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JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,
LATE TICKNOR & FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & Co.

1870

NEW-YORK

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES,

in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

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THE POET AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.

I.

THE idea of a man's "interviewing" himself is rather odd, to be sure. But then that is what we are all of us doing every day. I talk half the time to find out my own thoughts, as a school-boy turns his pockets inside out to see what is in them. He brings to light all sorts of personal property he had forgotten in his inventory.

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- You don't know what your thoughts are going to be beforehand? said the "Member of the Haouse," as he calls himself.

Why, of course I don't. Bless your honest legislative soul, I suppose I have as many bound volumes of notions of one kind and another in my head as you have in your Representatives' library up there at the State House.... have to tumble them over and over, and open them in a hundred places, and sometimes cut the leaves here and there, to find what I think about this and that. And a good many people who flatter themselves they are talking wisdom to me,

are only helping me to get at the shelf and the book and the page where I shall find my own opinion about the matter in question.

- The Member's eyes began to look heavy.

-It's a very queer place, that receptacle a man fetches his talk out of. The library comparison does n't exactly hit it. You stow away some idea and don't want it, say for ten years. When it turns up at last it has got so jammed and crushed out of shape by the other ideas packed with it, that it is no more like what it was than a raisin is like a grape on the vine, or a fig from a drum like one hanging on the tree. Then, again, some kinds of thoughts breed in the dark of one's mind like the blind fishes in the Mammoth Cave. We can't see them and they can't see us; but sooner or later the daylight gets in and we find that some cold, fishy little negative has been spawning all over our beliefs, and the brood of blind questions it has given birth to are burrowing round and under and butting their blunt noses against the pillars of faith we thought the whole world might lean on. And then, again, some of our old beliefs are dying out every year, and others feed on them and grow fat, or get poisoned as the case may be. And so, you see, you can't tell what the thoughts are that you have got salted down, as one may say, till you run a streak of talk through them, as the market people run a butterscoop through a firkin.

Don't talk, thinking you are going to find out your

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