This is the physician and poet, not his son of the same name who was a Supreme Court Justice and famous in his own right. Very early on Dr. Holmes became my mentor and guide in the philosophy of medicine. Though his world-wide fame was based on his prose and poetry, he was an emminent leader in medicine. Many, too many--years ago I would often assign Holmes' "Medical Essays" to a medical student whose sharp edges of science needed some rounding-off. I have no longer the privelege of assigning anything to anybody, yet encourage any of you, especially any who may be physicians, to read the thoughts of a family doctor of the early 1800's.
A misprint kills a sensitive author Absolute, peremptory facts are bullies Advised every literary man to have a profession. Afraid of books who have not handled them from infancy Age and neglect united gradually Agreed on certain ultimata of belief Algebraic symbols of minds which have grown too weak All his geese are swans All men are bores, except when we want them All men love all women All the forms of moral excellence, except truth All want to reach old age and grumble when they get it And now we two are walking the long path in peace together Another privilege of talking is to misquote Arc in the movement of a large intellect As I understand truth As to clever people's hating each other As a child, he should have tumbled about in a library Asked Solon what made him dare to be so obstinate Assume a standard of judgment in our own minds At the mercy of every superior mind Audacious self-esteem, with good ground for it Automatic and involuntary actions of the mind Babbage's calculating machine Be very careful to whom you trust one of these keys Beautiful effects from wit,--all the prismatic colors Been in the same precise circumstances before Behave like men and gentlemen about it, if you know how. Beliefs are rooted in human wants and weakness, and die hard Bells which small trades-people connect with their shop-doors Better for mankind,--and all the worse for the fishes Better too few words, from the woman we love Bewitching cup of self-quackery Bill which will render pockets a superfluity in your next suit Blank checks of intellectual bankruptcy Bowing and nodding over the music Brain often runs away with the heart's best blood Brilliant flashes--of silence! Brute beasts of the intellectual domain Bury in it beliefs, doubts, dreams, hopes, and terrors But we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. But it was in talking of Life that we came most nearly together C'est le DERNIER pas qui co te Called an old man for the first time Character is distinctly shown at the age of four months. Cigar Clairvoyance which sees into things without opening them Code of finalities is a necessary condition of profitable talk Cold shower-bath the world furnishes gratis Comfort is essential to enjoyment Commerce is just putting his granite foot upon them Common sense, as you understand it. Common sense was good enough for him Compare the racer with the trotter Conceit is just a natural thing to human minds Conceit has the virtue of making them cheerful Conclusion that he or she is really dull Conflicting advice of all manner of officious friends Consciousness of carrying a "settler" in the form of a fact Controversy Conversation which is suggestive rather than argumentative Conversational fungi spring up most luxuriantly Conversational bully Conversational blank checks or counters Conversational soprano Creative action is not voluntary at all Crippled souls Crow with a king-bird after him Cut your climate to your constitution Dangerous subjects Demand for intellectual labor is so enormous Did I believe in love at first sight? Didn't know Truth was such an invalid Differ on the fundamental principles Dishwater from the washings of English dandyism Disputing about remainders and fractions Do wish she would get well--or something Do you know how important good jockeying is to authors? Do you ever wonder why poets talk so much about flowers? Do not be bullied out of your common sense by the specialist Don't make your moral staple consist of the negative virtues Don't believe any man ever talked like that in this world Don't begin to pry till you have got the long arm on your side Don't ever think the poetry is dead in an old man Don't be in a hurry to choose your friends Doomed to the pangs of an undeceived self-estimate Dullest of teachers is the one who does not know what to omit Dulness is not commonly a game fish Earned your money by the dose you have taken Easier to dispute it than to disprove it Easier to say this than to prove it Educational factory Elysian abandonment of a huge recumbent chair. Every person's feelings have a front- door and a side-door Extra talent does sometimes make people jealous Facts always yield the place of honor, in conversation Fall silent and think they are thinking Few, if any, were ruined by drinking Flash terms for words which truly characterize their objects. Fortune is the measure of intelligence Fortune had left her, sorrow had baptized her Friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things Gambling with dice or stocks Gambling, on the great scale, is not republican Generalize the disease and individualize the patient Generally ruined before they became drunkards Genius in an essentially common person is detestable Gift of seeing themselves in the true light Give it an intellectual shake and hold it up to the light Give us the luxuries of life Good for nothing until they have been long kept and used Good feeling helps society to make liars of most of us Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris Got his hand up, as a pointer lifts his forefoot Governed, not by, but according to laws Grave without a stone where nothing but a man is buried Great silent-moving misery puts a new stamp on us Grow we must, if we outgrow all that we love Grow old early, if you would be old long Habit is a labor-saving invention Habits are the crutches of old age Half knowledge dreads nothing but whole knowledge Half-censure divided between the parties Hard it is for some people to get out of a room He did not know so much about old age then as he does now He that has once done you a kindness He who is carried by horses must deal with rogues Height of art to conceal art Her breathing was somewhat hurried and high, or thoracic Here lies buried the soul of the licentiate Pedro Garcias Hire logic, in the shape of a lawyer Hold their outspread hands over your head Holes in all her pockets Hoped he did deserve a little abuse occasionally Hopelessly dull discourse acts inductively How long will school-keeping take to kill you? Hung with moss, looking like bearded Druids Hydrostatic paradox of controversy I always believed in life rather than in books I always break down when folks cry in my face I allow no "facts " at this table I show my thought, another his I tell my secrets too easily when I am downhearted. I love horses I think I have not been attacked enough for it I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds I replied with my usual forbearance I am my own son, as it seems to me I had not thought love was ever meant for me. I hate books I have lived by the sea-shore and by the mountains I have taken all knowledge to be my province If so and so, we should have been this or that If they have run as well as they knew how! If I thought I should ever see the Alps! Il faut ne pas BRUTALISER la machine In what direction we are moving Incipit Allegoria Senectutis. Infinite ocean of similitudes and analogies Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked Insanity Intellectual companions can be found easily Is this the mighty occan?--is this all? It is by little things that we know ourselves It is pleasant to be foolish at the right time Judge men's minds by comparing with mine Keep his wit in the background Key to this side-door Knowledge and timber only useful when seasoned La main de fer sous le gant de velours Laid the egg of the Reformation which Luther hatched Laughs at times at the grand airs "Science" puts on Law of the road with regard to handsome faces Leading a string of my mind's daughters to market Leap at a single bound into celebrity Learn anything twice as easily as in my earlier days Leave your friend to learn unpleasant truths from his enemies Lecturer is public property Let us cry! Liability of all men to be elected to public office Life would be nothing without paper- credit Life is maintained by the respiration of oxygen and of sentiment Like taking the cat in your lap after holding a squirrel Listen to what others say about subjects you have studied Little great man Little muscle which knows its importance Little narrow streaks of specialized knowledge Live on the reputation of the reputation they might have made Living in a narrow world of dry habits Logic Logicians carry the surveyor's chain over the track Long illness is the real vampyrism Look through the silvered rings of the arcus senilis! Love must be either rich or rosy Love is sparingly soluble in the words of men Love-capacity is a congenital endowment Lying is unprofitable Made up your mind to do when you ask them for advice Man of family Man who means to be honest for a literary pickpocket Man is father to the boy that was Man's and a woman's dusting a library Man's first life-story shall clean him out, so to speak Mathematical fact May doubt everything to-day if I will only do it civilly Meaningless blushing Mechanical invention had exhausted itself Memory is a net Men that know everything except how to make a living Men grow sweet a little while before they begin to decay Men of facts wait their turn in grim silence Men who have found new occupations when growing old Men that it weakens one to talk with an hour Men are fools, cowards, and liars all at once Might have hired an EARTHQUAKE for less money! Moralist and occasional sermonizer Most of our common, working beliefs are probabilities Moved as if all her articulations were elbow-joints Much ashamed of some people for retaining their reason Must not read such a string of verses too literally Must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it Must be weaned from his late suppers now Napoleon's test Nature dresses and undresses them Nature, who always has her pockets full of seeds Nearest approach to flying that man has ever made Neither make too much of flaws or overstatements Never forget where they have put their money No families take so little medicine as those of doctors No fresh truth ever gets into a book No man knows his own voice Nobody is so old he doesn't think he can live a year None of my business to inquire what other persons think Nutritious diet of active sympathetic benevolence Oblivion as residuary legatee Oblivion's Uncatalogued Library Odious trick of speech or manners must be got rid of. Oh, so patient she is, this imperturbable Nature! Old Age Old age appear as a series of personal insults and indignities Old jokes are dynamometers of mental tension One very sad thing in old friendships One whose patients are willing to die in his hands One doesn't like to be cruel,--and yet one hates to lie One that goes in a nurse may come out an angel One can generally tell these wholesale thieves easily enough Open patches where the sun gets in and goes to sleep Oracle Original, though you have uttered it a hundred times Ought to produce insanity in every well-regulated mind Our brains are seventy-year clocks Overrate their own flesh and blood Painted there by reflection from our faces Passion never laughs People in the green stage of millionism People that make puns are like wanton boys Person is really full of information, and does not abuse it Personal incidents that call up single sharp pictures Physical necessity to talk out what is in the mind Picket-guard at the extreme outpost Plagiarism Pluck survives stamina Poem must be kept and used, like a meersehaum, or a violin Poetry, instead of making one other heart happy Poetry of words is quite as beautiful as that of sentences Poor creature that does not often repeat himself Poverty is evidence of limited capacity Power of human beings is a very strictly limited agency Power of music Pretensions of presumptuous ignorance Pride, in the sense of contemning others Probabilities Project a principle full in the face of obvious fact! Provincial conceit, which some of us must plead guilty to. Pseudo-science Pseudological inanity Public itself, which insists on being poisoned Pun is primŸ facie an insult Put coppers on the railroad-tracks Qu'est ce qu'il a fait? What has he done? Quackery and idolatry are all but immortal Question everything Racing horses are essentially gambling implements Rapidity with which ideas grow old in our memories Rather meet three of the scowlers than one of the smilers. Rather longer than usual dressing that morning Regained my freedom with a sigh Religious mental disturbances Remarkably intelligent audience Remarks like so many postage-stamps Returning thanks after a dinner of many courses Ribbon which has strangled so many false pretensions Sad thing to be born a sneaking fellow Saddle-leather is in some respects even preferable Saint may be a sinner that never got down to "hard pan" Saturation-point of each mind differs from that of every other Saying one thing about it and believing another Scientific certainty has no spring in it Scientific knowledge Second story projecting See if the ripe fruit were better or worse Self-assertion, such as free suffrage introduces Self-love is a cup without any bottom Self-made men? Self-unconsciousness of genius Sense of SMELL Sentenced to capital punishment for the crime of living "Sentimentality," which is sentiment overdone "Settler" in the form of a fact or a revolver Several false premises Shake the same bough again She who nips off the end of a brittle courtesy She always laughs and cries in the right places Shut out, not all light, but all the light they do not want Shy of asking questions of those who know enough to destroy SIN has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all Single combats between dead authors and living housemaids Singular inability to weigh the value of testimony Six persons engaged in every dialogue between two Slow to accept marvellous stories and many forms of superstition Small potatoes always get to the bottom. Smiling at present follies So long as a woman can talk, there is nothing she cannot bear So much woman in it,--muliebrity, as well as femineity So much must be pardoned to humanity Society is a strong solution of books Society of Mutual Admiration Sold his sensibilities Some people that think everything pitiable is so funny Some people think that truth and gold are always to be washed for Somebody had been calling him an old man Something she is ashamed of, or ought to be Something better than flowers; it is a seed-capsule Somewhere,-- somewhere,--love is in store for them Stages of life Struggle with the ever-rising mists of delusion Stupidity often saves a man from going mad Style is the man Sudden conviction that I had seen it somewhere Takes very little to spoil everything for writer, talker, lover Talk about those subjects you have had long in your mind Talk, to me, is only spading up the ground for crops of thought Talk without words is half their conversation Talkers who have what may be called jerky minds Talking with a dull friend affords great relief Talking is like playing on the harp Talking is one of the fine arts Talking shapes our thoughts for us Tears that we weep inwardly with unchanging features Temptation of money and fame is too great for young people Tepid and unstimulating expression of enthusiasm Terrible smile Thanklessness of critical honesty That great procession of the UNLOVED The house is quite as much the body we live in The schoolmistress had tried life, too The Amen! of Nature is always a flower The race that shortens its weapons lengthens its boundaries The year eighteen hundred and ever-so- few The way to argue down a vice is not to tell lies about it Their business is not a matter of sympathy, but of intellect There is no elasticity in a mathematical fact There is a higher law in grammar, not to be put down There is almost always at least one key to this side-door Think only in single file front this day forward Think of the griefs that die unspoken! Third vowel as its center This is the shortest way,--she said This is one of those cases in which the style is the man Those who ask your opinion really want your praise Time is a fact To trifle with the vocabulary To pay up, to own up, and to shut up, if beaten Too late!---- "It might have been."---- Amen! Travellers change their guineas, but not their characters Triumph of the ciphering hand-organ True state of creative genius is allied to reverie, or dreaming Truth must roll, or nobody can do anything with it Truth is only safe when diluted Truth's sharp corners get terribly rounded Truths a man carries about with him are his tools Turn over any old falsehood Unadorned and in plain calico Undertakers Unpacks and unfolds incidental illustrations Unpretending mediocrity is good Virtually old when it first makes its appearance Virtue passed through the hem of their parchment Virtues of a sporting man Vulgarism of language Wait awhile! Walls of that larger Inquisition which we call Civilization Want of ideas, want of words, want of manners We die out of houses, just as we die out of our bodies We always compare ourselves with our contemporaries. We are all theological students We carry happiness into our condition We don't read what we don't like We never tell our secrets to people that pump for them. Wedded, faded away, threw themselves away Wedding-ring conveys a right to a key to this side-door Weeded their circle pretty well of these unfortunates What a satire, by the way, is that machine What are the great faults of conversation? Whether anything can be conscious of its own flavor?? Whether gifted with the accident of beauty or not While she is silent, Nature is working for her Who is in advance of it or even with it Wholesale professional dealers in misfortune Why authors and actors are ashamed of being funny? Why did I not ask? you will say Will you take the long path with me? Winning-post a slab of white or gray stone Wit knows that his place is at the tail of a procession. Wonder how my great trees are coming on this summer. World calls him hard names, probably World has a million roosts for a man, but only one nest. Yes, I am a man, like another Young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions Youth and age--something in the soul
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These quotations were collected from the works of Dr. Holmes by David Widger while preparing etexts for Project Gutenberg. Comments and suggestions will be most welcome.
--And many thanks for your persistence in reading all the way to the end of this page. D.W.