The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table
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The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  92 ratings  ·  13 reviews
You may set it down as a truth which admits of few exceptions, that those who ask your opinion really want your praise, and will be contented with nothing else.-from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

A superb example of a literary form that has long since fallen into disuse, this seriocomic one-sided conversation with the dictatorial "autocrat" was originally published in...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Cosimo Classics (first published 1857)
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Another case of urging myself to tackle a classic author. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wrote these essays in the Atlantic in the 1830s and then packaged them into a book. The conceit is that a wise, garrulous denizen of a New England boarding house holds forth to fellow residents on various topics, including the advantages of old age, how to handle conversation, and other "right rules" for living. Enjoyable, but not earthshaking.
Reading this was almost like watching a really long episode of Fraser with none of the supporting actors - intelligent, funny in places, but awfully long-winded.
Unbelievably, I bought this because of the Mavis Beacon typing software. Many of the quotations in the lessons were drawn from this book. I enjoyed Holmes' musings.
A great piece of literary Americana! The good doctor/poet shares some entertaining idea and great insights (such as "The Chambered Nautilus).
Holmes presents an aristocratic, learned man of letters who lectures the various guests at his breakfast table on matters of aesthetics, religion, poetry, science, the character of America and Boston, etc. Although the autocrat is not presented unproblematically (various minor characters take sly jabs at him throughout), his musings are generally given to be wise and widely-informed. It seems the autocrat is a mouthpiece for Holmes himself, who published this work in short installments in the Bo...more
Kathy Wolfe
This selection of essays written by the father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes captures mid-19th century American thinking in Boston intellectual circles on a vast range of topics. Often quite witty and humorous (sometimes because the ideas are so out dated) but also dragging in other areas. Take each chapter on its own then take a break, just as the original essays were meant to be read, and you will have a better appreciation for the writing.
Hardly a classic but a nice jaunt into an American literary mind, with some wonderful nuggets and quotable quotes - although not enough to keep me interested. (It took me eons to finish.) I enjoyed the rhetorical devices, but it was nice to see some fragments of a plot develop toward the end. I have no brain for poetry, so can't comment on those portions.
William S.
I wanted to like this book, and did not. The style was utterly self-important and stifling. The only essay I really enjoyed is when Holmes talks of his love for canoeing, on the Charles River and its tributaries. This is the book that made him an international celebrity - but its time is past.
Lisa Campbell
So far, I enjoy the language of the times. This one is an 1860's edition so I am going carefully along (and trying not to sneeze from the mildew and dust which one can endure just to have a really old book in one's hands!)
David Gross
I got 3% into this and found myself thinking "isn't it over yet?" I'm skeptical that this was ever witty or interesting, but it sure isn't now.
Avis Black
He's too ADD to stay on a topic long enough to make it interesting.
1939 edition - Hardback. Unable to find ISGN No.
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Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was a physician by profession but achieved fame as a writer; he was one of the best regarded American poets of the 19th century.

Although mainly known as a poet, Holmes wrote numerous medical treatises, essays, novels, memoirs and table-talk books.
More about Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr....
Ralph Waldo Emerson Elsie Venner The One Hoss Shay With its Companion Poems How the Old Horse Won the Bet and The Broomstick Train The Poet at the Breakfast-Table The Breakfast-Table Series: The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, the Professor at the Breakfast- Table; The Poet at the Breakfast-Table

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