The World of Law: A Treasury of Great Writing about and in the Law: Short Stories, Plays, Essays, Accounts, Letters, Opinions, Pleas, Transcripts of Testimony; from Biblical Times to the Present - Vol. 1


Disraeli said that he was depressed by the law but exalted by literature. If he meant that law and literature are disparates, the statement is without meaning, for the term "literature" is merely a judgment of the quality of writing. Court proceedings, testimony, arguments, pleas and judgments, and the discussion of legal theories--all, as I hope the second volume of this anthology will prove, may be read as literature if the expression and thought are of a high order. Even statutory law can attain the level of literature. It was Stendhal's position that there was only one example of perfect style, and that was the Code Napoléon.

There is no Plimsoll line, to borrow a metaphor from the law, for the judgment of literature. Great literature should ignite or inspire; but whether it does depends in part on the reader. I believe each work included here met that test when I read it, though in some instances the flame gave more light than heat. No other test or system was used in the selection of the material, except that I avoided technical writings that would not be understood by a reasonably intelligent person untrained in the law.

There are of necessity many omissions in this book. Perhaps something should be said of the inclusion of two opinions of Mr. Justice Holmes (in addition to his essay and letter), two of Judge Learned Hand, and none of Mansfield, Jessel, Marshall, Bowen and Bok, or of a number of the other great writer-judges. The first draft of this anthology included three sections that were later deleted; one was devoted to writing by judges, a second to history and anthropology of the law, and a third to biographical material. The publisher had contracted for a . . .

Additional information

  • 1
Includes content by:
  • Charles Dickens
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Guy De Maupassant
  • Jack London
  • Anton Chekhov
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1960


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