Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/200

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188
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

respect by forgetting his manners. When the Civil War broke out, Holmes most heartily adopted the patriotic view of the situation, and spoke, too, in the language of a thorough political republican. He used the familiar shibboleth without hesitation. His old sympathy with abolitionists had been tempered by his fear that their excessive devotion to a good cause might, as he told Lowell, precipitate a frightful future of 'war and bloodshed.' Here the sympathy could have full play, and the enthusiasm be at once with the man of reason and common-sense.

Whether, as Holmes hoped, democracy will prove to be the reign of reason and of true refinement of respect for man as man, and also of respect for the traditional culture, is not a question to be asked here. The shorter and more answerable problem concerns his own character. Holmes shocked the orthodox by some of his theories: and perhaps, if he had fully perceived or uttered some of their consequences he would have shocked them more. He might have been respected: but to the ordinary reader he would have appeared as a scoffer, or at least as a blast from the nipping north-east air, blighting the