Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1809-1894

Biographical note

Essayist, novelist, and poet, was born of good Dutch and English stock at Cambridge, Massachusetts, the seat of Harvard, where he graduated in 1829. He studied law, then medicine, first at home, latterly in Paris, whence he returned in 1835, and practised in his native town. In 1838 he was appointed Prof. of Anatomy and Physiology at Dartmouth College, from which he was in 1847 transferred to a similar chair at Harvard.

Up to 1857 he had done little in literature: his first book of poems, containing “The Last Leaf,” had been published. But in that year the Atlantic Monthly was started with Lowell for editor, and Holmes was engaged as a principal contributor. In it appeared the trilogy by which he is best known, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table [1857], The Professor, The Poet [1872], all graceful, allusive, and pleasantly egotistical. He also wrote Elsie Venner [1861], which has been called “the snake story of literature,” and The Guardian Angel. By many readers he is valued most for the poems which lie imbedded in his books, such as “The Chambered Nautilus,” “The Last Leaf,” “Homesick in Heaven,” “The Voiceless,” and “The Boys.”

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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