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Five years were spent at a school in Cambridgeport, which was kept by several successive teachers, and it was here, as schoolmates, that Oliver Wendell Holmes first met Margaret Fuller and Richard Henry Dana. I was fond also of whispering, and my desk bore sad witness to my passion for whittling. For these misdemeanors I sometimes had a visitation from the ferule, and once when a Gunter's scale was used for this purpose, it flew to pieces as it came down on my palm.

It was about this time, doubtless, that the Autocrat learned that important fact about the "hat. On my way I was met by a 'Port-Chuck,' as we used to call the young gentlemen of that locality, and the following dialogue ensued:. The hat is the vulnerable point of the artificial integument. But I soon found that my lines had fallen in a place where a vegetable growth had to run the gauntlet of as many foes and trials as a Christian pilgrim.

Flowers would not blow; daffodils perished like criminals in their condemned caps, without their petals ever seeing daylight; roses were disfigured with monstrous protrusions through their very centres, something that looked like a second bud pushing through the middle of the corolla; lettuces and cabbages would not head; radishes knotted [31] themselves until they looked like centenarians' fringes; and on every stem, on every leaf, and both sides of it, and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part, and help murder the whole attempt at vegetation Yet Nature is never wholly unkind.

Economical as she was in my unparadised Eden, hard as it was to make some of my floral houris unveil, still the damask roses sweetened the June breezes, the bladed and plumed flower-de-luces unfolded their close-wrapped cones, and larkspurs, and lupins, lady's delights—plebeian manifestations of the pansy—self-sowing marigolds, hollyhocks; the forest flowers of two seasons, and the perennial lilacs and syringas, all whispered to the winds blowing over them that some caressing presence was around me.

Arrowsmith would have called it, if he had mapped the universe of my infancy. Out of it would come one Sally, sister of its swarthy tenant, swarthy herself, shady-lipped, sad-voiced, and bending over her flower bed, would gather a 'posy,' as she called it, for the little boy. Sally lies in the churchyard, with a slab of blue slate at her head, lichen-crusted, and leaning a little within the last few years.

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Cottage, garden-bed, posies, grenadier-like rows of seeding-onions—stateliest of vegetables—all are gone, but the breath of a marigold brings them all back to me. Of Cambridge at this time, James Russell Lowell, in his Fireside Travels , tells us: "It was still a country village with its own habits and traditions, not yet feeling too strongly the force of suburban gravitation. Approaching it from the west, by what was then called the New Road, you would pause on the brow of Symond's Hill to enjoy a view singularly soothing and placid.

In front of you lay the town, tufted with elms, lindens, and horse-chestnuts, which had seen Massachusetts a colony, and [34] were fortunately unable to emigrate with the Tories by whom, or by whose fathers they were planted. Over it rose the noisy belfry of the College, the square, brown tower of the Episcopal Church, and the slim yellow spire of the parish meeting-house.

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On your right the Charles slipped smoothly through green and purple salt meadows, darkened here and there with the blossoming black grass as with a stranded cloud-shadow. To your left upon the Old Road you saw some half-dozen dignified old houses of the colonial time, all comfortably fronting southward We called it 'the Village' then, and it was essentially an English village—quiet, unspeculative, without enterprise, sufficing to itself, and only showing such differences from the original type as the public school and the system of town government might superinduce.

A few houses, chiefly old, stood around the bare common, with ample elbow-room, and old women, capped and spectacled, still peered through the same windows from which they had watched Lord Percy's artillery rumble by to Lexington, or caught a glimpse of the handsome Virginia general who had come to wield our homespun Saxon chivalry.

The hooks were [35] to be seen from which had swung the hammocks of Burgoyne's captive red-coats. If memory does not deceive me, women still washed clothes in the town spring, clear as that of Bandusia. One coach sufficed for all the travel to the metropolis. Commencement had not ceased to be the great holiday of the Boston commonwealth, and a fitting one it was.

The students scholars they were called then wore their sober uniform, not ostentatiously distinctive, or capable of rousing democratic envy; and the old lines of caste were blurred rather than rubbed out, as servitor was softened into beneficiary. Was it possible for us in those days to conceive of a greater potentate than the president of the University, in his square doctor's cap, that still filially recalled Oxford and Cambridge? The father of Oliver Wendell Holmes was a Calvanist, not indeed of the severest cast, but still strictly "orthodox" in all his religious views, and when Oliver, his elder son, was fifteen years of age, he sent him to the Phillips Academy in Andover, thinking that the religious atmosphere there was less heretical than at Phillips Academy, Exeter, where Arminian [36] tendencies were just beginning to show themselves.

My room-mate thought, when he first came, it was the bell tolling deaths, and people's ages, as they do in the country. He swore ministers' sons get so familiar with good words that they are apt to handle them carelessly , that the children were dying by the dozen of all ages, from one to twelve, and ran off next day in recess when it began to strike eleven, but was caught before the clock got through striking.

At the foot of the hill, down in town, is, or was, a tidy old elm, which was said to have been hooped with iron to protect it from Indian tomahawks Credab Hahnucmannus , and to have grown round its hoops and buried them in its wood. No matter who asked it; but there were circumstances which saddened and awed me. I had no heart to speak; I faltered some miserable, perhaps petulant excuse, stole away, and the first battle of life was lost.

Then and there to the best of my knowledge, I first consciously took Sin by the hand and turned my back on Duty. Time has led me to look upon my offence more leniently; I do not believe it or any other childish wrong is infinite, as some have pretended, but infinitely finite. Yet, if I had but won that first battle! And what a charming picture he gives us of the peaceful, hallowing influences about him in that quiet old parsonage!


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To such observances of it I was born and bred. As the large, round disk of day declined, a stillness, a solemnity, a somewhat melancholy hush came over us all. It was time for work to cease, and for playthings to be put away. The world of active life passed into the shadow of an eclipse, not to emerge until the sun should sink again beneath the horizon. I don't know that anything could give a clearer idea of the quieting and subduing effect of the old habit of observance of what was considered holy time, than this strange, childish fancy.

Had all the clergymen who visited the parsonage been as true to their profession as his own dear father, the thoughtful, impressible boy might, very possibly, have devoted his brilliant talents to the ministry. I remember one in particular who twitted me so with my blessings as a Christian child, and whined so to me about the naked black children, that he did more in that one day to make me a heathen than he had ever done in a month to make a Christian out of an infant Hottentot.

I might have been a minister myself for aught I know, if this clergyman had not looked and talked so like an undertaker. An exercise written while at Andover, shows at what an early age he attempted versification. The following extract shows the angry god giving his orders to Zephyrus and Eurus:. IN his vacations the inquiring mind of the young student had made "strange acquaintances" in a certain book infirmary up in the attic of the gambrel-roofed house.

Garrison a good many years to root out. Thinks I to myself , an old novel which has been attributed to a famous statesman, introduced me to a world of fiction which was not represented on the shelves of the library proper, unless perhaps by Caelebs in search of a Wife , or allegories of the bitter tonic class. Then there was an old, old Latin alchemy book, with the manuscript annotations of some ancient Rosicrucian, "In the pages of which," he says, "I had a vague notion that I might find the mighty secret of the Lapis Philosophorum , [41] otherwise called Chaos, the Dragon, the Green Lion, the Quinta Essentia , the Soap of Sages, the vinegar of Heavenly Grace, the Egg, the Old Man, the Sun, the Moon, and by all manner of odd aliases , as I am assured by the plethoric little book before me, in parchment covers browned like a meerschaum with the smoke of furnaces, and the thumbing of dead gold-seekers, and the fingering of bony-handed book-misers, and the long intervals of dusty slumber on the shelves of the bonquiniste.

I have seen all this played over again in adult life, the same [42] delightful bewilderment of semi-emotional belief in listening to the gaseous promises of this or that fantastic system, that I found in the pleasing mirages conjured up for me by the ragged old volume I used to pore over in the southeast attic chamber.


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There are other reminiscences of these days that show us not only the outward surroundings, but the inner workings of the boy's mind. There flits dimly before me the image of a little girl whose name even I have forgotten, a schoolmate whom we missed one day, and were told that she had died.

But what death was I never had any very distinct idea until one day I climbed the low stone-wall of the old burial ground and mingled with a group that were looking into a very deep, long, narrow hole, dug down through the green sod, down through the brown loam, down through the yellow gravel, and there at the bottom was an oblong red box, and a still, sharp, white face of a young man seen through an opening at one end of it. There were certain sounds too, he tells us, that had "a mysterious suggestiveness" to him.

One was the "creaking of the woodsleds, bringing their loads of oak and walnut from the country, as the slow-swinging oxen trailed them along over the complaining snow in the cold, brown light of early morning. Lying in bed and listening to their dreary music had a pleasure in it akin to the Lucretian luxury, or that which Byron speaks of as to be enjoyed in looking on at a battle by one 'who hath no friend, no brother there.

Oliver and Bobo We can Do It Just for Fun

It was heard only at times, a deep, muffled roar, which rose and fell, not loud, but vast; a whistling boy would have drowned it for his next neighbor, but it must have been heard over the space of a hundred square miles. I used to wonder what this might be. Could it [44] be the roar of the thousand wheels and the ten thousand footsteps jarring and trampling along the stones of the neighboring city? That would be continuous; but this, as I have said, rose and fell in regular rhythm.

I remember being told, and I suppose this to have been the true solution, that it was the sound of the waves after a high wind breaking on the long beaches many miles distant. In the Charlestown Navy Yard, at this time, was the old frigate Constitution , which the government purposed to break up as unfit for service, thoughtless of the desecration:.

This stirring poem—the first to make him known—was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes in , "with a pencil in the White Chamber Stans pede in uno , pretty nearly," and was published in the Boston Advertiser. From these columns it was extensively copied by other newspapers throughout the country, and handbills containing the verses were circulated in [46] Washington. The eloquent, patriotic outburst not only brought instant fame to the young poet, but so thoroughly aroused the heart of the people that the grand old vessel was saved from destruction.

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The "schoolboy" had already entered Harvard College, and among his classmates in that famous class of , were Benjamin R. Smith the author of "My country, 'tis of thee" , G. Davis, and Benjamin Pierce. George Ticknor was one of his instructors, and Josiah Quincy became president of the college before he graduated. Throughout his whole college course Oliver Wendell Holmes maintained an excellent rank in scholarship. He was a frequent contributor to the college periodicals, and delivered several poems upon a variety of subjects.

One of [47] these was given before the "Hasty Pudding Club," and another entitled "Forgotten Days," at an "Exhibition. It was at this time that The Collegian , a periodical published by a number of the Harvard under-graduates, was started at Cambridge. Simmons translations from Schiller, and the numerous pen thrusts from John O.

Airy" and "Geoffery La Touche. Howe's Asylum for the blind.

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AFTER a year's study of law, during which time the Muses were constantly tempting him to "pen a stanza when he should engross," young Holmes determined to take up the study of medicine, which was much more congenial to his tastes than the formulas of Coke and Blackstone. Doctor James Jackson and his associates were his instructors for the following two years and a half; and then before taking his degree of M. Of this European tour, we find occasional allusions scattered throughout his writings.

Listen, for instance, to this grand description of Salisbury Cathedral:. In the Alps your voice is as the piping of a cricket. Under the sheet of Niagara the beating of your heart seems too trivial a movement to take reckoning of.