Friday, May 13, 2005

Forename, Surname

In her biography of H.L.A. Hart Nicola Lacey refers to Hart as "Herbert." This does not feel quite right to me. Perhaps this is because I want the biographer to distance herself from her formidable subject.

I have reached p. 118. There is a lot of personal detail here. Not all of the details about Hart's life to this point are clearly tied to Hart's intellectual interests. Without that connection, some of the details seem a bit tedious.

I still don't see much tragedy in Hart's life. (He has now gone through WWII and he is contemplating going "up" to Oxford to be a don.) But perhaps the tragedy lies in the future? Further reading will tell. (Or perhaps my benchmark for "tragedy" is different than Lacey's?)

The book jacket states: "To generations of lawyers, H.L.A. Hart is known as the twentieth century's greatest legal philosopher." Question: Does she mean English lawyers? Commonwealth lawyers? U.K., Commonwealth, and American Lawyers? In any event, there are other pretenders to the throne of 20th century legal philosophy. Hans Kelsen is one.

As Lacey recounts the details of Hart's life, she mentions numerous individuals who played a role in Hart's life. I am familiar with many but not all of the names she mentions. I wonder if Lacey gives the reader -- particularly the reader without much knowledge of those times and the intellectual currents in the U.K. and at Oxford --, I wonder if Lacey gives the reader a sufficiently good feel for those times and currents. Thus far my sense is that Lacey gives us (many) hints of what the world was like in those times and places but that her account should have been, in certain respects, more sweeping, and in other respects, more focused. Some of the individuals Lacey mentions are not interesting in their own right and it does not appear that all of them influenced Hart in significant ways. But my judgments here are thoroughly and unforgivably provisional: I have not yet seen the denouement of the very interesting story that Lacey tells.

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