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Oliver Wendell Holmes (from Literary Friends and Acquaintance) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 32 pages of information about Oliver Wendell Holmes (from Literary Friends and Acquaintance).
have thinly gathered, and which, when these are breathed away, sparkles and tinkles keenly up with all the freshness of a newly kindled fire.  He did not mind talking about his age, and I fancied rather enjoyed doing so.  Its approaches interested him; if he was going, he liked to know just how and when he was going.  Once he spoke of his lasting strength in terms of imaginative humor:  he was still so intensely interested in nature, the universe, that it seemed to him he was not like an old man so much as a lusty infant which struggles against having the breast snatched from it.  He laughed at the notion of this, with that impersonal relish which seemed to me singularly characteristic of the self-consciousness so marked in him.  I never heard one lugubrious word from him in regard to his years.  He liked your sympathy on all grounds where he could have it self-respectfully, but he was a most manly spirit, and he would not have had it even as a type of the universal decay.  Possibly he would have been interested to have you share in that analysis of himself which he was always making, if such a thing could have been.

He had not much patience with the unmanly craving for sympathy in others, and chiefly in our literary craft, which is somewhat ignobly given to it, though he was patient, after all.  He used to say, and I believe he has said it in print,—­[Holmes said it in print many times, in his three novels and scattered through the “Breakfast Table” series.  D.W.]—­that unless a man could show a good reason for writing verse, it was rather against him, and a proof of weakness.  I suppose this severe conclusion was something he had reached after dealing with innumerable small poets who sought the light in him with verses that no editor would admit to print.  Yet of morbidness he was often very tender; he knew it to be disease, something that must be scientifically rather than ethically treated.  He was in the same degree kind to any sensitiveness, for he was himself as sensitive as he was manly, and he was most delicately sensitive to any rightful social claim upon him.  I was once at a dinner with him, where he was in some sort my host, in a company of people whom he had not seen me with before, and he made a point of acquainting me with each of them.  It did not matter that I knew most of them already; the proof of his thoughtfulness was precious, and I was sorry when I had to disappoint it by confessing a previous knowledge.

VIII.

I had three memorable meetings with him not very long before he died:  one a year before, and the other two within a few months of the end.  The first of these was at luncheon in the summer-house of a friend whose hospitality made it summer the year round, and we all went out to meet him, when he drove up in his open carriage, with the little sunshade in his hand, which he took with him for protection against the heat, and also, a little, I think, for the whim of it. 

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