[Boston—Tuesday, 4 August 1863]

August 4. James Murdock the actor called to see Mr F. he says he is occupied constantly in public speaking in Ohio. Vallandigham, whom he thinks very able, will begin next week to “stump” that state. Mr Murdock has pitted himself against the traitor. If it requires all the goodly fortune he has accumulated by his profession it shall freely be given, he says to the last dollar in order to keep the great north-west loyal to our Cause. In the meantime Mr Murdock speaks continually in public to enormous houses. Mr F. says he thinks he will extinguish Vallandigham. The blessing of the people shall go with his work.

Last evening in spite of the intense heat Charles Sumner called. He is about to speak in public next week in New York upon “Our Foreign Relations” a subject he understands better of course than any body else in our country having been for the last two or three years, chairman of the committee on Foreign affairs at Washington.

In the meantime he has prepared an address upon “Our domestic affairs” with which it was his intention to open the next session of Congress but events move forward so rapidly he thinks it better to print his discourse at once in the “Atlantic Magazine”. After this matter was arranged satisfactorily Mr Sumner proceeded to speak of the life of Mr Prescott which is in process of preparation by Mr George Ticknor. He knew Mr F had been consulted about it and he wished to open his heart a little on the subject. It seems political differences have prevented Mr Ticknor from speaking to Mr Sumner for years so that is it impossible for them to have any communication about this book; yet Mr Prescott was a warm friend of Mr Sumner and when it was announced that his letters were to be printed Mr S. found himself in possession of a quarto volume of manuscript letters of Mr Prescott which he collected and sent to Mr Ticknor. He fears a very small portion of these will be retained because of Mr Ticknor’s anxiety to represent his friend as standing on the same platform as himself in politics which is that of a rank copperhead whereas, as Mr Sumner can testify, the opinions of Mr Prescott were altogether at variance with any thing of the kind.

He related one little anecdote in particular which should one day be recorded in Mr Sumner’s life since I fear it can never be so in Mr Prescott’s, too beautiful to be forgotten. On the day of Mr Sumner’s return to Boston after he had been struck down in the Senate a procession was formed to escort his carriage through the city. Beacon Street was crowded with people and we went to greet Mr Sumner from Mr Prescott’s balcony. “I had no sooner reached my house” said Mr Sumner “than Mr Prescott’s servant rang at the door with a note containing these words, ‘Welcome home, my dear Sumner, I hope you saw me wave you a greeting from my piazza. What is the earliest moment you can appoint that I may call upon you.’ I immediately appointed the hour of 12 on the following day when Mr Prescott punctually made his appearance. He welcomed me with delightful cordiality and said ‘had I known flags were to be hung out on Beacon Street I would have draped my house with them and have had a canvas printed with enormous letters “Welcome home” with yesterday’s date and underneath “May twenty-second” the date you received your injuries; under these should have appeared the words

“Then I, and you and all of us fell down

Whilst bloody treason flourished over us”

Mr Prescott was full of feeling during the interview and expressed his disappointment that he did not have the opportunity of decorating his house.

After his departure I took a carriage and drove out to dine with Mr Longfellow. I told the story of my visit from Mr Prescott testifying the sincere pleasure it had given me. When I had finish[ed] Longfellow clapped his hands forcibly together saying “What an exquisite page that will make in Prescott’s biography!!”

I was indignant at the reflection that the narrow minded bigotry of his biographer should prevent its ever finding a place there. The recollection of Mr Sumner’s friendship with Mr Prescott reminded Mr F. that he must often have met Mr Kirke and at once introduced the subject of his history. Mr Sumner at first replied to his inquiries very cautiously. This care is something he has adopted only quite recently since almost every thing he says flies abroad in the newspapers. He is naturally very frank, and after feeling his ground with care spoke freely upon the subject. Mr Sumner knew how important Mr Kirke’s  services had been to Mr Prescott and after the death of the latter wrote at once to Mrs Prescott urging her to allow Mr Kirke to bring into shape the materials for the last volume of Philip the Second which he knew were in his hands. No notice whatever was taken of his appeal but when shortly after he read two papers by Kirke published in the “Evening Post,” the only specimen of his work he had ever seen, he feared, had the history been finished as he had desired, it might have affected Mr P’s reputation. He should have trembled lest his friend should be overtopped by his young secretary.

He had seen only “two or three specimen pages of “Charles the Bold” but it looked well, there was not enough for him to judge however.” When he was in the south of France he began to read French, he told us, in order to study the old form of the language and bring it through its many changes to its present condition. Among other old books he chanced upon “Baron’s (spelling questionable) history of the house of Burgundy” in twelve volumes which he perused with great delight. From this the ground work of Mr Kirke’s history must be drawn he thinks. It has been Mr Sumner’s good fortune to have access to many remarkable books and manuscripts. When visiting at the house of Lord FitzWilliam in England who inherited the papers of Burke they were all put into his hands for inspection. Singularly enough yesterday’s mail brought to him from England as a gift several autograph letters and a political paper in the hand-writing of Burke. It is not difficult to see that Charles Sumner has been a great student of style and diction. He has re-read Mr Hawthorne’s paper called “Civic Banquets” just printed three times for the style. Mr F. asked him at once about De Quincey—how did he estimate his style? (not that anything would change Mr F.’s opinion but he “wanted to try him”). “I suppose De Quincey and Mr Landor are the masters of style among the moderns” he answered. This chimed well with what the publisher knew before!

The talk ended with Gibbon his eminent work and the genius which inspired him. “There is none like him, none in the range of historians.” We had all visited Lausanne—all stood upon the balcony of the Hotel Gibbon and looked over the perfect loveliness of the blue lake towards Meillerie made famous by Byron and Rousseau but it was ageeable and suggestive of those delightful hours to hear Mr Sumner describe the spot as his memory placed him there once more. The evening favored dreams. The bay slept in the intense orange of the dying sun-set and the evening star grew brighter as the waves grew pale until a silver thread travelled from the shore to the horizon. Then our day was ended.


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