Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In That Remarkable Man: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edith Patterson Meyer writes specifically for young people. The biography, arranged in thirteen fairly short chapters, covers chronologically the ninety-four years of the life of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., from 1841 to 1935. Meyer includes illustrations, a list of other books by and about Holmes, and an index.

Although the first two chapters of the book present Holmes’s boyhood and his Harvard undergraduate education, the character of young Holmes is scarcely distinguishable from the characters of other boys of his background and social class. Meyer focuses on his adequate performance in Latin school, on the leisure activities of Holmes (called Wendell) and his friends, and on the hobbies and interests that distinguished him from his friends. The dominant image of young Holmes is that of an introspective child who liked etchings and woodcuts and who longed to emerge from the shadow of his famous father, a poet and professor at Harvard Medical School.

Readers interested in heroes of the Civil War will find chapter 3, “Touched with Fire,” among the most lively chapters of the biography. Holmes, who was an officer in the Union army, received three near-fatal wounds, but he returned to his regiment after each one. He fought with such deep conviction, Meyer contends, because he believed that slavery had to be ended and the Union held together. Meyer shows Holmes as courageous...

(The entire section is 521 words.)