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Quotation by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr:

Every person's feelings have a front-door and a side-door by which they may be entered. The front door is on the street. Some keep it always open; some keep it latched; some locked; some bolted,-- with a chain that will let you peep in, but not get in; and some nail it up, so that nothing can pass its threshold. This front door leads into a passage which opens into an ante-room, and this into the interior apartments. The side door opens at once into the sacred chambers.
There is always at least one key to this side-door. This is carried for years, hidden in a mother's bosom. Father, brothers, sisters, and friends, often, but by no means so universally, have duplicates of it. The wedding ring conveys a right to one; alas, if none is given with it!
If nature or accident has put one of these keys into the hands of a person who has the torturing instinct, I can only solemnly pronounce the words that Justice utters over its doomed victim,-- The lord have mercy on your soul! You will probably go mad within a reasonable time,... run off and die with your head on a curb-stone,--- ...or quarrel and break your heart and turn into a pale, jointed petrifaction that moves about as if it were alive, or play some real life tragedy or other.
Be very careful to whom you trust one of these keys of the side door. The fact of possessing one renders those even who are dear to you very terrible at times. You can keep the world out from your front door, or receive visitors only when you are ready for them; but those of your own flesh and blood, or of certain grades of intimacy, can come in at the side door, if they will, at any hour and in any mood. Some of them have a scope of your whole nervous system, and can play all the gamut of your sensibilities in semi-tones,-- touching the naked nerve pulps as a pianist strikes the keys of his instrument. I am satisfied that there are as great masters of this nerve playing as Vieuxtemps or Thalberg in their lines of performance. Married life is the school in which the most accomplished artists in this department are found. A delicate woman is the best instrument; she has such a magnificent compass of sensibilities! From the deep inward moan which follows pressure on the great nerves of the right, to the sharp cry as the filaments of taste are struck with a crashing sweep, is a range which no other instrument possesses. A few exercises on it daily at home fit a man wonderfully for his habitual labors, and refresh him immensely as he returns from them. No stranger can get a great many notes of torture out of a human soul; it takes one that knows it well,-- parent, child, brother, sister, intimate. Be very careful to whom you give a side door key; too many have them already.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr     (more by this author)

Source: THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE

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