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Letter from Ronald Sokol to Daniel Meador, Saturday, January 3, 1976

Ronald P. Sokol
Attorney-at-Law
Avocat Americain-Conseil Juridique
13540 Puyricard
Aix-en-Provence
(France)

Notre Ref. Meador, D.
RS/5/76

Professor Daniel J. Meador
University of Virginia
School of Law
Charlottesville, Virginia 22901

3 January 1976

Dear Dan:

I haven’t replied to your letter of November 10th for
the simple reason that time passes too quickly, and I have
only now had a chance to do so. I’m sure you will understand
the problem. The copy of my letter to Dean Paulsen which I en-
close I believe is clear enough. I hope that we can work some-
thing out that will be of genuine interest.

Let me wish you and your family a healthy and happy New
Year. I also hope that 1976 will give us a chance to get to-
gether again after too long a time. As you can see I am start-
ing out the year by writing you.

I got your book on Justice Black a few months back and
read it right through with great interest and considerable
surprise. I admire first your idea which was very clever. Few
things could give such an insight into the man as a catalogue
of his books. I mean of course for a man like Black. In this
sense the book is a great success and a very helpful contribu-
tion to understanding, and of course it is done with the usual
lucidity that marks your style. Incidentally, where does that
lucidity come from? I suppose part of it comes from Black as it
marks his style as well. How about the rest? It must have been
there before you ever met Black.

Apart from a couple of exceptions like Thucydides and
Tacitus which I have tried to read but which bore me, I have
read the core of Black’s library. I am surprised by a couple
of things. First, by the absence of Holmes. I can’t say in a
few lines what Holmes means to me, but with the exception of
the Holmes-Einstein Letters and the Holmes-Wu Letters (both of
which I have ordered) I have read I think all of Holmes and most
everything about him, and his slender volume of Collected Legal
Papers was sustenance to me during law school. Holmes means enough
to me perhaps to write something about him someday. He is about
the only real hero I can find for myself in the American legal
past. I admire Brandeis for his power, but he is not a model.
Holmes was broad and powerful and wonderfully alive. That he
should be entirely absent from Black’s library came to me as a
great surprise. Secondly, Black’s romance with Edith Hamilton’s
little book on The Greek Way seems to me curious and excessive.
I first read it perhaps fifteen or twenty years ago and liked it
very much. I recently bought a copy to look it over again. I still
think it is good, but I can’t read it through. It skitters along
the line of a sentimental idealization. It may be that Black saw
this book as portraying a society that was the ideal of what he

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believed society should be. It is difficult to account for his
attraction to the book on any other basis. It is not a profound
book; I might almost say it is shallow. It is, however, a clear
picture of what Miss Hamilton believed life to be like in ancient
Greece. If you took all the ideals of contemporary American life
and wrote a book about America based on them citing of few well
chosen examples, you could come up with a book about The American
Way that would be just as ideal as The Greek Way. (In fact, that
is what the high school history books that were inflicted on me
actually did, and I suspect they still do the same. I might add
that they do the same in every other country as well). Miss Hamil-
ton’s picture of ancient Greece is about as close to what, in my
view, that life was actually like as would be such an American book.

In sum, I cam[e] away from your book feeling that the depth and
breadth of Black’s vision were narrower than I would have thought,
and this surprised me. Despite this I count him among my contem-
porary legal heroes. I have vivid and happy recollections of seeing
him at work on the bench while attending arguments and the penetra-
tion of his questions and the civility of him manner.

Unfortunately I must stop. I wish you were not so far away
so that we could talk from time to time without the restrictions
that the written word imposes upon my thoughts.

My very warmest wishes to you and your family.

Cordially,

[2]

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