The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Pages 281 - 314


Caridad Martinez

 [Student assigned 281-300 failed to complete project. This will be added as soon as there is time to research and compose the notes.]

301. May hear his speech in a foreign tone

I.e., the president now greets the visitors in Latin, which nobody any longer understands. Only members of society that had an education were able to understand and speak Latin fluently.

301. as lawyers swear

I.e., They do not understand, but are willing to interpret the speech as a plea to alter the will.

301. a lot of parchments…handed to witness

It's a joke: the custom of handing out diplomas to graduates originated in this episode of the "breaking of the will."

301. Codicil

"A supplement to a will, added by the testator for the purpose of explanation, alteration, or revocation of the original contents." (OED)

302. mean dispositions…mean temperature:

Play on words with the connotation of the word "mean." It depends on two different senses. It can refer to the average temperature of an area or the climate or culture, in which a person grows up.

302. Cry of a locust

"Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae." (Wikipedia)

302. Tinman

"A man who works in or with tin; a tinsmith; a dealer in tin-ware." (OED)

302. Sierra Leone

"Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa that is bordered by Guinea to the northeast, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest." (Wikipedia)

303. Quaestum Corporate

It literarily means to gain through a body. It is to make profit or take advantage of another person.

303. "Snobs"

The origin is unknown, but it originally means "shoemaker" or "shoemaker's apprentice", and had nothing to do with nobility or superiority/inferiority. It didn't begin to take on its modern meaning until after William Thackeray's "Book of Snobs" was published in the mid 1800s. By 1911 it had acquired its current meaning. Its current meaning refers to a person who seeks to be, or is, a member of the upper class and looks down on lower classes, such as the middle class or the poor. They are often egotistical individuals who tend to think of people as inferior, particularly of those who do not belong to their clique or class. (Wikipedia)

303. Negatur minor ["I deny your minor proposition"]

Syllogism: "An argument expressed or claimed to be expressible in the form of two propositions called the premises, containing a common or middle term, with a third proposition called the conclusion, resulting necessarily from the other two." (OED)

303. Their houses every day for money

The custom of admitting visitors to British "great houses" for paid tickets had just begun at this period.

303. Sub-lieutenant

"Here the autocrat refers to the press. "An army officer ranking immediately below a lieutenant, typically the most junior commissioned officer; the rank held by such an officer. Now chiefly hist." (OED)

303. Poh!

The epithet mentioned above. The answer the autocrat gives to this criticism, "Poh."

303. Epithet

"An adjective indicating some quality or attribute which the speaker or writer regards as characteristic of the person or thing described." (OED).




303. Menagerie

"A collection of wild animals in cages or enclosures, esp. one kept for exhibition, as in a zoo, etc. Also: a place or building in which such a collection is kept."(OED)

303. The talking-bird's

The autocrat uses the image of the talking bird to illustrate the menagerie or zoo formed by the uneducated people who talk in a vulgar manner.

303. The nightingale's

The autocrat uses the image of the nightingale to show that England's royalty is taking part of this menagerie or exhibition in the public field.

304. Laus Deo!

" Latin for praise be to God." (Merriam Webster).

304. Transparent-bell glass

By putting a bell jar, women are of marriageable age. Society becomes an arrangement. In this way marriage becomes orderly, which is cruel and experiment like.

304. We was keepin' company

This is the rural idiom for courtship.

304. She cal'lated

The text captures the manner in which the landlady speaks that is common and filled with ordinary expressions. This signals, endearingly, the landlady's social status.

304. That could not have been

The autocrat thinks the landlady is thinking about the schoolmistress future as a wife. The landlady's motherly instincts emerge as she shows concern for the schoolmistress. But she has nothing to worry about now that the schoolmistress will be financially well off after marrying the autocrat.

305. "Book of Martyrs" "The Actes and Monuments, popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, is a work of Christian history and martyrology by John Foxe, first published in English in 1563 by John Day. It includes a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland." (Wikipedia)

305. Dry-pan . Oven like metal used to torture Protestants. The Autocrat is alluding to the dry pan from the Book of Martyrs.

305. Inquisition
"The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to "fight against heretics". It started in 12th-century France to combat the spread of heresy and error, and was later expanded to other European countries as well as throughout the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the Americas, Asia and Africa." (Wikipedia)
305. Who not only wear the crown of thorns, but most hide it under the locks of brown and gray
A metaphor that alludes to the sacrifices made by people who suffer. E.g., the old men and women who suffer and nobody cares about their suffering.
305. Snowy cap
Characteristic of women who wear it, which indicates that the hair started to become thinner. Therefore, elderly women would hide the fact that they were aging and suffering under the cap.
305. Chilling turban (ditto)
306. Singing women
I.e., women poets of the period.
306. "all sounds of life assume one tone of love."
Line number 21 from Elizabeth's Browning poem L.E.L Last Question (1844).
306. Sappho's memory-haunted billow
The autocrat is identifying with women who had been silent and find a voice through poetry. I.e., Elizabeth Browning one of the greatest females poets of that time.
307. "Come rest in this boo-boo"
The word boo-boo means bosom. This phrase comes from a song named "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen", also known as "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." It is an English traditional Christmas carol. The melody is in the minor mode. It was published by William B. Sandys in 1833, although the author is unknown. (Wikipedia)
307. Mourning Fruit
There is a complicated symbolism, in which black signifies grieving. It is mourning fruit as to show that they are very sorry and will miss their loved ones. The autocrat and the schoolmistress are getting married, thus the people of the breakfast table are sad because the couple will be leaving soon.
307. Huckleberries and blackberries
These are the mourning fruit mentioned above. These fruits are dark and resemble the sorrow and sadness of losing the beloved companion of the autocrat and the schoolmistress of the breakfast table because of their marriage.
308. "lucent syrups tinct with cinnamon"
John Keats's Eve of St. Agnes poem
308. with the hall mark
The official mark or stamp used by statutory Hall-marking Authorities in marking the standard of gold and silver articles assayed by them, without which articles of these metals may not legally be sold. (OED)

308. in the green stage of millionism
The vulgar nouveaux riches or "new rich."
308. Esther bowed herself
The landlady is reading a chapter of the Book of Esther. Esther the wife of King Ahasuerus bows herself before the feet of her husband as she learns that her people are in danger. She risks her life to save the Jews living in Ancient Persia. This is symbolic of humbleness and loyalty. (Wikipedia)
310. vein of charity…small silver and copper basis
Vein as in vein of ore. This is symbolic of the schoolmistress' charitable character. The schoolmistress gives money to the poor even though she has very little to offer, which will change after her marriage.
310. rent roll
"A roll or register of rents; a list of lands and buildings owned by a person, together with the rents due from them; (also) the sum of a person's income from the rents that are due to him or her." (OED)
310. Angel missing in the Jerusalem
The schoolmistress is the embodiment of humbleness and beauty for the autocrat.
311. Cupid in a mouse-trap
Joke: Cupid is the Roman God of love. In this case, the schoolmistress has finally trapped the autocrat. This is a visual representation of marriage and signals its confinement and restrictions.
311. Tupper's poems
"Martin Farquhar Tupper (July 17, 1810, London – November 1889, Albury, Surrey) was an English writer, and poet, and the author of Proverbial Philosophy, long series of didactic moralisings." (Wikipedia)
This suggests the kind of literary and intellectual taste of the landlady's daughter. She often tries to appear knowledgeable by reading these kinds of books that were popular and not so complex.
311. On the eve of her union in holy matrimony
The standard formula a person would write in a book when someone was getting married similar to a hallmark card today.
312. Proselyte
A Gentile who has converted to Judaism. (OED)
312. Cashmere shawl
A costly shawl made of fine soft wool obtained from the Cashmere goat and the wild goat of western China. (OED)
312. Young supercargo
"A representative of the ship's owner on board a merchant ship, responsible for overseeing the cargo and its sale. Formerly also: an agent who superintended a company's business abroad." (OED)
313. Unavoidably absent on this interesting occasion
The professor and Poet are alter egos of the autocrat, and cannot be physically present on the same occasion. The word interesting means: "That concerns, touches, affects, or is of importance; important." (OED)
311. not a churchman
The autocrat was not a member of the Anglican Church.
312. oaks in flower-pots
It is a metaphor: "orthodox" religious doctrines confine religious belief, as would an oak planted in a flowerpot.
Historical References
306. Letitia Landon
"Letitia Elizabeth Landon (14 August 1802 – 15 October 1838), English poet and novelist, better known by her initials L. E. L." (Wikipedia)
306. Elizabeth Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. (Wikipedia)
308. Ahasuerus
Persian King (Wikipedia)
Quotes and Allusions
309. "If it please the king"
Bible, Book of Esther, chapter 8 verse 5.
311. "The Whole Duty of Man."
"Is an English Protestant devotional work, first published anonymously, with an introduction by Henry Hammond, in 1658. It was both popular and influential for two centuries, in the Anglican tradition it helped to define." (Wikipedia)
The poor relative wrapped the book in a fashionable manner in an effort to impress and give something valuable to the married couple.
311. Keble's Christian Year
"It is a series of poems for all the Sundays and some other feasts of the liturgical year of the Church of England written by John Keble in 1827. The book is the source for several hymns, and the work was extremely popular in the 19th century." (Wikipedia).
311. Xavier's "My God, I love thee"
"Words: Author unknown (O Deus, ego amo te); translated from Latin to English Edward Caswall, Lyra Catholica, 1849. The original is reportedly a Spanish sonnet which begins, No me mueve, mi Dios, para quererte; it appeared in Diepenbrock's Geistlicher Blumenstrauss (1829), attributed to Francis Xavier."
312. "God only and good angels look"
John Keble's Christian Year.
312. "He could not trust his melting soul."
John Keble's Christian Year.
312. "Calcutta 1805"
I.e., the old man gentleman started life as an "Indian merchant" when young.