The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table "Good Americans, When They Die, Go To Paris"

Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Good Americans, When They Die, Go To Paris"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table purports to be a series of monologues delivered by a persona who does not identify himself otherwise than by admitting that he dominates the conversation at the breakfast table of his Boston boarding house. His audience is composed of such people as the landlady, the landlady's daughter, the divinity student, the young girl attending finishing school, the schoolmistress, the old man, and the brash young man. The subject of discussion at the beginning of Chapter VI of The Autocrat is the bright sayings of the Seven Wise Men of Boston. The first is by Benjamin Franklin: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged." Another saying, this by the Historian, probably John Lothrop Motley, is, "Give us the luxuries of life, and we will dispense with its necessaries." This one leads up to the following, which may be by Thomas Appleton:

To these must certainly be added that other saying of one of the wittiest of men:–
"Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris."
–The divinity-student looked grave at this, but said nothing.
The schoolmistress spoke out, and said she didn't think the wit meant any irreverence. It was only another way of saying, Paris is a heavenly place after New York or Boston.