Holmes Describes His Approach to the Law in a Letter Written in May 1898 [Manuscript]. Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr. [1841-1935]. [Castletown, Lady Clare (1853-1927)]. [Autograph Letter Signed "H" to Lady Clare Castleton, Boston (?), May 18, 1898]. 8" x 5" bifolium, content filling rectos and versos of both leaves. Faint vertical and horizontal fold lines, negligible ink show-through in a few places. [With] [Unrelated 3-1/4" x 4-3/4" Autograph Envelope Addressed to Castleton, Postmarked Boston, May 21, 1897, Five-Cent Stamp Affixed]. Light soiling, tears along opening, Most of rear flap lacking. Together two items. $4,500. * This letter dates from the early years of Holmes's lengthy correspondence with Lady Clare Castletown, an aristocratic woman with whom Holmes had an intense flirtation in the late 1890s. Holmes, then an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, mentions his desire to see her again, the Spanish-American War, which began the previous month, and the novel A Voyage of Consolation by Sara Jeannette Duncan. Most of the letter describes his approach to the law. It reads, in part: "It is a rather curious experience, the continuous necessity of adjustment [word crossed out] to the point of view of others & when you have strong and clear convictions. Law in general admits of such adjustments because at bottom the decision is a choice between two inconsistent desirables - and the intensity of the [illegible] desires. On the degree to which the opponent courses aim for the general good cannot be measured without precision - But when it comes to the measuring of words, in construing an instrument or a statute, theoretically some ones [sic] construction is absolutely right and another [sic] are wrong -- and the decision a matter of literary tact. If others do not agree with you, the logical answer is that they do not perceive as much as you do - [illgible] always my trust in any controversy which is not the final thing to be said, and what it comes down to, is, '[illegible] I have more spiritual discernment than thou.' Dont [sic] blame me for talking law - if my pen will shape any words it is to be expected."
Book number 71649