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Over the Teacups   By: (1809-1894)

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OVER THE TEACUPS

By Oliver W. Holmes

PREFACE.

The kind way in which this series of papers has been received has been a pleasure greater than I dared to anticipate. I felt that I was a late comer in the midst of a crowd of ardent and eager candidates for public attention, that I had already had my day, and that if, like the unfortunate Frenchman we used read about, I had "come again," I ought not to surprised if I received the welcome of "Monsieur Tonson."

It has not proved so. My old readers have come forward in the pleasantest possible way and assured me that they were glad to see me again. There is no need, therefore, of apologies or explanations. I thought I had something left to say and I have found listeners. In writing these papers I have had occupation and kept myself in relation with my fellow beings. New sympathies, new sources of encouragement, if not of inspiration, have opened themselves before me and cheated the least promising season of life of much that seemed to render it dreary and depressing. What particularly pleased me has been the freedom of criticisms which I have seen from disadvantageous comparisons of my later with my earlier writings.

I should like a little rest from literary work before the requiescat ensures my repose from earthly labors, but I will not be rash enough to promise that I will not even once again greet my old and new readers if the impulse becomes irresistible to renew a companionship which has been to me such a source of happiness.

BEVERLY FARM, Mass., August, 1891.

O. W. H.

OVER THE TEACUPS.

I

INTRODUCTION

This series of papers was begun in March, 1888. A single number was printed, when it was interrupted the course of events, and not resumed until nearly years later, in January, 1890. The plan of the series was not formed in my mind when I wrote the number. In returning to my task I found that my original plan had shaped itself in the underground laboratory of my thought so that some changes had to be made in what I had written. As I proceeded, the slight story which formed a part of my programme eloped itself without any need of much contrivance on my part. Given certain characters in a writer's conception, if they are real to him, as they ought to be they will act in such or such a way, according to the law of their nature. It was pretty safe to assume that intimate relations would spring up between some members of our mixed company; and it was not rash conjecture that some of these intimacies might end in such attachment as would furnish us hints, at least, of a love story.

As to the course of the conversations which would take place, very little could be guessed beforehand. Various subjects of interest would be likely to present themselves, without definite order, oftentimes abruptly and, as it would seem, capriciously. Conversation in such a mixed company as that of "The Teacups" is likely to be suggestive rather than exhaustive. Continuous discourse is better adapted to the lecture room than to the tea table. There is quite enough of it, I fear too much, in these pages. But the reader must take the reports of our talks as they were jotted down. A patchwork quilt is not like a piece of Gobelin tapestry; but it has its place and its use.

Some will feel a temptation to compare these conversations with those earlier ones, and remark unamiably upon their difference. This is hardly fair, and is certainly not wise. They are produced under very different conditions, and betray that fact in every line. It is better to take them by themselves; and, if my reader finds anything to please or profit from, I shall be contented, and he, I feel sure, will not be ungrateful.

The readers who take up this volume may recollect a series of conversations held many years ago over the breakfast table, and reported for their more or less profitable entertainment. Those were not very early breakfasts at which the talks took place, but at any rate the sun was rising, and the guests had not as yet tired themselves with the labors of the day... Continue reading book >>




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