their first president. On retiring from teaching Holmes gave
to the Association his valuable library of old anatomical and
medical books, and later made it the residuary legatee of a
In 1857 came the turning point in Holmes' life. From then
his time and thoughts were to turn more and more to literature,
and less to science. The "Autocrat," and not the discourse on
puerperal fever, numbers him with the immortals ; though it
is impossible to separate the poet from the scientist. His
poetry and prose show the training of his mind in physiology
and psychology, his medical addresses and writings show him
as the scholar and the wit. Any discussion of his purely liter-
ary work is impossible here. From the time he became asso-
ciated with James Russell Lowell (1857) m building the "At-
lantic Monthly'' upon the ruins of "Putnam's Magazine," his
rise in fame was constant, rapid and permanent. His best
known writings are : "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,"
1857; "The Professor," i860; "The Poet," 1872, and "Over
the Teacups," 1890, besides many essays. His first volume
of poems was issued in 1836; and other volumes in 1846, 1849
and 1850; "Songs in Many Keys," 1861 ; "Humorous Poems,"
1865; "Songs of Many Seasons," 1874; "The Iron Gate,"
1880; "Before the Curfew." 1888. In fiction, he gave us
"Elsie Venner," 1861 : "The Guardian Angel," 1865 ; "A Mor-
tal Antipathy," 1885; "One Hundred Days in Europe," 1887.
For biography he published "Memoirs of John Lothrop Mot-
ley," 1887; "Life of Emerson," 1884; "Pages from an Old
Volume of Life," and "Medical Essays." Here are some
verses which he read at a medical club supper about the year
" This evening hour, which grateful memory spares
From evening toil and unrequited care;
These curling lips, these joy-revealing eyes,
* Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Oct. n. 1894.
784 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
These mirthful tones, re-echoing as they rise;
These friendly pledges on this festive shrine.
The glistening goblet and the flowing wine ;
This genial influence which the coldest heart
Warms to receive and opens to impart : â
Mock the poor Art, who does her subjects wrong,
And steals from Pleasure all she wastes in song.
Yet since you ask this feeble hand to strew
Wreathes on the flowers and diamonds on the snow
Take all it bears, and, if the gift offend.
Condemn the Poet, â spare, oh, spare, the friend.
' Yes, while I speak some magic wand appears,
Shapes the long past (Oh, say not happier) years.
Ye lawless fancies, yet untaught to know
The charms of reason, or the scourge of woe ;
Ye boyish dreams, now melting into air;
Ye virgin forms, alas, no longer fair ;
Ye scattered friends, with many a tear resigned,
Once all our own, now mingled with mankind,
Since, save in memory, ye appear no more
In the bright Present, let the Past live o'er.
Still in the heart some lingering spark remains â
You cannot chase it from the shrinking veins.
Grief comes too early, Pleasure ne'er too late.
Snatch the fair blossom whatsoe'er it slate.
If youth still charm thee, mirth is justly thine;
If age has chilled thee â In! the generous wine.
" Oh, thoughtless revellers, when you set my task
How little dreamed you of the toil you asked â
How shall I please you ? I, a grave young man
Who fate is drudgery on " the useful plan."
How can I coax you, smooth you, comb you down.
And cheat your frontals of that awful frown?
Portentous scowl, which marks in every age
The blistering, clystering, tooth-extracting sage.
A verse too polished will not stick at all ;
The worst back-scratcher is ;i billiard ball.
A rhyme too rugged would not hit the point,
Its loose legs wriggling m and out of joint.
Shall I be serious, touching, lachrymose.
Mix tears with wine and give you all a dose?
But wcll-fil'cd stomachs have not room for grief,
EMINENT ALUMNI 785
" For sips and sighs â for porter and roast-beef.
Shall I be learned, and with punch and claw
Dig stumps of Greek from every Ancient's jaw?
But who quotes Cuvier when he feasts on snipe,
Or reads Gastritis when his wife cooks tripe?
Not all the wisdom of recorded time
Can change one tidbit to concocted chyme.
Not all the schools from Berkshire to the Nile
Can melt one sausage into milky chyle.
Nor all the Galens since Deucalion's flood
Change lifeless pudding into living blood.
:< Our noble Art, which countless shoals invade,
Some as a science, many as a trade.
In every column quackery has its line ;
From every corner stares the doctor's sign ;
From every shore the straining vessel tugs
Ill-centered balsams, stomach-turning drugs;
The keels of commerce clear the farthest surge
Lest some old beldam want her morning purge.
The seaman wanders on his venturous route
To turn a baby's stomach inside out.
Rich were the Queen of yon hepatic isle
With half her subjects squander on their bile;
Rich were Van Buren could he pay his bills
With half his people waste on " Brandreth's Pills, "-
Or with their products fill his farmers' carts
With tare and tied for reproductive parts.
" Heaven surely ordered, on creation's morn,
This mighty law â that children must be born.
Hence came the science thou dost show so well
With white forefinger, Madame Lachapelle.
Hence came the forceps, hence the screw to pinch
The soul's own viscus down to half an inch.
Hence came the weapons which the embryos In ire
Left in the lurch, their brains escaped before.
(A trivial change â since so oft we find
That babes grown up have left their brains behind.
Hi nee came the fillet, whence the infant wretch
Mistakes the midwife for her friend Jack Ketch.
786 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Hence came the lever, which the toothless fry
Take for a crow bar, when the monsters pry.
Hence the scoop pinchers with the fang between
Skull-crnshing Davis â thy divine machine.
Hence all the " claptraps " potent to extract
The hero, struggling in his closing act.
" So the stout fetus, kicking and alive
Leaps from the fundus for his final dive :
Tired of the prison where his legs were curled.
He pants like Rasselas, for a wider world.
No more to him there wanted joys afford
The fringed placenta and the knotted cord ;
" No longer liberal of his filial thanks,
He drums his minutes on his mother's flanks.
But nobly daring seeks the air to find
Thro' paths untrodden, in spite of waves or wind.
Hush : decent Muse, and leave such things as these
To modest Maygrier and concise Dewees.
" Thus with the entrance of the first-born man
The reign of science o'er the earth began ;
Nurse of his weakness, soother of his woes,
She waits and watches till his sorrows close.
Nor yet she leaves him when the undying mind
Flits from his clay and leaves the frame behind.
" If thou shouldst wonder that mankind must die
Ask the Curator of our Museum, Why?
Were man immortal, who had ever seen
The stomach, colon, kidneys, pancreas, spleen?
Each pickled discus, every varnished bone,
Seducing schirrus and attractive stone,
Lost to the world, had never come to grace
Our well-filled phials in their padlocked case.
Unknown to fame had Morgagni sighed,
And Louis floated down oblivion's tide,
On r.nni'.ierV glands no cheering ray had shone,
And Peyer claimed no patche save his own.
Science, untaught her scalpel to employ,
Had seen no ileum since the days of Troy;
EMINENT ALUMNI 787
And man the ruler of the storms and tides,
Had groped in ignorance of his own insides.
Thus the same art that caught our earliest breath
Lives with our life and lasts beyond our death.
Man, ever curious, still would seek to save
Some wreck of knowledge from the waiting grave.
Yet, keen-eyed searcher into Nature's laws
Slight not the suffering while thou recks't the cause.
How poor the solace, when thy patients die
To tell the mourners ALL the reason why.
Love linked with knowledge crowns thy angel art,
Gold buys thy science; â Heaven rewards thy heart.
" Between two breaths, what words of anguish lie ;
The first short gasp, the last and long-drawn sigh.
Thou who hast aided, with coercive thumbs,
The red-legged infant, kicking as it comes;
Thou who hast tracked each doubtful lesion home
With probe and scissors, knife and enteretome ;
Short is the opening ; short the closing scene ;
But a long drama fills the stage between.
Nor deem it strange â since every reason flings
Its sun or cloud on life's unguarded springs ;
Since song or science, love of fame or truth,
All feed like vampires on the brow of youth ;
Since the red goblet shakes the hand that grasps,
And hot-cheeked beauty wastes the form she clasps â
One-half mankind should spend their time to make
The pills and draughts the other half must take.
Oil, fertile source of never-failing wealth,
Mysterious Faith, thou alchemist of health.
But for thy wand, how vainly should we strive
To cure the world and keep ourselves alive.
Not all the fruit the yellow harvest yields,
When the curved sickle sweeps the rustling fields;
Not all the stores the deep-sunk vessel brings,
When India's breezes swell her perfumed wings ;
Not all the gems whose wild Auroras shine
Thro' the black darkness of Golconda's mine.
Can match the profits thou dost still dispense
To thy best favorites, â Ease and impudence;
Who find Golconda in a case of gout.
Or rich Potosi in a baby's clout.
****** * * * * *
788 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
" Small is the learning, which the patients ask,
When the grave Doctor ventures on his task.
To greet the Quack admiring hundreds come,
Whose wisdom centres in his fife and drum.
Why shouldst thou study, if thou canst obtain
A wig, a gig, an eye-glass or a cane?
Greenest of greenhorns ; know that drugs like these
Are the best weapons to subdue disease.
Shouldst thou not flourish by enacting lies,
Step into print, good friend, and advertise ;
And in the " Post," the " Herald," or the " Sun "
Thus let thine honest manifestoes run :
That great physician, learned Dr. C,
F. R. S., Staff-Surgeon, and M. D.
Lately from London ; now at number four
Left side of North St. (Don't mistake the door)
May be consulted for life's various ills :
" Where's also sold the patent " Pickwick Pills."
What grieves the Doctor is, that all mankind
To their own good should be so shocking blind.
He could not stand it, but relief imparts
The grateful feeling of a thousand hearts.
His fee is nothing; 'tis his conscious skill.
Backed by the virtues of the " Pickwick Pill,"
That prompts the Doctor to dispense his cure
To all mankind and also to the poor.
What is dyspepsia? When the humors vile
The cardiac sphincter closes on the bile.
What cures dyspepsia? Why the doctor's skill
(Consult by letter and enclose a bill).
" Of testimonies which have come in heaps
But two .small cartloads now the doctor keeps.
They were too numerous for the public eyes;
Hence the small number which he now supplies.
John Smith, of Boston, aged thirty-five,
Is much surprised to find himself alive,
Which justly owing, as he thinks must be,
Half to his Maker ;â half 1o Dr. C,
Had a stuffed feeling; used to wake in starts;
Had wind and rumbling in his inward parts.
EMINENT ALUMNI 7Â«9
Had swelled stomach; used to vomit some;
Was often squeamish; thought his brains were numb;
Had fell away ; could not digest his food ;
Had tried all physic, nothing did him good.
In short, was dying with numerous ills,
CURED BY THREE DOSES OF THE ' PICKWICK PILLS.'
" The doctor's skill, the sluggard clergy owns,
As in the note from Reverend Judas Jones.
Dear Sir : The blessing of the Lord attend
You and your ointment called ' the loafer's friend.'
My worthy wife, the partner of my toils,
Like Job of old, has suffered from the ' boils ;'
Some on her fingers, wherewithal she knits,
Some upon her person, whereupon she sits,
Which quite unfit her when her ail returns
To do her duties by her small concerns.
Since times are hard and earthly comforts dear,
And gospel harvests come but once a year,
With my good deacon I resolved to halve
One precious box of your unrivalled salve.
With heaven's kind blessing and one hearty rub
We chased away this leprous Beelzebub.
Enough was left to cure our warts and styes.
And six great pimples on my housemaid's thighs.
Please send three boxes, by the earliest hand,
To Judas Jones, your servant at command.
P. S. Your pills have cured my baby's fits ;
I'll write particulars if the Lord permits.
"The following letter sent to Dr. C,
Comes from Barrabas Waterpot, M. D.
Dear Sir : The duties which I owe mankind
Have made it proper that 1 speak my mind ;
And while my breast an honest conscience fills,
I can but praise the patent ' Pickwick Pills.'
I have no interest in the pills at stake.
And never sell them, and but rarely take.
Fit for the welfare of a suffering race,
Their many virtues T now feebly trace;
When taken fasting they the strength maintain;
When on full stomach they deplete the brain.
One pill relieves the most drowning thirst :
790 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Two keep one sober tho' he drink to burst ;
One pill a week cures phthisis and the gout,
One-half a pill will keep the measles out ;
Rubbed on the fingers they destroy the itch,
Worn next the skin, â lumbago and the stitch ;
Tho' like a corkscrew they the bowels search,
A curious fact, â they never work in church;
Small children take them with advantage great,
And also ladies in a certain state.
In short, this medicine every want fulfills ;
I give no physic but the ' Pickwick Pills.'
Please print this letter which of use may be,
(Signed) Barrabas Waterpot, M. D.
" Here's a small postscript Doctor C. left out
(Of small importance to the public, no doubt).
The pills sell briskly â twenty gross or more â
Send a fresh parcel to the grocer's store ;
Put in more jalap; never mind expense,
Folks must be griped or grudge the fifty cents.
Put up three sizes ; one three times as small,
For little brats ; the big ones kill them all.
I want my pay, you poison-pounding knave,
Send me good bills, â how like the d â 1 you shave.
" All this well printed and with bigger type
Words like DYSPEPSIA, LIVER, HUMOR, GRIPE,-
Two solid columns in the "Times ' would fill,
And make thy fortune by the ' Pickwick Pill.'
But thou, poor dreamer, who hast rashly thought
To live by knowledge which thy bloom has bought,
Thou who hast waited with a martyr's smile,
Hope gently whispering â 'Yet a while' â
Too proud to stoop thy noble aim,
Too poor to pay the price of tame ;
Thou all unfriended, while a thousand fools
Vaunt their raw cousins reeking from the schools ;
Go, scorn the art that every boon denys
Till age sits glassy in thy sunken eyes;
Go, scorn the treasury which withholds its store
Till hope grows cold, and blessings bless no more.
" Peace to our banquet, let us not prolong
Its dearest moments with my idle song.
EMINENT ALUMNI 791
This measured tread of evermarching rhyme,
Like clock-work, pleases only for a time,
Too long repeated, makes our hearts so sick
We cut the weights to stop its tedious click.
Let sweeter strains our opening hearts inspire,
The listening echoes tremble round the lyre.
Dance, Bacchus. Hours of labor come again
To lock the rivets of our loosened chain.
Shine, star of evening, with thy steadiest ray
To guide us homeward on our devious way."
It is hard to see how Holmes was able successfully to carry-
on such an amount of work in addition to his duties at the
Medical School. His versatility was an unceasing marvel.
It has been claimed that if he had patented his ingenious stethe-
scope he would have been rich. He would never admit that he
was growing old. At the Medical School his lectures were
rearranged each year, and he was constantly abreast of the
times. All this meant thought and effort, especially to Holmes,
with his long-standing asthma. So he went on until October
5th, 1882, when he gave the first intimation of intention to
sever his connection with the School. In a letter to S. Weir
Mitchell he wrote :
" I have not lold you that I am very soon to resign my professorship.
I have been thinking of it for some time, and very lately received a
proposal from my publishers so tempting that I could not resist it. I
hold on for a couple of months to give the faculty and the Corporation
of the University time to look round for some one to complete the courses
1 have begun. Thirty-five years here â this is my thirty-six course â
two vears Professor at Dartmouth, â that is long enough, isn't it? They
say they don't want me to give up, but I had rather spend whatever
days are left me in literary pursuits."
To Fordyce Barker he wrote :
"I am glad to look forward to rest from my official duties as Professor.
I say look forward, fur they wanl me to lecture a little longer, at any
rate, and I shall hold on until about Thanksgiving time. I should have
liked, on some accounts, to lecture two or three years longer. We have
a grand new College building about live minutes walk from my house.
My colleagues do nol seem to be tired of me, and my duties have been
made most agreeable to me in every respect. ... I shall have a
792 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
freedom I shall be glad of, and shall write when I feel disposed â which,
I think, will be pretty often when I have no routine dirties to keep up â
a steady drain on my vital resources."
The age of seventy-three years might justify any man for
wishing to retire from duties as arduous and exhausting as
teaching and lecturing, yet we find our genial teacher, essayist,
poet, wit and physician, laying aside these duties so that he
might take on others.
At a meeting of the Harvard Corporation, November 20th,
1882, it was voted : '"That Dr. Holmes' resignation be ac-
cepted in accordance with his wishes; but that the University
loses with great regret his services as a learned, faithful and
interesting teacher; and his personal presence and influence
as a distinguished man of letters." Holmes was made Emeri-
tus Professor of Anatomy.
The following sonnet was written by him in 1882 for a
meeting of the Harvard Club of New York :
" ALMA MATER."
'' Yes, home is sweet ! and yet we needs must sigh,
Restless until our longing souls have found
Some realm beyond the fireside's narrow bound
Where slippered ease and sleepy comfort lie, â
Some fair ideal form that cannot die,
By age dismantled and by change uncrowned,
Else life creeps circling in the self-same round,
And the low ceiling hides the loftj sky.
A.h, then to thee our truant hearts return.
Dear Mother, Alma Casta, â spotless, kind!
Thy sacred walls a larger home we find,
And still for thee thy wandering children yearn.
While with undying fires thine altars burn
Where all our holiest memories rest enshrined."
Oliver Wendell Holmes died in Boston, October 7th, 1894.
The many expressions of love, admiration, respect and condo-
lence which followed would easily furnish material for a me-
morial of the man. Here are a few from sources varied, yet
all within the field of this writing:
EMINENT ALUMNI 793
" To say that in Dr. Holmes America has lost her greatest physician
is not one of the exaggerations to which men are prompted in expressing
their grief over a recent death. We have not in mind only his contri-
hutions to medical science and literature, which, although overshadowed
by his work in general letters, were many and important, but we are
thinking of that wider province of the physician that lies beyond the
laboratory and the drug-shop, the hospital and the consulting-room.
" We doubt whether in the long period of Dr. Holmes' activity any
other English writer has done so much for the health of the minds of
his readers ; and his readers embraced all classes. Rich and poor, old
and young, learned and unlearned, found in his pages something that they
could understand, and the understanding of which bettered them mentally
and morally. And this highest praise that a writer can have, namely,
that the best-equipped readers found the most profit and entertainment
in his writings, is universally conceded to Holmes.
"' We were about to say that his was a simple nature ; and the state-
ment would have been true in the one sense that the meretricious in
literature or in life repelled him; but his intellect was subtle and com-
plex as civilization. Science, art, nature, philosophy were all his, and
all left their impress upon him. Cosmopolitan sympathy and experience
modified and were modified by the effects of Puritan ancestry and old-
time New England training. In his complex make-up there is no doubt
that his medical studies and teaching exerted a dominant influence. In
the felicitous poem read by Dr. Weir Mitchell to the College of Physi-
cians of Philadelphia on the occasion of the presentation to that body of
a portrait of Holmes, Minerva and Apollo are represented as contending
for and at last agreeing to divide, the lad. But, unless we concede that
medicine as well as poetry belongs to Apollo, we must hold Minerva to
have obtained the ' biggest half ' in the division.
" Dr. Holmes never lost sight of his profession, and never allowed the
world to lose sight of it. Throughout Ins writings, from 'The Fly in the
Stethoscope' to the good natured raillery at a too-exclusive specialism
in ' Over the Tea-cups,' he did not hesitate to hit at its weaknesses and
foibles : while, apart from the admirable characters in his novels, he
has in many noble passages pictured the life and influence of the true,
modest, self-sacrificing doctor in terms of the highest appreciation."
" His greatesl work was his essay on 'The Contagiousness of Puen
Fever,' read before the Boston Society for Medical Improvement in 1842,
of which he subsequently wrote: 'When, by permission of Providence,
I held up to the professional public the damnable facts connected with the
conveyance of poison from one young mother's chamber to another's â â
for doing which humble office I desire to be thankful that 1 have h
though nothing else good should ever come out of my life â T had to bear
the sneers of those whose position I had assailed, and. as T believe, have
794 HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
at last demolished, so that nothing but the ghosts of dead women stir
among the ruins.' "'
11 The death of Oliver Wendell Holmes must necessarily appeal with
particular force to all who follow, as he followed, the profession of healing.
While the purely literary world is lamenting the loss of the brilliant
essayest, the delicate poet, the spontaneous humorist, the ever-sympathetic,
ever-appreciative colleague, we are lamenting in him the medical man of
letters. In so doing we are not debarred from admiring sincerely, even
fervently, his great and fascinating qualities, but it is in his character
of a physician that he makes special appeal to us. And this is the more
right that it is in the character of physician that he himself makes
many of his most intimate claims upon the attention and affection of his
readers. The medical men of letters are a comparatively small band.
The names of Smollett. Thomas Browne and John Brown at once occur
to us ; Keats and Goldsmith both served an apprenticeship to our art ;
and more than one living physician is a good as well as a popular novelist ;
but the union of medicine and letters is rare. Oliver Wendell Holmes
was not only an example of this rare class, but in many respects he
was a unique example ; for in him the physician â now as anatomist or
physiologist, now as psychologist, now as diagnostician â was ever present
and ever speaking. He wrote no book without drawing largely upon his
scientific experience; he displayed in all his literary workmanship, in
thought as much as in expression, an accurate tolerance â a capability of
taking the large view, with a resolve to be correct about small thingsâ
that we make bold to say, as he would often proudlv say, had been largely
developed by his particular training; and many of his wittiest little
parables and paraphrases â many of the most characteristic sayings of
those three charming rulers of tin- break fast-table â were the direct out-
come of his medical learning.
"5* sic omnes! For the public nowadays is suffering from a surfeit
of medicine in its literature. Heredity and the transmission of physio-
logical or psychological taints; sexual problems; problems in mental path-
ology form the essence of the work of a large school of writers. Some-
times the work is well done and sometimes extremely ill done. Now
and again the great romancer will by a few illuminating words supply a