He was not always attentive to his studies at school; that is, to the specially appointed lessons in Latin, Greek, and mathematics. For the first two years of our course we studied nothing whatever but Latin and Greek. But we boys felt the superiority of his mind and education, though we could get above him, at times, in school rank. I used to look at him with wonder as I heard him talk on subjects I knew nothing of. The first I ever learned of the Labarum of the Romans was from a discussion he had, in common talk, with one of his mates. He had a full sense of his knowledge, yet he never obtruded it upon his fellows, or showed any self-conceit. When we had been less than two years in the school, he fell into a dispute one day, in the middle of the class exercises, with an ill-natured teacher, who undertook to put him down for ignorance on some point of geography,—a branch not studied in the school, or made the subject of examination on admission. Sumner, then about eleven years of age, replied, with spirit, that he could answer any question which the teacher might put to him. The teacher bethought himself a moment, and, going to his table, and looking up what he esteemed a difficulty, asked him where Cumana was. The boy replied instantly, with a full and correct answer; and no further question was asked.Other pupils at the school do not recall any characteristics, as distinguishing him from his fellows. He was a thoughtful, studious youth, always fond of reading. His mother, in later life, often spoke of this trait of his boyhood. He enjoyed history most of all, reading it not in an easy, careless way, but with earnest attention, sitting on a low seat, and with maps spread out before him. When fourteen years of age, he wrote a compendium of English history, from Caesar's conquest to 1801, which filled a manuscript-book of eighty-six pages.
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