A great characteristic of Sumner was the extraordinary way in which his mind absorbed an idea until he had exhausted everything connected with it. On the subject of laces, camel's-hair shawls, furs, etc., he was as thoroughly posted up as if his whole life had been devoted to each one of these as a specialite;. I should doubt if there Was any lady in the country who was so familiar with the different varieties and value of these articles as he was; and this is equally true of engravings, china, and to a great extent of paintings and other works of art. In his many visits to my place at Fishkill his mind would become entirely horticultural. I had a very large collection of evergreens, nearly two hundred varieties, all botanically labelled. He was very found of going out by himself, and studying the various distinctions and characteristics of this large and interesting family, and generally at the end of the fourth or fifth lesson he would know a large proportion of them, so that Upon his next visit, at an interval of a year, he would say, “I must go out and see how many of many friends, the evergreens, I can remember;” and it was quite remarkable how many he knew. Upon his last visit here he became very much interested in a new French method of cultivating asparagus, so much so that a dozen times a day he returned to this (to him peculiarly interesting) subject, asking me who had tried it; why did not this or that one try it; and finally departing from me to go to Governor Fish's he said, and perhaps these were his last words, “I must make Fish try this new way of growing asparagus. He has,” he said, “great respect for my horticultural knowledge.” In all my frequent intercourse with Sumner for fifty years, I can truly say I never found a person so uniformly genial and amiable, and who so readily adopted the tastes and occupations of his friends while with them.Sumner's active participation in popular agitations interfered seriously with professional success. It repelled clients who disagreed with him on exciting topics, or who if agreeing preferred a lawyer exclusively devoted to the courts and his office. He had many callers among politicians, philanthropists, and literary men, with whom he was always ready for a talk, and he consumed a good deal of time in correspondence on public affairs as well as upon his addresses and lectures. Still, whatever might be his distractions, he attended faithfully to the business
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1 Lord Elgin, in his speech in Boston at the public dinner given in connection with the Railroad Jubilee, Sept. 15, 1851. mentioned Sumner as one of the distinguished men of the city, to the chagrin of the conservatives who had charge of the entertainment. Richard H. Dana, Jr., taking in 1853 Sumner letters of introduction to England, wrote gratefully, Sept. 9, 1853: ‘Lord Elgin received me very kindly, and spoke of you with great interest and affection. . . . In fact, by the stroke of your pen earls and countesses, admiralty judges, attorneys-general, M. P.'s, nuncios. archbishops, priests and deacons, the glorious company of apostles, cloistered nuns, and stoled friars are set in motion.’
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