The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Pages 81 - 120



A.J. Bartocci, Matt Weintraub

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a number of books on my shelves. Theological works that seem to have been written out of dyspepsia

abusing him in some of the journals of his calling. Holmes was ruthlessly attacked for his position on puerperal fever. "Though Dr. Hodge had stayed within the limits of civilized controversy in attacking Holmes, Dr. Meigs had gone farther, pouring ridicule on Holmes for the amusement of the medical students." (Dowling, p.96, Oliver Wendell Holmes in Paris, 2006)

we have carved it or shut up our jack-knives. Have either become distinguished or stopped caring to become distinguished.

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the famous chieftain, Lochiel. Donald Cameron of Lochiel (1700 – 1748), was an influential Highland Clan Chief known for his magnanimous and gallant nature. He became known to both friends and foes as the "Gentle Lochiel", a name that carried into the romantic myths which would grow up around the Jacobite Rising.

the Duke of Wellington. Arthur Wellesley is often referred to as the "Duke of Wellington", even after his death, though there have been subsequent Dukes of Wellington. Tennyson's "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" attests to his stature at the time of his death.

human Jargonelles. People who are at their best early in life. Jargonelle: "An early ripening variety of pear." (OED)

Winter-Nelis. People who are at their best late in life. Winter-Nelis: A great fruit in an unattractive package. Ripens late (after falling off tree).

astringent. i.e., sour. "Having power to draw together or contract the soft organic tissues." (OED)

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Milton was a Saint-Germain with a graft of the roseate Early Catherine. Saint-Germain pears ripen late, while Early Catherine pears ripen early. Milton showed signs of greatness with his early poems, then spent the middle portion of his life working and writing politically, and finally established himself as one of the greatest English poets late in his life after going blind.

Chaucer was an Easter-Beurre. Easter-Beurre pears must be stored away for a length of time, and house-ripened. Chaucer's work was not fully appreciated until after his death. Serious scholarly work on his legacy did not begin until the nineteenth century.

as housewives try eggs. The housewives do a test to see if the egg contains life or not. The Autocrat is testing the Divinity Student to see if how intelligent he is.

smartly. "Severely; curtly; sharply (in respect of treatment, language, etc.)." (OED)

polyphloesboean ocean. "That roars loudly; noisy, boisterous." (OED)

gill. "A measure for liquids, containing one fourth of a standard pint." (OED)

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Sir Isaac. Sir Isaac Newton

the child and the pebbles, you know? Newton stated, "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." The pebble or shell represents Newton's knowledge and theories, while the ocean represents the vast unknown universe.

holds by invisible threads. i.e., gravity.

corollaries. "A proposition appended to another which has been demonstrated, and following immediately from it without new proof; an immediate inference, deduction." (OED)

he took it as a pickerel takes the bait. Chain Pickerel are very rapid aggressive hunters. It is not unusual for pickerel to leap out of the water at flying insects, or even at dangling fishing lures. The Autocrat is saying that the Divinity Student was very eager to think about what he had said.

in the fourth story. i.e., the Divinity Student lives in the highest, and therefore cheapest, rooms for rent: for example, a garret.

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Dr. Johnson. Samuel Johnson

Bulwer. Edward Bulwer-Lytton. His name lives on in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which contestants think-up terrible openings for imaginary novels, inspired by the first line of his novel Paul Clifford.

the "Rambler." The most famous of Johnson's periodical essay series. The Autocrat says that Bulwer pointed out Johnson's use of Ciceronian triads. Saying that each piece could be seen as three different essays.

piano-forte players and singers. Pianoforte: "A musical embellishment consisting of alternation between soft and loud music." (OED)

My Lady in "Marriage a la Mode." Marriage à-la-mode is a series of six pictures painted by William Hogarth between 1743 and 1745 depicting a pointed skewering of upper class 18th century society. This moralistic warning shows the disastrous results of an ill-considered marriage for money and satirizes patronage and aesthetics.

Hogarth. William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects." The Autocrat is saying that people in his time still have superfluous values, just as the people that Hogarth satirized did.

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a drop of water, imprisoned in a crystal. The Autocrat is saying that humans have free will but it is constrained by the laws of the universe. The drop of water is able to move around in what space is available inside of the crystal, but not outside of it.

angular female in oxydated bombazine. Angular: "having the joints and bony protuberances prominent, through deficiency of roundness and plumpness in the fleshy parts." (OED) Oxydated: i.e., faded. Bombazine: "A twilled or corded dress-material, composed of silk and worsted; In black the material is much used in mourning." (OED) The Landlady's relative who is poor and wearing a faded black dress.

Movement of adhesion. Parliamentary term: joining forces with the speaker who has proposed a measure.

Chamber of Deputies. Parliament of France. Historically, France's "Chamber of Deputies" was the lower house of the French Parliament during the Autocrat's time.

vellum-papered 32mo. Vellum paper: Is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. 32mo: a size of paper cut from standard uncut free sheets, corresponding to such a sheet folded into thirty-two leaves, yielding sixty-four pages when printed on both sides.

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Naufragium or "Shipwreck". One of Erasmus' colloquies. Shakespeare's, The Tempest, is said to parallel this work in some ways.

Saint Christopher. Saint Christopher is known by Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians as a martyr. He was said to have carried Jesus as a child across a river safely.

wax taper. A tall and slender candle made of wax.

tallow candle. Tallow once was widely used to make moulded candles before more convenient wax varieties became available, and for some time after because they continued to be a cheaper alternative. The sailer says he will give Saint Christopher a "wax taper as big as himself." This would have been a very expensive endeavor. However he later says "catch me giving him so much as tallow candle." Not only is he using the Saint for his own means, but would also insult him by giving a cheap tallow candle.

the Paternoster. Our Father

organization, education, condition. Organization: How people are organized together influences their free will. Education: How much a person is educated influences their free will. Condition: The condition of social and economic status influence their free will. All three factors are constraints on free will, alluding back to the water imprisoned in crystal.

the prayer of Agur. Agur prayed "8: Make me absolutely honest and don't let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need. 9: If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you; if I don't have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name." (Proverbs 30:8-9)

the Christian fathers. Pastors and theologians of the Church from the end of the Apostolic period until the beginning of the Medieval period. In Calvin's Bondage and Liberation of the Will, he quotes the Scripture together with the early church fathers to refute the Roman Catholic view of grace and free will.

quarto "Conicilium Tridentium." The Council of Trent. The Council issued condemnations on what it defined as Protestant heresies at the time of the Reformation and defined Church teachings in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Original Sin, Justification, Sacraments, the Eucharist in Holy Mass and the veneration of saints. It issued numerous reform decrees. By specifying Catholic doctrine on salvation, the sacraments, and the Biblical canon, the Council was answering Protestant disputes.

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harlequin. "A buffoon in general; a fantastic fellow." (OED)

Mr. Blake play Jesse Rural. William Rufus Blake excelled in the portrayal of old men. One of his best characters was that of Jesse Rural in "Old Heads and Young Hearts.

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somersets. "Somersaults" (OED)

Sydney Smith. Sydney Smith (1771 – 1845) was an English writer and Anglican cleric known for his humor and wit. Openly mocked American writing and culture. Helped found the Edinburgh Review in 1802.

the Duties of Royalty. A sermon that Smith gave and was attacked by the Quarterly for?

The "Quarterly." The Quarterly Review. Initially, it was set up primarily to counter the influence on public opinion of the Edinburgh Review. In an 1817 article, John Wilson Croker famously attacked John Keats in a review of Endymion. Smith was also attacked and wrote a letter to John Allen,"I thought it right, once for all, to make a profession of my faith; and by that, to exempt myself ever after from the necessity of noticing such attacks as have been made upon me in the Quarterly Review. I meant to do it bluntly and shortly; if I have done it with levity, I am a clumsy and an unlucky fellow."

"so savage and tartarly." "Who killed John Keats?/ I, says the Quarterly/ So savage & Tartarly/ 'Twas one of my feats -" (Letter from Byron to John Murray, 31 July 1821) The Quarterly Reviw also attacked Sidney Smith for his Sermon on the "Duties of Royalty."

"diner-out of the first water." "First water" means "highest quality" and is a term which originates from the gemstone trade.

toady of a court, sneaking behind the anonymous. Contributors to English quarterlies were anonymous.

Bob Logic. Possibly a character in farce? Definite source not found.

poor Liston. After several dismal failures in tragic parts, he discovered accidentally that his forte was comedy, especially in the personation of old men and country boys, in which he displayed a fund of drollery and broad humor. He was best known for his role as Paul Pry. The Autocrat is saying that once an actor is well known for comedy he cannot act in a serious role successfully.

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Paul Pry's umbrella. Paul Pry is a farcical play in which Paul Pry leaves behind an umbrella everywhere he goes in order to have an excuse to return and eavesdrop.

Aristophanes or Shakespeare. i.e., as writers of comedy.

who taught her to play with it? i.e., her Creator taught her.
Sir Thomas Browne. "Religio Medici-- ‘a physician's religion'-- of Sir Thomas Browne, the great seventeenth-century author of Hydriotaphia and other meditational writings, who along with Samuel Johnson counts as one of the primary influences on Holme's thought and writing." (Dowling, p.127, Oliver Wendell Holmes in Paris, 2006)


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Buckwheat was a common grain to make cakes from in North America. When

The autocrat inferred the woman a poor relative of the landlady because of the economical black bombazine, and her coming to the defense of the landlady's choice to buy average quality goods in order to save money. The former implied that the dress the woman wore was of low quality fabric and the latter was a joke he made repelling boarders
Boarders Joke – He used the word "boarder" as a pun, referring to both those "attackers" that would criticize the economical choices the landlady made who also happened to be the landlady's "boarders", or residents.
Green state -
Meerschaum pipes- A pipe made out of "Meerschaum", or A soft white, grey, or yellowish mineral resembling a hardened clay, which consists of orthorhombic hydrated magnesium trisilicate. Also called sepiolite. (OED def. 1)
Sea-foam – German translation for
Cloud compelling deities – It's a joke referring to deities of Nicotine whom supply "divine inspiration" and those that smoke desire this affect; therefore they are compelled to smoke more.
Poor affair – item of little worth
Aphrodite – Referred to the Greek Goddess of beauty. She was born when Uranus' testicles were cut off and went into the sea-foam, or clay from which she was shaped. Hence she was made similarly to the Meerschaum pipes.
Pallida Mors – Latin for the "pale death", hence the pipe before use comes as a dull grey or white.
"central shrine" – the bowl where the tobacco is put
Great Vegetable – Refers to the cash crop tobacco that had allowed the colonies first become established in the Americas
Drachm - fig. A small quantity; a very little. (OED def. 3) meaning a small bundle of tobacco
Calumet - A tobacco-pipe with a bowl of clay or stone, and a long reed stem carved and ornamented with feathers. It is used among the American Indians as a symbol of peace or friendship. To accept the calumet is to welcome terms of peace offered, to refuse it is to reject them. (OED)
Pict – A joke from Sir Richard Blackmore's epic Prince Arthur: "from a naked pict had won" Richard Blackmore was a physician who in his epic said that his grandfather had won a garment from a naked Pict. You can see the joke and contradiction.
Tobacco-stopper - a contrivance for pressing down the tobacco in the bowl of a pipe while smoking (OED)
Boxwood Triton – a Triton, or "the proper name for a sea-deity" (OED), shaped tobacco-stopper made of boxwood "much used by turners, wood-engravers, and in the manufacture of mathematical and musical instruments" (OED def. 1)
Raphael "Triumph of Galatea" – Famous fresco painting by the Italian painter Raphael representing the Greek mythological tale of the sea nymph Galatea. A "triton", or a being that was part-man part-fish, can be seen in the left side of the painting.
Shagreen case – A case that held the tobacco-stopper made of "shagreen", or A species of untanned leather with a rough granular surface, prepared from the skin of the horse, ass, etc., or of the shark, seal, etc., and frequently dyed green. (OED def. 1)
Sir Walter Raleigh – the autocrat assumed the tobacco-stopper had been made since the time of Sir Walter Raleigh who was an English explorer who attempted to settle colonies in the New World (east coast of the U.S.). He was known for popularizing tobacco, which not many people indulged in beforehand. Therefore the autocrat assumed it was made since his time, because it became a much more common item.
Perishable smoking contrivance – A cigar. Said to be perishable because it caused "(a material thing) to rot or decay; to cause to deteriorate, esp. as the result of exposure to weather or injurious conditions" (OED), the injurious condition referring to the unhealthy aspects of cigar smoke.
Ground-swell Bay of Biscay – an analogy of the terrible weather at the bay on the Western coast of France was being compared to the mental agitation caused from inhaling cigar smoke (Wikipedia)
Nursling infant Hercules – Hercules was a demi-god of Greek mythology. So even as an infant his suction ability would have been profound. Hence, the autocrat is making a joke that it required enormous effort to pull smoke from a cigar.
Old silenus – To relish in the cigars flavor the autocrat says you must have the same sense of taste, or palate, as Silenus. Silenus in Greek mythology was the companion and tutor of the wine-god Dionysian. He was often known to be drunk. From this excessive drinking, he grew a leathery, or tough palate, that would make the flavors of a cigar more enjoyable as it was already used to bitterness of wine.
Nicotian Regimen – addiction to smoking
Dearly – for a high price
Amati - Amati is the name of a family of Italian violin-makers, who flourished at Cremona from about 1550 to 1740. Andrea Amati was the first maker of violins whose instruments still survive today. The sixteenth-century violin was played primarily by professionals. -
Stradivarius - According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this belief is disputed. These were violins made by the Stradivari family in the 17th and 18th centuries. Christopher Joyce (2012). "Double-Blind Violin Test: Can You Pick The Strad?"
Maestros – masters, the professionals that would play the violins
Fingers stiffened – meaning they got arthritis
Virtuoso - One who has a special interest in, or taste for, the fine arts; a student or collector of antiquities, natural curiosities or rarities, etc.; a connoisseur; freq., one who carries on such pursuits in a dilettante or trifling manner. (OED). He was "cold" because he had for the sake of having the violin and had no actual passion for the music.
Improvident artists – artists that failed to pay their debts and subsequently put into prison
Convents – the violin found its way into a religious convent to accompany liturgies and hymns
Orgies – the violin went back to parties and occasions of drunken revelry with musicians that were hired to play at them.
Dilettante – amateur
Hue - tone
violin's century – the autocrat explained that it took a century for the violin to settle all its pieces together and have the wood dry from the sap, until it can reach the peak of its potential. He said the same
Garden-bed in Cremona – he is comparing the violins to an organic whole, similar to that of tree. A tree that slowly grows and develops; that gradually over time reaches the state that it was meant to flourish as. Cremona was a city in which violin making was a common trade; that was the origin of the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari families.
Tyrolese fiddle – a fiddle made by Pedro Klauss of Tyrol made it in 1760
Old poet who Neaera cheated- Horace
Horace's Ode – "twas night: among the lesser stars / the conscious moon was beaming. / Beaneath the cloudless sky we sat, / Of blissful wedlock dreaming" (The Odes of Horace: Complete in English rhyme and blank verse page 241)
Pactolian – The imaginary magazine which pays the autocrat for poetic verses. (OED) Of or relating to the river Pactolus (now Sart Çay , in modern Turkey), formerly renowned for the gold which its sands contained. In later use: (chiefly fig.) golden; (of payment, funds, etc.) lavish, copious.
Papyrus – (OED) - 3. A material made from the papyrus plant, used originally by the ancient Egyptians and later by the Greeks, Romans, etc., chiefly formed into sheets for writing and painting on. Also used for making rope, sandals, etc.
Horatius Flaccus – This was the Latin name of Horace, to which he would have identified himself. Horace was a Roman lyric poet. His Odes and Satires have exerted a major influence on English poetry.
a person – John
secretaries of lyceums – By "secretaries" the autocrat meant, "A secret chamber or repository. Also fig." (OED). In OWH's time he, and other intellectuals travelled around the country visiting communities giving them private lectures for a fee. So, the autocrat expressed his discontent that his audience did not fully appreciate his metaphors, which he gave to them for free, that he normally stored away for those lectures.
complimentary – autocrats reference to the compilation of metaphors (the meerschaum, violin,
pecuniary – important to know that the autocrat was paid for those lectures.
devalise - robbed
Excusez – "excuse me'
Sergent-de-ville's – Sergeant of the town, or the town's law enforcement
Bust – shoulders
Big red V – the sergeant slapped the mans shoulder after he told him to reveal them. He did this to see if a "V" would show up because scarred skin would remain red longer than the skin around it. This "V" revealed that this man had been branded a Voleur, or thief, in the prison at Marsaille, a city in France.
"What if he has something like this" – the scene with the thief occurred in several French works. For example, with Jean Valjean in Vicotr Hugo's Les Miserables. The "he" referred to a French author whome the Autocrat is accused of having stolen the story.
"kerridge" – the New England pronunciation for carriage
liberal shepherds – This is a reference to Hamlet during the description of Ophelia's death. Here "liberal" meant accustomed to using coarser language that is used at court, and he used a shepherd to portray a character of any unrefined person.
Carriage with a pole – referred to the pole at the front of the carriage that connects the horses to the body of the vehicle. In comparison with a simple rustics cart that might be miscalled a carriage.
Retired unostentatiously – Here the autocrat makes a joke about his coach driver John, who had deserted from the British Army. He retired from the army without trying to draw attention to himself which is why it was unostentatiously.
Many of her Her Majesty's modest servants – a continuation to the joke of unostentatious retirement. Here the autocrat referred the fact that many sailors in Queen of England's navy deserted and took refuge in America. This is why he described them as modest. Once again they would not try to draw attention to himself.
Grateful country – Here the autocrat was making a joke about the British army. He described here that British officers attempted to discover the identity of deserted soldiers through conditioning reactions. He would try to get them to attempt to react to orders in which they would adjust the shoulder-strap of the musket. He then would bring back the deserter to their country and force them back into the armed forces.
Danish pirates – refers to Viking invasions of Britain after the Roman withdrawal from the island.
Tartars – (OED def. 3a.) A person supposed to resemble a Tartar in disposition; a rough and violent or irritable and intractable person. A common idiom was "catch a Tartar" which meant to grapple with an unexpectedly formidable opponent.
Apollo and Marsyas – Here along with the Bartholinus reference, the autocrat is depicting that the Tartar Saxons skinned the Danish Pirates. In Greek Mythology, Marsyas the satyr challenged Apollo, god of music, to a contest to which the winner to could what they liked to the defeated. Apollo won and ended up skinning the satyr alive.
Bartholinus – referred to the Danish anatomist Thomas Bartholini. He was well known for his discoveries regarding the lymphatic system and in his book, there are many pictures of humans as they would look with layers removed from their body.
"the one essential and perfectly fitting garment" – the autocrat here is referring to skin
Christiana's – A reference two the second part of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Both Mercy and Christiana are led around a house by the Interpreter and comes to a room with a spider on the wall. "Then the water stood in CHRISTIANA'S eyes, for she was a woman quick of apprehension" but she knew the spider represented sin, while Mercy did not at first understand this. "This made MERCY blush, and the boys to cover their faces; for they all began now to understand the riddle." Christiana represented the landlady being sensitive to the subject of marriage because she was widowed. The schoolmistress, compared with mercy begins to unravel the riddle of the autocrats feelings towards her. (Second stage)
Hamlet's remark to Horatio – Hamlet said to Horatio "I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow student. I think it was to see my mother's wedding. (Act I Scene 2, Line 176). He said this in response to John when the young man implied his skepticism.
Ziska drum-head – Here the autocrat is making a reference to Jan Zizka, a general and Hussite leader. He led many military campaigns and it was said that his dying wish was for his skin to be used to make a drum so that he could continue to lead his men even after death.***
Cutis humana – human skin
Scandinavian Filibuster – Scandinavian referred to Viking. Filibuster – (OED-Def. 1.) – Freebooter: Originally: a privateer. Later more generally: a piratical adventurer, a pirate; any person who goes about in search of plunder."
Pane of plate glass – this referred to front window of the autocrat's imaginary other self "the professor" office. This represented the office that OWH had when he was still a practicing physician. Here a young man punched his hand through the window and could not help but be cut and leave behind some "very minute but entirely satisfactory documents", meaning skin.
"cup which cheers and likewise inebriates" – joke referring to John Cowper's The Task in a line that went "And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn / Throws up a steamy column, and the cups, / That cheer but not inebriate" (Line 37-39) referring to tea. Teas "cheer", meaning enliven the person who drinks it with caffeine, but they it doesn't inebriate. Here it's a joke that alcohol that the young man drank both enlivened him and made him drunk.
Cupid – Not recognizing the statue of Cupid with its wings and bow and arrow marked the visitor as an uneducated individual in the classics. Along with calling it a "statoo" showed overlapping ignorance to proper speech as well as their lack of intellectual knowledge.
Machiavellian astuteness – Machiavelli, the Italian who founded modern day political science, was known for "sneakiness in political strategy"
Ex pede Herculem – Latin saying "to take the measure of a statue of Hercules while having only the foot to go by" which continued Holmes' theme in this section that small details inform people of the larger whole.
Dos pou sto – "place to stand"
Georges Cuvier's megatherium – French naturalist and zoologist was able to, just from discovering a tooth, was able to recreate what this megatherium, or elephant-sized sloths, looked like.
Agassiz – Louis Agassiz was a friend of Holmes and was fellow member of the intellectual Saturday Club. He was a Swiss paleontologist/geologist and was known for being able to draw a portrait of undiscovered fish by just seeing one scale. Going alone the same theme of small details describing wholes.
Giotto – Italian painter and architect, was revealed to the pope's notice and got a commission because of his "O". While the pope's representative was collecting samples, Giotto with his free hand drew a perfect "O". For this feat he was discovered and awarded the commission.
"moi" – at the beginning of the Canterbury Tales, each character said they're going to tell the story. Prioress, the head of a female convent speaks perfect French but had really learned it in English. The Prioress gave away this fact in the way she pronounced the word "moi" for "me"
Haow – The divinity student is asking if someone who has intellectual merit, but still used slang, could still arrive at success.
Sydney Smith – Was an English wit, writer, and an Anglican cleric. ***Could not find origin of his phrase.
False quantity – Latin poems are written in meters of "long" and "short" syllabus – not "stressed" or "unstressed" as in English – and educated Englishmen knew their "quantities," or whether any given syllabus was long or short. Not to know this marked you as uneducated.
"for good and sufficient reasons" – the autocrat is referring to lack of education that some of the political men of his day had. Men such as Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor.
General Jackson and Taylor – They were known as "backwoods" presidents. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, and Zachary Taylor, the twelfth president, were not intellectual men. They paved the path to the presidency with the glory of their military exploits, rather than their moral or philosophical outlooks. Jackson was actually an ardent supporter of slavery and treated the Native Americans whom he deprived of their land, less than moral.
Priscian – A Latin grammarian who wrote the Institutiones grammaticae or the "Grammatical Foundations". A few scars to his head implied that the candidates running for political office break the rules of grammar.
Stereotyped - 1. trans. To cast a stereotype plate from (a forme of type); to prepare (literary matter) for printing by means of stereotypes (OED)
Captatores Verborum – "those who catch at tiny mistakes in goods writers to try to increase their own reputations. It literally meant "word-catchers". The imagery is borrow from Pope's Epistle to Arbuthnot.***
Silk and broadcloth – the educated classes, as shown by their customary wear. The equivalent of comparing the modern day "white-collar" and "blue-collar" workers.
Scaraboeus Grammaticus – Latin for the "Grammar Beetle"; an insect that lives on garbage or refuse. In this case, the scraps of the literary world.
Coleopterous – horny shelled
Lepine watches – Watches made by Jean-Antoine Lepine. He was a Frenchman and was responsible for many innovations to the innovations. One such innovation was that he designed a pocket watch that was thinner. David Christianson, Masterpieces of Chronometry (2002): p. 53. Lépine and the modern watch
"broad fan of insect-angels – butterflies
"golden disks" – dandelion and buttercup
"old lying Incubus" – the old lying incubus refers to the ancient error that oppressed and distorted human nature. Incubus means "A person or thing that weighs upon and oppresses like a nightmare" (OED)
"Dr. Johnson was disappointed" – WCD look this up
Hydrostatic paradox of controversy. – That despite the greater capacity that one might have intellectually, when the substance of the argument, or "controversy", is the same, so are the results. This has to do with his analogy being "hydrostatic," which means "Relating to the equilibrium of liquids, and the pressure exerted by liquids at rest; belonging to hydrostatics" (OED). The pressure exerted by both parties would be equal, despite actual merit, or size in capacity to hold that liquid or argument.
Tongs, shovel, bellows –
Latitude and longitude – the range and scope of one's literature
Epithets – phrases
Isothermal lines- This was a metaphor regarding the common usages of phrases for praise or critique of literary works. Isothermal lines means that the temperature is the same within those lines; that meant that all these praises or criticisms will fall along that same line of temperature, regardless of "warm" or "cold" climate.
Oysters – Oysters were a delicacy and in this case were being used to bribe literary critics to write good reviews for them.
Major Proposition – The autocrat here is saying that a person would give the person he is trying bribe with this feast of Oysters with "Oysters au natural" for a Major Proposition, or big favor, as opposed "scalloped" oysters for a more minor stretch of the truth or smaller piece.
"spread" – the autocrat means a "spread" of food on a linen table cloth, and opposed to an article reviewing a literary work.
"critical line" – The line of work reviewing literature
salt – hospitality
palatable – to make it taste better
Coarse rasp – a file
Penny papers – the autocrat referred to the tabloid-style newspapers produced in the United States during the mid 19th century. Penny press papers were revolutionary by making the news accessible to working and middle class citizens for a reasonable price because they only cost one cent. (Source: B. Kovarik. Revolutions in Communication: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age. (The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011
Sumatra – a large island in Western Indonesia (OED)
Stamford Family – Actually referred to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffle, a British statesman that was best known for founding Singapore. This family was responsible for the establishment of English interests in Asia. -Sir Thomas Stammford Raffles: A History of Java; Black, Parbury, and Allen for the Hon. East India Company 1817; reprinted in the Cambridge Library Collection, 2010
South-Sea Scheme - the financial plan with the South Sea Company, a British joint-stock company, which had taken over the national debt in return for a monopoly of trade with the South Seas. During its expansion it caused a severe speculation in their stocks and many invested. In 1720, the
Notes and Queries – It was an English magazine
"celebrated bubbles" – This was a joke made by the autocrat about the South-Sea Scheme. It both referred to the bubbles of the ocean which were "thin globular (or hemispherical) vesicle of water or other liquid, filled with air or gas; applied alike to those produced by the agitation of a quantity of the liquid, or the uprising of gas to the surface, and to those artificially made by blowing through a tube" (OED def. 1) and "fig. Anything fragile, unsubstantial, empty, or worthless; a deceptive show. From 17th c. onwards often applied to delusive c