The education of Mr. Justice Jackson–and Kopf’s one question

Mr. Justice Jackson went to the Albany Law School, but became a lawyer only after “reading” the law. “A ‘county-seat lawyer’, he remains the last Supreme Court justice appointed who did not graduate from any law school . . . , although he did attend Albany Law School in Albany, New York for one year.” Robert H. JacksonWikipedia (last accessed August 2, 2014).

Scott Greenfield has an interesting discussion about whether in this modern day one ought to be able to “read law” rather than attend law school as a condition of bar passage. See Scott H. Greenfield, Lawyers Without Law School, Simple Justice (August 1, 2014). But, that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I want to highlight Jackson’s remarkable “reading list” that a high school English teacher gave him, and which played an integral part in this great man’s eduction. At the end, I will have a question for you!

We learn the following from Professor John Q. Barrett’s wonderful Jackson List about “Miss Willard’s English Reading List (1910)” and how that molded one of the Supreme Court’s best writers:

In 1909, Robert H. Jackson, age 17, graduated from the high school in his boyhood hometown, Frewsburg, New York. That Fall, he began to commute northward by trolley each day—about six miles—to Jamestown, New York. He attended Jamestown High School as a senior, taking subjects that had not been offered in Frewsburg.

At Jamestown High School, Robert Jackson came to be influenced, deeply, by an English teacher, Miss Mary Willard. He took her courses in English and English History. He also studied with her outside of class. In 1910, she gave him a carbon copy of a typed, four-page list of recommended readings—it became, as he wrote on it, “Property of Robt. H. Jackson.” Soon thereafter, Miss Willard gave him a mimeographed copy of a retyped, slightly longer version of the list—an expanded edition, it seems.

Jackson kept both documents for the rest of his life. The five-page version:

READING COURSE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE.
RECOMMENDED BY MARY R. WILLARD 1910

JOSEPH ADDISON:
Sir Roger de Coverly Papers.

MATTHEW ARNOLD:
Schraband Rustum.
Sonnet on Shakespeare.

THOS. B. ALDRICH:
Marjorie Daw.
The Story of a Bad Boy.
The Queen of Sheba.
Poems.

BIBLE Book of:
Genesis- Exodus-Ruth.
1 & 2 Samuel- 1 &2 Kings.
Esther, Daniel, The New Testament.

BROWNING, ROBERT:
Saul (?)
Prospice.
A Death in the Desert.
Pippa Passes.
A Blot in the Scutchon.
Pheidippides.
The Pied Piper of Hamlin.
Epistle of Karshish.

JOHN BURROUGHS:
Wake Robin.
Sharp Eyes.
Essay on Walt Whitman.

MRS. ELIZABETH BROWNING:
The Cry of the Children
Mother and Poet.
Sonnets from the Portuguese.

DR. JOHN BROWN:
Rab and His Friends.
Marjorie Fleming.

BUNYAN:
Pilgrim’s Progress.

BURNS:
Cotter’s Saturday Night.
To a Field Mouse.
To a Mountain Daisy.
On Seeing a Louse on a Ladies Bonnet.
To Mary in Heaven.
Songs.

CARLYLE:
Sarter Resartus.
Essays on Burns.
Heroes and Hero Worship.

JAMES FREEMAN CLARK:
Self-Culture.

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS:
Prue and I.

CERVANTES:
Don Quixote.

CHAUCER:
Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
Patient Griselda.
Palemon & Aicite (?)

COLERIDGE:
Ancient Mariner.
Christabel.
Kubla Khan.

DE QUINCEY:
Essay on Joan of Arc.
Essay on Burns.
Confessions of an Opium Eater.
Flight of a Tartar Tribe.

DICKENS:
Our Mutual Friend.
Bleak House.
Tale of Two Cities.
Christmas Carol.
Martin Chuzzlewit.
David Copperfield.

ALEXANDER DUMAS:
Count of Monte Christo.
The Three Musketeers.

DRYDEN:
Ode on St. Cecilie’s Day.
Palemon & Ascite (?)

EMERSON:
Essay on American Scholar.
”””””””””Compensation.
”””””””””Friendship.
”””””””””Gifts.
”””””””””Self-Reliance.
Concord Hymn.

GEORGE ELIOT:
Silas Marner.
Romola.
Adam Bede.

GOLDSMITH:
The Deserted Village.
She Stoops to Conquer.

GRAY:
Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

MRS. GASKELL:
Cranford.

EDWARD EVERET HALE:
A Man Without a Country.

OLIVER WENDEL HOLMES:
The Chambered Nautilus.
Old Ironsides.

LEIGH HUNT:
Abou Ben Adhem.

JAMES HOGG:
Poems.

VICTOR HUGO:
Les Miserables.

IBSEN:
Pere Gynt.
Dolls House.
Ghosts.
Master Builder.

WASHINGTON IRVING:
Sketch Book.
Knickerbocker’s History of New York.

KEATS:
Ode to a Nightingale.
Ode to Autumn.
Ode to a Grecian Urn.
The Eve of St. Agnes.

THOMAS a’ KEMPIS:
The Imitation of Christ.

KIPLING:
Mine Own People.
Plain Tales from the Hills.
Soldiers Three.
Recessional.

KINGSLEY:
Water Babies.

LANIER: The Symphony.
Corn.
Sunrise.

LONGFELLOW:
Tales of a Wayside Inn.
Building of the Ship.
The Arsenal at Springfield.

LOWELL:
Commemoration Ode.
Vision of Sir Lannfal.
Table for Critics.
Prayer of Agassiz.

MACAULAY:
Essay on Milton.
”””””””””Addison.
”””””””””Sam’l Johnson.
”””””””””Earl of Chatham.
Lays of Ancient Rome.

MILTON: Lycidas.
L’Allegro.
Il’ Penseroso.
Comus.
Sonnet on His Blindness.
Samson Agonistes.

DONALD G. MITCHEL:
Reveries of a Bachelor.
Dream Life.

MERY N. MITFORD:
Our Village.

PRESCOTT:
Conquest of Peru.

STEPHEN PHILLIPS:
Paolo & Francesca.
Herod.
The Sin of David.

RUSKIN:
Sesame & Lilies.

SCOTT:
Ivanhoe.
Kenilworth.
Marmion.
Lay of the Last Minstrel.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE:

Comedy:
Tempest.
Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Winter’s Tale.
Tragedy:
Hamlet.
King Lear.
Othello.
History:
Henry IV (I&II)
Henry V
Richard III
Songs and Sonnets.

SHELLEY:
The Cloud.
Ode to a Skylark.

HERBERT SPENCER:
The Philosophy of Style.

STEVENSON:
Verginibus Puerisque.

STERNE:
A Sentimental Journey.

EDMUND SPENSER:
Faerie Queen B’ks 1 & 2.
Prothalamion.
Epithalamion.

JEREMY TAYLOR:
Holy Living.

TENNYSON:
Idyls of the King.
The Princess.
Enoch Arden.
Songs.

THACKERAY:
Pendemis.
The Newcomes.
Vanity Fair.

THOREAU:
Cape Cod Walden.

CHAS B.WARNER:
Black Log Studies.
The People for whom Shakespeare Wrote.
In the Wilderness.

WHITTIER:
Tent on the Beach.
Snow Bound.
Proem.

WORDSWORTH:
Ode to Duty.
Laodamea.
Rye Re-visited.

* * *

People ask how Robert H. Jackson, from humble origins and lacking higher education, became one of the finest writers in American public life, U.S. Supreme Court history, international relations and maybe generally. My answers are that he had natural talents, sufficient resources, a love of learning, special teachers, and drive. And that he read—thanks to Mary Willard and others, he read, savored, recited, memorized and thus, in his speaking and writing, consciously and unconsciously, emulated great works.

John Q. Barrett, Jackson List, (July 31, 2014).

I have one question. How many of these classics have you read?

RGK

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