previous next
[47] that their best passages became fixed in his memory, and were ever after available for use. His facility in remembering and quoting choice extracts—too great, perhaps—was thus early developed. He stood among the best in forensics.

In history and belles lettres he was also among the foremost. An illustration of his industry in this department may here be given. The students attending Professor Ticknor's lectures were each provided with a printed syllabus of leading dates and events. Sumner attended, in his Sophomore year, the French course, beginning Jan. 21, and ending March 22, 1828. After each lecture, he wrote out from brief memoranda full notes, to which he added an index, the whole filling a book of one hundred and fifty pages.1 The lectures are reported with such clearness and fulness, and such fidelity to the instructor's style, that they might be now read with advantage to a class. Professor Ticknor, hearing of the notes, requested Sumner's father to send them to him. On returning them, July 7, 1828, he wrote: ‘I return your son's notes, with many thanks. They have gratified me very much, for I am always pleased when I find a student disposed to get as much out of me as he can. If your son continues as diligent as he has been, he will go far in the ways of reputation and success.’ The student was encouraged by the teacher's praise, and his taste for Continental literature was stimulated at this early period by the instructions of this accomplished scholar.

But while succeeding in these branches, he entirely failed in mathematics. He had no faculty for the science, and he became disheartened and disgusted with the study. The elective system had not then been introduced, and there was no escape from the prescribed course. He is reported by one classmate to have said that he had not cut the leaves of some of the text-books in this department.2 His difficulty extended, of course, more or less, to applied mathematics under whatever name. With downright frankness he said, one day, in the recitation-room, to the professor who was pursuing him with questions, ‘I don't know; you know I don't pretend to know any thing about mathematics.’ Quickly, but good-humoredly, the professor replied, getting the laugh on the pupil, ‘Sumner! Mathematics! mathematics! ’

1 His memorandum-book, and also his copy of the syllabus of the lectures on Spanish literature with his pencil interlineations of the lecturer's points, are preserved.

2 Dec. 27, 1829, he wrote to Stearns, who was then teaching at Weymouth, ‘Browne went home and escaped the mathematical examination. That I attended. All I can say about myself is, gratia Deo, I escaped with life.’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Weymouth (Massachusetts, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Charles Sumner (3)
George Ticknor (2)
Jonathan F. Stearns (1)
Deo (1)
John W. Browne (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 27th, 1829 AD (1)
July 7th, 1828 AD (1)
March 22nd, 1828 AD (1)
January 21st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: