The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Pages 201 - 240

 

Jamie Miranda

Pg. 202: fall to – short for fall to work, to begin working (OED)

Pg. 202: Half-mourning – During the 19th and early 20th century, Americans followed English customs for mourning the deaths of family members or loved ones. These customs involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing. Mourning had different stages; in half-mourning relatives could begin wearing grey and lavender colored clothing again.

Pg. 202: buried a "payrent" – The landlady's daughter's mispronunciation of parent.

Pg. 202: Refers to the poem "Maud Muller" by John Greenleaf Whittier. The poem tells the story of Maud, a country maiden, and a passerby judge. The judge and Maud instantly connect, but neither voice their feelings because of social class differences. They both unhappily marry, and years later Maud thinks back to the day of their meeting and says "It might have been!" In referencing the poem, the Autocrat shows that he is interested in the schoolmistress, but that believes it too late for anything to happen between them.

Pg. 203: crooked red streak – The crooked red streak that the Autocrat is referring to is a sprite. Sprites are large scale electrical discharges that occur high above regular thunder storm clouds. (Wikipedia: Sprites) Here the Autocrat is saying that he had the briefest glimpse of a separate life; one that appeared and flashed away just as quickly as lightning in the night sky.
Pg. 203: the creese of a Malay – Creese is and old spelling of kris, a dagger with a wavy blade that originates from Malaysia. (OED)

Pg. 203: Male and female created He them – "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created," From Genesis 5:2. In this chapter, the genealogy of Adam and Eve is discussed. In quoting it the Autocrat reveals his desire to marry and start a family (King James Bible 1611).

Pg. 203: transparency – Transparencies were used with overhead projectors to display images. A Transparency is a thin sheet of transparent flexible material, onto which figures can be drawn. When the light from the projector goes through the transparency it also goes through a lens, and it projects forward an outline of the figure drawn. When the light was turned off the image would disappear with it. The Autocrat is saying the image that was illuminated in his mind, disappeared just as quickly. (Wikipedia)

Pg. 204: Calvin's "Institutes" – Refers to John Calvin's The Institutes of the Christian Religion, a book that called for the reformation Christianity. In it Calvin argued his theory on Predestination – the belief that since God is all-knowing he already knows who is going to Heaven or Hell, thereby nullifying the concept of free-will. He also discussed the concept of Total Depravity – the belief that as a result of the Fall of Man, all men and women are born with sin and can only find salvation if God has predestined it. (Wikipedia – The Institutes of the Christian Religion)
The Autocrat's following description on the superstitious character of children provides a parallel for his views on Calvinism.

Pg. 204: the central doctrine – The may refer to the doctrine of Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is the belief that when taking the Eucharist, Christ is physically present in the bread and wine. It is a literal interpretation of his words during the last supper: "This is body that is given to you," in reference to the bread that he breaks and distributes, and "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," in reference to the wine he pours (Wikipedia: The Last Supper"). As this was and is a controversial belief, when the Autocrat was younger he may have overheard a debate about this and mistaken it for actual cannibalism. Thus resulting in his confusion.

Pg. 204: Raphael and Michelangelo: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni were two of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. Both Artists were commissioned to paint for the Vatican; as a result many of their most famous works include depictions of angels and other religious beings. For example, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a scene portraying the "Creation of Adam" (Wikipedia). The young Autocrat, constantly hearing these two names in association with depictions of angels, mistook them for "superhuman beings."

Pg. 204: the central doctrine

Pg. 204: pudency – Modesty, bashfulness, or reticence; embarrassment; an instance or expression of this. (OED)

Pg. 204: make a cache – A hiding place, esp. of goods, treasure, etc. (OED).

Pg. 205: sloops – A relatively small ship-of-war, carrying guns on the upper deck only. Short for sloop-of-war. (OED)

Pg. 205: schooners – A small sea-going fore-and-aft rigged vessel with three or four masts, carrying one or more topsails. (OED) It was the most important type of North American ship by the end of the 18th century. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Pg. 205: porringer – A small bowl or basin, typically with a handle, used for soup, stews, or similar dishes. (OED)

Pg. 205: Roman soothsayer – A soothsayer is: One who claims or pretends to possess the power of foretelling future events; a predictor, prognosticator (OED). Ancient Romans believed in augurs and haruspices, priests that used omens to predict what would happen in the future. Augurs would study the flight patterns of birds to determine the will of the gods while haruspices used the entrails of animal sacrifices. (Wikipedia: omens)

Pg. 205: Sibylline leaves – The Ancient Greek word "sibylla" translates to "prophetess." Of the ten that were said to exist, three were particularly famous: the Delphic, the Erythraean and the Cumaean Sibyls. The Erythraen Sybil's prophesies were written on leaves (Wikipedia: Eythraean Sibyl). Leaves in this case refer to: One of a number of folds (each containing two pages) which compose a book or manuscript (OED). In drawing a parallel between his childhood and the "Sibylline leaves," here the Autocrat is emphasizing how superstitious he was during the early stages of his life. The rest of the paragraph delineates examples of superstitious behavior that the Autocrat partook in.

Pg. 205: Dr. Johnson's weakness – From James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson: "He had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever ventured to ask an explanation. It appeared to me some superstitious habit, which he had contracted early, and from which he had never called upon his reason to disentangle him. This was his anxious care to go out or in at a door or passage by a certain number of steps from a certain point, or at least so as that either his right or his left foot (I am not certain which) should constantly make the first actual movement when he came close to the door or passage. Thus I conjecture: For I have, upon innumerable occasions, observed him suddenly stop, and then seem to count his steps with a deep earnestness; and when he had neglected or gone wrong in this sort of magical movement, I have seen him go back again, put himself in a proper posture to begin the ceremony, and, having gone through it, break from his abstraction, walk briskly on, and join his companion." (James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson)

Pg. 206: Navy Yard – A mostly North American term for a government dockyard (OED)
Pg. 206: sloop-of-war the Wasp – Referring to the fifth US Navy ship to carry the name, the Wasp was commissioned in 1814 to serve during the War of 1812 against the British. After destroying numerous British war ships throughout the year and capturing the eight-gun brig the Atlanta on September 21st, the Wasp disappeared. It was last seen by a Swedish Merchantman three weeks after the Atlanta capture. (Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)

Pg. 206: Captain Blakely – Johnston Blakeley was Master Commandant of the Wasp, and the most successful Navy Officer during the war of 1812. (North Carolina History Project Encyclopedia)

Pg. 206: the Reindeer – The HMS Reindeer was a 21-gun sloop-of-war that was destroyed by the Wasp after it was defeated in a 19 minute battle. The Reindeer's crew was taken prisoner. (Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)

Pg. 206: the Avon – The HMS Avon was an 18-gun, 477-ton brig also destroyed by the Wasp. As the Wasp prepared to take the Avon crew prisoner, the arrival of other British brigs prevented it from doing so, and the Wasp was forced to retreat. The Avon none the less suffered significant damage and sank after its crew was rescued by the newly arrived brigs. (Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)

Pg. 206: dumb whisper

Pg. 207: old pocket-books – A pocket-sized folding case for holding banknotes, papers, etc.; a wallet. (OED)

Pg. 207: bank-bills – A promissory note given by a banker payable to bearer on demand, and intended to circulate as money. (OED)

Pg. 207: O.T. – Most likely a country boy working in the Holmes' home. (Professor I couldn't find the book on this.)

Pg. 207: martin-house – Birdhouse for martins. Here the Autocrat is emphasizing the boy's rural accent. The word should be pronounced with as little emphasis on the "I" as possible, as "martn" (OED).

Pg. 207: the cars – A wheeled, usually horse-drawn conveyance; a carriage, cart, or wagon. (OED)

Pg. 208: black bombazine – A twilled or corded dress-material, composed of silk and worsted; sometimes also of cotton and worsted, or of worsted alone (OED). It was commonly produced in black because it was primarily used as clothing for mourners or persons in religious orders (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Pg. 209: the unmelting snows -- The white hair of age (OED). The Autocrat is asking if the readers have any such recollections in their aging heads.

Pg. 210: milk-teeth – Any of a first, temporary, set of teeth in young mammals, which are later replaced by the permanent teeth; a deciduous tooth. (OED)

Pg. 210: bull's-eye watch – An old-fashioned type of watch, with the case partly enclosing the glass. (OED)
Pg. 211: the watch-paper – A disc of paper, silk, or other material, inscribed or painted with an ornamental design, a picture, rhyme, or other device, inserted as a lining or pad in the outer case of an old-fashioned watch (OED). The watch-paper had been given to the old man by a sweetheart he had when he was younger. It is inscribed with the date she gave it to him. Although he received the paper before he was even thirteen, he still carries it around to this day.

Pg. 212: the Lucretian luxury – Titus Lucretius Carus was a Latin Poet and Philosopher best known for his work "De rerum natura" (On the Nature of Things). (Encyclopedia Britannica) T relevant passage follows:
'Tis sweet, when, down the mighty main, the winds
Roll up its waste of waters, from the land
To watch another's labouring anguish far,
Not that we joyously delight that man
Should thus be smitten, but because 'tis sweet
To mark what evils we ourselves be spared;
'Tis sweet, again, to view the mighty strife
Of armies embattled yonder o'er the plains,
Ourselves no sharers in the peril;
Lucretius is describing a scene in which witnessing the misfortunes of others makes people grateful for their own good fortune. When the young Autocrat used to hear the wood sleds carrying loads into the city, he was satisfied that he at least was comfortable in bed.

Pg. 212: Byron – Lord George Gordon Byron was an English Romantic poet and satirist. Byron was a sort of celebrity figure in the early 1800s due to the popularity of his work "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." Byron was a Baron in England, but permanently left his home country in 1816. He left to escape the moral indignation targeted towards him as a result of his controversial sexual exploits. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Pg. 212: "who hath no friend, no brother there." – A quote from Lord Byron's narrative poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage."

Pg. 212: the Puritan "Sabbath" – The Lord's Day, recreational activities are forbidden. Based on the idea that the Ten Commandments are natural laws that must be followed. (Wikipedia: Puritan Sabbatarianism)

Pg. 212: batrachian hymns – Batrachian: of or pertaining to the Batrachia, especially frogs and toads (OED). This is the croaking of frogs from the swamp.

Pg. 213: Cantabridge – Cantabrigia is Latin for Cambridge (Cassell's New Latin Dictionary). Holme's here is making fun of the suggestion that anyone could hear the beach from ten miles inland.

Pg. 213: marrowy creatures – Creature full of Marrow. Marrow is literally the soft, fatty material contained in the cavities of bones, but it also figuratively used to represent a nourishing richness (OED). Here the Autocrat is saying that there is a shortage of people who possess appeasing voices that have a real depth. Instead what is normally heard, are weak voices forcefully projecting themselves.

Pg. 213: acidulous enough to produce effervescence with alkalis – Acids are generally liquids that have a sharp, sour taste. They have a pH of less than 7. Alkalis are liquids with a pH greater than 7, and they tend to have an acrid or caustic taste. When an acid and alkali are combined a chemical reaction occurs. Depending on the strengths of the acid and base involved, certain amounts of energy will be released. Hear the Autocrat is saying that the voices are acidic (or sharp and unpleasant) enough to make an alkali solution effervesce, or bubble up as if it were being boiled. (OED)

Pg. 214: stridulous enough to sing duets with the katydids – Katydids, are large longhorn grasshoppers whose name is an onomatopoeia for the sound they make. The very process by which katydids make this sound is called stridulation. Stridulate means to make a harsh, grating, shrill noise. The Autocrat is again detailing how unpleasant the voices are.

Pg. 214: hand round daguerreotypes – Daguerreotypes were the first commercially successful photographic process. It involved producing direct positive images on silver coated copper plates. Daguerreotypes were immensely popular in the 1800s. In 1953 alone, over 3million were produce in the US.
Pg. 214: old Enemy – The word Satan, is an English translation of a Hebrew word for "adversary." So here the "old Enemy" refers to the Devil. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Pg. 214: St. Anthony – Refers to Saint Anthony of Egypt who is considered the founder and father of organized Christian monasticism. After 15 years of practicing an ascetic life, Anthony withdrew to a mountain by the Nile called Pispir during the year 286. There he lived in absolute solitude for 19 years. It is during the course of this retreat that Anthony is believed to have begun his life long battle against the devil. It is believed that the devil would come to Anthony in the form of various tempting visions. An example of such visions would include Anthony seeing the apparition of a monk bearing food while he was on one of his fasts. Or it would involve visions of attractive women. Here the Autocrat is saying that one of these women would not have made a tempting vision of allurement (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Pg. 214: jaws of Erebus – In Greek mythology Erebus refers to the region of the underworld through which the dead had to pass immediately after dying (Wikipedia: Erebus). The Autocrat is saying that he was so bewitched by the voices that he imagined himself leaving his life behind and following the voices even into death.

Pg. 215: Ulysses and the Sirens – Ulysses is derived from Ulixes. It is the Latin name for Odysseus, who is the eponymous hero in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Here the Autocrat is referring to a famous scene in which Odysseus has his men tie him to the mast of their ship so that he may hear the Sirens' song without being lured to his death. Sirens were beautiful mythical creatures that lived on a rock in the sea. They would entice sailors to their island with their bewitching song that was impossible for any mortal to resist. However, when the sailors would set for the sirens' island they would inevitably crash into the rocks, their ship would be destroyed, and they would die. Odysseus' crew avoided this fate by filling their ears with wax. Odysseus, wanting to hear the song, instead had himself securely tied to the mast. While listening to the sirens' song, Odysseus lost all sense of reason and struggled to break loose of his bond. Fortunately his crew would not let him, and the whole group escaped the adventure unharmed. The Autocrat refers to this scene in order to demonstrate the incredible power that sounds can have over men.

Pg. 215: Mario – Although the identity of Mario is not certain, it is most likely that of the operatic tenor Giovanni Matteo De Candia. De Candia was born in 1810 to a royal Sardinian family, but assumed the name of Mario upon his decision to pursue a musical career. Descriptions of his striking good looks, grace, charm, and musical talent, make it very likely that he is indeed the Mario that the Autocrat refers to. At the time of the Holmes' writing this passage, Mario had just toured America (Encyclopedia Britannica). As a result the image of him and the "poor lady" would have been one that was fresh in minds of readers, unlike the story of Ulysses and the Sirens which was not only fictional , but was also set centuries earlier. Unfortunately the exact incident and the identity of the "poor women" are unknown, although it is likely that the Autocrat is referring to an admirer who had become too engrossed with the singer.

Pg. 215: the marble Clytie – Clytie was a water nymph who turned into the turnsole plant after being abandoned by Helios. She is popularly depicted in marble busts (Wikipedia: Clytie).

Pg. 215: this Teutonic maiden – Displaying the characteristics attributed to Germans. (OED)

Pg. 215: asphyxia – The condition of suspended animation produced by a deficiency of oxygen in the blood; suffocation. (OED)

Pg. 215: mésalliance – A union between two people that is thought to be unsuitable or inappropriate; especially in regards to a marriage with a person of a lower social position. (OED) The Autocrat is saying that it is better to drown and die quickly, than to engage oneself in an ill-fated marriage.

Pg. 215: square roots and cube roots – Here the Autocrat is making a pun on the word root. He is referring to roots as in the roots of a family tree, and as factors of exponential growth. He is saying that marrying wrongly would not only affect his life, but also the future lives of all of his offspring to come.
Pg. 215: De Champignons or the De la Morues – Since William the Conqueror took England in the Norman Invasion, a great deal of England's noble families have claimed to have an ancestor that "came over" with him. (The Aristocracy of Norman England by Judith A. Green) Here the Autocrat is parodying such claims amongst common people. Champignon means mushrooms and morues means fish in French.
Pg. 216: muliebrity, as well as femineity – Mulier in Latin means "a woman" or "wife." Femina means "one that bears young, a female" (Cassell's New Latin Dictionary). The distinction the Autocrat makes here is between a woman in the role of a wife and a woman in the role of a mother. He is saying that the voice was nurturing in both regards; it was the voice of a complete woman.

Pg. 216: Germans of Tacitus – Refers to the book Germania by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus written in 98 A.D. Tacitus was a Senator and historian during the Roman Empire, he is the best source of information on the Germans who later invaded the Empire. Beyond describing all Germans as having large bodies, Tacitus also write the following lines that are reminiscent of the Autocrats words about femineity and muliebrity:
Thus, they take one husband as one body and one life; that no thought, no desire, may extend beyond him; and he may be loved not only as their husband, but as their marriage. To limit the increase of children, or put to death any of the later progeny is accounted infamous: and good habits have there more influence than good laws elsewhere.
Pg. 217: C'est tout comme un serin – French for: "Exactly like a canary bird."

Pg.217: the twelve gates of pearl – From The Book of Revelation 21:21: The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl. This is referring to the gateway to Heaven which was guarded by Saint Paul. You were either allowed access in or were rejected and sent to Hell.

Pg. 217: aerolites – Meteorite (OED). The Autocrat is saying there must be more in the skies than just stones and minerals.

Pg. 217: pre-Adamitic cataclysm – This refers to the theory of Gap Creationism, which became popular in the early 1800s. The theory delves into the possibility of a large gap existing after the 6th day of the earth's creation before the creation of Adam. This theory was developed in the 1700s to help account for the fact that the earth is much older than the years the Bible accounts for. The theory also helps to allow for the creation and existence of other beings (like dinosaurs) before the creation of Adam. Versions of the theory also allow for the existence and survival of pre-Adamite men. The concept is grounded in the idea that the world may have been created, destroyed, and made over again multiple times in the period between the 6th day and the day Adam was created (Wikipedia: Gap Creationism).

Pg. 217: some grave theologians – This may refer to theologians who believed in the continued survival of pre-Adamite men. (There was an American theologian in the late 1800s who believed that pre-Adamite men had not only existed, but that they had survived a "pre-Adamitic cataclysm." Evangelist R.A. Torrey had believed in gap creationism, and he also believed that local floods may have preceded the creation of Adam; floods that would have destroyed a large portion of the population, but not everyone. This concept fits in beautifully with what the Autocrat says about mankind being "shipwrecked survivors of some pre-Adamitic cataclysm set adrift in these little boats of humanity to make one more trial to reach shore." I believe this also fit with the succeeding quote from Keats. Unfortunately, the theologian in question was born as the Autocrat papers were coming out. This means, that the Autocrat was not referring to Torrey specifically, but it leads me to believe that Torrey would have had predecessors that the Autocrat was aware of. The reason the theologians are considered grave is because it is a rather harsh thought to think a race of men perpetually living through one heavenly catastrophe after another, perpetually being tested in a sense.) (Wikipedia: pre-Adamite men).

Pg. 217: "die into life" – From the poem "Hyperion" by John Keats. "Hyperion" was an unfinished work in which the succession of Apollo as the god of light is seen, as Hyperion (the original god of light) and the other Titans are forced out of power.

Pg. 217: Keats – John Keats was an English Romantic poet that died at the unfortunate age of 25. Although Keats was not popular during his time, he gained a great deal of recognition after his death and is now considered a great poet. He is best known for his work "Ode to a Grecian Urn." His poetry is marked for its vivid sensory descriptions, and its use of classical mythology to convey philosophical ideas (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Pg. 219: smashed up – To become penniless (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Paul Beale)
Pg. 219: M. de Buffon – Refers to George Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon who wrote Discours sur le Style (Discourse on Style). In it M. de Buffon presents the above passage: Le style c'est l'homme meme. (Wikipedia: Comte de Buffon)

Pg. 219: the sturdy English moralist – This again refers to essayist Samuel Johnson. Although Johnson was not known for particularly hating any one individual, he is famously known for having said: "I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am." (Boswell's Life of Johnson)

Pg. 219: the stout American tragedian – This may refer to actor Junius Brutus Booth who was one of the leading actors of the early 19th century. Posthumously inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, Booth's rise to stardom began with his performance in the title role of William Shakespeare's Richard III. However along with being talented, Booth was also an alcoholic with extremely erratic behavior and a bad temper. In 1935, Booth wrote a letter to President Andrew Jackson that contained a death threat. Booth's fame as a tragedian combined with his aggressive behavior give reason to suspect that he is the "stout American" that the Autocrat is referring to (Wikipedia: Junius Brutus Booth).

Pg. 220: prima-facie – Latin for "at first sight." In law, it is a case that is supported by sufficient evidence for it to be taken as proved in the absence of evidence to the contrary (OED).

Pg. 220: old black-letter law-books – Black-letter law refers to the areas of technical legal rules that have been so well-established that they are no longer subject to reasonable dispute. The term stemmed from the fact that law books continued to be printed in blackletter type long after most other printed works were produced in roman and Italic text. (Wikipedia: Black Letter Law)

Pg. 220: blackamoor – A black African; any dark-skinned person (OED)

Pg. 220: silk, gold and other materials – Reminiscent of scene from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter:
She decided, moreover, that he had a right to her utmost aid. Little accustomed, in her long seclusion from society, to measure her ideas of right and wrong by any standard external to herself, Hester saw—or seemed to see—that there lay a responsibility upon her, in reference to the clergyman, which she owed to no other, nor to the whole world besides. The links that united her to the rest of human kind—links of flowers, or silk, or gold, or whatever the material—had all been broken. Here was the iron link of mutual crime, which neither he nor she could break. Like all other ties, it brought with it its obligations.
In the above passage Hester is questioning whether or not to tell Dimmesdale about Chillingworth's true identity. Both passages discuss duty, love, and clo


1. 221: then the man pleadeth his special incapacity… as for instance impecuniosity- the incapacity a man is trying to convince others that is the cause for his inability to love any one particular woman is impecuniosity being that he possesses "the quality or condition of being impecunious; lack of money" (OED) which solely is an excuse
2. 221: …or that he is of mean figure, or small capacity- these qualities are also attributed to why a man claims he cannot love one particular and must love all women. He is of mean figure meaning, "of a person, a person's character, etc.: lacking moral dignity, ignoble; small-minded". Small capacity refers to the lack thereof intelligence and other talents that would be considered unlovable.
3. 221: picture as big as a copper, or a "nickel"- the picture that a man will see of a woman, when falling in love at first sight is as small as a "copper" or a penny, or a very small image of what she is actually like, which he would not be able to know until he gets to know her better and grows to love her. An example would be if you took a look at a penny from above and you would only be able to make out a vague outline of the figures or (if possible) the writing on the coin. This is the small indistinguishable speck perception that a man would have of a woman "knows about a woman whom he looks at".
4. 221: at the bottom of his eye- a man would only be able to get to know one specific woman when gazed down on from above as opposed to being at the same eye level which eludes to the Autocrat saying that men will see what they would on the surface first at a "bird's eye view", looking down at her (as if looking down at a penny or looking down from a tall building onto pedestrians on the sidewalk; you would not be able to tell who these people were unless you came face to face with them).
5. 221: they are painted- this is the beginning of the Autocrat's camera obscura. When light shines in through a window onto an inanimate object say, against a wall, the object's shape is then etched into the wall by a darkened pigment brought to light by the sunlight. For example, a bookcase you have had up against a wall near the window in the family room. After a while the paint on the wall will lighten around the bookcase. When you then move said bookcase away from the wall you will be able to see the outline of where the paint used to be darkened behind the bookcase that was not exposed to light. The Autocrat is beginning to explain that all of our portraits, or darkened etchings made by sunlight, cannot possibly be seen upon a wall all at once because everything will blur into one image. In replacing the bookcase above you have put a shapely china cabinet, after some time once you remove this china cabinet you will then be able to see the darkened spots of the bookcase and the china cabinet. "All of the are painted on each spot, and each other on the same surface, and many other objects at the same time, no one is seen as a picture". As you come to move your furniture about slowly but surely the memory of that bookcase will fade away, as will the "first sight" images of the thousands of women that men see all the time preventing love.
6. 221: darken a chamber- continuation of the camera obscura description; in order to create a portrait or landscape, or a more distinguishable etching on the wall, you must darken the room and only let in a small ray of light in order to be able to make out one image instead of letting in so much light that you are blinded by all of the obstructions outside. This is what a man must do in order to fall in love with one woman.
7. 222: mental camera- obscura- the process of a camera obscura is described above however a true definition of this is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen or a wall. The Autocrat is trying to say that, "we never all in love with a woman in distinction from women, until we can get an image of her through a pin-hole; and then we can see nothing else" because nothing is obstructing her from being imprinted in that man's mind in his mental camera obscura.
8. 222: fontanelle- the attendants of the anniversaries, or annual celebratory parties commemorating particular remarkable day, possibly celebrating love in this context, torment the poet to give speeches or speak songs to entertain the celebration. This coercion from the attendants puts pressure on the part of the head that has, "an artificial ulcer or a natural issue for the discharge of humours from the body". The Autocrat is creating a play on this by having the "humours discharge" as verses from the Poet.
9. 222: clutch up a handful of what grows there, - weeds and violets together- this refers to when the admirers of the Poet ask him to provide them with some of his verses or a "post- prandial (after dinner) performance" during one of these anniversaries and he is not as prepared as he would like so he rushes outside to his garden of thoughts to pull out verses but pleasant and unpleasant to filter through on the spot for these peoples' satisfaction. The way that he must improvise with what he has the Autocrat is comparing the Poet to a person attending a party and asked to bring a bouquet but forgets and is forces to pull weeds and violets alike out of the ground.
10. 222: names there on the plates- at formal dinners, names of the diners were put on the plates and assigned to them to particular seats; the Autocrat means to demonstrate the formality of the occasion.
11. 222: guest a kind-hearted, modest, genial, hopeful poet- the guest referred to is Charles Mackay a Scots poet who was on this particular occasion being bid a farewell on May 18, 1885. This is the event that is taking place during the Autocrat's story.
12. 223: Ayrshire's peasant- this allusion within the poem is referring to Robert Burns, the greatest Scots poet, references as the national poet. He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland he was celebrated for his influence in the Romantic movement and after his death was inspiration for both liberalism and socialism. He is famous for writing songs such as "Auld Land Syne" and the unofficial national anthem of Scotland "Scots Wha Hae". The Poet, at the beginning of the poem "A Good Time Going!" is summoning the influences of the "brave singer", the "sweet minstrel" "crowned" with the "noblest wreath of rhyme" and "the holly leaf of the Ayrshire's peasant". Burns wrote a poem that reads, "green, slender, leaf-clad holly boughs"/ Were twisted, gracefu', round her brows;/ I took her for some Scottish Muse, / By that same token;/ And come to stop those reckless vows, / Would soon been broken." In the Celtic tradition, holly- leaves were considered good luck. In turn, the Poet is summoning the same "good luck" that Burns had.
13. 225: feast of reason and a regular "freshet" of soul- this is the Autocrat's play on Alexander Pope's "there St. John mingles with my friendly Bowl, /The Feast of Reason and Flow of the Soul". He changes the word Flow to "freshet" meaning a small stream of fresh water but the fact that he writes in quotation marks plays on the alcoholic persuasion of the interlude after dinner, "which had lasted two or three hours" before the Professor "read his verses".
14. 225: meeting of the Massachusetts Medical Society- found in the footnotes, this poem was read for a particular audience. In context of the poem, one of the "armies" is composed of the physicians who fight disease and the other army consists of the diseases themselves whose "duty is to slay" (226)
15. 226: the bloodless stabber- this is also another name for the fatal disease that kills its victims without leaving a mark drawing blood outside of the body and claims the patient in the night
16. 227: a couple of damasks- the Schoolmistress has blushed colored cheeks when she returns from her early walk, "she has brought back two others (roses), - one on each cheek". After the Autocrat tells her that she is blushing, "in some such pretty phrase", "those two blush- roses" (her cheeks) "turned into a couple of damasks". [Damasks- a species or variety of rose with semi- double pink or light red (rarely white) flowers.] This definition shows that the Schoolmistress was initially blushing for the Autocrat but then once he pointed this fact out to her she grew darker in her color on her cheeks.
17. 227: Houyhnhnms- allusion Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels; this is a fictional race of rational horses encountered by Gulliver in the 4th journey book. Gulliver comes across these reason dependent quadrupeds and sees that the savage humanoids or Yahoos are representative of all that are bad. This reasonability causes the Houyhnhnms to lack emotion and humanity therefore engulfing both the good and bad side of the rationality approach of living. The Autocrat is referring to the "Houyhnhnm Gazette" which is a fictional publication explaining what would've happened if he was caught in this foreign land.
18. 227: Rareyry- the action or practice of using Rarey's methods to break in a horse. (OED) This technique consisted of traumatizing the horse's legs with a strap so that the horse could not stand on it. When the horse could not stand it would lie on its side and Rarey would make it feel "safe" by touching and stroking it to demonstrate that it was protected in the care of humans. The Autocrat references this technique to show the parallels between the man- tamer and a horse- tamer
19. 227: distinguished man-tamer- these rational horses have "man-tamers" similar to the way that men have "horse- tamers". The "Gazette" is establishing that he is distinguished, "possessing distinction; marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence; remarkable, eminent; famous, renowned, celebrated; of high standing (social, scientific, or other). (Formerly of actions, occasions, reputation, etc.; now almost always of persons.)" (OED). This shows that there have been many captures of men before on this land.
20. 228: shoulder- hitting and foot- striking- this is the way that Houyhnhnms refer to the way that a man punches and kicks because they do not know the terms actually used considering they are four-legged and do not have the means to engage in these physical activities.
21. 228: a measure of corn- "corn" here is meant to signify "grain" which was the way that people used to symbolize a unit of mass. "Corn" or "grain" was the legal foundation of traditional English weight systems.
22. 228: floral pater-noster- "pater-noster" signifies the Lord's Prayer (the central prayer in Christianity) in Latin. The Autocrat in this particular instance is giving Nature a personification and saying that she "never wearies over her floral pater- noster". He is making a comparison of Nature to poets who constantly write about flowers. He brings up the need of a poet to be original and potentially leave out flowers from his poems altogether however by preceding the pater-noster with "Why should we be more shy of repeating ourselves than spring be tired of blossoms or the night of stars?" He shows that Nature cannot possibly tire of its own creed of a floral Lord's Prayer just as a Christian does not tire of his or her pater- noster.
23. 228: crevices of Cyclopean walls- walls that are "Cyclopean" in that they have crevices or holes in between the boulders that they are made up of. Cyclopes were used to make these particular walls as seen in the Polyphemus, the Cyclops, was big enough to hurl boulders at Odysseus and his men. "When we were a good way out to sea, I could not resist a taunt. I called out, and Polyphemus came to the edge of the seaside cliff. In his fury he tore up a huge boulder and flung it at us" (Book 9, The Odyssey). This particular type of masonry is seen particularly in the limestone blocks and gaps of the walls of Mycenae and Tiryns that are said to have been constructed by Cyclopes' strength. These stones that make up the wall are made by Nature and assembled without cutting or etching the blocks but fit into place, as pieces would fit into a puzzle. The Autocrat mentions this technique because a Cyclops uses Nature to create something beautiful as a poet uses floral imagery throughout his poems. It also shows that even the strongest of creatures cannot create something as flawless as a flower in Nature because it still has crevices that do not make a finished wall.
24. 229: the wreck of Nineveh- in the Bible Nineveh is first sighted in Genesis 10:11 when Ashur builds it. The book of Jonah depicts Nineveh as a "wicked city worthy of destruction" and was the flourishing capital of the Assyrian Empire. According to the Bible, the desolation of the city was God's doing because of the pride of Assyria. This great city was destroyed and yet flowers are still a prayer of Nature. Cities may come and go in humanity but Nature is still consistent in creating flowers as an Amen!
25. 229: the Babel- heap- also mentioned in the Book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel, was built after the Great Flood. The tower "whose top may reach unto heaven", is not directly named the Tower of Babel in the Bible but mentioned as the city and its tower. The people, who all spoke the same language and created this city and tower said, "and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth". However when God saw this he realized that nothing they sought would be out of their reach so he came down and separated these people by different languages. "Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." He said (Genesis 11:1-9). Babel comes from the Hebrew word, "to jumble" which was exactly what God did to the people and their language. The Autocrat references this in order to show that creatures and humans created these structures alike and yet even when they are parted and destroyed Nature still stands with her flowers growing rather than every other structure resulting in destruction or imperfections.
26. 229: It is pleasant to be foolish- in Greek, foolish or fool mean without mind. The divinity student says this phrase in a "dead language" which could be either Greek, Latin or another extinct language not spoken as often in 19th century Boston. The saying in Latin is "dulce est desipere" in Loco, according to Horace: 4 Odes, xii. 28, the quote continues further to say, "It is delightful to play the fool occasionally; it is nice to throw aside one's dignity and relax at the proper time". (bartleby.com) Horace was a Roman lyrical poet during the time of Augustus. It could have been possible that the divinity student was attempting to quote one of his many works in attempts to not only display his intellect of Horace and his "summer reading" (229) to the Autocrat but to show that it is alright for the Autocrat to slip superfluous anecdotes into his lectures and relax from time to time at the breakfast table.
27. 230: the narrowing channel- channels were the main ways that ships would get from one port to another when it came to trading in that time period. Here, a countryman is attempting to sell some huckleberries to the Autocrat and his handmaid accepts. The "channel" here is the fruit seller's hand and it is funneling the huckleberries into the "large tin pan" beneath. It is "narrowing" because the fruit seller is attempting to count them at the same time in order to price how many he is giving to the handmaid making sure that he is not giving her too many in order to sell them to other patrons.
28. 230: the "Anvil Chorus"- this is the English name for the "Gypsy Chorus". A chorus from Giuseppe Verdi's opera in 1853. The Autocrat is making a comparison to the way that the "wholesome- looking countryman" is handling the huckleberries to the gypsies singing in the opera. He says "it has not more music for him".
29. 230: put my wedding- ring on- the Autocrat as well as Holmes had a fascination with the trees in and surrounding Boston. He would use a measuring tape and measure the girth of each tree he found particularly large with his "thirty- foot tape… [He has] worn a tape almost out on the rough barks of our of New England elms and other big trees" (230). He refers to this act as putting a wedding ring around each of his "tree wives". He claims that he "always trembles for a celebrated tree when (he) approaches it for the first time" (233). Talking of trees is "one of his specialties".
30. 230: Brigham Young- was an American leader who was a settler of the Western United States. He founded Salt Lake City and was the first governor of Utah territory. He had obtained the nickname of "American Moses" because he led his Mormon followers through desert to what they thought Utah to be, the promise land. The practice of polygamy, literally meaning many married or when a marriage includes more than two partners, was most advocated and now mainly affiliated with Brigham Young. He is considered the "Father of Mormon Polygamy". The Autocrat alludes to Young because he claims that he has obtained "as many tree wives as Brigham Young has human ones" (230).
31. 230: all Bloomers- Holmes has John making a pun in this situation when he says, "They're all Bloomers". The obvious reason he says this is that the Autocrat's tree wives bloom in spring whereas during this time period a particular fashion statement was being made by a group of feminists led by Amelia Jenks Bloomer. Bloomer has been long affiliated with the reformed style of women wearing "bloomers" which are loose trousers gathered at the ankles. These were advocated by Bloomer because she supported that, "The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance" (Lewis, womenhistory.com). It could be possible that John was making a comparison of the Autocrat's "tree wives" to those affiliated with Bloomer's want for suffrage and other women's rights. He calls John's comment a trifling which is, "The action of the verb trifle v.1; jesting or frivolous talk; fooling; idle, foolish, or frivolous conduct or practice; frivolous delay or waste of time" (OED)
32. 231: Ulmus Americana- scientific name for the American elm; a species native to eastern North America
33. 231: ciliated edges of its samara- samara is "the indehiscent winged fruit of the elm, ash, sycamore (etc.)" the Autocrat is specifically referencing a part of the American elm and the fact that this "fruit of the elm" is ciliated, which means "chiefly Bot. Of a part: fringed or surrounded with hairs or fine bristles"(OED). He brings this up because he wishes to address the scientific elements of the tree described and show that it is silly to only pay attention to these matters in order to appreciate trees.
34. 231: anserine individual – the Autocrat is mocking those who only see the scientific discourse of trees and calls them anserine, which means "of, pertaining to, or of the nature of a goose or as the goose is conventionally (though erroneously) a type of unintelligence: Stupid, silly" (OED). He says this because he claims that there is more to the beauty and love of trees then simple facts that can be regurgitated by a scientist.
35. 231: Dental Formula- the Autocrat lists this formula after a few other scientific terms in order to show the monotony and ridiculousness of interest in the scientific elements of trees. The elements shown below the title are as follows: i= the number of incisors, c= the number of canines, p= the number of premolars, and m= the number of molars. If you were to work out the equation that the Autocrat gives on the page it equates to 0 for all categories therefore showing that the scientific means of figuring out trees is superfluous and unnecessary because it does not demonstrate anything productive or lucrative of appreciation for the arbors.
36. 231: Daddy Gilpin- William Gilpin is the "Daddy" alluded to here by the Autocrat. He writes that Gilpin is, "slowest of men… yet delicious in his slowness…" William Gilpin was best known for his original idea of the "picturesque". This was an aesthetic ideal in his "Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape" He says is the beginning of the essays that, "I have several times been surprised at finding us represented, as supposing, all beauty to consist in picturesque beauty- and the face of nature to be examined only by the rules of painting. Whereas, in fact, we always speak a different language. We speak of the grand scenes of nature, tho uninteresting in a picturesque light, as having a strong effect on the imagination- often a stronger, than when they are properly disposed for the pencil. We every where make a distinction between scenes, that are beautiful, and amusing; and scenes that are picturesque" (Gilpin, ii-iii). William Gilpin had a unique style of writing in that he described everything he saw in profound detail because he knew that the picturesque varied between objects and the spectator. The Autocrat takes note of Gilpin's style, knowing that the artist liked to take his time in writing scenes and describing the objects thoroughly in a beautiful, "delicious" way.
37. 231: "Dr. Syntax"- William Combe was an author in 1809 for Poetical Magazine in which he wrote The Tour of Dr Syntax in search of the Picturesque. Within these publications, or epic poems, was a character Dr. Syntax who would embark on different comical journeys in combination with caricatures drawn by Thomas Rowlandson. Combe, the author, took Daddy Gilpin's picturesque strategy and applied it to the everyday journeys of Dr. Syntax. The Autocrat makes an observation that he used to think that these stories were written as a joke however he knows that Combe was using what Gilpin had founded. "Père [Father in French] Gilpin had the kind of science I like in the study of Nature- a little less observation… and a little more poetry (232)"
38. 232: long f f- up to the end of the 18th century, medial "s"- an "s" that came in the middle of the word- was printed as a "long s" or f , which is similar to our "f" without the large crossbar in the middle of the letter. This is seen throughout the writings of Gilpin.
39. 232: White of Selborne- Gilbert White was a "parson- naturalist" meaning that he was a priest or parson who saw that the study of science as an extension of his religious work. He wanted to understand all creations because they were Creations made by God. He is regarded as England's first ecologist and one of the founders of modern respect for nature. The Autocrat lists White as the observer of Nature.
40. 232: mother- idea- each type of tree has characteristic associations or over- arching traits that apply to every tree within that classification; this is what the Autocrat is referring to. An example of a mother- idea would be the stoutness in an oak tree.
41. 232: the Linneaean system- this system includes the biological classification set of classes, orders, families, genus and species of all organisms as set up by Carl Linnaeus. The Autocrat is still refuting the scientific classification of trees with this allusion by saying that no one cares about the systematic groupings involving the number of stamens or pistils a flower has.
42. 232: the American elm- this tree differs from the English elm because it is "hermaphroditic", having flowers with both male and female parts and therefore capable of self- pollination. This is why the Autocrat says that this tree, "betrays something of both; yet sometimes… puts on a certain resemblance to its sturdier neighbor". He is saying that although the elms (English and American) are similar in some aspects the American betrays "organization" of Nature by having "perfect flowers"
43. 233: tarrying with him- tarrying means delaying (OED)
44. 233: granite obelisk- an obelisk is a tapering, four-sided, usually monolithic pillar or column of stone with a pyramidal apex, set up as a monument or landmark (originally in ancient Egypt). (OED) and this particular obelisk is a granular crystalline rock consisting essentially of quartz, orthoclase-feldspar, and mica, much used in building (OED). The Autocrat makes this reference to a man who is chopping down a poplar to make room for his new house. The Autocrat is saying that human life is preferred to vegetable existence. The Autocrat is mocking those who say that it is easy to tare down this beautiful tree or "the living cone" but the hard part is building a monument, house, building, or "granite obelisk" which in his eyes is absurd.
45. 233: in the neighborhood of Pawtucket- Pawtucket was a major contributor of cotton textiles during the American Industrial Revolution, near Rhode Island. The Autocrat seems t be making a joke about how he was able to see the great Johnston elm in such a heavily polluted area during that time period.
46. 233: physiognomy- "The general appearance or external features of a material object; esp. the contour or configuration of a location, landscape, etc." (OED)
47. 233: Providence Plantations- the first permanent European American settlement in present- day Rhode Island (one of the original 13 colonies established in the United States); established in 1636 by Roger Williams. He was exiled from the religious persecution in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and he and his fellow settlers named the colony Providence Plantation believe that God had brought him and his followers there. The Autocrat went there to study the landscapes and appearances of the country
233: the great Johnston elm- "the Johnston Elm was noted for its size. In 1858 its measurement was taken when its girth was one foot from the ground was 40 feet, six feet from the ground 28 feet, and the girth of its two branches, respectively, 14 ½ and 14 feet. On the Angell farm, near the sire of this elm, are several springs"48.
234: Report upon the Trees and Shrubs of Massachusetts- a zoological and botanical survey of the State of Massachusetts "to promote the agricultural benefit of the Commonwealth" by George Barrell Emerson; September 19, 1846
49. 235: Berkshire County- Oliver Wendell Homes was a summer resident in Pittsfield for a number of years
235: the "great tree" on Boston Common- the reason that the words "great tree" are in quotation marks is because this tree was so "great" there was a book written by J. C. Warren M.D (The President of the Boston Society of Natural History) in 1855 about it. The Autocrat says that this is the "second rank". This goes to show how enormously popular this tree was and how much more the Autocrat loved the first ranked.50.
236: Cohasset- town in Boston first seen in 1614 where a large tree was found that the Autocrat measured and graced the title of "tree wife" upon.
51. 236: Newburyport- a small coastal city in Massachusetts, northeast of Boston; what is now known as "Maudslay State Park" in a legal battle Frederick Strong Moseley and Martha Brookes Hutcheson created agricultural fields on the land in Newburyport including gardens and specimen trees.
52. 236: SYLVA NOVANGLICA- this is an Autocrat original creation in hopes that someone will created a "bush", which is Sylva in Latin, novanglica. There is already a flora novanglica, which studies the specimens of flora and plants. The Autocrat would like to expand this to all possible vegetation and especially to "New England Elms and other Trees"
236: our friend, who has given us so many interesting figures…- identification of this "friend" who wrote "Trees of America" is D.J. Browne in 1846 in New York53.
236: "Trees of America"- is a publication of trees "native and foreign, pictorially and botanically delineated and scientifically and popularly described, illustrated by numerous engravings". This work does exactly what its title spells out. The Autocrat is alluding to this book in admiration wishing that he too could photograph another dozen series of English trees for the world to view on the same scale of Browne's works.
237: la piñata umana- in Italian this phrase means "the human plant"; Vittorio Alfieri, describes, in his autobiography "Vita scritta da esso" ("Life Written By It") "an organic pattern of human growth". The Autocrat brings this up when speaking about the differences between development of men and societies of Old World versus New World. 54.
237: Alfieri- Vittorio Alfieri was considered the "founder of Italian tragedy"; he was a well renowned Italian dramatist and poet. He broke his life down in his autobiography to specifics regarding age, thought processes, and his own experiences and travels.
55. 237: Mr. Hutchinson- Jonathan Hutchinson was an English surgeon, ophthalmologist (studied the eyes and their diseases), dermatologist (studied skin and its diseases), venereologist (studied sexually transmitted diseases), and pathologist (studied diagnosis of disease). His accomplishments and studies advanced many aspects of the natural science world. He was the first to describe treatments for several diseases and wrote countless articles about his findings. He has "given us some excellent English data to begin with" to start a comparison of national physiognomies.
56. 237: animus of Nature- animus signifies "breath" or "life force" and "soul". Here, the Autocrat is attempting to personify Nature and give it life in order to have its "soul" studied as opposed to how a naturalist would observe Nature and simply list scientific facts about it instead of making its "life force" "a subject of elaborate study"
57. 237: the English elm- one of the largest and fastest- growing deciduous, or "falling off at maturity" trees in Europe. "Falling off at maturity" means that these trees lose their leaves seasonally and shed other plant structures as well such as petals after flowering when the fruit is ripe and this means that it is done with its purpose
58. 237: a complete flora and fauna- flora is the term used for all plant life in a given region and fauna is all of the animal life in a particular region or time. The Autocrat is saying that each country has its own set of these two things and may have similarities and differences that need to be studied and could lead to modifications and expanse in inventions.
59. 238: if not kept up by fresh supplies- Dr. Robert Knox was a Scottish surgeon, anatomist, and zoologist (most popular in Edinburgh) but most famous for "body snatching". There was a shortage of corpses for anatomical purposes in the UK before the Anatomy Act of 1832. The main legal supplies of corpses were those that were condemned to death or dissection by the courts. Dr. Knox knew this and was running out of bodies to dissect and study. Therefore he resulted to body- snatching and would dig up graves after corpses were buried in order to take them and dissect them. This is applicable to what the Autocrat is saying because "without fresh supplies" no one will be able to find out new information about things such as, Anglo-Saxons not being able to live here because of their anatomical makeup.
60. 238: one of our literary celebrities- this could potentially be a reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson and his work, English Traits.
61. 238: half-mourning- (see earlier note for p. 202)
239: poor Benjamin's grave- (identified as Benjamin Woodbridge in further reading)- Benjamin Woodbridge was a 19 year old boy stabbed to death by rapier, a long, thin, sharp-pointed sword designed chiefly for thrusting (OED), in a duel with Henry Phillips in July of 1728. Many said that a "woman is at he bottom of it" and some said that "cards and wine" were to blame; no one really knows the exact truth. "He had a small stab, under the right arm, but what prov'd fatal to him was a thrust he received, under his right breast, which came out at the small of his back".62.
240: Day of Judgment- the Apocalypse, when the dead rise from their graves and account themselves to God; the Autocrat references this because he is saying that this day is the only day that the remains of the people below those corresponding headstones will be known to no one other than God because of the headstone-moving- "perpetrators".
63. 240: selectmen of an African kraal- village- the Autocrat is attempting to make a joke in this instance at the expense of the New England town officials at the time called "selectmen"; a kraal is a village of Southern or Central African native peoples, consisting of a collection of huts surrounded by a fence or stockade, and often having a central space for cattle, etc. Also transf. the community of such a village (OED). These higher up officials of these poor villages, Holmes is saying, would have had more respect for their ancestors than the "selectmen" of an educated Boston who are herding their dead like the kraal would do to cattle.
64. 240: "Here lies"- this is the Autocrat making a pun about the grave site in question; "lies" is mean who is "lying" beneath the particular gravestone as well as the "lies" told about who is actually underneath the corresponding stone because after moving the graves around in order to create symmetry within the cemetery.