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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Abiel Holmes

HOLMES, Abiel, clergyman, born in Woodstock, Connecticut, 24 December, 1763; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 4 June, 1837. John Holmes settled in Woodstock, Connecticut, in 1686. His grandson, David, father of Abiel, served as a captain of British troops in the French war, and was afterward a surgeon in the Revolutionary army. Abiel was graduated at Yale in 1783, became a tutor there, and at the same time studied theology. In 1785 he was settled as a pastor in Midway, Georgia, but six years later he resigned, and in 1792 he was settled over the first parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was pastor till September, 1832. In 1817 he delivered a course of lectures on ecclesiastical history, with special reference to New England. He had married for his first wife, in 1790, a daughter of Ezra SThes, president of Yale college, became his literary executor, and published his life (Boston, 1798). His second wife was a daughter of Oliver Wendell. The examination of Dr. Stiles's manuscripts drew his attention to the subject of early American history, and he wrote "Annals of America" (2 vols., Cambridge, 1805; new ed., brought down to 1820,1829), which is a standard authority. He was a frequent contributor to the collections of the Massachusetts historical society, the 27th volume of which contains a list of his writings. His home in Cambridge is seen in the accompanying engraving. It was the birthplace of his son, Oliver Wendell, author, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 29 August, 1809, who was the third of five children. Among his schoolmates were Alfred Lee, afterward bishop of Delaware, Margaret Fuller, and Richard Henry Dana, Jr. He was prepared for college at Phillips Andover academy, where he made his first attempt at versification, a translation from the first book of the Aeneid, in heroic couplets. He was graduated at Harvard in 1829, among his classmates being William H. Channing, James Freeman Clarke, and Benjamin R. Curtis. He was a contributor to one of the college periodicals, delivered the poem at commencement, and was one of the sixteen members chosen into the F B K society. The next year, when it was proposed to break up the old frigate "Constitution," Holmes published in the Boston "Advertiser" his lyrical protest, beginning, "Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!" which was widely copied in the newspapers and circulated in handbills, saving the ship from destruction and giving the young poet a reputation. He studied law for a year at the law school in Cambridge, and at that time produced some of his best-known humorous pieces, including "Evening by a Tailor"And "The Height of the Ridiculous." In 1833, with Epes Sargent and Park Benjamin, he contributed to a gift-book, entitled "The Harbinger," the profits of which were given to the Asylum for the blind. But his hereditary instincts appear to have been for the profession of medicine, and he studied under Dr. James Jackson and then spent three years chiefly in Paris. He received his degree in 1836, and in the same year published his first volume of poems (Boston), which contained forty-five pieces, including, besides those already named, " Poetry, a Metrical Essay," read before the B K society: " The Last Leaf"; "My Aunt": "The Treadmill Song"; and "The September Gale." In 1839 he was chosen professor of anatomy and physiology at Dartmouth. In 1840 he married Amelia Lee daughter of Judge Charles Jackson, of the supreme court of Massachusetts, and soon afterward he resigned his professorship at Dartmouth in order to devote himself to practice in Boston. In 1849 he established a summer home at Pittsfield, Massachusetts Hawthorne at that time was living at Lenox, a few miles away, and in his "Hall of Fantasy," after describing an ideal group of poets, he says: "In the most vivacious of these I recognized Holmes." In 1847 he succeeded Dr. John C. Warren as professor of anatomy and physiology in the medical school of Harvard. About the same time he became a lyceum lecturer. Dr. Holmes had gained three of the Boylston prizes for medical dissertations, and his three essays were published together (Boston, 1838). His other scientific works I include an edition of "Marshall Hall's Theory and Practice of Medicine," with Dr. Jacob Bigelow (1839); "Lectures on Homoeopathy and its Kindred Delusions" (1842); " Report on Medical Literature," in the "Transactions" of the National medical association (1848); "Puerperal Fever as a Private Pestilence," a pamphlet (1855); "Currents and Counter-Currents in Medical Science" (1861); and "Border Lines in some Provinces of Medical Science" (1862). Several of these have been reissued in one volume with the title "Medical Essays" (1883). His successive volumes of poetry have borne the titles " Urania" (1846); "Astraea: the Balance of Illusions" (1850); "Songs in Many Keys " (1861); "Songs of Many Seasons" (1875); and "The Iron Gate" (1880). There are several collected editions, and some of the pieces have been issued singly with sumptuous illustrations. When the "Atlantic Monthly" was established, in the autumn of 1857, Dr. Holmes became one of the first contributors, and by many readers was esteemed the most brilliant of all that notable galaxy. His first contributions were in the form of a series of conversational papers entitled " The Autocrat of the Breakfast gable," in which were included some of the finest of his poems. The "Autocrat" was followed by a similar series, " The Professor at the Breakfast-Table," and, after an interval, by "The Poet at the Breakfast-Table," each of which on its completion in the magazine was issued in book-form (1859, 1860, 1872). These papers, he tells us in his preface, were the fulfillment of a plan that was conceived twenty-five years before, when he published in the "New England Magazine" two articles with the title of " The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table." Dr. Holmes also wrote two novels, which were first published serially, "Elsie Venner, a Romance of Destiny" (2 vols., 1861), and "The Guardian Angel" (2 vols., 1868), which are remarkable rather as character-studies than for dramatic power. His other prose works are "Soundings from the Atlantic," a collection of essays (1864);" Mechanism in Thought and Morals" (1871.); memoirs of John Lothrop Motley (1879) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1884); "A Mortal Antipathy" (1885); and "Our Hundred Days in Europe" (1887). Dr. Holmes has been successful in every kind of literature that he has undertaken, but his most brilliant and popular work is in " The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table," while his longest lived is probably in his poems. In these the expression is so admirably clear that the reader does not always immediately appreciate the depth of the thought. His own favorite among his serious poems is said to be "The Chambered Nautilus"; but "The Voiceless," "Sun and Shadow," and several of his patriotic lyrics, easily take rank with it. Some of his satirical pieces, like "The Moral Bully," are as sharp as the most merciless critic could desire, while many of his purely humorous ones, like "The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay," are already classic. As a poet of occasions it is doubtful if he has ever had an equal. The publishers of the "Atlantic Monthly" gave a breakfast in his honor on his seventieth birthday, 29 August, 1879, at which many literary celebrities were present, and he read his poem of " The Iron Gate," written for the occasion. His life has been written by Walter S. Kennedy (Boston, 1883), and also by Emma E. Brown (1884), in a volume to which is appended a complete bibliography of his publications.--Oliver Wendell's son, Oliver Wendell, jurist, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 8 March, 1841, was educated at Harvard. He entered the National service as lieutenant in the 20th regiment of Massachusetts infantry in 1861, was wounded severely at Ball's Bluff, at Antietam, and at the second battle of Fredericksburg, and was mustered out with the rank of captain in June, 1864. He had been offered a commission as lieutenant-colonel in 1863, but declined promotion. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1866, and practised in Boston. In 1882 he was professor in the law school of Harvard, and in the same year was appointed a justice of the supreme court of the state. He has edited Kent's "Commentaries" (Boston, 1873), and is the author of "The Common Law " (1881) and of numerous articles and addresses.

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