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[404] nature, and long for her happiness. I have written to her my sympathy, but I feel how poorly I have done it. I have also sent a welcome to Dr. Hastings. Do tell me of them both. Have you learned to know him? And what is her health? I write to you freely. To my mother I cannot write without Julia's knowledge; and George is much absorbed in his own plans.

To Theodore Parker, March:—

Your sermon on Nebraska is powerful and grand; but that on old Age is touching,—very. I took it up after midnight, and before moving to bed read it faithfully and tearfully.1 Howe was here like a perturbed spirit for a few days, and then suddenly departed.

Sumner's mind while a senator was always diverging to congenial studies. Reading in the National Intelligencer an anonymous article on Comte, which touched on the idea of a regular and progressive course of events in history,—a topic which he had treated in a college address,2—he sent, to the care of that journal, a note of sympathy and thanks to the author, who proved to be Dr. J. C. Welling, then a regular contributor to the ‘Intelligencer,’ later one of its editors, and afterwards President of Columbian College, Washington, D. C. This was the beginning of a friendship based on common tastes in literature rather than on agreement in the political controversies of the time. The following is Sumner's second note to Dr. Welling, dated March 16, 1854:—

As a faithful reader of your articles in the “National Intelligencer,” I am glad of an opportunity to express to you the pleasure which they have given me. As an humble student, in moments taken from other things, of departments illustrated by your elegant pen, I have been glad to renew early impressions and to live again the true life. Allow me to suggest the inquiry, since you refer to Vico, whether his work at this time can be regarded as an important guide? He taught the unity of humanity, and illustrated it from history and literature; but he was filled with the idea of the vicious circle in which society was supposed to have moved, proceeding to a certain stage and then falling back, and did not see its sure and irresistible march. Bacon, per haps, in saying that moderns stand on the shoulders of the ancients, suggested the whole thought. But there are several writers of France who seem to me to have struck the subject to the quick, more even than Vico, though down to the time of Condorcet no one had considered it at length. I might begin with Descartes, though I forget now the title of the work. There is also a chapter of Pascal in his “Pensees,” suppressed in the early editions for a century, which

1 Parker replied, April 12, 1854: ‘I thank you for your kindly words about my sermon on “Old age.” I wrote in tears, as many another sermon,—nay, as almost all, even what sound to other men like the war-horse of a soldier.’

2 At Schenectady, . July 25, 1848, on ‘The Law of Human Progress’ vol. II. pp. 89-138.

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