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[230] from the rennet of meanness which curdles the milk of human kindness.

In a letter which Whittier wrote for a celebration of Holmes's seventy-fifth birthday, the Quaker poet singled out for praise the Boston bard's ‘genial nature, entire freedom from jealousy and envy, quick tenderness, large charity, hatred of sham, pretence and unreality, and his reverent sense of the eternal and permanent.’ This is keen criticism. Holmes was a wit, but there was no bitterness in his laughter, because it lacked scorn; and there was in it no echo of the cruel sterility of Voltaire's irony. We can say of Holmes what Moore said of Sheridan, that his wit

ne'er carried a heart—stain away on its blade.

We can say this with the weightier emphasis when we recall the cheerful courtesy with which he met the vindictive and virulent retorts evoked by his dissolvent analysis of the abhorrent and horrible aspects of Calvinism, a disestablished code inherited from a less civilized past. Holmes's influence was civilizing and humanizing; and it was more important than we are likely now to recognize. He had in a high degree the social instinct which has given grace to French life and which was perhaps accentuated in him during his two years stay in Paris in his malleable youth. He was the constant exponent of good manners and of right feeling, at a period in the evolution of American society when the need for this was even more evident than it is now.

It was in a score of his poems and in the successive volumes of the Breakfast-Table series that Holmes most completely disclosed himself. His two biographies and his three novels are far less important,—in fact, these other prose writings are important chiefly because they are the work of the ‘Autocrat’; and it may be well to deal with them briefly before considering his major work, in which he is expressing the essence of his cheerful optimism. The less significant of his two memoirs is that of Motley, a labour of love undertaken in the months that followed hard upon the death of the historian. ‘To love a character,’ said Stevenson, ‘is the only heroic way of understanding it.’ Possibly an author could

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