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ART. INI.- THE BLIND.
1. The Lost Senses. By the late John Kitto, D. D., F. S. A.
London : Cox, 1857. 2. Prospectus of the Institution for Catholic Blind, Dublin,
185%. In our paper on the Deaf and Dumb in the last number, we have essayed to prove how immeasurably superior the blind are to the deaf mute in intellectual acquirements, and in cheerfulness of disposition ; we have shewn the various and almost insurmountable obstacles which interpose between the mental training of the deaf mute, and the almost impossibility of imparting knowledge in its higher and more extended form to those bereft of two senses so essential to their acquirement. We have not for a moment advanced the theory that in the physical or material sense, the blind are not greater objects of sympathy than the deaf mute, as the privation of sight seems to be and is no doubt a fearful calamity, a darkened lot so hard to be borne that the mind can scarcely realise the notion of life without vision : but as mind is superior to matter, in like manner does the intellectual vision of the blind occasionally gleam forth and emit sparkles of brilliancy in each department of literature and art, equal to, if not surpassing many gifted with high genius, and possessing all their faculties. It is this consideration that has led us to agree with Dr. Kitto in his opinion as to the comparative evils of blindness and the loss of the other senses. We still admit that physically the deaf mute is better off than the blind, but we take a higher flight and claim a nobler and more intellectual station for the blind than those who are as it were shut out from the world of language; and as few are so gifted as those we are about to enumerate, it may be that some will cavil at the notion of the few being preferred to the many. We however acknowledge ourselves of the class that prefer the choice spirits of the world of mind, few as comparatively they may be, to the herd of unthinking beings who lead vague and purposeless lives, though possessing every faculty.
Without further digression we shall commence our resumé of the blind, but we cannot however omit a slight mention of Laura Bridgman, whose privations were fourfold, and whose cheerfulness of disposition under such a calamity should bring a blush of shame to the cheek of many a favored though discontented mortal.
Of Laura Bridgman we shall give but a few details, as her truly interesting case is too well known to need elucidation here ; the annual reports of Dr. Howe, the able manager of the Institution for the Blind at Boston, furnished facts by which the late Mr. Combe of Edinburgh and afterwards Mr. Dickens, were enabled to give to the public truthful details of what, clothed in the garb of fiction, would be considered a romance almost too unreal, but when presented as a reality strikes a chord in the heart of every right thinking person, and awakens the twofold sentiment of sympathy for the privation and admiration of the cheerful and buoyant heart with which it is borne, realizing the belief that He "who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,” im. parts to those whom he outwardly afflicts an innate sense of happiness, and it may be, a pure spring of intellectual joy of which more favored beings are berest: be this as it may, Laura Bridgman in her painfully isolated condition presents an example of cheerful resignation which we would all do well to follow. As Dr. Kitto's information is of a more recent date than above mentioned, we shall condense a few details from his interesting volume which pleased us exceedingly. Laura Bridgman was born in 1829, and during her infancy suffered niuch from delicacy; when about two years old she partially regained strength, and her brother represents her as possessing at that time an almost precocious degree of intelligence. She had scarcely however time to exhibit any trace of what might be hoped from an unclouded future, when a violent and protracted illness, during which she had inflammation of both eyes and ears, deprived her of those two senses, and to add to her privations, the sense of smell was almost totally destroyed, at a subsequent period it was perceived that her taste was also blunted. Her mind naturally quick and intelligent soon regained its elasticity, and as the narrator graphically expresses it, the immortal spirit could not die," and notwithstanding all she had endured, and the calamities she had still to endure, as soon as her frame regained its natural strength, her mind assumed the mastery, and her natural disposition began to develope itself. As soon as she could walk she examined
every thing with her hands, groping after her mother through the house, and so strong was her power of imitation that she endeavoured, by feeling her mother's hands when employed, to follow all she was doing ; she even learned to sew and knit.
The grand era in her life is now about to commence. Dr. Howe, hearing of her case, his benevolent heart prompted him to seek her: it was in the year 1837, when Laura was nearly eight years old, that he first saw her. He describes her as a healthy, well formed child, of a sanguine temperament, and having a large and beautifully shaped head: her parents having consented to her being placed in the Boston Asylum, she accordingly entered it in the October of the same year.
Afterthe lapse of a few weeks, when she had had time to become accustomed to the change, Dr. Howe cominenced his system of imparting knowledge on the approved method of alphabetical instruction, and as a first experiment pasted labels with raised letters on articles of ordinary use, such as spoons, keys knives, and such “common things." These, by feeling carefully, she soon distinguished one from the other, and so rapid was her progress that ere long she, herself, placed the labels on each in regular order; this however seemed to be merely a mechanical or rather an imitative process, as she appeared to bave no consciousness of the relative uses of the articles thus labelled.
Instead of labels they after a while gave her detached letters which she was to form into words; they were consecutively arranged so as to spell book, key, 8c; they then mixed them up, and siguified that she was to arrange them herself, so as to express those words, and she did so. Up to this period she seemed perfectly unconscious of the meaning of what she had been engaged at, and merely imitated her teacher, but now the truth flashed on her, her intellect was instantaneously awakened, and she perceived that there was a certain way by which she could express the thoughts working in her mind; the immortal spirit eagerly seized this new link of union with other spirits, and thus commenced another and a brighter era for this child so bereft of outward joy. Dr. Howe remarks, that he caught the flash of light which beamed over her countenance, when the truth first dawned on her mind. Thus, the great obstacle to advancement was overcome, patience and perseverance were to be benceforward the beacons to guide all future efforts, and their success has been unprecedental. Mr. Dickens thus alludes to this moment, we might almost
say of inspiration, when the light of intellect flashed for the first time on this bereaved child's mental vision.
“Well may this gentleman call that a delightful moment, in wliich some distant promise of her present state first gleamed on the darkened mind of Laura Bridgman. Throughout his life, the recollection of that moment will be to bim a source of pure unfailing happiness; nor will it shine less brightly on the evening of his days of noble usefulness."
It was sometime however before any very great results followed this awaking; a set of metal type was procured, also a board with square holes, and all was so arranged as to enable the type to be set in such a manner, that the letters would be felt beyond the surface; she could by this means, when any matter was presented to her, select the letters and form them on her board. Her next step in progression was the acquisition of the manual alphabet ; this appears almost an inpossibility, when we consider the various senses of which this highly gifted child was bereft. The process in thus described in the report of that time :-“Her teacher gives her a new object, for instance a pencil, first lets her examine it, and get an idea of its use, then teaches her how to spell it by making the signs for the letters with her own fingers; the child grasps her hand, and feels her fingers as the different letters are formed ; she turns her head a little one side, like a person listening closely; her lips are apart; she seems scarcely to breathe, and her countenance, at first anxious, gradually changes to a smile as she comprehends the lesson. She then holds up her tiny fingers, and spells the board in the manual alphabet ; next, she takes her types, and arranges her letters : and last, to make sure that she is right, she takes the whole of the types composing the word, and places them upon or in contact with, the pencil, or whatever the object may be."
Though deprived of almost every faculty capable of imparting pleasure, yet this child of promise is happy and playful as a bird, never repining, but cheerful and buoyant as the most favored child of fortune; her intellectual faculties must neces. sarily be of a high order, as even when alone, engaged either in knitting or sewing, she evidently amuses herself by mentally recalling past impressions of some pleasurable nature, or it may be in imaginary dialogues. She practices the manual alphabet in this lone self-communion, and appears to reason, reflect, and argue, with the contending ideas that float through her ever
active mind; if she spell a word wrong, she at once corrects herself with her left hand, as her teacher would do; if right, she pats her head approvingly, and occasionally, in a spirit of frolic, she spells wrong purposely with the left hand, and then, with an arch and knowing look, she laughs heartily wbilst in the act of self-correction.
She is of an ardent and affectionate nature, and entertains for those with whom she associates a warm and tender regard. An affecting incident occurred when Laura was about eighteen months in the Institution; her mother came to see her for the first time, and the poor child, all unconscious of her presence, was playing about the room; when she encountered her, she began feeling her hands and dress to detect if she knew her, and then turned away, as if from a stranger; this affected the poor mother deeply, and she gave her a string of beads she had worn at home, which she at once recognized and tried to put them on; she was still unconscious of her mother's presence, and even repelled her caresses; after a time, however, a vague idea seemed to flit across the child's mind, she felt her hands more closely and eagerly, then becoming red and pale by turns, contending emotions of hope and doubt were marked in her expressive countenance; the mother seeing the change drew her softly towards her, when the whole truth rushed on her mind, and she nestled fondly in her mother's bosom; then beads, toys, all were unheeded, her playmates vainly tried to separate her from her mother, she still clung eagerly to her, resisting all their efforts. The natural affection, intelligence, and resolution of the child was subsequently proved in the parting scene, which was painfully affecting: she stood for a moment on the threshold, holding her mother by one hand, and the Matron to whom she was fondly attached by the other, then dropping her mother's hand, she sobbed violently, and resigned herself to the Matron's care, while her mother departed.
When Mr. Combe visited the Institution in 1840, she at once recognized him as an old acquaintance, he having been there the previous year, and having been instructed in writing since his last visit, she wrote in pencil the words, "Laura glad to see Combe,” and presented them. Dr. Kitto being with Mr. Combe during this visit, she gave him a letter, which she had written to an absent companion of whom she was very fond, saying, she could write another, as he wished to keep it