Books by G. Edward White

Released: Nov. 12, 1999

This entry in the Oxford Portraits series is both very good and very useful. White presents a clear biography of the Supreme Court justice who served in the Civil War, studied law, and lived long in the shadow of his famous writer father of the same name. By the time he came to the Supreme Court, he was already 60 years old, but served for three decades more. White creates a vivid portrait of this scholarly and philosophical legal thinker while including rich details of his intellectual but reserved home life and his affectionate flirtations with many women. More than that, readers will absorb a history of the development of legal education, the growth of the Supreme Court, and how law unfolds as a study and a discipline. White is especially felicitous in explaining how the elegance of Holmes's prose occasionally obscured the legal point he was making. Quotations from Holmes's writing and picture captions with further details add to the story, and not the least of its accomplishments is to show a man who began the greatest of his career challenges when he was already perceived of as old. Excellent. (chronology, further reading, index) (Biography. 10-12) Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: May 1, 1996

An astute examination of how baseball emerged as the national pastime by fostering a pastoral mythology that remained unchallenged until the early 1950s. White (Law and History/Univ.. of Virginia; Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1993) argues that ``baseball's past history was far more complex, and far less heroic, than romanticized treatments of the game might suggest.'' Hardly news, but as he so meticulously demonstrates, while baseball promoted its ``anachronistic dimensions'' as a rural, fresh-air sport played by apple-cheeked youths, it was able to do so, in part, by violating anti-trust laws, by implementing such unfair labor practices as the reserve clause, and by restricting its talent pool according to race. The struggle to maintain the myth began to fail in the postwar era. Owners followed the demographic shift westward, thus dashing nostalgic hometown ties for fans of teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. At about the same time, the weakening of the reserve clause, the ``new labor relations atmosphere,'' and the integration of the game forced baseball to surrender the ``special qualities'' that had allowed it to appear untouched by time. The author's delineation of the business aspects of the game are a bit dry and too involved, but things liven up when he looks at the gambling and cheating that were a part of the game early in the century, and when he examines the growth and economic importance of night baseball and of radio and TV broadcasts. He also surveys the great baseball writers, such as Paul Gallico and Damon Runyan, and the famed announcers, including Bob Prince and Jimmy Dudley. He has some fresh insights into the game's tentative acceptance of ethnic ballplayers such as Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg. Baseball cognoscenti will find plenty to chew on here. (24 halftones, not seen) Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

A fascinating look at the life and thought of the great jurist and scholar that vividly connects his sometimes dry legal pedantry and his remarkable life and personality. White (Law and History/University of Virginia; Earl Warren, 1982, etc.—not reviewed) presents a more rounded portrait than Livia Baker's The Justice from Beacon Hill (1991), which emphasized Holmes's life and character. Instead, White underscores the evolution of the jurist's unique career and jurisprudence from the unusual circumstances of his life. White represents Holmes's commitment to ``professionalism'' as a reaction against the dilettantish literary culture of his father: The jurist, he tells us, gave up his early love of letters and philosophy in order to devote himself totally to legal scholarship (he became editor of the prestigious American Law Review while still a practicing attorney). White also doesn't neglect the effect of Holmes's Civil War career on his philosophy: Holmes spent most of the war recovering from wounds incurred at Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and White speculates that the experience led to an early emphasis on ``duties'' rather than rights in Holmes's legal thought. The author points out, however, that this emphasis faded after Holmes became a judge, first on Massachusetts's Supreme Court, then on the US Supreme Court; he evolved, in fact, into one of the early champions of First Amendment rights. White devotes a chapter to Holmes's classic The Common Law (1881), which he shows as reflecting the pragmatic and empirical cast of Holmes's thought, and he also discusses at length the quirks of Holmes's personal life—his childless marriage, his many flirtations, and his emotionally significant romance with Clare Castletown—making the jurist come alive despite the many contradictions of his personality. Here, Holmes is depicted not as the civil libertarian of legal myth but as a judge and scholar whose jurisprudence reflected his life and the intellectual milieu in which he lived. A fine, balanced portrait. (Fourteen halftones) Read full book review >