Law and Politics: Occasional Papers of Felix Frankfurter, 1913-1938

By Archibald MacLeish; E. F. Prichard Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

When Judge Cardozo Writes

The following book review of "Law and Literature, and Other Essays and Addresses", by Benjamin N. Cardozo, appeared in the New Republicfor April 8, 1931.

TO LAYMEN, the dichotomy between law and literature is merely one aspect of the conflict between law and life. A feeling so widely and deeply held by even the most cultivated outside the law cannot be nurtured wholly upon untruth. And yet it conceals a fine covey of paradoxes which would have been fair game for a Hazlitt, though for all I know he himself shared the feeling or put to flight at least some of its paradoxes. That nothing which is human is alien to him, is truer of the lawyer than even of doctor or priest. For the lawyer's office is frequently a confessional, and long before psychiatry had its name wise lawyers had to practice its arts. The work of courts is in essence the composition of human rivalries, the arbitrament of conflicting human desires. Something of its human origin ought therefore to be secreted in the records of the law; at least an occasional heartbeat ought to be found within law-sheep binding. And the adventurous-minded, the sophisticated who do not like to slumber too easily on the dogma that law is outside of life or that life is without law, would be rewarded more richly than they suspect by those records of the variegated human scene we call the law reports. Thus, in a single pamphlet of recent opinions may be found an exciting analysis of the originality, if any, of the dramatic qualities of "Abie's Irish Rose" and disclosures regarding the practice of birth control in the United States, the more revealing because set forth with calculated sobriety. If it be true, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, that the writer who knew what to omit

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