Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/181

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169
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

apt to become a little bored with the topic. Holmes loved the old 'gambrel-roofed house' in which he was born, all the more because a house which existed at the time of Washington represented exceptional antiquity in America. The deluge of growing civilisation sweeps away such relics of the past so rapidly that their scarcity gives them exceptional value. The buildings of Andover Academy and of the Harvard University are not, in themselves, comparable to Eton or to King's College, Cambridge. But they represent the only persistent thread of historical continuity in the country, and the affection which they excite is proportioned, not to their absolute grandeur or antiquity, but to the degree in which they have to satisfy whatever instinctive affections there may be in their alumni. Holmes certainly loved his old home, and cherished his school and college associations as ardently as if he had been born in a Norman manor-house or played his boyish games under the statue of Henry VI. As he grew up his patriotism did not diminish in intensity. All that happened was that he became qualified to catch its comic aspects. When the 'young fellow they call John' laid down the famous proposition that 'Boston State House is the hub of the solar