Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Notes: "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Autocrat of the Breakfast TableAutocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This little book took me some time to read. At first, I thought I might write down some of the quotes from it, but soon I realised that each page had a memorable quote and I decided to leave the possibility that I will remember this book should any of the various quotes be needed again in the future. I daresay at this I shall fail but if I put it to memory that there are many important quotes in this work, I may well recover some of its hidden gems. I found Oliver Wendell Holmes to read like that other three-named American, Ralph Waldo Emerson, although less of a "Churchman", rather than a divinity address he had a divinity student at the boarding house table. This book was originally written as a series of articles for The Atlantic Monthly first written in 1857 with the first serial of this book appearing in its first edition. The work lends itself to being read in a stop-start fashion, as if it were meant to be serialised, and there is so much packed into so few sentences that it takes some time to absorb the sheer depth of wit, meaning, humour, learnedness, and intellect on display. The interspersed poetry had me wonder at times why poetry is so "on the nose" these days (Random House does not accept manuscripts of poetry, and recently, a quote on the movie The Big Short: "The truth is like poetry. And everyone fucking hates poetry"). I think we miss something as a result. But not so in Holmes' time. Nevertheless, this took a long time to digest, even though it is not a difficult read.



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