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[234] praising of past times; on the contrary there is a blithe and buoyant recognition of the gains garnered in eighty years.

Over the Teacups may be a little inferior to The Poet at the Breakfast-Table but only as the Poet is a little inferior to the Professor and the Professor to the Autocrat, because the freshness had faded and because we were no longer taken by surprise. The Autocrat struck the centre of the target and the hit was acclaimed with delight; the later books went to the same mark, even if they were not winged by an aim as unerring. No doubt, a part of the immediate success of the Autocrat was due to its novelty,—novelty of form and novelty of content. Holmes was characteristically shrewd when he declared that ‘the first of my series came from my mind almost with an explosion, like the champagne cork; it startled me a little to see what I had written and to hear what people said about it. After that first explosion the flow was more sober, and I looked upon the product of my wine-press more coolly’; and he added, ‘continuations almost always sag a little.’ Perhaps the novelty of form was more apparent than real, since Steele and Addison had given us a group of characters talking at large as they clustered about Sir Roger de Coverley. But there is this salient difference, that in The spectator the talk is mainly for the purpose of creating character, whereas in the Autocrat the characters have been created that they might listen.

Yet in so far as the Autocrat has a model, this is plainly enough the eighteenth-century essay, invented by Steele, improved by Addison, clumsily attempted by Johnson, and lightly varied by Goldsmith. Steele is the originator of the form, since the earlier essay of Montaigne and of Bacon makes no use of dialogue; it has only one interlocutor, the essayist himself, recording only his own feelings, his own opinions, and his own judgments. Steele was probably influenced by the English character-writers, perhaps also by the lighter satires of Horace, and quite possibly by the comedies of Moliere,— notably by the Precieuses Ridicules and the Femmes Savantes. The outline Steele sketched the less original Addison filled with a richer colour. As Holmes had begun when a child by imitating the verse of Pope and Goldsmith, so as a man when he wrote prose he followed the pattern set by Steele and Addison. Although he was not born until the ninth year of the

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