The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Pages 241 - 280


Ben Raphael, Kristen Kneis

241: lived in that home at the left hand. In 1857, Oliver Wendell Holmes and his family moved from 8 Montgomery Place to 21 Charles Street in Boston. The house "at the left hand", which the Professor, another of Holmes's personas, "died out of" (moved out of) is 8 Montgomery Place. The Autocrat compares the home to the body. When we grow tired of a house (the house becomes old) we move out. In the same way, when we grow old (tired in our body) we die. (William Sloane Kennedy, Oliver Wendell Holmes: poet, littérateur, scientist, 1883).

241: natural garment. The body. This is the first "envelope" that surrounds the soul.

241: artificial integuments. Clothing. This is the second "envelope." Like an onion the soul has many layers that build on one another. The last layer is the world (the region of space-time) in which all souls temporarily inhabit.

242: John Hunter. John Hunter (1728-1793), the great Scottish anatomist and surgeon, was one of Oliver Wendell Holmes's personal heroes. Hunter was the youngest of ten children (three of which died before he was born). He dropped out of school at the age of thirteen and received no further formal education (he was not a university man. Eventually, he went to London to join his brother, an already established anatomist and obstetrician, and quickly displayed an aptitude for dissection. After serving as an army surgeon for two years (in France & Portugal) Hunter returned to London and established his own anatomy school. His writings were of great significance to the medical community and dealt with a wide range of topics (teeth, surgical work on gunshot wounds, venereal diseases, the lymphatic system). The Autocrat is poking fun at Hunter's lack of a University Education. Although a great anatomist, Hunter lacked a clear writing style, and often made use of the word "shall" for he thought that it was the educated thing to do.

242: farmers, sailors, astronomers, poets, lovers, condemned criminals. The farmer looks to the sky for signs of rain and sun for his crops. The sailor looks for signs of wind and weather so as to safely travel. The poet looks for inspiration and to dwell upon the cosmos. Condemned criminals look to the sky for the last time. Every man/woman has a particular view. Thus the "blue sky…shapes itself to fit each particular being beneath it."

242: shriek like a mandrake. The Autocrat is here referencing the ancient legend of the mandrake. This legend (that the mandrake promotes fertility/ that its roots look human in form) dates back to the Book of Genesis: "And Reuben went in the days of the wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes" (King James Bible). Over time the legend of the mandrake grew in size, causing people to become afraid of its power. A new part of the legend developed: all mandrakes carried within them a demon. To uproot a mandrake was to instantly die. Later, the cause of death was attributed to a horrible shriek sent out by the mandrake as it was torn from the ground.

243: one brief process. When we die (when we leave our houses; our bodies) we will see our lives as a whole. The "Past" will come forth and present itself to us. Both sins and good deeds are recorded, etched on "the wall of Infinity." No one can escape the truth that death reveals.
243: its photograph on the wall. In the same way that the sun had bleached the wall behind the blanks places in the bookcase, it had previously bleached the wall around a map that hung there. The Autocrat is claiming that nothing, no matter how far gone, can be left covered forever.

243: five lingered in the doorway. i.e the Holmes family. At first the family consisted of only Holmes and his wife ("two shadows"). By his time of leaving it consisted of five members: Oliver Wendell Holmes, his wife Amelia, a daughter (Amelia Jackson Holmes), and two sons (Edward Jackson Holmes & Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.) (The European Graduate School, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr-Biography). This helps to display the passing of time and the length of time the professor (Holmes himself) spent within the walls of 8 Montgomery Place.

243: one of the shadows was claimed by its owner to be longer than his own. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who would go on to be a Supreme Court justice, grew rapidly. He wound up being over six feet tall. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a slight man, only five fee four inches. When Holmes took leave of Montgomery Place (1857) Holmes Jr. was 16. It is probable that he was already taller than his father. This is another image used to show the length of time spent within the house. Obviously, the professor lived there for quite some time, long enough for the son to outgrow the father ("What changes he saw in that quiet place!").

244: autumnal sojourn by the Connecticut. In 1838 Holmes became a Professor of Anatomy at Dartmouth Medical School (located in Hanover, New Hampshire, on the banks of the Connecticut River). The "autumnal sojourn" refers to the start of a new school term. Each Autumn Holmes would return to New Hampshire, temporarily, to teach. (The European Graduate School, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr-Biography).

244: where Ledyard launched. John Ledyard (1751-1789), an American explorer, attended Dartmouth University for a short period of time (1772-1773). While still as student, and dissatisfied with his education, Ledyard left for a term to live with the Iroquois people. He is most famous at Dartmouth for chopping down a tree, assembling a canoe from the downed trunk, and sailing that canoe down the Connecticut River.

244: Pilgrim's Heavenward Path. Bunyan, John. Pilgrim's Progress (1678). The "hills of Beulah, as the Professor calls them, are a reference to Bunyan's text: "a delightful land, the country of Beulah" (Isa. 62:4; Song of Sol. 2:10-12). From Beulah the Pilgrims can see the "Celestial City."

244: "Dollond." The Dollond is a type of telescope patented by the British optician, John Dollond (1706-1761). It is a refracting telescope that makes use of an achromatic lens ("a lens: transmitting light without separating it into its constituent colours; affecting light of all visible wavelengths in the same way" (OED)). The Professor uses "his old "Dollond" to see the "Shining Ones" (another reference to Pilgrim's Progress).

244: patulous fage. This is a joke. Patulous fage is the Professor's way of saying "the spreading beech." The spreading beach is a tree with limbs that spread out in a horizontal or upright manner.

244: amber-flowing Housatonic. This is the main river near Oliver Wendell Holmes's summer residence (1849-1856) in Pittsfield, which is located in the Berkshire Mountains. Holmes wrote a small group of poems specifically for a Pittsfield town fair. They were never published but can be found in The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes by Emma Elizabeth Brown (1895), pages 238-239. Holmes also wrote a poem by the name of Vision. This poem deals specifically with his time spent near the Housatonic and can be found in The Poet Among The Hills: Oliver Wendell Holmes in Berkshire by Joseph Edward Adams Smith.

245: great land-storm. i.e geological pre-history. This refers to when the mountains were violently thrust up from the volcanic regions below. The mountain that the Autocrat refers to here (Ascutney) is a product of the Mesozoic-Age (252-66 billion years ago). It is an intrusive mountain. Intrusion is "the influx of rock in a state of fusion into fissures or between strata…" (OED).

245: breasts of a half-buried Titaness. In ancient Greek Mythology the Titans were "…a family of giants, the children of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth), who contended for the sovereignty of heaven and were overthrown by Zeus." The Autocrat is here claiming that the "twin summits" (Mt. Ascutney), pointing out of the ground, look like the "breasts" of a fallen Titanness who was slain by Zeus's thunderbolt ("stretched out by a stray thunderbolt").

245: seven golden candlesticks. "And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks." (Revelation 1:12). This refers to a vision given to John the Apostle by God. The "seven blessed summers" stand brightly in Holmes's memory as seven candles sticks would stand brightly before his eyes. Also, because it is a biblical reference, it is implied that the "seven blessed summers" were divine in nature.

245: maple-shadowed plains of Berkshire. This is another reference to Holmes's summer residence in Pittsfield, where he spent the "seven blessed summers" mentioned just above.

245: mountain-circled green of Grafton. This refers to the college green of Dartmouth, which is in Hanover (Grafton County), NH.

245: Patapsco. This is a river in the central Maryland area. It runs into the Chesapeake Bay. This river is near where Joseph Roby taught (University of Maryland).

245: the Charles. This refers to the Charles River, on which Harvard is situated. Holmes was a Professor at Harvard from 1847-1882. Holmes refers to the Patapsco (see above) and the Charles as a way of uniting himself with his friend Joseph Roby. Both men once taught at "the Medical School of Dartmouth College" and now, displaced from this institution (and one another), both men look into the river nearest their current location and recall the Housatonic.

245: Sairy Gamp's Mrs. Harris. Mrs. Harris is the imaginary friend of the gin-swilling night nurse, Sairy Gamp, in Charles Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit (serialized in 1843-1844). Gamp constantly refers to Mrs. Harris but she is never seen. Those who the Holmes told of Joseph Roby thought that he was also imaginary. None of Holmes's acquaintances (outside of Dartmouth) ever laid eyes on him.

246: nullum tui negotii. This is a joke. The language is Latin: "none of your business." The Autocrat does not feel the need to tell ‘us', the reader, about what he said to the schoolmistress.

246: on Dighton Rock. i.e. a large boulder located in the Taunton Riverbed (Berkley, Mass.). The rock is known for its petroglyphs ("A rock carving, esp. a prehistoric one" (OED)), which are of an unknown origin. These carvings are only visible at low tide. In The Wonderful Works of God Commemorated (1690), Cotton Mather (a notable New England Puritan) describes the rock as being "…a mighty Rock, on a perpendicular side whereof by a River, which at High Tide covers part of it, there are very deeply Engraved, no man alive knows How or When about, half a score lines…" The Autocrat is here claiming that our deepest feelings/secrets, the "inscriptions on our hearts", are also not visible until we reach a depressed state (our personal "dead-low tide").

247: the Asylum stands. i.e. The Boston Lunatic Asylum (opened in 1839). This asylum was one of the first to promote a humane and fair form of treatment for the mentally ill (patients were allowed visitors and access to regions outside of their wards). It was a symbol of Boston's civic spirit. As described in Charles Dickens's American Notes (1842), "Every patient in this asylum sits down to dinner every day with a knife and fork…At every meal, moral influence alone restrains the more violent among them from cutting the throats of the rest."

247: yellow weeds. i.e. "ore from the gold mines." B., a patient in The Boston Lunatic Asylum, is crazed and therefore thinks that the "yellow weeds" in his hand are actually gold.

247: made a Polyphemus of my weak-eyed schoolmaster. In Greek mythology, Polyphemus is a one-eyed giant. In Homer's Odyssey he captures Odysseus and his men in a cave. To escape, Odysseus drives a flaming spear into his eye and blinds him. Y. "made a Polyphemus" of the schoolmaster by stabbing him in the eye with a stick.

247: sent him a trifle. This is the assumption of the schoolboys who "are jealous of rich folks." They think that the rich parents (of Y.) have sent the schoolmaster a small amount of money as recompense for his lost eye.

247: made him easy for life. The Autocrat, who is older and wiser now, assumes that the rich parents (of Y.) actually settled some type of pension for the schoolmaster so that he'd never have to work again ("made him easy for life").

247: Hall of Eblis, in "Vathek." This refers to William Beckford's novel, Vathek (1782). Within the Hall of Eblis "Beckford shows…a concourse of doomed souls, each with his hand pressed above his burning heart, each carrying his own hell within him, having lost heaven's most precious boon, hope!" (The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction, Dorothy Scarborough, 1917). These men suffer from the deepest form of dejection. But, the Asylum patient (that the Autocrat is describing) does not feel dejection. The flame has become ash; the crazed patient is damned without knowledge of his damnation.

247: figure crouched in a corner. i.e. one of the patients (of The Boston Lunatic Asylum) who is anxious and delusional.

247: Indian mummies and skeletons found buried in the sitting posture. Native American's bury the dead in a sitting position. This position is a symbol of the continuation of the soul (the eternal spirit). Even when dead, these souls continue to influence the living. Philip Freneau's poem, The Indian Burying Ground, describes this: "The Indian, when from life releas'd/ Again is seated with his friend,/ and shares gain the joyous feast"…"Bespeak the nature of the soul./Activity, that knows no rest"… "They do not lie, but here they sit." The Autocrat is here saying that the crazed man sits like he is a dead Indian. But, the crazed man's soul ("heart") is ash and thus is not eternal.

248: must have been grinding it at home. The Autocrat has already remarked, on page 246, that ready-ground coffee does not make him anxious or depressed ("never affects the head"). Since he now feels "miserably" he assumes that the coffee must have been ground at home (not ready-ground).

248: that electrical experiment. ? There are many experiments that fit this description. Benjamin Franklin, in his Electrical Papers (1747, 1769, and 1774) describes one such experiment. A book, with a gold cover decoration, is set on a wine glass. One end of a wire is curved and hooked around the book's edge. The other end is elevated. A Leyden jar, "a device for storing static electricity", is used to create a charge (Encyclopedia Britannica). The Leyden jar is place on the book, opposite the wire. The room is made to be dark. Using an instrument of some kind, the elevated side of the wire is moved in the direction of the Leyden jar. Another wire sticks out of the Leyden jar. The two wires meet. There is a spark and the gold lights up in flames. The gold cover decoration, which probably contains a title or symbol, is the "name or legend" that "springs out of the darkness in characters of fire." The Autocrat uses this to explain poetic inspiration. If the flash (the inspiration) can pass through his soul then he can clearly transcribe them. The flash creates the fire, which makes the poem visible, which allows for creation to take place.

248-249: nimbus…cirrus…cumulus. Nimbus clouds are "…large grey rain" clouds (OED). These clouds tend to appear at low-levels (under 6,500 feet). Cirrus clouds resemble "…a curl or lock of hair or wool" and stretch for great distances across the sky (OED). These clouds are a sign of deteriorating weather (incoming tropical storms) and appear at a high level (above 20,000 feet). Cumulus clouds look like "…rounded masses heaped upon each other and resting on a nearly horizontal base" (OED). These clouds are a sign of fair weather and appear at low-levels, although they are vertically developing and can grow in height to around 39,000 feet. The Autocrat uses the nimbus cloud to represent "youthful passion", which often rains down, uncontrollably, upon its subjects. He uses the Cirrus cloud to represent the slow deterioration of unfulfilled aspirations into nothingness. The storm (the passion) is distant, although visible. He uses the Cumulus cloud to represent the fair ("…tolerable though not highly excellent" (OED)) state of sluggishness and lack, which tends to build on itself. The storm (the passion) has gone. The poetic spirit cannot come from the cirrus or the cumulus. It must come from a place of passion. Thus, the Autocrat calls on the "Muse" to instill this passion within him.

249: those iron gates. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a poem titled, The Iron Gate and published a collection titled The Iron Gate, and Other Poems (1880). Holmes most likely borrowed the phrase "The Iron Gate" from Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress: "And tear our pleasures with rough strife/ Thorough the iron gates of life." The exact meaning of the phrase is unknown.

250: clustering nenuphars. Nenuphar: "A water lily, esp. the white water lily, Nymphaea alba, or the yellow water lily, Nuphar luteum." (OED). These flowers tend to cluster together on the water. When yellow these flowers look like golden stars in the blue sky (on the blue water).

250: distinguished moralist of the last century. i.e. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), one of Oliver Wendell Holmes's personal heroes. "Johnson was arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history" (Pat Rogers, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). With the publication of The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table Holmes followed Johnson in the moral tradition. The sub-title of The Autocrat, "Every man his own Boswell", refers to Johnson's biographer, James Boswell. Boswell wrote the premier text on Johnson (The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)), which helped to develop the biographical genre.

251: illustrious historian. This may be referring to John Lothrop Motley (1814-1877), a dear friend of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and a revered American historian and diplomat, or Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), an equally revered British historian and Whig politician. In a book of Motley's quotations (Quotations From John Lothrop Motley, David Widger) a brief expert from one of his works declares the "intolerable tendency to puns." In an article entitled "Dryden", which first appeared in the Edinburgh Review in 1828, Macaulay states, "Alliterations, puns, antithetical forms of expression lavishly employed where no corresponding opposition existed between the thoughts expressed, strained allegories, pedantic allusions, everything, in short, quaint and affected, in matter and manner, made up what was then considered as fine writing. The eloquence of the bar, the pulpit, and the council-board, was deformed by conceits which would have disgraced the rhyming shepherds of an Italian academy." Thus, both "illustrious" historians condemned the use of puns. It is unknown who the Autocrat is specifically referring to here.

251: skip. The pun is as follows: insects "skip" in the sense of motion (i.e. he skipped along the sidewalk or the little girl skipped passed the schoolhouse) while quartan fevers ("A fever that recurs every fourth day" (OED)) and tertian fevers (A fever "characterized by the occurrence of a paroxysm every third day" (OED)) "skip" in the sense of passing over from one point to the next (i.e. He was diagnosed with a fever on Monday. He felt fine Tuesday through Thursday but on Friday his feverish symptoms returned. The fever must have "skipped" a few days.")

252: temperance movement. This is another stupid pun. Ile is the Yankee pronunciation of "oil." Brittan is an island or for short, an "ile." Thus, an Englishman, on the ile, must come to America ("the Continent") to "weaken his grog or punch" for at this time temperance fanatics were attempting to promote abstinence from liquor.

252: quasi. i.e. "in other words." "Almost, virtually; as it were, so to speak; in effect" (OED). Yet another pun: "Because it smells odious" sounds like "it's melodious."

252: purslain and chick-weed and sorrel. These are common weeds. Purslain (also Purslane): "A low-growing succulent plant…with small yellow flowers in the axils of its fleshy leaves…" (OED). Chick-Weed: "A name now usually applied to a small weedy plant…" (OED). Sorrel: "One or other of certain small perennial plants…" (OED). The Autocrat discusses these weeds to show that "folly" in conversation unavoidable pops up, like weeds in a garden.

252: Reverend Father Thomas Sanchez. Sanchez (1550-1610), a Jesuit, devoted his life to composing his "folio" of work, much of which is largely controversial. He helped to push forward the principle of probabilism: "the moral system which holds that, when there is question solely of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action, it is permissible to follow a solidly probable opinion in favor of liberty even though the opposing view is more probable" (Catholic Encyclopedia). Sanchez was also a noted casuist. Casuistry is "that part of Ethics which resolves cases of conscience, applying the general rules of religion and morality to particular instanecs in which ‘circumstances alter cases…Often (and perhaps originally) applied to a quibbling or evasive way of dealing with difficult cases of duty; sophistry" (OED). This is why the Autocrat cites Sanchez as an example of "certain forms of philosophical speculation which involve an approach to the absurd."

252: "De Sancto Matrimonio." "Of Holy Matrimony" (1602). This is the Reverend Father Thomas Sanchez's most famous and influential work. The book eventually was banned due to a perversion of the author's intended meaning.

252: shay. This is a rural pronunciation of chaise (from chair). Chaise is "a term applied to various pleasure or travelling carriages, the exact application having varied from time to time…"(OED).

253: the parson. In the poem the "parson" ("In the pre-Reformation Church and the Church of England: a person presented to an ecclesiastical living by a patron and admitted and instituted to it by a bishop" (OED)) and the "deacon" are the same. Both titles refer to the owner of the chaise.

253: Georgius Secundus. i.e. George II, King of Great Britain. George II ruled from 1727-1760. Presided over the throne during the Seven Years War (1756-63). The war was ended "by the Franco-British Treaty of Paris (Feb. 10, 1763), Britain won North American and India [from the French] and became the undisputed leader in overseas colonization" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

253: German hive. This refers to the "Hanoverian succession" (1715). George I, a German, and the father of George II, was brought over to England to guarantee the Protestant succession to the English throne (George I was Queen Anne of Great Britain's (1665-1714) closet living protestant relative). The House of Hanover held the British throne until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

254: Lisbon town. In 1755, the town of Lisbon, in the Kingdom of Portugal, experienced a devastating earthquake (which later gave way to a series of fires and a tsunami). The earthquake destroyed the majority of the town, killed ten to one hundred thousand people, and hit on the holy day of All Saints. Intellectuals of the Enlightenment latched onto the earthquake as a means of attacking the Orthodox Christian notion of a rational world (in which bad is balanced by good). In his poem, Poéme sur le désastre de Lisbonne (Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, 1755), Voltaire used the Earthquake to discredit Leibniz's notion that this is "the best of all possible worlds" (Théodicée, 1710). An excerpt from Voltaire's poem: "Come, ye philosophers, who cry, "All's well," And contemplate this ruin of a world."

254: Braddock's army. The Braddock expedition, lead by General Edward Braddock (1695-1755), was a failed attempt by the British forces to overtake the French Fort Duquesne (in what is now Pittsburgh) during the French & Indian (Seven Years) War. Braddock led around 1,300 men into battle (The Battle of the Monongahela, commonly referred to as Braddock's Defeat): 456 never returned and 422 returned wounded. Braddock and 26 other officers were killed during the conflict. The Indians who were allied with France scalped ("Left without a scalp to its crown") and looted the soldiers who could not retreat (either due to death or injury).

254: thoroughbrace. "Each of a pair of strong braces or bands of leather connecting the front and back C-springs and supporting the body of a coach or other vehicle" (OED).

254: lancewood. "A tough elastic wood imported chiefly from the West Indies, used for carriage-shafts, fishing-rods, cabinet-work, etc…" (OED).

254: crossbars. "A transverse bar; a bar placed or fixed across another bar or part of a structure" (OED).

254: "Settler's ellum." i.e. "Settlers' elm." This refers to the oldest tree in the colony.

254: their blunt ends frizzled. These are the iron wedges used to split trees. Wedge: "A piece of wood, metal, or other hard material, thick at one end and tapering to a thin edge at the other; chiefly used as a tool operated by percussion applied to the thick end, for splitting wood, stone, etc…" (OED). The "settlers' elm" is so hard that the wedges split and fragment rather than the wood.

254: prop-iron. "an iron bar that supports the hood of a carriage or other vehicle" (OED).

254: boot. "An uncovered space on or by the steps on each side, where attendants sat, facing sideways; later, a low outside compartment before or behind the body of the vehicle" (OED).

254: dasher. "A board or leathern apron in the front of a vehicle, to prevent mud from being splashed by the heels of the horses upon the interior of the vehicle. Also, movable sides to a cart for the same purpose" (OED).

254: when the tanner died. The idea here is that the "tough old hide" was unintentionally left in the tanning pit for many years. A hide is converted into leather by "steeping [the hide] in an infusion of an astringent bark, as that of the oak, or by a similarly effective process" (OED). The tanner died and no one was around to tend to the tanning pit. Thus, the "tough old hide" must have been made impervious to wear or decay (since it was not removed from the pit for many years).

254: "Hahnsum kerridge." This is the rural (New England) pronunciation of "Handsome Carriage." It mocks the provinciality of the outdated Calvinist religious orthodoxy (which Holmes was strongly opposed to). Through logical reasoning John Calvin (1509-1564) came to the conclusion that each mans' destiny is predetermined (The Doctrine of Predestination which sacrifices God's kindness for God's knowledge): "We call predestination God's eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is fore-ordained for some, eternal damnation for others" (Book 3, Chapter 21, section 5, Institutes). The "one-hoss-shay" is assembled in the same way as Calvin's argument. It is built with no weakest part. The failing of the weakest part is what causes a carriage to breakdown. If there is no weakest part then the carriage will logically never breakdown. But, the shay's fate cannot be logically predetermined. It goes "to pieces all at once,-/ All at once, and nothing first,-/ Just as bubbles do when they burst." Calvin's argument for predestination similarly fails.

255: whippletree. Cross-listed with "swingletree": "In a plough, harrow, carriage, etc., a crossbar, pivoted at the middle, to which the traces are fastened, giving freedom of movement to the shoulders of the horse or other draught-animal" (OED).

255: back-crossbar. See "cross-bar" above. [A crossbar located in the rear of the carriage].

255: rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay. A rat-tailed horse has a particularly thin and bony tail. An ewe-necked horse has a "thin hollow neck" (OED). This is a deformity for the neck bends upward instead of downward. A bay horse is colored a dark reddish-brown in the body and is black in the mane. The horse described in this poem is most likely a country horse with minor deformities (not a show horse by any means).

255: fifthly. Clergymen gave, such as the "parson", gave sermons based on very detailed exegesis of a short Biblical passage. They numbered the sections of their discourse as firstly, secondly, etc. Here the "parson" has reached fifthly in the sermon he is composing (in his head) when the "shay" disintegrates/ spontaneously disassembles.

256: been to the mill and ground. i.e. with the consistency of wheat, barely, corn, etc. that has been ground into flour. The chaise looks like it has been ground.

256: fast or slow. These are all-purpose terms of approval (fast) and disapproval (slow). Since these terms are not specific, and can be applied to any situation, they are vacuous. In Holmes's time this was common, low-end, slang.

256: man's chief end. "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." The New England Primer (1777 edition). The New England Primer was a textbook used to promote literacy in schoolchildren. Much of its contents were taken from the King James Bible.

256: a brick. This is another mindless term of approbation. To call someone a "brick" is to call him/her a "jolly good fellow" (John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal). When the Autocrat says "Man's chief end was to be a brick" he means man's chief end was to be a jolly good Protestant. Slang phrases such as this are the "algebraic symbols" of weak minds. They display/ symbolize an apparent lack of intelligence, in those who use them frequently, by covering up the "nihility" of thought.

256: toadstool. "Popularly restricted to poisonous or inedible fungi, as distinct from edible ‘mushrooms'" (OED). The point here is that although a toadstool looks like a mushroom it is actually deadly poisonous. Thus, when "cant" words or phrase are used to excess they become poisonous. It takes a delicate tongue to use these phrases wisely and properly (if used correctly, the Autocrat thinks they add "piquancy to conversation").

257: English dandyism. A dandy is a man "who studies above everything to dress elegantly and fashionably" (OED). Charles Baudelaire, a French poet, defined the dandy as beings that "have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions of feeling and thinking…For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of the mind" (The Painter of Modern Life, 1863). The type of dandyism that the Autocrat is referring to here was prominent during the period of the English Regency (1811-1820, under rule King George III, and then The Prince of Wales, or the extended time period of 1795-1837, which includes the rule of George IV and William IV). This period in time was still widely known (when the Autocrat was first published) on both sides of the Atlantic.

257: Verdant Green. This is the hero's name in Edward Bradley's novel, Adventures of Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman (1853-57). It is a series of humorous episodes (originally published in three parts) that was quite popular on both sides of the Atlantic. The "genteel idiots" who the Autocrat is mocking above are using slang from their reading of this novel. The novel was illustrated, which is why the Autocrat says that it is a "pictured urn."

257: "pitchin' into fellers." Young John is at once mocking and criticizing the autocrat. He does so by making use of the slang terms that the Autocrat has just condemned. John's main objection comes in the form of a question: why can the Autocrat use these words? [see "toadstool" above for the answer] The "flash words" he mentions are from the same slang. Rum: "…good, gallant, or valuable" (John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal). Pitchin' into fellers: arguing against the way of certain people/ criticizing the practices of others. Goin' it in the slang line: continuing to speak in slang . Flash Words: "fancy" words; slang words (John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal).

257: proscription. "Prohibition or interdiction by authority; exclusion or rejection by public order…Also more generally: the action or an act of authoritatively forbidding or discountenancing something; prohibition" (OED). The Autocrat does not wish to condemn slang (he thinks that it can be used carefully). He instead wishes to "discriminate" against it in an attempt to speak more appropriately.

257: omniverbivorous. This is the Autocrat's made-up word. In the same way that an omnivorous animal eats all that is edible an omniverbivorous animal takes in all words that can be uttered.

258: his fine Leghorn hat. "The name of a straw plaiting for hats and bonnets, made from a particular kind of wheat, cut green and bleached, and so called because imported from Leghorn in Tuscany" (OED).

258: that frightened Astyanax. This is a reference to the famous scene in the Iliad where the child of Hector (Astyanax) is frightened by his "father's plumed helmet" (Encyclopedia Britannica). If the dandy can back up his ways ("consummate the act of justice") then his fine clothes are capable of producing fear in those who challenge him.

258: the Duke. i.e. Arthur Wellesley (1828-1830), the first Duke of Wellington. Wellesley was a prominent British soldier and political figure. He led the British Army to victory over Napoleon in Portugal and at Waterloo. The Duke was not a dandy, although he was well dressed (this earned him the nickname "The Beau" (Richard Holmes, Wellington: The Iron Duke, 2003). Still, the Duke thought that his "dandies officers were his best officers." The Autocrat uses this to show that true dandies can be tough and well-respected.

258: The "Sunday Blood." i.e. the young man (young dandy) who pretends to be a sportsman and man of the world on weekends. These men are not "imposing or dangerous" for they are not true (in the spirit of dandyism). This is the opposite of the well-respected dandy (above).

258: Brummel. i.e. Beau Brummel (1778-1830), "famous for his friendship with George, Prince of Wales (regent from 1811 and afterward King George IV). Brummell was deemed the leader of fashion at the beginning of the 19th century" (Encyclopedia Britannica). Brummell was the archetypal dandy.

258: D'Orsay. i.e. Count Alfred D'Orsay (1801-1852), a French born dandy (Brummel's French counterpart). He was a well known for being a sociable wit with an excellent sense of fashion. A contemporary of Byron, the two men exchanged letters. D'Orsay even produced a sketch of Byron in 1823.

258: Byron. i.e. Lord Byron, George Gordon (1788-1824), an Anglo-Scottish poet, dandy, and prominent Romantic (Romantic Period of art, literature, philosophy, etc., around 1800-1850). "He created an immensely popular Romantic hero-defiant, melancholy, haunted by secret guilt…" (Poetry Foundation). From Canto IV of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818 : "But I have lived, and have not lived in vain: / My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire, /And my frame perish even in conquering pain,/ but there is that within me which shall tire/ Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire." Byron was a public dandy who gained a great deal of attention for his poetry and aristocratic tendencies. The Autocrat refers to these three dandies (Brummel, D'Orsay, and Byron) to show that a successful dandy does not need to be dangerous (a solider, etc.) to command respect. Each of these three men gained a great deal of fame in their lifetimes.

258: "la main de fer sous le gant de velours." "the iron hand beneath the velvet glove" is a saying originated by Napoleon (there is some dispute). Napoleon defined the phrase as follows: "Soft in speech and manner, yet with an inflexible vigor of command." (Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets). The three aforementioned dandies embody the meaning behind this saying.

258: which I printed in English. The Autocrat has already used the English version of the saying (above). He is now waiting for a "scaraboeus criticus" ("critical beetle", "critical bug", "scavenger bug of a critic") to notice and accuse him of having plagiarized from a French source (and as a consequence "roll in glory with it into the newspapers").

258: which he didn't do it. Charles Dickens popularized the Cockney ("The dialect or accent of the London cockney or of those from the East End of London generally" (OED)) habit of starting complete sentences with which and lowercase characters. This is visible in Dickens's Pickwick Papers (1836). The Autocrat is poking fun at "superfluously worded" expressions, which are common in Cockney slang. Instead of writing, "which he didn't do it", the Autocrat could have wrote, "He didn't do it."

258: Alcibiades. Alcibiades (450-404 B.C) was a "brilliant but unscrupulous Athenian politician and military commander who provoked the sharp political antagonisms at Athens that were the main causes of Athens' defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C)" (Encyclopedia Britannica). He is said to have been a close friend of Socrates. Also, he was known to be very good-looking and promiscuous. In Plato's Symposium Alcibiades is described as being, "…crowned with a bushy wreath of ivy and violets, and wearing a great array of ribands on his head" (212d, Plato, Symposium (English), University of Chicago). Alcibiades was, in his own right, a prominent and "powerful" dandy (the Athenian counterpart of the Regency dandy). By "swell", the Autocrat means that Alcibiades was considered to be a "a man of importance; a person with a showy, jaunty exterior…a very "flashy" dressed person…" (John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary, 1872).

258: "curled son of Clinias." George Gordon, Lord Byron, The Deformed Transformed (1824). This is a reference to Alcibiades who was the son of Clinias.

258: Aristoteles. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) is widely considered to be the most influential figure in Western Philosophy (with the exception of Plato). "Of Aristotle's character and personality little is known. He came from a rich family. He was allegedly a dandy, wearing rings on his fingers and cutting his hair fashionably short" (Jonathan Barnes, Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction, 2000).

259: Marcus Antonius. i.e. Mark Antony (83-30 B.C) was a Roman statesman, general, and dandy. After the assassination of Caesar, Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (both supporters of Caesar) attempted to gain power over Rome. Octavian, who was Caesar's nephew and chief heir, challenged them. The men formed the Second Triumvirate (a political alliance), which split the Roman Republic into three sections. Octavian presided over the West, Antony presided over the East, and Lepidus presided over Hispania and Africa. Although married to Octavia (Octavian's sister) Antony began living with Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Antony was so infatuated with Cleopatra that he divorced his wife. He also began handing territories over to Cleopatra and her children ("Donations of Alexandria"). The Senate (backed by Octavian) declared war on Egypt and, soon after, emerged victorious. Octavian took control of Antony's territory. On the mistaken belief that Cleopatra was dead, Antony killed himself with his own sword. Shakespeare immortalized this historic sequence of events in his great tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra.

259: Petrarca. i.e. Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) was an "Italian scholar, poet, and humanist whose poems addressed to Laura, an idealized beloved, contributed to the Renaissance flowering of lyric poetry" (Encyclopedia Britannica). He developed the sonnet form known as the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet. In his youth Petrarch was quite the dandy. As described by May Alden Ward in, Petrarch: a sketch of his life and works, Petrarch was an "…elegant young clerical dandy, carefully curled and perfumed, with gorgeous cloak and pointed shoes…"

259: Sir Humphrey Davy. Davy (1778-1829) was a great scientist known for discovering the physiological effects of nitrous oxide, isolating "sodium and potassium from their compounds (1807), and of the alkaline-earth metals for theirs (1808)" (Encyclopedia Britannica). Davy was a popular lecturer and often demonstrated the tools he used, in his experiments, to his audience. Davy's interest in lecturing led some to regard him "…as a "fop" or "dandy", a label connected with his showmanship before women and his encouragement of their intellectual pretensions." He was also considered to have "…an excessive concern for personal appearance, especially as regards clothing, and an emotional dependence upon the admiring gaze of spectators" (Jan Golinski, Humphry Davy's Sexual Chemistry, 1999).

259:Lord Palmerston. i.e. Henry John Temple (17784-1865), a prominent figure in British politics, (he twice served as Prime Minister) was a first class dandy. He was known to have "…had personal qualities which peculiarly fitted him to shine and communicate pleasure in the inner circles of fashion" (John McGilchrist, Lord Palmerston: A Biography, 1865).

259: Elegans "nascitur, non fit." "A dandy is born, not made." This echoes what Horace says about poets in the Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry/ On the Nature of Poetry). To be a dandy you must be born a dandy. It must come naturally to you, in the same way that being a poet comes naturally to poets. A man cannot work toward good poetry. He can only work toward good form. A man cannot work toward becoming a good dandy. He can only work within the limits of his physical form.

259: Willis. i.e. Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867) was a New York based writer (poetry, literary critic, and editing work). Willis worked for many publications, beginning with The New York Mirror (after his graduation from Yale). He founded the successful publication The Home Journal (what is now called Town & Country) in 1846. Willis was another dandy, known for his fashionable attire and effeminate mannerisms. Here, the Autocrat is referring to an ambrotype ("The name given in U.S. to a photograph on glass, in which the lights are produced by the silver, and the shades by a dark background showing through" (OED)), taken of Willis for an "illustrated edition" of his poetry, published in 1859. This ambrotype portrayed Willis as being "…somewhat heavy and unideal" (Henry Augustin Beers, Nathaniel Parker Willis, 1885). The Autocrat takes this ambrotype to be representative of an ill, or unnatural, looking dandy ("there are jaws that cant fill out collars").

259: tournures. "ways of carrying oneself."

259: gratia-Dei…jure-divino. "by the grace of God"… "Divine Right." These phrases are used to describe the basis of aristocracy and monarchy. The Autocrat is saying here that the aristocracy forming in America is not founded on the principles of birth right and divine influence. Instead, there is potential for any man to reach the top and rule (free of Kings and Lords).

259: de-facto upper stratum of being. i.e. a "natural aristocracy." As written by Thomas Jefferson letter to John Adams: "…there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents…There is also an artificial aristocracy [see note above], founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents…The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society" (The Natural Aristocracy, Monticello, October 28, 1813).
259: its origin may have been tar, tallow, etc. The fortunes that have given the American natural aristocracy the privilege of education, travel, etc. may have come from humble beginnings. For instance, an ancestor of a currently privileged individual could have earned money selling common products like tar, tallow, or train-oil. This is the beauty of natural aristocracy. Anyone can reach the top. In the same way that the water does not discriminate against the source of its "iridescent film", America will not discriminate against the source of its aristocracy.
260: I beg your pardon. By "spring-chickens" the Autocrat means pretty young women who have just come out into society (i.e. they are officially ready for marriage). But, the Autocrat pauses here due to a misunderstanding. The landlady takes him to be talking about actual spring chickens ("A small chicken (esp. a roasting bird)" (OED)), which are very expensive; she has to keep expenses down if she wants to make enough money (by her boarding house) to live and support her son (Benjamin Franklin) and aged relative

261: Crude pippins. Of Fruit, unripe; sour or harsh to the taste (pippins) a seed or pip of any various fleshy fruits (OED) explaining when a mind is picked before it has matured, as if it were a fruit that had been picked off of a bush prematurely.

261: Windfalls. Fruit from a tree or bush; an apple or other fruit blown down from a tree or bush by the wind (OED) explaining when a young persons mind is picked before it has matured, as though it were a fruit that had blown off of a bush or tree by the wind prematurely.

261: The demand for intellectual labor is so enormous and that market so far from nice that young talent is apt to far like unripe gooseberries. I.e., the talent found within American society is the ‘green fruit' of the greatest market. The demand is great therefore the supply will weaken. We pluck them too early before their intellect has been given time to grow and cultivate. "Natural tendency"(OED)

261:green-groceries. Fruit and vegetables sold by a greengrocer, regarded collectively (OED)

261:It takes a long apprenticeship to train a whole people to reading and writing. Apprenticeships lasted seven years and involved young individuals working beneath artisans or craftsmen in hopes of one day becoming a master of the arts themselves. There is not enough widespread education or emphasis on reading and writing for there to be an educated class of them.

262: shaking my young boughs over his foolscap apron. Giving him my young poems to print so that he could make a bit of money from his magazine. "Foolscap. Writing or printing paper" (OED), "boughs. A limb; offshoot of a tree." (OED) Apron means the Autocrat is viewing this editor as a kind of merchant.

262: fifty cents was to be considered a rhetorical embellishment. He would have willingly accepted the money had he not learned that the payment was not a reflection of a well-written poem but a means of simply producing something at all. "Embellishment. Beautifying; decoration or ornamentation" (OED)

262: "But you proved it." The old lady in black bombazine is a living example of how the "negative virtues" just described by the Autocrat shrink the soul of those who have only those virtues.

262: Optime dictum. "Very well said" The divinity student uses Latin because he knows the aged relative doesn't understand it.

262: Pastorals. A book on the care of souls (OED)

262: Eclogues. A short poem of any kind, esp. a pastoral dialogue


263: The old man had a great deal to say about "aestivation" as he called it, in opposition, as one might say, to hibernation. Aestivation "the summer sleep"; commonly found in cold-blooded animals during the summer season. Environmental temperatures increase therefore the body temperature of the amphibians increase. In order to avoid this, amphibians such as frogs go to the deepest part of the pond inside the mud for a normal condition.

263: ferae nature. "Savage or wild in its nature"


264: Hemlocks. "Poisonous umbelliferous (plant of parsley family) plant, having a stout branched stem with purplish spots, finely divided leaves, and small white flowers" (OED)

264: Reliefs and Intaglios. "Molding, carving, stamping, etc. in which the design stands out from a plane surface as to have a natural and solid appearance" (OED)



264: The Mountains lie about like huge ruminants. Compared to the wild sea, the mountains are like grazing bison, antelopes, or even elephants.

264: The Mountains dwarf mankind and foreshorten the procession of its long generations. Meaning the geological timespan. People of that generation were distressed at the thought of life having existed for billions of years, and were not as familiar with the idea of it as our generation is.

264: Little box. Formerly known as "citizens box" or a little house on the country


265: which golden-headed nail of the firmament his particular planetary system is hung. The arch of vault of heaven overhead, in which the clouds and the stars appear; the heavens (OED)

265: metronome. A device used for marking time by producing a regular series of audible ticks or clicks (OED)

265: Constitution. Physical system or makeup

265: Hogshead. A large cask, especially for storing liquids (OED)

265: Berkshire. The Berkshires is a highland geologic region located in the western part of Massachusetts.
Once again Holmes references the hills and mountains of western Massachusetts, where he himself had a summer residence.

265: Nahant: Just across the river from Boston, MA. The "summer home" of the New England literary Renaissance, a favorite summer residence of Holmes, Longfellow, and Agassiz.

265: Nature plays at dominos with you. The Autocrat is using a metaphor for matching, in that the game of dominoes relies heavily on matching. A player must lay down a domino with a like value next to another domino, like values must always be touching


266: as Kant will tell you. "The forms and conditions of time and space as Kant will tell you, are nothing in themselves, - only our way of looking at things. Yet the great point of Kant's philosophy, that time, space, and causality are simply an empty grid that the mind imposes on the raw flux of experience, does not stress the principle to which Holmes meant his Breakfast Table books to serve as a permanent testimony" (Oliver Wendell Holmes In Paris)

266: He has a perfectly clear sense that the fragments of his intellectual circle. "fragments"

266: circumscribe. "To draw a line round; to encompass with (OED)

266: fragments of his intellectual circle. Earlier he mentions that every man of reflection is vaguely conscious of an imperfectly defined circle of which is drawn about his intellect. This is a metaphor about a drawing of a geometric circle in Euclidian geometry rather than "small pieces" of thought.

266: Governess of a rich family. The schoolmistress has been offered positions as the governess of children in families that would take her traveling in Europe, but that would make her only a kind of "upper servant", and she turns them down

266: marks on the side of her forefinger. Made from pressing a needle through cloth repeatedly: it is possible the Schoolmistress has been taking in sewing, as well as running her school in order to make ends meet.


267: Chamouni. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or more commonly known as Chamonix is a commune in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhone-Alpes region in southeastern France. There was a growth of tourism in the early 19th century that led to the formation of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix in 1821, to regulate access to the mountain slopes.

267: White cashmere. "Cashmere shawl" was an Indian textile. Known as a luxury commodity, the intricate, tapestry-woven fine wool shawl had become a fashionable wrap for women in England and France by the 1700s. (Wiki) The Old Gentleman will give the Schoolmistress one as a wedding present – a royal gift.

267: diorama. Any small-scale model of a scene (OED)

267: Iron shop blinds: still used in Europe: a kind of segmented metal sheet that comes down on runners when the shop is closed for the night, protecting the windows and keeping intruders out.

267: the lamp…the ring…the brazen horse. [In "Arabian Nights", the character of Aladdin is persuaded by a sorcerer to steal a beautiful oil-lamp and finds himself trapped in a cage. Later on he retains a magic ring lent to him by a sorcerer as protection. When rubbing his hands in despair, he inadvertently rubs the ring, and a "genie" appears. Aladdin is still carrying the lamp, when his mother attempts to clean it a second, more powerful genie appears, who is bound to do the bidding of the person holding the lamp] (Wiki) Oliver Wendell Holmes' younger self fell into trouble and was "extravagant" in his fancies.


268: Give me a mortgage here and there. I.e. The income from holding a mortgage at interest

268: Plenipo. "Plenipotentiary" or a diplomat with full powers to negotiate for his country

268: St. James. The British Court, to which American diplomats were accredited – as with, for instance, OWH's friends John Lothrop Motley and James Russell Lowell, both of whom were later American ministers to England.

268: Gubernator. Latin for "governor"; in U.S - governor of a state


269: true cashmere. Fiber, known as pashm or pashmina in some parts of Asia, became known for its use in beautiful shawls in India, especially popular in 19th century England and France. (Encyc. Britannica)

269: marrowy crapes of China silk. Although Europeans had by now discovered how to grow silk worms and weave silk, China silk was still by far the most luxurious

269: An easy gait -two, forty-five. Describes the gait of a well-trained and swift horse. "Various ways in which a horse can move, either naturally or as a result of specialized training. A horse can walk, trot, canter, gallop or pace." (Wiki)

269: Titians and Raphaels. Famous painters; the entire poem is a parody of comic excess – these painters then, as now, were only to be found in great collections.

269: Turner. English painter, praised by John Ruskin, sometimes thought of as the progenitor of Impressionism

269: red morocco. A rich bookbinding material

269: Vallum. "Parchment"

269. Stradivarius. A violin or other stringed instrument made by Stradivari or his pupils (OED) during the 17th and 18th centuries. The quality of their sound has been said to defy attempts to explain or equal it. It has become a superlative often associated with excellence. (Wiki)

269: Meerschaum. A soft white mineral often used to make smoking pipes. Also mentioned on page 104 of The Autocrat of The Breakfast Table.

269: Buhl. "Brass, tortoise-shell, or other material, worked into ornamental patterns for inlaying" (OED)


270: Midas' golden touch. In the Greek myth, Midas wished for everything he touched to turn to gold; he then found out that he couldn't eat because his food would turn to gold and he was going to starve to death. Dionysus granted him release and had him bathe in the Pactolus River. The presence of gold found in that stream is attributed to this legend. (Encyc. Britannica)

270: chloroformed into a better world. It was known that chloroform, used as an anesthetic, could kill you if administered in a heavy enough dose.


271: Pipe-clay counterfeits. Stiff vicious earth found in beds or other deposits near the surface of the ground. It forms with water a paste capable of being molded into any shape, which hardens when dried. (Wiki)

271: Inferno. Hell

271: Smallpox. "An acute infectious disease characterized by high fever, headache and backache, and a rash which affects the face and extremities" (OED)

271: Bankruptcy: The "Inferno" of vulgar women: women who only think about their looks include smallpox (disfigures the skin) and getting rich by marrying wealthy men (bankruptcy).

271: Lord Bacon. Lord chancellor of England. "Regarded intellectually as a man who claimed all knowledge as province and advocated new ways a man might establish legitimate command over nature for relief of his estate"(Encyc. Britannica)

271. Balzac. French literary artist of contemporary French society. He studied the "contrasts between provincial and metropolitan manners and customs, the world of art, literature and high culture. He studied romantic love in all its aspects and the intricate social relations and scandals among the aristocracy and bourgeoisie". This is all about individual conflict within society.

271: the ocean of Tupperian wisdom. Martin Tupper; English writer, author of Proverbial Philosophy


272: Seraglio-gardens. Not literal: "gardens like those that might be pictured in, for instance, the Arabian Nights"

272: "May grace, mercy, and peace be with you". King James Bible of 2 John 1:3

272: Raphael would not have disdained. Raphael's detailed attention to vegetation was celebrated by Rosetti and other members of the "pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood"


273: Public Garden. Boston Garden

273: Ignominiously. "Disgrace, shameful" (OED)

273: Pitch-and-toss. A gambling game in which the person who manages to throw a coin closest to a mark gets to toss all the coins, winning those that land with the head up (OED)

273: all his geese are swans. Proverbially said of someone who continuously praises everything connected with himself: his friends are the most talented, his children are the most promising, etc.


274: the telegraph of those narrow green lines. Metaphor for the green stripes beside sidewalks and highways that carry seeds – the "message of vegetation" - that gradually reclaims the city for nature.


275: bunch of feathers. I. e. Feather duster

275: books are the negative pictures of thought. Like photographic film dipped into developing fluid, books come to life only when taken up into consciousness

275: Ruth followed the reapers of Boaz. Book within the book of Boaz, a rich landowner noticing a young woman named Ruth, a widowed daughter-in-law to Naomi, harvesting grain from his fields. He offers her to take water and invites her to eat with him and his workers regularly, keeping a protective eye upon her. (Wiki)

275: as a mill wheel works up the stream

275: this breathing-sickness. That is, this life of ours, in which we are born but to die


276: weighs Uranus or Neptune as in a balance. Determines the relative size of planets solely by detailed observations and measurements

276: I had secured a passage to Liverpool. He had bought a ticket to go to England and leave his misery behind

277: if you take the long path with me now.

277: Gingko-tree: "a living fossil, similar to fossils dating back 270 million years. It is native to China and widely cultivated, introduced early to human history and was used in traditional medicine as well as food"

278: Our parish is so large. Note: last appearance of the autocrat as a "lay preacher" – of persons belonging to the ‘people' as distinguished from the clergy; non-clerical. OWH audience is his "parish" when talking about moral or religious matters.

278: Flagstaff. A pole in which a flag is hung

278: if a company works a steam fire-engine. "Fire engine consisting of a steam boiler and engine, and a pump which is driven by the engine, combined and mounted on wheels." If other people can teach and preach things of a similar nature, it is not always necessary for certain individuals to harp on the idea that they aren't doing their best works, or "preaching to every pew"

278: Dr. Gould's private planets


279: From Milan to Venice. During OWH's European tour after finishing his medical studies in Paris

279: Cedars of Lebanon. Cedrus Libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region

279: Establishing raws. Childhood slang for "hitting someone on a sore spot"

279: Crossing the Po. In ancient times, taken as the division between Italy proper and "transalpine" Europe

279: "A river broader and more rapid than the Rhone." James Gates Percival "Prose"

279: Hannibal led his grim Africans. Carthaginians: Punic War, Hannibal crosses the Alps and descends on Italy from the North; elephants defeat several Roman armies.

279: "Is this the mighty ocean? – Is this all?" Walter Savage Landour "Gebir"


280: the World's Mistress. Rome

280: alta moenia Romae. "The high walls of (ancient) Rome"

280: St. Etienne du Mont.

280: Jacobus Benigus Winslow. Translated as Jacob B. Winslow

280: A sleeping Samson

280: Te Deum. A "snug Mass" of Thanksgiving