His poetry was in the best sense of the word “occasional,” and his prose was only an incidental or accidental harvest of a long career in which his chief duty was that of a professor of anatomy in the Harvard Medical School.
He had studied in Paris
under sound teachers, and after some years of private practice won the appointment which he held, as active and emeritus professor, for forty-seven years. He was a faithful, clear, and amusing lecturer, and printed two or three notable medical essays, but his chief Boston
reputation, in the eighteen-fifties, was that of a wit and diner-out and writer of verses for occasions.
Then came his great hour of good luck in 1857, when Lowell
, the editor of the newly-established Atlantic monthly
, persuaded him to write The Autocratof the Breakfast table
It was the public's luck also, for whoever had been so unfortunate as not to be born in Boston
could now listen — as if across the table — to Boston
's best talker.
Few volumes of essays during the last sixty years have given more pleasure to a greater variety of readers than is yielded by The Autocrat
It gave the Doctor
a reputation in England
which he naturally prized, and which contributed to his triumphal English progress, many years later, recorded pleasantly in