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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court (American National Biography)

Sheldon M. Novick, "Holmes, Oliver Wendell," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Holmes's literary talents were evident in his opinions, but their impact did not depend entirely on his style. He conceived of an opinion not as a printed document but as a talk delivered from the bench. He paid careful attention both to the writing and to his manner of delivery. As he wrote to a friend, his model was the English judge, a gentleman rather than a professional: "I think that to state the case shortly and the ground of decision as concisely and delicately as you can is the real way. That is the English fashion and I think it is civilized." Holmes's opinions accordingly were brief and well enough written to be read aloud, and they were written so quickly and with so little revision as to seem, like the opinions of English judges, to have been extemporized from the bench. They were conscious works of art, fundamentally dramatic, and they had an impact far out of proportion to the logical force of Holmes's arguments.
How to Cite This Page: "Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,