previous next
[253] of the United States; and finding that the number was seven, he had more than a dozen pages upon the term “seven.” “The number seven,” he said, “is an important and mysterious figure, playing distinguished parts in the world's history. Like the well-graced actor, it appears, reappears, and appears again on the stage. It shows itself solemnly in the first creation of the universe: ‘in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.’ And seven days have ever since filled the division of time called a week. This number entered with Noah into the ark; ‘of every clean beast,’ said the Lord, ‘thou shalt take to thee by sevens.’ And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” He went on in this way, running through all literature, ancient and modern, in the most extraordinary fashion, quoting from the Old and New Testaments, Aeschylus, Ovid, Virgil, Homer, Juvenal, Shakspeare, Donne, Milton, Spenser, Dryden, Statius, Cicero, Niebuhr, Tertullian, Aulus Gellius, Sir Thomas Brown, &c

It happened that these remarks on “The number seven” occupied all the space that could be devoted to the subject of the article in a single number of the magazine; it also happened that arrangements had been made to publish an article by Judge Fletcher, so that it was two months before the conclusion of Sumner's essay could appear, which was headed “American Law journals.” It began thus:

In a former number we considered the juridical character of the number seven; in the course of which we accumulated many, perhaps superfluous, illustrations of the prevalence of this number. ‘To end this strange, eventful history,’ there are now in the United States seven journals devoted to jurisprudence; seven champions, we trust, of justice; seven burning candlesticks,—not seven sleepers. With the child of Wordsworth we may say, ‘We are seven.’ In the language of old Piers Ploughman,—

There ben sevene sustres, that serven truth evere.

It would be impossible to describe the astonishment of some of the readers of the “Law Reporter,” at the appearance of the first article, which, standing by itself, was certainly a curious discussion for a law magazine. The editor was fully aware of this, and so wrote to Sumner. But it was extremely difficult to make him change any thing he had once written.

His critical notices of new books were generally very good. Here his extensive reading served an excellent purpose; and he was perfectly fearless and independent in the expression of opinions, and unsparing in his condemnation of poor books. He sometimes expressed his condemnation in a mode obvious enough to general readers, but so worded as to deceive the author himself, by throwing in some general notes of praise,—especially if the author were a friend of his own. The skilful manner in which he did this was something marvellous. The editor once hinted this to him in a note, and quoted those lines of Cowley,—

'T is like the poisoning of a dart,
Too apt before to kill.

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.
United States (United States) (2)
Ovid (Michigan, 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 (2)
William Wordsworth (1)
Statius (1)
Spenser (1)
Shakspeare (1)
Noah (1)
Niebuhr (1)
John Milton (1)
Homer (1)
Aulus Gellius (1)
Richard Fletcher (1)
Dryden (1)
Cowley (1)
Cicero (1)
Thomas Brown (1)
Aeschylus (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.
July (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: