Reason and Imagination: The Selected Correspondence of Learned Hand


Judge Learned Hand is an icon of American Law. Though he was never nominated to our country's highest court, Hand is nevertheless more frequently quoted by legal scholars and in Supreme Court decisions than any other lower court judge in our history. He was the model for all judges who followed him, setting the standard for the bench with a matchless combination of legal brilliance and vast cultural sophistication.

Hand was also renowned as a superb writer. Now, in Reason and ...

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Reason and Imagination: The Selected Correspondence of Learned Hand

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Judge Learned Hand is an icon of American Law. Though he was never nominated to our country's highest court, Hand is nevertheless more frequently quoted by legal scholars and in Supreme Court decisions than any other lower court judge in our history. He was the model for all judges who followed him, setting the standard for the bench with a matchless combination of legal brilliance and vast cultural sophistication.

Hand was also renowned as a superb writer. Now, in Reason and Imagination, Constance Jordan offers a unique sampling of the correspondence between Hand and a stellar array of intellectual and legal giants, including Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Theodore Roosevelt, Walter Lippmann, Felix Frankfurter, Bernard Berenson, and many other prominent political and philosophical thinkers. The letters--many of which have never been published before--cover almost half a century, often taking the form of brief essays on current events, usually seen through the prism of their historical moment. They reflect Hand's engagement with the issues of the day, ranging from the aftermath of World War I and the League of Nations, the effects of the Depression in the United States, the rise of fascism and the outbreak World War II, McCarthyism, and the Supreme Court's decisions on segregation, among many other topics. Equally important, the letters showcase decades of penetrating and original thought on the major themes of American jurisprudence, particularly key interpretations of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and will thus be invaluable to those interested in legal issues.

Most of these letters have never before been published, making this collection a priceless window into the mind and life of one of the giants of American law.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"...[Reason and Imagination] traces Hand's intellectual journey through the words of Hand himself and those of his correspondents, especially his friends Felix Frankfurter and Walter Lippmann...the letters in Reason and Imagination offer a narrative arc: Hand adopted a firm philosophy of judicial restraint early in life, as a means toward progressive political ends-and stuck with the philosophy, as the years passed, as an end in itself." --Adam J. White, Wall Street Journal

"Sympathetic, dense, and finely annotated array of letters....The letters Hand wrote reinforce the clear-cut sense that the most vital part of his life was the role he played as a shaper of law. He was its master because he was its servant. As a matter of conviction, he felt bound by limits that the law imposed on him. Yet when he felt liberated by those limits, he was an extraordinary model of what every federal judge should aspire to be." -Lincoln Caplan, New York Review of Books

"Reason and Imagination is a magnificent contribution. Learned Hand is one of America's most significant legal/judicial thinkers, and his correspondence, impeccably edited by eminent literary scholar Constance Jordan, is a treasure trove of insights on subjects as diverse as free speech, the judicial role, the role of rational analysis and empathetic imagination in judging, and the nature of ethical thought itself."
-- Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, The University of Chicago

"Learned Hand earned a place among the great jurists of his age, worthy of comparison with the likes of Holmes, Brandeis, and Cardozo. This collection of letters helps us understand what a remarkable man he was. Reading these letters places us at the elbow of a man of uncommon erudition, a philosopher constantly asking questions about the world around him, a master of style and language. We are admitted to an age when letters, in the right hands, were essays on the human condition, on the great issues of the time. Dip into this book anywhere, and you will quickly be drawn into an evening of wit and wisdom."
--A.E. Dick Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of Virginia

"Read together, the correspondence of Learned Hand provide tremendous insight into the key constitutional and jurisprudential issues of the 20th century. They also give a real sense of the person who was one of the greatest judges in American history. In this impeccably organizes and presented volume, Constance Jordan has done a profound service for all who are interested in American law."
--Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Library Journal
This collection of correspondence from U.S. District Court judge Hand (1872–1961), edited by his granddaughter Jordan (English & comparative literature, emerita, Claremont Graduate Univ.), covers the period 1909–1958. Each section of the book focuses on a particular time period and a general theme. The half-century of letters discusses everything from Progressive politics to the Red Scare of the 1950s; the correspondents range from Theodore Roosevelt to Felix Frankfurter. Hand was a well-respected legal figure whose name was often mentioned as a potential Supreme Court justice, although he was never nominated. His correspondence shows a thoughtful and curious mind, interested in current events and in the practice and study of law. The letters in this collection were written during a turbulent period in American history and offer insights into the future of American politics, mentioning figures such as Richard Nixon at the beginning of his career.

Verdict This book is not for the casual reader. Law students, historians, and those with a particular interest in Hand will find this book most interesting.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199899104
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/3/2013
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 943,361
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Constance Jordan is Professor of English and Comparative Literature Emerita at Claremont Graduate University. Jordan has published many books and articles on the subject of literature and the law. She is also Learned Hand's granddaughter.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Editorial Practice

Preface, Ronald Dworkin

Introduction, Constance Jordan

Correspondence, Learned Hand

Prologue: A Better Social Philosophy, 1897-1908

Part I: The United States and Europe, 1909-1920

Part II: In for Democracy, 1921-1931

Part III: World War and World Power, 1932-1946

Part IV: The Bill of Rights, 1947-1958

Epilogue: "Pagan and Puritan," 1959-1961

Cases in Correspondence



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