Shortly after he entered the Law School, he procured a ‘Lawyer's Commonplace-Book,’ in which he wrote out tables of English kings and lord-chancellors, with dates of reigns and terms; sketches of lawyers, drawn largely from Roscoe
's ‘Lives;’ extracts from Sir Matthew Hale
's ‘History of the Common Law
;’ and the definitions and incidents of ‘Estates,’ as laid down by Blackstone
The list of books read by him at the school, as noted in his commonplace-books, is remarkable for its wide range, and begins with this memorandum and extract from Coke's First Institute: ‘Law reading commenced Sept., 1831, at Cambridge
“Holding this for an undoubted verity, that there is no knowledge, case, or point in law, seeme it of never so little account, but will stand our student in stead at one time or other.”
1 Inst. 9.’
Besides his common-law studies, he read widely in French law.
's memory was not less extraordinary than his industry.
Students applied to him for guidance in their investigations, and even lawyers in practice sought, in a few instances at least, his aid in the preparation of briefs.
While his friends admired his zeal and enthusiasm, they were not altogether pleased with his excessive application, and advised greater moderation in his studies.
There was reason in their caution.
It is possible to task the receptive capacity of the mind to the injury of its creative power; and Sumner
, perhaps, gathered his knowledge too fast for the best intellectual discipline.
His notes of the moot-court cases heard by the professors, in several of which he was counsel,1
In Feb., 1833, he maintained (Wendell Phillips
being of counsel on the other side) the negative of the question, whether a Scotch bond, assignable by the law of Scotland
, can be sued by the assignee in his own name in our courts.
He seems to have been dissatisfied with his argument, and wrote to Browne
, stating his hesitation in public speaking, and his difficulty in selecting fit language for his thoughts.
replied, saying that he had overstated the difficulty, which was not peculiar to him; and advising a simpler style, with less effort and consciousness, and the rejection of large words,—sesquipedalia verba
(‘to which you know you are addicted’),—and ‘uncommon, brilliant, and Gibbonic phrases.’
‘You do not stumble,’ he said; ‘you utter rapidly enough.