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Chapter 3: Holmes

It was a favorite theory of Oliver Wendell Holmes that every man's biography should be studied for several generations before his birth. In applying this doctrine to himself I can unfortunately go no farther back than the matrimonial engagement of his parents, which was thus announced in writing by my own mother, then a schoolgirl in Boston, addressing a lady in Hingham, whom my mother, being then an orphan, called “mama.”

“Now, mama, I am going to surprise you. Mr. Abiel Holmes of Cambridge, whom we so kindly chalked out for Miss N. W. [Nancy Williams, afterward Mrs. Loammi Baldwin] is going to be married, & of all folks in the world guess who to--Miss Sally Wendell! I am sure you will not believe it, however it is an absolute fact, for Harriot and M. Jackson told Miss P. Russell so, who told us; it has been kept secret for six ”

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