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[229] among the long-lived American poets of his generation, of whom he was the last to survive.

During his second visit to London, Holmes was the guest of honour at a dinner of the Rabelais Club, founded to cherish the memory of an earlier humorist who was also a practitioner of medicine; and in his letter accepting the invitation he took occasion to confess his regard for another physician—author, Ambroise Pare, whom he termed ‘good, wise, quaint, shrewd, chatty.’ And all five of these characteristics he possessed himself. He was a gentleman and a scholar—to revive the fine old phrase—who was also a physician learned in the lore of the healing art and keenly interested in its history. He was a gentleman and a scholar, who was also a man of the world, in the best sense of that abused term,—a man of the world holding a modest place as a man of science. And at bottom he was a Yankee, with a true Yankee inventiveness,—the handstereo-scope he devised being the outward and visible sign of this native gift, which was exhibited incessantly in his writings, notably in The physiology of verse and in The human wheel, its Spokes and Felloes. In prose and in verse he disclosed an unfailing Yankee cleverness, whittling his rhymes and sharpening his phrases with an innate dexterity.

‘The secret of a man who is universally interesting is that he is universally interested,’ William Dean Howells has told us; ‘and this was above all the secret of the charm Doctor Holmes had for every one.’ There is zest and gusto in all that he wrote, and the reader can share the writer's own enjoyment. Especially was the writer interested in himself, as the true essayist must be. His delight in talking about himself was complacent, contagious, and innocent. ‘I have always been good company for myself,’ Holmes once confessed; and this is one reason why he has been pleasantly companionable to countless readers who found in him a friendly quality which took them captive. His egotism was as patent as Montaigne's, even if it was not so frank in its expression nor so searching in its analysis. The more of himself he revealed, the more he won the hearts of his fellow men, who relished the gentleness and the firmness of the character so openly disclosed, its kindliness, its urbanity and amenity, its lack of all acerbity or acridity, its total freedom

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Oliver Wendell Holmes (3)
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