Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/179

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OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

made him famous. Few popular authors have had a narrower escape from obscurity. He would, in any case, have been remembered in his own circle as a brilliant talker, and there would have been some curiosity as to the writer of the Last Leaf and two or three other poems. But had it not been for the judicious impulse given by his friend Lowell which induced him to make his appearance as the 'autocrat,' his reputation would have resembled that of Wolfe, of 'not a drum was beat' celebrity. Who, it would have been asked, was the author of the few lines which we all know by heart? and we should have turned up the article devoted to him in a biographical dictionary. But he would not have revealed himself with that curious completeness upon which all his critics have remarked. He often heard, as he says in an interesting letter, that he 'had unlocked the secret of some heart which others, infinitely more famous, infinitely more entitled to claim the freedom, have failed to find opening for them.' He cannot help believing that‘there is some human tone in his written voice which sometimes finds a chord not often set vibrating.' The secret of this gift is not hard to penetrate, though this biography will enable readers to understand it a little more fully.