Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/203

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191
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Familiar Faces, bewailing the loss of schoolfriends, he was a little over twenty, his mood seems appropriate to one who, in the decline of life, feels his solitude to be almost unbearable. Humour which reveals the seamy side of life generally goes with a melancholy temperament, and Lamb's sweetness is generally toned by the sadness, due both to circumstance and to disposition. It is Holmes's special peculiarity that the childish buoyancy remains almost to the end, unbroken and irrepressible. He could hardly indeed have sympathised with the doctrine that heaven lies about us in our infancy, for we cherish that—illusion is it or faith? when we are forced to admit that we can only see the light of common day. Holmes never seems to have lost the early buoyancy—only to have acquired new toys; even physiology, which he studied seriously enough, and which is not generally regarded as amusing, supplies him with intellectual playthings, quaint fancies, and remote analogies to be tossed about like balls by a skilful juggler. The early poems, written in the pure extravagance of boyish fun, like the Spectre Pig and The Mysterious Visitor, show characteristics which may be overlaid but are never obliterated, I don't know