OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES SR. (August 29, 1809 – October 7, 1894) was an American physician , poet , and polymath based in Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets , he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of the day. His most famous prose works are the "Breakfast-Table" series, which began with _The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table _ (1858). He was also an important medical reformer. In addition to his work as an author and poet, Holmes also served as a physician, professor, lecturer, and inventor, and although he never practiced it, he received formal training in law.
Surrounded by Boston's literary elite—which included friends such as Ralph Waldo Emerson , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , and James Russell Lowell —Holmes made an indelible imprint on the literary world of the 19th century. Many of his works were published in _The Atlantic Monthly _, a magazine that he named. For his literary achievements and other accomplishments, he was awarded numerous honorary degrees from universities around the world. Holmes's writing often commemorated his native Boston area, and much of it was meant to be humorous or conversational. Some of his medical writings, notably his 1843 essay regarding the contagiousness of puerperal fever, were considered innovative for their time. He was often called upon to issue occasional poetry, or poems written specifically for an event, including many occasions at Harvard. Holmes also popularized several terms, including " Boston Brahmin " and "anesthesia ".
* 1 Life and career
* 1.1 Early life and family * 1.2 Education * 1.3 Poetic beginnings * 1.4 Medical training * 1.5 Medical reformer, marriage and family * 1.6 Teaching and lecturing * 1.7 Later literary success and the Civil War * 1.8 Later years and death
* 2 Writing
* 2.1 Poetry * 2.2 Prose
* 3 Legacy and criticism * 4 Selected list of works * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 External links
LIFE AND CAREER
EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY
Birthplace of Oliver Wendell Holmes in Cambridge
Holmes was born in
From a young age, Holmes was small and suffered from asthma , but he
was known for his precociousness. When he was eight, he took his
five-year-old brother, John, to witness the last hanging in
Cambridge's Gallows Lot and was subsequently scolded by his parents.
He also enjoyed exploring his father's library, writing later in life
that "it was very largely theological, so that I was walled in by
solemn folios making the shelves bend under the load of sacred
learning." After being exposed to poets such as
John Dryden ,
Although a talented student, the young Holmes was often admonished by
his teachers for his talkative nature and habit of reading stories
during school hours. He studied under Dame Prentiss and William
Bigelow before enrolling in what was called the "Port School", a
select private academy in the
Cambridgeport settlement. One of his
schoolmates was future critic and author
Holmes's father sent him to
As a member of Harvard's class of 1829, Holmes lived at home for the first few years of his college career rather than in the dormitories. Since he measured only "five feet three inches when standing in a pair of substantial boots", the young student had no interest in joining a sports team or the Harvard Washington Corps. Instead, he allied himself with the "Aristocrats" or "Puffmaniacs", a group of students who gathered in order to smoke and talk. As a town student and the son of a minister, however, he was able to move between social groups. He also became a friend of Charles Chauncy Emerson (brother of Ralph Waldo Emerson ), who was a year older. During second year, Holmes was one of 20 students awarded the scholastic honor _Deturs_, which came with a copy of _The Poems of James Graham, John Logan, and William Falconer_. Despite his scholastic achievements, the young scholar admitted to a schoolmate from Andover that he did not "study as hard as I ought to'. He did, however, excel in languages and took classes in French, Italian and Spanish.
Holmes's academic interests and hobbies were divided among law,
medicine, and writing. He was elected to the Hasty Pudding , where he
1830 proved to be an important year for Holmes as a poet; while disappointed by his law studies, he began writing poetry for his own amusement. Before the end of the year, he had produced over fifty poems, contributing twenty-five of them (all unsigned) to _The Collegian_, a short-lived publication started by friends from Harvard. Four of these poems would ultimately become among his best-known: "The Dorchester Giant", "Reflections of a Proud Pedestrian", "Evening / By a Tailor" and "The Height of the Ridiculous". Nine more of his poems were published anonymously in the 1830 pamphlet _Illustrations of the Athenaeum Gallery of Paintings_. _ USS Constitution_ under sail in 1997
In September of that same year, Holmes read a short article in the _ Boston Daily Advertiser _ about the renowned 18th century frigate USS _Constitution_ , which was to be dismantled by the Navy. Holmes was moved to write "Old Ironsides " in opposition of the ship's scrapping. The patriotic poem was published in the _Advertiser_ the very next day and was soon printed by papers in New York, Philadelphia and Washington. It not only brought the author immediate national attention, but the three-stanza poem also generated so much public sentiment that the historic ship was preserved.
During the rest of the year, Holmes published only five more poems.
His last major poem that year was "The Last Leaf", which was inspired
in part by a local man named Thomas Melvill , "the last of the cocked
hats" and one of the "Indians" from the 1774
Boston Tea Party . Holmes
would later write that Melvill had reminded him of "a withered leaf
which has held to its stem through the storms of autumn and winter,
and finds itself still clinging to its bough while the new growths of
spring are bursting their buds and spreading their foliage all around
it." Literary critic
Edgar Allan Poe
Although he experienced early literary success, Holmes did not consider turning to a literary profession. Later he would write that he had "tasted the intoxicating pleasure of authorship" but compared such contentment to a sickness, saying: "there is no form of lead-poisoning which more rapidly and thoroughly pervades the blood and bones and marrow than that which reaches the young author through mental contact with type metal".
Having given up on the study of law, Holmes switched to medicine. After leaving his childhood home in Cambridge during the autumn of 1830, he moved into a boardinghouse in Boston to attend the city's medical college. At that time, students studied only five subjects: medicine, anatomy and surgery, obstetrics , chemistry and materia medica . Holmes became a student of James Jackson , a physician and the father of a friend, and worked part-time as a chemist in the hospital dispensary. Dismayed by the "painful and repulsive aspects" of primitive medical treatment of the time—which included practices such as bloodletting and blistering—Holmes responded favorably to his mentor's teachings, which emphasized close observation of the patient and humane approaches. Despite his lack of free time, he was able to continue writing. He wrote two essays during this time which detailed life as seen from his boardinghouse's breakfast table. These essays, which would evolve into one of Holmes's most popular works, were published in November 1831 and February 1832 in the _New England Magazine_ under the title "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table".
In 1833, Holmes traveled to Paris to further his medical studies. Recent and radical reorganization of the city's hospital system had made medical training there highly advanced for the time. At twenty-three years old, Holmes was one of the first Americans trained in the new "clinical" method being advanced at the famed École de Médecine . Since the lectures were taught entirely in French, he engaged a private language tutor. Although far from home, he stayed connected to his family and friends through letters and visitors (such as Ralph Waldo Emerson). He quickly acclimated to his new surroundings. While writing to his father, he stated, "I love to talk French, to eat French, to drink French every now and then."
At the hospital of La Pitié, he studied under internal pathologist Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis , who demonstrated the ineffectiveness of bloodletting, which had been a mainstay of medical practice since antiquity. Dr. Louis was one of the fathers of the _méthode expectante_, a therapeutic doctrine that states the physician's role is to do everything possible to aid nature in the process of disease recovery, and to do nothing to hinder this natural process. Upon his return to Boston, Holmes became one of the country's leading proponents of the _méthode expectante_. Holmes was awarded his M.D. from Harvard in 1836; he wrote his dissertation on acute pericarditis . His first collection of poetry was published later that year, but Holmes, ready to begin his medical career, wrote it off as a one-time event. In the book's introduction, he mused: "Already engaged in other duties, it has been with some effort that I have found time to adjust my own mantle; and I now willingly retire to more quiet labors, which, if less exciting, are more certain to be acknowledged as useful and received with gratitude".
MEDICAL REFORMER, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
After graduation, Holmes quickly became a fixture in the local
medical scene by joining the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Boston
Medical Society, and the
Boston Society for Medical Improvement — an
organization composed of young, Paris-trained doctors. He also gained
a greater reputation after winning Harvard Medical School's
prestigious Boylston Prize, for which he submitted a paper on the
benefits of using the stethoscope , a device with which many American
doctors were not familiar.
In 1837, Holmes was appointed to the Boston Dispensary , where he was shocked by the poor hygienic conditions. That year he competed for and won both of the Boylston essay prizes. Wishing to concentrate on research and teaching, he, along with three of his peers, established the Tremont Medical School—which would later merge with Harvard Medical School —above an apothecary shop at 35 Tremont Row in Boston. There, he lectured on pathology, taught the use of microscopes, and supervised dissections of cadavers. He often criticized traditional medical practices and once quipped that if all contemporary medicine was tossed into the sea "it would be all the better for mankind—and all the worse for the fishes". For the next ten years, he maintained a small and irregular private medical practice, but spent much of his time teaching. He served on the faculty of Dartmouth Medical School from 1838 to 1840, where he was appointed professor of anatomy and physiology. For fourteen weeks each fall, during these years, he traveled to Hanover, New Hampshire , to lecture. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1838.
On June 15, 1840, Holmes married Amelia Lee Jackson at King\'s Chapel in Boston. She was the daughter of the Hon. Charles Jackson , formerly Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court , and the niece of James Jackson, the physician with whom Holmes had studied. Judge Jackson gave the couple a house at 8 Montgomery Place, which would be their home for eighteen years. They had three children: Civil War officer and American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935), Amelia Jackson Holmes (1843–1889), and Edward Jackson Holmes (1846–1884).
After Holmes resigned his professorship at Dartmouth, he composed a series of three lectures dedicated to exposing medical fallacies, or "quackeries". Adopting a more serious tone than his previous lectures, he took great pains to reveal the false reasoning and misrepresentation of evidence that marked subjects such as "Astrology and Alchemy", his first lecture, and "Medical Delusions of the Past", his second. He deemed homeopathy , the subject of his third lecture, "the pretended science" that was a "mingled mass of perverse ingenuity, of tinsel erudition, of imbecile credulity, and of artful misrepresentation, too often mingled in practice". In 1842, he published the essay " Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions " in which he again denounced the practice. Charles D. Meigs , an opponent of Holmes's theory regarding the contagious nature of puerperal fever, wrote that doctors are gentlemen, and "gentlemen's hands are clean".
In 1843, Holmes published "The Contagiousness of puerperal fever " in
the short-lived publication _
Though it largely escaped notice when first published, Holmes eventually came under attack by two distinguished professors of obstetrics—Hugh L. Hodge and Charles D. Meigs —who adamantly denied his theory of contagion. In 1855, Holmes chose to republish the essay in the form of a pamphlet under the new title _Puerperal Fever as a Private Pestilence_. In a new introduction, in which Holmes directly addressed his opponents, he wrote: "I had rather rescue one mother from being poisoned by her attendant, than claim to have saved forty out of fifty patients to whom I had carried the disease." He added, "I beg to be heard in behalf of the women whose lives are at stake, until some stronger voice shall plead for them." The then controversial work is now considered a landmark in germ theory of disease.
In 1846, Holmes coined the word "anesthesia ". In a letter to dentist William T. G. Morton , the first practitioner to publicly demonstrate the use of ether during surgery, he wrote: "Everybody wants to have a hand in a great discovery. All I will do is to give a hint or two as to names—or the name—to be applied to the state produced and the agent. The state should, I think, be called 'Anaesthesia.' This signifies insensibility—more particularly ... to objects of touch." Holmes predicted his new term "will be repeated by the tongues of every civilized race of mankind."
TEACHING AND LECTURING
In 1847, Holmes was hired as Parkman Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Harvard Medical School, where he served as dean until 1853 and taught until 1882. Soon after his appointment, Holmes was criticized by the all-male student body for considering granting admission to a woman named Harriot Kezia Hunt . Facing opposition not only from students but also from university overseers and other faculty members, she was asked to withdraw her application. Harvard Medical School would not admit a woman until 1945. Holmes's training in Paris led him to teach his students the importance of anatomico-pathological basis of disease, and that "no doctrine of prayer or special providence is to be his excuse for not looking straight at secondary causes." Students were fond of Holmes, to whom they referred as "Uncle Oliver". One teaching assistant recalled: "He enters and is greeted by a mighty shout and stamp of applause. Then silence, and there begins a charming hour of description, analysis, anecdote, harmless pun, which clothes the dry bones with poetic imagery, enlivens a hard and fatiguing day with humor, and brightens to the tired listener the details for difficult though interesting study."
Amelia Holmes inherited $2,000 in 1848, and she and her husband used
the money to build a summer house in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts .
Beginning in July 1849, the family spent "seven blessed summers"
there. Having recently given up his private medical practice, Holmes
was able to socialize with other literary figures who spent time in
While serving as dean in 1850, Holmes became a witness for both the defense and prosecution during the notorious Parkman-Webster murder case . Both George Parkman (the victim), a local physician and wealthy benefactor, and John Webster (the assailant) were graduates of Harvard, and Webster was professor of chemistry at the Medical School during the time of the highly publicized murder. He was convicted and hanged. Holmes dedicated his November 1850 introductory lecture at the Medical School to Parkman's memory.
The same year, Holmes was approached by Martin Delany , an African-American man who had worked with Frederick Douglass . The 38-year-old requested admission to Harvard after having been previously rejected by four schools despite impressive credentials. In a controversial move, Holmes admitted Delany and two other black men to the Medical School. Their admission sparked a student statement, which read: "Resolved That we have no objection to the education and evaluation of blacks but do decidedly remonstrate against their presence in College with us." Sixty students signed the resolution, although 48 students signed another resolution which noted it would be "a far greater evil, if, in the present state of public feeling, a medical college in Boston could refuse to this unfortunate class any privileges of education, which it is in the power of the profession to bestow". In response, Holmes told the black students they would not be able to continue after that semester. A faculty meeting directed Holmes to write that "the intermixing of races is distasteful to a large portion of the class, against what he considered the abolitionists' habit of using "every form of language calculated to inflame", he felt that the movement was going too far. This lack of support dismayed friends like James Russell Lowell , who once told Holmes he should be more outspoken against slavery. Holmes calmly responded, "Let me try to improve and please my fellowmen after my own fashion at present." Nonetheless, Holmes believed that slavery could be ended peacefully and legally.
Holmes lectured extensively from 1851 to 1856 on subjects such as "Medical Science as It Is or Has Been", "Lectures and Lecturing", and "English Poets of the Nineteenth Century". Traveling throughout New England , he received anywhere from $40 to $100 per lecture, but he also published a great deal during this time, and the British edition of his _Poems_ sold well abroad. As social attitudes began to change, however, Holmes often found himself publicly at odds with those he called the "moral bullies"; because of mounting criticisms from the press regarding Holmes's vocal anti-abolitionism, as well as his dislike of the growing temperance movement , he chose to discontinue his lecturing and return home.
LATER LITERARY SUCCESS AND THE CIVIL WAR
In 1856, the Atlantic or Saturday Club was created to launch and
Holmes's first novel, _Elsie Venner_, was published serially in the _Atlantic_ beginning in December 1859. Originally entitled "The Professor's Story", the novel is about a neurotic young woman whose mother was bitten by a rattlesnake while pregnant, making her daughter's personality half-woman, half-snake. The novel drew a wide range of comments, including praise from John Greenleaf Whittier and condemnation from church papers, which claimed the work a product of heresy. Also in December of that year, Holmes sent medication to the ailing writer Washington Irving after visiting him at his Sunnyside home in New York; Irving died only a few months later. The Massachusetts Historical Society posthumously awarded Irving an honorary membership at a tribute held on December 15, 1859. At the ceremony, Holmes presented an account of his meeting with Irving and a list of medical symptoms he had observed, despite the taboo of discussing health publicly.
About 1860, Holmes invented the "American stereoscope ", a 19th-century entertainment in which pictures were viewed in 3-D. He later wrote an explanation for its popularity, stating: "There was not any wholly new principle involved in its construction, but, it proved so much more convenient than any hand-instrument in use, that it gradually drove them all out of the field, in great measure, at least so far as the Boston market was concerned." Rather than patenting the hand stereopticon and profiting from its success, Holmes gave the idea away.
Amid the Civil War, Holmes's friend
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow began
Dante Alighieri 's _
LATER YEARS AND DEATH
Holmes's fame continued through his later years. _The
In 1884, Holmes published a book dedicated to the life and works of his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. Later biographers would use Holmes's book as an outline for their own studies, but particularly useful was the section dedicated to Emerson's poetry, into which Holmes had particular insight. Beginning in January 1885, Holmes's third and last novel, _A Mortal Antipathy_, was published serially in _The Atlantic Monthly_. Later that year, Holmes contributed $10 to Walt Whitman , though he did not approve of his poetry, and convinced friend John Greenleaf Whittier to do the same. A friend of Whitman, a lawyer named Thomas Donaldson, had requested monetary donations from several authors to purchase a horse and buggy for Whitman who, in his old age, was becoming a shut-in.
Suffering from exhaustion, and mourning the sudden death of his
youngest son, Holmes began postponing his writing and social
engagements. In late 1884, he embarked on a visit to Europe with his
daughter Amelia. In Great Britain he met with writers such as Henry
George du Maurier
In June 1886, Holmes received an honorary degree from Yale University
Law School. His wife of more than forty years, who had struggled with
an illness that had kept her an invalid for months, died on February
6, 1888. The younger Amelia died the following year after a brief
malady. Despite his weakening eyesight and a fear that he was becoming
antiquated, Holmes continued to find solace in writing. He published
_Over the Teacups_, the last of his table-talk books, in 1891.
Grave of Oliver Wendell Holmes and his wife at Mount Auburn Cemetery
Towards the end of his life, Holmes noted that he had outlived most of his friends, including Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. As he said, "I feel like my own survivor... We were on deck together as we began the voyage of life... Then the craft which held us began going to pieces." His last public appearance was at a reception for the National Education Association in Boston on February 23, 1893, where he presented the poem "To the Teachers of America". A month later, Holmes wrote to Harvard president Charles William Eliot that the university should consider adopting the honorary doctor of letters degree and offer one to Samuel Francis Smith , though one was never issued.
Holmes died quietly after falling asleep in the afternoon of Sunday,
October 7, 1894. As his son
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, "His
death was as peaceful as one could wish for those one loves. He simply
ceased to breathe." Holmes's memorial service was held at King's
Chapel and overseen by
Edward Everett Hale . Holmes was buried
alongside his wife in
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Holmes is one of the Fireside Poets , together with William Cullen Bryant , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and John Greenleaf Whittier . These poets—whose writing was characterized as family-friendly and conventional—were among the first Americans to build substantial popularity in Europe. Holmes in particular believed poetry had "the power of transfiguring the experiences and shows of life into an aspect which comes from the imagination and kindles that of others".
Due to his immense popularity during his lifetime, Holmes was often called upon to produce commemorative poetry for specific occasions , including memorials, anniversaries and birthdays. Referring to this demand for his attention, he once wrote that he was "a florist in verse, and what _would_ people say / If I came to a banquet without my bouquet?" As critic Hyatt Waggoner noted, however, "very little ... survives the occasions that produced it". Holmes became known as a poet who expressed the benefits of loyalty and trust at serious gatherings, as well as one who showed wit at festivities and celebrations. Edwin Percy Whipple for one considered Holmes to be "a poet of sentiment and passion. Those who know him only as a comic lyricist, as the libellous laureate of chirping follow and presumptuous egotism, would be surprised at the clear sweetness and skylark thrill of his serious and sentimental compositions".
In addition to the commemorative nature of much of Holmes's poetry, some pieces were written based on his observations of the world around him. This is the case with two of Holmes's best known and critically successful poems—"Old Ironsides" and "The Last Leaf"—which were published when he was a young adult. As is seen with poems such as " The Chambered Nautilus " and "The Deacon\'s Masterpiece _or_ The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay", Holmes successfully concentrated his verse upon concrete objects with which he was long familiar, or had studied at length, such as the one-horse shay or a seashell . Some of his works also deal with his personal or family history; for example, the poem "Dorothy Q" is a portrait of his maternal great-grandmother. The poem combines pride, humor and tenderness in short rhyming couplets: O Damsel Dorothy! Dorothy Q.! Strange is the gift that I owe to you; Such a gift as never a king Save to daughter or son might bring,— All my tenure of heart and hand, All my title to house and land; Mother and sister and child and wife And joy and sorrow and death and life! (lines 33–40)
Holmes, an outspoken critic of over-sentimental Transcendentalist and
Romantic poetry, often slipped into sentimentality when writing his
occasional poetry, but would often balance such emotional excess with
humor. Critic George Warren Arms believed Holmes's poetry to be
provincial in nature, noting his "
He composed several hymn texts, including Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends and Lord of All Being, Throned Afar .
Although mainly known as a poet, Holmes wrote numerous medical treatises, essays, novels, memoirs and table-talk books. His prose works include topics that range from medicine to theology, psychology, society, democracy, sex and gender, and the natural world. Author and critic William Dean Howells argued that Holmes created a genre called dramatized (or discursive) essay, in which major themes are informed by the story's plot, but his works often use a combination of genres; excerpts of poetry, essays and conversations are often included throughout his prose. Critic William Lawrence Schroeder described Holmes's prose style as "attractive" in that it "made no great demand on the attention of the reader." He further stated that although the author's earlier works (_The Autocrat_ and _The Professor of the Breakfast-Table_) are "virile and fascinating", later ones such as _Our Hundred Days in Europe_ and _Over the Teacups_ "have little distinction of style to recommend them." _ 1858 facsimile of Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table_
Holmes first gained international fame with his "Breakfast-Tables" series. These three table-talk books attracted a diverse audience due to their conversational style, which made readers feel an intimate connection to the author, and resulted in a flood of letters from admirers. The series' conversational tone is not only meant to mimic the philosophical debates and pleasantries that occur around the breakfast table, but it is also used in order to facilitate an openness of thought and expression. As the Autocrat, Holmes states in the first volume:
"This business of conversation is a very serious matter. There are men that it weakens one to talk with an hour more than a day's fasting would do. Mark this that I am going to say, for it is as good as a working professional man's advice, and costs you nothing: It is better to lose a pint of blood from your veins than to have a nerve tapped. Nobody measures your nervous force as it runs away, nor bandages your brain and marrow after the operation."
The various speakers represent different facets of Holmes's life and experiences. The speaker of the first installment, for example, is understood to be a doctor who spent several years studying in Paris, while the second volume—_The Professor at the Breakfast-Table_—is told from the point of view of a professor of a distinguished medical school. Although the speakers discuss myriad topics, the flow of conversation always leads to supporting Holmes's Paris-taught conception of science and medicine and how they relate to morality and the mind. _Autocrat_ in particular addresses philosophical issues such as the nature of one's self, language, life and truth.
Holmes wrote in the second preface to _Elsie Venner_, his first novel, that his aim in writing the work was "to test the doctrine of 'original sin' and human responsibility for the distorted violation coming under that technical denomination". He also stated his belief that "a grave scientific doctrine may be detected lying beneath some of the delineations of character" throughout all fiction. Deeming the work a "psychological romance", he employed a romantic narrative in order to describe moral theology from a scientific perspective. This means of expression is also present in his two other novels, in which Holmes uses medical or psychological dilemmas to further the story's dramatic plot.
Holmes referred to his novels as "medicated novels". Some critics believe that these works were innovative in exploring theories of Sigmund Freud and other emerging psychiatrists and psychologists. _The Guardian Angel_, for example, explores mental health and repressed memory , and Holmes uses the concept of the unconscious mind throughout his works. _A Mortal Antipathy_ depicts a character whose phobias are rooted in psychic trauma, later cured by shock therapy . Holmes's novels were not critically successful during his lifetime. As psychiatrist Clarence P. Oberndorf, author of _The Psychiatric Novels of Oliver Wendell Holmes_, states, the three works are "poor fiction when judged by modern criteria.... Their plots are simple, almost juvenile and, in two of them, the reader is not disappointed in the customary thwarting of the villain and the coming of true love to its own".
LEGACY AND CRITICISM
_ Engraving of Holmes from The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes_, published by Houghton, Mifflin in 1895
Holmes was well respected by his peers, and garnered a large, international following throughout his long life. Particularly noted for his intelligence, he was named by American theologian Henry James Sr. "intellectually the most alive man I ever knew". Critic John G. Palfrey also praised Holmes, referring to him as "a man of genius... His manner is entirely his own, manly and unaffected; generally easy and playful, and sinking at times into 'a most humorous sadness'". On the other hand, critics S. I. Hayakawa and Howard Mumford Jones argued that Holmes was "distinctly an amateur in letters. His literary writings, on the whole, are partly the leisure-born meditations of a physician, partly a means of spreading certain items of professional propaganda, partly a distillation of his social life."
Although his essay on puerperal fever has been deemed "the most important contribution made in America to the advancement of medicine" up to that time, Holmes is most famous as a humorist and poet. Editor and critic George Ripley , an admirer of Holmes, referred to him as "one of the wittiest and most original of modern poets". Emerson noted that, though Holmes did not renew his focus on poetry until later in his life, he quickly perfected his role "like old pear trees which have done nothing for ten years, and at last begin to grow great."
Poems by Holmes, along with those by the other Fireside or Schoolroom
Poets, were often required to be memorized by schoolchildren. Although
learning by rote recitation began fading out by the 1890s, these poets
nevertheless remained fixed as ideal
The school library of
SELECTED LIST OF WORKS
* _Poems_ (1836) * _Songs in Many Keys_ (1862)
Medical and psychological studies
* _Puerperal Fever as a Private Pestilence_ (1855) * _Mechanism in Thought and Morals_ (1871)
* _ Elsie Venner _ (1861) * _The Guardian Angel_ (1867) * _A Mortal Antipathy_ (1885)
Stereoscope and the Stereograph", _
Biographies and travelogue
* _John Lothrop Motley, A Memoir_ (1876) * _Ralph Waldo Emerson_ (1884) * _Our Hundred Days in Europe_ (1887)
* Biography portal
* ^ Sullivan, 226
* ^ _A_ _B_ Novick, 3
* ^ Small, 23
* ^ Small, 20
* ^ Small, 24
* ^ Tilton, 6
* ^ Tilton, 8
* ^ Tilton, 23
* ^ Hoyt, 21
* ^ Tilton, 24
* ^ Hoyt, 24
* ^ Hoyt, 27–28
* ^ Hoyt, 28
* ^ Tilton, 50
* ^ Tilton, 36
* ^ Hoyt, 32
* ^ Tilton, 37
* ^ _Catalogue of the Officers and Members of the Hasty-Pudding
Club in Harvard University_. Cambridge, MA: Metcalf and Company, 1846:
* ^ Hoyt, 35
* ^ Hoyt, 37
* ^ _A_ _B_ Small, 34
* ^ Sullivan, 231
* ^ Hoyt, 38
* ^ Tilton, 62–63
* ^ Hoyt, 63
* ^ Novick, 4
* ^ Hoyt, 42
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Menand, 6
* ^ Tilton, 65
* ^ Holmes, _Complete Poetical Works_, 4
* ^ Hoyt, 45
* ^ _A_ _B_ Small, 37
* ^ Tilton, 67
* ^ Hoyt, 47
* ^ Small, 38
* ^ Hoyt, 48
* ^ Dowling, 7
* ^ Gibian, 2
* ^ Hoyt, 52
* ^ Louis' findings on the subject were published as _Recherches
sur les effets de la saignée dan quelques maladies inflammatoires, et
sur l'action de l'émétique et des vésicatoires dans la pneumonie_.
Paris: J-B Ballière, 1835.
* ^ Dowling, 29
* ^ Dowling, 43
* ^ Small, 44
* ^ Hoyt, 138
* ^ Hoyt, 72
* ^ Hoyt, 80–81
* ^ Hoyt, 86
* ^ Tilton, 149
* ^ Novick, 6
* ^ Sullivan, 233
* ^ Blough, Barbara; Dana Cook Grossman. "Two Hundred Years of
Medicine at Dartmouth". Dartmouth Medical School. Retrieved December
* ^ Small, 48
* ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American
Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
* ^ Novick, 7
* ^ Small, 49
* ^ Small, 49–50
* ^ Tilton, 166
* ^ Small, 50
* ^ Holmes, Oliver Wendell. _Homœopathy, and its Kindred
Delusions; two lectures delivered before the Boston society for the
diffusion of useful knowledge_. Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1842.
* ^ Meigs, Charles Delucena. _On the Nature, Signs, and Treatment
of Childbed Fevers_. Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea, 1854: 104.
* ^ Small, 52
* ^ Hoyt, 106–107
* ^ Hoyt, 107
* ^ Dowling, 93
* ^ Tilton, 175
* ^ _A_ _B_ Sullivan, 234
* ^ Small, 55
* ^ _A_ _B_ Sullivan, 235
* ^ _A_ _B_ Broaddus, 46
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Menand, 8
* ^ Gibian, 176
* ^ Menand, 9
* ^ Dowling, xxi
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* ^ Small, 67
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* ^ Hoyt, 153
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* ^ Hoyt, 167
* ^ _A_ _B_ Novick, 19
* ^ Tilton, 236
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* ^ Small, 122
* ^ Jones, Brian Jay. _Washington Irving: An American Original_.
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* ^ Small, 133
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* ^ Holmes, Oliver Wendell (March 1952). "The American Stereoscope"
(PDF). _Image: Journal of Photography of the George Eastman House_.
Rochester, NY. 1 (3). Retrieved April 11, 2009.
* ^ Hoyt, 201
* ^ Small, 76–77
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* ^ White, G. Edward. _Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr._ New York: Oxford
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* ^ Arvin, Newton. _Longfellow: His Life and Work_. Boston: Little,
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* ^ Calhoun, Charles C. _Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life_. Boston:
Beacon Press, 2004: 236. ISBN 0-8070-7026-2 .
* ^ Irmscher, Christoph. _Longfellow Redux_. University of
Illinois, 2006: 263. ISBN 978-0-252-03063-5 .
* ^ Calhoun, Charles C. _Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life_. Boston:
Beacon Press, 2004: 258. ISBN 0-8070-7026-2 .
* ^ Small, 123
* ^ _A_ _B_ Westbrook, Perry D. _A Literary History of New
England_. Philadelphia: Lehigh University Press, 1988: 181. ISBN
* ^ Hoyt, 237
* ^ Hoyt, 251
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* ^ Hoyt, 258
* ^ Kaplan, Justin. _Walt Whitman: A Life_. New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1980: 25. ISBN 0-671-22542-1
* ^ Hoyt, 261
* ^ Hoyt, 264
* ^ Hoyt, 266–267
* ^ Hoyt, 269
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* ^ Novick, 183
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* ^ Heymann, C. David. _American Aristocracy: The Lives and Times
of James Russell, Amy, and Robert Lowell_. New York: Dodd, Mead &
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* ^ Kennedy, 271
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* ^ Small, 36–37
* ^ Small, 96
* ^ Small, 110–111
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* ^ Small, 68
* ^ Duncan Campbell (1908). _Hymns and Hymn Makers_. A. &. C.
Black. p. 170.
* ^ Weinstein, 1
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* ^ Holmes, Oliver Wendell. _The Autocrat at the Breakfast-Table_.
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1916: 7
* ^ Dowling, 110
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* ^ Small, 130–131
* ^ Oberndorf, Clarence P. _The Psychiatric Novels of Oliver
Wendell Holmes_. Revised ed. New York: Columbia University Press,
* ^ Knight, 199
* ^ Weinstein, 6
* ^ Dowling, 113
* ^ Watson, Peter. _Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from
Fire to Freud_. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005: 688. ISBN
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* ^ Crowe, Charles. _George Ripley: Transcendentalist and Utopian
Socialist_. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1967: 247.
* ^ Sorby, Angela. _Schoolroom Poets: Childhood, Performance, and
the Place of American Poetry, 1865–1917_. Durham, NH: University of
New Hampshire Press, 2005: 133. ISBN 1-58465-458-9
* ^ Buell, Lawrence. _
* Arms, George Warren. _The Fields Were Green: A New View of Bryant,
Whittier, Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow_. Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press, 1953.
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