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).
perfectly aware of this at times, and would mark his several misgivings with a humorous sense of the situation.  He was essentially too kind to be of a narrow world, too human to be finally of less than humanity, too gentle to be of the finest gentility.  But such limitations as he had were in the direction I have hinted, or perhaps more than hinted; and I am by no means ready to make a mock of them, as it would be so easy to do for some reasons that he has himself suggested.  To value aright the affection which the old Bostonian had for Boston one must conceive of something like the patriotism of men in the times when a man’s city was a man’s country, something Athenian, something Florentine.  The war that nationalized us liberated this love to the whole country, but its first tenderness remained still for Boston, and I suppose a Bostonian still thinks of himself first as a Bostonian and then as an American, in a way that no New-Yorker could deal with himself.  The rich historical background dignifies and ennobles the intense public spirit of the place, and gives it a kind of personality.


In literature Doctor Holmes survived all the Bostonians who had given the city her primacy in letters, but when I first knew him there was no apparent ground for questioning it.  I do not mean now the time when I visited New England, but when I came to live near Boston, and to begin the many happy years which I spent in her fine, intellectual air.  I found time to run in upon him, while I was there arranging to take my place on the Atlantic Monthly, and I remember that in this brief moment with him he brought me to book about some vaunting paragraph in the ‘Nation’ claiming the literary primacy for New York.  He asked me if I knew who wrote it, and I was obliged to own that I had written it myself, when with the kindness he always showed me he protested against my position.  To tell the truth, I do not think now I had any very good reasons for it, and I certainly could urge none that would stand against his.  I could only fall back upon the saving clause that this primacy was claimed mainly if not wholly for New York in the future.  He was willing to leave me the connotations of prophecy, but I think he did even this out of politeness rather than conviction, and I believe he had always a sensitiveness where Boston was concerned, which could not seem ungenerous to any generous mind.  Whatever lingering doubt of me he may have had, with reference to Boston, seemed to satisfy itself when several years afterwards he happened to speak of a certain character in an early novel of mine, who was not quite the kind of Bostonian one could wish to be.  The thing came up in talk with another person, who had referred to my Bostonian, and the doctor had apparently made his acquaintance in the book, and not liked him.  “I understood, of course,” he said, “that he was a Bostonian, not the Bostonian,” and I could truthfully answer that this was by all means my own understanding too.

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Oliver Wendell Holmes (from Literary Friends and Acquaintance) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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