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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Works   By: (1809-1894)

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By Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.


The Autocrat of the Breakfast table The Professor at the Breakfast table The Poet at the Breakfast Table Over the Teacups Elsie Venner The Guardian Angel A Mortal Antipathy Pages from an Old Volume of Life Bread and the Newspaper My Hunt after "The Captain" The Inevitable Trial Cinders from Ashes The Pulpit and the Pew Medical Essays Homeopathy and its Kindred Delusions The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever Currents and Counter currents in Medical Science Border Lines of Knowledge in Some Provinces of Medical Science Scholastic and Bedside Teaching The Medical Profession in Massachusetts The Young Practitioner Medical Libraries Some of My Early Teachers A Memoir of John Lothrop Motley A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson Our Hundred Days in Europe



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.

"It is a capital plan to carry a tablet with you, and, when you find yourself felicitous, take notes of your own conversation."

"When I feel inclined to read poetry I take down my Dictionary. The poetry of words is quite as beautiful as that of sentences. The author may arrange the gems effectively, but their fhape and luftre have been given by the attrition of ages. Bring me the fineft fimile from the whole range of imaginative writing, and I will fhow you a fingle word which conveys a more profound, a more accurate, and a more eloquent analogy."

"Once on a time, a notion was ftarted, that if all the people in the world would fhout at once, it might be heard in the moon. So the projectors agreed it fhould be done in juft ten years. Some thousand fhip loads of chronometers were diftributed to the selectmen and other great folks of all the different nations. For a year beforehand, nothing else was talked about but the awful noise that was to be made on the great occafion. When the time came, everybody had their ears so wide open, to hear the universal ejaculation of BOO, the word agreed upon, that nobody spoke except a deaf man in one of the Fejee Islands, and a woman in Pekin, so that the world was never so ftill fince the creation."

There was nothing better than these things and there was not a little that was much worse. A young fellow of two or three and twenty has as good a right to spoil a magazine full of essays in learning how to write, as an oculist like Wenzel had to spoil his hat full of eyes in learning how to operate for cataract, or an ELEGANT like Brummel to point to an armful of failures in the attempt to achieve a perfect tie... Continue reading book >>

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