw no wide evidence. 

On the other hand I remark that Hocking is a ghastly bore. Right- 
minded, earnest, good, but he can say things like "the world needs 
peace'* or, "Hegel is a very great man," or "the Gospels are exquisite" as 
though he were communicating new truth. Each idea of his comes out 
with a pleased self-regard as though it was a new law of gravitation; and 
when he told me that the League of Nations was very important, I felt 
I wanted to shriek. But at the second dinner there was a young American 
lad from Yale (one Lippincott) 4 who was a delight such as one rarely 
experiences. He cared about art, and cared so as to want to know what 
happened in him when he cared. He was full of enthusiasms which I 
approved because I shared them; and he especially delighted me because 
he had that eagerness which makes the world too short for the amount 
of exploring there is to be done. I hope one day he will come to see you 
in Washington. He reminded me greatly of what Felix must have been 
at twenty-four. 

Of reading, I have done little that is worth report. But I add that one 
or two things in the way of work were distinctly worth reading. A book 
by one Lindsay Rogers on the American Senate was distinctly worth read- 

4 Presumably Benjamin Evans Lippincott (1902- ), who was awarded a 
Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in 1930, and later became a professor 
of political science at the University of Minnesota. 



1030 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

ing and opened vistas I should like one day to explore. Also a book on 
the History of Contempt by Sir J. C. Fox really exploded Wilmot's case 
and gave me the pointers for a piece on constructive contempt which 
I have long been anxious to write. 5 Our English procedure whereby X 
and Y decide that Z has been unfairly criticised after a decision has been 
made and without hearing evidence opened the door, I think, to very 
serious abuses; and a recent case here (R, v. the New Statesman)* was 
little short of a scandal. Then I read an extraordinarily interesting his- 
tory of the French Revolution by A. Mathiez who is the great swell on 
Robespierre and certainly has evidence about him which one simply does 
not get in the classical histories. In a lighter vein I commend "Mrs. D." 
by G. F. Bradby which is a delicious analysis of English suburbanitis and 
shows it to be as easy to have the small town mind just outside London 
as it is in Fargo, North Dakota. 

I was interested by your reflections on Greville, especially your liking 
for Wellington which I warmly endorse. I would have liked the book 
untrimmed, but, certainly, there is nothing better except Saint-Simon in 
that genre, I shake Mrs. Holmes warmly by the hand over Miss Kingsley 
the big West African book is a stand-by of Frida's and mine. 

I liked the G. Bell, but felt that much printed there was on the whole 
small beer. But I did not know her and can well see that personal con- 
tact may have given illumination. Apropos of George IV, did I ever tell 
' you that I knew the grandson of the clergyman to whom he offered 
1000 to marry him to Mrs. Fitzherbert? The price was considered too 
small for the risk; but when the row came he claimed and got a canonry 
as compensation for his disinterestedness. Those were spacious days. 

Our love to you both. Here the garden is a mass of crocuses and snow- 
drops, and my window-boxes have magnificent mauve tulips. 

Ever affectionately yours, H, J. L. 



Washington, D. C., March I, 1928 

My dear Laski: Your letter 20.11.28 stirred my sympathies wondrously 
and made me wish I could be there or jaw with you. Your description 
of the dons of Oxford seems to me a description of the usual Englishman 
not enlightened by travel. To how many the ultimate is "We don't do that 
in England." I grieve to hear of the irruption of Clericalism. I had 

5 "Procedure for Constructive Contempt in England," 41 Haw. L, Rev. 1031 
(June 1928). The case decided by Wilmot, J., was Rex v, Almon, Wilmot's 
notes 243 (1765). 

6 44 T. L. R. 301 (1928). The King's Bench there held that newspaper 
criticism of judicial action could be punished summarily as contempt of court 
if the impartiality of an individual judge were questioned and if the criti- 
cism tended to undermine public confidence in the judiciary. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1031 

(too rashly) assumed that the civilized man everywhere had a quiet sub- 
stratum of scepticism even if he didn't show it. But isn't this at least 
largely true? 

I have been staying at home this week with a cough that has bothered 
me at intervals for many years. My doctor down here, . . . died a few 
days ago so I got the one who looks after the C. J. (in his more general 
aspects he says he has one for each end) and he is inclined to my 
opinion of the trouble and is trying some painting on my throat. I have 
hopes of relief at all events the spells pass away after a time. The 
cases are sent to me and I shall send my votes (as we objectionably call 
them) to the conference. As I get up latish I am kept pretty busy but 
I have had time for a little diary of Dr. John Ward who was Vicar at 
Stratford-on-Avon a few years after Shakespeare's death has a few 
words about him and a number of shrewd remarks a little book, but 
worth looking through. Also Charles Francis Adams's 1 Autobiography 
which I never read. He is brutal to himself and his papa but just he 
saw pretty straight. It is curious to observe, alongside of his judgment of 
himself as not having exceptional gifts, the tone of importance that goes 
through the story and so dreary those poor men were born without 
the capacity of joy. I knew the whole lot pretty well got much from 
them suggestiveness from Brooks the best criticisms of some of 
my speeches I ever had from anyone from Charles and while Henry 
chilled my soul when I came home tired from Court and stopped in, to 
be told how futile it all was he was grumblingly generous to me when 
I first went to London, in the way of taking me about and when he 
gave up his Harvard professorship sent me a lot of his books on early 
law. Ralph Palmer 2 nephew or cousin of Sir Roundell (as he was in 
my day) thought Henry a great thinker. The whole lot certainly were un- 
usual men. I may have told you of Bill James coming back from meet- 
ing the three and saying it was like meeting the augurs behind the altar 
and none of them smiling. They seemed to stir him up as he also said, 
"Powerful race, those Adamses, to remain plebeians after so many gen- 
erations of culture." This if taken seriously would be unjust because, 
though capable of queer things, they had an inward delicacy that was 
very far from plebeian. 

1 Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915); descendant of the presidential 
Adamses; son of the American Ambassador to Great Britain during the Civil 
War; brother of Brooks Adams and Henry Adams. 

2 Ralph Charlton Palmer (1839-1923), lawyer and man of affairs, had be- 
come a close friend of Holmes during the latter's first visit to England in 1866. 
Palmer's father, George Palmer (1772-1853), was the uncle of Sir Roundell 
Palmer (1812-1895), first Earl of Selborne, who was twice Lord Chancellor, 
first from 1872 to 1874 and again from 1880 to 1885. Holmes's friend had been 
secretary to Selborne during his second chancellorship. 



1032 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

I don't think I ever heard of Hocking your account makes me 
chuckle and I hope I shall see your young friend from Yale. I must 
try to remember to look into that history of contempt I have dissented 
once or twice on that theme. You amaze me by saying, if I understand 
you, that criticism of an opinion or judgment after it has been rendered, 
may make a man liable for contempt. I thought that notion was left for 
some of our middle western states. I must try to get the book and the 
decision. Well I have done as well as I can for a seedy worm (but 
nothing serious). My love to you all. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 25.11.28 

My dear Justice: Let me begin with my triumph. I have found, for six 
pounds, a copy of Althusius's Politica methodice digesta (1610) and it 
lies before me on the table as I write. I am immensely proud of it, as 
there seem to be seven copies only in existence and no other in private 
hands. It turned up in a Berlin catalogue, and after a moment's doubt 
whether it would not have been snapped up before I could reach it, I 
decided to telephone to Berlin. This I did, and, to my joy, there it still 
was. It is a beautiful quarto, vellum bound, with wide margins, and most 
exciting reading. I wish I could show it to you. But you will guess how 
my week has been sweetened by it. 

Of other news but little. My nose is being kept to the grindstone 
rather more than I like and there are still three weeks before release 
comes. I slipped out to dinner last night and went to Haldane's. He had 
Barrie and Kipling there. The former hardly spoke a word, but sat like 
a grim mouse in a corner until it was time to go. Kipling literally amazed 
me. He took command of the talk (not an easy thing to do when Haldane 
is there) and laid down the law like a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I 
thought he had an essentially vulgar mind, incapable of any real finesse 
or delicacy; and his main reply to argument was a bludgeoning "I don't 
agree with you" which was never accompanied by any effort to lay his 
mind alongside yours. I saw no power of reflexion, though there was a 
real gift of happy phrase. I suppose it is stupid to expect that a great 
story-teller should have other gifts than the power of telling stories, but 
I certainly expected something better than I encountered. Let me add, 
too, that he talked for applause in an irritating way. When he had said 
anything especially good he looked up as if waiting for you to clap your 
hands. Haldane amused me immensely. Much of what Kipling said was 
gall and wormwood to him. But he liked the idea of having him at his 
table and encouraged him to perform rather as a man persuades his dog 
to go through tricks for his friends. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1033 

I turn to other things. I have been reading much this last week on 
contemporary France one or two things were most illuminating. I 
don't know if I wrote to you of Benda's Trahison des clercs; if not, I 
think it would please you as much as it did me. And I was also impressed 
by Alain's Elements d'une politique radicale which has both mind and 
heart in it. I read, also, Charles Maurras's Avenir de Tintelligence which 
contains the (to me) sympathetic thesis that the business of the intel- 
lectual in society is to criticise the values the society maintains; descent 
into the market-place, he argues, makes a thinker lose his perspective. I 
meditate a piece on the social function of intelligence, so that I shall not 
write a disquisition here. But I feel pretty certain that immersion in the 
machine is fatal to the real business of thought and that the real need 
is to think out the liaison between the superior mind and the practical 
mind. How can one be sure for instance that a politician is made aware 
of the kind of wisdom he would get from reading Morris Cohen? Is it 
enough that it should filter to him at seventh-hand, say in an essay by 
Walter Lippmann, in which stereotyped sophistication has blunted the 
edge of the original vision? I don't know; but I am sure the problem of 
these margins between categories of effort is more and more important. 
By the way I must not forget to add that I have learned much, and with 
delight, from a book by Edmond Villey called Les sources des essais de 
Montaigne which I conjure you to think of for the time when Beverly 
Farms swims once more onto the horizon. And I think I have already 
mentioned to you De Ruggiero's History of European Liberalism, which 
is excellent. Did I speak of Mumford's Golden Day, a good book on 
America as interpreted by its men of letters? And may I pray you to 
think of Hobbes's Elements of Law, edited by Tonnies, in a text (Cam- 
bridge Press) which makes the mss intelligible for the first time and is 
really illuminating. 

Another little adventure has pleased me. A genial soul has published 
a new edition of Junius with a vast introduction purporting to prove that 
Junius was Shelburne. 1 The proof is that one of Junius's letters is written 
on paper with a watermark which is the same as some of the letters of 
Shelburne and that J & S agree on eleven different points. I got the 
volume for review and spent a couple of hours in the British Museum 
on the matter. This enabled me to show (I) that Bentham, Blackstone, 
C. J. Fox and Burke used paper with that watermark; (II) that on the 
days when Junius wrote private notes to his publisher of which the 
consequence is apparent in the newsprint the next morning, Shelburne 
is known to have been in Italy, and, therefore, to conclude that a 49th 
name may be added to the 48 which the new editor dismisses as im- 

1 Charles Warren Everett, The Letters of Junius (1927). 



1034 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

possible. I needn't add to you that I am a whole-hearted Franciscan; 2 
that kind of probability seems to me definite proof on the Sherlock 
Holmes principle that when you have excluded the impossibilities, what- 
ever remains, however improbable, is the truth. 

On Tuesday last I spoke on Rousseau to the philosophical society of a 
women's college here and was moved to reflection upon the nature of 
the woman don. I am tempted to believe that forcible marriage would 
be good for them. I met three philosophic ladies who all were like the 
late Mrs. Proudie in temperament and spent tea-time in explaining to 
me the unreliable character of the male sex. They were the modem breed 
of feminist who, I gather, regard man as an excrescence and would like 
the original Virgin birth to be capable of infinite repetition. They dress 
badly; they deliberately forego all grace and charm; they call you by 
your surname; and they regret the necessity of having men teachers for 
women. Oh God! Oh Montreal! 

My love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Washington, D. C., March 7, 1928 

My dear Laski: A delightful letter from you to which I can answer but a 
word. Tomorrow is my birthday and already I am somewhat crowded. 
Also the doctor keeps me in the house for a cough nothing serious 
same old trouble but he insists on my staying at home. I do the 
same work here and am in all the cases that are being argued. 

I am not impressed at what you say about Kipling. Many years ago I 
made up my mind that he did not interest me that his view of the 
universe was too simple and since then I thought that he had a break- 
down. But as a story teller, and in spite of you, as a verse writer, I think 
he makes a direct appeal to the simpler emotions which we never are 
too sophisticated to feel when a man has the gift as he has. Also, 
where Stevenson laboriously selects a word and lets you feel his labor, 
Kipling puts his fist into the guts of the dictionary, pulls out the utterly 
unavailable and makes it a jewel in his forehead or flesh of his flesh with 
no effort or outlay except of the pepsin that makes it part of him. But 
I thought he was finished years back. 

1 am tickled that you should have encountered the holiness of woman 
and been assured of it by herself. Lester Ward in one of his books inti- 

2 Despite the attempt of Charles Dilke in his Papers of a Critic (1875) to 
disprove the contention that Sir Philip Francis (1740-1818) was the author 
of Junius, men of learning have continued to accept the Franciscan hypothesis 
as most persuasive; see, e.g., Leslie Stephen's "Chatham, Francis, and Junius," 
3 English Historical Review 233 (April 1888). Laskfs review of Mr. Everett's 
book has not been identified; see, however, notice by L. B. Namier in 42 
Nation and Athenaeum 688 (February 4, 1928). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1035 

mates that she produced man to amuse her having previously done 
very well without him to aid in continuing the race. With your belief in 
some apriorities like equality you may have difficulties. I who believe 
in force (mitigated by politeness) have no trouble and if I were sin- 
cere and were asked certain whys by a woman should reply, "Because 
Ma'am I am the bull." 

How fain were I to jaw with you but I must say good night. Tomor- 
row I am 87 and still Oliver asks for a little more not that he is not 
prepared to shut up with good grace but, apart from the pleasure of 
continuing as long as one can, to play one or two little fool games the 
newest one to outlive Taney (who died 87, 6 or 7 months old) re- 
maining active not that I really care a tuppence for thatsort of thing. 

Affly yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 9.III.28 

My dear Justice: I hope that cough has gone; I have been in bed for 
a few days with a nasty one and I have a healthy dislike for them. Please 
report good news. 

I have been extraordinarily busy this last fortnight. Committees seem 
to have piled themselves up quite interminably; and I have sat long and 
anxiously on the most complex case on the Industrial Court. Then a 
learned German professor (Sombart) 1 turned up to lecture at the School 
and I had to give him a dinner which was not easy as he spoke only 
German and French and three hours of interpretation in and out of three 
languages is not the best aid, I find, to digestion. In a way, he was most 
amusing for he took himself with the most profound seriousness. Each 
person introduced was asked whether he had read the books of the 
great man, if yes, which he preferred, if not, when he proposed to do so. 
I only attended the first of his lectures which began with an explanation 
of how he and Max Weber, but principally himself, had changed the 
mind of learned Germany on all manner of important questions. When he 
was off my chest there arrived a learned Hungarian who desired to in- 
vestigate the new Trade Union Act in operation. I explained with exem- 
plary patience that as only one case had occurred under it, no one could 
usefully say much on the scheme at work. But the good man was not to 
be deterred from work by objections of so feeble a nature, and demanded 
letters to every member of the Trade Union Council. I gave him five and 
spent long minutes of remorseful apology over the telephone to irate 

1 Werner Sombart (1863-1941), Professor of Economics at Berlin since 1917. 
Sombart's principal work was Marxian in attitude and emphasis, as in his 
Der Moderne Kapitalizmus (3 vols., 1902-28); later, however, he advocated 
national socialism in his Deutscher Sozialismus (1934). 



1036 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

officials who demanded to know "who the hell this queer guy is" who 
asked them if they would go to jail or buy over the jury when the Act 
began to operate and had a notebook ready for the registration of their 
answers. And, thirdly, a German student demanding to know if Mon- 
tesquieu's letters to English friends were available and would not accept 
my assurance that I knew of none unpublished but came back day after 
day to pledge himself that if I would only tell him I should have full 
acknowledgment in the preface. Fourthly an Australian gentleman on the 
model of Huxley's man " Have discovered the truth; shall I come over?" 
He had read my books; thought I was not unintelligent; world needed an 
absolute measure of value; he had it; I must give him a full opinion of 
it; take the year's output of wheat; divide it into the year's issue of cur- 
rency; that is an absolute standard; chairs and tables, books and dolls; 
can be expressed in terms of it; once adopted, there will be no more 
social problems; think it over; will call to see me in a fortnight's time; I 
try vainly to reproduce his urgently staccato style. I omit the biography 
of himself which emphasised the fact that he had an ancestor who ruined 
himself for Charles II (I thought this a most dubious connection) and 
that he had been awakened to Thought by reading Bryan's great speech 
on his nomination as Democratic candidate in 1896. Do you wonder that 
I am a little tired and that I shall regard myself as licensed not to be 
at the School a fortnight from now. Of other things there is not much to 
tell. The best is the discovery of a complete Savigny in eighteen volumes, 
bound in full calf and in perfect condition, for thirty shillings. I wanted 
badly the Roman Law in the Middle Ages and was grateful. Also a 
very nice Suarez, De Legibus which I have long coveted and found 
reasonably. But mainly I reserve myself for Paris next month where there 
is much I hope to find. 

In the way of reading some things I recommend warmly. A recovered 
novel The Heroine I urge you to read as one of the most amusing skits 
(circa 1810) on the Rococo extravaganza temp. Horace Walpole that I 
know. Then I read the volume of "Ricardds Notes on Malthus which 
Johns Hopkins have got out; it repays perusal, but with longueurs. Much 
more impressive is Russell's Outline of Philosophy which I thought a 
powerful book wrong on a number of things, e.g. causation, but well 
worth reading; and Wyndham Lewis's Time and Western Man which 
makes effective hay of Spengler et hoc genus omne; and a little volume 
Imperialism and Civilisation which puts effectively and simply the ele- 
ments of the clash of colour. And, in bed, the first volume of Curzon's 
Life which revealed him as even more intolerable than I ever imagined. 
Think of a man who hales his college servant before Jowett for daring 
to put a cracked teapot on the table; or takes notes of his own mental 
state in any interval of leisure; or assumes at a meeting that a vote of 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1037 

thanks to him must be moved separately from that to the other speakers. 
Yet he seems to have suffered intolerable pain from spinal curvature all 
his life and it may that much should be pardoned him on that account. 
But he is rather like the Times in its patronising mood. 

I was glad to note your surprise about our contempt case. I am sending 
you separately a full report. I thought such a proceeding quite obsolete 
and was angry with the judges for their attitude and the editor for not 
standing his ground. In any case, I doubt whether such methods do any 
good. Our new chief justice (Hewart) is, I hear on all sides, a sad failure; 
self -satisfied, pushing, and rather brutal. Moreover he has the fatal habit 
of making asides for the press which, next to actual corruption, is the 
worst judicial sin I know. But I shall blow off my wrath in the Harvard 
Law Review I hope with the prospect of carrying you with me. 

I write in the midst of an unexpected snowstorm which has made Lon~ 
done almost impassable. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 19.I1L28 

My dear Justice: A delightful letter from you tells me that not even the 
87th birthday has charmed away the cough. I hope the coming of Spring 
will do so. Yesterday we motored out to Box Hill (Meredith's old haunt) 
and the trees in half -bloom, especially some almond blossom, were a sight 
for sore eyes. And I found an amusing stone in a churchyard there ex- 
plaining that at this spot in 1800, John Kra, the Dorking eccentric, was 
buried upside down at his own request. Whether vertically or horizontally 
the epitaph did not say; and I did not feel that I had the right to attempt 
exhumation. 

It has been a quiet time since I wrote last, with the blessing that term 
is over. I have been to committees till I was sick of them and have had, 
for my sins, to accept nomination as an appointed member of the Educa- 
tion Committee of the London County Council; which means that I am 
supposed to supplement the dubious skill of the elected members by the 
exercise of a little competence. I was not anxious, but Haldane was very 
insistent that I should, so with a shudder of envy for the lost time, I 
succumbed. 

I had an amusing dinner at Haldane's last night, with Winston as the 
other guest. The latter being about to give birth to a budget was full of 
the vigour of intellectual pregnancy and gave us a list of the dozen great- 
est men in the 19th century. Characteristically it contained not a single 
scientist or thinker and so I drew him on to a discussion of their influence. 
It was really most illuminating. He had never read a line of Aristotle, 
Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel, or Kant. He 



1038 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

had read every line of Machiavelli, any printed volume summarising 
Napoleon's ideas, La Rochefoucauld, Stendhal (whom he greatly ad- 
mired) and such like. Pascal and Goethe were hardly names to him; and of 
Montesquieu he knew only the lubricious Temple du Guide. He watched 
my amusement with complete bewilderment and could not be made to 
understand that philosophy had the slightest relevance. When he had 
gone Haldane told me that years ago he had lent Winston Eckermann's 
Conversations with Goethe. It was returned in two days with the remark 
that he literally could not understand what they were talking about. 

I went with Frida to another dinner that was amusing. I sat next to a 
retired judge of the county court who had been a distinguished wrangler 
in his day and thought this generation soft. He explained the things a 
wise man refuses to have any dealings with: (I) women (II) doctors 
(III) betting men (IV) clergymen (V) the Court of Criminal Appeal 
(VI) the Judicial Committee. Finding out that I was a university pro- 
fessor he explained (I) that no one ought to go to a university unless he 
knew the calculus (II) that the study of Laplace ought to be compulsory 

(III) that Newton was the greatest man, except Christ, who ever lived 

(IV) that all good mathematicians would make good judges. The great- 
est man he had ever met was J. J. Sylvester. 1 If Gauss 2 and Jacobi 3 were 
in hell he hoped to go there. He never read novels; but he found he had 
to give up the theory of numbers as a hobby for retirement as it made 
him too excited. He was really a charmer and full of a winning smile at 
his own absurdities which I found enchanting. He was 93, and only re- 
tired, he said, as a protest at the quality of the younger men who were 
being given him. "Nothing had gone right since Bowen died." 

In the way of reading, not very much. Mostly I have been going to 
bed early and reading Mommsen always with delight, rarely with con- 
viction; and a good brief history of the French Revolution by Mathiez 
who is a skilful and learned enthusiast for Robespierre. Also Hobbes, 
Elements of Law in a new edition by Tonnies, with intense admiration. 
Really that fellow, though quite wrong, has the most powerful mind in 
English political philosophy. Did you ever read the account of him 
quite delightful in Aubrey's Brief Lives? The spectacle of Hobbes sing- 
ing prick-song to himself in the early morning to expand his lungs while 
not awakening the household, and telling Aubrey that he cannot remem- 
ber being drunk above a hundred times is really glorious. And Frida read 

1 James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897), English mathematician, Professor of 
Mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University and later at Oxford; founder of 
the American Journal of Mathematics. 

2 Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), German mathematician who made 
notable contribution to the theory of numbers. 

8 Karl Gustav Jakob Jacobi (1804-1851), Professor of Mathematics at 
Konigsberg and expert on elliptical functions. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1039 

to me a novel which gave us both great pleasure as a picture of an Eng- 
land I suppose the next generation will hardly know. It is called Winters- 
moon and is by Hugh Walpole. If it comes your way, it would, I think, 
suit the acerbities of solitaire. 

I have now six weeks of freedom. I propose to get a paper done for 
the Harvard Law Review, possibly on Constructive Contempt, 4 and to 
take my holiday in Paris, talking to people and hunting books. But mainly 
I want to get the papers straight so as to begin writing the book on 
French thought. I have read all I safely can, and have reached that queer 
stage where I must set something down or burst. You will know the feel- 
ing. I must not forget to say that Haldane last night remarked that he 
had just fortified himself by a decision of yours in a P.C. case and that 
its terms had warmed his heart. 

My love eagerly to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., March 22, 1928 

My dear Laski: You send me such interesting adventures with people 
and books that I feel like the often quoted Vicar of Wakefield "All ones 
migrations from the blue bed to the brown" or words to that effect. I 
write opinions, dissents, and examine certioraris and then begin over 
again. However, when I received a telegram on my birthday from my 
quondam brother Clarke saying why not live and come with me to 
Rome and Athens or if you prefer to (some named paradise in the Pa- 
cific), I answer that not only Age with his stealing steps hath caught me 
in his clutch but the joys of sophistry beat scenery and the past. Are you 
not with me? I have this moment come to my first leisure for a long time, 
and I don't believe it will be leisure beyond the next mail. But I am 
cherishing hopes to finish that damned Demogue I told you of, I think 
recommended by Morris Cohen. Also I have Afpergu d'une theorie 
generale de Tetat an abridgement I gather by Hans Kelsen of a large 
work by him in German. God knows how little nourishment I get as a 
rule from such works but I must look at it. Also Cohen sends me type- 
written portions of a work parts of which have appeared as articles, 
Reason and Nature an essay on the meaning of scientific method, and 
dedicated to me I am proud. Also (in the way of boasting) Ludwig 
the author of the lives of Napoleon, Wilhelm II, Bismarck, etc. called 
on me some time ago and this week my driver, the faithful Charles* 
handed me a copy of the Washington Herald in which Ludwig seemed 
to have interviewed a number of our great men and wound up with a 
puff of me that I should blush to copy. Luckily, as I no doubt have said 
often, one who thinks of man as I do can't have a swelled head. Also, 
4 See supra, p. 1030. 



1040 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

although I only glanced at the article, I had the impression that L. was 
saying soapy tilings about the whole lot of us, nevertheless, as I liked him 
when we talked, I was more than pleased to know that he had carried 
away an agreeable impression. Of course one runs through light things 
that don't add much to one's credit side in the intellectual world. I think 
I mentioned Charles Adams's Autobiography last night I finished a 
pleasant volume of Thackeray's letters to Mr. Brookfield. His style soothes 
one's ear. But I made the reflection that no man of that time ever quite 
looked himself in the face, or was quite candid in his thought, I leave 
it as an impression not amplifying. You speak of Russell's Outline of 
Philosophy second thought suggests that this may be Bertrand in a 
book I've not heard of. I thought at first you had fallen on my friend of 
last summer, Will Durant's Story of Philosophy, (fancy a man who calls 
himself Will writing on philosophy), an entertaining enough book but 
one that I would spare you. I believe its success led him to think himself 
competent upon the theme and to write articles on serious subjects I 
read a little of one and said no more for me, thank you. Things occur to 
me to tell you, but I forget them before I write. I must away now and 
sooner than wait and resume, I will send this off. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 27.111.28 

My dear Justice: A week of vacation has made me feel again a human 
being. I have been to the play; I have dined out; and I have lain in bed 
luxuriously with the complete works of O. Henry at my call. And on 
April 4th I go off to Paris for ten days or so. 

Much the most interesting thing that has happened since I wrote last 
has been a dinner at the House of Commons where I met Sumner, the 
Lord of Appeal. He is an amazingly powerful person, with a certitude 
on all matters, as hard as nails, and with views compared to which those 
of McReynolds can only be described as socialist. He interested me enor- 
mously. He is widely read, a fine classical scholar, entirely self -made, and 
yet completely deaf to external opinion. He said for instance that discus- 
sion in the Court of Appeal was for him a waste of time, he had made 
up his mind when he read the brief. He attacked me for disbelieving in 
a second chamber and insisted that no thinker of repute ever believed 
in single chamber government. I instanced Franklin, Sieyes, Tom Paine, 
Bentham; he swept them all aside and said that of all writers on politics 
only Aristotle, Machiavelli and Hobbes really counted. His heroes were 
Caesar, Napoleon and Bismarck, because they really knew what they 
wanted. I said that was because they wanted only what they knew and 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1041 

was an expression of their limitations. He spoke warmly of your decisions 
but regretted a tinge of scepticism in them; a judge must bring down his 
fist with a thump. Then a dinner with Sankey to meet (and dislike) the 
L.C.J. 1 Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to like men who screw 
up their eyes like pigs? He seemed to me full of malice, and to have a 
certain queer sadistic pleasure in long sentences as a deterrent from 
crime. But his knowledge of Latin (even down to the late silver age) left 
me envious and gasping. At Sankey's was another judge Mackinnon 
who was quite charming polished, kindly, and a man of the world. He 
told us one charming story of Halsbury at 96 envying the young men at 
the bar because no moment in a legal life is so exquisite as the first time 
you are complimented from the bench. He and MacNaghten were so dis- 
tinguished by Baron Parke on the same day and it was a bond between 
them all their lives. Sankey told us of his interview with the Prime Minis- 
ter on his appointment to the Court of Appeal the P.M. full of ex- 
citement when the formalities were over because Sankey was an expert 
in a patience he was trying to acquire. 

In the way of books I have been reading a good deal. The best, I 
think, was a study of Spinoza by one R. A. Duff which, though a little 
difficult, amply repaid the price of entry and impressed me with the cer- 
tainty that Spinoza had greatly influenced Rousseau. Then a queer volume 
by American writers on the interrelations of the social sciences 2 which I 
thought a comment on my pet thesis that it is usually sheer waste of time 
to discuss method. Write your book and if you have something real to 
say the method will take care of itself. A still more queer book was Fay 
on The Revolutionary Spirit in France and America (c. 1776-89) which 
seemed to me to prove by excessive documentation that in those years a 
large number of Frenchmen were interested in America and a large num- 
ber of Americans interested in France. But I think I could have made its 
point with ease in say fifty pages instead of nearly five hundred. Another 
book that I thought admirable was an edition of Mandeville's Fable of 
the Bees by one Kaye a young American scholar which was not 
only excellent reading (Mandeville certainly could write) but also was 
full of apercus. It explained to me that clever poem of Voltaire's Le 
mondain that you may know. And it puts the relevant chapters of the 
Esprit des lois in a new light. I wish I could do a critical study of M. 
and accompany it by an edition of the E.D.L. The more I read him the 
more I am sure that with his balance and poise he knows each time how, 
in your phrase, to strike the jugular. And to my knowledge there is no 

1 Lord Hewart. 

2 Presumably William Fielding Ogburn and Alexander Goldenweiser, The 
Social Sciences and Their Interrelations (1927); see, supra, p. 1006. 



1042 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

really adequate book about him. I think Eugen Ehrlich's essay in your 
number of the Law Review much the best thing I know, 3 And a study 
of Mandeville would include a great final chapter on his book and Toc- 
queville's as models for the student of affairs who really wants to create 
on the grand scale. Have you ever read Pierre Marcel's Tocqueville 
an admirable book with some very interesting inedits? Which, somehow, 
reminds me of an amusing story of Bryce. A Japanese called on him 
and asked for suggestions of books on America. Biyce poured out a vast 
bibliography and saw a sense of bewilderment on the Jap's face. "Well, 
well," he said, "read my book and Tocqueville's, and if you are really 
pressed read mine." Birrell, who told me this, disliked Bryce intensely 
and when I asked why, said it was because Bryce had never asked him- 
self a really basic question in his life. On religion, for instance, he always 
refused to read anything, however important, that might disturb his 
mind; and Acton said that the only subject he really exhausted was the 
origins of the papacy because the more he plumbed it, the less inclined 
he was to doubt Presbyterianism. But Birrell has a pleasantly imaginative 
malice, and I do not vouch for these stories. 

I have bought nothing this week except a very pretty copy of Bellar- 
mine's answer to Barclay in which a past owner had written in 1613 "This 
booke hath become so diere by reason of his majestie's edicte that I did 
have to pay Mr. Baldwin fower shillings for the same"; I reserve myself 
for Paris. I was much tempted by a letter of Rousseau's written when on 
the way to Paris and full of a young man's enthusiasm at the approach 
of great hopes to be fulfilled; but it was ten pounds and, I thought, an 
unjustifiable luxury. 

My love warmly to you both. Ever afectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Devon Lodge, 4.JV.28 

My dear Justice: A time of peace since I wrote last week, mainly taken 
up by the writing of a simple little article for the Harvard Law Review. 
But we have indulged in a theatre and a dinner party and on this second 
I must dwell. It was given by Winston Churchill to celebrate his wife's 
recovery from an illness and I sat next to the Master of the Rolls. 1 He 
was dull and rather pompous, so I turned to the lady beyond who was 
what Felix would call a "star." She began by assuming that she had met 
me before; then had heard my name. Was I going into Parliament? A 
pity, for I had a clear voice. She always felt that the most important 
quality in a politician. Was I interested in metaphysics? Personally she 

8 Supra, p. 77. 

1 Ernest Murray Pollock (1861-1936), Viscount Hanworth. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1043 

adored Kant. She thought people made too much of Bergson except that 
by his attack on reason, B. had proved that women were superior to 
men. Was I interested in sex? She knew a charming doctor in Wimpole 
Street who was able to trace back the weirdest experiences to sex-starva- 
tion. She herself had a very rich sexual nature and when in 1925 she 
began to drop soup-spoons a friend took her to this doctor. He said of 
course that it was obvious that her husband no longer satisfied her and 
she must for her own safety have a divorce. Her husband was most gal- 
lant and the judge warmly sympathised with her. Her husband gave her 
the beautful chinchilla coat she had on as a parting gift. Now she had a 
wonderful husband who had decorated each of their six entertaining 
rooms in s a different colour so that she had one for each mood. Was I 
married? Oh, that was too bad for she would have liked me to come for 
a really intimate talk, but she never invited wives of men to whom she 
felt sympathetic. It simply would not do. Wives so rarely understand 
Platonic friendships. Did I read Plato? He was too, too wonderful. Then 
Mrs. Churchill, to my deep chagrin, took the ladies out. Meanwhile, 
Frida, far away from me, was sitting with the lady's first husband. He 
indicated her and explained that she illustrated the kind of woman meant 
by Nietzsche when he said there were some women whom you could 
visit only with a whip. He had never hoped for freedom this side of 
the grave "until God in his infinite mercy" suggested that she visit a 
psychoanalyst. "Then she enabled me to transform a personal pleasure 
into a moral sacrifice." You can imagine the joy with which we exchanged 
notes on the way home. I expect you will have seen that we have a new 
Lord Chancellor. 2 He is both able and attractive; though he has some- 
thing of the Old Bailey type of mind. The late Chancellor was a very 
sober and dignified person, but not, I think, first rate intellectually. He 
was a man of great courage for he sat for two years with the full knowl- 
edge that he was cutting short his own life. 

You will like me to pass on the gossip, and very pleasant it is, about 
Leslie Scott. He has gone out to India as counsel to the Princes on a 
government enquiry and those not very amiable gentlemen, being most 
anxious not to lose any further indicia of sovereignty, are said to have 
marked the brief fifty thousand pounds with a hundred pounds a day 
refresher. I'm very glad; for Scott has had a thin time this last few years 
and this will certainly recoup his fortunes. 

In the way of reading, my chief and quite unlimited joy has been the 
complete works, recently reprinted in two volumes, of Arthur Binstead, 
whom your London memories may enable you to recognise as "Pitcher" 
of The Pink'Un. They are Gal's Gossip, Pitcher in Paradise, et al quite 

2 On March 28 Sir Douglas Hogg, raised to the peerage as Baron Hailsham, 
succeeded Viscount Cave as Lord Chancellor. 



1044 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

wonderful reminiscences of the demi-monde and racing sets of the 'eight- 
ies and 'nineties. Birrell to whom I communicated my enthusiasm told 
me that he never wanted to meet anyone so badly as "Pitcher" and 
the latter would not because he never spoke to lawyers. But he once 
spent a weekend with Rosebery who was so tumultuously entertained 
that he had an inscription placed upon the seat that Pitcher occupied 
in his house. Of other things, a fine novel of the Russian Revolution 
called The Land of the Children and a very good detective story by 
Agatha Christie called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd which left me 
baffled and distraught until the end. You observe that I have taken life 
lightly. But I have also been to five committee meetings which needs a 
counterpoise. 

Here I must stop for I have to pack and get my boat-train to Paris 
within an hour. Frida is already down in Sussex and I hope tomorrow 
to start a real intellectual adventure. 

My love warmly to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Washington, D. C., April 6, 1928 

My dear Laski: You will get but a rotten reply to two good letters from 
you. I am very tired I don't quite know why partly, I suppose, the 
spring, which I always find hard here and partly there has been almost 
no relaxation in my work during the recess, when you add in the letters 
and telegrams I had to answer after my birthday. I am tickled by what 
you tell me of Lord Sumner I have seen other judges like that. I re- 
member a son of Fitzjames Stephen who seemed to divide men into good 
and bad and the bad were to be smacked. John Dickinson (author of 
Administrative Justice and the Supremacy of Law dedicated to Pound 
and Frankfurter) has sent to me a discourse Working Theory of Sover- 
eignty 1 which respects you and criticises some of your views, careful, 
and I think perfectly correct to the point of obviousness. I infer from 
the inscription (MS) that he approves of Kawananakoa v. Polyblank 
as who indeed that understands its limited scope, except your friend John 
M. Zane, does not but he does not understand it I infer. 

I think your answer to Sumner that his heroes knew what they wanted 
because they wanted only what they knew an expression of their limi- 
tations was admirable. I think I told you last summer that Ludwig's 
Napoleon didn't interest me because Napoleon did not, i.e., in his view 
of life. By the by Ludwig was here and made a short call on me 
and later in the public prints, talking of those whom he had seen, used 
language that I should blush to repeat. He professed to think that I was 
It. Here the scepticism that Sumner regretted comes in handy. It shows 

*42 Pol Sci. Qu. 524; 43 id. 32 (December 1927 and March 1928). 



HOLMES TO LASKI 1045 

a simple nature to be capable of a really believing conceit. Beck, Brandeis 
thinks and I incline to believe, is innocently naif non obstant consider- 
able intercourse with a hard and cynical world. 

I have read almost nothing. I did read Demogue Notions fondamentales 
du droit prive misled to it by words of Morris Cohen in an article 
a most respectable 669 pages of print not too legible at night and not a 
damned word from start to finish that I don't know or disbelieve no 
doubt a little profitable emphases here and there but it enraged me 
and kept me some time from reading a type-written skeleton of Cohen's 
book, parts in print and not reproduced, parts not yet set up, which so 
far as I could judge is truly admirable. He does not lightly yield to 
popular superstitions though he made me shudder and wonder by 
saying that he believes in Natural Rights I trust that it was but a 
fagon de parler. 

I have got two or three dissents for Monday next that I care about 
but one in which I stated my differences from McR. in a few words, 2 
Brandeis has taken up and worked out with such a mass of precedent 
that I should think McR. would feel as if a steam roller had gone over 
him. He in turn dissents from one of my decisions 3 as does Brandeis on 
other grounds and Butler and I am not quite sure of my majority al- 
though not shaken. Also McR. keeps me waiting on his good pleasure 
to find out whether he will not change his vote (as we stupidly call it) 
where a change would leave me in a minority. 

Meantime I have beautiful drives in the spring. Magnolias divine and 
today the cherry blossoms round the basin. So it is not all work. 

Affly yours, O. W. H. 



Washington, D. C. f April 17, 1928 Tuesday 

My dear Laski: It is astonishly hard to write down here not that we 
have had a particularly hard lot of cases rather the reverse certainly 
so far as I am concerned but the steady stream of certioraris seems to 
fill every crevice of promised leisure. A week ago I was more interested 
in delivering a dissent 1 of which I shall try to send you a copy tomorrow 
than in my judgments for the Court. I also dissented in another case in 
a few words but Brandeis took the same theme up and put into his 
such a wealth of authority and such a lot of work that I should have been 
inclined simply to note my agreement with him had he not wanted me 

8 Untermeyer v. Anderson, 276 U.S. 440, 446. Trie issue concerned the retro- 
active application of gift tax provisions of the Revenue Act of 1924. 
* Casey v. United States, 276 U.S. 413 (Apr. 9, 1928); see supra p. 1027. 

1 Black and White Taxi case, supra, p. 1027. 



1046 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

to remain articulate. 2 But we are drawing near to the end of arguments 
two or at most three weeks including the present one I believe is 
all. Your yarns about the ladies with rich sexual natures I think this 
is the second one seem to me almost incredible. I find it hard not to 
suspect you of embroidering but they make bully stories. I remember 
hearing of some dame who having a story to tell would ask "Do you 
want it naked or will you have it clothed?" 

I suppose you are back from Paris by this time I envy you your 
excursions and find it hard to believe that even little ones are at an 
end for me. My reason tells me that the fun can't last much longer but 
it still is unabated and I don't encourage myself to dwell on the thought 
of Finis. Indeed yesterday I had a call from the prospective secretary of 
next year. When I have needed to enforce a little leisure on myself ultra 
the solitaire at 9 pm I latterly have taken up Disraeli's Curiosities of Liter- 
ature which has been on my shelves uncut since I was a boy. I am in- 
clined to add it to Pepys and Walpole's Letters as a good third when 
you don't want ideas and don't want to waste time. I just took up the 
Third Volume and have read a few pages at odd minutes now and then 
with much quiet pleasure. I have not your gusto over the printed word 
but as I have told you am apt to read with a sigh and an eye to the 
number of pages. The other day Pound sent me the 4th edition of his 
Outline of Lectures on Jurisprudence a prodigiously learned work 
but I couldn't forbear saying to him that most of the authors that he 
cites, so far as I have read them, seem to me to write much drool for a 
few spoonsful of insight and that I doubted if most youngsters didn't get 
all the jurisprudence they needed if they studied law under a man with 
general ideas. Jurisprudence begins as soon as a man learns that the 
parcel-gilt goblet and sea-coal fire are not essentials of the alleged con- 
tract. 

When the lamented Hough was alive and was chaffing a decision of 
mine to the effect that a boat of the U.S. was not guilty of a tort in 
running into another vessel he said we don't talk of torts in Admiralty 
but of collision, and would I say that there had been no collision? I 
wrote, alas just as he had died, that if he preferred to talk Basque instead 
of French and to deny himself the benefit of the wider generalizations 
of a more developed system it was all right but that having but one word 
for two ideas he must distinguish. 3 Collision in the sense of physical im- 
pact of course is not denied but collision with legal responsibility 
I certainly should deny. Collision might mean either and I rather think 
Hough really was the victim of his own ambiguity. If I have told you 

2 Untermeyer v. Anderson, supra, p. 1045. 
8 See, supra, p. 601. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1047 

all this before forgive me. Old men forget and most men repeat. But 
this was a case where a little more jurisprudence was needed. 

Wed. 18th. This morning a letter from Wu (I have had two or three 
now) telling of inquiry from Austen Chamberlain via British consulate as 
to his whereabouts on account of O.W.H. I thank Chamberlain via 
you. Wu seems troubled but does not give particulars and his attitude 
is so adoring that it worries me. He wants to get a year over here and 
I believe Pound will offer him a scholarship though I doubt the wisdom of 
taking his hand from the plough. I should like to see him again before I 
die. I hope Paris was all you expected. 

Ever affectionately yours, O. W, Holmes 

Devon Lodge, 22.IV.28 

My dear Justice: I came back yesterday from a divine fortnight in Paris 
certainly the queen of all cities. I talked till I had no voice left; I 
bought books until I was footweary with mounting ladders; I went to 
two unforgettable plays; and I had one adorable ms adventure. Let me 
begin with the last first. 

You will remember that the publisher of Diderot's Encyclopedia got 
weary, at the end, of ecclesiastical opposition, and, to the great man's 
disgust cut out all the parts of articles which might give offence to the 
Jesuits. It has always been a problem where the original articles have 
got to. Some thought they had just perished; others that there [sic] were 
bought by Catherine II when she purchased Diderot's library. At the 
Bibliotheque Nationale there is an exhibition about the Revolution. I saw 
there a letter about Diderot which interested me. The name of the man 
who had lent it meant nothing to me, but, on enquiry, I found that he 
was Diderot's great-great grandson. I got an introduction to him and 
discovered that he had all the papers, as well as hundreds of unpublished 
letters of Diderot and his friends. But he was passionately religious, and 
pretty well divided between pride and shame in his ancestry. He did not 
think he ought to publish and raise the dust of an old controversy. M. le 
cure too thought die papers had better remain dead. I saw M. le cure 
who spoke vividly on the decay of the true faith, the sottises of those 
wicked men, Voltaire and Rousseau, the horrors of the Revolution, just 
as though he and I were emigres talking over the causes of the terror 
we had just escaped. At least I was able to put the librarians on the 
track; and they are hopeful that they will persuade the old gentleman 
to part with his treasures. 1 

1 The papers in question, owned in 1928 by Baron Jacques Le Vavasseur, a 
distant relative but not a direct descendant of Diderot, are now in the Archives 
Nationales; they are inventoried in Herbert Dieckmann's Invent air e du fonds 
Vandeul et ingdits de Diderot (1951). 



1048 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

Then talk. I met Julien Benda, the author of La trahison des clercs, 
and had thoroughly enjoyable discussion of the growth of Bergsonism, 
and its disasters, the need to revive a faith in reason, the duty of de- 
fending Western civilisation. Then Thibaudet the critic, who said many 
fine things; of Bourget that he had shown how to make the ten com- 
mandments perfumed fiction for the drawing room; of Proust that he 
persuaded his readers that the infinitely little was infinitely important 
granted only that it was infinite enough; of Renan that his doubts were 
more powerful than the certainties of others; in every way an attractive 
personality. I met, too, Maurois, whose Shelley you may have read a 
charming fellow, but quite obviously the man building his high-road to 
the academy and careful above all to see that there are no rocks in the 
way. And Mathiez, the historian of the Revolution, a great scholar, full 
of a great subject, and speaking of his material with a fire and enthusiasm 
that made one feel that there is no other subject save his. Of Taine, he 
said it was the finest autobiography in the French tongue; how curious 
that he should have chosen the French Revolution as the background 
of his narrative. He had a high regard for Mignef s old history, and a 
still higher regard for Acton; but he interested me enormously by saying 
that the work which had done most to give new impulses to the study 
of the Revolution in recent years was Kropotkin's History which, with 
grave faults and many inaccuracies, contained invaluable hints. He was 
a charming fellow, this Mathiez the real savant, simple, unaffected, 
passionately sincere. As it was election-time I saw little of the politicians. 
But I went to lunch to the British embassy a queerly artificial atmos- 
phere and met Briand there. Kellogg's note had just come, 2 and it was 
really amusing to watch the great man trying to convince himself that 
I was serious when I said that the note meant just what it said and that 
America was a pacifist people really believing that steps could be taken 
to prevent the recurrence of 1914. Really these politicians live in an un- 
real world. They exist by gossip, rumour, innuendo, suspicion; they have 
formulae, but not general ideas; perorations, but not serried argument. 
An hour of Morris Cohen's dialectic would reduce them to intellectual im- 
potence. Give me the philosopher and the man of letters when you want 
to know whether the world is really moving! 

The book-hunt was most profitable. New books apart, of which there 
were many I could not resist, I found Linguef s TMorie des lois civiles, 

2 The American Secretary of State, Frank B. Kellogg, had recently laid before 
the French government proposals for an international covenant for the out- 
lawing of war. The negotiations which resulted ended in August with the sign- 
ing of the General Pact for the renunciation of war. Laski wrote of "The 
Kellogg Plan and the European Powers" in 55 New Republic 143 (June 27, 
1928). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1049 

which I think as powerful and more realistic than Montesquieu; a book 
curiously forgotten and rare, but about which I hope to make people 
really excited one day. I got a good number of the pamphlets on liberty 
of conscience published just after the revocation of the Edict, and one or 
two of the attacks on Louis XIV's despotism, I picked up on the quais 
L'alambic des lois one of the books to which Montesquieu gave birth, 3 
and quite good in its kind, the more interesting as it was the author's own 
copy and has an unpublished ms preface by him on the purpose of his 
work. Also I bought at ten cents each a perfect heap of Mazarinades, 
some deservedly famous, some hardly known, but all useful to me as 
illustrations of my pet theory about die difference between the English 
and French civil wars. One interested me much as in it the French are 
urged to grow a Cromwell as their liberator and to have done with 
kings. This is, I think, one of the very few republican pamphlets of that 
epoch. And I bought, finally, a set of pamphlets on the struggle between 
Maupeou and the Parlements in the 18th century which are excessively 
interesting from their attempt to show that France has a body of funda- 
mental laws beyond the reach of the King's impious hands. I have a lot 
to say about that theory in my book on the 17th century. But apart from 
the things found you know and will share with me the delight of swing- 
ing the ladder to the fourth shelf from the top in order to see whether the 
inside of the red-bound volume is as good as it appears from the outside. 
I enjoyed so much, too, the talks with the bouquinistes and their explana- 
tion that the particular volume I wanted they had had in 1894 but since 
then * * * and a French shrug of the shoulders into which you must 
read the combined dramas of Racine and Corneille. One man was de- 
licious. At first I could not examine his stock; then I bought one or two 
items from his catalogue and was allowed inside; two more purchases 
led me to the inner room; I then bought some twenty Mazarinades 
which led me to the arcanum imperil a cellar with the remark that 
I was then "vraiment serieux" A dirty but delightful race these bou- 
quinistes! 

Well, I come back to much work, as term begins tomorrow, and letters, 
committees, articles to write, have all accumulated in my absence. But I 
feel astonishingly fit, and though there rankles in me a sense of irritation 
at not being able to get over to America made more keen by your 
and Felix's letters I register a vow that it shall be next year. 

I send you my warm love to you both. Brandeis writes me with en- 
thusiasm about some of your recent opinions. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 

*Auguste Rouille d'Orfeuil was the author of L'Alambic des lofa, ou 
observations de Tami des frangois sur Thomme et sur les loix (1773). 



1050 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

Devon Lodge, 29JV.28 

My dear Justice: I am so glad your mind has been relieved about Wu, 
and gladder still to know that he is all right. I enclose the Foreign Office 
letter which shows that their job was properly done. I hope Pound can 
give him a year at Harvard, 

I was deeply interested in your taxi-cab case, 1 and, if I may say so, 
I thought your view demonstrably right. At the back of Butler, J's opinion 
there seems to me to linger a quite patent fallacy, namely that there is 
a body of common law dogmas to which, albeit unconsciously, state-juris- 
prudence is seeking to conform; that where this is traversed, it must be 
assumed, exceptis excipiendis, that it has been done in error. It is the 
same fallacy which seeks to assume that a state unconsciously adopts the 
dogmas of international law, and that municipal jurisprudence is adapted 
thereto. But surely on the nature of the case, granted (a) the character 
of American state-sovereignty and (b) the position of a state supreme 
court, one cannot logically escape the conclusion that the common law is 
for that state what that state chooses to make it mean, so long as the 
federal constitution remains unviolated. 

I have had a busy week, it being the beginning of term; and the room 
for play has been small. On Friday we managed to smuggle in a dinner 
for Herbert Croly, to which Graham Wallas and Allyn Young came; and 
we talked the universe round. I like Croly, but I must say he seems to 
me heavy and immovable; and there is about him a queer streak of re- 
ligiosity I don't understand. Wallas is a dear; but if God ever made a 
more self-centred man, I have not met him. One sentence in his talk 
stands out in my memory, an insistence that no one had "put psychology 
in its proper perspective between Aristotle and my Human Nature in 
Politics." I wanted so badly to put in just a little plea for Hobbes, out of 
courtesy, at the least, to the illustrious dead. But Frida held my eye, and 
I remained an exquisitely polite host. Young is fine. He has immense 
learning, great practical insight, and a sense of humour. I hope you will 
meet him if and when he returns to America* 

Of reading, a good deal. I am sending you separately a book that has 
enchanted it the sequel to Bentham's Fragment. 2 The editing and the 
introduction might have been better done but the text, I think, is 
Jeremy at his best and most characteristic. But only think what Lytton 

1 See supra, p. 1027. 

2 A Comment on the Commentaries (Everett, ed., 1928) was never pub- 
lished by Bentham, although his Fragment on Government (1776) was an ex- 
tracted portion of the Comment. Laski reviewed the Comment in 18 Manchester 
Guardian Weekly 458 (June 8, 1928). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1051 

Strachey, or Sainte-Beuve would have made of that love story. 3 Then 
the collected papers of George Unwin, 4 which Tawney has printed with 
an admirable introduction. Unwin was one of the very best economic his- 
torians of our time; and some of these papers have a quality that I do 
not think Maitland would have disowned. I hope they will come your 
way in the summer; and at least I hope you will read the memoir and the 
two or three papers at the end. 

I must not forget to tell you that at a lecture on Friday by Sarfatti, 
the Italian jurist, 5 I saw F. Pollock for the first time in many a day. He 
looked astonishingly well, and his remarks on men and things were 
pungent. Indeed he looked more like a man of sixty-five than one who 
has passed into his eighties. And he had read all the latest books and knew 
all the latest gossip in quite astonishing fashion. And I saw Nevinson, 
who had just come back from Palestine, full of enthusiasm for Mahomet 
on the ground that a man who could organise so shifty and dirty a race 
as the Arabs into fighting material must have been a very great man. 
Nevinson is wonderful. A book has just been published attacking the 
Dardanelles campaign and its management. Nevinson, to whom each item 
of that struggle is holy, was bursting with anger, and he used adjectives 
which would have made a lady from Billinggate [sic] tremble with envy 
against the author. I must not omit his story of the soldier who wrote from 
Palestine to his mother in a Lancashire cotton-town. "I am now in the 
land where our Lord was born. There are no movies and no football, and 
it's very hard to get a drink. If I stay here long I shall have to turn 
religious, too." Isn't there something of really epic quality in that too? 

One other book I must eagerly recommend by an American named 
Margaret Wilson, Daughters of India. I admired it greatly; and people 
who have been long there, like Ratcliffe 6 and Lord Meston, 7 tell me that 

8 Mr. Everett's preface to the Comment on the Commentaries told, for the 
first time, of Bentham's early love for Miss Dunkly a love which led him 
to write the Comment in order that he might support a wife. That he never 
published the Comment may suggest that his passion for Miss Dunkly cooled, 
or that her judgment told her that her greatest happiness was to be found else- 
where than by his side. 

* George Unwin (1870-1925), Professor of Economic History at the Univer- 
sity of Manchester; author of Studies in Economic History (R. H. Tawney, ed., 
1927). 

5 Mario Sarfatti was Professor of Comparative English-Italian Law at the 
University of Turin. 

6 S. K, Ratcliffe (1868- ), journalist and lecturer, had spent some years 
as newspaper man in Calcutta. 

7 James Scorgie Meston (1865-1943), Baron Meston, filled many posts in the 

Government of India from 1902 to 1919; author of Nationhood for India 
1931). 



1052 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

as a picture of the real Indian atmosphere it is quite unsurpassed. I think 
that Harcourt publishes it in New York. And other books come to my 
mind on which I have been feasting. Did I ever mention to you, Sanla- 
ville, Moliere et le droit? It is a charming discussion of the lawyers in 
Moliere's plays, and their relation to the actual lawyers of the 17th cen- 
tury. I enjoyed it hugely. I read, too, a study of Saint-Simon the diarist 
by Doumic, which had very great charm. I don't know if I ever said to 
you that this constant research on the 17th century has sent up Saint- 
Simon enormously in my opinion. He was one of the few who knew 
what the disease was. I have been working this last three weeks at the 
economic side of L. XIV's reign; I find that it cost 50% of the product 
to collect the taxes, and that an average peasant paid over sixty per cent 
of his income in taxation. So that the revolution is so inevitable that I 
am sure the effective central problem is why it was postponed so long. 
I wonder how far Anglo-French rivalry kept alive a national spirit which 
disappeared when peace gave the prospect of civil discord. But this is a 
mere ballon tfessai without much thought behind it. 

I write on a perfect spring morning in the heart of London. And behind 
me on a small rose tree Frida planted to make the garage less human, a 
blackbird sings quite enchantingly; and by my feet the cat looks at me in 
agony because the window is closed at the top and she cannot interfere 
with the singing. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Devon Lodge, 8.V.28 

My dear Justice: A week of literally overwhelming work, in which I have 
emerged half-drowned from a mass of committees, lectures, dinners, and 
book-reviews. To me the most interesting experience was giving a lecture 
on the radio. To speak to an unlimited audience in an empty room and 
know that the machine conveys the slightest inflection of the voice over 
the habitable globe is really weird. I believe it came off rather well And 
at least from the innumerable letters I have received asking for literature 
about my subject I became convinced that it is a good way of getting 
people to read. 

Of dinners, the most interesting was one given by Sankey. Haldane and 
Tawney were the other guests and we discussed the judge and his func- 
tion for hours. I was astonished to find that whereas Sankey took the 
obvious and sensible view that judges inevitably legislate, even if it is 
what you have called "interstitial legislation," Haldane was insistent that 
they merely "declare" what is already law, and not the combined efforts 
of all of us could move him from that. It was amusing, too, to find how 
completely he and Sankey disagreed in their estimates of particular 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1053 

judges. Haldane seemed to look for what I may call a "man of the 
world" quality in their decisions; Sankey was more interested in the 
endeavour to make the case emit a big, working principle. Then we gave, 
at the School, a jolly dinner to Harrison Moore, the Australian judge. 1 
He is quite charming, with none of the longueurs from which I have 
suffered in Felix's hero, Higgins, J. and he told us some excellent stories, 
especially one of X, now a judge of the High Court, who spoke for three 
days; his junior then resumed his points in an hour; and Griffith, CJ. 2 
asked blandly, "Mr. X, are you and your junior animadverting upon the 
same theme?" We had also Franz Oppenheimer, 3 the German economist, 
to dinner. He was a real delight, and his admiration for you and Felix and 
Redlich went to my heart. He told us an excellent tale of Kohler 
Pound's omniscient hero writing a paper on Ancient Chinese Law with 
the aid of a Chinaman, to translate the texts; and an even better one o 
Mommsen's remark on hearing of the appointment of Max Muller 4 to 
Oxford: "Have you then no humbugs in your own country, that you must 
import them from Germany?" Isn't that admirable? 

In the way of reading, I have thoroughly enjoyed the fifth volume of 
Carlyle's Medieval Political Theory. It deals with the 13th and 14th cen- 
turies, and though no one could call it a great book, it is full of apergus 
and opens up vistas I thought very suggestive. Then Chafee sent me his 
new book, 5 and though bits of it seemed to me not worth reprinting, I 
thought it left a very charming impression of a mind at once liberal and 
distinguished; though I add that he makes the common error in the 
article on judges of thinking that the economic interpretation of history 
deals with individual motives. I do wish people would read the texts on 
which they comment. Then, too, an old but admirable book on French 
literature in the 18th century by Paul Albert. 6 If it is in the Boston 
Athenaeum I hope you will take it to Beverly Farms; for the essays on 
Saint-Pierre, Voltaire, and Rousseau are really as good as anything I 
know, and it is pleasant to see a Frenchman free of the childish super- 
stition that the 17th century is better than the 18th. And an equally ex- 

*The reference is probably lo Sir William Harrison Moore (1867-1935), 
who left England in 1*892 to become Professor Dean in the Law School of the 
University of Melbourne, where he became a leading authority on constitu- 
tional matters and published his work on The Constitution of the Common- 
wealth of Australia (1902). He represented Australia in the League of Nations 
Assembly in 1927, 1928, and 1929. 

2 Sir Samuel Walker Griffith (1845-1920), Chief Justice of the High Court 
of Australia, 1903-1919. 

8 Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943), prolific writer on economics and sociol- 
ogy who left Germany in 1940 and died in the United States. 

* See, supra, p. 889. 

B Zecliariah Chafee, Jr., The Inquiring Mind (1928). 

* La litterature frangaise au XVIII* siecle (1874). 



1054 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

cellent book on feudalism (La societe feodale) by J. Calmette which is 
a brilliant resume of the research of the last thirty years. 

Queer things, too, have come in between. One of my students quarrels 
with his guardian; said guardian tells him to leave the house and never 
come back. Student does so. Guardian then calls me up to ask for aid in 
the return of student. Laski searches for student who refused to go home 
without an apology from guardian; Interview between them here which 
is an education in the art of invective. Student then offers to apologise 
to guardian if guardian will apologise to him. Guardian says he cannot 
apologise to student but will apologise to me. Entrance of hysterical wife 
of guardian to insist that Christians must forgive and forget. I nearly 
explode the settlement by dissolution in laughter. Hysterical wife stands 
chanting that "because of the war we must love: I love Professor Laski 
and he loves me. Do you not love me Professor?" This in a high-pitched 
scream which must have thrilled our neighbours. The curtain is then rung 
down on a quite touching scene in which guardian and student combine 
to impress upon me that it is all the fault of the hysterical aunt who is 
incapable of loving anyone. Add to which an Indian student who tells 
me that he feels very tempted by the lovely ladies of Leicester Square 
and seeks a remedy against their charms. "I have called on my Gods, but 
they answer not; I have asked my chemist for a philtre which would 
repress my desires, but he knows not one; I come to you as to my father 
for aid." Don't you think, in all honesty, that the work of a judge is 
simplicity itself beside that of a professor? Or do you take judicial notice 
of philtres? 

My love to you both. Ever yours affectionately, H. ]. L. 



Washington, D. C., May 12, 1928 

My dear Laski: It may be that age makes it harder, it may be the endless 
stream of certioraris but I have found my work making it impossible for 
me to write as often as I should like to. I should be very sorry if it led 
to my hearing less often from you. However, the Conference this after- 
noon that left me tired left me pretty well cleaned up two opinions 1 
and three dissents 2 to be delivered next Monday and nothing undone 
except the delivery of one 5 to 4 opinion which McReynolds, one of the 
5, held up at the last minute, two months or more ago, and keeps me 
waiting on his lordly pleasure. 3 He does not share the opinion of some of 

1 Ferry v. Ramsey, 277 U.S. 88; Larson Co. v. Wrigley Co., id. 97 (May 14, 
1928). 

2 Long v. Rockwood, 277 U.S. 142, 148; Springer v. Philippine Islands, id. 
189, 209; Panhandle Oil v. Knox, id. 218, 222. 

8 Not identified; see, supra, p. 1045. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1055 

us that the work of the justices has the right of way and should be con- 
sidered before looking out for No. 1. He has me in his hand as it depends 
on him whether what I wrote goes as the judgment of the Court. There 
seems a preestablished harmony between Brandeis and me. He agrees 
with all my dissents and I agree with the only one that he will propound. 4 
There has been a succession of superlatively beautiful things here each 
being an event, beginning with the magnolias but nature, jealous of 
allowing us the superlative degree, takes the life out of me, at least, in 
the spring weather so that I take a somewhat languid joy. 

I have read almost nothing W. Lippman's little book of course 
American Inquisitors. His writing is fly paper to me if I touch it I am 
stuck till 1 finish it. He writes so well and sees so much that it is diffi- 
cult to put into words I think he talks as wisely as possible about our 
fundamentalism and modernism. My wife has read to me (pendente soli- 
taire) a good part of Mark Sullivan's book Our Times a deuced 
clever evocation of the past that I remember and most of which you 
do. Also books of flyers and one that Miss Gertrude Bell was to have writ- 
ten an introduction for had she not died The Marsh Arab or some 
such name. Incidentally, not for the first time, am I struck by the cour- 
age of an Englishman going alone among a lot of savages that would have 
liked to kill him. I suppose that in that and other similar cases there is a 
good deal of confidence in the power of the name of England, but there 
is a lot of courage too. 

Your adventures in Paris were most interesting. Not for the first time 
does your talk with Mathiez the historian of the Revolution suggest that 
one should read Kropotkin I never did but Brandeis once told me 
suggestive things from him. Your names are sometimes illegible who 
wrote the Theorie des lois civiles which makes me prick up my ears? 5 And 
what is your theory of the difference between the French and English 
civil wars? Dear me, how many things I want to ask or talk about and 
I long to see your book on the 17th century but I agree with Frank- 
furter who says he urged you not to hurry. Your Grammar seemed hur- 
riedly written. You have much to tell but only a thing well told lasts, and 
you have shown often enough that you can tell your story well. What you 
say about Croly agrees with the little I have seen of him and what you 
tell of Wallas somewhat surprises and much amuses me. I look forward 
to Bentham's Fragment, and wish I could think of things that you would 
like. For want of other things I may venture to dispatch one or two more 
dissents. I have told you I think that my last letter from Wu spoke as if 
his life was in danger I can't tell how seriously to take it but it makes 

*King Manufacturing Co. v. Augusta, 277 U.S. 100, 115 (May 14, 1928). 
5 Supra, p. 1048. 



1056 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

me uneasy, I begin to hope he will take the year's scholarship that I 
believe Pound has offered him. I must stop. I am a pretty tired old cove 
but as ever Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 22.V.28 

My dear Justice: I cannot complain of being underworked; for during 
the last fortnight I have had, I think, only two free days and those had 
to be devoted to necessary writing. However, half the term has gone, and 
the slow approach of three months* freedom is inviting beyond words. 

One or two things will, I think, amuse you. Since I began giving these 
lectures on the radio, I have had the queerest collection of letters ever 
sent to a human being. One man writes to say that his drains are out of 
order (drains not brains); could I advise him how to put them right to 
the best social advantage. Another tells me that the Court of Chancery is 
illegally detaining twelve million pounds; would I take up his case? An- 
other still simply thinks "I may like to know" that in his opinion no honest 
man has ever been a member of Parliament. A lady tells me that her son, 
aged eleven, has a genius for politics ("He already made speeches to the 
local Primrose League"); what training do I think most suitable for 
ultimate membership of the Cabinet? A gentleman writes from Germany 
to say that he thinks we ought to correspond for I am clearly a kindred 
soul and will I please start by sending him everything I have written with 
affectionate (vom herzen) autograph inscriptions. Do you remember the 
man who wired to Huxley "Have discovered the truth; shall I come 
over?" I have been going through a series of similar adventures. 

We have not been about much, for I have been too busy. But on Sun- 
day we took the day off and motored down to Hampshire to see the 
Webbs. We had a delightful time there. They told us endless stories of 
Bernard Shaw which explained much about him. Today, it appears, he 
is so uncomfortable in the presence of poor people that he mingles only 
with millionaires; which shows how little he is capable in an ultimate way 
of manners. He now takes violent likes to people the last being to T. E. 
Lawrence of Arabian fame. He actually wrote to Balfour suggesting that 
Lawrence should be given a pension of 1000 a year by the govern- 
ment; to which Balfour replied that the government had no funds for 
endowment of that kind but would welcome such or similar action on 
the part of Mr. Shaw. Webb told me that in his view all Shaw's antics are 
really the product of an inferiority complex; and I think this is not un- 
likely. The Webbs together are really delightful people humble, open- 
minded, interested in all ideas, and endlessly kind to young people. 

Of books, as Mr. Pepys would say, I have read a-many. First Shaw's 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1057 

vast treatise on socialism which I had to review. 1 It is strikingly written 
but he has no idea of what has happened to economic or political theory 
in these last forty years. Then Wells's little confession of faith, 2 which is 
mainly rhetoric but, I think, very moving rhetoric. Then Gibbon the 
last part for a paper to a students club; and with a new admiration 
greater than I have ever before experienced its solidity, its pageantry, 
its economy of words, its ironic note are all magnificent. How the man 
of the autobiography came to write it, I literally do not understand. Then 
Russell's Philosophy which I hope you will earmark for Beverly Farms 
a truly remarkable book, in which I note in passing a criticism of Bradley 
which is masterly. Not everyone can annihilate absolute idealism in two 
pages! And the new volume of Carlyle's medieval political theory which 
has solid virtues but is quite totally devoid of any personality at all. Last, 
but, God knows, not least, a volume of P. G. Wodehouse called The Click- 
ing of Cuthbert which I beg you to buy. I laughed till my sides ached; 
and the first story of all would, on my vote, go into any collection of classi- 
cal humour. He is the Chaplin of letters. 

I haven't had time to buy very much; but I picked up a nice collection 
of Fronde pamphlets, and Carleton's Regall Jurisdiction which pleased 
me. Also a copy of Bellarmine's De Romano Pontifice elaborately bound 
circa 1700 in a tooled morocco binding, which proved [sic] a past owner, 
the Rev. Edward Powys, to write on the margin in 1784, "Tis pity that 
such ignoble poison should be so nobly preserved." Men, as you see, took 
their faiths soberly in those days. 

We have had Croly to dinner a questioner but not a contributor 
and Abraham Flexner who is as delightful as he is dogmatic. And I went 
to Allyn Young's to meet the German economist, Schumpeter 3 and was 
overwhelmed. He has Felix's charm and brilliance, together with a power 
of analysis that is staggering. His picture of the weakness of German 
politics was as superb a conversational tour de force as I have ever heard. 
If he goes to America again I shall certainly send him to see you; I was 
quite literally entranced by him. Flexner, by the way, confirmed all my 
suspicions about such foundations as those of Rockefeller. He has in his 
mind a "pattern" of what a university institution ought to be; and he 
judges any particular university by the degree of its conformity with the 

1 Laski reviewed The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism ( 1928 ) in 4 
Saturday Review of Literature 981 (June 23, 1928). See, infra, p. 1059, note 3. 

2 Probably H. G. Wells, Open Conspiracy; Blue Prints for a World Revolu- 
tion (1928). 

3 Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950), whose career in economics began 
in Austria, took him to a Professorship in Germany, at Bonn, from 1925 to 
1932, and then brought him to the United States, where he became Professor 
of Economics at Harvard in 1932. 



1058 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

pattern. He made, however, one admirable remark. He pointed out that 
in the nineteenth century, when scientific discovery, political change, artis- 
tic evolution, were all on a Titanic scale the movements which deeply 
impressed Oxford were without exception theological in character 
Newman, the admission of Nonconformists and so forth. That is, I think, 
true, and worth while trying to explain. I think probably the reason lies 
in a kind of intellectual in-breeding that is fatal to a proper appreciation 
of novelty. You see something of the same thing in Harvard in the period 
before Langdell and in English Cambridge before they were shaken up by 
Clerk-Maxwell. 

I am longing for American news; neither from you nor Felix have I 
heard for over a month. Did I, by the way, tell you that the University 
of Geneva has asked me to give half a dozen lectures there next February. 
I am very glad about it, as with the spoils I think it is pretty certain that 
I shall be able to get to Washington in March. 

Our love as always to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 28.V.28 

My dear Justice: A perfectly delightful letter from you warmed my heart. 
I don't think that you or Felix need worry about the French book being 
completed too quickly. So far, I have been gathering its material for the 
last three years, and I haven't yet put pen to paper. I plan to get out the 
first volume sometime in 1930; as to the others, they may take until 
the year I retire. But when they are done, I hope that people will have a 
new view of the movement of the European mind in the 18th century. 

I have had a jolly week. Last Wednesday I had the annual dinner of 
my department, to which 4 young Tory M.P/s came as the guests. We 
wrangled happily for three hours. I was intensely interested by their 
enthusiasm for Winston and their contempt for Birkenhead. And in their 
affections the more extreme a Labour M.P. was, the more they seemed to 
like him. But what moved me much was their genuine and deep concern 
about the lives of the working-class. I don't know, of course, how far they 
could be taken as in any way representative; but, as I said to Tawney, so 
far as people like themselves are concerned they differ much more about 
the rate of change than about the direction in which change ought to go. 

Yesterday we motored Nevinson out into the country for the day and 
had, as you can imagine, a most delightful time with him. I was complain- 
ing of Wallas's self-centredness and said this was new. "Oh no!" said 
Nevinson, 'lie had it at Shrewsbury when we were at school together. He 
always represented his chance thoughts as direct communications from 
the Holy Ghost." He told me a wonderful story of Bridges, the poet 
laureat, landing in New York and refusing to be interviewed. Next day 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1059 

the headline in the papers was "King's canary refuses to chirp." Isn't that 
superb? Then he refought the Dardanelles campaign with Ian Hamilton 1 
where we stopped for tea; and I was more moved than I can easily tell 
you by the spectacle of these two trying twelve years after the event, to 
think out alternatives which might have meant success. Nevinson has 
nearly finished a volume about his latest wanderings; 2 if it is as good 
as the earlier you shall have it forthwith when it appears in September. 

These things apart I have been working steadily in brilliant weather, 
I have reviewed Bernard Shaw's book on socialism 3 teeth so concealed 
as, I hope, to make the bile more bitter. He's a first-rate stylist, but he 
hasn't read a book for thirty years and seems not to understand that 
changes in social organisation mean changes in economic principle. More- 
over for a man to tell you that the desirable thing is equality of income, 
without telling you how to get it is simply irritating. Then I have been 
writing a long paper on the general will for a symposium in July at the 
Aristotelian Society 4 and I am less discontented than usual with the result. 
For I have worked out a thesis about the general will in Rousseau which 
resolves the contradictions usually discussed between the second Dis- 
cours and the Social Contract. It is a pretty point and I shall look for- 
ward to hearing what you think of it later. And I have got some pretty 
results from assuming that in politics good means the satisfaction of de- 
mands and working out the consequence of a modified utilitarianism 
along those lines. All of which reminds me to beg you, when leisure 
comes, to read two simply masterly essays of McTaggart in Studies in 
Hegelian Cosmology. One is called "Is the State an Organism" and the 
other "The Supreme Good and Pleasure as a Criterion." I think that I 
have never read discussion in that line since Hume in which destructive 
power was so perfectly at work. My little advanced seminar has been 
thrilled by reading and discussing them. 

I apologise for my writing. 5 The man who said (1767) "UEsprit des 
Lois cest la Propriete was Linguet a journalist-lawyer who was guillo- 
tined in the terror. A quite wonderful fellow a combination of Marx 
and de Maistre. There's a good account of his earlier period in a very 
pleasant book by one Cruppi called Un avocat fournaliste au XVIIlme 
siecle. 

I am sorry you are being driven so hard on the Court. But it will com- 

1 General Sir Ian Hamilton ( 1853-1947 ) commanded the Mediterranean 
Expeditionary Force in 1915; author of Gdlipoli Diary (1920). 

z Last Changes, Last Chances (1928). 

8 Laski reviewed The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism (1928) in 7 
The Labour Magazine 67 (June 1928). See, supra, p. 1057, note 1. 

* Mind, Matter and Purpose (Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 
VIII, 1928), 45. 

6 Supra, p. 1055. 



1060 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

fort you to know that Brandeis in a note to me last week said that he 
"does not know what he would do without you there." I hope you will 
send me anything you write of special note, for, otherwise, I do not see 
them until the printed volume appears. 

I must not forget to say that returning last night in the car I heard my 
first nightingale. I was disappointed beyond words. There is something 
harsh in its note, which has little of the liquid sweetness of the thrush. 
Nevinson disagrees, and he is a real swell on birds, so that I am probably 
wrong. But as I listened I felt that I would like to annotate Keats with 
quite unexpected adjectives. 

You note that I say nought of books bought or read. I have bought 
none. But I am reading with immense interest Rostovsev's (or some such 
spelling) History of the Ancient World one volume the ancient East 
and Greece, one volume Rome, and superbly illustrated. There's a great 
holiday book for you. I got really worked up over its picture of Assyria 
and Babylonia, even to the point of looking out places on a map. 

My love to you both. I write while Frida is motoring to Devon. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, June 12, 1928 

My dear Laski: There seems to be undue delay in the post. The last let- 
ter from you is dated 28.V. To be sure it may have waited a day or two 
for my arrival last night. You ought to have received two or three of the 
little dissents that I scattered more copiously than I could wish this last 
term. But the Court has rendered some decisions that I deeply regret. 
Brandeis and I are together as we are so apt to be, by a sort of pre- 
established harmony. However it is over now and I am beginning to 
conceive the possibility of relaxation. Following your suggestion, which 
I should not have needed if I had known of the book I bought Russell's 
Philosophy and following an older one of last year that I attributed to 
you I have bought Parrington's The Colonial Mind. 1 The something illeg- 
ible of Cuthbert 2 had not reached these shores but is ordered, I believe. 
I wish I had kept a list of your recommendations as they came along 
but some were off the beat to which in a general way I confine myself, 
While at the Touraine I read Genghis Khan (by Harold Lamb) an 
interesting picture of what a man can do with a moderate force that can 
get there quicker than the other feller. I was a little interested too by his 
indifference to life at least to the life of other people by way of 
antithesis to our sentimentalism. I am rather hard-hearted in theory and 

x The first volume o Parrington's Main Currents in American Thought 
(1927-30). 
2 Wodehouse, The Clicking of Cuthbert (1928), supra, p. 1057. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1061 

deal imaginary death more easily than I should find easy in the real case. 
Yesterday morning before coming here I was taken over to the Gillette 
Safety Razor factory and was greatly impressed. You are familiar I sup- 
pose with the mechanism of modern great establishments. I am a child 
in most matters of practical business. Perhaps because I was a friend of 
Brandeis who used to be Gillette's counsel, I was presented with a parcel 
on leaving which flabbergasted me when I opened it. It was such a com- 
plete and pretty outfit of safety razor, blades, soap and brush in finest 
form. As yet I just own it as a miser, but in a day or two I shall begin 
to use it and cakes of soap will seem bristly compared with my face 
a new comfort has set in, since in last September my secretary bought a 
safety razor and blade in a 10 cent store and gave them to me. I am as 
converted as St. Paul which reminds me did I mention the seeming 
revivification, with reenforced arguments, of the notion that Jesus was a 
myth? It really sounds very plausible. To one who concludes from read- 
ing the story that one knows nothing certain of the sayings or character of 
Christ it doesn't much matter whether there was or was not a centre of 
radiant energy in the form of a man. Does it occur to you that there are 
more modern things in the Bible than in other ancient literature. I think 
"Father forgive them they know not what they do" beats all the 
classics. Think of those words being attributed to the supposed author 
of doctrine absolutely irreconcilable with such skeptic tolerance. Also "a 
thousand years are as a day in thy sight" as embodying the possibility 
of the same period being an instant or an eternity according to the state 
of mind. It seems as if vacation had begun. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, S.V1.28 

My dear Justice: I discovered to my horror yesterday that my secretary 
had forgotten to send you the Bentham. I am so sorry, for you may have 
been bothered by the thought that it has gone astray. However, it is 
now in the post; and I am sending you, too, an article of Max Beerbohm's 
on Andrew Lang which seems to me one of the most delicate pieces of 
malice I have ever read. 1 And as I think you share my dislike of Lang it 
will, I hope, give you peculiar pleasure. 

I was enormously interested in the three dissents you sent me, above 
all in the Springer case. 2 I can't even begin to understand the process by 

*Max Beerbohm "Two Glimpses of Andrew Lang," 1 Life and Letters 1 
(June 1928). 

* In the Springer case, supra, p. 1054, Sutherland, J., for a majority had held 
that the Organic Act of the Philippines included principles of the separation 
of powers and that the legislature of the Philippines therefore could not im- 



1062 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

which Sutherland got a majority on his side. And in the others I would 
much like to know why our brother McReynolds thought it necessary to 
add notes which are both insubstantial and inelegant. 3 

This has been a most pleasant week. First of all it has been one long 
burst of sunshine and Frida's little garden, which stands just outside my 
study window, has been one mass of flowers. Then two of my students 
have won prize fellowships, and I feel like a duckling who sees her 
brood take to the water. Then, in a way most remarkable of all, my blind 
student, one Whitfield was given the Ph.D, for his thesis on Mably, 4 and 
to have his courage in undertaking it and his endurance in completing 
it crowned with a summa cum laude goes to my heart. Every word of the 
material he used had to be read to him, noted by him on to a Braille 
machine, and then re-made into the book by the Braille notes. If you 
think that he could never "page" a book, and realise what it meant to 
recover a lost reference you get a sense of his courage. I ought to add his 
wife's too, for she read every word to him of the countless books and mss 
he had to go through. Doesn't that make you feel better about your kind? 

I hope you will get the June number of Harper's Magazine and read 
an article of mine on the American political system. 5 I ought of course to 
have sent it to you; but they sent me only one copy, and it does not 
appear procurable over here. I badly want to know how much dissent it 
provokes in you and Felix. I told the Harvard people to send you my 
piece on Constructive Contempt. That is, I know, sensible and I am con- 
fident of your approval even before it appears. 

We had one jolly dinner this week Allyn Young the economist, 
Eileen Power the historian, and Brinton, 6 a young Harvard professor who 
in days gone by was a pupil of mine. We got on to the problem of national 
decay. Brinton propounding, with modified support from Young, the old 
thesis of maturity and old age in every people. I denied it; and argued 
that all such biological analogies are a betrayal of science and that when 
you look at a nation in decline there are always causes of a non-biological 
kind at work. You can't e.g. say that biology explains the decline of 
Greece and Rome. In the first you can put your finger, as in the second, 

pose executive duties on legislators. In his dissent Holmes emphasized the 
difficulty in discovering sharp lines between the legislative and the judicial 
powers of government. 

8 This refers, perhaps, to the fact that McReynolds, J., wrote a brief dissent 
from the Court's judgment in the Panhandle Oil case, supra, p. 1054. 

* Laski contributed an Introduction to Ernest A. Whitfield's Gabriel Bonnot 
de Mably (1930). 

5 "The American Political System," 157 Harper's Magazine 20 (June 1928). 

6 Crane Brinton (1898- ), now Professor of History at Harvard, had been 
an undergraduate at Harvard College when Laski was on its faculty. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1063 

on a body of specific economic and political causes which have nothing 
whatever to do with the quality of a national stock. Then we got on to the 
effect of Oxford on Rhodes scholars and Brinton who was one of them 
told us that they are in general disappointed with Oxford and disappoint- 
ing in their achievement after their return. He interested me greatly in 
his analysis of Oxford. He said that the average American was horrified 
by its preciousness, by the free and easy habits of the undergraduates, 
and especially by their intellectual and moral irreverence. I argued that 
these were exactly the qualities there ought to be, especially the last, 
among the youth of a university, that e.g. at 18 art for art's sake is a phase 
as normal as measles in a school-child and that irreverence at twenty 
connotes a prospect of choosing your own gods that is quite fundamental. 
But Brinton was I think even more horrified by my approval than by the 
habits of which I approved. Then he started on a eulogy of Ludwig, the 
German biographer. I said I thought him much overrated and disliked this 
psychological analysis which entitled the biographer to show more knowl- 
edge say of Napoleon or Christ than either had of himself or his con- 
temporaries of him, especially as the material was always a body of in- 
ferences unsupported by documents e.g. it led Ludwig to accept the 
St. Helena legend of Napoleon as the man of peace quite uncritically 
when Elba ought to have made him see that Napoleon made his legend 
because you cannot get ready to escape from St. Helena. Similarly the 
Life of Christ seemed to me ignorant and cheap, a history of how Lud- 
wig would have felt if he had been Christ without regard to the problem 
of squaring his private feelings with the most complicated and dubious 
body of documents in the world. Brinton argued that even if this was all 
true, still Ludwig made people interested in history, at which I leave it. 
Of other things, a dinner with Mackinnon, J. was interesting he 
is an attractive person with a quiet scholarly flavour and his colleague 
Maugham, J. who has written a pleasant book on the Calas tragedy 7 was 
charming. The latter told a good story of Jessel who said of his colleagues 
that it was quite untrue to say that seven of them didn't know a legal 
principle when they saw one; that was only the case with five, and of 
these, four were Chancery judges. He told also a charming tale of Davey 
helping on a junior by attributing to him an argument of which he 
(Davey) happened to be particularly the proud author, and JesseFs com- 

7 Frederic Herbert Maugham (1866- ), Baron Maugham, was Judge of 
the Chancery Division of the High Court from 1928 to 1934, later becoming a 
Lord Justice of Appeal and Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and, in 1938, Lord 
Chancellor. His book, The Case of Jean Calas (1928), was concerned with the 
trial of Jean Calas (1698-1762), who was executed for having murdered his 
son. The murder was committed to prevent the son from becoming a Roman 
Catholic. 



1064 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

merit, "Well, of course he is young and no one can be expected to under- 
stand equity until he is forty." Also a story of B. B. Rogers, 8 the trans- 
lator of Aristophanes, bringing in a quotation from the Greek text into an 
argument. Jessel glared and snapped out, "We can't have your domestic 
pets in my Court, Mr. Rogers." 

I have read little and bought less. But I do urge you to read The Semi- 
Detached House by Emily Eden a recovered novel of the 'forties with, 
I think, certain quaint enchantments about it. I have been reading for 
review the second volume of Curzon's Life and finding him even more 
intolerable than I feared. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 16. VI. 28 

My dear Justice: As I write there sits facing me an admirable snapshot 
of you and Brandeis which Felix sent me from some paper; it's a perfect 
joy to me for it makes you look so well. I hope the summer in Beverly 
Farms (to which I am sending this) is going to be all you can desire. 

I am full of work just now, buried beneath a mass of examination 
papers. And dull work it is since, to take the last set, there are four 
people whose papers were worth reading; and when you have had your 
remarks regurgitated to you for the fiftieth time, you begin to wonder 
whether it was really worth while to have made them. But this, I expect, 
is the special disease of end-of-term; and when next Friday comes and 
I know that for three months I need not give another lecture, life will 
take on a different hue. 

The last fortnight has been full of queer experiences. I spent a day 
with Mrs. Asquith who talked brilliantly if maliciously about the good 
and the great and told me one remark of Balfour's about Lloyd-George 
which deserves permanence; "Even his dishonesties are irrelevant." I 
went, too, to hear the debate on the prayer-book in the House of Com- 
mons and marvelled alike at the continued strength of sheerly vulgar 
anti-Romanism and the passion which a faith in the magic of sacramental- 
ism can still inspire. I went, also, to a dinner to commemorate Graham 
Wallas's seventieth birthday where he made a speech more unconsciously 
egoistic (and therefore quite charming) than any other I have ever heard. 
Its keynote was that in ancient Greece this [sic] was the influence of Plato 
and Aristotle; have I, G.W., too kept the faith? I was amused that Sir 
Herbert Samuel, who spoke after me, said, clearly intending a compli- 
ment, that anyone who could "speak so eloquently as Prof. Laski" had 

8 Benjamin Bickley Rogers (1828-1919); successful barrister and distin- 
guished translator of Aristophanes. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1065 

a duty to go into the higher walk of the House of Commons. An interest- 
ing essay could be written on the politician's assumption of superiority. I 
wish you could have heard Samuel explaining to Gooch, the greatest liv- 
ing authority on the subject, the origins of the war, as though because S. 
was in the Cabinet when it broke out his views were necessarily final. 
Then, too, a jolly dinner with Allyn Young to meet Elton Mayo, 1 who 
does research at Harvard into industrial physiology and is, I should 
judge, as sane and scientific a mind as has ever dwelt in those difficult 
realms. And yesterday, Frida being away on holiday, I had Birrell to 
supper, and we talked books till the small hours. He interested me by 
insisting that Emily Bronte was the greatest genius of all who dealt in 
fiction in the nineteenth century a view I cannot understand and 
expressing contempt for Mrs. Gaskell whose North and South and Mary 
Barton seem to me big achievements. We agreed in thinking that the 
equation Gosse = is an essential truth of the higher literary mathe- 
matics and in putting Burke on the summit of the mountain. Birrell is 
really pure delight, the 18th century bookman in breeches, with just 
enough malice in his composition to give spice to all he says. He told me 
the very interesting story that when Blackburn, J. got his offer of a judge- 
ship he was so depressed by his failure at the bar that he thought it 
meant a county court judgeship and accepted it in that sense. 2 And of 
Bob Romer 3 who, you remember, was senior wrangler, a remark to 
Fletcher Moulton, also a senior wrangler, who in a patent case was making 
some mathematical observations, "I do not think it advisable for my 
brother Moulton to recall the indecencies of our past when the junior 
bar is present." Don't you think that charming? 

I have had too little time for reading since I wrote last, though one or 
two pleasant things have come my way. I note a really good shocker to 
be read over solitaire at Beverly Farms Extremes Meet by Compton 
Mackenzie which I guarantee to hold you both breathless. But otherwise 
I have been almost wholly occupied with Pascal and in the very laborious 

1 George Elton Mayo (1880-1949), professor of industrial research at 
Harvard, 1926-1947; author of The Human Problems of an Industrial Civiliza- 
tion (1933). 

2 When Colin Blackburn (1813-1896), Baron Blackburn, was named to the 
Queen's Bench in 1859 he was by no means the only member of the profession 
to be surprised at the unexpected elevation of a relatively unknown barrister, 
with no public career behind him, to such high office. 

3 Some years after Sir Robert Romer (1840-1918) was advanced from the 
Chancery Division to the Court of Appeal in 1890, there were three Senior 
Wranglers on that Court. Sir James Stirling (1863-1916) was Senior Wrangler 
at Cambridge three years before Romer and eight years before Fletcher 
Moulton. 



1066 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

job of finding out how far he was just to the Jesuits and especially to 
Escobar. 4 On the whole he comes out astonishingly well from an examina- 
tion of that kind. In certainly not more than six cases is there misrepre- 
sentation of his authorities. Then I have been trying to work out the 
effect of Descartes and am reaching the conclusion that it is not until 
some such time as 1680 that he really became generally acceptable. Be- 
fore that the Christian current of thought was much too strong for one 
who implied the complete rejection of scholasticism, and the types of 
religious revival in the period were not favourable to philosophic innova- 
tion. This has been hard work, but well worth it. And I ought not to 
omit telling you the title of an 18th century pamphlet it brought my way 
"Newton's Geometry not fatal to the Incarnation" by the Rev. Josiah 
Biggs of Bethal Chapel, Stoke Newington bound up in a volume I was 
consulting at the Museum. I can only say with emphasis that I should 
have liked to hear the Reverend Josiah preach, and that something has 
gone out of life in the realisation that in the hereafter the crowded state 
of the heavenly mansions, plus the natural excitement of the day of judge- 
ment will probably make me forget to ask for him. I suspect, from his 
pamphlet, that he will be near to Jonathan Edwards et hoc genus omne. 

In the way of purchase I announce with pride and pleasure that the 
misadventure of earlier years is relieved and I have got a beautiful Ben- 
tharn for the ridiculous sum of three pounds. It is a good copy like 
yours in the 22 parts and uncut; I got it in Germany from the library of 
a Baron Wangheim, where I suppose it remained unhymned until the 
last member sent it to the dealer. And I picked up also a superb Holbach 
the Examen des proprieties, a delicate blasphemy that would, I think, 
give you much pleasure. But recently the catalogues have been poor. 

Our love to you both. Give my greetings to Rockport. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Beverly Farms, June 16, 1928 

My dear Laski: A letter good as usual has just been forwarded from 
Washington. I shall not receive books or pamphlets until and (in view of 
age) unless I return there. I don't recognize the criticism on McReynolds 
for notes that is Brandeis's specialite which I criticised to him at 
the .beginning, but which he sticks to and which certainly enables him 
to put in a lot of facts that no one but he could accumulate and which 
overawe me, even if I doubt the form. I will get the Harper. As to the 
old age of nations I never could see much more than an a priori applica- 

* Antonio Escobar y Mendoza (1589-1669), Spanish Jesuit whose Summula 
Casuum Conscientiae ( 1627 ) was severely criticized by Pascal in his Provincial 
Letters for its tendency to justify conduct if intention was pure. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1067 

tion of a superficial analogy. I daresay you propounded China. As to 
students, I of course approve scepticism though I regret irreverence. 
Don't ask me to disapprove of Ludwig Einstein 1 sent me a German 
article by him, the other day, in which he said the best man he met in 
the U.S. was the oldest "who but Lippo, I?" Ludwig must be all right. 

As you see we are here and have been since last Monday and I am 
as near bliss as I often get. I have read a little of Parrington Main 
Currents of American Thought with unmixed pleasure and instruction. 
Also a little of B. Russell's Philosophy as yet without great edification 
although with pleasure as he, so far, simply works out in more detail 
what one is in the habit of taking for granted. But I blush to admit that 
I know only by inference and only inadequate inference what Behaviorism 
is. I also have perused But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes that nothing 
be lost. 

But I am trying to take life easy which I find hard. There always 
are things to do. However I have indexed my this term's volume of my 
decisions, and finished up so far as my part goes, business that re- 
quired attention. Yesterday afternoon we drove around the Cape and 
skirted the shores of your Rockport everything was divinely beautiful. 
The sea its deepest blue the quarries scarped omens of death the 
long beach between R. and Gloucester beginning to look like a picture 
by Zamacois picked out with figures of every colour the roads 
through the foliage of June and even the lilacs not yet quite gone 
we have got the season at a little earlier stage than usual, this year. 

I stop that I may creep out for a few steps in the fresh air and sun- 
light. During the winter I pretty nearly gave up walking and now am 
making little attempts to revive the art. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 28.VI.28 

My dear Justice: A delightful letter from you tells me of a visit to Rock- 
port, which opens up vistas and makes me a little envious. But I want to 
begin by my warm salutation over the dissent in the wire-tapping case, 1 
a copy of which Felix sent me. If I may say so, that was a perfect thing. 
I found Taft's presence on the other side a little difficult to understand. 
I have been hard-worked since I wrote last. A big case at the Industrial 
Court took two days; examination papers have multiplied; and I have 

1 Presumably Lewis Einstein. 

1 In Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (June 4, 1928), a majority of 
the Court over the dissents of Holmes, Brandeis, and Stone, JJ., held that 
evidence secured by tapping telephone wires in violation of state law was 
admissible against a defendant in a criminal prosecution in the Federal Courts. 



1068 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

had some ephemera like book-reviews to write. The first irritated me by 
its excess of needless verbiage; the second was, as you may imagine, 
tedious and joyless; and the third is, at best, a thankless job. And today 
put the comble on a hard period when I examined a young American 
who had written a Ph.D. thesis on "Political Motives" and had to fail him. 
It was like telling a man that he must go to the electric chair. The lad is 
so charming and his work so bad that one is divided between personal 
regard and intellectual honesty. Hinc illae lacrimae! 

Of other things much that is pleasant. A dinner here for the Sankeys 
and Salvemini the Italian exile. Sankey was in great form, telling us tales 
of the Bishops (whom he much frequents) and saying that between 
them (there are 37) they represent a complete acceptance of the 39 
Articles. Salvemini told us tales of his escape from the Fascist regime, 
which made one's hair stand on end; and he interested me profoundly by 
his insistence that the intelligentsia of Fascism were all trained in the 
Hegelian theory of the state. Then a dinner with some young lawyers in 
which I found pleasure for first of all they all regarded F. Pollock as the 
most eminent English lawyer living, and, secondly, they were all very 
critical of the legal training they had received, insisting especially on its 
separation from economics and political science. I was interested, too, to 
find that two of them who had visited America were insistent that every 
Harvard Law School man they met seemed five years more advanced in 
legal knowledge than an English lawyer of equivalent standing, and one 
of them, who had attended a sitting of your Court, thought it infinitely 
more business-like than the House of Lords. I went, also, to lunch to 
John Burns, who assured me (I) that a revolution was coming (II) that 
the English people would look to him to lead it (III) that he had kept a 
diary compared to which Pepys was negligible and (IV) that half the 
Webbs' knowledge of trade-unionism was derived from talk with him. I 
did not think it kind to comment and felt that I was infinitely kind. An- 
other experience worth mentioning was a meeting of the Japanese Stu- 
dents Union at which I spoke to some sixty Japanese on the need for 
scepticism and found that for nearly an hour I could not even begin to 
guess what emotions or impressions I was evoking. Then after questions 
the Ambassador 2 moved a vote of thanks to me in a speech I wish I could 
reproduce. I began by being the sun which gives light, the rain that 
cleanses, the wings that fleetly carry, the moon which controls the tides 
of thought. I was food, drink, a stimulus to digestion etc. As he spoke I 
counted nearly forty metaphors until I was lost in bewilderment. And 
when one little gentleman was introduced to me (he looked about 30) 
he spoke saying "Sir, I and my son have derived benefit to the soul and 
instruction for the mind from the perusal of your honourable writings" I 

2 Baron Keishiro Matsui (1868-1946). 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1069 

stood tongue-tied and helpless, feeling that the salutations of this grave 
oriental courtesy can only be adequately answered in a bow. I must add to 
this a German who called to see me this afternoon explaining that he 
wished for conversation to point out my errors systematic-epistemologica! 
and psychological-analogical. This with the air of an Atlas bearing the 
world on his shoulders. He arrived in a pair of grey flannel trousers, a 
blue velvet coat, an artist's tie which reached the pit of his stomach and 
a vast portfolio of unpublished writings which he hoped I would go 
through with him. I, poor boob that I am, gave him an hour and when I 
found that he was an exponent of what he called the anthropotheosoph- 
ical theory of the state, which emerged when he began to tell me the 
significance of my horoscope (which he had cast from the data in Who's 
Who) had to plead an engagement which did not exist and hide in a 
colleague's room until I knew he had left the School. 

I have had, as this chronicle will make clear, little time either to read 
or buy books. One thing I have read with very great pleasure, English 
Prose Style by Herbert Read which would, I think, interest you much; 
and in a different vein an attractive biographical essay on Granville Sharp 
by E.G. P. Lascelles which paints a really charming picture of that ador- 
able eccentric; and a clever biographical study of Retif de la Bretonne 
(most perfect of pornographers!) by Funck-Brentano. But the Read did 
delight me, and I hope the Boston Athenaeum can produce it for you. 

Tomorrow we have a vast party to celebrate my birthday, and on 
Saturday we are motoring to the Cots wolds for the week-end by Oxford 
and the Wye valley. Then back to another week of the Industrial Court 
after which I hope for freedom. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, Mass., June 28, 1928 

My dear Laski: It seems like resuming a long interrupted conversation to 
write to you from here. For though you have been delightful I have been 
no good until I reached this breathing place. I think I mentioned having 
at last taken Parrington Main Currents of American Thought. Now I 
have read him and were you here we would jaw a volume. Imprimis, 
His work seems to me solid and probably as just as any one man would 
be likely to be. I felt as if I had seen the movement of New England as 
I never had seen it before. Yet I was conscious all through of an an- 
tagonism that would have reached issues had we both been articulate as 
to fundamentals. The dogmatic postulate implied in the word "exploita- 
tion" occurring on every page, and the sympathy that I infer with the 
church-descended talk of the transcendentalists as to the infinite value and 
potentialities of every human soul, got my hair up. I know that we are 



1070 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

not at one on these themes but I don't think that politeness requires me 
to disguise my opinion that the implications are noxious humbug. I will 
not amplify on that, but I can't retain my opinion. Some of his judg- 
ments do not commend my assent, but they are matters of detail. I am a 
long way off from believing that Thoreau was a thinker in any important 
sense. I am not surprised at what he said about my father, nor at his 
having missed what I think true, that although my father did not con- 
centrate in his later days as he did when he wrote on puerperal fever, 
still he had in him a capacity for profound insight that occasionally 
flashed out as I saw him. I think Fs whole estimate of the federalist per- 
formance of making a nation in place of squabbling states is inadequate 

&c &c. But in spite of all criticisms Parrington has instructed and 
stimulated me more than anything that I have read for some time. 

We have paid our respect to Rockport which always moves me, and 
this morning have been at another moving spot, the old burying ground 
and lookout of Marblehead. One is in a different world, as one zigzaggles 
through the crowded streets, and pretty near heaven when one gets to the 
top of the hill where the old first settlers were buried and the point from 
which one gazes far out to sea. Within a rod or two of the top is the 
well by which the girl (Agnes Surriage) he made his mistress, and after- 
wards married, used to meet Sir Harry Frankland in the old days. 1 I 
guess the old Marbleheaders still stick to their traditions. I was told there 
of two old men talking of a third just dead whom one spoke of as of the 
place. "He wasn't no Marbleheader," said the other. "He was six months 
old before he came here." I have heard many yarns about them, which 
seem to show them as dogged as any Britons ever were. Of other books 

a gentle yearning volume by Cardozo 2 lovable creature I am sure. 
Stories by Owen Wister who is coming here for Sunday, and Bertrand 
Russell in process not revelatory so far though sound talk I doubt 
not. Many things in your letter give me pleasure inter alia Gosse 
and the tale of Romer and Fletcher Moulton (at whose house I have fed 
and drunk well). It is a happy time here. Age has taken something from 
my capacity for delight but there is enough left for practical purposes. 

Affectionately yours, O.W.H. 



Beverly Farms, July 8, 1928 

My dear Laski: A letter from you delightful as always comes this morn- 
ing. Your ennuis (industrial court, examination papers, &c) have my sym- 

1 In his poem "Agnes," Dr. Holmes wrote of the romance of Agnes Surriage, 
servant in the Fountain Inn at Marblehead, and Sir Charles Henry Frankland 
(1716-1768), Collector of the Port of Boston from 1746 to 1757. 

2 Paradoxes of Legal Science (1928). 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1071 

pathy. (I have received a first batch of certioraris.) Your pleasures and 
successes are my pleasures too. Your account of John Burns surprised me. 
Is he gone soft in the uppers? That seems to be your implication. I sup- 
pose he is pretty old. Your German who wanted to explain your errors 
to you makes me realize the advantages of the blessed Atlantic upon 
which I look. You tell me of your birthday but don't tell me how old you 
are. Please do. My time since my last has been taken up in good part 
by the business incident to July 1, bills and accounts. I haven't read 
much I think drives more important. After Parrington I did finish 
Bertrand Russell's Philosophy devoutly as I believe him (ex rel. you 
and Cohen) to be a great mathematician there seems to me something 
wrong in his speculative apparatus. He spends infinite time on matters 
that I am quite ready to take for granted, and in his general views seems 
to me to wobble between reason and sentiment. I should suppose that 
he hadn't given up the notion that absolute truth is attainable, though 
perhaps I am wrong on that. I don't retain his book in articulate form 
in my head but only impressions which I couldn't refer to specific texts. 
Expound the merits to me if you think me blind. Owen Wister was here 
last Saturday Sunday and we went through Rockport again. It always 
moves by its simple majesties of granite and ocean and I always look 
over to where you were and wish that you were there again. If you were, 
no doubt you would put books into my hands as it is, my only slight 
piece de resistance is Morison's Oxford History of the United States lent 
to me by Miss Loring 1 the other day as yet I have read but a few 
pages. Also I have partly read an account of Russia after Ten Years 
report of the American Trade Union Delegates to the Soviet Union 
optimistic, but intended to be fair. Perhaps it comes down to the question, 
as so many things do of what kind of world you want. Personally I do 
not prefer a world with a hundred million bores in it to one with ten. The 
fewer the people who do not contribute beauty or thought, the better to 
my fancy. I perfectly realize that the other fellers feel otherwise and 
very likely would prefer to get rid of me and all my kind. Perhaps they 
will, and if they do I have nothing to say, except that our tastes differ. 
That is the justification of war if people vehemently want to make 
different kinds of worlds I don't see what there is to do except for the 
most powerful to kill the others as I suppose they did in Russia. I 
believe Kropotkin points out the mistake of the French Revolution in not 
doing so. 

I have a line from Wu this morning. He is now engaged on a code 
under government employment and has given up or was contemplating 

1 Katharine Peabody Loring ( 1849-1943), North Shore friend of Holmes, and 
sister of his associate on the Massachusetts Bench, William Caleb Loring, supra, 
p. 758. 



1072 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

giving up his judgeship. His paper is headed Nationalist Government of 
the Republic of China. He proposes to come over here in about a year, 
Pound having offered him a scholarship. I warned him that so far as 
seeing me was a motive, as he says it is, it wasn't safe to calculate so far 
ahead but he replies that he hears (seemingly with belief) of a man 
who is 250 years old and in good health. I am afraid that the oriental 
criteria of evidence are not stringent. Tell your wife that though I don't 
often mention it I always put my faith in her to prevent your working 
your machine too hard. I have heard of men who exhausted their whole 
stock of vital energy in getting double firsts and did nothing afterwards. 
You have passed far beyond that stage, but I still fear that you run up 
bills against the end of your life. Remember the Peau de Chagrin. Another 
drawback to reading is slumber. I feel as if time couldn't be better spent, 
but you can't put it down on a list of things done. 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 7.VIL28 

My dear Justice: A delightful letter from you breathes the peace of the 
country, and told me, as I hoped, that you had derived pleasure from 
Parrington. Of course he writes as a Southerner, with a permanent bias 
against the North. I, who believe most of the claims made for the South 
are either untrue or undesirable, remain unmoved by that side of him. 
But he has real intelligence and insight, and a delightful style. 

We have had some pleasant days since I wrote last. We celebrated my 
birthday with a party chiefly notable for talk from H. G. Wells which I 
shall not easily forget. Part of it was judgment of people always quick 
and sober and vivid: of Galsworthy that he was always about to be an 
artist, but at the moment of insight a gift of unshed tears blurred the sure- 
ness of his vision; of Shaw that he wrote of government as though peo- 
ple had never cared for liberty; and of Henry James that he failed be- 
cause he could never accept the possibility that life was simple. Then to 
my surprise he told us that he had been studying the art of prose and 
felt strongly that three English lawyers were among the great artists 
Selden, Maitland, and Macnaghten an interesting choice. And I was 
immensely touched by his kindness. I had a young Hungarian novelist 
here, on the verge of making his way. To watch Wells discussing his job 
with him, his patience, his tact and his discrimination were a real lesson 
to me in the greatness of a great man. I wish there were more like that. 
My young Hungarian said he felt, like Pizarro, that a new planet had 
swum into his ken. Then next day we motored down to the Cotswolds 
and spent a divine week-end in divine country. I have an old school 
friend near Gloucester there who teaches in a village school and we spent 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1073 

an afternoon with him. It was very interesting. He is the son of a clergy- 
man who, in my day at Oxford, was an intense Catholic. During the war 
his faith left him and, with it, most of the ordinary ambitions. So he 
lives in this tiny village, teaching history, and working slowly at a book 
on the early history of the Christian apologetic. His greatest friend there 
is the vicar, who is something of a scholar and the two spend the long 
evenings with Tertullian and Cyprian and Gregory Nazianzen 1 on the 
table fighting it out together point by point. For neither of them is there 
much real outside of that; and they speak of Harnack, Wellhausen, 
Strauss 2 as men across the road whom the village constable should either 
protect or arrest. I, as you can imagine, spent some delightful hours there; 
not least of which was derived from the spectacle of Frida's amazement 
at a man whose wife is a simple country girl much like Heine's Mathilde, 
happy if he buys her a ribbon or a gown, and thinking him sweetly mad 
because he is a "scholar" and probably not so bad as her simple Catholic 
faith would assert because he gives her so happy a time. We came back 
to a world which (for me) began with the Industrial Court and continued 
by my drafting a report for my colleague Lees-Smith on- what we call 
the Savage [sic] case 3 the kind of police mishandling of witnesses with 
which that Chinese case 4 will have made you familiar. Then a stream of 
foreign visitors a German who wanted to discuss Gneist 5 (whom I 
imagined now to interest no living being) an American lady who said 
she was a sociologist but seemed to me merely to regurgitate the worst 
excesses of Mr. H. L. Mencken, and an Italian lawyer whose Italian I 
understood better than his English and had to make to speak Italian. Then 
a Polish lady who came to me in the mistaken belief that I was related 
to the film magnate and could only be convinced with great difficulty 
that I was unable to get her work in Hollywood, and an Indian gentle- 
man who stayed with me an hour to denounce the British government. He 
began with the sins of Clive and when he got to the mutiny I explained 

1 Saint Gregory Nazianzen (c. 325-389), Catholic Bishop of Constantinople; 
poet, orator, and theologian. 

2 Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918), and 
David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874) were Protestant theologians each of 
whom sought to pursue Biblical criticism without regard to dogmatic con- 
sequences. 

8 Hastings Bertrand Lees-Smith (1878- ) was a Parliamentary member 
of a Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate the interrogation of Miss Irene Savidge 
by Scotland Yard. The report of Mr. Lees-Smith is in Command Papers ( 1928 ) 
#3147, p. 17. 

*Wan v. United States, 266 U.S. 1 (1924). The Court in an opinion by 
Brandeis, J., had held that a coerced confession was inadmissible in evidence in 
the Federal courts. 

5 Rudolf von Gneist (1816-1895), jurist, historian, politician, and ardent 
admirer of English institutions. 



1074 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

that I had another engagement, He left protesting that he would return 
to bring the history down to more modern times and I was sufficiently 
attentive (I did not have to open my mouth) to leave him persuaded that 
I was deeply moved. Let me add as a final embellishment a student who 
came to tell me that he had discovered the secret of Hegel and wanted 
funds to publish. I suggested the more normal expedient of a publisher 
and he accused me of a desire to suppress the truth. I asked him if he 
had read Hegel and he said that he knew all that had appeared in Eng- 
lish. I suggested that a knowledge of German was not without its bearing 
on the secret. He made a grandiose gesture and said "that is necessary 
only for the pedestrian mind of an academic." 

I have, too, been writing a little, but mainly some book reviews, one of 
which, on Balfour's preface to Bagehot, 6 I hope to send you later. And 
some reading the most interesting being Rouse Ball's History of Mathe- 
matics which has literally fascinated me, especially in its account of the 
period between 1650-1800. What knocks me flat is the extraordinarily 
early age at which these fellows seem to make seminal discoveries. There's 
Jacobi or Abel, 7 both dead before thirty and yet with quite imperishable 
names; and, at the other end, the amazing degree to which that faculty 
retains its original vigour into extreme old age. Another book from which 
I have had much pleasure is Wyndham Lewis, Time and Western Man 
a brilliant and to me wholly sympathetic onslaught on Bergson. And I 
have enjoyed a good book by one Cresson on the main currents of French 
philosophy. Nor has fiction been neglected. I made an effort and re-read 
Proust Chez du Cote Swann [sic] and gave it up with relief to read 
G. Sand's Consuelo with infinite delight followed by a superb detective 
story by A. Christie called the Mystery of the Blue Train which I com- 
mend to you both as connoisseurs. 

Books I have bought none, for the catalogues have been unkind. But 
I hope shortly to commence operations. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 20, 1928 

My dear Laski: Whether this will get off in time to catch the evening 
mail and then be in time to sail from New York tomorrow I doubt still 

6 The review has not been identified. 

7 Laski was in error in believing that Karl Jacobi, supra, p. 1038, died before 
he was thirty. Niels Abel (1802-1829) was a Norwegian mathematician who 
discovered the impossibility of solving the general equation of the quintic by 
radicals. He and Jacobi independently formulated the theory of elliptical 
functions. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1075 

more whether the effort can give you anything so interesting as your last. 
I didn't know Parrington was from the South. That explains some things. 
Your account of Wells has some little surprises in it. I didn't remember 
MacNaghten as a master of style and had not thought of Selden in that 
connection. There are fine and famous passages in some of the [illegible] . 
It gave me pleasure to hear of Wells's kindness and magnanimity. I don't 
know but you are right in calling him a great man. I have just received an 
account of the Cohen dinner 1 to match you with a possibly great man 
on this side. It must have been very moving and it is pretty to think 
of his old father and mother being there to see the triumph of their son. 
I notice that the toastmaster quotes Cohen as saying that Bertrand Rus- 
sell comes nearest to being his philosophic God and you seem to lean 
in that direction. I haven't got that religion from anything that I have 
read and I did get pleasure from Fred Pollock a few days ago (writing 
of B.R.) "His theodicy so far as I make out consists in being angry with 
the gods for not existing, because if they did he would like to break their 
windows." I think that quite perfect. 

I have finished the Oxford History of the United States 2 with continued 
pleasure and feel that I learned from it incidentally to modify my old 
impressions of MacLellan and A. Johnson at rare moments there is a 
pert turn in the end of a sentence and sometimes hints at convictions I 
don't share. He seems (from a very few words) more than respectful to 
Christian Science. 

One or two minor experiences Owen Wister sent to me The Sun 
Also Rises by Hemingway youngish American author, living in Paris, 
and I am told one of a gang that call one another great. Wister thought 
that when he left the garbage can he had a future. It is a queer thing 
some rather every-day doings of people indicating no superiority of any 
kind, never expressing an idea but conversing in the language of 
toughs, making up for their inability to find a discriminating word by 
"damned" and "hell" all getting more or less drunk every day with 
a hint of fornication, not overstressed and yet one is interested. Mrs. 
Curtis suggests, because it is pure narrative which she said always in- 
terested but rarely had been practised since Swift. That may be it, 
and anyhow I read on when so far as appeared I should have thought the 
dramatis personae in real life worse than bores. Item. A good article by 

1 In October 1927, Morris Cohen's students at City College had given him a 
dinner honoring his twenty-fifth anniversary as a member of the Faculty. Felix 
Frankfurter was toastmaster, and messages of affection and admiration from 
many distinguished persons were delivered. See Cohen, A Dreamers Journey 
(1949), 148-149. 

2 By Samuel E. Morison. 



1076 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

Frankfurter on "Distribution of Judicial Power between United States 
and State Courts," 3 I should think he was doing a public good in tackling 
as he has an ungrateful and, but for him, tedious subject. 

I now await from the Athenaeum a Life of Villon, said to be A-l 4 and 
from the bookseller, Henry Osborn Taylor, Human Values (and something 
else that I can't read certainly) recommended by a professor whom I 
met the other day and who had been examining brains. He found no 
explanation in the brain of Morse of Salem of his power to draw 
equally well with both hands and I believe at the same time. 5 In short 
there was very little evidence of the localizing of faculties. You get a lot 
of things quicker than we do if we ever get them but I am surprised 
to learn how many eminent writers of books &c &c there are here that I 
don't know about. I was frightfully impressed with the same thing on a 
larger scale when I read These Eventful Years. There promises to be 
enough to keep me busy during the short time that I have left. My love 
to you all. Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 23.VIL28 

My dear Justice: A delightful letter from you cheered up some grim days 
of work. I have had to run it hard this last fortnight in order to clear up 
things for Friday when, at long last, we get away to a haven of peace 
in the Ardennes. First I have had examiners' meetings, which are a fright- 
ful bore; and this year, as chairman, I had all the work with the addi- 
tional burden of trying to steer an even keel with a crew which naturally 
enjoys fighting over every question of pace and direction. Then I had 
to go down to Bristol to speak on the "General Will" to the Aristotelian 
Society. 1 I found myself in the midst of a gang of old-time Hegelians 
out for blood, including one passionate lawyer (a county court judge 
named Dowdall) 2 who said with, I am sure, perfect sincerity that he 
had met a general will six times in his life; and an ancient professor 
named Mackenzie 3 who said that the general will of America was per- 
manently embodied in Woodrow Wilson's speeches. I enjoyed it in the 

3 13 Cornell Law Quarterly 499 (June 1928). 

4 D. B. Wyndham Lewis, Francois Villon (1928). 

5 Not identified. 



1 See, supra, p. 1059. 

3 Harold Chaloner Dowdall (1868- ), Judge of the County Court of 
Lancashire, 1921-1940. 

8 Probably Professor John Stuart Mackenzie (1860-1935); Professor of 
Logic and Philosophy, University College of South Wales and Monmouth- 
shire, 1895-1915; author of Outlines of Metaphysics (1890). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1077 

way that one likes to strike a note of scepticism in a meeting where 
people are testifying to private revelation from on high; but I thought it 
rather a childish performance. Then three days at Oxford giving some 
lectures to five American students ensconced there for the summer, That 
I thoroughly enjoyed. They cross-examined me with machine-gun rapidity, 
and I felt at the end that I had really earned my keep. Also I found some 
nice books there, especially some early 17th century French pamphlets 
which I would have gone far to obtain. And I dined in New College and 
thought that the older dons were like the unburied dead. One of them, 
a classical scholar, made it a point of honour never to find out what 
happened to his old pupils; it was he thought dangerous to his peace 
of mind. A second explained to me that he was greatly distressed at the 
declining influence of the aristocracy who so clearly represented the best 
brains of England. And one of the younger .dons kept telKng me that 
America was for him simply a mass of uncivilised brutality "no stand- 
ards; one suspects, no values, no ideals." I spoke sharply upon that head, 
especially as the impudent puppy had never visited America, and was 
merely attitudinising. He could not bear, he said, to open American books; 
he was so afraid that the style would spoil his ear. I had a picture of a 
narrow and self-satisfied little community too acutely conscious of the 
demerits of others to consider its own. But I met there Hardy the mathe- 
matician, 4 and he atoned for much. He reminded me somewhat of Morris 
Cohen the same width of interest and razor-like mind, and his honesty 
was remarkable. He said that England historically had only one supreme 
mathematician in Newton and perhaps a dozen to whom the word emi- 
nent was applicable, and he traced much of this to our insularity on the 
one hand and bad academic methods on the other. I thought his standards 
the kind of thing that makes one inclined to creep into a hole and die 
there, but you could not help being impressed because he so clearly felt 
that mathematics were the most important thing in the world. Then a 
dinner with Sankey to meet Scrutton, L.J. They speak of the latter as 
ill-tempered; but I found him wholly delightful, and when he praised 
Shaw of Massachusetts, Watson, MacNaghten, and divers others of my 
heroes, my heart went out to him. He told us a good story of Jessel, M.R. 
saying to him as a junior that he must always believe the solicitor honest 
while the case is in process and dishonest until the fee on the brief has 
been paid. He divided judges into 3 classes; those who listen, those who 
won't listen, and those who can't listen, and said that the middle class is 
the best because they lead straight to the Court of Appeal. He was, as 
I hope I faintly indicate, wholly delightful. I gathered that he met you 

4 Godfrey Harold Hardy (1877-1947), Professor of Pure Mathematics at 
Cambridge. 



1078 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

once years ago on a tramp with F. Pollock, Leslie Stephen and, if I 
have it right, Douglas Freshfield. 5 Finally I record a dinner here for Neil- 
son of Smith College, 6 an old Harvard friend, who warmed my heart with 
a great account of Felix and comforted my fear that I may be wrong in 
refusing to give money to the Law School by hinting that Pound has 
the illusion of bigness in a dangerous degree. 

I have had but little time to read anything serious, and in trains and 
bed novels have been my lot. One, Trollope's Way We Live Now moved 
me much, and interested me by its clear anticipation of the modern re- 
alistic novel. An American one, Home to Harlem by Claude McKay 
I thought had very moving parts, but was over-sexed as is so much of 
fiction just now. . . . 

We go off on Friday to a place called Waulsort in the Ardennes near 
Luxembourg. We were there two years ago and liked it greatly. We shall 
stay there till the end of August and then have a look at Amsterdam 
which I have never seen. Whatever comes I have two full months of com- 
plete peace ahead. After that I am always ready for work. 

Sir, in answer to your enquiry, I beg hereby to state that I was born 
on June 30, 1893. I have not ceased to talk, except at nights, since about 
June, 1896. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Grand Hotel, Waulsort-sur-Meuse 
'Belgium 31. VII, 28 

My dear Justice: It could hardly be more delightful than here. My room 
looks down on to the Meuse which is as clear as a mirror of silver; and 
above it are hills of iron-grey granite which are in parts masses of yellow 
gorse. It is a perfect place to rest, for beyond a little tennis there is 
nothing to do except read and write and talk. The Belgian friends we 
are with are charming people he an architect and his brother-in-law 
an artist whose specialty is etching, much in the genre of Meryon by 
which I mean that a careful scrutiny of his detail will display all kinds 
of attractive and unexpected blasphemies much as Meryon put those 
devils' faces in the dark comers of his bridges. We talk much of artists 
and their critics and two things always keep emerging that interest me. 
The first is their refusal to recognise any relationship between what they 
see and the philosophic account of what aesthetic is; it is as though they 

5 Douglas William Freshfield (1845-1934), geographer and mountaineer. 

6 William Allan Neilson (1869-1946), President of Smith College, 1917- 
1939, had been Professor of English at Harvard while Laski was on the 
Harvard faculty. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1079 

felt possessed of a private world from which a body of rationalised prin- 
ciples is warned off. The second is their insistence that Anglo-American 
art means Turner, hors concours, then, at a distance, Whistler, and then, 
once more at a distance, Muirhead Bone, Cameron, Mary Cassatt. For 
the well-bought names, Raeburn, Romney, Reynolds, they seem to have 
unmitigated contempt. But the architect is lyrical about American archi- 
tecture which with that of Holland he insists leads the world. And his 
explanation interests me. Americans, he says, are experimenting with new 
forms in which they are free from the hampering effects of dead tradition, 
They can therefore suit both design and material to the purpose they have 
in view. Their work is accordingly more original and self -expressive than 
English, which is always pseudo-Jacobean or pseudo-Georgian or French 
which is always pseudo-Louis XIV or XV or empire. Being ignorant of 
these matters, I take it all on trust. But it does, I must say, seem not 
unreasonable on a priori grounds. 

One other thing is extraordinarily interesting, and that is the intense 
patriotism of these small nations. They speak of their poets, historians, 
philosophers, as though they were world figures. Have you ever heard of 
a Dutch epic poet named Vondel? Yet I assure you that beside him, 
here, at least, Dante and Milton are pigmies indeed. So, too, they do not 
doubt that the standard of medicine, law, education is infinitely superior 
to what exists elsewhere. It isn't exactly complacency; some of it is 
whistling to keep up their courage. But it goes down to the root of them, 
and is delivered as obiter dicta in a way quite impervious to argument. 
And when a Belgian colonel tells me that Italy has swarms of spies here 
in its desire to annex the Congo for an African Italia Magna I can only 
wonder whether there are ten Italian politicians living who ever remem- 
ber more than (say) once in a week that there is such a country as 
Belgium. 

But it is all amusing and all peaceful; and there are some queer char- 
acters to give it salt and savour. I instance a bargeman who looks after a 
coal lighter which plies for hire up and down the Meuse. I gave him a 
cigarette and we fell into talk. He had sailed the four seas, knew every 
line Conrad had ever written, regarded Moby Dick as the greatest piece 
of literature ever produced by man, and desired only the abolition of the 
female sex for the world to be quite perfect. "Women," he told me, "are 
all money one week and all children the next." No woman has ever set 
foot on his boat and the four members of the crew have all to prove their 
capacity for mending clothes before they are admitted to its ranks. The 
boat is kept marvellously clean, and the crew has to bathe with the master 
every day or leave the boat. There are two bottles of grog for them every 
week and if they are not consumed the old man (he is 73) holds an in- 



1080 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

quest. Let me add that the only American he appears to care twopence 
about is Farragut 1 and the only Englishman Duncan 2 because he beat the 
Dutch. These he loathes because they eat too much and let themselves get 
fat which he holds (after marriage) to be the supreme sin. He dislikes all 
schools, priests, vegetarians and drunkards. He knows half a dozen words 
of Latin (especially veni, vidi, vici) of which he is enormously proud and 
they come in upon the most unexpected occasions e.g. "M'sieu, I was at 
Namui last week, and got some wonderful tobacco very cheap veni, 
vidi, vici" He is having some repairs done here, so I shall have the joy 
of talk with him until Sunday. He forgives my marriage on the ground 
that I was too young to know what I was doing. 

In the way of reading I have little to report and less to recommend. 
Westlake on International Law, Redslob's Histoire des grands principes 
du D.I. cannot be called exhilarating, but I have to read them from grim 
need. To me the outstanding thing in this particular literature is the 
sheer genius its authors possess for elaborating the obvious; and at the 
end the result seems to me far less impressive than the labour involved 
would warrant. But I have enjoyed greatly Ruggiero's History of European 
Liberalism, which I recommend to you, even though it is over-Hegelian 
in temper; and Pendennis, which Diana brought with her, has com- 
pensated for long pages of Westlake and company. Also I brought with 
me Macaulay's History, and Philistine as the fellow is he can certainly 
tell a story as no other writer I know except possibly Parkman or Hous- 
saye 3 (1814}. The portrait of the early Bank of England is simply 
supreme as narrative. 

I hope your heat wave has passed. My colleague Gregory who was in 
New York circa July 10 said he prayed quietly for death. 

Our love warmly to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, August 13, 1928 

My dear Laski: Your first vacation letter has arrived and has given me 
the usual pleasure. I have told you about Vondel, quoad nos, before. 
My father amused himself with the thought that Vondel and Wendell 
might be the same and had his works and his portrait (which I now have) 
by Janus Lutma engraved in a manner peculiar to Lutma while I have 

1 David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870); Union Admiral, in the Civil War, 
whose most famous pronouncement, "Damn the torpedoes," was uttered dur- 
ing his greatest triumph, the battle of Mobile Bay. 

2 Adam Duncan (1731-1804), Viscount Duncan, whose victory over the 
Dutch fleet occurred in the North Sea in October 1797. 

8 Henri Houssaye (1848-1911), military historian who in his 1814 (1888) 
and subsequent volumes told, with devoted eloquence, the story of Napoleon's 
last campaigns. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1081 

Lutma by Rembrandt in my dressing-room. So I am glad to hear that 
Vondel is the Belgians* great man. 

1 have no great things to tell about myself. I am tired this morning as 
we had a feller here for Sunday and more than an hour and a half of 
talk takes it out of me. My wife if she sees signs of fatigue always at- 
tributes it to the certioraris I, not. But I have done 125 and have told 
the clerk to send no more unless I ask for them. If they have not tired 
me they have kept me from reading more than a very little. I have on 
hand a book by one Dill Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, 
which was recommended to me and which has information that is for 
the benefit of my immortal soul and which therefore I expect to finish 
but which is almost the ne plus ultra of what I dislike as writing. Fat 
and flabby adjectives much repetition the conventional attitude that 
any loose talk on Juvenal et al is painful deliquescent phrases about 
the corruption of the nobility by the example of Nero and the others 
Oh Lord he makes me tired. But as Sidney Bartlett 1 said of an argu- 
ment by Evarts: "But through it all there ran a vein of thought atten- 
uated at times to be sure, but never wholly lost." (S.B. patronized every- 
thing human). So I keep on. I read Lady Oxford's novel Octavia 
and it made me a little sad good hunting talk and horses described 
in human terms. But the tale sounds to me as if years had not added 
wisdom. Also some things by Ernest Hemingway that I think I have men- 
tioned. 2 Art shows in making you interested in the picture of people 
doing and saying what in life would not interest you in the least. I hope 
now to read a little more and presently shall go to sleep over Dill. I 
am even thinking of taking a book by your friend Trollope, perhaps 
Barchester Towers, and seeing how I get on with that. Always there is 
imminent some brief touch of the classics but with them almost always 
the feeling of wasted time. It would be a momentarily pleasant and pos- 
sibly a wholesome change to have two or three days come when I didn't 
quite know what to do. There is always something and partly from 
temperament it generally presents itself in the light of a duty. You seem 
always to read no matter what with gusto. I almost always read with a 
groan, a mark, and with a count of the number of pages. Even my taste 
for novels like my taste for meat has faded, although I still am all there 
on a real story of the old fashion, not necessarily detective provided 
there isn't too much of it as there was for me in La guerre et la paix. 
I suppose it is the Old Testament's grasshopper become a burden but 

Sidney Bartlett (1799-1889), for years a leader of the Boston bar and an 
imposing figure on the profession's national horizon. Holmes spoke of him 
briefly in his Speeches, 41. 

2 Holmes read both The Sun Also Rises (1926) and Men Without Women 
(1927) during the summer of 1928. 



1082 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

cases don't, nor philosophical books that hit me. I wish I had kept a list 
of the books recommended by you. Some shaft more lucky than the rest 
might seek my heart. Farewell I am glad you are having such a good 
time.* Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 

* Don't mistake me I am. 



Grand Hotel, Waulsort-sur-Meuse 
Belgium, 4.VIIL28 

My dear Justice; F. Pollock's remark on Russell is one of the most bril- 
liant things I have heard in many a day. I don't, I think, go myself 
anything like so far as Morris Cohen in my respect for him. I thought his 
Lowell lectures a big piece of work; 1 and I like the general ethos of his 
mind. But he reminds me too much of the little boy who rings the street 
bell and runs away, to give me ultimate comfort. All this, I add, is subject 
to my complete inability to know what his mathematical logic is about, 
and to my contempt for his political writings as obvious paralipomena 
done merely to make money. I do greatly admire his courage; and I share 
his desire to break the windows of any heaven there be. 

I am having a delightful time here, favoured by excellent weather. 
I write and read from 9:30 to 1; walk and talk in the afternoon; bathe 
and play tennis from 5-7; and perform my social obligations in the eve- 
ning. 

My boatman has left; and the one pleasant adventure has been in the 
book line. The nearest town to this is Dinant, and I went there on Tues- 
day to get some money. In a junk-shop by my bank I found a notice about 
books for sale, and explored it between trains. I found for a franc a piece 
ten valuable pamphlets of the period 1610-15; all of them dealing with 
that Gallican controversy I hope to make a feature of my book; the com- 
plete political works of Justus Lipsius in a nice quarto for five francs; and 
a perfect first edition of Diderot's Pensees philosophiques for two francs. 
The man was glad to get rid of them and I went on my way rejoicing. He 
had also an admirable old map of Antwerp (1573) published by the 
Spaniards to explain the fortifications. I bought this from him for thirty 
francs and resold it to my friend Van Overloop, 2 who deals in these mat- 
ters, for six hundred; Van Overloop being overwhelmed by my modera- 
tion as I left it to him to make the offer. He has resold it to the Musee 
Plantin for two thousand francs. So, like Artemus Ward, I combine pleas- 
ure with instruction. 

In the way of reading, I have much that is pleasurable to record. First, 
a really amusing novel I conjure you to read Inisheen by G. A. Bir- 

1 Our Knowledge of the External World (1914). 

2 Not identified. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1083 

mingham, one of his most admirable pictures of Irish impossibilism. Then 
a really good and illuminating book by a Frenchman named Schatz called 
VindMdualisme a history and a defence at one and the same time. 
It is even stimulating on old themes like Hobbes, and on forgotten peo- 
ple like Dunoyer 3 it is quite excellent. Then I have been re-reading, longo 
intervallo, Carlyle's Medieval Political Thought. At this point I am over- 
whelmed by an idea and, at the risk of boring you, I must get it off my 
chest. My idea is that the Christian doctrine of equality has nothing to do 
with political equality at all, and that insofar as it has any basis for politi- 
cal inferences it is against and not in favour of equality. S. Paul's view 
seems to me to be that men's equality before God is negative i.e. our 
distance from him is so vast that we all stand upon much the same level; 
and since all beings are dependent upon him because his grace only is 
the canon of salvation, no one has an equal claim since the will of God 
predestines some and not others to it. There is therefore (a) no right to 
salvation (this depends on the will of God) and (b) no equality since 
persons predestined to salvation are worth more than persons not so pre- 
destined. I build on passages like Galatians 1.15. II Timothy 1,9. Romans 
9, 11 and there are plenty more; and this view would fit in with the 
complete acceptance of slavery in St. Paul, Matthew, Mark and Luke. If 
I am right it means that Christianity did not in the least take over the 
Stoic philosophy in its beginnings; so far as I can see this was a Scholastic 
development of the tenth century which reached its best expression in the 
13th. Carlyle, of course, preaches the ordinary Christian view, with the 
test of "Jew nor Greek" etc. as its foundation; but this, I think, means 
that among the predestined there is, in the sight of God, neither Jew nor 
Greek; i.e. his grace is so wonderful that he can for salvation neglect all 
differences. I should therefore argue that the Christian ethic was at no 
point of itself a liberating influence until it rediscovered natural law in 
the Scholastic revival. I put all this to a Jesuit from Louvain who is in 
this hotel and he was so horrified that I was tempted to feel that it might 
be right. Have you ever looked at the problem from this angle? 

Of other things, there is but little to tell, I re-read Bryce's Modern 
Democracies for lecture purposes and found it dull; on the other hand 1 
was impressed by Lowell's book on Public Opinion. And I read with 
pleasure Villard's American Portraits, liking especially the one on Colonel 
House, probably because there are few political types I dislike so com- 
pletely as eminences grises. I hope you share that view. 

My other remarks must be discreet. I note that the Dutch have the 
largest appetites in Europe. On the average their normal lunch here 

8 Charles Dunoyer (1786-1862); champion of economic liberalism both 
against the authoritarians of the Restoration government and against the new 
democracy; author of De la liberte du travail (3 vols,, 1845). 



1084 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

begins at one and ends between 2:15-2:30, They do not talk but make 
what William James called a direct march upon the meal. They look so 
serious while they are at it that I believe for them it has come to acquire 
a sacramental character. I note, second, the extraordinary parsimony of 
the French. Three people here from Paris combine (quite different fam- 
ilies) for one morning paper; and a terrific row developed between hus- 
band and wife because the former put a I5c stamp too much on a letter. 
I note, third, that the Germans like to discuss the origins of the war, and 
as soon as they begin the French bristle up and Allemands become 
Bosches, Acton's formula "when in doubt, play national character" has 
real points. 

Our love to you both; and forgive the rambling gossip of a minute 
village. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Grand Hotel, Waulsort-sur-Meuse 
Belgium, 1S.VIIL28 

My dear Justice: Life moves so peacefully here that it is difficult to think 
I was ever caught in the whirlpool of term. I am having the happiest 
possible time, enough reading and writing and talking to make each of 
them specially attractive as it comes. This week we have had with 
us James Ensor, I imagine the best of living Belgian artists, a man of 
seventy and a great causeur. I have enjoyed him hugely. To discover an 
artist whose God, so far as he has one, is Henri Poincare is remarkable 
enough. But to find him also a perfect tempest of ideas on everything is 
really exhilarating. He is that rare thing an artist conscious of the need 
to understand his own art. He pleases me by rejection of all effort to 
distinguish between the highest forms of creative effort, That, for him, 
is the attractiveness of Poincare; he recognizes, he says, in P's account of 
his scientific experience the same creative impulse which has led him to 
his own best pictures. And to hear him on the Church in Belgium is a joy. 
He had not been to confession for thirty years when he married and the 
cure punished him by refusing to allow him to enter the Church by the 
front door. So Ensor marked his sense of tihe fitness of things by giving the 
verger a hundred francs and the cure ten when he left. He would please 
you by his enthusiasm for van Ostade. He puts Peter Brughael at the head 
of all the Flemish school, and, to my surprise, M ending very much in the 
second rank. And in his literary tastes he is curiously classical. He sees 
things in Corneille and Racine that literally do not exist for me; and, con- 
versely, I cannot persuade him that there is anything at all in the poetry 
of the 19th century romantics. He loathes Scott and Dickens and Meredith 
and George Sand, and makes a God of Voltaire. It is curiously fascinating 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1085 

to walk with him and watch how his eye fastens upon a proportion in 
the landscape, an unexpected contour, some sudden cluster of flowers in 
one of the promontories of rocks in which the district abounds. I would 
give much to bring him to I Street and spend a night with you both. And 
Mrs. Holmes must know that he cannot avoid a perfect passion for tiny, 
absurd, bizarre ornaments, He wanders into shops and cottages and comes 
out with little china dogs, or a cup with a scriptural illustration, or a kind 
of sampler with verses telling the child its duty to God. Altogether a 
splendid person. 

In the way of reading, I have had a jolly time. The most interesting 
thing was Redslob's History of the Principles of International Law which 
illuminates for me a side of things I did not know. What interests me 
especially is the number of really second-rate minds who have had great 
influence in that subject. I can't see that Puffendorf, or Wolff or Vattel, 
or Bynershock, are much more than, say, the average text-book writer in 
an American University; yet each seems to mark an epoch in his subject. 
And, intellectually, Grotius seems much more to have amplitude than 
profundity. I should have said that Suarez or Franciscus de Victoria in 
sheer rational power could have given him points every time. Then I have 
been reading an attack in the name of the classic French jurisprudence on 
Duguit and Co. very ably done except for the exhausting proof that 
jurisprudence must have a metaphysical foundation. 1 I have never been 
able to take seriously poor Duguit's denial of metaphysics in law for the 
simple reason that he is himself the slave of Comte who is riddled with 
metaphysical presuppositions. Also a charming book on the origins of the 
French Romantic movement, by Daniel Mornet, (Hachette) a book I 
warmly recommend both for the new (at least to me) knowledge it gives 
and the charm with which it is written. And lastly a topping novel of 
William de Morgan's Joseph Vance, which I had never read and really 
enjoyed as one enjoys those spacious three-deckers of the 19th century 
written "upon the assumption that time does not exist. And here, of course, 
that assumption is gloriously true. 

I have also been writing happily for three hours or so each day at 
what the French call a legon d'ouverture for a course of lectures a col- 
league is arranging on the 18th century in France. 2 I am trying to explain 
what the Age is intellectually and enjoying it more than I can say. I think 
it has some new things in it tucked away, and some old things set in a 
light different from the usual account. I have at least offered some expla- 

1 Perhaps Julien Bonnecase, Science du droit et romantisme (1928). 

3 "The Age of Reason," in The Social and Political Ideas of Some Great 
French Thinkers of the Age of Reason (Hearnshaw, ed., 1930), and reprinted 
in Studies in Law and Politics (1932). 



1086 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

nation of Rousseau which it would be worth while to explore in detail. 
The lecture will be printed one day in a joint volume and I shall, of 
course, send it along to you. 

Of other things, there is not much to tell Once a week I have been in 
to Dinant to get money from my bank; and I found there some nice 18th 
century pewter bowls which pleased me since Frida has a passion for 
ancient pewter. And I bought there also a volume of Bernardin de S. 
Pierre's Etudes de la nature with the name of Manon Phlipon on the 
title the bouqiiiniste not knowing, or perhaps, not caring, that Manon 
Phlipon became Mme. Roland and was certainly a lady worth knowing. 3 
I add one final experience that will interest you. We motored with a friend 
on Friday to Bouillon 4 the remains of Godfrey's chateau of that ilk, 
and in the visitor's book at the inn under, I think it was 1873, I saw the 
name of Henry Adams with the remark "food excellent; the light wines 
distinctly good/* I fancy I can imagine his satisfaction at striking a note 
which left in at least one region the sense that there had been a faint 
disappointment he was too stoic to emphasise. 

Our warm love to you both. I hope the heat wave of which we read has 
left Beverly unmoved and unscathed. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Grand Hotel, Waulsort-sur-Meuse 
Belgium, 18.VIIL26 1 [sic] 

My dear Justice: A perfectly delightful letter from you gave me immense 
pleasure. But you must not even allow the sombre notion of resignation 
to play over your mind; and you must not even want intelligent eulogy in 
the press to confirm our sense that you are where you ought to be. We 
your disciples, Felix, Brandeis, Mack, Cardozo, Hand, Cohen and I, 
hereby after proper deliberation put our hands on our hearts and swear 
unreservedly that we perceive only in your work the qualities that have 
made us proud of you and in undiminishing degree. Macte antiquae w~ 
tutis, and set your barque for ninety. 

Mrs. Asquith sent me the novel you have been reading, but I must con- 
fess that I did not extract much enjoyment from it. I suppose it was be- 
cause I have never even seen a meeting of the hunt, and beyond an acute 

8 Manon Phlipon Roland (1754-1793); Girondiste and revolutionary, whose 
last words at the guillotine have preserved her name: "Oh Liberty, what 
crimes are committed in thy name!" 

4 Bouillon, the "Key to the Ardennes" is the site of the remains of the castle 
of Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060-1100), the leader of the First Crusade. 

1 The dating of the letter is manifestly wrong, perhaps in the day, certainly 
in the year; the month is evidently August. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1087 

affection for dogs am not unduly moved by animal kind other than man. 
But the judgment of F. Hackett which you recall to me 2 was really simply 
silly. She has amazing defects, flippancy, slap-dashness, huge tracts of un- 
justifiable ignorance, a zest to be in the limelight; but I think, too, that 
she is capable of really profound feeling and that she has in a high de- 
gree that indefinable quality we call esprit. I don't think, moreover, that 
her husband, who had exquisite sensitiveness, would have had the affec- 
tion for her he did unless she possessed great qualities. Most of what 
Hackett felt about the English aristocracy is, in my belief, pretty accurate. 
But it doesn't happen to be true about her. 

Stimulated by your interest, I sent for Hemingway's Men without 
Women? Certainly real power which makes one attentive throughout. 
But I make two observations for your comment. First, he has the talent of 
the butcher rather than of the surgeon. He hacks off a great piece of life 
without undue attention to the cost of the operation; compare and (I 
hope) approve the exquisite grace and sensitiveness of Maupassant. Sec- 
ond he has a nasty nostalgie pour la "bone which is, I think, due to a quite 
mistaken belief that to make his reader smell dirt is realism. That is pure 
juvenility; the same thing that makes a youth visit a brothel in the belief 
that thereby he is proving his manhood. I should guess that he is an 
American living in Paris with the excessive romanticism which, in expatri- 
ates, always reveals itself in that queer form. But he has obvious power 
of narration and a certain crude effectiveness in style. 

Life here proceeds very peacefully. I have done an essay on the eight- 
eenth century in France, 4 which I really like, and begun a short piece on 
the origins of French nationalism which I hope will prove a pretty trifle. 5 
Its theory is that when at the death of Louis XIV ecclesiastical and mo- 
narchical authority was utterly discredited, two traditions formerly in ob- 
scurity at last reaped their harvest in the philosophic movement. The one 
is the libertine tradition in which the succession is Renaissance humanism 
Rabelais Montaigne Saint-Evremond; the other the Cartesian 
with Descartes, Bayle, Fontenelle as the chief names, the last of these 
linking the two schools together. I should think that eminently sane as 
an account of what happened, and perhaps it may tempt a young man 
somewhere to explore it in detail. I add that I know nothing so good for 
one's self-respect as a human being as the re-reading of Montaigne and 
Bayle. They really are absolutely A-l; and the way in which the latter 
pokes fun with sublime seriousness of face at human credulity in the 
Pensees sur la com&te is adorable. 

8 See, supra, pp. 1081, 300, 313. 

8 See, supra, p. 1081. 

* Probably "The Age of Reason," supra, p. 1085. 

8 Not identified. 



1088 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

In reading not too much to record. But I must mention because I have 
so thoroughly enjoyed them, two books, One is Legouis and Cazamian's 
History of English Literature (in French or English) which on bended 
knee I pray you to get. It is by all odds the finest account of the move- 
ment of literature in England, above all as the expression of its social 
milieu, 1 have ever read. The chapters on Shakespere, Milton, Richardson, 
the 19th century novel, to pick out only a few are really tours de force 
of brilliant compression. If you will only read it, you will bless the day you 
met me. The other is more sober, A Short History of Free Thought by 
J. M. Robertson which, though lacking in charm and delicacy, tells you 
and me the actual movement of an attitude we both care about with great 
learning. I found the history of freethought in Italy and Germany as in- 
teresting as it was novel; and his detection of little oases of rationalism in 
the middle ages and the Reformation is full of all kinds of sudden and 
arresting apergus. If the idea of it tickles your palate, please let me know, 
for I doubt whether the book is published in America. I read it in a 
couple of days and though, as I say, it lacks grace, I could not leave it 
until I had got to the end. Of other tilings I have smiled over P. G. Wode- 
house's last novel 8 (less than usual) and read a book sent me by an 
American lady named Van Doren about New York intellectuals who seern 
to talk twenty-four hours a day about their need for sexual intercourse 
with each other's wives and husbands. 7 I must live in a queerly constricted 
world for as yet (please mark my respect for the unknown) marital in- 
fidelity has merely seemed to me dull and destructive. 

We proceed here in a quiet way to infinite enjoyment. Last week we 
spent a day motoring around Bouillon (of Godfrey of that ilk) and seeing 
a country there as majestic and unspoiled as I have ever seen. We pic- 
nicked for lunch by a tiny river which as it flowed over tiny cascades 
seemed literally to sing with joy. And it was impressive to stand on the 
walls of Bouillon and look out over forty miles of country. One realises in 
these ancient castles on an eminence of rocky heights that only famine 
could have compelled them to surrender. Their sites are marvellously 
chosen; and they illustrate most impressively the self-centredness of the 
middle-ages. Each of them is a good two days* march from anywhere. 
Then as you pass to the 16th or 17th century chateau you get distances 
that are obviously meant to imply neighbourliness and suggest the decline 
of internecine conflict both by their sites (flat, approachable country, usu- 
ally near a river) and their construction. I was enormously impressed too 
by the charm of the outhouses round the chateaux the stables had 
dignity and grace in a degree one rarely sees in a modern edifice. Please 

Not identified. 

7 Dorothy (Mrs. Mark) Van Doren, Strangers (1926). 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1089 

realise that I write in entire ignorance of what one ought to know of these 
things. 

We stay here another week and then proceed leisurely home by way of 
Antwerp, where I always enjoy a good hunt for books. I hope, by the 
way, that the August number of Harpers' was sent to you with a piece 
of mine I badly want you to read. 8 

Our love, as always, to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 
This is the only paper I can buy in the one village shop. 



Beverly Farms, August 23, 1928 

My dear Laski: This marks the moment when I have just finished reading 
your portrait of Rousseau in the July Yale Review. 1 It is beautiful and 
stirs me deeply. I wonder if in depths of your nature that I have not 
fathomed there is a corresponding religious fervor for some convictions, 
notwithstanding your formal scepticism. At all events your subtle appreci- 
ations go to my heart. None the less do I repudiate the passion for equal- 
ity as unphilosophical and as with most of those who entertain it a dis- 
guise for less noble feelings. While I know very well that divinations 
come before proof, yet I hate (intellectually) every appeal to intuitions 
that are supposed to transcend reason, all the way down from Rousseau to 
Bill James. But this is by the way. What I began I end with you have 
made a wonderful portrait that gives me delight. 

I have had an unmixed vacation feeling since I sent back my last batch 
of certioraris. I doubt if I shall send for more, lest I should tempt destiny 
to snip my thread. If I made too much preparation for the future, fate 
might like to wink and say: "Sold." Perhaps my interjected protest was 
helped by my just having finished a book I began some time ago Dill 
Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (a dull, interesting 
work like an address to the jury in its eternal repetitions) . While show- 
ing how much there was alien to Christianity in the air, so that you almost 
would think a sceptic was talking, he patronises it all from the Christian 
point of view, as not having intuitions that I should regard as products 
of ignorance, egotism, and conceit. As I have said before I think man 
needs to learn to take himself less seriously when he attempts to phi- 
losophize. 

Just now I have on hand Mallock's Memoirs of Life and Literature. 2 

8 Supra, p. 1062. 



1 "Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau," 17 Yak Review (N.S.) 702 (July 
1928). 

2 William Hunnell Mallock (1849-1923), man of letters and fashion; author 
of The New Republic (1877), The New Paul and Virginia (1878), and for- 
gotten novels. His Memoirs of Life and Literature was published in 1920. 



1090 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

As in other books he makes me feel that I don't like him and at the 
point that I have reached he seems to wish to impress you with what 
very exclusive society he frequented. Also I have some stories by Chekov 
lent to me yesterday and I have sent for Petronius but &<; T^OT* 
I purpose to read a novel of Trollope s as a sacrifice to the Muses. 
Haldane's death 3 moves me I knew since we both were relatively 
young and I thought him a great man on the strength of his book 
about what he did before the late war &c. My horizon grows pretty bare. 
I suppose you will have got back when this arrives I hope well and in 
high spirits. Macte virtute. Aff'ty y ours > - w - H - 



Beverly Farms, August 26, 1928 

My dear Laski: You keep me envying your power to read a book in a 
wink and to remember what you have read. I suppose that Petronius 
whom I have taken up just now could be swallowed in an hour. With a 
translation alongside it will last me several days. To be sure, I hardly read 
at more than odd minutes. The dead pen is generically of all time but 
specifically blunter and coarser than what makes us laugh. Do you remem- 
ber in Verdant Green (itself I suppose now antiquated) the student over- 
heard walking up and down and chuckling at some wretched jest of 
Aristophanes? I believe I expressed my sorrow at the death of Haldane in 
my last. The horizon narrows. I feel like the prisoner in the room the walls 
of which draw nearer every day. That is true not only of lif e but of vaca- 
tion. In a month I shall be due in Washington, Today there is a dense fog 
and perhaps for that reason I don't feel cheerful about it. Normally one is 
glad of vacation when it comes and, in turn, glad to go back to work. 
Perhaps I should feel better if I had read any book this summer that 
made a great mark, or if it was a sunny day and the wind not from the 
South. I have had no conversation to compare with your Belgian artists'. 
An Indiana judge et al. lunched here on Friday, pleasant and discreetly 
soapy, but nothing memorable. 

One of the country people, or rather a couple, leave a mark. He com- 
mands a vessel in the winter and works with his wife on her flower garden 
in the summer. Last winter two voyages to Buenos Ayres, etc. While he 
was away two police dogs that they kept showed signs of trouble. She 
shoved her hand down the throat of one thinking to relieve him, then 
the doctor said it was rabies. I believe she is undergoing some treatment 
but didn't seem worried at all but the arches of his feet had given out 
on ship board, and the rains had destroyed most of his wife's flowers, and 
the authorities were taking a piece of his land that he wanted for his 

8 Lord Haldane Had died on August 19. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1091 

road, and he was blue. I came to know them by stopping to buy flowers 
at the roadside two years ago, and his melancholy quite took hold of me. 
I worry easily. I don't know that I do more as I grow older, but less 
things than that make me uneasy, even a long communication from a 
crank among a series that the C.J. would throw into the wastepaper 
basket. But I should give you a wrong impression if I made you think 
that I was not happy in the main. I have talked more about such things 
than you ever do. I hardly know whether to apologise or to assume the 
privilege of age. This letter was interrupted by a call from Reginald 
Foster. Did you know him? A clever man, who like you reads, as he puts 
it, down the page instead [of] across line by line like nous autres, the 
worms. He like you reads Trollope recurrently, also Dumas and Scott 
which last I have done in my time. Now I am expecting a call from my 
quondam secretary, L. Curtis, who lost a leg in an airplane accident while 
training for the war. Hard lines, which he takes with admirable courage 
and good temper. I wish I had as interesting things to tell as you do. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Beverly Farms, August SO, 1928 

My dear Laski: Your letter came this morning and after returning from 
my drive I wrote to the Old Corner Book Store to see if they could get me 
in French or English Hazimeau's or Maziaranfs or somebody else with 
a name looking like that (the first name illegible but immaterial), History 
of English Literature thus having obeyed your behest. 1 It would make 
me easier to get an improving book. There has been a lack of them this 
vacation and while I more or less emulate older men who say they now 
read only for amusement, it is vain. I feel that I ought to be taking in fuel. 
Although I wrote lately I forget whether I mentioned that Dill the tire- 
some put me on to Petronius. I think I did. And that has a certain im- 
provement in it as it suggests reflection, verified observations of others, 
and had a surprising number of quotable sentences, of which of course, I 
made no note. I do not greatly admire the writers of diaries and the eco- 
nomical noters of their happy thoughts and the felicities encountered in 
reading. Ad interim, I have read some stories by Chekov (qu.sp.?) well 
told but squalid not the swinish instinct you attribute to Hemingway, 
but none the less displeasing to me. I am just rebeginning Moby Dick, 
which I surmise with your boatman of the Meuse to be great. 

You rather seem to be defending Lady Asquith against me. Lord bless 
you I know her pretty well and I think I appreciate her fine qualities 
as fully as anyone. The book however did not please me. Unlike you, 

1 Supra, p. 1088. 



1092 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

though ignorant, I did enjoy the hunting and horse talk, but the emo- 
tional parts and the end seemed to me as if she had not learned by grow- 
ing older. 

Morris Cohen was here at luncheon yesterday and we talked for three 
hours plus and then at his suggestion I took a rest. I get tired with talking 
and normally consider an hour and a half my limit. I needn't say that I 
enjoyed it greatly. He said that he came back to the classics feeling as if 
he was wasting time with modern books. While I on the other hand al- 
ways fear that I am wasting time if I dally long with the classics. He ex- 
pounded an interesting theory of the Sadducees as the national party 
the priests and upholders of the theocracy the Pharisees as reformers, 
saying that every man might be his own high priest, but still upholding the 
ceremonial side and Jesus, condemning the Pharisees more than the 
Sadducees, foreseeing the downfall of the theocracy (I forgot to ask him 
whether this attribution wasn't on the strength of words as to which one 
may take the liberty of doubting whether Jesus ever uttered them) and 
making it all a matter of the heart, or internal, not ceremonial. Also he 
had been rereading Kanf s Critique with great admiration, while of course 
not accepting the structure. Cohen is a wonderful and noble creature. I 
will try to get the Harper, but your Rousseau in the Yale Review is 
enough for one year. 

I thank you deeply for your encouraging words about resignation. 

Affectionately ever, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 2.IX.28 

My dear Justice: As you can imagine, I was deeply moved by Haldane's 
death; one does not dine with a man weekly for eight years without a 
sense of real affection for him. Heaven knows he had his faults; but he 
was generous, and warm hearted, and a very great organiser. I remember 
above all two things. First a talk with Haig in which the general insisted 
that Haldane alone had made the British army a really efficient instru- 
ment and, secondly, a talk with Haldane about amendments to the Trade 
Union Act of 1927 when he showed a fertility in inventiveness and a skill 
in drafting which were really incomparable. Only five weeks before he 
died Mrs. Asquith and Mrs. Webb as different as chalk from cheese 
had both said the same thing to me, that if they were in trouble they 
would go to Haldane before any other person. We all felt that about him. 
I add, what you will like to know, that he had immense respect for your 
work, and followed your decisions year by year with the fidelity of a man 
who knows the best when he sees it. He always asked for news of you 
and he always remembered the journey to America with you with quite 
special pleasure. Inani perfungor munere. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1093 

We came back last Wednesday from the Ardennes; and except for a 
week with my people in Manchester (whither I go tomorrow) the holi- 
day is over. But it has been a great time, and I feel as fresh as paint. So 
much so that I almost begrudge the week up North as it interferes with a 
piece I have begun to write for the American Encyclopedia of the Social 
Sciences on the rise of liberalism 1 a perfectly thrilling subject on which, 
I think, I can manage to say something new. I sat down to it with the 
kind of extra-thrill one gets when one feels that the job was really made 
for oneself; and I only regret that I can't have a real year of leisure to do 
it amply. 

I can't tell you what pleasure your note on my Rousseau article gave 
me. I like that fellow, even though his ideas make me see red. I like him, 
I think, because there is something of the child and the exile about Mm, 
and one feels that one wants to come to his rescue and make the rough 
places smooth. I was amused at your struggle with Dill. I got through him 
out of grim need. But I thought he wrote less as a scholar tiban as a cleric 
who knew when he began that paganism was going to have a bad time. 
Of other things in the reading line I have read Wells's new novel 2 by 
all odds the finest thing he has done in many a year, not quite, but nearly, 
at the level of Kipps; and with an incidental footnote about Felix which 
warmed my heart. Then an adorable P. G. Wodehouse which I implore 
you to read Jill the Reckless which is worth the price of admission if 
only for two lines in it about Omar Khayyam. I beg you to make it the 
companion of your solitaire. Then a vast tome on administrative law sent 
me by Freund of Chicago which I thought useful but dull. 3 

Everyone is away at present; but I must not forget to tell you that 
a Chinese friend of mine came in to tea yesterday who saw Wu only six 
weeks ago. He says Wu is very well, and doing excellent work both in the 
Court and on some codification job to which he has been assigned. My 
man says Wu talks of a year at Harvard, but prays me to urge the friends 
of Wu to impress on him the need to stay in China. He says Wu is getting 
a real reputation there as one to whom important work can be confided 
and that he will forfeit this if he goes off to some interim research which 
he does not really need to do. If you have the occasion, you might pass 
this on quietly but firmly. 

I say I have seen no one; but I must tell you of a caller at the School 
of Economics. He was from the Balkans I guessed a Rumanian and 
I think he was a professor in a technical school. He had haunted the 
place, the porters told me, for two weeks. He had read my Grammar of 
Politics, believed I was a great thinker, and wished to tell me that I would 

I 1 Encyclopedia of Social Sciences (1930) 103-124 
9 Mr. Blettstoorthy on Rampole Island (1928). 

'Ernst Freund, Administrative Powers over Persons and Property (1928). 



1094 LASKI TO HOLMES 

be even greater if I would only realise the need for religion. I was polite 
to excess, and he stayed with me from 10:15 till 11:30. He spoke of the 
Atonement, the Resurrection, the New Prayer-Book, Luther, Rousseau's 
Civil Religion, the death of Socrates; and as he spoke English of a special 
Balkan type he filled in the gaps with words I dare not try to reproduce. 
When he left he went on his knees, and I thought he was going to ask 
me to pray; but what in fact he wanted was to borrow a pound and ask 
for my photograph. The latter I explained I did not possess; on the for- 
mer I offered to give him ten shillings on condition he did not come back. 
This he accepted eagerly, and said that ever since the Battle of Navaimo 
he had known that the 'British were a generous people. I was weak with 
suppressed laughter when he left; and my condition was not improved 
when the porter told me that his exit was crowned by the need to avoid 
a taxi-driver who had been waiting for him since 11 o'clock. What a race 
is mankind! 

I hope Maggs's catalogue of engravings reached you safely. It made my 
mouth water, especially the Rembrandts and that superb engraving of 
Burke; and I thought you would have pleasure in turning over its pages. 
Did you see that the Six collection 4 is to be sold in Amsterdam? There is 
a Verrneer there I would give all my books except two for; and a com- 
plete set of all the Rembrandts bought from him direct by Six, 

Our love to you both. Don't do any more certiomris until you are back 
in Washington. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 18.IX.28 

My dear Justice: 1 have been busy doing nothing this last ten days; hence 
an unusual silence. We went to Manchester to spend our annual week 
with my people and I find it impossible to write or think there. One lives 
in an atmosphere of such luxury that the main feeling which arises in me 
is that of the poor relation who ought to crouch in a corner. The vital 
questions turn either on market-movements in cotton, on which my stock 
of information is small, or on the comparative merits of Rolls-Royce 
against Daimler upon which I probably know even less. Frida manages 
wonderfully by an assumption of knowledge about dress which I am 
confident she doesn't possess. I feel woe-begone, and count the hours 
until I return. We made up for it by a delightful week-end with the 
Webbs where we talked the political world round. Webb told me some 
interesting tales of Woodrow Wilson whom he visited thirty years ago as 
a professor at Princeton; and he wrote down in his diary that W.W. 
would like to be a Virginian Calvin if he got the chance, which was a good 
judgment for that early period. He told me, also, an amusing story of how 
4 John Six (1857-1926), descendant of Rembrandt's friend, Jan Six. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1095 

Herbert Spencer appointed Mrs. Webb his literary executor just before 
her engagement; when it was announced that she was to wed the arch- 
collectivist he wrote warning her that if she persisted he would have to 
change his will; and his wedding present to them was a set, finely bound, 
of his writings against the state. We had a pleasant evening on Saturday 
when Russell came over. He talked, as always, brilliantly; and, I should 
have said, with less regard to the grim need for fact than any man I have 
ever heard. But when it came to judgments, his dismissal of Bergson was 
a superb piece of analysis, and his explanation of the significance of mod- 
ern cosmology left me with the feeling that any really sensible person 
would specialise in astrophysics instead of a stupid subject like political 
science. 

In the way of reading, one or two things are worth reporting even 
though, when you get this, you will, I fear, be on the way back to Wash- 
ington. First, P. G. Wodehouse's new novel Money for Nothing over 
which I chortled happily until two in the morning. Second, Russell's vol- 
ume of papers, Sceptical Essays of which one particularly on recent phi- 
losophy is a supreme piece of exposition. Third, a stiff dose of Hobbes, 
especially the pre-Leviathan pieces, which left me in raptures, alike for 
the style and for the superbly masculine common-sense. Disagreement 
with the foundations noted, he seemed to me beyond compare among 
English political thinkers. At the Webbs I read Asquith's Recollections, 
but beyond one or two amusing tales, it seemed to me very thin stuff. It 
reveals what one would expect, a solid and loyal nature, but not, I think, 
any distinction of mind unless a power of grave and lucid statement is 
distinction of mind. He makes one feel that he was immensely superior 
to most of his colleagues, but also that it was not remarkable to be so 
superior. And curiously enough, the best thing in the book, by all odds, 
is a letter to him on his resignation from Baldwin, a model of exquisite 
feeling expressed with a delicacy rare among politicians. I must not forget 
to add one thing culled from the pages I turned over in Manchester. 
Fallieres, the French President, 1 visits the studio of Rodin and is told 
that he should make a polite remark to the great man. He gazes around 
the studio and notes the plaster-casts, torsos etc. His eye lights up, and 
he says with great energy to Rodin, "I see, monsieur, that you, too, have 
suffered much from removals." 

I have found nothing in the way of books to buy since I came home. 
But I have done one thing that has pleased me much. I sold my desk, 
and bought instead a nine-feet oak refectory table of the 17th century, 
and, for papers, an old oak chest beautifully carved. So my study looks as 
though tiie books and furniture had grown up together and I have a 

1 Armand Fallieres (1841-1931); politician and President of the Republic, 
1906-1913. 



1096 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

pleasant sense of aesthetic adequacy. Now I hope to find half-a-dozen old 
prints of Hobbes, Locke and Selden and such like to finish off the walls. 
I have not, I think, told you of my interview last Friday with the 
American gentleman who wished to see me urgently. He had just returned 
from Geneva, and was mightily impressed by the League. But he felt 
strongly that it was handicapped for lack of funds, and in the present 
state of Europe, more money was unlikely. So he proposed to compile a 
great volume of autographs in which all "the illustrious" living should put 
their names, and this was to be raffled at a pound a ticket, the proceeds, 
less expenses, to go to the League. He wanted a secretary to collect auto- 
graphs in each country and thought I might act for England. I told him 
I was no good and that for access to the illustrious he could not possibly 
do better than get into touch with Nicholas Murray Butler. I hope he 
really starts his project; it is too divine to leave as a mere thought in 
abstracto, 

I have three more weeks of peace; and I suppose you are just bidding 
farewell to the red-gold of New England autumn. Here we enjoy summer 
sunshine, and in Surrey, the beeches are still a vivid green. 

Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, E. J. L. 

Devon Lodge, 2.X.28 

My dear Justice: I have been ruthlessly driven hence this silence. Two 
long cases in the Industrial Court, a week-end conference in Cambridge, 
(with two speeches to make) and two lectures to some five hundred 
working men in Peterboro* have stolen some precious hours. You will 
understand and forgive. 

Cambridge interested me much, the conference apart. I stayed in Trin- 
ity and sat, the first night, next to a world-famous astrophysicist. In con- 
versation it emerged that (I) he thought all Catholics wicked because of 
Galileo's treatment (II) that modernists in the Church of England ought 
to be ruthlessly expelled for heterodoxy. I suggested that there was a 
slight confusion of mind in the two statements; but not forty minutes" 
hectic discussion would make him see any illogicality. On the second 
night I sat next to a most eminent bishop. He explained to me that Chris- 
tianity was the hope of the world. He himself did not believe in (I) the 
Incarnation (II) the Atonement or (HE) the certainty of an after Me. I 
suggested that he was not a Christian in any sense of the word to which 
meaning could be attached; this he repudiated with violence. On the 
third night I sat next to an eminent judge. He told me that his great de- 
sire was to see the study of Roman law made compulsory for all students 
for the bar as nothing else was so good a discipline for the legal mind. In 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1097 

conversation it developed that Muirhead's text-book 1 was the only book 
on the Corpus Juris he had ever read and the text itself was, I think, 
quite unfamiliar to him. I mentioned the case-system with appropriate 
eulogy. He dismissed it with contempt because the student who studied 
disconnected cases lost sight of principles. Now here were three really 
eminent men not one of whom could pretend to logic outside a narrow 
realm of technique. Is there such a thing as general intelligence? Please 
note that I enquire and that I do not decide. 

With the workmen of Peterborough I had one thrilling experience. An 
old engineer came up to me and explained (with a strong Scotch accent) 
that he read philosophy. Could he ask me one or two questions? I sug- 
gested an adjournment for a cup of tea and a gossip. He then proceeded 
to show a quite amazing knowledge of English philosophy, even quoting 
Mill's Examination of William Hamilton. He was nearly eighty and the 
whole urge to this study came from an accidental meeting with Thomas 
Davidson who, you may remember, started off Morris Cohen. The old 
man was enchanting one of those hard-headed Scottish secularists who 
proved ruthlessly step by step. Did I believe orthodox religion false? Did 
I think falsity ought to be exposed? What steps did I take to expose 
falsity? It was like listening to a prophet when he explained the evil effect 
of faith upon the working-class. And he said to me as we left, "If there is 
a God, I shall say to him, 'Lord, pardon my unbelief, but I had too much 
self-respect to accept thine appointed instruments/ ** 

In the way of reading I have read one or two things amply worth 
while. Above all, Allen's History of Political Thought in the 16th Cen- 
tury the book I like to believe Lewis Einstein would have written if 
he had not given up to the State department what was meant for scholar- 
ship. It's a fine book, and especially on Machiavelli, Hooker and Bodin, I 
beHeve of quite fundamental importance. If leisure comes at all your way 
I do hope you will send for it from the Congressional Library, for it is 
brilliantly written and will, I am sure, give you some happy hours. Then 
the last volume of Curzon's Life., quite interesting because not even an 
admirer like Ronaldshay can prevent him from emerging as other than 
definitely unpleasant. And a book on Pascal by one Chevalier, a professor 
at Grenoble, which I thought as good in its way as anything I have read. 
He did what one so rarely sees done explain in detail the worldly 
Pascal as well as the theological-mystic. And another sheer delight which 
I beg you not to omit, beg you earnestly, for in the night-train it kept me 
passionately interested an admirable life of my dear Hazlitt by P. P. 
Howe who has done it so well that he is never to be sufficiently praised. 

1 James Muirhead, Historical Introduction to the Private Law of Rome 
(1886). 



1098 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

And all he says is what he ought to say that is, you emerge feeling 
that the post-1820 Wordsworth is a seventh-rate Stiggins, and that not 
ten men in the world have been more completely adorable than Lamb. 
Hazlitt took me to the Autobiography of Leigh Hunt which has just ap- 
peared in a cheap edition (World's Classics). And that is another gor- 
geous thing a book to read aloud if ever there was one. I must, too, 
commend a novel St. Christophers Day by Martin Armstrong. I won't 
spoil a hope that you may enliven solitaire with it by reflection except to 
say that it accomplishes one of the most difficult things in the art of nar- 
rative with what I think is a signal success. But above all, I entreat you 
to read the Hazlitt. I wish I had not, so that I could have the pleasure 
of beginning it afresh all over again. 

Term begins a week today, and I am taking the last gulp of freedom a 
little sadly. For there's so much I want to do before term begins; and 
with a full uninterrupted day one can find out so much. Today, for in- 
stance, a careful comparison with Bodin has revealed to me that Mont- 
chretien, 2 usually acclaimed as the founder of political economy, has, in 
fact, taken 300 pp. wholesale from Bodin, merely inverting the order of 
B's remarks. And in the books this unblushing plagiary is exhibited as 
supreme originality. One editor of his Treatise actually says that he is as 
good as A. Smith. A good American professor (who had plainly never 
read him) says that his book is the first since Aristotle to deal clearly 
with the place of economics in statesmanship. So I hope to have some 
kindly but firm footnotes in my chapter on economic thought in the 17th 
century. 

But, say you, why should I have to read of Montchretien (of whom I 
have never heard) and his debt to Bodin (whom I will not read) when 
I must go through certioraris and write a dissentl I apologise. But most 
sins are the consequence of affection, and mine for this job is endless. 

I send my love to you both as always. So would Frida were she not 
away. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Devon Lodge, 9.X.28 

My dear Justice: In the midst of term I cry unto thee. For a week I have 
been drowned amid students, of all colours and races and nationalities. 
It is exhilarating, but it makes me want to retire. If a land American 
Foundation sent me a cheque for twenty thousand pounds I should take 
a cottage in Hindhead and write there for the rest of my life. But I am 
full of good works, and never, I think, nearer to salvation than just now. 
Which reminds me that we have a new member of the staff a geog- 

2 Antoine de Montchretien (c. 1575-1621); author of Traicte de Toeconomie 
politique (1665) who christened but did not sire political economy. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1099 

rapher whose induction to our mysteries is worth recording. He is a 
fervent Baptist and at dinner was offered some port by Hobhouse. "I 
would sooner commit adultery" said the Baptist. "So would we all" said 
Hobhouse. Can you produce a finer retort than that? 

As you can imagine, with term and its attendant committees I have had 
little space for other things. But I sneaked in a jolly lunch with Arnold 
Bennett who, inter alia, said (I) that the average of American fiction is, at 
the moment, higher than anywhere else in the world (II) that Dos- 
toievski is the greatest novelist as a technician (III) that Proust is a snob 
writing for snobs and (IV) that he received an earnest letter from a 
clergyman urging him to write a novel helping God to the victory. A.B. 
replied that he had no knowledge of how to set about it, to which the 
reverend gent replied that if A.B. would supply the art he would supply 
the theology and that he would not ask for more than one-third of the 
profits. And I went to a jolly dinner with my colleagues on the Industrial 
Court to which we had Sumner as guest. He was very interesting with 
reminiscences of some of the old judges, especially of Bowen (whom he 
put first among the 19th century) and Blackburn. The latter told him 
that when the offer of a judgeship came along he was doing so badly 
that he had thoughts of giving up the bar and becoming a solicitor! And 
Frank Pick, the manager of the Underground, 1 told us of a group of men 
at a station who asked for an increase of pay on the ground that they 
had recently increased the number of arrests for pickpocketing in their 
station by fifteen per cent! 

Of reading I have little to report. I read one excellent novel (My 
"Brother Jonathan by Brett Young) . . . But mostly I have been reading 
things connected with my lectures and not finding that I have much that 
is genuinely new to say to what I have said before. On the other hand I 
have been reading in odd moments the essays of Emerson, and I want 
to sing a palinode about him. He is infinitely better than I ever imagined 
or admitted and the ripe wisdom of his aphorisms (I mean aphorisms 
and not epigrams) seems to me unsurpassed in any writer of English 
prose. Indeed I should say that of all Anglo-Saxon people he is nearest to 
La Rochefoucauld in his uncanny skill of being able to put a year of ex- 
perience into a phrase. I don't think he has ever had his deserts; but that 
may mean that in the past I have always thought eulogies of him exces- 
sive through my own blindness to his merits. I have bought some pretty 
things, of which the most pleasant is a collection of about a dozen con- 
temporary attacks on Montesquieu, one or two of which are able, but all 
of which are interesting because they show that to his own generation he 
was really caviare. What they appreciated was not the philosophic 

1 Frank Pick ( 1878-1941 ) was for many years associated with Laski on the 
Industrial Court. 



1100 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

outlook, but either the esprit or the discussion of early French constitu- 
tionalism. And I got also a fine engraving of Hobbes In which the old 
gentleman looks quite the most benign philosopher who ever threw a 
monkey-wrench into the philosophic works. He hangs now next to a pic- 
ture of Rousseau and the contrast between his sweet complacency of 
feature and the malignant uneasiness of Rousseau's expression is very 
striking. 

Of other things there is but little to say. Felix bombards me with litera- 
ture upon the election campaign on which I have only the distinct impres- 
sion that I like Smith and dislike Hoover; but upon his own activities he 
is silent and I am much more interested in them. One student who has 
come over from the Law School talks of him, to my joy, as easily the 
most respected teacher there, I have been interested, too, in a certain 
current of criticism that comes to me of Pound how true I know not 
but which in sum suggests the dawning sense that the mere amassing of 
materials and the refined separation of categories does not make a new 
jurisprudence. To one such I ventured the dictum that Morris Cohen was 
the outstanding legal theorist in America and found, to my pleasure, that 
a sense of this as a possible truth was not outside my visitor's powers of 
credence. But he queerly felt that poor Morris did not deserve the repu- 
tation 1 had given him because he had not written a book. My visitor, I 
add, spoke of anxiety felt at the Chicago Bar lest you be tempted to 
resign. He said he hoped you would go on without any fear that you 
iad outstayed your welcome. 

Our love to you both. Take care, please, and remember that life is even 
greater than certioraris, Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



1729 I (Eye) Street N.W., October 11, 1928 

My dear Laski: As a previous letter predicted, I, like you, have been filled 
with work till the cup overflowed. Unlike you I have had no amusing in- 
cidents to put a fizzle into it. I thought I had done well in polishing off 
125 certioram in vacation. But when the term began there were near 250 
and the Chief wanted to dispose of them all at once with dramatic 
pauses in the announcement to meet the invincible scepticism of the Bar, 
that won't believe that we each and all examine every one. The result for 
me I have indicated. Some of the JJ. are ready some worked late into 
the night, which I won't do, but I managed to be able to recite on all but 
3 which didn't matter. Now we are hearing arguments, and the new 
certs, that came in on Monday are done. The papers got hold of the fact . 
that this month I have reached a greater age than any judge who re- 
mained upon the Bench since the Court began which has added letters 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1101 

to be answered to the other chores. It doesn't look much like reading your 
books at present. I have given a note of them to my secretary to be called 
to my attention if leisure comes. I have read your piece in the Bookman. 1 
As you know I think you tend to confuse the necessary point of view taken 
by Courts (called Austinian by way of belittlement but really the only 
possible view for them) with ethical or social theory. As to this last you 
know that I also disagree. I don't know anything about the right of every 
man to an equal share on chances that doesn't seem to me the order 
of the universe and I am far from believing that man has in himself 
an independent fulcrum from which to react against that order. Of course 
it is open to you to prophesy that yours is the next step in the organic 
movement but I don't bother much about prophecies as my time must 
be very short. 

At odd minutes before and after coming here I have run through 
Philip LittelTs This Way Out. He has an amusing pen and in his shorter 
pieces has written sentences worth a week off the end of one's life. This 
seems to me a little too much for the theme. It is Adam and Eve in the 
Garden with diabolic accompaniments in the form of a parrot, called 
Paul, (Apollyon), a stork, &c with occasional messages from "J ovan " 
it would seem incredibly blasphemous to a fundamentalist, and seems, as 
I said, a little too detailed for an outsider. It leads up to the discovery of 
the function of sex indicated and predicted but not indelicately detailed. 
There are very amusing touches. One of the Mephistophelians Lucifer 
I think, takes a cigarette and lights it by breathing through his nose on the 
further end. Lucifer also gives an account of how he drafted a petition 
which 92% of the workers signed, and notwithstanding Jovah's reply that 
the works couldn't go on with the proposed hours, the new arrangement 
was made for 9 hours adoration instead of 12 and that fatigue, which 
formerly had set in at about the 9th hour, was virtually eliminated and 
production costs instead of increasing were lowered by 7 4/10% "a 
saving we passed on to the consumer. The output was larger, the produc- 
tion was of better quality. Grade A adoration was before long the order 
of the day and night." Enough of this I thought it might amuse you 
from one of your cooperators in the New Republic. I don't see but that 
sheet has become as frankly partisan as any party paper. But though Croly 
is a thinker he is not a writer and I skip his pieces. Butler told me a tale 
today that pleased me. Walker the mayor of New York was asked to come 
to a meeting just about to take place. He said he'd come if they wouldn't 
ask him to speak. They promised and of course the promise was broken 
so he rose and said "Ladies and gentlemen, as Marcus Antony said when 
he entered the boudoir of Cleopatra, 1 didn't come here to talk/" 

1 "The Crisis in the Modern State," 68 Bookman 182 (October 1928). 



1102 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

Apropos of what you get about Lamb from Howe's Life of Hazlttt I dare 
say it is true in a sense and I dare say that Carlyle's description of 
him as a snuffy, dingy, person is also true. So also I agree to any language 
of delight in his essays or letters yet when I went through them I felt 
as I used to feel when working in the old Law Library and saw the 
scenery that had charmed me on the stage the night before run out 
through a slot in the wall and loaded on a cart. But I have drooled long 
enough. Your letter rec'd this morning was delightful. 

Jours affectionately, 0. W. Holmes 



Washington, D. C., October 19, 1928 

My dear Laski: Your report of your latest experience comes this morning 
and brings the usual pleasure. The tale of your Baptist colleague and the 
glass of port is superlative. I have heard nothing corresponding, even 
though it would call a blush to the cheeks of innocence from my col- 
leagues; though Sutherland and Butler maintain a good average. The 
tension of work grows a little less. I have written my first opinion and 
it has been approved by all but Sanford who was the other way ab 
initio. 1 I felt a queer nervousness until I got it back, lest it betray some 
symptom of decline that I had not noticed. But I always have a nervous 
apprehension that someone will discover a chasm, until I get the opinion 
back. For the moment I am cheerful I am delighted at what you were 
told about Frankfurter. My secretary 2 agrees, subject he says to a differ- 
ent kind of respect felt for Williston, 3 which is easily understood. Willis- 
ton is a delightful creature, and admirable in the regular ruts. Frankfurter 
brings fire and invites to new adventures. I have just run through a little 
brochure by Zimmern on Learning and Leadership, at the beginning with 
some coolness, at the almost indefinite Oxford exquisiteness and at the 
readiness of the scholar to offer schemes for the world, but in the end 
with delight in his discourse on the relation of ideas to action, a subject 
that always stirs me and on which he talks nobly. He is a fine creature, 
but I should doubt whether he had quite found his proper place in the 
world. Only a few days ago did I discover that you had sent me Ben- 
tham's Comment on the Commentaries, for which, warm thanks. No time 
to read it yet A number of other books also encourage me. Liberty in 
the Modern World, 4 essays by people ranging from John Dewey and 

1 Money v. United States, 278 U.S. 17 (October 22, 1928). 

2 John E. Lockwood, now a practitioner in New York, had graduated from 
the Harvard Law School in June 1928. 

8 Samuel Williston ( 1861- ), beloved Professor of Law at Harvard, 1890- 
1938. 
'Freedom in the Modern World (Kallen, ed., 1928). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1103 

Chafee to Clarence Darrow. Lewis, America, Nation or Confusion. Sir 
Siraswamy Aiyar, Indian Constitutional Problems. What seems an enter- 
taining little book sent by Mrs. Brandeis The Russian Land by Albert 
Rhys Williams, etc. not to speak of articles including one on Legal Sci- 
ences by the, I suppose, great Kantorowitz. 5 Damn them all but one or 
two. You speak of Morris Cohen as an outstanding legal theorist. As you 
know I regard him with affection and reverence, but I hardly am aware 
of anything that I have felt to be a great contribution to legal theory. 
Like Henry Adams to someone who said that he had been with Charles 
and found him delightful "You found Charles delightful? You interest 
me." I suppose I may as well make up my mind that I am an old fogey, 
and sit down, but there is little legal theory that strikes me as worth talk- 
ing about. 

One week more of arguments and then there may be some repose. I 
have not known this feeling since I got here. 

Ever affectionately yours., 0. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 16.X.28 

My dear Justice: Life flows on merrily, and the term so far has been far 
more peaceful than I ever dared to hope. I have a new assistant to relieve 
the pressure, with the result that I have been able to get all my work 
concentrated on three days each week so that I confront the unwonted 
experience of real leisure in term-time. And that really means that I can 
work happily and uninterruptedly for four days each week. It feels quite 
wonderful and leaves me happier than I have been in years. 

Of news there is not a great deal, for the first fortnight in term is al- 
ways swallowed up by students. But we had a jolly dinner on Sunday 
with Nevinson as the guest of honour (his 71st birthday) and as he gazed 
upon your photograph he said "Tell him that if ever my faith in the 
United States falters, I think of him and am comforted" which I report 
because I agree with it. And to tea on Sunday we had a Calif ornian pro- 
fessor by the name of Kirk 1 (whom I know not otherwise) who said of 
you that for him and many of his colleagues your opinions were a source 
of permanent inspiration. So that you can feel how wide and deep is the 
sense of the ideas you have contributed to men of the most diverse ex- 
perience. 

The most interesting thing that has happened to me since I wrote last 
is for your very private ear. I got on Saturday a sudden summons to 

6 Herman Kantorowicz, "Legal Science A Summary of Its Methodology,** 
28 Columbia Law Review 679 (June 1928). 

1 Probably William Kirk ( 1880- ), Professor of Sociology at Pomona Col- 
lege. 



1104 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

Downing Street and went quite bewildered as to its purpose. When I got 
into the P.M.'s presence he said with extraordinary kindness that he had 
followed my work with great care and wanted to offer me the secretary- 
ship of the research committee of the cabinet with a salary about three 
times what I earn now. My breath was taken away and I said that I must 
have a day to think it over. After talk with Frida I went to see him this 
morning and declined it. For it would mean (I) that I could write no 
more (II) that I should research into things I might not believe in and 
(III) that my hands and tongue would be tied. He was extraordinarily 
land and said he regretted it as much for his sake as any other, that 
Haldane had urged it strongly and that he knew no one more fit for the 
post. Then he urged rne to go in for politics and tried to explain to me 
that I had a big career there. I was very moved by his kindness, but, of 
course, without a shred of doubt that what I am doing, especially with the 
independence it connotes, was five times more worth while than any offi- 
cial job. He could not have been more kind and I felt that after all the 
mere offer was some little Justification of what I have been trying to do. 
I wish I could picture to you his extraordinary kindness both in what he 
said and the way in which he made his offer. But I'm quite sure I was 
right. It would be appalling to be silenced and not to be able to work 
with the people and the things I really care about. Liberty once felt is too 
precious to make it worth while to go into harness. 

This little squeal of triumph must be forgiven me. I add to it (I know 
you will want to share in the things that please me) a letter from Meyer- 
son, (the best of French philosophers) telling me that he had read what 
I wrote in the Yale Review about Rousseau and that he was really moved 
by it. I suppose all flesh is heir to flattery and I was enormously pleased. 

In the way of reading, one or two things are worth recording. Item, I 
have read with immense pleasure a book on Metaphysical Foundations 
of Modern Science by one Burtt of Chicago, which I thought a first rate 
piece of work, well-written, thought provoking and learned. And I read a 
novel My "Brother Jonathan by Brett Young which, for some unexplored 
reason, moved me greatly and unlike most novels, made me feel that we 
underestimate in life the "pull" of personal influence as a factor for good. 
And I read one book which with all its crudities had much merit in it 
The Rise of Learned Societies in the 17th Century by an American lady 
(apparently dead) named Omstein. I also read Charley Merz's book 
about America called Bigger and Better Murders but, as I feel about most 
books on America, I thought it suffered from excessive simplicity. Of other 
books I read in the train a volume of Stevenson's letters and loathed him 
as a poseur who enjoyed invalidism and made the supreme use of it for 
publicity purposes. And I mention because honour commands it one per- 
fect book by E. Villey called the Sources of Montaigne. It is a superb 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1105 

tour de force for not only does it explain Montaigne as no other book I 
know but it is by a man blind from birth who is dependent absolutely on 
others both for reading and writing an amazing record. 

And I have bought one thing that pleases me. A first edition (only 
edition) of Grace's Nouvelle CynSe (1623) for a hundred francs, the 
first book pleading seriously for the organisation of Europe for the pur- 
poses of peace. I bid also for a Rembrandt etching (a little boy) in the 
third state. I risked eight pounds a sudden cheque from the publisher 
but it brought nearly eighty and I realised that Rembrandt is not for 
the likes of me. 

I suppose when you get this you will be scrutinising a new President. 2 
I am not greatly moved either way. I like Smith's speeches, and I dislike 
Hoover qua person; and as Smith's election would please Felix I am for 
Smith. But that isn't very intelligent. 

Our love heartily to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



October 24, 1928 

October 21, '61 (67 years ago) was Balls Bluff 
My dear Laski: Your letter just come starts the day with joy. I am really 
delighted at the offer made to you by the P.M. You deserved the recogni- 
tion and it makes me happy to know that you received it. I also con- 
fidently believe that you were right in declining, although I don't suppose 
my judgment to be worth much, except as to the general principles. I 
also am glad at the letter from the illegible French philosopher about your 
article on Rousseau. I wrote to you to this same effect some time ago. I 
was moved as he was. Also I thank you for the kind reports as to myself. 
Eternal doubt is the fate of old age unless it slumps into self-satisfaction! 
I suppose that I never shall see Nevinson again, but I wish that I might 
My wife showed me the other day an account of an interview with you 
inter alios in which you are reported to have said that you found 
President Wilson easy to work with. I did not know that you ever were 
in contact with him. When and what was it? 

1 have no reading to report except records. I wish that I could creep 
along upon I can't say your tracks, for you fly upon your lines of 
travel. There is a tale from Brandeis that Miss Norton (Charles's sister) 1 
is or was (I think she is or was 90 or more) a great authority on Mon- 
taigne, as to whom you tell me a wonderful story and that this is a trans- 
lation in 4 fat volumes with prefaces or headings or something supposed 

2 On November 7 Herbert Hoover defeated Alfred E. Smith in the Presi- 
dential election. 

1 Grace Norton (1834-1926), author of The Spirit of Montaigne (1908) and 
editor of Montaigne's Essays (3 vols. s 1925). 



1106 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

to be by her. But I don't want fat volumes or a translation. The book you 
mention I should like to see. 

I am just in the suspense incident to having circulated an opinion in a 
case, where we stood 5 to 4 after a reargument 2 I have not yet received 
the assent of my 4. V. and Br. have answered the rest not yet. It is a 
case that could be decided either way but one in which most of the argu- 
ments against my view I thought drool. I hope I didn't show it too freely 
but I am nervous. 

I wish I could tell you some tales like those you sent me, but I am too 
much a recluse to hear any. How one is bothered by past civilities peo- 
ple to whom one has been polite write that the Venerable Archdeacon A 
or the Chief Justice B is in one's neighborhood and that it would be nice 
if you were to do something. I just settle back and do nothing. The Su- 
preme Court is called upon before it calls, and if and as they don't know 
enough to call I let them slide down the ringing grooves of time. But such 
things are bores and tax the nerves. Then a woman whose husband one 
knew once in some correspondence writes that she is ill and hard up and 
can't I contrive a plan for her relief. Answer no I can't with a check, 
but it makes me uncomfortable for weeks. 

I began this letter joyful this morning. I send it grumbling after a day 
in court but things are not going badly. Af 'ly yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 28.X.28 

My dear Justice: A delightful letter from you was welcome beyond words; 
and I note your emergence from stacks of certioraris with calm joy. I have 
been pretty busy, but I have now got the term well organised so that I 
have time to read and write a little. I have not been out much, though 
yesterday I did an amusing thing by going to Canterbury and speaking to 
the Dean and Chapter on the problem of Church and State. I left them, I 
hope, thoroughly uncomfortable by arguing (I) that a church which 
claims to be under the lordship of Jesus Christ cannot take its doctrines 
from the King in Parliament (II) it ought therefore to be disestablished. 
Some of the canons obviously trembled for their delightful houses; and 
when I saw the Deanery with its Tudor-panelled rooms, its sixteenth cen- 
tury portraits by Holbein, its 17th century by Van Dyck and Lily, its 18th 
century by Reynolds and Gainsborough, I thought I understood why even 
the difficulties of establishment are endurable. I had also a jolly political 

2 Boston Sand and Gravel Co. v. United States, 278 U.S. 41. The majority 
held that under a special statute authorizing a particular claimant to sue the 
United States for the recovery of damages suffered in a collision with a naval 
vessel, interest should not be included in the award. Sutherland, J.> delivered 
a dissenting opinion in which Butler, Sanford, and Stone, JJ., concurred. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1107 

dinner at the House of Commons with MacDonald where I heard men 
speculate on the next cabinet in that curious way politicians have. Jones 
won't do because he has a bad temper. Brown we can't have because he 
tells everything to his wife who is even more indiscreet, and so on. It's an 
attractive game; but it amused me even more to note that each of the 
guests was most careful to assume that his claims could not be passed 
over and that he slept, so to say, with office as his bedfellow. Strictly entre 
nous, you will be interested to hear that Sankey L.J. is almost certain to 
be the next Labour Chancellor. Personally he would be an admirable ap- 
pointment, but deep as is my affection for him, I should be very sorry to 
see a judge taken off the bench to have office. It would mean the stirring 
of undesirable ambitions among many who have now ceased to be politi- 
cally-minded. I went also to heai a day's evidence before the Police Com- 
mission 1 and listened with amazement to the Police Commissioner say 
that the force is quite perfect and that things like the third degree, illegal 
questioning, etc. only occur in America. What the commission thought I 
do not know, but the witnesses I heard were quite incompetent for their 
jobs if they still thought that fairy-tale true after such things as the 
Savidge case. And when I heard a police inspector say that a witness 
can make a statement continuously for 13 hours without undue fatigue 
my eyes were certainly wide open. I went, too, with Frida to hear Mrs. 
McPherson, the evangelist from Los Angeles. 2 She spoke in a hall for ten 
thousand about 600 people were present. She aroused no enthusiasm 
at all, and what she had to say, in a hard, metallic voice, was never even 
commonplace. The most amusing thing was the presence on the platform 
of a famous English music-hall actress who is just cited as co-respondent 
in a notorious case; the lady evangelist chose her to lead the hymns which 
seemed curious in a fundamentalist assembly. But then I am ignorant in 
these things. I must not, inter alia, forget a visit I had from an old school 
friend who is now classical master at a great public school. He got a 
double-first at Oxford and every classical prize in sight. He came to tell 
me that he was about to resign, in order to devote himself to the British- 
Israel Movement an organisation which lives to show that the British 
are the lost Ten Tribes and insists that the Pyramids contain a detailed 
forecast of the future, e.g. another world-war in 1948; a great disaster in 
New York in 1962 etc. All this he told me with the calm simplicity of 
absolute conviction, leaving a vast bundle of literature more incredible 
than any I have seen. And he is a superb classical scholar whose sceptical 
critiques of the supposed Epistles of Plato are, I believe, considered first- 

1 See Report of the Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure 
(1929), Command Papers #3297. 

2 Aimee Semple McPherson ( 1890-1944); sensational in faith, in manner, and 
in personal life, her great successes, not surprisingly, were in Los Angeles. 



1108 LASKI TO HOLMES 

rate even by scholars like Jager [sic]. 9 I tried to find out the cause of this 
aberration but quite vainly. What he wanted from me was introductions 
to MacDonald and such like people whom he might warn of the truth 
before it was too late. I tried to be kind, but, of course, he took my re- 
fusal hard, and I felt that he left with the sense that I was a lost soul 
incapable of the higher ideals. 

In reading, one or two things have come my way I have really enjoyed. 
First a really brilliant American novel The Strange Case of Annie 
Spragg by Louis Bromfield which I conjure you and Mrs. Holmes not to 
fail to read. Then a work by one Brandt, a Dane writing in English, on 
Hobbes's System of Nature which is very learned and a real key to all 
sorts of unexpected avenues of 17th century thought. And a book by an 
old student of mine (Belasco) called Authority in Church and State wkich 
is a singularly moving account of the early Quakers and their political 
philosophy. I read, too, the Memoirs of Benes, the Czech who helped 
Masaryk found Czecho-Slovakia. He was a brilliant fellow to whom truth 
and honourable dealing never seemed especially important; and I was 
amused by his confidence at critical moments that "philosophy of history*' 
necessarily meant that things would turn out just as he wanted. It is a 
comfortable feeling to know that as you take each step inexorable fate is 
on your side. I have, finally, been reading A. E. Taylor's Plato which is 
entirely remarkable easily the best general book on Plato I ever read. 
On some points I am doubtful e.g. his view of the Laws as the finest piece 
of political thinking Plato ever did. But I got enormous pleasure out of it. 

And as the catalogues have begun to come from the booksellers I have 
picked up one or two things. The nicest is a perfect copy of Le nouveau 
Cynee (1623) in a charming old morocco binding. But nearly as nice is an 
Elzevir Tacitus in red morocco and as new as the day it was printed. I 
found, too, a good copy of the Hume-Rousseau letters which belonged to 
that queer old fellow Lord Kames, 4 and a one-volume edition of the works 
of that gloomy anti-democrat Fisher Ames 5 which belonged to Robert 
Lowe 6 who has marked all the anti-populace passages vigorously, obvi- 
ously, I expect, with a view to their use in the House of Commons. 

Well! When you get this you will have a new President. Felix sends 
me weekly eulogies of Al Smith and certainly he seems infinitely more 

3 Presumably Werner Jaeger; supra., p. 889. 

4 Henry Home (1696-1782), Lord Kames; Scottish judge and philosopher 
whose Essays on the Principles of Morality and National Religion (1751) was 
an attempted refutation of Hume. 

5 Fisher Ames (1758-1808), Yankee Federalist whose every instinct and 
prolific pen were dedicated to the war against Southern Jacobins. 

6 Robert Lowe (1811-1892), Viscount Sherbrooke; politician, whose greatest 
parliamentary achievement was effective leadership in opposition to Lord John 
Russell's Reform Bill in 1866. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1109 

attractive than Hoover. But I am afraid that I shouldn't vote for either 
of them if I were an American. 

Our warm love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



1720 I Street, N.W., November 13, 1928 

My dear Laski: A moment's breathing space and I turn to you. We are 
adjourned and my work for the moment is done. My last case, given on 
Saturday evening (it now is Tuesday), has been written, printed, dis- 
tributed and returned approved by all but one, who I don't doubt will 
approve it. 1 I have gone over the Cert.'s that will be presented when we 
come in next Monday and I have just this minute sent round a little 
dissent. 2 I can't think of anything more to do to make myself virtuous 
and disagreeable. I even have had time to read a good part of Warren's 
new book The Making of the Constitution, which is excellent, and so far 
as I can judge finally smashes the humbug talked about the economic 
origin of the Constitution. I thought Beard's book on that theme 3 a stinker, 
for all its patient research. For notwithstanding the disavowal of personal 
innuendo, it encouraged and I suspect was meant to encourage the notion 
that personal interests on the part of the prominent members of the Con- 
vention accounted for the attitude they took. Warren has the sense to 
realize that some men have emotions not dependent on their pocketbooks 
and brings out very forcibly what I don't doubt were the real dominant 
motives. Einstein (our minister) was here for a short call and away. He 
left a volume of Sceptical Essays by Bertrand Russell, which entertain so 
far as I have read, but seem rather light stuff. I suspect B.R. of being a 
sentimentalist disguised as a sceptic. E. also left an account of Hoover 
written by himself (Einstein) 4 that made me realise that Hoover was very 
nearly, and not improbably quite, a great man. I was glad he beat Smith, 
though there has been a sort of fad among the New York highbrows 
(New Republic, Dewey, Cohen, FF et al.) to blow Smith's horn, on what 
seemed to me very inadequate reasons. But in these days The New Re- 
public is a partisan like the rest, so far as I can see. My regard for some 
of its leading spirits makes me keep up my subscription but I should 
almost like to drop it I shouldn't like to tell Frankfurter. 

It's queer what an effect necessity and desperation have. This last case 
of mine, a little matter of statutes as to pay of some officer in the Navy, 

United States v. Lemon, 278 U.S. 60 (Nov. 19, 1928). 
* Liggett Co. v. BaUridge, 278 U.S. 105 (Nov. 19, 1928). 
8 Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the 
United States (1913). 
4 Lewis Einstein's "Hoover/* 130 Fort-Nightly Review 577 (November 1928). 



1110 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

found me in hopeless confusion at the end of the arguments and at the 
conference, but after I was locked up with it and had to write it, every- 
thing seemed to clear up (as far as possible upon a matter inherently 
doubtful because of obscure language). As I have told you before, I dare 
say, when you go right up and grab the lion, the skin comes off and it is 
the same old donkey that you know so well. 

Did I mention three little Chinamen making their appearance, sent by 
Wu? They came and sat silent in my library while I made desperate 
efforts to talk with them and to say something that they might care to 
hear. They are at the Washington University Law School I believe, and 
I feared that they didn't know very definitely what they wanted and 
weren't getting it. They vanished and I have heard no more. What the 
devil can I do in such a case? If you know, tell me. Little things worry 
and bother me I suspect more than when I was younger. 

This book of Warren's will take the few hours that I have available, 
but I wish at such moments you were at hand to give me a hint. Russell 
has spoken so of Watson's Behaviorism that I feel as if I ought to read 
it at once, in spite of the prejudices that the title raises in my mind. 
Philosophy always has the right of way, the rest is incident, and that I 
don't believe, with which summary I bid you adieu. 

How mistaken the notion that one ought to be doing something. It 
bothers me all the time, and when I take a drive through enchanting 
colors I find it hard to say to myself with conviction, this is life, this is 
self-justifying as an end. I don't feel quite right till I turn off a decision. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 13.XI.28 

My dear Justice: I feel a pig for having allowed a fortnight to go by 
without a letter; especially as I have had two of real delight from you. 
But I have been working hard at that article on 17 18th century political 
thought, and it is only just done. 1 Though I say it who shouldn't, I think 
it is really interesting, and I only wish that instead of ten thousand words, 
it had been double, for I could then have said in detail things worth 
saying, e.g. Bossuet's dependence on Hobbes, that I could only hint at. 
However, you shall see it one day and, I hope, approvingly. 

I can't imagine where your reporter gets any connection of me with 
Wilson from. I saw him twice in my life: once in Washington in February, 
1918 and once in Boston in March, 1919, in each case for an hour. I 
imagine the gent, has either got me mixed up with someone else or 
misunderstood some remarks of mine that I don't remember making. I 

1 Perhaps "The Age of Reason," supra, p. 1085. 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1111 

add that I was (I have no right to be) a little disappointed by your 
presidential election. I was glad to see the solid South go at last, 2 and 
I assume that Hoover is a really able person. But I wish he had said 
something, for I like a bonny fighter in politics and there seems an 
unpleasant dourness about him which makes me a little uneasy. However, 
these things usually work themselves out. I should gather from Felix's 
lyric in the New Republic that he expected a very different result. 3 
Of other things my hermit-like existence this past fortnight has not 
given me much chance to know. I had a pleasant dinner with Allyn 
Young, the economist, at which I met one T. S. Adams of Yale, 4 (a 
specialist on taxation) who spoke with great warmth about you; and a 
very pleasing dinner with Henderson, 5 who represents us on the Repara- 
tions Commission at Paris and had many pleasing stories to tell. The best, 
I think, was of a Normandy peasant who came to ask whether there was 
any chance of the Germans paying in full, as he had a good chance to 
pick up some of his neighbour's claims cheap, and he was prepared to 
offer the commission a discount for cash. Henderson said he stayed 
hours, explaining to everyone that this was the chance of a lifetime. And 
I must add a story told me of a Jew who found himself in a town where 
he was entirely unknown. This seemed to him a great chance to eat 
some ham as he had never before tasted it owing to fear of detection. 
He ordered some and was just about to put the first piece in his mouth 
when a terrific thunderstorm broke out. The Jew shrugged his shoulders, 
put the plate away and said to heaven, "Oh, well! if you object, you 
object." And I must, I think, tell you of my colleague Beales 6 who had a 
Chinaman to interview. The latter's English was poor and it was not 
easy to follow just what he wanted. At last Beales made out that it was 
a lady secretary he required. So a student was sent along to the hotel 
and the next morning her indignant mother arrived. Did we know the 
Chinaman? Not personally, said Beales, but he had been sent to the 
School under the most unexceptionable auspices. That is as may be, 
said the mother, but when my daughter arrived, he explained that what 
he wanted was less a secretary than an intimate lady friend. And I must 
tell you of our students. We have a governor of the School whose pas- 
sion for publicity is incredible. He approached the editor of the students' 

2 Largely because of the fact that Smith was a Roman Catholic much of the 
Democrat's Southern electorate had voted for Hoover. 
s "Why I Am for Smith," 56 New Republic 292 (Oct. 31, 1928). 

4 Thomas Sewall Adams (1873-1933), Professor of Political Economy at 
Yale, 1916-1933. 

5 Not identified. 

6 Hugh Lancelot Beales (1889- ), lecturer and reader in Economic 
History at London University. 



1112 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

magazine and offered his photograph for insertion in the coming number. 
The student politely refused whereupon the governor became pressing. 
So the editor accepted and in the next number it appeared with the 
words "printed by request" underneath. We were asked to interfere but 
decided, I think wisely, that the students must be responsible for their 
own magazine. 

I have read much lately. Graham Wallas's daughter has published a 
book on Vauvenargues* sound and solid but, like her, depressingly 
dull. But a student of mine, Belasco, has published a volume on the 
political theory of the early Quakers which is admirable in substance and 
beautifully written, and another student has written one on the Non- 
jurors 8 which blows Macaulay's view of them sky-high. Then, in bed, I 
have re-read Mommsen with an admiration as great as my dislike. 
I loathe his Caesarism, and the whole thing reads, even more than when 
I first read it fifteen years ago, like a pamphlet on what Bismarck would 
have been like had he lived under the Roman Republic. And for some 
lectures on Stoicism, I have been reading Seneca not only with delight but 
with the sense that it would be difficult to find a saner working philoso- 
phy. And in this context the fourth volume of Gomperz's Greek Thinkers 
which is quite A-l. And in the way of lighter reading I thoroughly en- 
joyed Louis Bromfleld's Strange Case of Anne [sic] Spragge the story 
of a middle Western lady who lives in Italy and upon whose body are 
found, at death, the stigmata a book with a beautiful irony running 
through it. And last but not least, the final volume of Nevinson's 
reminiscences 9 which, as in the case of the earlier volumes, are not only 
thrilling but superbly written, with a thread of irony running through 
them which is quite superb. Frida and I dined with him the other day 
and he spoke with great affection of you. I hope his book will come 
your way. 

In bookbuying, there is not much to tell. I have found some nice 
French things but the two or three supreme things I have telegraphed 
for from catalogues have all been gone before I could get in. One thing 
was amusing. I went to a London shop for a book in a catalogue and 
went on the way to the university. I arrived there at 9 just before it was 
open and found four of my colleagues waiting, all in search of the same 
book. So we tossed up who should have it. Tawney won and went in 
only to find that it had been sold while the catalogue was printing! 

Our love to you both. Here it is as mild as June and roses are still 
being sold on the streets. I hope Washington bears that aspect. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

7 May Graham Wallas, Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues ( 1928). 

8 Lucy Mary Hawkins, Allegiance in Church and State ( 1928). 
8 Last Changes, Last Chances ( 1928). 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1113 

1720 1 (Eye) Street, November 28, 1928 

My dear Laski: Your letter has just been read and I begin my answer 
at once I have been shut up this week with a cold merely in 
obedience to the doctor's caution. He said I could go to Court on Mon- 
day. Being rather seedy I haven't done much besides the cases sent home 
to me as it generally is agreed that absent judges having the papers 
may take part in the decisions. But after finishing Warren's Making of the 
Constitution I did read Bertrand Russell's Sceptical Essays amusing 
but as I think I have said, never quite seeming to touch bottom 
philosophically. He put me on to Dr. Watson's Behaviorism a very 
good book though so preoccupied with resolving all our conduct into 
reflex reactions to stimuli, that he almost denies that consciousness means 
anything and that memory is more than a useless and misleading word. 
However much one may believe that men are automata one must recog- 
nize that what we call consciousness, memory &c. &c. are part of the 
phenomena and we can't say that the phenomena would have been 
the same if those supposedly epiphenomena were absent. I now am in 
the middle of a Life of Zola by Matthew Josephson printed as No. 1 of 
Vol. 1 of the Book League Monthly. It was sent to me I suppose as an 
advertisement. It is very interesting but not for the first time I find 
the French literary men unpleasing when seen close to a sort of 
heroism in enduring squalor to be sure but wilfulness and vanity 
getting into it mean tricks of self-advertisement, and rather ill smelling. 
One can't but admire his force and courage in framing a great scheme 
and carrying it out but at the same time one doesn't believe there 
was much real science or philosophy in framing it. As to the carrying out 
I can't recite as I've read but few of his tales. I used to say dull but 
improving I now say I don't doubt improving but dull. I never 
realized before that Cezanne was a friend of Zola's youth. They seem to 
have drawn apart. Cezanne I imagine being a much more genuine 
idealist than Zola. Alas I have not seen enough of Cezanne's painting 
to have an impression of him. I shall try to see Nevinson's book. He 
left affectionate memories with us. Is his son still painting and success- 
ful? 1 It would be vain for me to try to follow the great procession of 
your reading. Even if I were not so much slower the court would take 
most of my time. I am eager to see the article on political thought. I 
am sure of my interest. I forget now what the article was that spoke 
of you and Wilson. It had a series of interviews one purporting to be 
with you and to the effect that I mentioned. I have not worried much 
about the election, but, as I told you, have the impression that Hoover is 
not impossibly a great man I never saw him but once. He was not 
1 Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946), supra, p. 744. 



1114 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

prepossessing but as the talk went on for a few minutes he showed 
a penetrating eye for material facts and left me impressed. This was 
when he first appeared here on his return from Europe. When I came to 
your lectures on Stoicism and reading Seneca (my first impression was 
lectures on Stevenson and reading Samoa) I respect your poly-gluttony. 
Well, dear boy, I must go back to work. Your letters are an achievement, 

Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 20.XL28 

My dear Justice: The weeks slip quickly away; and it is now less than 
a month before my yearned for Christmas vacation. I am, at the moment, 
rather hard-worked; for my colleague, Lees-Smith, is away ill, and a good 
deal of his lecturing falls necessarily on my shoulders. But I am 
astonishingly fit, and when I look at the heap of typed mss at my side, 
I feel almost pious in the sense of duty performed. 

Since I wrote last week, much has happened. I have been up to 
Glasgow and back, to give a lecture to the university; very pleasant 
academic talk there, and an envious sense that the Scottish professor has 
an easy time. The professor of philosophy, for instance, lectures from 
8:30 to 10 on four days a week, and has no other duties; were I so 
placed, I would move intellectual mountains! Then a joyous dinner with 
Sankey last night, one of the best I have ever had even with him. He told 
me much of his new work, finding the Court of Appeal far more interest- 
ing than nisi prius, and feeling enormously relieved at the absence of 
criminal work. Then, too, good talk with a German philosopher who 
told me that the main characteristic of the youth there today is the 
breakdown of Hegelianism. It is too strait, and too complete for the 
new generation. To me that is pleasant news; for I think the test of 
creativeness, at least in social questions, is anti-Hegelism. Indeed, I am 
sometimes tempted to believe that if one could work out its pedigree 
in detail, it would turn out to be a kind of stepchild of Calvinism in 
decay, and this isn't half so far-fetched as such a bald statement would 
seem to imply. I had also a very moving interview with a young Italian 
exile a professor who had published a protest against being compelled 
to laud the "corporate state" of Mussolini. He was first dismissed; then 
nearly beaten to death in his own house by a gang of Fascist ruffians; 
and escaped by night over the Swiss frontier leaving everything he 
possessed to be confiscated. The problem is what to do with such men. 
I have got him a few lectures, but that merely keeps a transitory wolf 
from the door. I wish I could reproduce his description of that escape 
the horror of sound, the dread of being caught by the beam of a passing 
car, the fear of the frontier guards, the sense that every passer-by must 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1115 

know who you are and can hear the beating of your heart. I made the 
poor fellow divinely happy by getting a friend of mine to make arrange- 
ments to take his fiancee out of the place by engaging her as his wife's 
lady's maid, and we hope that this will be effected in the next ten 
days. Certainly his experience makes you feel that the simplicity of 19th 
century liberty has much to commend it. I do not like, being old- 
fashioned, etatisme on the new model. Nor must I forget the Japanese 
gentleman who visited me, with a list of questions he desired me to 
answer. No. 1 was the future of Western Civilisation? No. 2. What did 
I think of the population question? No. 3. What would happen to In- 
dustrial England in the next ten years? There were 22 of them altogether 
and I am afraid that my refusal to answer them on the ground of 
ignorance left him sadly disillusioned about me. He kept saying "J a P a - 
nese students say you are a great teacher and yet you keep reply you 
know not. Have I offended?" and I would try and explain that I was a 
teacher and not a prophet, a distinction which seemed entirely beyond 
his grasp. 

In the way of reading, I have had a happy time. First I do commend 
to you and Mrs. Holmes what I believe to be a great novel I use the 
word advisedly. It is by Henry Williamson and is called The Path. 
Please set it down as worth your time and patience. Then I read Colonel 
House's Papers on which I permit myself the sole reflexion that what 
they seem to omit is the fact that during those years I still believe that 
Wilson was president of the United States. I have also, for my Glasgow 
lecture, had a big dose of Montesquieu. I was as convinced as ever of 
the greatness, but perhaps a little more struck than formerly by the 
large proportion of trivialities and the desire to evade clarity when it 
came to central issues. Still, I think, an infinitely bigger person than 
most of his fellows, though the thought grows on me that in 18th 
century France the biggest man, who saw the furthest, was Diderot and 
that if I could pick out one of them for a day's talk I should choose 
him. I also read a book on Vauvenargues by Graham Wallas's daughter 
but it was dull and old-maidish and full of tiny minutiae which it was 
not worth while to put into print. Another book I heartily enjoyed was 
W. H. Wickwar, an old student of mine, on the Struggle for the Freedom 
of the Press in England. That I think was worthy of Hammond or 
Trevelyan and they would not, I believe, resent its company on the 
shelves with their books. 

I have had, also, some pleasant purchases, though of a rather 
recondite kind. I mention (for my satisfaction) filie Merlat's Traite 
du pouvoir soiwerain (1685) which I believe to be the first book to 
show signs of Hobbes's influence in France; and Linguet's Lett res sur 
la theorie des lofa civiles (1767) which is the most powerful contemporary 



1116 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

criticism of Montesquieu I know. Oh! I must not forget to tell you that 
in one of the learned psychoanalytic journals a paper has appeared pur- 
porting to show that Rousseau's general will is intimately connected with 
his inability to contain his urine. I mentioned this casually to a young 
colleague of mine who is writing a book on Rousseau, and found to my 
horror that he took it with profound seriousness. I wonder if my horror 
means that I am really intelligent, or is simply proof that I am beginning 
to be inappreciative of novelty? 

Our love, dearly, to you both. I arouse your curiosity by saying that 
a really pleasant surprise Is in store for you. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Devon Lodge, 30.XI.28 

My dear Justice: Let me begin with the fulfilment of a duty. I went on 
Wednesday to a lecture given by Leslie Scott (quite admirable) at the 
School of Economics. We had some talk of you and he charged me (a) 
to give you his love and (b) to tell you that he has been overwhelmed 
with this Indian Commission before which he is counsel, that as soon 
as It is over he will write to you. 1 

I have been fearfully busy two big cases in the Industrial Court, a 
host of committees, some book-reviews, a visit to University College, 
Cardiff. But in ten days my term is over and I can sit back comfortably 
o'nights for six weeks. At least I've got a good bit of reading done, some 
of It most pleasant. The new Lytton Strachey (Elizabeth and Essex) 
I enjoyed hugely but with big reservations (I) if Essex were the third 
rate Alcibiades he makes out he could never have exerted great influence 
with the populace (II) if Bacon were the crafty little attorney he paints 
him someone else wrote the essays (III) William Cecil was more than 
a sly man weaving webs in a corner. But with all this I think his picture 
of Elizabeth does catch a sense both of her mystery and majesty as I 
have never before seen it caught in print. My only difficulty with the 
method is that it seems to suggest a much greater intimacy with the 
motives of people than I believe one gets in real life. He has a habit of 
making the person the Instrument of a theme rather in the logical 
precise way of the French. I believe it oversimplifies and my reading of 
life is that all over simplification leads necessarily to misjudgment. Then 
I read with infinite pleasure Eddington's Nature of the Physical World 
which for 24 hours almost persuaded me that I had caught a glimpse 
of what the new physics was really about. It wasn't, of course, true; 
but the sensation, while it lasted, was charming. I read also Lansor/s 

1 The Report of the Indian Statutory Commission, under the chairmanship of 
Sir John Simon, was issued in May 1930 (Command Papers #3568, 3569). 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1117 

Bossuet a splendid portrait, to me over-eulogistic but making you feel 
that there were solid grounds for calling him the last of the fathers. And 
I must, too, fell you of a German short story which moved me greatly 
and, since I know of no translation, is worth a few lines here. It is of 
a huge porter in Vienna who is hungry and without a job. He is a man 
to whom misfortune always comes. When he visits the Labour Exchange 
the only place they can send him is to a circus. There he is told that 
they have a vacancy for a tiger. The animal has died and if he is willing 
to be sewn up in the skin and to be put in the lion's cage for an hour 
each day, he can have a job. After much debate he accepts. Then the 
writer describes the night of agony spent by the porter as he wonders 
what will happen to him in the cage. The hour arrives, he is sewn up, 
and is so terrified that he has to be driven into the cage with whips. The 
lion growls and in his terror he falls over it to be met with a whisper 
of "Don't be so clumsy you fool . . . that's my foot" and he realises 
that the lion, like himself, is another poor hungry devil. The thing, down 
to the climax, or anti-climax is perfectly done, especially the analysis of 
the fear the porter feels and the sudden effect on him of hearing the 
whisper from inside the skin. I read too a volume of lectures by T. R. 
Glover called Democracy in the Ancient World which I commend to 
you quite the best thing of its kind, I think, since Zimmern's Greek 
Commonwealth. It is published by Cambridge. 

In the way of entertainments I have not done very much. We had a 
pleasant dinner at Winston's but of that semi-official type where you get 
no intimate talk. I sat next to a Frenchman who had been in seven 
cabinets but had never held office for more than six months at a time. 
He amused me by talk of the severity of English morals. "I hear" he said, 
"that practically none of your statesmen has a mistress." I said I thought 
that was so. "Well," he said, with an inimitable shrug of the shoulders, 
"I have seen their wives, and I do not understand it." I went also to 
Grand Night at Lincoln's Inn which I enjoyed greatly though the 
talk was rather too much in the realm of (to me) unknown legal incident 
I was pleased to discover that to all of them F. Pollock was a land of 
hero, held in real awe and reverence. The Prime Minister made a charm- 
ing little speech and the Master of the Rolls a reply that would have 
been very effective if he had not learned the peroration off by heart. And 
in this context I must not forget to tell you of the letter I received from 
a Japanese professor asking to see me. I invited him to lunch and 
took him to the High Table. There I introduced him to my colleague 
Beveridge whom he surprised by saying "Laski great author, damned fine 
fellow in Japan" with a grin that obviously displayed his intense pride at 
his mastery of colloquial English. He paid for his lunch by presenting me 
with two typed sheets of questions of which the first was "what if any 



1118 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

is the future of Western Civilisation/' I said, oracularly, "Ah, what, if 
any!" and he took it quite happily and passed without demur to the 
next question. He said he knew my "brothers" in America and when 
I tried to guess what he meant it turned out that he was translating 
"confreres" into English. I add to him a German who brought me a 
sheaf of detailed enquiries into the law of corporations on its ultra vires 
side. I did my best for him and he then asked if he could see my library 
here. I said of course yes; and last Sunday he arrived at 3 (having been 
asked at 4:30) and with difficulty we persuaded him to leave at 7:30 
so that we could go out to dine. I am appalled at my good nature. 

I am waiting anxiously for the results of a telegram to a French book- 
seller. If, oh, if, it is successful I shall be tempted to believe in Prov- 
idence. 

Our love, as always, to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



1720 I Street N.W., December 13, 1928 

My dear Laski: Another letter today and the last one not answered! 
Well, I have been hard driven and now am rewarded with a hope 
of leisure in our adjournment, as my work is done. I haven't looked at 
Elizabeth and Essex but I may and I feel as if I should find your 
criticisms just and delicate also I am glad you saw Leslie Scott a 
mighty good man. Why don't they make him a judge? In connection with 
having finished my work I forgot to mention that Brandeis looked in on 
me and said he came to see how the leisure class live. Frankfurter 
lunched and spent a good piece of the afternoon with me yesterday. He 
seemed in fine condition. He is another who like you and to some extent 
\Vu (who has just printed a book of essays) amaze me by the number 
of their swift penetrating contacts with such a variety of subjects. I 
keenly enjoyed his visits. To put the comble just before my supper this 
evening Dorothy Brown and a clever young woman whose name I didn't 
get called here and I had a brisk jaw with them. I don't see many 
people outside the Court in these days. Another exception was the 
British Ambassador a few days ago, an old friend and a very sweet 
nature I should think. He surprised me by asking me for my book of 
Legal Papers I guess on account of his son who though with Morgan 
has not given up his interest in the law. Frankfurter's wife and another 
have just edited the letters of Sacco and Vanzetti. I talked with him a 
little on the subject. He is convinced of their innocence but I was 
not convinced that too much talk had not been made on the theme. The 
New Republic recurs to it from time to time. But the New Republic 
strikes me as having become partisan in tone of late judging from an 
occasional glance. It seemed to nag at Coolidge and I rather think 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1119 

believes a number of things that I don't. I come nearer to reading it 
than I do reading any other newspaper but I can't be said to read that. 
I went to the Congressional Library this morning and tried unsuccess- 
fully to get the History of Political Thought in the XVI Century, that 
you recommended and so fell back on Legouis and Cazamian's History 
of English Literature passages in which struck me greatly last sum- 
mer. But I get little time to read. Each day brings demands that take 
time. I was pleased to learn the other day that Harcourt Brace &c. had 
sold over 2500 copies of my Legal Papers which seems to be doing 
extraordinarily well when the contents are considered. Apropos of the 
German who looked so long at your library have you no anxieties lest 
some such should whip a rare pamphlet into his pocket? I keep my 
most thief -worthy volumes out of reach so far as may be. I wish I 
saw more of the illustrious to tell you about and had your power to 
tell of the meetings, but if you keep up relations with a recluse you 
must take the consequences. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 

Vandevanter lent me the privately printed letters of Dickens to (Miss 
Beadnell) the prototype of Dora in David Copperfield including later 
ones when their acquaintance was resumed and according to the 
editor she appeared in her later phase as Flora (I think the name is) in 
Little Dorrit Clennam's early love. I think it a fishy business to print 
such things. 



Devon Lodge, 16.XII.28 

My dear Justice: If I guess aright, this should reach you about Xmas 
day. It brings you both our warm affection and every sort of good 
wish. I hope the cold has really gone. Brandeis writes me that he has 
never known you in better form. 

I have been fiendishly busy, but am now in haven with six weeks 
vacation ahead. Certainly it is a relief, for the work piled up abominably. 
I had three difficult cases in the Industrial Court, one of which took a 
whole day of conference before I could get some concessions made to 
my views. I have had three Ph.D. examinations in one of which we had 
to fail the candidate; and that always wrings my nervous withers. But 
when a man has 27 footnotes in the same order as the identical foot- 
notes in Doumergue's [sic] Calvin and protests (though a clergyman) that 
the order is coincidental, I think one must take a stern view of the laws 
of probability. I have had also to examine candidates for a research 
fellowship both orally and by paper. So that with lectures et al. I emerge 
definitely bloody, but, I think, equally definitely unbowed. 

Of other things let us chant. I ask you to welcome with me the advent 
to this house of a perfect copy of L'Apologie de Rene Herpin which is 



1120 LASKI TO HOLMES 

Bodin's defence of his Republique and also the discovery of a copy of the 
first edition of Pascal's Pensees for ninepence, which I sold for eight 
pounds. I think I let it go too cheap, but I did not desire the reputation 
of avarice. I have also found a nice collection of French Utopias circa 
1700 and they Interest me enormously not only because they are very 
good reading but also because they confirm a pet hobby of mine about the 
influence of the voyages e.g. the Jesuit Relations on political theory. It is 
clear that these things were well known to Rousseau and profoundly 
affected him, as well they might. I bought also, for a song, a collection 
of lawyers' speeches circa 1600-50 (French) which make queer read- 
ing. They are useful to me because of their Gallican tone, the expressions 
of hostility to the Jesuits, their reliance on the necessary self-sufficiency 
of the temporal power etc., but they certainly make one understand the 
fleeting character of oratorical success. One or two of them are famous; 
and such Jong-winded artificialities, with intolerable classical allusions 
strained to bursting point, I rarely came across. I bought, also, for a song 
the catalogue of a Frenchman's Libraiy 1715-1772 with his notes upon 
his purchases. It Is fascinating. He begins with theology and romances 
and little by little emphasis changes, until after 1760 he Is mainly buying 
the Encyclopedists and the economists. Voltaire whom he notes in 1730 
as "pemfleur" is in 1755 M fe Ion Voltaire" and after Mirabeau aine he 
writes, with obvious pride, "je Tai rencontre a Tarn chez mon libraire." 
It was only three dollars and a pleasant plaything of which I hope to 
make a pretty article. 

In the way of reading there is not much to record. I have had a good, 
stiff dose of Burke in preparation for a bicentenary piece I have to 
write. 1 How unanswerable he is, and how wrongheaded! I re-read, too, 
Morley on him, with pleasure, but with less pleasure than I have known. 
I thought I detected a certain primness of mind. Then, for work, I read 
Puffendorf who seemed to me somewhere between fifth and sixth-rate; 
a reputation quite beyond my understanding. Dear little Wu sent me his 
volume of essays and" though I could not share all his enthusiasms (e.g.) 
I am unmoved by Stammler and (pace you) Dewey s Nature and Ex- 
perience. 1 thought they showed a charming spirit and I was glad to be 
able to write him a sincere note of congratulation. And I must not forget 
to add that I was sent for review a volume of Americana by various 
people called The American Caravan I read a good deal in the train 
and gathered from it that most women around the age of twenty in New 
York cannot keep out of strange men's bedrooms an experience I never 
met in my day; proof, I suppose, that new economic conditions rapidly 
change the mores of a civilisation. Felix sent me the Sacco-Vanzetti 
Letters which his wife had edited. I do not think I should have printed 

1 See, f n/ra, pp. 1125, 1135. 



1928] HOLMES TO LASKI 1121 

so large a bulk. But even as they are, one cannot help being deeply moved 
by them, and they reinforce one's fear that a grave judicial error was 
made by the Massachusetts Courts I need not say to you that I do not 
think your Court had a right to interfere. But if I were a Massachusetts 
judge I should not, especially as new facts emerge, feel very happy. 

Chafee wrote me at length about Harvard. He was, gratefully to my 
ear, lyrical about Felix, and Brandeis writes to me that F. in his judgment 
"the most useful lawyer in the United States". ... I was appalled at 
the size of the law school catalogue he sent me, but then the thing I hate 
most is the illusion of bigness and I do not doubt that I am prejudiced 
in this regard. Which reminds me to tell you that a learned German 
professor came to my seminar the other day and heard me play devil's 
advocate for two hours. At the end he thanked me for an interesting 
afternoon and added with real concern "But have you no convictions? 
Do you not enforce a doctrine?* 7 , and was, I fear, gravely concerned to 
hear that I did not think that was the teacher's job. 

We shall stay here over Xmas and then go abroad for a brief change, 
I think to Antwerp as I hear unofficially that I shall be asked to lecture 
in Paris and two cities are better than one. 

Love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



1720 Eye Street, December 29, 1928 l 

My dear Laski: This will not be too late to wish you a happy New Year 
or to express my happiness in thinking from your letters and what I 
hear that all is going successfully with you. I was delighted also at what 
you tell me in your letter (received a day or two ago) about Frank- 
furter what Chafee and Brandeis say. I also am unmoved by Stammler 
but grieve that you are not hit by Dewey's Nature and Experience. Wu 
will be proud of your congratulations. His exaltation of me coupled with 
a letter that I received later, and that I considered one of the chief 
rewards of my life, make me feel as if I had finished, although I don't 
think it wrong in me to keep on at the work non obstant misgivings. 
There is no use in talking about that. One must make up one's mind as 
best one can. You speak of Morley's primness of mind which expresses 
well enough the quality that has limited my pleasure in his writing and 
led me to read him but rarely. It was a disappointment years and years 
ago after the first delight at meeting a civilized man to feel this limitation 
and to realize that he wasn't opening Paradise. I have had time during 
the recess to read the first volume of the History of English Literature 
that you put me onto Legouis and 2nd vol. Cazamian. I read part of 
volume 2 last summer and was more impressed than I am by volume 
1 A brief note from Laski, dated December 26, is omitted. 



1122 HOLMES TO LASKI [1928 

1 though that is admirable and instructive. I should have liked to read 
in the authors referred to, as I went along, but I get too little time. 
I shan't attempt to finish volume 2 at present as a sitting begins next 
week, and I have lighter stuff, such as Elizabeth and Essex uncommon 
good reading as Strachey always is. My Secretary gave me The South 
Wind, Norman Douglas, an extravaganza of which I should think there 
was too much, but I have read only a little. Christmas naturally is less 
of an event with me than formerly but still, like every other damn thing 
it took time. And after this brief bulletin I must be off to a conference of 
the JJ. Affectionately yours, 0. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 29.XIL28 

My dear Justice: I ought to have written you earlier, but I have had 
my annual dose of influenza, and that has meant a week in bed. How- 
ever I am about again and rather rested than anything else; and tonight 
I go off with Frida to Antwerp for a week's real holiday. 

The main experience in bed was the rediscovery of Thackeray. Granted 
everything that can be said against him (I) that he sniffles a little too 
much (II) that he has a grain of Podsnappery (III) that he lays on too 
thick the colours of vice and virtue, I hereby take solemn oath that he 
was a very great man. Item, he could by God, tell a story; item, he could 
make living creatures of flesh and blood; item, he was a great historian 
where else in the world do Swift and Johnson and Richardson and 
Steele stand out so perfectly as they do in Esmond and The Virginians? 
No; it may not be fashionable, but I go bail for Thackeray. Second I 
desire to affirm that we talk much nonsense about the supreme aphoristic 
talent of the French. I conjure you to read Pearsall Smith's exquisite 
Treasury of English Aphorisms, and tell me if what you find there is one 
whit inferior to La Rochefoucauld or Pascal or Vauvenargues? That's a 
book, if you like! I desire further to affirm that I have discovered a great 
philosopher Emile Meyerson whose Explication dans les sciences has 
revealed a new world to me. It's a world, if I make myself plain, for 
Sundays; but it is extraordinarily revealing, and it gives me the un- 
comfortable sense that the recent history of science makes Berkeleian 
idealism more satisfactory as an epistemology than any other view. I 
mean that admit the existence of a reality "out there," scientific dis- 
covery is, at bottom, simply a system of observer's patterns which at most 
have statistical validity. I add that Meyerson took me to Hume and I 
was more impressed by the sheerly devastating brilliance of his mind 
than I can ever remember before. And I wish I knew why the logicians 
have made so small an advance in the theory of induction. 

You ask why L. Scott has not been made a judge. I imagine the 



1928] LASKI TO HOLMES 1123 

answer to be that an ex-solicitor-general would not accept anything 
less than the headship of a court or membership of the Court of Appeal 
There has been no vacancy in the first type since he was in office; and 
the recent tradition of the second (a good one, I think) has been the 
promotion of the best from within. But I have a half-suspicion that he 
may get one of the two new lordships of appeal which are to be created 
in the new year. I hope so; for though I don't think him very able, he has 
great integrity of character and a fine sincerity. The lecture I listened to 
was ordinary in substance but it had an air of real distinction about it. 

My influenza has kept me from seeing people until the other day. 
But I was vastly amused by two incidents of this week-end. Yesterday 
a gentleman asked to see me with a name that I did not know. I sent 
out word that I was busy but he said it was highly important. When he 
came in, he coughed, put a fine, silk hat carefully on a chair, and spoke 
substantially on these lines, I was on the brink of fame. My work and 
personality were beginning to be noticed. I might easily become a figure 
of mark. What I needed now was judicious advertising, a skilful presen- 
tation of my merits to the public. I must be present at the right dinners. 
I must be talked about in the right circles. A judicious expenditure of 
fifty pounds with him would see me, by say May or June, well on the 
road to the distinction I deserved. I tried to get in a word in vain. When 
he had exhausted himself I explained that I could not take advantage 
of the offer. He opined I might be deterred by the price; he might quote 
a special rate of forty pounds. I said I would not, I feared, do it for noth- 
ing. He regretted that, in an age when advertising was the road to fame, 
I did not perceive its merits. Could I give him the name of any colleagues 
less inclined than I to hide their lights under a bushel? Isn't that superb? 

The second visitor was an old gentleman from Hastings who had 
discovered that the Pyramids contain a revelation of the future. He could 
not get a publisher for his book. A grandson of his was a pupil of mine 
and had spoken in high terms of my kindness. Being assured that his 
facts were sound, he thought it possible that his literary style was 
defective. Would I revise his book for him for a suitable fee, say twenty 
pounds. I explained that I could not as I was sceptical of the thesis. He 
told me I could read the book which contained approximately one 
million words. I said that if I were he I would try the Theosophical 
Society which was, I believed, deeply interested in the pyramids. I 
therefore gave him a letter to Lady de la Wan 4 asking her to treat the old 
gentleman kindly. There, you would say, the story should end with 
an angry letter from Lady de la Warr to me. On the contrary, my dear 
Justice, I received today a warm letter of thanks from her, saying that 

1 Lady De La Warr, wife of the ninth Earl, was an eager believer in the 
theosophical movement. 



1124 LASKI TO HOLMES [1928 

the book is highly remarkable. Among other things, the gentleman's 
calculations show conclusively that the Pyramid (I do not gather which) 
predicts the King's illness, the election of Hoover, for this year, and other 
equally remarkable things. The proof seems to be that Al Smith multiplied 
by the number of his votes and divided by the height of the Pyramid 
equals the number of the feast in Revelations. That, assuredly, you did not 
know before. To ease your sense of humiliation I will add that I did not 
either; but life, after all, is merely a continuous gain of new experience. 

You do not mention your cold: I hope that means it has quite gone. 
Whatever you and Mrs. Holmes do, please avoid the ghastly influenza 
epidemic which seems to have visited you. I count on coming to W'ton 
in April, and I hope to find you both fit and well in that time. 

Our love to you both, and all good wishes for '29. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



1720 I Street N.W., January 11, 1929 
My dear Laski: You have adventures even when in bed with the influenza 

or just out of it. Apropos of your advertising friend I seem to remember 
that the sedate Croly in the New Republic years ago spoke of advertising 
as a necessary and proper means to success. (It may have been some 
understrapper but it rests in my mind as from him.) You and I prefer 
the other way. I believe that advertising has become a science, on which 
Brandeis could expound, having been counsel in former days, with 
psychologic insight which it would be interesting to know. But I settle 
more and more into ignorance and in my brethren's talk at luncheon am 
almost painfully impressed by my outsideness from current affairs. We 
shall be powdering along for another week and then have an adjourn- 
ment. We have had nothing that excited me very much, although one or 
two cases stirred up the newspapers. 

As to your Berkeleian idealism I suppose you know my short formulas 

I have repeated them often enough in talk and print. I begin by an 
act of faith. I assume that I am dreaming, although I can't prove it that 
you exist in the same sense that I do and that gives me an outside 
world of some sort (and I think the ding an sich) so I assume that 
I am in the world not it in me. Next when I say that a thing is true 
I only mean that I can't help believing it but I have no grounds for 
assuming that my can't helps are cosmic can't helps and some reasons 
for thinking otherwise. I therefore define the truth as the system of my 
intellectual limitations there being a tacit reference to what I bet is 
or will be the prevailing can't help of the majority of that part of the 
world that I count. The ultimate even humanly speaking, is a mystery. 
I don't see that it matters whether you call it motion or thought or X 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1125 

all we know of it is that it is capable when tied in a certain knot of 
producing you and me and all the rest of the show. Absolute truth is 
a mirage. Thus I am indifferent to the Berkeley business. Also as I see no 
reasons for attributing cosmic importance to man, other than that at- 
taching to whatever is, I regard him as I do the other species (except 
that my private interests are with his) having for his main business to 
live and propagate, and for his main interest food and sex. A few get 
a little further along and get pleasure in it, but are fools if they are 
proud. 

Have I mentioned South Wind by Norman Douglas? It is hard to 
conceive writing or reading it but when you do and don't ask im- 
provement but are content with a few hours pleasure I'm blowed if 
you don't get it. I must turn back to the law, 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 15.1.29 

My dear Justice: Your letter was doubly welcome, for it showed that you 
were not troubled by the prevalent influenza. I have had a dose of it 
(in Antwerp) and though I am back at work, it has left a certain deadness 
which is irritating. However, I am well enough content. 

Things move in their accustomed routine. I have read a little, written 
a little, and lectured on Burke over the wireless to celebrate the 200th 
anniversary of his birth a queer experience for some 200 people wrote 
me letters asking questions about him, most of which they could have 
answered for themselves from an elementary manual, so that I spent a 
pound odd in postage and another pound for a typist to defer to the 
illegitimate claims of good manners. Of reading I have had some pleasant 
adventures. I emphasise first for your solitaire The Prisoner in the Opal 
by A. E. W. Mason one of the best shockers I have read in many a day. 
Then a queer two- volume History of British Civilization by one Wing- 
field-Stratford which had points, though full of absurdities like the 
endeavour to interpret each age of British history in terms of its 
architecture. Literally to me it conveys nothing to say that it was 
necessary for the Victorian age to build pseudo-Gothic, but that may be 
my ignorance. Then I read and greatly enjoyed the whole of Darwin's 
correspondence. I lay my hand on my heart and say that there never was 
a more loveable great man always modest, never aggressive, simple and 
kindly, and permanently open to new ideas. When you compare him as a 
person to Descartes or Newton or Leibnitz or Goethe he simply overtops 
them altogether. Really it is impossible to rate him too highly. I read, 
also, Vinefs Etudes sur Pascal which I conjure you to note for Beverly 
in the summer, an exquisite book. Probably he makes Pascal a little too 



1126 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

Protestant but he is really inside that tortured being and if you do not 
know it I am sure it would please you greatly. I'm glad you like the 
Cazamian-Legouis that is, I'm sure, the way literary history ought to 
be written; I certainly know nothing in English that even compares with 
it. I read, too, in ms Haldane's autobiography. It's a queer book. His 
vanity is, in a delicate and refined way, colossal; and his power of intrigue 
evidently very great. He illustrates, too, the variety of truth; for he tells 
his side of certain episodes in a way that is utterly without relation to 
the published accounts of others. But his breadth of view and his essential 
kindliness of temper come out strongly. To rne the whole thing gave the 
sense of a really first-rate family solicitor trying infinite permutations and 
combinations to get the ultimate result somehow. His weakness was 
that he mistook himself for a philosopher which au fond he never was; 
his strength an amazing power of unhurried concentration on detail which 
usually enabled him to arise from the study of any subject twice as 
well equipped to tackle it as any opponent. 

My influenza has meant that we have been out but little, but of one 
dinner party I must tell you. It was to meet a young playwright and a 
middle-aged novelist and after dinner about five other writers came in. 
Each of them talked like his works. The playwright exploited his emo- 
tions; the novelist expounded his theory of the novel; the others each 
explained their exact position in the literary firmament with an incisive 
vigour that left me gasping. The novelist said that he was going to lead 
a back to Rousseau movement but questions revealed the fact that he 
read only an English translation of the Confessions. The playwright 
commended to us the "simple realism" of Shakespere as displayed, 
I asked, in the Midsummer Night's Dream. One of the others told me 
that his essays had been compared by a critic to Hazlitt's, whereupon 
another whispered in my ear that the critic was the essayist's cousin. 
I enjoyed myself hugely. The total effect was exactly what you see in 
a monkey-house as you watch the beasts eagerly picking off the fleas from 
one another. One man found out that I was an elector to an annual 
lectureship in English literature and explained his claims to give the 
lecture at length. Another attacked Dickens, and when I ventured to 
remark that Dickens could perhaps tell a story he curtly told me that the 
novelist did not exist to satisfy infantile desires. He wanted the novelist 
to legislate for mankind by drawing pictures of the age of which the 
lesson was unmistakable. I hinted mildly that Dickens had legislated 
when he wrote Bleak House but the answer was a snort and the host 
buried my remains quietly in the garden. I do wish you could have seen 
the show. Each of them had a press-agent and each wanted you to be 
quite clear that he was a master of his craft; each too was a real artist in 
attitudes. Simplicity was the real crime and we played at elaborateness in/ 



1929] HOLMES TO LASKI 1127 

irony for three hours. I would go weekly if I could. It restores my faith 
in the simple, bourgeois virtues. It makes me love Laburnum Villa and 
the commuter and P. G. Wodehouse and the solidly substantial dullness 
which comes from routineering at a thousand a year. I whisper in your 
secretary's ear that I suspect Mr. Norman Douglas would have been 
very much at home among them. He likes arranging his complexes in 
public. 

With the beginning of term, I am hard at it on the usual lines. But 
I have a pleasant interlude on Thursday when I go off to Paris for a 
week-end to deliver a lecture at the Sorbonne. That, I hope, means a 
couple of days pleasant hunting in the bookshops. Did I tell you that 
I found a collection of voyages imaginaires of the 17th century in a 
French catalogue some of which are quite obviously the pith of Rousseau's 
Second Discourse? 

Our love to you both. Take care, don't get influenza, don't overwork 
and above all, don't let the notion of resignation cross your mind. 

Ever affectionately yours., H. J. L. 



1720 1 (Eye) Street N.W., January 27, 1929 

My dear Laski: A moment of leisure has come, not yet turned to much 
account, as it is beginning rather than ending. I have however read a 
detective story sent to me by Knopf Red Harvest by Dashiell 
Hammett somebody shot on every page and the narrative hero 
coming out unharmed and unhung when by probabilities he ought to 
have been finished one way or another quite absorbing though sug- 
gesting doubts. Brandeis put me onto King John Aeschylian lines as 
Swinburne says curious that Shakespeare can't resist the word- 
quibbling which I suppose comes from Euphues. There are some lines 
of it in the beautiful tragic talk of Arthur to Hubert, when he is pleading 
for his eyes. That led to Richard III rather amusing, his announcing 
himself as a villain at the start and giving you such doses of villainy 
straight along. (The editor of the reprint of the First Folio says "Villain" 
in the opening soliloquy means churl I don't see why, quite as he 
goes on to tell his acts and schemes.) The Bard seems lonely in his 
greatness. I don't make very much of his contemporaries except Mar- 
lowe who was the devil of a fellow. Also today I began Redlich's 
biography of the Emperor Francis Joseph and am much interested. 
It occasionally is a little obscure because his familiarity with the whole 
business leads him at times to take a good deal for granted. It isn't the 
kind of thing I like to read it isn't in the line of my business and as well 
Elizabeth and Essex. I rather grudge time to personal histories even 
vhen important. But what does it matter how I pass my time! I should be 



1128 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

more sensible if I could loaf unscrupulously. You speak of answering 
many letters asking imbecile questions I hand such letters to my 
secretary and tell him to regret that my duties don't leave me time &c. 
Autograph letters that don't enclose a stamp I tear up arguing that if 
they don't care to pay two cents for my signature I don't care two 
cents to send it I notice that many, I should think most of the stampless 
requests, come from intelligent young Hebrews if I can judge by the 
names. I told my secretary to make a note of Vinet on Pascal but the 
title does not draw me greatly. Apropos of what you say of Darwin 
(which I readily believe) it may interest you that a connection of mine, 
Clark, has given comfort to the fundamentalists by publishing an 
article repudiating evolution as popularly conceived and disbelieving 
in the missing link. 1 He is a distinguished man of science and from 
past talks with my wife's nephew Gerrit Miller another distinguished 
man of science I gather that he shares the disbelief. He wrote an 
article some time ago discrediting the Piltdown man 2 I believe 
generally accepted outside of England. Of course the chaps don't take 
theological views. Clark has published a schematism of development 3 
which I don't understand and can't talk about but some competent 
people think he will stand beside Darwin some day. I think I mentioned 
a book on behaviorism once. 4 He seems to think that consciousness is 
shown to be a futile conception by the fact that no one tells or, he would 
say, can tell what it is. That seems to me silly. When I was a small boy 
my father taught me a philosophical lesson by asking me to tell him how 
salt tasted. You can't and you can't tell a blind person how colors 
look. There are many questions to which you must know the answer at 
first hand or you can't know it. You don't disprove an ultimate by showing 
that I can't go beyond it. This detached reflection I interject for no 
particular reason except my desire to mark my disrespect for what 
the writer thought a sockdolager. Affectionately yours, O, W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 5.II.29 

My dear Justice: You must forgive my long silence. But the excuse is 
the good one that I have had a slight, but painful, attack of pneumonia 
which has badly embarrassed my time-table. I am much better, and 
back again at college; but I am going slow until I am really on my 

1 Austin H. Clark, "Animal Evolution," 3 Quarterly Review of Biology 523 
(December 1928). 

2 Gerrit S. Miller, Jr., "The Jaw of the Piltdown Man," 65 Smithsonian 
Miscellaneous Collection, no. 12, 1-31 (November 1915). 

8 "A New Classification of Animals," Bulletin de L'Institut Oceanographique, 
No. 400 (1921). 
* Supra, p. 1113. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1129 

feet again. The nuisance of it is that I shall have to give up my 
cherished American plan for Easter partly money, and partly the need 
to make up lost time. I hate doing it, for I had built enormously on the 
pleasure of seeing you and Felix, But if the decks are to be clear for 
action and I am ever to have leisure for my book I simply must have 
that Easter vacation as a locked-up recluse. Damn, and damn! Why are 
the days so short? 

I haven't, I think, told you of my visit to Paris which, if brief, was 
very amusing. I lectured to about 100 people, of varied nationalities; and 
the period of questions was the funniest thing imaginable. A Frenchman 
doesn't simply ask a question: he buries it amid an avalanche of oratory. 
He asks you about liberty, and makes a speech on the principles of 1789, 
the glory of 1848, the sufferings of France in the war. An Italian exile 
begins a question with Dante, refers passionately to Mazzini and Gari- 
baldi and devotes five minutes to the sins of Mussolini. A Bulgarian exile 
tells you of what he has suffered and pours execration on ten unknown 
names which sound like a cross between a hiss and a spit. I enjoyed it 
thoroughly. I had a jolly lunch with some old students of mine who 
are working at the Sorbonne, and a pleasing dinner with Meyerson the 
philosopher of whom I have a great opinion. He agreed with my dislike 
of Leibnitz which gave me joy, and he came nearer to making me 
understand what Einstein really is doing than anyone else I have ever met. 
Also he spoke with great admiration of Morris Cohen, which went to my 
heart. I was amused, too, by tea with about a dozen American exiles, 
of whom at least eight had been divorced, one, a lady of about 35, three 
times. They were all violently anti- American and horrified by my refusal 
to share their views. One gentleman explained that he could not return to 
New York as he had two orders for alimony against him and to meet them 
would alter too drastically his style of living. They were all suffering from 
a real hunger for America and all much too self-conscious to dare to 
admit it. I had, too, a brief but fruitful book hunt and acquired some 
things like C. Wolff 1 and Thomasius 2 which I needed to round off my 
continental XVIIIth century collection. I wish I could have had a little 
longer, for the shops were fascinating, and I could do no more than 
whet my appetite. 

1 came back to bed; and it was cheered for me by Thackeray. I started 
with Vanity Fair and read the lot and heartily enjoyed them. Sir, I wish 
to affirm in the presence of a judge that Ethel Newcombe [sic] is the most 
adorable heroine in 19th century fiction. And that fellow can tell a story 

'Christian Wolff (1679-1754), German philosopher of small originality who 
did much to bring the rationalism of the Enlightenment to Germany. 

2 Christian Thomasius (1655-1728), German jurist who was associated with 
Wolff at the University of Halle in spreading the gospel of the Enlightenment. 



1130 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

and draw a character. Is there a modern living who could do old Major 
Pendennis as exactly and as happily as Thackeray? Has any historian 
caught the outline of George Washington better than The Virginians? 
Sentimental? Well, I prefer sentiment to the lavatory school of fiction 
which seems to predominate nowadays. But here I must stop. I am still 
trying to get abreast of my correspondence. Please take this as an interim 
letter to be improved upon later; and assume that it brings a full cargo 
of devotion to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 12.11.29 

My dear Justice: A delightful letter from you synchronises with my sense 
of complete fitness. I feel that I could leap over at any rate moderate 
sized hills. I was intensely interested by what you said of your scientists' 
attitude to Darwinism. I speak of course with ignorance and humility; 
but I have the sense first that the reaction against it is a little exaggerated 
and secondly that it remains profoundly unsatisfactory that it should not 
be able to explain (I) the origin of variation or (II) how a variation 
presented can, often enough, be of any utility for survival in its original 
stages. But granted all that, the fact that natural selection takes place 
seems to me solidly proved enough, and also that evolution is real, even 
though the details of the actual pedigree are much thinner and more 
uncertain than the original enthusiasts thought. And at any rate the 
supreme result of the seventy years since 1859 has been a body-blow to 
the Eternal from which he will find it difficult to recover. That is what 
really matters most. I remain permanently and impenitently anti-clerical. 
And the settlement of the papal question only makes me feel this the 
more strongly. 1 I do not know if you have noticed that among the terms 
of the treaty Mussolini agrees to hand over all marriage questions out- 
side judicial separation to ecclesiastical courts and that there shall be 
religious education in all schools. To me these things are a violation of 
all that is essential to the tolerant character of modern civilisation, and 
it reads to me like a victory for the forces of darkness. I only hope that 
the result of restoring the pope to political sovereignty will be the old 
result that he will meddle again in secular affairs and ride for a fall. I am 
told that this is a Jesuit victory; and it bears on its face their tenets and 
tentacles. I agree with Voltaire that there will be really no peace in the 
world until the last King has been strangled in the bowels of the last 
priest. I hope you warmly agree. 

1 On February 1 1 the Lateran Treaty between the Pope and Mussolini had 
been signed. The Vatican received recognition of its claim of political 
sovereignty and the Italian state accepted the Roman Catholic religion as the 
sole religion of the state. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1131 

1 must, next, let off my cri de cour [sic] for the temper boils within. 
I have had two literary adventures which make one foam at the mouth. 
In 1721 Lord Macclesfield was impeached for corruption. He was a great 
friend of Mandeville, the author of the Fable of the Bees, and all the 
latter's unpublished correspondence is in the Macclesfield archives. He 
wrote much to the continental philosophers and their replies are said to 
be there by the score. I wrote to Lord M. asking for permission either 
to see the papers or to have copies made, or even, if he wishes, to have 
them deposited at the British Museum for scrutiny. He wrote back two 
lines of refusal to say that a desire to see family papers on the part of 
an entire stranger seemed to him simply unnecessary intrusion. Next 
I discovered that a gentleman in Sussex possessed mountains of un- 
published letters of Burke as also all the replies to Burke's pamphlets 
with his annotations thereon. I wrote and made a similar request and got 
a refusal on the ground that he did not desire publication. Can you 
imagine a more disgusting dog in the manger policy? The second irritates 
me more than the first for one of the things he has is Burke's copy of 
Tom Paine's Rights of Man which a friend of mine has seen literally 
covered with annotations from top to bottom. We ought certainly to 
have an Act of Parliament giving a right of entry to the Record Office 
to make copies of all historic papers after the lapse of seventy-five years. 
As it is, these two fellows could burn every page they possessed and no 
one could do anything. Let me add that I did not write out of a blue sky 
but obtained introductions in each case from personal friends of the 
two curmudgeons and then got those curt refusals. It really does make 
one angry. 

Majora canamus. I have bought a nice Diderot in 17 volumes and 
have been literally revelling in his adorable correspondence with MUe, 
Volland. 2 Then I have read a remarkable work by L. B. Namier on 
English politics at the accession of George III which will make the whole 
period from 1760-1783 seem totally different when there has been time 
to digest the result in the light of his brilliant analysis of who members 
were, upon whom they depended, and how they voted. And I have had a 
very good time with an interesting French book by Brunschvicg the 
philosopher, narrating the history of the idea of conscience since the 
Greeks, a very good book. And in a lesser field I enjoyed a reprinted 
Trollope Orley Farm immensely. It has a criminal trial in it which 
for sheer brilliance I have never seen surpassed in literature except by 
his own murder trial in Phineas Redux. At any rate, those old fellows 

2 Louise Henrietta Volland (1716-1784); the fullest record of Diderofs devo- 
tion to "Sophie*' is in the 1930 edition of his Lettres a Sophie Volland (Babelon, 
ed., 3 vols.). 



1132 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

did know how to tell a story and with respect I submit that not one in 
fifty of the modems who are' praised can touch them in that regard. 

We have been out a little and had two pleasant dinner parties here. 
One was for Hoernle, whom you may remember at Rockport, a philoso- 
pher once at Harvard but now in South Africa. He drew a grim picture 
of university education there. But his wife is an anthropologist and of 
course supremely happy in the best possible field for her work. On 
Sunday Walter Lippmann and his wife came to dinner. I always like him, 
even though he lacks the charm of Felix and a certain moral fineness 
that Felix excels in. But he has great perceptiveness and sound judgment, 
though I think he needs to know a little more history and not to think 
that the next five weeks is what really matters. He told me the tragic 
news of poor Croly's illness, which he seemed to think would per- 
manently incapacitate Croly. I never made much of his writing, but I 
always greatly respected his devotion and rectitude. They will find it 
difficult to replace him on the New Republic. 

I am busy working at lectures I have to give on the nature of the 
League of Nations next month at Geneva. I look forward to it, above all, 
because it is two years since I had a look at the Geneva bookshops. But 
before that, alas, I have to read 40 essays by aspiring young men on 
the future of parliamentary government. Sir, the way of the teacher 
is hard. 

Our love to you both. We are living amid arctic cold. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



17 W Eye Street N.W., February 15, 1929 

My dear Laski: Your news is saddening and disquieting you say you 
are better but are you taking all the proper precautions? I believe your 
wife can be trusted if you are obedient but not all husbands are. 
I don't think you had mentioned to me your plan of a visit at this time but 
1 had heard of it and was looking forward to it. 

Your letter comes just at the end of an adjournment, when of course 
I am in a scrabble and so must cut this short. I haven't read a great 
deal. I think I mentioned looking through the Malleus Maleftcarum 1 - 
and the amazing introduction dated 1927 of the English translator. I 
am now just finished a little book of excerpts from Spinoza with some 
slight illustrations and an arrangement intended to elucidate. 2 It doesn't 

1 Malleus Mdeficarum (Rev. Montague Summers, tr., 1928) was a fifteenth- 
century treatise on witchcraft written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer. 
The devout translator's belief in witches was no less intense than that of the 
original authors. 

z The Philosophy of Spinoza (Ratner, ed., 1927). 



1929] HOLMES TO LASKI 1133 

do me much good for Spinoza anyhow Is rather tedious and I don't 
believe his postulates or accept his reasoning from them. It is his view 
of the universe that is the thing. He sees as I see it more nearly than 
any of the old that I can think of. 

Redlich was here the other night and talked a steady stream for 5 hours 
which was rather long for me but full of brilliancy, fire, and amusement. 
He put me on to A Tombre de la croix which I have read but a chapter 
of but which won't take long and I have another novel lent me by 
Gerrit Miller Dieu protege le Tsar L. Dumur which he recom- 
mended to me to read I forget exactly quo intuitu and this p.m. 
comes a volume from Felix The Bases of Modem Science by J. W. N. 
Sullivan which I long to get at but which must take its turn for to- 
morrow is a conference which so far as I can see must be followed by 
either an opinion or a dissent per me as my lord McReynolds may vote 
tomorrow. On Monday we begin a four weeks sitting and there will be 
little reading I fear. 

Did I ever mention John Browns Body a poem by Benet? A view 
of the Civil War the last kind of thing that I want to read but I was 
a good deal impressed by it. I am amused by your American exiles whom 
you saw in Paris a strong presumption against them I should think 
and interested by your recurrence to Thackeray. It may be age, or 
accident or the small print but I find the old boys and pretty much 
all the new ones too long-winded for my impatience yet I can read 
what sounds to me pretty drooly in Spinoza without discomfort age I 
rather think draws some new lines. 

Please remember that you have charge of an unusual and valuable 
instrument and take care of it. Tell your wife that I believe in and rely 
on her. Your little daughter must be quite grown up by this time is she 
becoming a companion? Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Washington, D. C. 9 "February 22, 1929 

My dear Laski: Your most interesting letter, received last night, raises a 
doubt in my mind. You boil with wrath that Lord Macclesfield would 
not let you see the Mandeville correspondence. Is it not a case of literary 
curiosity against the feeling of family privacy? I don't suppose that there 
is likely to be much philosophical importance in the letters. There may be 
matters bearing on the character of an ancestor. While I incline to sym- 
pathize with you, I should not dare to say that I thought Lord M. wrong. 
The other case seems stronger for you but even there I doubt if it 
warrants more than vexation. I should hesitate to condemn a man who 
refused to allow a picture to be photographed, even though personally I 
might deem it more public spirited to allow the photograph to be taken. 



1134 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

Next as to the views of my connection, Clark, on evolution. He is a 
very considerable, very able, and very learned scientific man, and knows 
what he is talking about. Of course his discourse was laid hold of by the 
Bible men and I am afraid that he may have thought of the publicity that 
that would give him but I don't suppose that he is any more a Bible 
man than you are and speaking ignorantly I take his view to be an out- 
crop of a different scheme of development, which I don't pretend to un- 
derstand. I suppose that his belief is an extension of what De Vries 
showed happens in some plants 1 a sudden inexplicable jump. In an in- 
teresting book that Frankfurter sent to me lately, The Bases of Modem 
Science, (J. W. N. Sullivan, pub. by Ernest Benn, London) I read that 
even among the mathematicians one theory now offered is a theory of 
"emergence" by which "the properties of a whole cannot always be de- 
duced from the properties of its constituents" and some of the evidences 
as to man that have been relied on have been attacked. Some years ago 
my wife's nephew Gerrit Miller, a really eminent scientific man published 
an elaborate examination of the Piltdown man relics and concluded that 
they came from an ape (or some of them I don't remember the de- 
tails). Of course the English stood up for their discovery but my impres- 
sion is that the weight of scientific opinion is with him. Clark, (the man 
in question) I believe regards other supposed exhibits of the missing link 
in the same way. I shouldn't think that anyone except a man in the busi- 
ness could form an opinion of any weight. We naturally incline toward 
anything that contributes to ease of thought. The postulate of science is 
that everything can be explained but with the view of man that I take, 
this perfectly well may not be so. I think it unlikely that we know any- 
thing ultimate about the universe or have faculties that fit us to do more 
than to adjust ourselves to it and to live. You, I suspect, have more of a 
creed and empassioned enthusiasm than I have though your creed is 
not the orthodox one. All the foregoing has nothing to do with clericalism 
I don't believe in it any more than you I think it childish and 
yesterday just before I received your letter I was hearing of a lady, speak- 
ing of Mussolini and the pope, asking who cares about the Pope? At times 
I am a little disturbed at exhibitions of ecclesiastical power, but I have 
such a conviction that it is doomed that I don't care to hurry its fate. It 
helps to keep order ad interim. I ought to add that my conviction is only 
faith in the prevalence of reason in the long run (coupled with indica- 
tions on the specific points that have struck me) but I am well aware 
how long reason may be kept under by what man wants to believe. I do 
despise the Will to Believe. 

1 Hugo de Vries (1848-1935), Dutch botanist whose experimental study of 
evolution led to his formulation of the theory of mutation in The Mutation 
Theory (Farmer and Darbishire, tr., 1909-10). 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1135 

Your faithfulness to the earlier generation Thackeray Trollope es- 
pecially always pleases me, while I share it but imperfectly. Since 
Phineas Phinn, 50 years ago, I haven't had the courage to tackle Trollope. 
In my old age I am more bored by novels than I used to be, while I am 
not bored at all by The Bases of Modern Science or even by Spinoza 
who, as I have said before, although tedious and using premises and rea- 
soning that I disbelieve, sees the world as I do more nearly than any of 
the old. I have just read a little book of selected translations, because it 
was sent to me and had a recommendation by John Dewey another 
man who sees the world somewhat as I do. I haven't heard of Croly's ill- 
ness I must inquire. We seem to agree about him. I have a great re- 
spect for his intelligence but don't willingly read his writing. I am avail- 
ing myself of Washington's birthday. We are sitting and having cases that 
I dislike about rates and the Interstate Commerce Commission. I listen 
with respect but without envy to questions by Brandeis and Butler using 
the words of railroading and rate-making that I imperfectly understand. 
To be familiar with business is a great (secondary) advantage. Someone 
said of Brandeis, He is not afraid of a Balance Sheet. His experience at 
the bar is an infinite advantage in many cases. Butler has had something 
of the same, and Vandevanter has land law and Indians at his fingers* end. 
McReynolds is the boss in Admiralty because he has carried through a 
series of decisions that I don't believe in at all although I don't [be- 
lieve] he had any special knowledge before his victories in that field. 

I don't remember whether I have mentioned Redlich's being here the 
other evening and discoursing as copiously and amusingly as always. I 
read his Francis Joseph with profit to my prejudices. We soon shall have 
the inauguration in which I shall endeavour to avoid the death that it is 
apt to inflict on the old who sit out of doors for the swearing in and ad- 
dress of the President. Four days later I shall be 88 if I live till then. The- 
straws gradually accumulate on the camel's back, but only slowly I am 
glad to say. You don't say, but I infer that all traces of the pneumonia 
have disappeared. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 26.11.29 

My dear Justice: Life flows on in the normal way, and I cannot complain 
of inertia. I have given a public lecture on Hobbes; I have written a long 
article on the danger of uniformity; 1 I broadcasted a long talk on Hal- 
dane's Autobiography and I am just finishing the notes on the six lectures 
I have to give next week at Geneva. And as I feel extraordinarily fit, I 
conclude that work is very good for me, 

Presumably "The Dangers of Obedience," 159 Harpers Magazine 1 (June 
1929); reprinted in The Dangers of Obedience and Other Essays (1930). 



1136 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

The most interesting thing I have done since I wrote last was a dinner 
at Winston Churchill's. It was good fun in two ways. First, I had a great 
scrap with him and an Admiral on the meaning of maritime rights. I 
maintaining the simple thesis that the British conception and the Ameri- 
can merely derived from their different situations; they, poor souls, ar- 
guing with true English 5/?pt that the British view was essential to the 
safety of the world. May I whisper that Admirals may be great technicians 
but as students of logic they have a certain lack of profundity? Winston 
told us one glorious story. He reads all the letters sending conscience 
money to the exchequer. One enclosed a cheque for 22/6 and ran as fol- 
lows. "Dear Sir, I enclose a cheque for the payment of a dog license for 
three years. You may say I have no dog: that is true. You may insist that 
I have never had a dog: that is also true. But I have a wife who is such 
a bitch that I feel morally obliged to accept the responsibilities of my 
position. Yours faithfully/* And one brilliant remark was made there. We 
were discussing the suppressed novel The Well of Loneliness which deals 
with sexual relations between women and defends them. Winston asked 
if anyone knew the author and a young civil servant said he did. "What 
kind of a person is she?" "I should say," answered the civil servant, "that 
she is a self-made man." One thing, by the way, impressed me and that 
is the religiosity of naval men. There were three of them there, and they 
were all Bibleolaters if there was such a word. One told me quite seriously 
that during the war he always tried the bible for a text before issuing 
orders for the coming action. I could not think of any comment worthy of 
the occasion. 

Reading, too, has been very pleasant. Haldane's Autobiography in 
which you, Felix and I have honourable mention, is very interesting read- 
ing. It brings out his great powers of work and organisation, his essential 
kindliness, and a certain sweet vanity he had. It isn't, I think, the book of 
a first class mind but certainly of one who knew how to make the utmost 
of the ability he had. I hope you will have time to glance at it. Then I 
have read Zimmern's new book 2 which has much in it of extraordinary 
profundity. The essay on "The Prospects of Democracy" is really a mas- 
terpiece and deserves, I think, a quite special place in contemporary 
political literature. And a Frenchman Fay sent me a book called The 
American Experiment which while not always by any means first-class has 
again and again some really interesting apergus. And a charming book on 
the French novelists from 1500-1 800, 3 quite short but crowded with 
ideas and doing well what I have long wanted to see done explaining 
the changes in the form of the novel in terms of changes in the social 

2 America and Europe, and Other Essays (1929). 

s Probably Frederick Charles Green, French Novelists, Manners and Ideas 
from the Renaissance to the Revolution (1929). 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1137 

milieu of each period. And I add that Compton Mackenzie's The Three 
Wayfarers [sic] 4 is a tip-top spy story which I earnestly recommend as 
an accompaniment to solitaire. 

Of other things I can only sing of minors. But one queer thing is worth 
recording. We have an American student at the School who is in some 
sort under my care. On Saturday I was called up and informed that he 
was dangerously ill with pneumonia at the Italian hospital. I went down 
there and was told by the doctors that he was not expected to live. After 
much tribulation I sent a warning telegram to his people in New York, 
and made arrangements for (I) a specialist (II) a funeral. The specialist 
promised to go next morning. On the Sunday morning I called at the hos- 
pital and was mysteriously told that the patient had gone; other informa- 
tion I could not get anyhow. I dashed round to the lad's rooms in a taxi 
and found him with three other intimates calmly playing bridge. My 
specialist had gone round on the Saturday night and found that the 
diagnosed pneumonia was in fact a violent attack of constipation induced 
by overeating. He met the problem by a terrific purgative; and at 10:30 
on the Saturday night the patient was dancing on the bed. I wired the 
parents that he was all right and got a wire back "Expect constipation, he 
always overeats, not alarmed/' Isn't that a superb climax? And I must tell 
you the tale of the Japanese professor who came here to tea on Sunday. 
There were perhaps a dozen students and young instructors and we were 
gossiping gaily over the fire. Suddenly the Jap. said "Haiti" We all 
stopped. "Let us," he said, "in the presence of the master" pointing, 
alas, to me "speak only of the higher things." We had, as you can 
observe, no alternative; and so for an hour he discoursed on the higher 
things and we sat silent about him like acolytes at a religious festival. 
Twice I tried to interrupt but on each occasion he said "I cannot think if 
I am subjected to nervous strain" and I had to subside and do my best 
not to choke with laughter. One of my lads, who is a wit, told him at the 
end that he thought he had not taken sufficient account of recent German 
doctrines. Had he read the works of Chemnitz, Dusseldorf and Dreisberg, 
The Jap. said he had not, whereupon the lad proceeded to give him a list 
of mock-serious titles all of which the Jap took down in a vast notebook 
and my hints that he was being teased did not produce a single ripple 
on the surface of his complacency. When he left we all literally rolled 
on the floor with suppressed emotion. 

I have bought little lately, reserving myself for Geneva where I go on 
Saturday for a week or so. The bookshops there, especially one in the old 
town, do one's heart good; and I have arranged to read Rousseau mss in. 
the afternoon in the public library. 

'The Three Couriers (1929). 



1138 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

I hope all goes well at 1727 [sic]. I am looking forward to Hoover's 
cabinet. Felix, I imagine, will be pleased at Stimson's nomination. 5 
Our love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Devon Lodge, 16. III. 29 

My dear Justice: I got back from Geneva nearly a week ago to find my- 
self in the midst of tragedy. My colleague Allyn Young died from pneu- 
monia after only two days illness, and the world has lost a great economist 
and teacher and I a friend and colleague such as one rarely finds. I can't 
easily put on paper what a remarkable man he was. But his great quality 
was humanism the ability to take difficult technical themes and deal 
with them not as a paper problem, but as they emerged into life with all 
its problems. His death makes me feel as though I had lost a limb, for ever 
since he came over from Harvard eighteen months ago he and I had 
fought every issue together on the same side. The tragedy is greater be- 
cause his wife is blind and Frida and I have had the very difficult task of 
helping her, poor thing, to make arrangements for her return to America. 
You know how these things cut deep. 

Geneva was extraordinarily interesting. The lectures went well, and I 
met every sort and kind of person. One or two you may know by name. 
The outstanding one was Eugene Borel, 1 the Swiss international lawyer, 
brilliant, witty, and altogether devoid of the "professional" attitude one 
so often finds in the continentals. I met, too, Struppe 2 [sic] the German 
lawyer, full of learning and ideas but a much more formal type who never 
moved outside the confines of his subject but talked extremely well within 
them. And I enjoyed Anzilotti, 3 the Italian member of die International 
Court, who, though much older, reminded me in his verve and brilliancy, 
of Felix. I had breakfast with Stresemann, 4 the German statesman, who 
struck me as subtle and shrewd, and honourable. I add that I thought him 
without exception the ugliest man I have ever seen. I had a brief talk 

5 From March 1929, to 1933, Henry L. Stimson was Hoover's Secretary of 
State. 



1 Eugene Borel (1862 ), Professor of International Law at the Academic 
du Droit International and Swiss member of the Permanent Court of Arbitra- 
tion, 1928-1946. 

2 Probably Karl Strupp (1886-1940), Professor of International Law at 
Frankfurt, 1926-1933. 

s Dionisio Anzilotti ( 1869- ) was a member of the Permanent Court of 
International Justice from 1922 to 1930 and President of the Tribunal from 
1928 to 1930. 

4 Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929), as Foreign Minister of Germany from 
1923 until his death in October 1929, rendered monumental services to Ger- 
many in restoring her to the family of nations. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1139 

with Austen Chamberlain 5 who said he remembered you at their London 
house forty years ago and that his sister never ceased to talk of you and 
her pleasure, which I well understood, in your letters. Austen is very 
queer. He so obviously means to do right and be kind but he has some 
defect of personality which always, even when he is saying the kindest 
thing, gives the impression of conscious superiority, so that, as Titulescu, 
the Rumanian prime minister [sic] 6 remarked to me, you feel offended 
even when he is doing you a favour. Most of the others I saw would not 
be names to you. But I must put on record my sense of the high purpose 
by which all the officials of the League are informed. It really is impres- 
sive to meet a real and coherent zeal for a world-interest above the sepa- 
rate interest of the different states there. The Polish delegate to the League 
put it to me very well: he said he came there a fervent nationalist and 
after three years of routine work he found himself writing home to his 
government that certain policies he was asked to recommend were simply 
unfair in the light of European needs. One delightful Geneva story I 
must not omit. There is only one public lavatory in all Geneva, tended as 
these places are, by an old lady. The Rumanian delegate had to stop 
there and on giving her the usual tip expressed the hope that business 
was good. "No," said the old lady, "what this city needs is a Mussolini." 
You observe that political speculation may derive from the most diverse 
materials. 

I found some nice books there, of which the best was a superb first 
edition of Spinoza's Tractatus; but some Rousseau volumes pleased me 
too and a very nice set of Saint-Simon who remains for me the prince of 
diarists. I also found a copy of Leonhard's translation of your Common 
Law which I presented con amore to the University Library. Altogether, 
on this head, it was a most successful visit. 

The first engagement when I got back may amuse you. There was a 
lunch at the School to the Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, and I 
was placed between a German lady and a Rumanian. She asked me if I 
were related to the author of the Grammar of Politics and I said yes. "Your 
father," I suppose said she. "Yes" said I unblushingly. This she told the 
Rumanian gent who was very anxious that I should tell my father of the 
great influence the book had in Rumanian universities. Very impressively 
he urged me to put my father's work before me as an example to emulate. 
This, you will be glad to know, I as impressively promised to do. The 
whole lunch was very amusing. I had to interpret one or two of the 
speeches and the task of softening down certain Gallicisms for general 

5 Sir Austen Chamberlain was Foreign Minister in the Baldwin government. 

"Nicolas Titulescu (1883-1941) at this time was Minister to Engknd and 
Rumanian delegate at the League; the Prime Minister of Rumania was Julius 
Manin. 



1140 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

consumption was, I can assure you, a task of no small artistic effort. How 
e.g. stand next to the Archbishop of York and put into English M. 
Luchair S T "nous aimons les chansons Hongrois du tout coeur, surtout les 
chanteurs qui les chantent." I said "Hungarian folk-songs are as exquisite 
as the race which produced them is attractive" which is, I think, as far as 
one should go in the archiepiscopal presence. 

I was enormously interested in your accounts of the critical attitude 
to Darwinism. I met young Haldane 8 the other day and put the substance 
of it to him and he said that most of the younger biologists here would 
endorse it. He made the interesting point that most Victorian science 
suffered from excessive simplicity and that now the balance is being pain- 
fully redressed. I imagine there is truth in that; and I incline to think 
that the process of redress will in the end be even more fatal to the reli- 
gious outlook than was the case with the old frontal attack of sixty-years 
ago. Though, obviously, there are dangers of religious revival in terms of 
political tactics, as in Italy and in Spain; and it would be very interesting 
to measure the strength of religion in England by seeing what happened 
to a political party which came out definitely for disestablishment of the 
Church. I do not know. Indifference grows by leaps and bounds; but the 
modern electorate is very sentimental and I should not like to bet that 
the indifference would reflect itself in the polls. 

One piece of news will, I hope, please you. Yale University has asked 
me to go there next March for three months. In principle I have accepted, 
and if the finance turns out satisfactorily I shall certainly go. You can 
imagine that the prospect of some week-ends in Washington really attracts 
me. I long for some talk. 

Our united love to you both. I am writing at a table covered with snow- 
drops and daffodils. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



1720 I Street N.W., March 17, 1929 

My dear Laski: Pollock finds just fault with this paper but I haven't 
as yet succeeded in getting blocks that suited me as well as the Capitol 
where we are furnished. So I allow my comfort to prevail over other con- 
siderations. I have been under a pressure that ceased only yesterday since 
my birthday we were sitting for arguments. I had two opinions to write 
and certiomris to examine and I have answered near 70 letters and 
telegrams. But we are adjourned and my work is done. Only small items 
outside. The only thing that I have read is an odious tale Dleu protege le 

7 Julien Luchaire (1876 ), man of letters and historian, for many years 
was a principal figure in the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation or the 
League. 

8 J. B. S. Haldane, distinguished biologist; nephew of Lord Haldane. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1141 

Tsar L. Durnur the first part battles that needed a map and explana- 
tions to be more than a whir! o names, with too much blood and guts 
the last the doings of Rasputin with the highest ladies in Russia if true 
not well to tell if, as I guess, the dream of a writer seeking sensation, a 
dirty business but it makes me want to know something authentic 
about that seemingly unspeakable person. Like the life of Francis Joseph 
it makes one feel that almost anything is better than to have the fate of an 
empire and the best it holds depend upon the whim of a single incom- 
petent person. 

Now I have for two or three hours a little book that Redlich recom- 
mended L'ombre de la croix ( J. & J. Tharaud) a strikingly impres- 
sive account of the life of squalidly poor Jews in Hungary a life in 
which their religion plays an incredibly great part. I think if the promised 
leisure keep on I shall read the second edition of Dewey's Experience and 
Nature partly rewritten. The publisher wrote to me that Dewey (whom 
I never have seen) was much pleased at something that I wrote about it 
to Wu and that he rather indiscreetly published. You, I think, got 
nothing from it but it impressed me greatly. I must try to get a look 
at Haldane's Autobiography and I note what you say of Zimmern's 
last book and readily believe it. You don't mention the name of the 
book on the French novelists 1600 [sic]-1800. 1 I wish I had it just 
now for it sounds about what I want. There are moments when aimless 
repose or equally aimless wandering seem better than to have some 
damned end in view even so vague a one as improvement but it is 
a frame of mind very hard to get into when one is generally kept some- 
what tense. Wouldn't it be great if destiny should let me reach, if not 90 
at least the 90th year, still working not that it matters but age 
makes egotists of us all. Ever affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 25111.29 

My dear Justice: Term being over, I am free again, and I feel like a 
young ram upon the mountains. For next term is an easy one, and I can 
really look forward to almost six months of safe work. The last ten days 
have been very pleasant A charming lunch with the Swedish Minister, 1 
at which Ramsay MacDonald and Snowden were guests. It was a good 
political gossip which I enjoyed less for the gossip than for the queer 
angle it threw on the political mind. I should say tiat no politician lives 
more than six or seven months ahead and that at least half his time he is 
talking to convince himself. He is curiously grateful when you can give his 

1 Supra, p. 1136, note 3. 



1 Baron Palmstierna, supra, p. 919. 



1142 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

argument philosophic form, and equally curiously eager to give any argu- 
ment special weight if it comes from a source he approves. One or two 
tit-bits from the talk may amuse you. Both men said that Eustace Percy 2 
was much the most unpopular member of the Cabinet; too rapid promo- 
tion had gone to his head and he made the grave mistake of lecturing 
the house from an eminence. They both had an immense regard for 
Austen Chamberlain's character but thought his mind was too unelastic 
ever to be capable of success in his present sphere. The Swedish Minister 
amused me by saying that there had been no Anglo-Swedish diplomatic 
trouble since 1830 and that his post here was simply a combination of 
social function and leisure for reading. Then I had a dinner party here 
for Sankey L.J. to which Scrutton L.J. among others came. The latter was 
in superb form. He had been reading some article of Pound's which irri- 
tated him. "He is the kind of man/' said Seratton, "who thinks that four 
references make a four-square truth/' You will be interested by the fact 
that of the old Law School men he rated J. C. Gray easily the highest. He 
talked much of Maitland of whom he used a good phrase; "Most his- 
torians throw a light on dark places, he threw a searchlight into the 
unknown." He said that of the judges he had known he rated Bowen 
first, Watson second and Blackburn third; Sankey said that he would put 
Davey and MacNaghten in that class. Scrutton told us that as a junior 
he had appeared before Jessel with a hopeless proposition to maintain 
and that the great man made him feel exactly like a naughty school-boy 
who has been detected in an elementary error in Latin prose. He told us, 
too, a delightful story of Dicey who said to him once when he, Scrutton, 
praised the clarity of Dicey *s mind "No, I have a clean mind; F. Pollock 
has a clarifying mind." Sankey told us of a man who asked for help in 
obtaining silk: "it is true that I have never made a living at the bar, but 
my wife has an income adequate to the status, and I have been a devout 
churchman all my life." Altogether, as you can see, a good evening. Then 
I was entertained to lunch by the five senior officers of the Army Class at 
the School a delightful set of fellows. One had the V. C. with a bar and 
we made him tell the story of their attainment. I wish I could describe 
the calm way in which he described crossing no man's land under heavy 
fire to put a machine gun which disturbed his wounded out of action. I 
said "My God! I couldn't have done that," to which he replied, "You 
couldn't have helped it; you'd have felt just like a nurse who stops a noise 
that disturbs the children in the night-nursery." They were adorable fel- 
lows, and their deference to me, men who had seen service all over the 
world, made me feel strangely humble. And I must not omit the queer 
gentleman from Arkansas, a Y.M.C.A.er who, on the last day of term, 
visited me for light upon the religious feelings of London students. I ex- 
2 Lord Eustace Percy was President of the Board of Education. 



1929] HOLMES TO LASKI 1143 

plained (I) that I had never had the curiosity to enquire (II) that I 
hoped sincerely they had none. "Sir," he said, "have not you yourself 
experienced Christ"? I explained that, to my knowledge at least, I had 
not. He then invited me to pray an invitation I politely but firmly de- 
clined. He then asked if I objected to him praying. I said "not at aE, but 
not in my room/* He then asked me if I thought it right as a "shameless 
infidel" to seek to guide the mind of youth to the light. I explained that 
I sought to do no such thing. My humble mission was to teach them the 
criteria by which in political science light might be distinguished from 
darkness. He then asked me if I had ever thought of the after-life. I said 
I had but it had ceased to interest me. He looked at me with what he 
intended to be singular majesty and said, "I do not condemn you, I pity 
you." I thanked him and urged him to consult the Professor of Theology 
at King's College and felt grateful for a superb experience. 

In the way of reading I have not much to record. I read Winston's 
final volume with immense interest. 3 But he has a viciously rhetorical 
mind and you feel that he convinces himself by the sheer eloquence of his 
own voice. Still he has a great tale to tell and with all his defects it is 
quite impossible not to like him. Then I read a clever French book by 
Julien Benda Mon premier testament a theory of politics as the 
expression of temperaments j beautifully written, very clever, and, like 
most French speculation in this realm, pushed much too far. A charming 
novel I must not omit, The Six Mrs. Greenes, by L. Rea an analysis 
of the ladies of a family done with most admirable malicious grace. If it 
comes your way, pray do not pass it by. Parts of it are of the very stuff 
of which England is made. And I thoroughly enjoyed Sinclair Lewis's 
new novel 4 not a great artist, but superb vitality and a most accurate 
photographer. 

And at that point term ended. The last lecture given, the last student 
seen, I hope to recover my humanity. But I do not need to do that to 
send you both my love and greetings. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



1720 I (Eye} Street N.W., April 2, 1929 

My dear Laski: You deserve a better letter than you will get for though 
we have been adjourned for weeks I am tired and haven't had much lei- 
sure. I find that I have examined 450 applications for certiorari this term 
which means 30 days work. Apropos of what you say Haldane re- 
marked about Victorian science, I thought that its oversimplification was 
generally acknowledged. I have seen it brought out so definitely in An- 

8 The Aftermath (1929) was the final volume of The World Crisis. 
*Dodsworth (1929). 



1144 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

thropology and other matters of which I am least ignorant that I thought 
it had been a postulate. 

The chief event here latterly has been the flowering of the cherry trees 
around the Potomac basin and the magnolias everywhere I should say 
second only to the four greatest things I have seen on earth. Next to that 
I will put having read John Dewey's Experience and Nature for the third 
time. Just one idea running through the whole and I think that now I 
could sum it up. If reduced to not more than two pages it would be the 
profoundest apergu of the universe that I ever have read, which of course 
means a strong tendency to agree with his insight. I was sent the Yale 
Review with your article 1 which seemed to me very able but as you 
know some of your yearnings I don't sympathize with and almost believe 
noxious but the crowd is with you rather than with me and I dare say 
you will smash a good deal that I should like to keep. But I don't feel so 
seriously about the human race as I once did. I am in pretty good shape 
but my wife less so however I think she is slowly improving from 
grippe and a succession of misfortunes. I got hold of a book yesterday on 
Rasputin which I shall look through, translated from German, by Rene 
Fiilop-Miller. It seems to be impartial and I want to know something 
about him. Your Yale Review led me to think I should read Le crime et 
le chatiment 2 and I have on hand a life of Herman Melville 3 and 
whether I shall do my duty or not I don't know. I mean now to take a 
nap . Affly yours, O. W. H. 

Devon Lodge, 2. IV. 29 

My dear Justice: My days have been spent in the grim business of pack- 
ing up poor Mrs. Young to return to America; and in sending off Frida 
and Diana for a month's holiday to Weimar, where Diana, who has a gift 
for languages, is to learn or begin to learn, German. So I sit here rather 
solitarily and read and write until ten when I go off to bed with a novel 
unless some kindred solitary drops in for coffee. Though the house is 
dismal enough the reading and writing are interesting and as I want 
Frida refreshed by a change and feel in myself extraordinarily well I do 
not complain. 

You will be amused when I say that the most interesting thing I have 
done since I wrote to you last week is to go to a funeral. The mother of 

1 "England in 1929," 18 Yale Review (N.S.) 417 (March 1929). Laskfs 
article vigorously attacked the record of the Baldwin government and of the 
liberal opposition and urged that the first necessity was for the transformation 
of England into a social democracy. 

2 The suggestion perhaps came from Edith Wharton's "Visibility in Fiction," 
18 Yale Review (N.S.) 480 (March 1929). 

8 Lewis Mumford, Herman Melville (1929). 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1145 

my colleague Beveridge died and I went out of compliment. I was im- 
mensely struck by the fervour with which my neighbours (A. an eminent 
F.R.S. and B* a distinguished historian) participated in the service. They 
prayed, kneeled, sang hymns, etc. in a way that would have done credit to 
a revivalist. On the way back I asked them if they were Orthodox Chris- 
tians. Each said no with emphasis. I then asked why the service had been 
so impressive to them. Each said the same thing that outside a church the 
whole thing is obnoxious but that inside some kind of childish memory 
takes possession of him, and he cannot resist the impulses it arouses. Our 
neighbour happened to hear the conversation and told us he was president 
of some secular society and yet found that on the great festivals of the 
Church he was uncomfortable if he was not there. To me it was nause- 
ating to hear men and women thanking God for something that had hurt 
them like hell and taking comfort in the prospect of a future meeting in 
which 90 per cent of those present did not believe. Whether it is the aes- 
thetic beauty of the tradition (to which, of course, I am a stranger) I 
don't know; but it is curious that I should be roused to intellectual indig- 
nation by something from which people who share my general intellectual 
outlook should derive emotional comfort. I should like to know what 
happens inside you in this realm. 

Of other things, I have not much to tell. I have been reading happily 
in and round Spinoza (Roth's Spinoza, Little, Brown is very good if you 
haven't come across it) and in and around Hegel for next term's lectures. 
I am overwhelmed by S. and all my prejudices against Hegel are merely 
intensified. I cannot see anything in the world of the things he sees in it 
neitiher unity, nor God, nor an unfolding purpose. But from Spinoza I 
do derive a sense of meeting a noble soul in a way that elevates the mind 
and heart. I read, too, a number of (you will laugh) Maria Edgeworth's 
novels and had a glimpse into a stately minuet in which I too, loving the 
manner, seemed to pirouette gracefully with the authoress. Also I have 
been reading some international law mainly cases, but with one or two 
treatises like Westlake's. I am greatly impressed by S to well and inclined 
to put Lord Parker very high indeed. But I am amazed at the intense na- 
tionalism of all these people. Natural law for Stowell meant so sweetly 
and naturally what an 18th century English gentleman who admired Mr. 
Pitt would approve. And, lastly, I have read Beard's big blast on Ameri- 
can Civilisation (written with his wife) which I thought showed insight 
but was nowhere near so good as Sam Morison's two volumes and more- 
over written in an irritating journalese. 

From this, you will gather that I have little at the moment to say. But 
I go North on Thursday and I hope to gossip amiably when I return. My 
love to you both. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



1146 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

Washington, D. C., April 18, 1929 

My dear Laski: Your page written from solitude comes on top of an un- 
answered longer letter and I begin my reply when about to go to a con- 
ference. Your companions at the funeral who took part in prayer they 
didn't believe in, merely illustrate what I am eternally repeating: that 
man is like all other growing things and when he has grown in a certain 
crevice for say twenty years you can't straighten him out without attack- 
ing his life. That is what gives the power to churches that no rational man 
would deem worthy of thought if he were growing free and had no past. 
You know my oft repeated formula that property, friendship and truth 
have a common root in time. I am not entirely insensible to the effect of 
church ceremonies even now though neither they nor the patent falla- 
cies in what they read from St. Paul interest me very much but I let 
time ran over me till the show is over. But if, as is unusual, the service is 
well done, and you are in a crowd moved by emotion there is a contagion 
about it. 

Now I have returned from the conference pretty well tired with it, 
though afterwards Brandeis and I drove over to Georgetown and home 
by a circumbendibus around the Cathedral, to see the white and pink dog- 
wood and wisteria that lined a part of our road. The sights here are fleet- 
ing but they are superlative while they last. What damned fools people 
are who believe things. A case has gone over for further consideration, of 
a woman wanting to become a citizen, but who, being as she says, more 
of a pacifist than Jane Ad^ams, 1 has to explain that she would not fight 
for the Constitution (or, as her counsel said, wouldn't do what the law 
wouldn't let her do) and so opens to the Government a discourse on the 
foundation of the Constitution being in readiness to defend itself by force 
&c. &c. 2 All 'isms seem to me silly but this hyperaethereal respect for 
human life seems perhaps the silliest of all. 

But I almost fear that I am impolite for you are not without your 
creed to my regret. I haven't read much since my dash of philosophy 
but I am engaged in Lewis Mumford's Life of Herman Melville which 
interests me much as a careful study of a man whom the writer believes 
great but hardly less from the tone and attitude of the author. He 
despises the conventions of my earlier days but seems to me tied up in 

*Jane Addams (1860-1935); social reformer, founder of Chicago's famous 
Hull House, who was a militant leader of the pacifist movement from 1915 
until the time of her death; chairman of the Woman's Peace Party. 

2 United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (May 27, 1929). A majority of 
the Court held that Rosika Schwimmer's pacifism made her ineligible for 
citizenship. Holmes delivered a dissenting opinion in which Brandeis, J., con- 
curred. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1147 

those of a later crowd. He looks down from a height on the America of 
the past and on the civil war his hauteur toward the achievement of 
comfort imports a Tolstoy coupled with a Michael Angelo. He walks on 
lightning smitten peaks, but all samey when I see a cove talking about 
die malice of the universe I feel pretty sure that I am with an anthropo- 
centric who really thinks the world was made for man and has the old 
theological turn at bottom and know that though he may puzzle he can 
not interest me. He does, however, with the rather pitiful story of Mel- 
ville's life. I must leave Melville unticketed for the moment. I think he is 
g rea t but I think he also is anthropocentric and therefore more busy 
with being gigantic than wise. I hope someone will tell me something 
about this chap Mumford. I think he must be one of a class but as yet 
I don't get him exactly sized up. I merely doubt whether he is such a hell 
of a feller as he ought to be to carry so much side. The unconscious arro- 
gance of your Arkansas student who did not condemn but pitied you is 
innocence compared with a full-fledged New Republic aesthete. Your 
man reminds me of a phrase that a good fellow dead long ago used at 
times "I pity and despise but do not hate you/* But I must stop to 
send this off. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Devon Lodge, 13.IV.29 

My dear Justice; A brief but delightful letter from you amazed me with 
its record of certioraris; I don't know how you manage it. But I was dis- 
tressed at the news that Mrs. Holmes has had grippe, I hope you can send 
me better tidings of her, especially now that spring has come. I envy you 
a little the sight of the Potomac in full bloom. 

I have had a very quiet time. A brief visit to Liverpool to put Allyn 
Young's widow on her boat (she is blind, poor thing) a couple of days 
with my people in Manchester and then back here to work. I have sat 
twice in tlie Industrial Court and had a jolly dinner with my chief Bev- 
eridge. But outside of that I have done little except read and even there 
it has been almost entirely international law for lecture purposes. And 
may I whisper to you that Westlake apart I was not overwhelmed by the 
quality of the treatises on international law. They are enormously long- 
winded and platitudinous, especially the French and the German. West- 
lake I thought full of commonsense, but, equally emphatically, by no 
means a distinguished mind. The most impressive single book I read was 
a monograph by a young colleague of mine (Lauterpacht) called Private 
Law Analogies in International Law which I hope you may turn over if 
it ever comes your way. And in another field I read a quite interesting 
new book on Rousseau by one Wright of Columbia University which, 



1148 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

without being distinguished was very sensible. And a volume of short 
stories by Hugh Walpole, 1 one of which pleased me much. It is called 
"Old Elizabeth" and tells of an old woman who becomes a servant in a 
Scottish family. Its members are all hard and grim and her deafness and 
clumsiness worries them. But she assumes that they are the essence of 
kindness and speaks of each with great warmth. At last she is dismissed 
in a fit of temper by the father and each is terrified that the old thing will 
starve. The daughter takes a room for her, the son furnishes it, and the 
father gives her a little income. Each is out one night a week and at last 
mutual discovery is made and they bring back the old woman to live with 
them in triumph. There's not much in it, of course, and yet it leaves a 
most charming taste in the mouth. And someone sent me a new edition 
of Arthur Young's Travels which I have read with far greater admiration 
than ever before. That fellow had incomparable eyes and a commonsense 
that was damned near to genius. Altogether, though I find being by my- 
self intolerably lonely, I have got much work done; I feel my mind has 
not yet stopped growing, which is pleasant. 

I have also bought one or two nice things. First and foremost the Plai- 
doyers of Linguet rare, but cheap. Then a bundle of Mazarinades one 
or two of which fill in special gaps in my theory of the Fronde, and a 
beautiful copy of Bodin's Apologle pour Rene Herpin, the defence of his 
Republic. There is still my frantic wire about a Cambridge catalogue (oh 
so admirable) to be answered but of that I cannot hope to hear until 
next Tuesday I fear. Frida writes to me from Germany that she has found 
me a treasure, but provokingly, does not say what it is and I have to 
possess my soul in patience until the first of May. I must, by the way, tell 
you that I had a catalogue the other day in which your Lyndwood's 
Provinciate (1505 isn't it) was catalogued at 40 and the Fitzherbert 
of 1517 at 60. These things advance by leaps and bounds. 

And I must tell you (to my own discomfort) how beautifully I was 
"done" the other day. A man of forty arrives and asks for help. I can't 
bear just to turn people down in case they turn out genuine and so I asked 
for details about him. He said he was McGill ("just after your time, Pro- 
fessor Laski") and Yale, talked with fluency about Borchard, 2 wished he 
had known Felix, spoke warmly of Mack, J. and altogether gave the im- 
pression of a good fellow down on his luck who deserved helping back 
to America. So I lent him five pounds. He insisted on an I.O.U. and 
solemnly gave me an address in Hartford, Connecticut. I meditated on 
the luck I had in life on the principle of Richard Baxter. 3 About an hour 

1 Silver Thorn; A Book of Short Stories (1928). 

* Edwin Borchard (1884-1951), Professor of Law at Yale, 1917-1951. 
8 Richard Baxter (1615-1691), Presbyterian divine, chiefly known as prolific 
author. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1149 

after he'd gone my colleague Hobhouse rang me up to ask if I would 
care to help an old Corpus man down on his luck etc. after discussion it 
turns out to be my man. Hobhouse had given him three pounds. Yester- 
day Graham Wallas rang me up to say he was sending X along as I 
might care to help him. He had attended Wallas's lectures at Harvard 
(class of Walter Lippmann) and Wallas was moved by his story and had 
lent him five pounds. Would I etc.? Five minutes talk, and it was clearly 
my man. This morning Sankey L.J. called up to ask if I could recom- 
mend X, an old Harvard student who had called with a request for help; 
seemed to know me very well etc. I warned him, but the gent skipped 
out while Sankey was telephoning. I called up Scotland Yard and they 
told me he is an old Oxford man who has worked the system for years 
and makes an average of forty or fifty pounds a week. He is widely read, 
got a first in greats, and just has this kink. I can only say that he is a very 
great artist, that I was wholly convinced by him and that I really feel 
that he deserves my five pounds. 

I have the best of news from Frida and Diana. They have fallen in 
love with Weimar and Jena, and everyone is most kind to them. Frida 
writes of a performance of ~Lear more overpowering than any she has ever 
seen in England and one of Ibsen's Master Builder that left her moved to 
her depths. I went to see the Negro play Porgy last night and was stirred 
less by the play itself than by the acting (negroes) who were like a 
perfectly rhythmic orchestra. 

My love to you both, as always. Ever affectionately yours, H. J, L. 



Devon Lodge, B.V.29 

My dear Justice: Consolation I cannot send, for there is no consolation in 
these moments of pain and loss. 1 But all the love that deep friendship can 
bring you I am anxious you should feel is yours. You know how big a 
space you both have filled in our hearts. It has altered the world for me 
to have known you; and I cannot easily bear the pain of thinking you are 
separated. She was always so good to me, and I learned almost the first 
time I saw her that she had, with all her reserve and reticence, a genius 
for affection. And to see you together was a lesson in the beauty of love. 
I know that things can never be the same for you again. But I want you 
to remember that your house was made by her for me as for others a 
place of loving pilgrimage and that while we live she will be remembered 
with deep affection. I can't say more, for I cannot write more. But think 
that I am with you in spirit and that my love for you will not grow dim. 

Ever yours affectionately, H. J. L. 

1 Mrs. Holmes had died on April 30. 



1150 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

Devon Lodge, 21.V.29 

My dear Justice: I am very anxious to have a word from you. But I do not 
want you to bother about writing just now. Would you therefore mind 
asking your young man to send me a couple of lines? I shall be on tenter- 
hooks until I hear. I do wish more than ever I can remember that I could 
be with you these days. 

I am, as you can imagine, wrapped up in the general election; and it is 
quite fascinating. 1 I have amused myself this time by speaking only for 
those candidates for w T hom I should be glad personally to vote, and cer- 
tainly one cannot complain of lack of adventure. At Oundle, for instance, 
the whole school turned out in the market place to shout us down; but 
because I simply beamed with pleasure at the heckling they behaved like 
lambs to me, and for forty minutes I spoke in perfect peace to a thousand 
people who had come in the hope of a row. One great problem is to 
know what on earth one's questioners really want to know. For instance 
at Coventry a man asked me whether I did not think there was a grave 
decline of liberty. I said a decline but not grave. What did I propose to 
do about it? I said, with such composure as I could muster, that I pro- 
posed to do what I could to arrest it. He then thanked me, being obvi- 
ously much relieved. Another man asked me if I did not think American 
prosperity a menace to the world. I said that on the contrary it was one 
of the hopes of the world and rebuked him for an attitude dead in 1789. 
The audience cheered wildly and he got up to apologise. Another fellow 
asked me if I could give him a guarantee that statesmen in the future 
would be of better principles than in the past. Another man wanted to 
know why there was a statue of the rebel George Washington in London 
while there was none of that great statesman, Lord Roberts! 2 But in gen- 
eral the eagerness of one's audience to have facts and explanations, espe- 
cially the women, is really very impressive. I believe that Baldwin will 
get a straight majority, though small; and all things considered I believe 
that this is the best thing that could happen. The great feature of the 
election is the fact that everyone has really ceased to be moved by Lloyd- 

1 On May 10 the fifth session of the Parliament elected in 1924 came to an 
end and it was formally dissolved as from May 24. In the general election on 
May 30, Labour secured 287 seats, the Conservatives 261, and the Liberals 
59. On June 4 Baldwin resigned as Prime Minister, recommending Ramsay 
MacDonald as Ms successor. MacDonald, despite earlier indication that he 
would not accept the office without a clear majority, did accept the Premier- 
ship. 

2 Frederick Sleigh Roberts (1832-1914), first Earl Roberts; field marshal, 
whose principal military services to the Empire were rendered in India in 
support of the "forward" policy, and in South Africa in bringing the Boer 
War to a successful conclusion. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1151 

George. That is really a triumph for English commonsense. He plays the 
part of charlatan in a way that is quite unforgettable. 

And from the angle of a peaceful scholar the election has its merits. 
Searching the market-square at Peterborough I found the 16 volumes of 
Metra's Correspondance litter air e for 7/6; and rare as they are I should 
certainly have had to pay ten pounds or so for them in France. And in 
Coventry I found a first edition of Rousseau's Confessions for a shilling. 
So does service meet its reward. 

Walter Lippmann sent me his Preface to Morals last week. I have been 
singularly moved by it. Though it hasn't originality, and doesn't deal with 
the big question of how disinterestedness is to grow, I thought it a 
superb definition of an attitude wholly sympathetic to me and written 
with a severe beauty quite beyond praise. I read too a very interesting 
book by the abbe Bremond in the great trial of Fenelon v. Bossuet 3 
pleading for the former with much passion and as I cannot bring myself 
to like Bossuet whose oratory seems to me to conceal a very ordinary 
mind I was very delighted with it. And as I bought a two volume edition 
of Mme. de Stael I have been reading her, mostly in trains, with very 
great pleasure. 

One incident I must not forget. I had to give a public lecture the 
other day in a series on "Philosophies of History" and Karl Marx was 
allotted to me. I spoke the usual commonplaces for an hour and at the 
end a dear old lady who might have stepped out of Cranford came to 
me and said "That was, I suppose, Karl Marx of whom you were speak- 
ing?" And at Helston [sic] in the Peterboro' division when I was speaking 
about the land problem I reminded them of how John Clare the poet? 
had protested there against the enclosure of commons. An old labourer 
applauded very hard and at the end came up to tell me that his grand- 
father had been imprisoned by the magistrates for taking round announce- 
ments of Clare's meetings. It is amazing to find how the events of a 
hundred years ago are still vivid traditions in rural England. They talk 
of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in Dorchester as though they were transported 
two or three years ago. 5 And if you mention them the chances are that 
a man will come up to you and say that he married the granddaughter of 
one "and the missus will be grateful for your kind words/* If s a very 
moving thing. 

8 Probably Henri Bremond, Apologie pour Fenelon (1910). 

4 John Clare (1793-1834), rustic poet from Helpstone whose poverty was 
the result in large measure of enclosure and who wrote frequently of its con- 
sequences, nowhere more effectively than in his satirical poem, "The Parish." 

5 In 1834 six laborers of Tolpuddle, Dorsetshire, were sentenced to seven 
years* transportation for having taken the oaths of membership of the Grand 
National Consolidated Trades Union. See Webb, History of Trade Unionism 
(1926) IMetseq. 



1152 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

But just now I shan't bother you with a long letter. Please take 
the greatest care of yourself. Your dissent in the valuation-reproduction 
case 6 alone shows how essential you are to the Court. But I do not need 
to ask you to have courage. That has been the principle round which 
you have built your life; and it is one of the roots of our pride in you. 

Our deep love, Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



May 23, 1929 

Dear Laski: Please keep on writing to me and I shall get on to my pen 
before long. I am reconciled to my wife's death as the alternative seemed 
inevitably a life of nothing but pain. A companionship of sixty years 
is more than one can bargain for a companionship that has made life 
poetry. If I can work on for a year or two more, it is well enough and 
if not, I have lived my life. Affectionately yours, O. W. H. 



Washington, D. C., May BO, 1929 

My dear Laski: A dear letter from you has just come you will have 
heard from me before this, but I reiterate: please keep on writing and 
I shall do the best I can. I don't lose my interest in my friends or affairs 
of the mind or in my job although it may be, as I wrote to someone 
yesterday, like a man's beard growing after he is dead. My wife's death 
seems like the beginning of my own but I am confused and hardly 
know what 1 think about anything. It hasn't prevented my writing. 
Frankfurter wrote to me highly praising something that I wrote in the 
midst of anxieties and I have just turned off a dissent about the 
refusal to admit a pacifist to citizenship that Brandeis liked and joined 
in. 1 There seems to be a distinct compartment in one's mind that works 
away no matter what is going on with the rest of the machinery. I have 
been delayed in reading W. Lippmann's book but have it at my elbow, 
probably to be finished between here and Beverly to which I go via 
the Touraine on the night of June 5 arriving Boston 6:50 AM and I 
hope Beverly Farms by Saturday. The women behaved like bricks and 
gave up their usual holiday at this time go with me and straight on 
to B.F. where things will have been prepared for them and they will 
put on the finishing touches, and notify me. I have been reaoling a 
curious book called The Confusion of Tongues by Charles W. Fergu- 
son an account of the best known come-out sects, Spiritualism 

* Brandeis and Stone, JJ., had delivered dissenting opinions on May 20 in 
St. Louis and O'Fatton Railway Co, v. United States, 279 U.S. 461, 488, 548, 
in both of which Holmes had concurred. 

1 United States v. Schiwmmer, supra, p. 1146. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1153 

Theosopliy New Thought, Christian Science Ku KIux Mormon- 
ism, Mennonites and other less known by name to me but he says 
maintaining great establishments ending with the Atheists (not the 
quiet scientific unbelievers but people on fire with the same enthusiasm 
as the others only with inverted values or colors). 

I don't remember whether I mentioned F. Hackett's Henry VIII which 
I agree with Frankfurter in thinking a masterpiece but I am on the 
verge of shutting up and going north and am not available for con- 
secutive thought. Affectionately yours, 0. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 4.VL29 

My dear Justice: Your brave card gave me joy beyond words. Made 
antiquae virtutis. You in any case could not want for courage. But you 
with memories of her are doubly armed. 

I have, as you can imagine, been swept off my feet in these last three 
weeks. Thirty speeches, articles innumerable, my school work, and now 
the amusement of watching de pres a cabinet in the making it has 
been hard but interesting work. So far as I can see, it looks as though 
Sankey will be Lord Chancellor 1 and that gives me, as you can imagine, 
very special pleasure. It will amuse you to know (this absolutely, please, 
between ourselves) that MacDonald wanted me to go to the House of 
Lords as a debater for them. But I said (a) I haven't the money (b) 
I want my independence and (c) I am a scholar by vocation and not 
a politician. It is amazing to sit with MacDonald and watch what 
happens. People who hate him like poison send gifts and congratulations. 
They write pages to insist on their claims. When the leaders meet each 
has a list of his particular pets who think that they ought not to be 
overlooked. People who have never been Labour write to offer their help. 
It is all the most incredible picture of the lust for power that I have 
ever seen. One story I must tell you. I went North to speak for Mac- 
Donald. On the way I bought a paper in which Lord Daryngton, 2 speak- 
ing for Capt. Macmillan 3 said he regarded him as the most brilliant young 
man in England. In the afternoon I bought another journal in which 
Daryngton spoke for Major Ropner 4 and said he regarded him as the 

1 Sir John Sankey became Lord Chancellor on June 8. 

Herbert Pike Pease (1867-1949), first Baron Daryngton; Liberal-Unionist 
M.P. for Darlington, 1898-1923. 

8 Captain Harold McMillan, M.P. from Stockton-on-Tees from 1924 to 1929, 
was defeated in the June election. 

* Major, later Colonel, Leonard Ropner had been Parliamentary Secretary to 
the Secretary of State for War, 1924-1928; in the June elections he was de- 
feated as candidate for Sedgefield; in 1931 he was a successful Unionist 
candidate for Parliament 



1154 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

most brilliant young man in England. Being amused, I cut these out. Two 
days later I was at Darlington with 2 hours to wait for my train. So I 
went into a Tory meeting and found Lord Daryngton speaking for Vis- 
count CastlereagL 5 He urged the voters to support him because he was 
the most brilliant young man in England. When questions were invited 
I got up and asked how Lord Daiyngton reconciled his description of 
Castlereagh with that given by him of Macmfllan. No answer. I then 
asked how he reconciled it with his description of Ropner. No answer. 
I then enquired whether some divine concatenation of circumstances had 
persuaded the Tory party to put the three most brilliant young men 
in England in adjoining constituencies. By this time the audience was 
rocking with laughter and the chairman hurriedly brought the meeting 
to a close. Nor must I forget to tell you of the lady who asked me in 
Dulwich whether a Labour government would base its legislation on 
the principles of Jesus Christ. I said that I thought this unlikely in 
the first five years, but that afterwards anything might happen. I add 
that the one thing that pleases me most in the defeat of Baldwin is 
the tolerable certainty of an improvement in Anglo-American relations. 
MacDonald is set on a term to this insane naval competition and a new 
agreed definition of freedom of the seas. 6 I am hopeful that all this may 
do immense good to the peace of the world. With England and America 
in harmony big things can be done. And I see no reason at all for the 
bickering of the last few years, At the same time I do regret the loss 
of Baldwin himself, for with many faults, he is a great gentleman and one 
of the cleanest fighters I have ever met in politics. 

In the way of reading I have had, as you can guess, to depend mostly 
on trains. But I read one excellent book on Rousseau by an American 
named Wright (The Meaning of Rousseau Oxford) and one incredible 
book by a Frenchman named Schinz who takes five hundred pages to 
say that Rousseau desired the happiness of the human race. Then the 
translation of Proust which I enjoyed far more than I expected though I 
add that I found something irritating in the minute exploration of the 
insignificant habits of insignificant snobs. I see now what an immense 
influence his method has had on contemporary fiction. He has per- 
suaded the second-rate that the mere accumulation of detail is itself 
significant and they have not the art to see that accumulation as such is 
the enemy of art, that it is selective accumulation plus a story which, as 
in the Old Wives' Tale, really makes the great novel. I also read, thanks 

5 Viscount Castlereagh (1902- ) was defeated as candidate for Darling- 
ton; in 1931 he became Unionist M.P. representing County Devon. 

6 In September, MacDonald announced that Great Britain would join the 
Five Power Conference on Naval Disarmament to be held in London in 
January 1930. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1155 

to you, Dewey's Experience and Nature and thought it really important, 
perhaps because I so largely agree with it. And I must not omit an 
admirable collection of essays by A. N. Whitehead called The Meaning 
[sic] of Education which seemed to me full of the scholar's ripe wisdom. 
Also a charming volume by Mrs, Graham Wallas Before the Blue- 
stockings essays on people like Mary Astell 7 which I thoroughly 
enjoyed. 

Now I have turned back to work at my Yale lectures and I hope this 
political interlude will be an interesting nightmare not to recur for five 
years. But it gives me valuable material for teaching and I cannot com- 
plain. At least when I come to write on the technique of cabinet making 
I shall know a little of how it is done. 

I was made very happy by your dissent in the railway valuation case 
and the Rosika Schwimmer case. The former I know only by the 
decisions; the latter I thought an iniquitous injustice and I was proud 
of your dissent. I do hope the modern state is not going to become a 
medieval church. 

Our love to you. Take great care please. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. /. L. 



Devon Lodge, 11.VL29 

My dear Justice: I expect you have now settled down to the peace of a 
Beverly summer; and I hope you are going to have Felix near at hand 
for talk. We have taken a house for August on the very top of the 
Surrey Hills a part you may know as it is not three miles from 
Meredith's place at Box Hill, I am very content with it, as it has a good 
library and a study for me that looks out over the hills to the sea and 
gives one the sense of being completely unconfined. I do wish it were 
August now. 

The week since I wrote has passed very interestingly in watching 
from close at hand the making of the Cabinet. For me, as you can 
imagine, the chief joy is Sankey's appointment. He will be a really good 
Chancellor, for he has courage and integrity and wisdom. Most of the 
posts went by schedule; but I was very surprised by Webb's willingness 
to take office. 1 Evidently there is no "nolo episcopari" in politics, for 
only the day before he had insisted to me that he would not go into 
harness again. Two of my own colleagues at the School got office and 
one, at least, I was able to elevate from a very minor post to the under- 

7 Mary Astell (1668-1731), author of A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, 
Wherein a Method is Offered for the Improvement of their Minds ( 1697 ) 

Sidney Webb, shortly to become Baron Passfield, was Colonial Secretary in 
the MacDonald government. 



1156 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

secretaryship of Foreign Affairs. 2 I had a long talk with MacDonald on 
Friday about America; and there I really hope for a settlement of our 
quite unnecessary differences in a big and generous way. Henderson, 
too, who asked me for a memorandum took my points with admirable 
vigour and I think no effort will be wanting to end the present irritabil- 
ity. 3 I add as a footnote that the panting excitement of the aspirants to 
office made me grateful that I had not chosen a political career. To sit 
in the Prime Minister's room while he interviews the hopeful is like a 
meeting of assassins who have come armed with scriptural texts. 

My days have been occupied with the grim business of writing 
memoranda for ministers. Of one great thing I am hopeful that I shall 
get Sankey to set up a Royal Commission on Legal Education and see 
whether we cannot devote some of the immense funds of the Inns of 
Court to building a Harvard Law School in this country. 4 At present, as 
you know, the whole system of teaching law here is thoroughly bad; 
and the lack of any recognition for the barristers who become professors 
of law means that outside one or two posts like the Vinerian professorship 
the law teachers are a very inferior set of people who mainly teach 
because they cannot make a success of the bar. I should like to end 
that, and I find Sankey very favourable to an attempt. Whether it would 
be successful heaven knows; for in England to attack a vested interest 
is always a difficult matter. But if we have a go at it, I think one or two 
fellows like Maurice Amos could be persuaded to sit and, if necessary, 
to sign a minority report with me. 

In the way of reading, I haven't very much to report. I have read an 
excellent Life of Godwin by Ford 3L Brown (Button) written just at that 
level of irony that the subject demands. A queer fellow, whom it is im- 
possible to like or to admire; and yet he must have had a power in him 
to move the world as he did. The Life took me to Caleb Williams which 
I had not read in years, and despite Mr. Brown who thinks it a minor 
classic, I found it intolerable longueurs unendurable in every chapter. 
But some Maria Edgeworth Belinda and Patronage were wholly 
delightful I enjoyed, too, a book by my former colleague, Kingsley 
Martin The French Liberal Tradition in the XVIlIth Century 

* Mr, Hugh Dalton ( 1887- ) held a readership in Economics at London 
University when he was made Parliamentary Undersecretary for Foreign 
Affairs. 

8 Arthur Henderson was Foreign Secretary in MacDonald's Cabinet. 

*It was not until August 1932 that Lord Sankey appointed a committee, 
under the chairmanship of Lord Atkin, to consider the possibilities of closer 
coordination between the work done by the Universities and the professional 
bodies, and further provision for advanced research in legal studies. Laski was 
a member of the committee. Its report was presented to Parliament in July 
1934. Command Papers #4663. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1157 

which, without novelty, still puts old truths in an attractive way. And 
a new novel of P. G, Wodehouse dealing with Mr. Mulliner, once more 
made me roar out in the tube until my neighbours must have suspected 
my sanity. 5 

I have hardly any history of purchases, though I have sent to Paris 
for a cheap set of the complete Diderot and have not yet lost hope. I 
went to an auction on Friday in search of some economic pamphlets of 
circa 1650 and had priced them on catalogue values on some such 
scale as 10/- each. To my astonishment they brought an average of 
nearly five pounds; I stopping my bids at 15/- I asked the bookseller 
who got them why he had bid so high for them. He replied that when 
I had begun bidding he assumed there was some special feature about 
them that he had missed, and that he better have them for safety's 
sake. So, my dear Justice, one pays for knowledge. It will amuse you to 
know, as an illustration of human insanity, that at this sale a long letter 
from Bernard Shaw explaining that he did not claim to be better than 
Shakespere brought two hundred odd pounds; and an incredibly stupid 
one from J. M. Barrie in which he drew a map of fairyland for a child 
brought nearly one hundred. One bookseller paid thirty pounds for a 
first edition of Galsworthy published in 1922. As you can imagine I am 
vowed not to visit auction-rooms any more for the present. They are 
a snare and a delusion. 

Term, thank heaven, begins to look like ending, and though I have 
a fairly busy July, still the cessation of academic routine will be a comfort 
and then two months real freedom will be like water on parched grass. 
I have, too, some doctoral examinations to go through. I did one last 
week where the candidate had written on Montesquieu and I asked him 
what his book was intended to show. He replied with quiet simplicity 
that he considered his book the best general survey of M. in any 
language. One of his points was that M. owed a great debt to Gordon's 
Independent Whig; but when I asked him if he had read the latter it 
turned out that he had not. He made a great fuss about the separation 
of powers so I read him an extract from your dissent in the Jensen case 
and asked him what he thought of it. His reply, I think, ought to be 
classical "It is the business of judges to preserve and not to betray the 
principles of the American constitution," 

Our love to you. Keep well, and see plenty of friends. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 

*Meet Mr. Mullmer (1928). 
' Supra, p. 643. 



1158 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

Beverly Farms, June 15, 1929 

My dear Laski: Here I am settled quietly it is now a week since 
I arrived. Everything is pleasant and I drive, see my friends, and read 
a little and sleep in the process. Frankfurter and his wife made a very 
satisfying call. He relieved my mind by telling me that there was no 
danger of his leaving the Law School for Chicago which I had heard 
rumored. I have a faithful follower, James Doherty, who thinks it his 
special duty to look after me. Some of my wife's relatives thought it well 
that he should come on to the funeral and he somehow established him- 
self in charge of a good deal and managed things admirably. He drove 
down here with me last Saturday and didn't leave till Monday, after he 
had taken me to walk and satisfied himself that I was safe solemnly 
exhorting me not to come to Boston without notifying him. He seems to 
think that I oughtn't to be trusted in the streets alone. I must tell you 
too that the moment he heard of my wife's death the Chief Justice at 
once communicated with Arlington and made sure that everything was 
ready. How can one help loving a man with such a kind heart? I have 
a lovely spot in Arlington toward the bottom of the hill where the house 
is, with pine trees, oak, and tulip all about, and where one looks to 
see a deer trot out (although of course there are no deer). I have 
ordered a stone of the form conventional for officers which will bear 
my name, Bvt. Col. and Capt. 20th Mass. Vol. Inf. Civil War Justice 
Supreme Court, U.S. March, 1841 His wife Fanny B. Holmes and 
the dates. It seemed queer to be putting up my own tombstone but 
these things are under military direction and I suppose it was necessary 
to show a soldier's name to account for my wife. 

Your last letter received yesterday ("4.VI.29") gave me the usual 
pleasure. I think you were entirely right in your answer to MacDonald, 
but not quite right as to Mrs. Schwimmer I don't think the majority 
meant any more than that a person couldn't be attached to the principles 
of the Constitution if he didn't recognize that in case of need it must be 
supported by force, coupled with a recollection of the anti-draft talk 
during the late war. I couldn't help suspecting that their view was made 
easier by her somewhat flamboyant declaration that she was an atheist. 
I alluded to it discreetly without mentioning it, in what I said. (I was 
reading a book about the queer sects in the U.S., the last chapter of 
which was devoted to the Atheists, a society with a name, and pointed out 
that they were of the same timber as the others although inverted. The 
real solid unbelievers sit back with a smile and are not 'asts for an 'ism.) 
After interruptions I have finished W. Lippmann's book. I was as much 
impressed as you were and think it will hit a great many people 
where they live. I was delighted to hear from Frankfurter that it was 



1929] HOLMES TO LASKI 1159 

having a great sale. I wrote to him but I fear mainly repeated things 
that I have said many times before. My only criticism, which is not one 
really, would be to quote Twisden, C.J. in Saunders' Reports "Twisden 
C.J. said to Mr. Saunders, 'Why do you labour so? for the Court is 
clearly with you/ ** 

By and by the certioraris will begin to come in but I may keep 
them until my secretary arrives late in July he is a great help. I am 
reading Isadora Duncan's life of herself which is worth reading [three 
words illegible] and I have begun a Life of Erasmus by Preserved Smith 
I am told that he believed nothing. 

Ever affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, June 21, 1929 

My dear Lasld: Your letter, delightful as usual, stirs thoughts and recol- 
lections. As to the Commission on Legal Education I have no opinion, 
but I note that somehow you make good lawyers under the present 
system. I can't help remembering what I said as to the President's 
Commission for enforcing the law 1 on that also I am ignorant but 
I said long ago in a speech that for most of the evil in the present state 
of the law I think the remedy is for us to grow more civilized. 2 Your 
lawyers are educated in a more civilized milieu and whatever the system 
of teaching, they show it judging by the decisions that from time to 
time I read. The atmosphere is more important than the specific con- 
tacts. Caleb Williams calls up my boyhood. I think my father thought it 
the most interesting novel in the world. I read it and have pretty well 
forgotten it but I remember a criticism of De Quincey, that the mystery 
was left unsolved because it had to be no possible denouement would 
be adequate to the row that had been made about it. I dare say I should 
agree with you if I read it now. 

I hardly got the point of your doctor's candidate as to die duty not 
to betray the principles of the Constitution. I thought, if I remember 
rightly, that I was standing in the ancient ways. I haven't read much 
since Isadora Duncan lent to me, by the by, by that dear creature, 
Mrs. Beveridge. She seems to incline to all the modernists in art as in 
literature, which adds a spice to our talk. I am just finishing another 
book that she lent me a life of Erasmus by Preserved Smith inter- 
esting but not interestingly written and now I have the Tom Barbour's 
(E. M. Remarque) All Quiet on the Western Front unexpurgated. I 

1 In May 1929, President Hoover had appointed a National Commission on 
Law Observance and Enforcement, of which George W. Wickersharn was 
Chairman. Holmes's comment on the Commission has not been identified. 

2 **Tne Use of Law Schools," Speeches, 38, 39-40. 



1160 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

understand that only an expurgated edition is commonly accessible here. 
You know perhaps how refined we are in Massachusetts in the matter 
of morals in books! I haven't looked at it yet. I also have a reprint of 
Folkways by the later Sumner a well known professor of Yale. This 
Mrs. Curtis told me was more or less expurgated but interesting 
as yet also unexplored by me. I get letters from time to time that leave 
me silent and abashed perhaps I told you that I answered one, that 
if the devil came round the corner and said: "You and I know that 
that isn't true," I should believe him, but while he didn't appear in person 
it fostered a hope that I had lived my dream. I am too much of a 
skeptic to believe it fully and I don't think it very important, any- 
how. I am conscious of the approach of the end but I mildly hope it 
may wait for a year and % to take me into 90. My love to you. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



Devon Lodge, 25.VI.29 

My dear Justice: I hope all goes well with you; I read of heat waves in 
the Eastern States and almost perspire with you. Here there are golden 
days bright and cool so that it is really a pleasure to work. Certainly 
I seem destined to work a huge mass of exam papers, a number of 
doctoral examinations all clustered together, and perpetual memoranda 
for one or other friends in government. But it is all interesting and I do 
not complain, especially as the term ends on Friday and I am having a 
really good time working a day in each week with Sankey and seeing 
at first hand how the machine goes. My general impression is definite 
that a real 18th century atmosphere still lingers over the legal profession. 
Item a vacancy for a county court judgeship over 400 people write 
in to the L.C. to press their claims, decayed silks, university professors, 
juniors who want a rest from turmoil and so forth. A vicarage to be 
filled produced 300 letters. Add to all this the people who send presents 
to the L.C. with a view to prospective favours, the men who write asking 
that he introduce them to the Attorney-General, others who want "silk" 
and were passed over on a previous occasion, and one is really startled 
at the extent to which, in this side of the work, patronage lingers on. 
Then I read certain cabinet papers for him and I should like to write 
an essay on what they imply. I reckon that he would have to form a 
judgment on sixteen different subjects which range from the recognition 
of Russia to the question of whether the Trades Disputes Act of 1927 
should be completely repealed or merely amended. Sankey, thank heaven, 
is a real glutton for work and I have only either to write a memorandum 
or to indicate desirable sources of study and he is on to them like a 
hawk. I have also had some pleasure in drawing up a memorandum for 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1161 

the Foreign Office on the successor to Esme Howard. I mustn't speak 
about it, but you can imagine that it was amusing to put into writing 
the qualities one feels that our man at Washington ought to possess. 1 
Felix, by the way, amused me (between ourselves) enormously by 
writing to me urgently to argue that the ideal Ambassador to appoint 
was A. N. Whitehead, the philosopher who, to my knowledge, has 
never even glimpsed that kind of experience and is one of the most 
practically disorganised men alive! I would about as soon think of ap- 
pointing Morris Cohen your Ambassador in London. 

All kinds of queer people have come along lately. A Chinaman wanted 
me to become the professor of politics in a new university just where 
the brigands have lately trapped and executed three missionaries and 
explained that the professor would always have an army division at 
hand until things were stabilised. A Hungarian gentleman wanted me 
to write a book on the peace treaties in which it would emerge that 
Hungary had been badly treated and hinted just how much the govern- 
ment would be glad to pay for such a service. A, large and ample lady 
arrived from a club in Sussex "of the first families of the county" 
wanting me to give three lectures in the winter on Parliament "with 
lantern slides"; she could promise me a guinea and expenses but the 
great attraction she had to offer would be that I could spend the night 
on each occasion in a famous baronial hall. Her way of putting it was 
that I could "spend the night with the Countess of **, but I assume 
that my gloss more accurately represents the facts, especially as the 
Countess is over seventy and, I hope, a little aloof from that sort of 
thing. Then I must not omit the young lady from Columbia who wants 
to study bail. She wanted an introduction to every magistrate in London; 
the Home Office; the Record Office "through all of whose records" she 
proposed to go. I suggested, perhaps wickedly, that she start with the 
last and sent her to a friend of mine there. He explained that she could 
begin with the 13th century and work forwards or the 20th and work 
backwards. Horrified she tried to insist that she must get everything done 
by August 1 when she was to join a party to see the sights of Stamboul. 
He explained that Miss Putnam 2 had been hard at one part of the 
theme for ten years and had only reached 1500. So the poor young thing 
came back- to me and said that she had decided instead to write a 
piece on "A Day in a London Police Court." Finally I must put in the 
soft-voiced Anglican clergyman who wanted me to hold forth to the 

1 On December 31 Sir Ronald Lindsay (1877-1945) was appointed Am- 
bassador to the United States. 

"Presumably Bertha Haven Putnam (1872- ), Professor of History at 
Mount Holyoke College and student of English medieval courts, particularly 
the Justices of the Peace. 



1162 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

"Community of the Resurrection" in July on the rights of the Christian 
Church. I explained that I never spoke to religious societies and that 
I was by belief an agnostic who disliked all churches. He looked at me 
in simple horror, told me that my mortal soul was in danger, and begged 
me to pray. I thanked him as courteously as I could and bowed him out. 
But he sent me a form of prayer and three or four little pamphlets 
obviously intended to help me out towards the light from the darkness 
in which I dwell. 

Of other things there is not much to tell. I got my Diderot and my 
eyes dwell lovingly upon it as I write. I also got a beautiful copy of 
Rousseau's Social Contract in the first edition as clean and fresh as the 
day when it was printed, and an even more beautiful Bodin edition 
of 1591 bound by Derome in brown morocco. 3 

My love to you as always. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 9, 1929 

My dear Laski: You have events and prominent people to write about. 
I have only the quiet doings of an old would-be recluse. But there 
hasn't been much recluse about it so far. People, all friends, turn up 
nearly every day, oftener than I want, and are apt to stay longer than 
I can well endure. An hour and a half two hours at the outside, is as 
much as I can carry off without being tired but last night one was 
here from 6 to after 10 with no intermission except food. Well I 
got a good night's sleep and didn't get up till a quarter to 9. I think it 
will stop now. The only fatigue for today is the dentist. But who does 
not tremble before the dentist? 

Reading has been less than I wished. I have just finished a good book 
by the late Surnner of Yale, Folkways, the anthropological facts generally 
familiar but the conclusions and comments showing his fierce incisors. 
He does despise and explode phrases that serve as an excuse for not 
thinking. He speaks of the "jingle" "government of the people, for the 
people, and by the people" which of course did not start from 
A. Lincoln. Also I read part of a book and the summaries at the head 
of the remaining chapters by General Smuts Holism and Evolution 
in which I failed to discover a new idea or anything to justify the 
General's evident belief that he is making a great contribution to 
philosophy. Do you know by inspection or hearsay whether I am all 
wrong? Barlow who was here Saturday-Sunday unearthed from my books 
some short stories by "Sakf that are very good and amusing and 

8 The Derome family, a French dynasty of binders, produced its greatest 
figure in the eighteenth century when Nicolas Denis Derome, known as the 
younger Derome, was master of the bindery. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1163 

there has been other light stuff. The only interesting works are the 
dull books. I am slow to take up a novel nowadays and I must look 
out for a piece de resistance. I am like Dr, Johnson's dull boy who hesi- 
tates between two books while the clever Laski reads both. My routine 
you know. Mrs. Beveridge was here for luncheon the other day and I 
took her over to Newburyport to see the old house that perhaps you 
remember. We had a flattened tire that made it rather long for me 
but it was a success. One day a delightful visit from Felix and his Mrs. 
I have not been able yet to go through Rockport and wish that you 
were there but expect to soon. 

Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 

I hope you took to heart my remarks about civilization apropos of your 
desired Commission on Legal Education. 



Devon Lodge, 9.VII.29 

My dear Justice: I have been buried in the grim melodrama of examina- 
tion papers; indeed I have hardly emerged. I hope that by next week 
university work will really be over and that I can begin to think of 
the humanities. But I have really hardly known where to turn this last 
fortnight. 

Yet some pleasant adventures. A couple of private dinners with tie 
Lord Chancellor have been illuminating. He really is a fine fellow not 
a distinguished mind, by any means, but with balance, and a sense of 
what the French call justesse. I sit bewildered at the number of de- 
mands for posts that he receives, many of them from eminent "silks" 
who really ought to know better. One coolly wrote to ask for a forth- 
coming vacancy in the Lords as you might ask for a book in a shop. 
Then I had a good day in Oxford, where I had tea with my old tutor 
Herbert Fisher and heard some charming memories of you in the days 
when you frequented Leslie Stephen. I was interested by the effect of 
Oxford on Fisher after his years in politics. He obviously feels it a 
place of "small talk,'* intellectually constricting, and void of a big ethos 
of any kind. He made a strong plea for universities in great centres of 
population to make academic folk have contact with the big world. I am 
doubtful; but certainly some of the dons I saw were pathetically narrow 
in their outlook and did not seem to look beyond their own walled town. 
Then I went to a dinner of American professors in London and was 
interested by the contrast. The Oxford don is uninterested in the big 
world; the American professor is uninterested in the impractical. It was 
a curious experience to sit among men who spoke of men with money 
as the people who made universities great and to find a craving among 
them for the study of the immediate. Also I felt that they much too little 



1164 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

realised what I may call the significance of the impalpable and were 
reaching out after a quite illusory quantitative exactitude which in the 
social sciences at least has hardly a title to serious consideration. And 
for my sins I had a pathetic lunch with Graham Wallas who outlined to 
me his new book with the sense that he was announcing epoch-making 
discoveries. 1 He seemed to me to say (I) leaders in politics should lead 
(II) knowledge is important (III) Bentham was a great man (IV) be 
careful in your use of the deductive methods. Unless I am wildly astray 
these things were not unknown; yet he put to me these and kindred truths 
with an air of sweet complacency that would be grimly laughable were 
it not tragic. I must not forget the German Geheimrat who called with 
the most tremendous introductions, top-hatted, white-waistcoat, frock- 
coat. He wanted a bibliography of proportional prepresentation and 
amused me profoundly by entering each title I gave him on a large violet 
card which he solemnly punctured with 1, 2, or 3 holes, according to 
whether I thought the particular book bad, indifferent or good. And the 
Indian gentleman who asked me for a brief opinion of the caste-system. 
I expressed my entire incompetence. "Sir," he said, "I will leave you 
two brochures of my own which amply illustrate my theme. In two weeks 
I will call again to glean your views after instruction." My protest that 
I could not form my views in that way went quite unheeded; and I 
believe he will be here again shortly with the confident expectation that 
his incredible pamphlets will have settled my views. One of them 
advertises on the back a mystic luck-bringer which enables the wearer, 
among other things, to make a fortune on the stock-exchange, beget a 
male child, and pass any examination. The other is full of the charms 
of "Kali-Perfume" which is guaranteed to make the person who uses it 
quite irresistible to men. Used, I gather, as a medicine it is a sovereign 
cure for female ailments. From all of which I conclude that my visitor was 
no ordinaiy man. Why he came to me I have not the remotest idea in 
the world; I do desire a modest competence, heaven knowns; but neither 
a male child nor irresistibility to women has any special attraction for 
me. 

I have got some nice books from Paris mainly in the way of 17th 
century Utopias like Vairasse's Histoire des Sevarambes. But I am wait- 
ing with that anxiety you can appreciate for some ancient law books in 
a French catalogue some of which, e.g. Lambert's Jurisprudence uni- 
versette, 1776, (an attack on natural law) I have been looking for over 
years. But they were so rare and so very cheap that I do not dare to 
hope. In the way of reading, one or two attractive things deserve record. 
I don't know if you ever read Alexander's Moral Order and Progress 

1 Social Judgment (1935), published posthumously, was evidently the 
uncompleted result of Wallas's intention. 



1929] HOLMES TO LASK1 1165 

(1889)? I never had. I bought it cheap the other day and thought it 
in every way a most impressive performance especially in its emphasis 
upon my pet theme that morality is necessarily social in character. Then 
Spedding's Life of Bacon which I found in a convenient two-volume 
edition and thought more interesting than any biography I had read in 
years the perfect book for the long journey. And P. P. Howe's Life 
of Hazlitt which was both attractive and competent. I read, too, my young 
colleague Martin's The French Liberal Tradition in the 18th Century 
which I think you would like; it is particularly good on Diderot, Rous- 
seau and Condorcet and is supremely well-written. 

I have now made all the arrangements for coming to America next 
year. I shall get to Yale the first week in March and stay until June. They 
give me only 3 hours work a week so I hope to invite myself to Washing- 
ton with decent frequency. You can imagine how I look forward to talk. 

Our united love to you. I hope all goes well. I read with dread of 
your heat-wave. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Beverly Farms, July 19, 1929 

My dear Laski: You never write an uninteresting letter and the one just 
received (9.VII.29) is no exception. But you speak of your pet theme 
that morality is social in character as if you were an exception. I thought 
that people who count generally held that opinion. I believe I have 
mentioned that recently I read Sumner's (late of Yale) Folkways 
one of the main theses of which is that given certain mores, established 
by convenience, superstition, and what not else, the philosophers, ac- 
customed to them, proceed to demonstrate that the principles of conduct 
invoked are a priori necessities of human nature although in fact only 
the outcome of particular habits of their community. I wish I had you 
as near as Rockport (I drove round there the other day) to give me a 
good piece de resistance or two. The only one I have now is Hermann 
M. Roth, Der Trust in seinem Entwicklungsgang vom Feoffee to Uses etc., 
which I read with a dictionary. It is only about 300 pages but I have 
little time and read slowly. The author sent it to me last term, asking 
me to criticise it. I had to tell him that I was 88, very busy, and read 
with some difficulty, but I have got far enough to have written to him 
that I was getting pleasure and profit from it. Naturally pleasure, as 
he gives me full credit. It seems to me well done, though one or two 
suggestions of his seem doubtful. I told him that for nearly 50 years I 
had been thinking on other themes. I have read some light stuff, e.g. 
Magie noire by P. Morand and some short stories by Said which were 
in file shelves here but which seemed mostly new to me when Bob 
Barlow unearthed them the other day. Said is often funny, but other 



1166 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

tales have a streak of cruelty in them, as does the French book. In 
my old age I prefer kindly pleasant things. And some little poems by 
women, Elinor Wylie et al I preferred the al to E.W. Little whiffs ^of 
semi-mystic emotions over happenings of the earth, sea and sky with 
a touch of sex, of course, in these days. I have heard women say that 
women were coarser than men, possibly true. A dame occasionally comes 
to luncheon with me, Mrs. Beveridge, (a dear, sad creature), Mrs. 
Curtis, Mrs. Codman, and men have come pretty frequently to call. I get 
tired after 2 hours. When Bob Barlow was here for Sunday (a prescriptive 
right of his, I don't generally want people for the night), W. Lippmann 
came in in the morning and was very pleasant. He seems like a real 
friend though I see him very rarely. I received a communication in 
abstraction the other day saying in part, "When mental strabismus causes 
a jurist of supreme position and attainments and of illustrious family 
to be under the hypnotic control of a shrewder fellow-jurist whose eveiy 
underlying line of action is to the end of world-control by his race of 
atheism, free-love and anarchy the future is indeed black for civilization." 
This is strictly between ourselves. I should hate to have it come before 
the eyes of a shrewder fellow-jurist. I thought it best not to answer. 
Indeed it was in the form of an ejaculation not addressed to me except 
on the envelope. You see how little I have to tell, I rejoice in the hope 
that I shall live to my next birthday, March 8, and see you in 
Washington. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 

Devon Lodge, 22.VIL29 

My dear Justice; I emerge from a heat wave, a little wan and pale, to 
tell you that your letter gave me deep delight. I take your warning to 
heart about our enquiry into legal education. I don't think we shall do 
much harm, and there is a chance of effecting good. Sankey, moreover, 
is a cautious person, and people like Winfield, Scrutton L.J. are not 
likely to go far wrong. 1 

The days have passed happily, and are very full. I lunched with the 
P.M. the other day to discuss Anglo-American relations. He was very 
sensible, and, I think, clearly on the right lines; and as he has a great 
regard for Hoover I think their minds will keep in step. Then a charm- 
ing dinner with Sankey to which I took Maxton, 2 the leader of the 
extreme Labour people. M. is a very delightful fellow, one of the most 
popular people in the Commons; the two took a great liking to each 

1 Neither Mr. Justice Scrutton nor Professor Winfield was on the Committee 
which was appointed in 1932. See, supra, note 4, p. 1156. 

2 James Maxton (1885-1946), Chairman of the Independent Labour Party, 
1926-1931, 1934-1939. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1167 

other and I think I did a good job over a point that interests me the 
definition of "capable of work" in the Workmen's Compensation Act, on 
which I want the law altered in the sense of Shaw's dissent in Bevan 
v. Nixon in 1929 A.C. which perhaps you know; 3 and 1 am fortified by 
the opinion of Leslie Scott that it is a necessary change unless the whole 
purpose of the Act is to be nullified. Then a jolly dinner at the House 
with ten young Tory members and Baldwin pere who wanted to cross- 
examine me about Labour policy. They were charming people and, as 
always, I got on superbly with Baldwin who is a dear. (I wish our own 
chief were as attractive.) I add a party here to which about 70 people 
came. The most amusing moment, I think, a fight between Arnold Ben- 
nett and H. G. Wells over the merits of Aldous Huxley. H.G. insisted 
that he committed the first great sin in being unable to tell a story and 
that he was pretentious. Bennett said he was a great stylist in quest of 
material. They fought like cats. I must tell you too of the young Jap 
who was introduced by Frida to the Foreign Secretary and said with great 
gravity that he hoped Mr. Henderson was not "bursted by the explosion of 
responsibilities" a new form of the time-honoured phrase. 

But it has not all been play. The Ministry of Labour sent me down to 
Oxford to settle a builder's strike and later to Cardiff to settle a threatened 
strike over an alleged wrongful dismissal. The first was easy; but in the 
second I had to sit as a court for two days, and to listen to excitable 
Welsh witnesses with the thermometer at 90 is not an easy task. I had 
great difficulty too when I ruled out evidence as inadmissible. The dis- 
missal was for alleged insubordination; and witnesses wanted to tell me 
everything about the man from the way he treated his wife to the moral 
reputation of a sister who was a chorus girl; and bitterly angry they 
were when I said I could not receive evidence on any question except 
alleged insubordination. However, I got my way and at least 1000 men 
are still at work which is the main thing. I have also examined three 
candidates for the Ph.D. one of whom I had to fail. I thought he would 
be angry or disappointed, but to my surprise he seemed delighted. I made 
enquiries and found that he was a fervent Indian nationalist who wanted 
one more excuse for hostility to the British and found it in my decision 
that a thesis on Currency in China was not worth a doctorate. You must 

8 In Bevan v. Nixon's Navigation Co., [1929] A.C. 44, a majority of the 
House of Lords held that the phrase "able to earn** in the Compensation Act 
was to be interpreted to apply to the worker's physical capacity to work. A 
collier, incapacitated from doing underground work which was available, and 
who, because of existing labor conditions, was unable to secure surface em- 
ployment, was therefore held not to be entitled to compensation as an 
injured underground worker. Lord Shaw of Dunfermline and Lord Blanesburgh 
dissented. The statute was amended in favor of such workers in 1981 (21 & 22 
Geo. V, c.18). 



1168 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

admit that the way of the professor is very hard. Here am I destroying 
the British empire for the sake of the intellectual standards of the Uni- 
versity of London. O temporal O mores! 

In the way of reading, there is not much of special significance to 
report. I read a not uninteresting book on your constitution by H. L. 
McBain, and, in the way of work, an extraordinarily able book on the 
medieval papacy by Gosselin. And, also for work, a good book if dull 
on Spinoza by one McKeon which gave me some useful leads. But, to 
be truthful, the main discovery of the week has been the new novel of 
P. G, Wodehouse which is perfect joy, 4 and a good story which Diana 
found of Mrs. Gaskell I had not read before, called "Sylvia's Lovers." 
I add, for your benefit, that the Oxford Press has just reprinted one of 
the most charming tales Anthony Trollope ever wrote, and one much 
too little known called Ayah's Angel, which I commend to you as 
pure delight. 

I have also had some book-luck from French catalogues. I got some 
nice contemporary criticisms of Montesquieu one of which, Abrege 
de Bodin by Lavie is extraordinarily interesting as working out in detail 
the relationship between Bodin and M. and so far as I know hardly 
noticed in the literature. Then a number of 17th century imaginary 
voyages, one of which, by Denis Vairasse, has clearly a real connection 
with Rousseau that I have still to work out in detail. Also I found the 
Adam and Tannery Descartes a noble edition and read or dipped 
into the correspondence for the first time and concluded that Descartes 
was an insufferable prig for whom affection must have been very diffi- 
cult indeed. And out of sheer extravagance I bought a first edition of 
Hume's essays, though it was cheap and found that my copy had be- 
longed to Jeremy Bentham and was carefully and wisely underlined by 
him. I bought also a first edition of the Communist Manifesto with two 
pounds and sold it to an enthusiast in these matters for ten, with a 
great feeling of virtuous satisfaction. 

We stay in town another week, until Diana ends school. Then, at 
length, the country. I long for it and the situation is so perfect that 
I feel special joys await us. 

Our united love to you. Keep well and don't do too much. Please give 
my salutations to Mrs. Beveridge. Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 



Beverly Farms, August 4, 1929 

My dear Laski: Your last letter is full of events and interesting facts. 
You don't name the new novel by Wodehouse, but seeing that in con- 
sideration of you, F.P. and Mrs. and Charley Curtis, I have just taken 
4 Fish Preferred (1929). 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1169 

Emma from the local library, I won't bother for the moment. You see 
I don't have much time to read. The occupations of idleness take time 
(driving, sleeping, solitaire, etc.) and now just as my secretary and I had 
finished 79 certioraris another bag full of them comes, the heap looks 
to me 30 or 20. Also for my odd minutes I have Eddington, The Nature 
of the Physical World which reminds of the little bock Eos just read 
as it also provides for the end of the universe. I think the scientific men 
weak when they get into the realm of philosophy and in speculation as 
to beginning and end I think they are perilously near forbidden ground. 
I don't believe that we have any warrant for believing that we know 
cosmic ultimates and think therefore we had much better content our- 
selves with recognizing in good faith that we are finite creatures and 
can't formulate the infinite. Eddington thinks that blue and red are 
subjective facts but wave lengths objective, i.e. that by translating our 
visual image into another he has reached a different sphere of being. 
I don't see it but I won't stop to criticize details. The book is very 
interesting, but I feel the omnipresent domination of what he is more 
accustomed to over his thought. (I am not quite sure that this hits what 
I have felt but it seems so at the moment). I have read some more Saki 
stories. He is an amusing and witty bird, but seems to live in the world 
of repartee and of fashion. It limits the interests of one to whom London 
society is not sacred, but it is entertaining. To how many Britons, "We 
don't do that in England," is the last word. I probably have told you 
of my wife's answer to this remark on one occasion, "That's why we 
came to this country/' I would fain continue but a little cousin soon is 
coming to luncheon with a boy and after them a dame, and I get 
very little repose though I long for it. My love to you all. I think of myself 
now as under the sword of Damocles and try to feel so, but I am afraid 
that daily interests interfere. Affectionately yours, O. W. Holmes 



As from Devon Lodge, 2,VIIL29 

My dear Justice: We arrived down in the country yesterday; and the 
first thing that greeted me was a delightful letter from you. I was 
particularly impressed by your remark about Walter Lippmann. I don't, 
I suppose, see him more than once in two years; but I always find that 
we can take up the threads and plunge in medias res without any 
difficulty. He hasn't, I think, the sheer genius for friendship that Felix 
has. But short of that be is one of the people on whom I can build with 
absolute assurance. 

Life has flowed as rapidly as ever since I wrote last. Mainly I need 
not say that this is between ourselves I have been engaged in working 
with the Prime Minister on his American problem. It has been very 



1170 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

interesting and I have great hopes of a successful issue. My main job 
has been twofold. First I have been trying to explain that the discussion 
of maritime law ought to follow and not either accompany or precede 
discussion on naval strength; this I think is now common ground. Second, 
I have been arguing that naval parity is a phrase which is elastic and not 
rigid. Our needs and yours being different, it is the technician's business 
to find formulae of transference in gun-power and torpedo power. The 
politicians must then agree on a total and leave each party free to work 
out what that total means in terms of its own view of its needs, the 
main safeguard lying in an agreement to communicate frankly the 
grounds of interpretation taken and the actual details . of construction. 
The P.M. has agreed to this and sent it on with approval to Hoover. 
The latter is being quite admirable, intelligent, perceptive, and properly 
urgent. So granted the will to succeed, I think the negotiations cannot 
easily fail and that wh<m MacDonald goes over in October, he should 
find things very smooth. 1 I wish I could accompany him then. He was 
land enough to suggest it, but I told him (I think wisely) that my one 
wish was to avoid anything which suggested an official connection with 
the government. As it was, I remain available whenever advice is 
offered, and, as he himself said, it is useful to have someone who is 
kept informed by him and can criticise without responsibility or 
subordination. 

My part ended yesterday and it has been a hectic job. The one other 
thing of interest was a dinner party with Wells and Bennett. Some of 
their judgments may amuse you. They agreed that the post-war Gals- 
worthy was definitely uninteresting, that he mistook the sentimental for 
the humanitarian and, accordingly, thought that any soft-hearted person 
was fulfilling the Gospel ideal. They thought that American fiction curi- 
ously reflected the ideal of mechanical standardisation. Many people 
wrote good fiction efficiently, but apart from two or three, Lewis and 
Willa Gather, no one so wrote it as to strike a definite note of outstand- 
ing individuality. Wells said that he was convinced that few Americans 
had ever equalled Hawthorne in style, and that as the years went on, 
he put him ever higher, though he thought Moby Dick the greatest 
single work an American had done. Bennett told us a good story of a 
visit to Paris where he found himself in a company of American and 
English literary exiles. They explained to him that he was quite devoid 
of literary significance because (a) he had invented no new forms (b) 
he had no power of introspection (c) he did not realise the insignificance 
of insignificant people. One genial Chelsea-ite explained that he Mm- 

*In October, MacDonald went to Washington for conferences with Presi- 
dent Hoover concerning naval disarmament and other international matters of 
common interest. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1171 

self had been compelled to leave England because ordinary people were 
regarded as important and he found, accordingly, that he was treated 
without appreciation. An American literary gent then went on to com- 
plain that the reviews would not print his bitter descriptions of sex and 
that American women did not want to live with him without marriage. 
Bennett suggested Constantinople and concubines; whereupon the liter- 
ary gent, said that he found the idea of any union of more than a month 
oppressive: "I must," he said, "preserve my free soul." So Bennett told 
him that what he really wanted was a month of hard labour without 
any fixed income and the man left saying that he could not endure the 
blasphemy of the successful bourgeois. I hazard the guess that the 
unsuccessful man of letters is about the worst type of egoist in the world. 

In the way of reading, I have not very much to report. An admirable 
Life of Byron by Ethel Mayne, which struck me as the most sane portrait 
of a person very difficult to be sane about that I know; a queer book by 
a French professor, Julien Bonnecase, Science du droit et romantisme, 
an attempt to show that Duguit and his school are the legal expression 
of all that is worst in romanticism, with Duguit especially figuring as 
its Rousseau; and a very good book by Jean Cruet, La vie de [sic] droit 
a book which reminded me a good deal of Ehrlich's work done with the 
verve and precision of a really good French mind. And in the way of 
fiction, a really good detective story by J. J. Connington called The Case 
with Nine Solutions, which I earnestly commend to you, and an amusing 
comedy of Wodehouse's previously unknown to me, but not new, 
called The Little Nugget that fellow is really pure gold and ought to 
be compelled to immortality. 

We are going to be very happy here. The house is adorable, with 
a view of indescribable loveliness. It has a garden of thirteen acres full 
of flowers with a great mass of lupins and hollyhocks under my study 
windows. We are so high that from where I write, on a clear day like 
today, I can just see the sea, like a silver band on the horizon, though 
it is nearly 30 miles away. I am writing each morning and after dinner 
and playing in the afternoons and early evenings. With luck, and the 
vein, I hope to write my three Colver lectures for Brown (which I have 
to print) 2 and to get started on my Dodge Lectures for Yale. But the 
main thing is the sense of perfect peace here. Even the nearest house 
is over four miles away. 

My love to you as always. I do wish you lived next door. 

Ever affectionately yours, H. ]. L. 

2 Laski was forced to abandon his intention of delivering the Colver lectures 
at Brown and the Dodge lectures at Yale. His Liberty in the Modern State 
( 1930 ) , however, was made up of the undelivered Colver lectures. 



1172 HOLMES TO LASKI [1929 

Beverly Farms, August II, 1929 

My dear Laski: Your conversation between Wells and Bennett is interest- 
ing, though I don't value such wholesale judgments as the one you quote 
about Moby Dick, great though I think it, 1 am pleased at the 
"blasphemy of the successful bourgeois'' and think you very well may 
be right about the unsuccessful men of letters, except that when I use 
the word in a derogatory sense, I say Egofist not Egoist. I shall try to 
get La vie du droit and I should send for Wodehouse's latest stories if 
I remembered their name, but Bob Benjamin, a former secretary, was 
here today and said he would send them on. I shall write for The Case 
with Nine Solutions by this mail. 

I am drawing a free breath having sent back the last bag of cases 
(certiomris] all 123 in number done up to date. Also I finished 
Eddington's 'Nature of the Physical World, interesting and instructive, 
but which I should criticize much as I did Jeans's Eos the other day. 

F. Pollock walked into Sumner's Folkways in reviewer's fashion, 
taking it as an attempt at anthropology and pointing out omissions 
which I thought all wrong. 1 1 take it merely as an illustration of how much 
depends on mores and how propositions become obvious and universal 
by people being accustomed to their premises. I think I told you of 
laboring with a dictionary over Dr. H. Roth, Der Trust, in which he 
grovels and is polite to me, and of amusing leisure moments with Sakf s 
tales which I still do. Also, ne fallor, I told you of taking Emma from 
the library out of deference to my friends who love Miss Austen. I have 
been too busy with law to read more than the first five chapters. If I 
spoke the truth I am afraid that I should say (mind, I do not yet say 
it) that I found it tedious twaddle. I want another serious book. I don't 
know what. I wish I had the Vie du droit on hand this minute for I 
suppose another bag full of cases will soon be here. Rockport charms 
me as much as ever, and I don't think it noticeably changed, except that 
you are not there. FF was here and gave me more facts I didn't know 
about Brandeis that made him more than ever a great and good man. 

Affly yours, O. W. H, 



Hurtwood House 
Albany near Guildford, 12.VIIL29 

My dear Justice: I cannot even begin to describe the indescribable peace 
of this place. Except for an occasional aeroplane, one hears nothing of 
the outside world except by going to find it; and you awaken in the 
1 2 Holmes-Pollock Letters 246 et seq. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1173 

morning to the thrush and the quiet plash of a stream at the end of 
the garden. The result is that I work marvellously here. I write all 
morning, usually getting five pages done in three hours. In the afternoon 
we drive around, walk in the early evening and read after dark. It is a 
great existence to which I think I could devote myself quite easily for 
six months in the year. 

We have seen no one since we came here, except yesterday when we 
motored over to the Webbs for tea. They were in good form, and I was 
both amused and instructed. Amused, above all, at their tales of diffi- 
culties among the wives of cabinet ministers over the nice questions of 
precedence at court and over the eager rivalry to arrange that their 
daughters shall be presented in due form. Instructed by Webb's tales 
of cabinet technique I find myself amazed and disturbed by the im- 
mense discretion left to a Minister in his department. Henderson for 
instance has just concluded an epoch-making negotiation with the 
Egyptian Prime Minister only one detail of which, and that by no 
means the most important, was ever before the Cabinet; 1 and one begins 
to wonder, a little dizzily, what exactly collective cabinet responsibility 
means. I was interested in another thing. I told Webb of several young 
men in his department whose ability I knew at first-hand, and suggested 
that he take the pains to meet them. Webb explained that he could not 
do that except by the mediation of the permanent secretary. So I asked 
him what percentage of his officials he had met, and it appeared to be 
something like ten. Haldane used to take the most special pains to 
know everyone who did important work for him. Webb seems quite 
content to know only those selected out for him to meet. He agreed that 
it was a wrong state of affairs, but seemed unwilling to take steps to 
alter it. 

In the way of reading I have wandered mostly over the books in this 
house. A good chunk of Dickens, always pleasant and often delightful; 
some Scott, but usually found unendurable after fifty pages, especially 
in its descriptive passages; two books of Thucydides, which are beyond 
praise, especially the account of Athens and the Melians which makes 
one see how entirely unapproachable he is; and the Confessions of 
Rousseau in a new French edition by Seilliere with a greatly improved 
text which I submit to you as quite unexceptionably the greatest auto- 
biography in the World. I also read a queer book on the American 

^he negotiations between Henderson and the Egyptian Premier, Mahmud 
Pasha, had resulted in specific proposals, to be submitted to both govern- 
ments, under which British authority in Egypt would be greatly curtailed. The 
hopes for settlement of outstanding differences were disappointed in May 1930, 
when negotiations were abandoned as a result of disagreement concerning the 
status of the Sudan. 



1174 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

University, sent to me by the publisher, called Undergraduates and done 
by some Y.M.C.A. gents. It made me want to be sick quietly in a 
corner. Their tests of goodness seem to be complete religious faith and 
no kissing. If this is the condition all is well. But they are horrified by 
the prevalence of religious doubt and the youth who can t resist kissing 
a pretty girl. They find Satan peeping round the most inconceivable 
corners. I wish I could write somewhere about the state of mind it 
reveals. They want a world of people like the Mother and children in 
the Fairchild family; 2 and they attack the wicked men of science who 
disturb undergraduate faith. X is called splendid because he always 
explains to the students that they must never allow their reading to 
disturb their religious faith. The assumption seems to be that knowledge 
is always a threat to the soul and that the best kind of college professor 
is the one who remains faithful to what he learned at his mother's knee. 
It is also interesting that most of the pious replies 3 indicate students 
quite unable to write decent English and that many of the religious 
professors are in the same case. But the book is quite interesting for its 
revelation of a university world in which obviously the university ideal 
as you and I would understand it is simply nonexistent. 

Other news I have none; but I want to tell you that I am alive and 
to send our love. Ever affectionately yours, H. J. L. 



As from Devon Lodge, 20.VIII.29 

My dear Justice: Life flows on more peacefully than I have ever known 
it; certainly this is the most tranquil holiday I have ever known. My 
book goes on like a house on fire; and, at least occasionally, I get a sense 
that what I have been saying it is really worth while to say. I find my- 
self defending the good old-fashioned thesis that I really may not know 
what is best for me, but that if I am not allowed the chance to find 
out, there will be no T left at all to make decisions. And so I am 
thoroughly enjoying myself by attacking all bureaucrats and moral re- 
formers on the ground, for which I crave your agreement, that the 
supreme blasphemy is the endeavour of the creedmonger with a principle 
to enforce to make man in his own image. It is, as I say, old fashioned. 
But I think too that most modern psychology gives it ample support 
by showing the frustration of impulse always leads to repression; and 

2 Mrs. Mary Martha Sherwood's The History of the Fairchild Family; The 
Child's Manual (3 parts, 1818-47) was laden with precepts of high morality. 

8 Much of the volume was made up of interviews with undergraduates and 
[nernbers of faculties In American colleges. 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1175 

what they call "sublimation" is only possible in a controlled society for 
the people, like your late lamented Antony Comstock, who luxuriate in 
prohibitions. 1 

I am glad you have had a go at Emma; I shall await your comments 
with great interest. I don't for a moment claim that Jane Austen was 
more than the supreme miniature painter. But I do say that within the 
little world she chose to paint no one ever surpassed her. She gets 
colour, variety and even profundity in a quite amazing degree. Take 
Emma and ask yourself whether the little old voluble spinster has ever 
been better done than in Miss Bates; or the complacent clerical snob than 
in Mr. Elton; or the dull hypochondriac than in Mr. Wodehouse [sic]. 
Emma herself I found intolerable. I would rather commit suicide than 
marry her. But she is a real creature of flesh and blood. The only failure 
in the book, and it is a partial failure only, is Jane Fairfax, who is 
always, I think, faintly seen and never quite realised. But everyone else 
one would know at once in a village inn. Mind you, I find Jane Austen 
at her best in Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth, Mr. Collins, and 
Lady Catherine seem to me hor$ concours; and I am human enough to 
admit longueurs in Mansfield Park where I always wanted Fanny Price 
to marry Henry Crawford and be deserted, or, better still, be seduced 
by him and taught to live less of the life of a Christian saint for one 
day. But these things apart I do think it genius of the first order to be 
able to take a set of perfectly ordinary people leading dull ordinary 
lives and make you feel that the uneventful events in those lives not only 
happened but were vastly important And for that view I should go bail 
to an unlimited amount. 

Of reading I have done a-plenty. One or two queer things invite 
comment. I found a "complete works" of Lytton here in the proper 
marble-calf and so read two of him. One, "What will he do with it?" was 
like Hollywood's conception of a social drama and quite too awful for 
words. The other "The Coming Race" a Utopia, was really interesting, 
not least because of its assumption that the ideal world is necessarily 
static. Then I read a reprint just published here of Ex parte Milligan 
with a long introduction by one S. Klaus (not very good) and a full 
report of the trial before the military commission. 2 What moved me most 

1 Anthony Comstock (1844-1915); officious foe of all vices but his own, he 
was the Secretary of New York's Society for the Suppression of Vice and the 
spiritual father of Boston's Watch and Ward Society. 

2 In Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wallace 2 (1866), the Supreme Court held that 
beyond the actual theater of war a military commission has no jurisdiction over 
civilians and that the petitioner, convicted by a military commission of con- 
spiring against the United States, should be released in "habeas corpus pro- 
ceedings. 



1176 LASKI TO HOLMES 11929 

was the appendix with the report of Taney, C.J.'s decision in the Merry- 
man case 3 which I thought a very moving and pathetic piece. I was led 
to compare the whole with Halsbury in the Marais case and sent up to 
London for the L.Q.R. with the articles of Dicey and Pollock et al anent 
it. 4 I must say, with great respect, that I thought Halsbury dangerously 
and hopelessly wrong, and Dicey absolutely right as against Pollock. I 
don't know what the standing of the decision in Milligan is with you 
nowadays; after your need to dissent in that wire-tapping case 5 I could 
believe almost anything. But I hope it stands as high as it really deserves. 
I read too a volume by Geny on modem legal philosophy a very good 
analysis from the angle of neo-Catholicism and especially good in its 
criticism of Duguit. And as there was a Sheridan here I read three or 
four of the plays in bed and enjoyed them much, finding one or two 
known only by name like The Duenna and A Trip to Scarborough quite 
amusing. Also I must mention a venj good detective story which I en- 
joyed heartily by Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I 
thought it a real tour de force of ingenuity, but that may have been be- 
cause I was completely deceived. 

We have seen very few people. But the Lord Chancellor came over 
for a night and we had good talk. He's a fine fellow, high-minded with- 
out obtrusive moral principle and full of shrewd judgments. He has a 
judge to appoint in the autumn and we had a jolly time compiling the 
"points" for and against possible candidates. At least I spiked the guns 
of one fellow who is always devoting his leisure to attacking prostitutes 
and calling for their official regulation the type to whom Candide is 
really a sin against the light. The Webbs also came over for an after- 
noon and we gossiped very happily for a couple of hours. His open- 
mindedness and freedom from vanity are quite remarkable. She is, of 
course, extraordinary in her way, but not intellectually in his class; and 
she has a bundle of idees-fixes which prevent discussion as soon as you 
corne up against them. If I say that one of them is the universal efficacy 
of prayer, you will sympathise with me. As I told her, I refuse to pray 
o'nights to an unknowable and dubious somewhat because she derives 
satisfaction from genuflexion. I must, I think, also record the visit of a 
gipsy (a colony is scattered hereabouts) who in return for a shilling and 
some tea told me that an American would leave me ten thousand pounds 
and that my name would be famous in Court; whether the latter meant 

s ln Ex parts Merryman, Fed. Gas. #9487 (1861), Mr. Chief Justice Taney 
had held, on circuit, that Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was 
unconstitutional. 

* See, supra, pp. 553, 764. 

8 Supra, p. 1067. 



1929] HOLMES TO LASKI 1177 

St. James' or the Police Court she did not specify. Frida is painfully 
sceptical about that ten thousand pounds, so we are not buying a new 
car at present. 

Our love to you. A note from Felix seems to suggest he saw you 
recently; and one from Cohen means that he is moving towards you, So 
I know you are not dull. Ever affectionately yours, H. }. L. 



Beverly Farms, August 23, 1929 

My dear Laski: In answer to your letter of laborious peace in the 
country I have little to tell. Again I have finished the certs, sent to me 
and now am 153 to the good. At odd minutes I am reading Allen, Politi- 
cal Thought in the Sixteenth Century, sent to me by F.F., originally I 
think recommended by you, which seems to me A-l, altogether admirable. 
In the crevices of the odd minute Fish Preferred which makes me 
smile but not guffaw. Perhaps, as my secretary suggests, because I steal 
a quarter of an hour from solitaire for Saki, whose 7 volumes I haven't 
quite finished. Saki aliquando [illegible] but he bites. From time to time 
I see Mrs. Codman, Mrs. Curtis and Mrs. Beveridge, and once in a while 
others. But getting up comfortably and driving every afternoon and 
answering letters cut the day to pieces and time flies. This month is 
always trying for me to keep well in, but I have done it so far. I still 
get letters from lonely enthusiasts who shout over my dissent in the case 
of a dame who was not allowed to become a citizen because she was a 
pacifist. I had one this morning (also my D.C. tax bill, bigger than I 
hoped). I told one of them that it was moral sympathy not legal 
judgment that led to his encomiums. I have been interested in some 
modernist paintings. It seems to me that they have tried to think and 
thought inefficiently. They say we don't compete with the photograph 
but they admit in their practise some reference to the visible world, and 
yet they put in houses and bowls that plainly won't stand up, and in that 
way, when seeking, as every work of art must, for an emotional response, 
begin by presenting an absurdity that strikes us quicker than the remote 
harmony we are intended to feel, and interferes with their effect. They 
also say they are trying to express themselves, but they exhibit, and no 
one cares a damn about the personality of the painter, and it would 
be a pure impertinence to offer it for inspection. In fact, if they have 
any talent, they are trying to express something in nature that most of 
us fail to see, which is laudable and it is a pity to hamper the effort 
with absurdities. 

Only a few days more than a month here and then, if I live, Washing- 
ton. Affectionately yours, 0. W. H. 



1178 LASKI TO HOLMES [1929 

As from Devon Lodge, 28.VIII.29 

My dear Justice: I picture you as emerging painfully from an ocean of 
certioraris to find humanity in Rockport dear city of unforgettable 
delights and, sniffing a little audibly, in Emma. I don't deny let 
me emphasise it that Emma is small beer, but what a taste the beer 
has. It is champagne in petto. 

Things here move peacefully to their appointed end. We go back to 
town on Saturday; a week there and then a week in Manchester my 
annual offering on the parental altar. Then I go to Cardiff for, I expect, 
two or three days to arbitrate on a new wage-schedule for the shipyards; 
I hope to prevent a strike of five thousand men. But I am sony to leave 
here, for its perfect tranquility has been quite exquisite. 

We have not been entirely alone. Nevinson came over on Saturday 
for the day, and, as always with him, we had good talk. We agreed 
in disliking all the art for art's sake school on the twofold ground (a) 
that they don't know how to tell a story and (b) that they seem to view 
happiness as an indefinite extension of the genital impulse. We agreed 
also that Felix is the most remarkable person under fifty in America and 
that Hackett's Henry VIII is mostly brilliant eyewash, wholly lacking in 
the power to discriminate in the quality of the evidence he uses. N. by 
the way is probably going to Washington with MacDonald in October 
and looks forward, lucky fellow, to seeing you then. As soon as I am 
back in London I will send you a copy of his little pamphlet The 
English which is, I think, a charming piece of delicate irony. I had also 
to see me an Australian gent, whom you would have adored. He 
primarily wanted me to go out there for an enormous fee to give lectures 
at his pet university. But he also wanted to talk I beg his pardon, he 
did talk about the ineffable and unlimited glories of the incredible 
Benjamin Kidd. Do you remember that third-class charlatan? My 
Australian began each other sentence with "As Kidd says," or "As Kidd 
has admirably remarked." At length I genially hinted that Kidd could 
not count me among his disciples. He remarked that he placed Kidd next 
to Darwin. I bowed. He asked me where I place Kidd. I replied that 
in my judgment he would have been an eminent ornament of Mrs. Leo 
Hunter's salon, and upon my word of honour he took it as a compliment 
and went away treasuring it up for future quotation. 

I have been writing a good deal at my book, and it really looks like 
a book. There is a section on the sphere of conduct to which problems 
like prohibition belong which I think will appeal to you; and an attack 
on the fussy righteousness of those who like to rule other people's morals 
for which, in due time, I shall claim your sympathy. The whole atmos- 
phere of the book is a plea for liberty in terms of scepticism i.e. we 



1929] LASKI TO HOLMES 1179 

never know enough to suppress, and Jones' experience builds principles 
for him which can only be disproved for him by rational proof that 
other experience has superior validity. I think there is something in it; 
at least the fact that I enjoy writing it means that it is less bad than I 
feared when I started. And I have really got new ideas and new lights 
on the relation between liberty and equality. 

In the way of reading I want especially to emphasize two things (I) 
Robertson's Histonj of Free Thought in the 19th Century. I have an 
advance copy of this (it is published by Watts) and I conjure you to 
get it. To have a clear and vigorous summary of one hundred years of 
critical attack on the positions of organised religion is quite thrilling. 
He has a conspectus of all Europe and the U.S., though naturally the 
bulk is England, France, Germany. I am interested to see how well 
Emerson and your father come out. Of course there are judgments I 
dissent from; e.g. I could not praise Bob Ingersoll whose writings, to 
me, have always indicated a windy rhetorician, even if he was on the 
right side. He has a brilliant attack on Lotze and an interesting swipe 
at the intellectual fatuity of Whitman's metaphysics. And on the vulgar 
tactics of Rome and Canterbury in trying to patch up the legend he is 
superb. I like, too, his expose of Mor