Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/180

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168
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

He remarks in the same letter that his life was 'rather solitary than social'; and the society which he did frequent was not in one of the greatest centres of intellectual movement. In certain ways, too, even Bostonians must admit that the social atmosphere was of a kind to nip some of the luxuriant growths congenial to older abodes of art and letters. Holmes's attachment to his surroundings was as keen as if the conditions had been of the most genial. Indeed, he illustrates what has become a commonplace. Americans, as Colonel Chester proved, often take with special enthusiasm to genealogy; although the interest of the study would at first sight appear to be less in a country where the claims of long descent are supposed to be ridiculous. This perhaps illustrates the principle which accounts for Scottish skill in gardening. The materials to be mastered are not so multitudinous, and when you cannot trust to nature your own energy may be stimulated. So Holmes cherished whatever could be called historically interesting in his own country, because there was so little spontaneously supplied. Men who live in the shadow of Westminster Abbey or go to universities which the great men of many centuries have filled with associations, are