Sir Edward Elgar did not write his "Enigma Variations" for a nonet (nine players), but the air of mystery surrounding that comparison will be familiar to students of the judicial process. The various friends whom Elgar portrayed in his fourteen variations have now been identified, but beyond that the variations are "based on a theme which the composer said combined in counterpoint with another, unheard tune with which everybody was familiar; but he refused to the last to divulge the secret."' Elgar would have been quite at home as an interpreter of the Supreme Court, where counterpoint and unheard but familiar tunes are the order of the day. Complaining about the Supreme Court is a venerable American pastime. When John Marshall handed down his opinion in Cohens v. Virginia, his implacable foe, Spencer Roane, called it "a most monstrous and unexampled decision," which could be accounted for only from "that love of power which all history informs us infects and corrupts all who possess it and from which even the upright and eminent judges are not exempt .... "

A. E. Dick Howard, The Burger Court: A Judicial Nonet Plays the Enigma Variations, 43 Law & Contemporary Problems, 7–28 (1980).