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Page 302

CHAPTER XIV
AMERICAN LITERATURE

the magazine The Atlantic. Some twenty-five years earlier he had written two papers called The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. He now the Break continued them, beginning, " I was just going to say when I was interrupted." The scene is laid at the table of a boarding-house. The Autocrat carries on a brilliant monologue, broken from time to time by a word from the lady who asks for original poetry for her album, from the theological student, the old gentleman, or the young man John ; or by an anxious look on the face of the landlady, to whom some paradoxical speech of the Autocrat's suggests insanity and the loss of a boarder. The Autocrat will bear many readings, and seems brighter and fresher at each one. Embedded in it, and in The Professor which followed, are a number of poems, among which may be mentioned The One-Ross Shay, with its irrefutable logic, Contentment, with its modest

I only wish a hut of stone
(A very plain brown stone will do),

and the exquisite lines of The Chambered Nautilus, with its superb appeal :

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul !

Nearly half Holmes's poems were written for some special occasion, but he was also a novelist ; for he produced Elsie Venner and two other works of fiction, all showing powers of characterization, and all finding their chief interest in some study of the mysterious connexion between mind and body. " Medicated novels," a friend mischievously called them, somewhat to the wrath of their author.
Holmes's wit is ever fascinating, his pathos is ever sincel-e : but the charm that will perhaps be even more

travel books:
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