The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table
(1858) is a collection of essays written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
The essays were originally published in The Atlantic Monthly
in 1857 and 1858 before being collected in book form. The author had written two essays with the same name which were published in the earlier The New-England Magazine
in November 1831 and February 1832, which are alluded to in a mention of an "interruption" at the start of the very first essay.
The essays take the form of a chiefly one-sided dialogue between the unnamed Author and the other residents of a New England boarding house
who are known only by their profession, location at the table or other defining characteristics. The topics discussed range from an essay on the unexpected benefits of old age to the finest place to site a dwelling and comments on the nature of conversation itself. The tone of the book is distinctly Yankee
and takes a seriocomic
approach to the subject matter.
As befits Holmes' reputation as one of America's finest poets, each essay typically ends with a poem on the theme of the essay. There are also poems ostensibly written by the fictional disputants scattered throughout.
In 1830, Holmes moved out of his childhood home in Cambridge, Massachusetts
and stayed in a boardinghouse in Boston while attending the city's medical college.Hoyt, Edwin Palmer. The Improper Bostonian: Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes
. New York: Morrow, 1979: 47.... Read More