© National Portrait Gallery, London
Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library
Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the Fireside Poets, was an influential American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, and author. He, along with his friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell, made important contributions to the literary world of the nineteenth century. Beginning in the study of law, Holmes switched to poetry, and later to medicine. Later in his life, Holmes returned to the literary field, contributing to Atlantic Monthly, writing essays, and novels.
The Armstrong Browning Library owns six letters, one manuscript, and over eighty books authored by Holmes.
Oliver Wendell Holmes. From “The Chambered Nautilus”. 21 February 1874. In the Whittier Autograph Album.
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
This album, once the property of Elizabeth Whittier Pickard, niece of John Greenleaf Whittier, contains letters, autographs, and inscriptions from Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Julia Ward Howe, J.T. Fields, Phoebe Cary, U.S. Grant, Emily Faithfull, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry W. Longfellow, Daniel Webster, William Cullen Bryant, P.T. Barnum, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others, and includes an inscription by George MacDonald and an autograph by Louisa MacDonald.
Letter from Oliver Wendell Holmes to an Unidentified Correspondent. 08 February 1879.
In this letter, Holmes thanks an unidentified Scottish critic for a positive review of his book, John Lathrop Motley. A Memoir (1879).
I have felt very sensitive about this Memoir, which was in some respects the most difficult and delicate task I had ever undertaken. It has gratified me very much to find that it was kindly received by the family of Mr. Motley, and the friends whose opinion I especially cared for.
Oliver Wendell Holmes. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1885.
This rare edition contains an inscription by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Rev. Octavius B. Frothingham/with the kind regards of/Oliver Wendell Holmes/Dec. 10th 1884.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes. The Guardian Angel. Riverside ed. Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895.
In 1867 The Guardian Angel, a novel which explores mental health and repressed memory began appearing serially in the Atlantic Monthly. It was published in book form in November of that same year. This book is volume seven of thirteen volumes of Holmes’ writings published as a Riverside Edition in 1895.
Oliver Wendell Holmes. Poems. Boston: Otis, Broaders, and Company, 1836.
This volume is a first edition and comes from the library of Holmes’ friend, fellow author, and host during some of his English visits, Frederick Locker. The book bears Locker’s Rowfant bookplate, and some notes in text.