Samiel Ward was caught up in many of the dramatic and/or important events of his period (1814-1884). He was a prospector in the California gold rush, a secret agent in South America, an agent of the North during the Civil War. As ""King of the Lobby,"" he had great influence on Congress and indeed raised that calling to one of near-respectability. Son of a New York banker, son-in-law of William B. Astor, he was the friend of the great men of his day, and himself a man of several talents, the most important being what his biographer calls ""the genius of personality."" At best, this is an elusive quality for the biographer to catch. In this case the task is made even more difficult since Sam Ward left little in the way of a personal record and that little was most discreet. Even his immediate family found him something of an enigma. For the reader, the tracing of Sam Ward's genius is made even tougher because of Lately Thomas' rather labored style: (""His relations with his grandfather were more like those between chums than between an elder and his prattling scion."") Nevertheless, the man who emerges from these pages is charming, witty, intelligent, perhaps, somewhat amoral but certainly very, very human.