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March 1944

The Psychiatric Novels of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Arch NeurPsych. 1944;51(3):301. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1944.02290270090014

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In a recent address before the New York Academy of Medicine, Reginald Fitz said that Holmes was a man a hundred years ahead of his time. This was stated at a meeting celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Holmes's paper on the infectious nature of puerperal fever. In psychiatry he was perhaps not a century ahead of his time, but at least seventy years, for he wrote his three "medicated" novels in the latter part of his life ("Elsie Venner," 1859; "The Guardian Angel," 1867, and "A Mortal Antipathy," 1885). They were unsuccessful and were severely criticized; in fact, "Elsie Venner" is the only one that is a passably good story and has literary merit; the other two seem inept and amateurish as compared with his essays and scientific papers. The reason may be that Holmes was for once indirect and was writing about subjects which he knew would not be