Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/191

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179
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Tom's Cabin that Tom Jones was the best novel ever written; while Holmes was proving to her husband, the divinity 'professor, that the pulpit was responsible for all the swearing. Dr. and Mrs. Beecher Stowe, it is implied, must have been reduced to ciphers before they could be the passive recipients of such doctrines. In spite of this, I can easily believe that the Club deserved its fame. The 'art of repression,' I fancy, is very often superfluous in London. Conversation in ever-shifting crowds requires stimulation more often than restraint, and it is sometimes as hard to set talk going in the fortuitous concurrence of human atoms at a large party as to start a real exchange of ideas in an excursion train. The best talk that I have ever heard has certainly been in obscure corners, where a few friends meet habitually, and distribute their parts instinctively. A society which included all the best scholars and men of genius within reach of Boston had abundance of the raw material of talk. They might be compared in point of talent even with the men who met Johnson at the 'Turk's Head,' and certainly had as great a variety of interest in men and books. They had, it would seem, fewer jealousies, or, as the sneerer would put it, were readier for