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Autocrat of the Breakfast Table   By: (1809-1894)

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In Oliver Wendell Holmes' Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, readers are treated to a delightful and thought-provoking collection of conversations and musings. Written in the form of a series of breakfast table dialogues, the book takes readers on a journey of intellectual and philosophical exploration.

The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table transports readers to a fictional boarding house, where a diverse group of characters engage in lively discussions and debates. With their differing perspectives, the characters discuss a wide range of subjects, including literature, art, science, and philosophy. Through these dialogues, Holmes skillfully delves into human nature, dissecting various aspects of life and society with wit and wisdom.

One of the book's major strengths is Holmes' ability to blend humor with profound philosophical insights. His writing is filled with clever quips and puns, providing moments of levity that keep the tone light. Yet, beneath the humor lies a wealth of wisdom and contemplation, drawing readers into deeper reflections on life's complexities.

Holmes' prose is beautifully crafted, filled with poetic descriptions that transport readers into the heart of each conversation. His keen observations of human behavior and a remarkable ability to capture the nuances of everyday life make the characters come alive. These vivid portrayals not only serve to entertain but also encourage readers to reflect on their own lives and the world around them.

Furthermore, Holmes' book tackles timeless themes that resonate even today. While reading, one cannot help but be struck by the relevance of his observations on human relationships, the pursuit of knowledge, and the human condition itself. The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table serves as a mirror, forcing readers to confront their own beliefs and values in light of Holmes' astute observations.

However, one potential drawback of the book is its episodic nature. The numerous dialogues and conversations can sometimes feel disjointed, lacking a clear overarching narrative. While each dialogue is captivating in its own right, some readers may prefer a more linear structure that allows for a more coherent flow.

Overall, Autocrat of the Breakfast Table is a delightful and intellectually stimulating read. Holmes' ability to effortlessly blend humor and deep contemplation creates a unique reading experience. The book invites readers to engage in a lively and thought-provoking conversation, making it a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences across generations.

First Page:



The interruption referred to in the first sentence of the first of these papers was just a quarter of a century in duration.

Two articles entitled "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" will be found in the "New England Magazine," formerly published in Boston by J. T. and E. Buckingham. The date of the first of these articles is November 1831, and that of the second February 1832. When "The Atlantic Monthly" was begun, twenty five years afterwards, and the author was asked to write for it, the recollection of these crude products of his uncombed literary boyhood suggested the thought that it would be a curious experiment to shake the same bough again, and see if the ripe fruit were better or worse than the early windfalls.

So began this series of papers, which naturally brings those earlier attempts to my own notice and that of some few friends who were idle enough to read them at the time of their publication. The man is father to the boy that was, and I am my own son, as it seems to me, in those papers of the New England Magazine. If I find it hard to pardon the boy's faults, others would find it harder. They will not, therefore, be reprinted here, nor as I hope, anywhere.

But a sentence or two from them will perhaps bear reproducing, and with these I trust the gentle reader, if that kind being still breathes, will be contented... Continue reading book >>

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