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Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

Every man his own Boswell

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

  1. List of illustrations head
  2. Frontispiece: the one-hoss shay
  3. Introduction half-title
  4. The old gentleman opposite
  5. Chapter 1 half-title
  6. Over the social tea-cup
  7. The old gentleman who sits opposite
  8. The land-lady's daughter
  9. He is at home
  10. Chapter 2 half-title
  11. The schoolmistress
  12. The Derby day
  13. A sensitive author
  14. Chapter 3 half-title
  15. The young fellow called John
  16. The young fellow answering to the name of John
  17. The old man dreams
  18. Chapter 4 half-title
  19. A 'posy' for the little boy
  20. When the deep-breathing kine came home
  21. These fine ecstatic airs
  22. The poor relation
  23. Chapter 4 tail-piece: a mermaid
  24. Chapter 5 half-title
  25. His mother taught him to say many little pieces
  26. Calmed it down with easy melodies
  27. Asked if that was a statoo of her deceased infant
  28. Chapter 5 tail-piece
  29. Chapter 6 half-title
  30. The remarkably intelligent audience
  31. Our Benjamin Franklin
  32. Chapter 6 tail-piece
  33. Chapter 7 half-title
  34. So he stuck in some trees
  35. The last blossom
  36. Rub against the black sides of old wood-schooners
  37. You may take naps
  38. The manly art of self-defense among the clergy
  39. Chapter 7 tail-piece
  40. Chapter 8 half-title
  41. 'Port-chuck' and child wearing wide-brimmed hat
  42. An appreciating homage of the eyes
  43. Chapter 8 tail-piece
  44. Chapter 9 half-title
  45. Souls grow white, as well as cheeks in these holy duties
  46. Nothing would induce her to pass by him
  47. Love, of course
  48. Chapter 10 half-title
  49. Holding their green sun-shades over our heads
  50. My first walk with the schoolmistress
  51. Chapter 10 tail-piece
  52. Chapter 11 half-title
  53. The deacon plans his shay
  54. The deacon is upset
  55. If other boys make fun of them
  56. The old gentleman tips his hat
  57. Chapter 12 half-title
  58. The old arm-chair
  59. Chapter 12 end-piece
  60. End-piece, knight and angel
  61. Notes end-piece, lifted glass
  62. Manuscript note concerning Atlantic Monthly title page for second Autocrat, from Annie Fields

A Note on the Text

The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table was printed in monthly installments, beginning with the first issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine, November, 1857, until October, 1858. Then it was issued in book form, with many editions, including notes by the author. As Holmes explains in the "Autobiography", he had first sketched the Autocrat in essays in New-England Magazine, November, 1831, and January, 1832. Two later books, the Professor (1859), and the Poet (1872), completed the Breakfast-Table series. They are more serious and philosophical and not reproduced here at this time, except for three poems also published elsewhere.

We use as copy-text for this online edition the first book edition of 1858, as printed in Boston by Phillips, Sampson and Company, 1861. In addition, for many illustrations and the notes added by the author, we employ the 1902 edition published by Houghton Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York, and J. M. Dent & Co., London, printed by Turnbull and Spears, Edinburgh. This latter edition bears the copyright 1858, 1882, 1886, and 1891, by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

This 1902 edition has Anglicized spelling, so we have returned the text of later parts to the American spelling we suppose the original notes used. Otherwise we have tried to preserve the punctuation and layout of the original for this online edition. For reasons of space, we have chosen to make the poems and illustrations into separate files accessible by selecting links in square brackets inline in the text. The poems can thus be accessed in a different order than in the book. Notes at the end of verse pages are usually from Horace Scudder, editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Poetical Works, 1895, whose text we follow for most of the poems.

Illustrations are signed, by H. M. Brock in the 1902 edition, and F. Coppins (spelling?) in the 1861 edition. They are all black-on-white engravings in GIF89a format, almost all original size, and almost all are smaller than 34KBytes and so should not take a long time to load. Note that we give links to illustrations from both editions inline in the same text here, in approximately the same order as in the originals; obviously, then, we strictly reproduce neither printed text.