A strange bouquet in which stellar examples of scholarly jurisprudence mingle with freewheeling academic invective directed
toward those who have had the audacity to find fault with any of the author’s earlier writings.
In the collection’s best piece, prolific legal historian Levy (Blasphemy, 1993, etc.) proffers instruction about the Ranters,
an antinomian Cromwellian proto-hippie sect whose members were equally notorious for their radical rejection of legal authority
and their unbuttoned codpieces. Another essay probes the origins of the Fourth Amendment (which provides security against
unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be issued only on probable cause). Law is largely history, and this
is the kind of history that was enjoyed by many an attorney once upon a time, when the law was a learned profession rather than
just a business. As venerable professionals are wont to do, Levy presents, too, remembrances of some legal giants he’s known,
as well as an encomium to the great 19th-century chief justice of Massachusetts, Lemuel Shaw. An essay describing in tedious
detail how Pulitzer nominees are chosen, however, reveals a darker side of the historian, which flowers in several cantankerous
essays seeking to overwhelm past slights in inky torrents. Levy goes on about the perfidy of Harvard University Press in rejecting
a book. His manuscript was "a success; only the readers were failures." Contrary academics harbor opinions that are "a disgrace
to scholarship." Reviewers' reports are "contemptible and lacking in competence." Levy also offers the back of his hand to
critics of his Origins of the Fifth Amendment (1968), winner of a Pulitzer in history, as he seeks to persuade recalcitrant fools
and knaves how right he was.
It’s a strange miscellany, with some old-fashioned learning and enough abrasive intellectual argument to make the title rather
more apt than its author intended.