This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Whether such an offer is irrevocable or whether the revocation is to be regarded as a breach, or whether the original transaction is a contract binding on the offeror because of the seal, but conditioned upon a promise to be made or an act to be performed by the promisee within the time stipulated, is a question which has called forth some discussion, although the courts have, as a rule, paid but little attention to these distinctions, or to the theory of such transactions. It has been said that an offer is, in its very nature, revocable, and that such nature can not be changed by a contract not to revoke.1 The result of holding such offer irrevocable is spoken of as "an apparent anomaly," depending on the peculiar nature of the deed.2 In most cases the relief which is sought is specific performance; and, as in the case of offers for value, we may say that the court is really giving specific performance of two contracts, first of the contract not to revoke the offer and second, of the contract made by the original offer which, in legal effect, is unrevoked, and the acceptance. The opinions in specific performance cases do not make it clear upon which transaction the decree is rendered.3 An offer under seal has been said to be an "irrevocable covenant conditional upon acceptance."4 It has also been said to be "not a mere offer, but a conditional covenant to sell."5 It is clear that there is a liability for damages for breach of the one contract or the other if the offeror notifies the offeree of his revocation of the original offer and if he refuses to perform the contract made by the acceptance of such offer, and accordingly it is error to dismiss an action for damages, brought by the offeree.6
9 O'Brien v. Boland, 166 Mass.. 481, 44 N. E. 602.
10 Mathews Slate Co. v. New Empire Slate Co., 122 Fed. 972. [The notice terminating the lease did not refer to the option specifically, but he did notify the lessee that "all rights and privileges conveyed and contracted under said instrument have become forfeit and are hereby terminated."]
11 Penn Match Co. v. Hapgood, 141 Mass. 145, 7 N. E. 22.
12 Penn Match Co. v. Hapgood, 141 Mass. 145, 7 N. E. 22.
13 Pennell v. Lothrop, 191 Mass. 357, 77 N. E. 842. See ch. LVII.