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.

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A misprint kills a sensitive author

Absolute, peremptory facts are bullies

Advised every literary man to have a


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


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


Arc in the movement of a large


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


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


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


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.


Clairvoyance which sees into things

without opening them

Code of finalities is a necessary

condition of profitable talk

Cold shower-bath the world furnishes


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


Conclusion that he or she is really


Conflicting advice of all manner of

officious friends

Consciousness of carrying a "settler"

in the form of a fact


Conversation which is suggestive rather

than argumentative

Conversational fungi spring up most


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


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


Disputing about remainders and


Do wish she would get well--or


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


Doomed to the pangs of an undeceived


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


Easier to dispute it than to disprove


Easier to say this than to prove it

Educational factory

Elysian abandonment of a huge recumbent


Every person's feelings have a front-

door and a side-door

Extra talent does sometimes make people


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


Generalize the disease and

individualize the patient

Generally ruined before they became


Genius in an essentially common person

is detestable

Gift of seeing themselves in the true


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


Got his hand up, as a pointer lifts his


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


Grow old early, if you would be old


Habit is a labor-saving invention

Habits are the crutches of old age

Half knowledge dreads nothing but whole


Half-censure divided between the


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


Holes in all her pockets

Hoped he did deserve a little abuse


Hopelessly dull discourse acts


How long will school-keeping take to

kill you?

Hung with moss, looking like bearded


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


I love horses

I think I have not been attacked enough

for it

I never think I have hit hard unless it


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


If so and so, we should have been this

or that

If they have run as well as they knew


If I thought I should ever see the


Il faut ne pas BRUTALISER la machine

In what direction we are moving

Incipit Allegoria Senectutis.

Infinite ocean of similitudes and


Insanity is often the logic of an

accurate mind overtasked


Intellectual companions can be found


Is this the mighty occan?--is this all?

It is by little things that we know


It is pleasant to be foolish at the

right time

Judge men's minds by comparing with


Keep his wit in the background

Key to this side-door

Knowledge and timber only useful when


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


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-


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


Little narrow streaks of specialized


Live on the reputation of the

reputation they might have made

Living in a narrow world of dry habits


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


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


Men who have found new occupations when

growing old

Men that it weakens one to talk with an


Men are fools, cowards, and liars all

at once

Might have hired an EARTHQUAKE for less


Moralist and occasional sermonizer

Most of our common, working beliefs are


Moved as if all her articulations were


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


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


Never forget where they have put their


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


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


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


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


Passion never laughs

People in the green stage of millionism

People that make puns are like wanton


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


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



Project a principle full in the face of

obvious fact!

Provincial conceit, which some of us

must plead guilty to.


Pseudological inanity

Public itself, which insists on being


Pun is primŸ facie an insult

Put coppers on the railroad-tracks

Qu'est ce qu'il a fait?  What has he


Quackery and idolatry are all but


Question everything

Racing horses are essentially gambling


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


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


Ribbon which has strangled so many

false pretensions

Sad thing to be born a sneaking fellow

Saddle-leather is in some respects even


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


Scientific certainty has no spring in


Scientific knowledge

Second story projecting

See if the ripe fruit were better or


Self-assertion, such as free suffrage


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


"Settler" in the form of a fact or a


Several false premises

Shake the same bough again

She who nips off the end of a brittle


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


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


Something she is ashamed of, or ought

to be

Something better than flowers; it is a


Somewhere,-- somewhere,--love is in

store for them

Stages of life

Struggle with the ever-rising mists of


Stupidity often saves a man from going


Style is the man

Sudden conviction that I had seen it


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


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


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-


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."----


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


Truths a man carries about with him are

his tools

Turn over any old falsehood

Unadorned and in plain calico


Unpacks and unfolds incidental


Unpretending mediocrity is good

Virtually old when it first makes its


Virtue passed through the hem of their


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


We die out of houses, just as we die

out of our bodies

We always compare ourselves with our


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


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


What are the great faults of


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


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


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

If you wish to read the entire context of any of these quotations, select a short segment and copy it into your clipboard memory--then open the appropriate eBook and paste the phrase into your computer's find or search operation.

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.