The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table Additional Summary

Oliver Wendell Holmes


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Further Reading

Dowling, William C. Oliver Wendell Holmes in Paris: Medicine, Theology, and “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.” Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2006. Dowling describes how Holmes’s experiences as a medical student in Paris provided the material for The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table and the two other books in the Breakfast-Table trilogy.

Gibian, Peter. Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Examines Holmes’s role in creating and analyzing a new form of conversation, or “table-talk,” that became popular in nineteenth century America.

Grenander, M. E. “Doctors and Humanists: Transactional Analysis and Two Views of Man.” Journal of American Culture 3, no. 3 (Fall, 1980): 470-479. Contends that Holmes paved the way for transactional analysis theory, for in The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table he discussed the factors considered—consciously and subconsciously—by two people when they speak to each other.

Hoyt, Edwin P. The Improper Bostonian: Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. New York: William Morrow, 1979. Chapter 16 describes Holmes’s relationship with James Russell Lowell, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and other notable Boston literati. Explains the appeal of The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table to educated readers and delineates Holmes’s literary prominence.

Small, Miriam Rossiter. Oliver Wendell Holmes. New York: Twayne, 1962. Chapter 3, “The Breakfast-Table Series,” discusses the style and theme of The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table and obliquely compares it to Holmes’s succeeding works. Small asserts that readers of the essays derive pleasure from recognizing experience, thought, and emotions as they are couched in Holmes’s apt and winning style.

Tilton, Eleanor M. Amiable Autocrat: A Biography of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. New York: Henry Schuman, 1947. Reports the contemporary reception of The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table and traces the essays from their serialized appearance to their publication in book form.

Weinstein, Michael A. The Imaginative Prose of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006. Weinstein analyzes The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table and Holmes’s other prose works to trace the writer’s development over the course of his lifetime. Weinstein refutes other critics who have dismissed Holmes as a dilettante, arguing that Holmes was a serious writer whose works displayed a deep understanding of the American national character.