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[598]

Five years after Prescott's death, when his biography was published, Sumner wrote thus from Washington to Mrs. Prescott:

I have just read the biography of your husband, and I have mourned anew for myself the loss which was so infinite to you. The past has been revived, and I have lived over again nearly twenty years of life with happiest hours, closed, alas! by death. I have felt keenly how much I was permitted to enjoy, and how much I have lost. Those evenings in the darkened back room in Bedford Street, with the kind, sparkling, intimate talk on books, history, friends abroad and at home; the pleasant suppers below, where were the venerable parents, so good land cordial; then as I became absorbed in public affairs, the constant friendship which we maintained; the welcome he always gave me on my return from Washington our free conversations on public affairs and public men; and perhaps more than all things else his tender sympathy as he sat by my bedside, revealing how his heart was moved, only a short time before the summons came to himself,—all these I think of, and in selfish sorrow I grieve that he is gone. But I am filled with gratitude that I was permitted to enjoy for so long a time such true happiness.

The earlier efforts of your husband, which are now so unreservedly communicated to the world, were naturally less known to me, who cane to his friendship only after his triumphs had begun. I have read them with intense interest and admiration; the later I could chronicle from my own intercourse with him. I never return to Boston without feeling the vacancy from his absence. Our good town is to me less affectionate and less interesting than it was. Time has softened your sorrow; but I know that it can never silence all its pangs. And yet the thought of such a life, and of that completes and most unbroken association with it which you were permitted to enjoy, must have its satisfactions; while there is before you the trust that this happiness will yet be renewed where there is neither disease nor death nor any failure of sight.

I think often of you and of your kindness to me; and I hope that I do not now take too great a liberty in sending you from my busy chair this feeble expression of the sentiments with which I cherish the memory of your husband.

When Sumner arrived in Boston he was grieved not to find his friend Dr. Howe, who had gone to Canada to avoid being reached by any process of the United States. The doctor had been a friend of John Brown, and had taken an interest in some of his plans, though not implicated in his last enterprise at Harper's Ferry. He had left home, partly under advice from Montgomery Blair, who thought it unsafe for him to remain where the process of the federal courts or of Congress could reach him. Sumner deplored his avoidance of process, and strongly advised him to return and openly await any summons.1

1 Dr. Howe returned, and testified before the Senate Committee, Feb. 4, 1860.

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