Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/201

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189
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

fairest flowers of old tradition. One can perhaps fancy Holmes under other surroundings, producing a book not unlike Candide, incomparably witty, but not exactly conciliatory to the other side. But with all his power of ridicule Holmes had not a touch of the satirist about him. He shrinks from painting even his enemies in too black colours. He can denounce bigotry, but he always prefers to point out that the bigot in theory may be the kindliest of men in practice. In one of his early bits of pure fun, he tells how his servant was thrown into a fit by reading some of his merry lines:—

Ten days and nights with sleepless eye
 I watched that wretched man;
Since then I never dare to write
 As funny as I can.

Certainly he never wrote as sharply as it is abundantly plain that he could. He always remembered that the other person was a human being. It was very shocking to burn the witches, but he could not find it in his heart to sentence the burner to his own flames.

If Holmes, that is, had revolted from his early teachers he had never become bitter. This was, perhaps, because he never grew to manhood,