Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was conscious of nothing else but a habit of patient thinking, which could at all distinguish him from other men. He felt that it was no inaccessible superiority on which he stood, and it was thus that he generously proclaimed it. It is certainly another imagination that prevails in regard to those who have left the stupendous monuments of intellect behind them—not that they were differently exercised from the rest of the species, but that they must have been differently gifted. It is their talent, and almost never their industry, by which they have been thought to signalize themselves; and seldom is it adverted to, how much it is to the more strenuous application of those common-place faculties which are diffused among all, that they are indebted for the glories which now encircle their remembrance and their name. It is felt to be a vulgarizing of genius that it should be lighted up in any other way than by a direct inspiration from heaven; and hence men have overlooked the steadfastness of purpose, the devotion to some single but great object, the unweariness of labor that is given, not in convulsive and preternatural throes, but by little and little as the strength of the mind may bear it,—the accumulation of many small efforts, instead of a few grand and gigantic but perhaps irregular movements on the part of energies that are marvellous. Men have overlooked these as being indeed the elements to which genius owes the best and the proudest of her achievements. They cannot think that aught so utterly prosaic as patience, and painstaking, and resolute industry, have any share in the upholding of a distinction so illustrious. These are held to be ignoble attributes, never to be found among the demigods, but only among the drudges of literature : and it is certainly true, that in scholarship there are higher and lower walks. But still the very highest of all is a walk of labor. It is not by any fantastic jugglery, incomprehensible to ordinary minds, and beyond their reach-it is not by this that the heights of philosophy are scaled. So said he who towers so far above all his fellows; and whether viewed as an exhibition of his own modesty, or as an encouragement to others, this testimony of Sir Isaac may be regarded as one of the most precious legacies that he has bequeathed to the world.”

While a student of law, Mr. Sumner wrote several excellent articles for the American Jurist," and soon became editor of that important journal. After reading law for some time in the office of Benjamin Rand, Esq., a counsellor of Boston, he was admitted to the bar at Worcester, and com

[ocr errors]

66

menced the practice of his profession in Boston, in 1834. He was shortly after appointed reporter to the Circuit Court, and published three volumes which are known as “Sumner's Reports.” For three successive winters after his admission to the bar, during the absence of Professors Greenleaf and Story, he lectured to the law students at Cambridge, and for some time had the sole charge of the Dane School. These labors he performed with distinguished ability, and entire satisfaction to the students and faculty, and while in this capacity, gained for himself a valuable reputation. From this period he speedily advanced to the front rank in his profession, soon became eminent as a jurist, and attracted the admiration of such men as Chancellor Kent, Justice Story, and other renowned civilians.

In 1833, he ably and judiciously edited A Treatise on the Practice of the Courts of Admiralty in Civil Causes of Maritime Jurisdiction, by Andrew Dunlap. The valuable comments, which he added in the form of an appendix, contained as much matter as the original work. The editing of this treatise was undertaken in consequence of the illness of Mr. Dunlap, who stated on his deathbed that Mr. Sumner had worked over it " with the zeal of a sincere friend, and the accuracy of an excellent lawyer.” Indeed, Mr. Sumner's position in the legal world, at this time, was an enviable one: he was universally regarded as a young lawyer of exalted talent, brilliant genius, and commanding eloquence.

[blocks in formation]

CHAPTER II.

Visit to Europe-letters of introduction-received in England with

marked attention-attends the debates in Parliament—favorably received by members of the English Bar, &c.— visits Paris—writes a defence of the American claim to the Northeastern boundaryvisits Italy-studies art and literature there-visits Germany, returns to Boston-again lectures in Cambridge-publishes an edition of Vesey's Reports-delivers his oration, entitled the True Grandeur of Nations--Judge Story's opinion of it-eloquent passage on the Reign of Peace.

In the autumn of 1837, Mr. Sumner visited Europe, where he remained till the spring of 1840, enjoying superior advantages of a literary nature, and adding largely to the number of his intellectual accomplishments.

The renowned Judge Story, who always cherished the highest regard for him, wrote a letter of introduction to a distinguished gentleman in London, in which he says:

“Mr. Sumner is a practising lawyer at the Boston bar, of very high reputation for his years, and already giving the promise of the most eminent distinction in his profession; his literary and judicial attainments are truly extraordinary. He is one of the editors—indeed, the principal editor of

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »