Page images

eople who saw from other mentect. The es differently formed a whit less in Corve the same effe

some things one of the shrewdest men of his day, having attained considerable proficiency in botany and chemistry; but he was blind. He had a wonderful memory for sounds, and could, it is said, recognise by their voice persons whom he had only once heard. He could tell if he was in a street or a blind alley, in a large room or a small one; but he believed that astronomers were the only people who saw with telescopes, and that they had their eyes differently formed from other men. Nor was his notion about eyes in general a whit less incorrect. “The eye, said he, is an organ on which the air should have the same effect as my stick on my hand.'* The boy, upon whom Cheselden operated for cataract, had clearly been of the same opinion. Even when restored to sight, he believed that the objects he looked on touched his eyes, as those which he felt touched his skin; and he consequently had no true idea of distance. He asked which was the sense that deceived him, the sight or the touch ?'t He wondered how a likeness of his father's face could be got into so small a space as his mother's watchcase; it seemed to him as impossible as getting a bushel into a pint measure. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that when some one asked Du Puiseaux if he would not be very glad to have his sight?' he replied, “If it were not for curiosity, I would rather have long arms; it seems to me that my hands would teach me better what is passing in the moon than your eyes or telescopes; and, besides, the eyes cease to see sooner than the hands to touch. It would therefore be as well to improve the organ I have, as to give me the one I want.' Abundant evidence of a similar kind might still be adduced, but this seems enough to prove that even among educated blind people there must be a large section of the physical and metaphysical world of which their idea is to a great extent vague and worthless.

Next in importance to the sense of touch comes that of hearing. The blind boy knows the step of his friend in a trice, decides quickly or even instantly which way that step is moving; and, if it be coming towards him, exactly at what angle to run across the room, or yard, to meet it. He will even distinguish a certain footstep, at times, among others, especially if it be one that he cither loves or fears. Let us glance for a moment into the

* Guillié, p. 56.
+ See • Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society.'

Speaking of the education of the sense of touch, Sydney Smith whimsically conjectures as to the possibility of educating the taste and smell to an equal degree of keenness. As the blind child feels certain marks raised on paper, which he calls A B C, why should not the alphabet be taught by a series of well-contrived favours ? Why should not men smell out their learning, and why should there not be a fine for study ?-Lectures on Moral Philosophy, p. 62. Vol. 118.-No. 236.

2 G

BasketBasket-shop in St. George's Fields. It is a large and lofty room, some 20 feet wide by 150 feet long, and in it are now at work on basket-making about fifty boys and men. There is

making about, at eithers from an halfway do the

uilding. Our met with some The fifty boys ing a tune,

one is now just gone to fetch some osiers from another part of the building. Our friend little Trotter is at work halfway down the room, but has met with some trifling difficulty not to be solved without his teacher's help. The fifty boys and men are almost all talking as they work, or perhaps humming a tune, or beating their work with a bar of iron ; and some are crossing the room in search of tools, help, or advice; so that, altogether, the scene is full of noisy life, and as unlike a shop full of blind people as may well be imagined. But, in the midst of all the noise, Trotter sits quietly waiting; he knows that the master went out of the room five minutes ago (he will tell you he saw him go), and, though several persons have since come in at that door, he knows that his teacher is not one of the few. All at once he starts up, as the door shuts with a bang—and the pupil walks quickly up the room, * in a direct line, as if he saw the table at which his teacher now sits. As he goes back to his place another person enters by the same door, and makes his way hastily towards the other end; but he has not gone a dozen steps before more than one voice among the basket-makers is heard to whisper, 'Here comes the Chaplain,' or “There goes Brown.'

Or, glance into the same room an hour later, and the whole scene is changed. The bell has rung for leaving off work; but, as it is a wet wintry day, some fifty or sixty of the pupils are here under shelter, walking two-and-two, arm-in-arm, round the room, whistling, chatting, singing, or shouting most uproariously —but all promenading as methodically, and evenly, as if every one there had sight. Not a single boy ever strays out of his rank, no one runs against his neighbour; though, at the first glance, it appears only like a noisy and confused crowd. There are three

two minutes some boy darts out from the crowd, or rushes in to join it, by that middle door; but in neither case does he jostle friend or foe. Here comes Trotter himself. He is in search of his friend Jones, who, driven in by the rain, left him ten minutes ago at the swing, and is now the solitary unit in the long chain of couples. As tramp by tramp it works its slow way past the

* If any one with sight imagines this to be an easy matter, let him shut his

his journey in the dark. The chances are 1000 to 1 against his arriving anywhere near the well-known threshold,


cut up 1, all precis by blind

door where he stands, Trotter, with his face all eye,'* watches to pounce on his friend as he goes by. In spite of all the din he hears him when some yards off, seizes on his arm, as if he saw it, passing, and away they go, to join steadily in that jolly unbroken march till the glad sound of

"That tocsin of the soul, the dinner bell' send them flying out into the colonnade to muster for cold beef, bread, and beer. Stand still for a moment, and you will hear the deep roll of their chanted grace, with its pealing Amen; if not quite so smooth and rounded a cadence as it might be, at least with a deal of heart and reality in its final chord. While they are at dinner we will glance into one or two of the work-rooms, now silent and empty enough. This on the left, under the archway, is the Brush-shop, fitted up with a central table and forms, on one side the teacher's bench, and on the others a longer bench cut up into little sections, each fitted with drawers and tools for learners, all precisely as if the workmen had sight. In this room are made, entirely by blind boys taught by a blind man, brushes of almost every possible description. After 6 P.M. this shop serves as a Club-room for the Upper Twenty; here they play chess or draughts, emboss letters to country friends, or now and then, if lucky enough to get hold of a stray teacher, listen to the pages of some special book. In the drawers of the centre table are now locked up the boards for draughts, bagatelle, or chess; all curious enough in their way, but which space will not permit us to do more than mention. A good game of chess will last a month or six weeks.f Work-room No. 2 is the Mat-shop, much larger and loftier than No. 1, and fitted with mat-frames and looms, all of the ordinary kind. Here are made rugs, mats, and miles of cocoa-nut matting, of every texture, quality, and pattern. Dainty little mats of the finest wool or fibre, fringed with pink or white for a boudoir, or thick and gigantic enough for Brobdingnag; triangular, square, or oblong, to fit into the bottom of a carriage, or the corner of a hall; thin enough for the door to swing over without brushing, or thick enough for the boots of a regiment of Grenadiers.

As we cross the open yard from the mat-shop, the boys and men are coming out from dinner, and at once diverge in all directions; some three or four off to the swings, some to the

will ness; all"e now lockspeciallo hold of

* Coleridge · Biog. Lit.'

+ Sir Kenelm Digby says, in his Treatise on Bodies,' 'that his son's tutor, a blind man, could beat the cleverest players of that day.'-P. 17. Ed. 1660.

A small point on the top of the men e.g. distinguishes for the blind boy his opponent's pieces from his own. 2 G 2

range * The eye itself is educated. It sees,' says Carlyle, 'what it brings power to see.' Thus, the sailor at the mast-head descries a ship where the landsman sees vothing; the Esquimaux detects a white fox amid white snow; the astronomer a star where others see only an expause of misty light.

range of music-rooms above the workshop, in each of which is a piano to be diligently sounded till 6 P.m.; some for a stroll round the grass-plat, and one or two to the club-room ; but each and every one going on his way as calmly and clearly as if he saw every inch of it mapped out before him ; never running against friend or foe, never stumbling over door-step, and rarely missing the handle of the door for which he steers. As we thread our way, however, through the noisy, straggling crowd, our irregular, unbusiness-like style of march is suddenly interrupted by a shot across the bows in the shape of a loud “holloa !'-as much as to say, 'who goes there? and why don't you look where you're going?' Our best answer to this shot is to stand still until most of the cruisers have swept by; and then—with one more peep into the brush-shop, which, till work begins again at 2 P.M., serves as a sort of house of call—we will quit this part of our subject. Our friend Trotter has just set off in a great hurry for that door-way; he seizes the handle, opens the door hastily, shouts out one or two lusty words, waits for no answer, but rushes off again elsewhere. Ask him what this pantomime means, and he will tell you that he was in quest of a certain trio of boys who promised to meet him there; that he looked' into the clubroom and found that they were not there; at least he thinks not, as, judging by the sound of his own foot against the form on which they usually sit, and of his own voice, the room seemed empty. And empty it really is. The well known story told by Mr. Anderson of a blind messenger at Edinburgh, entirely corroborates this fact. “I had occasion,' he says, 'to send out one of these blind men with a mattress. I gave him the bill with it, that he might receive payment. But, to my surprise, he returned with the account and the mattress too. “I've brought back baith, ye see, Sir," said he, “How so?” “ Indeed, Sir, I didna like ť leave't yonder, else I'm sure we wad ne'er see the siller—there's nae a stick of furniture within the door !” “How do you come to know that?” “Oh, Sir, twa taps on the floor wi' my stick soon tellit me that!”! And true enough was the blind man's guess; for guess it must still be called, though in both the cases cited it was shrewd enough to pass for wit. He educates his senses of touch and hearing into a state of exceeding acuteness,* till they almost begin to atone to him for that one which is denied ; but, after all, they cannot do for him what a single ray of vision will do by one swist glance. By dint of long experience, and after an


infinite series of mistakes-of many of which he is unconscioushe manages to see with his fingers, and now and then to do more than hear with his ears; but a shrewd boy of his own age, with a good pair of eyes, will give him twenty or thirty in every hundred yards, and yet win the race. A blind boy's face may be, as Coleridge describes it,' all eye,' and learn to beam with brightest intelligence; he may be an apt scholar where many a youngster fails; his remaining senses, if rightly trained, seem, by that merciful law which rules God's kingdom, to put forth new blossom and fruit as every year rolls by, to be gifted with new vigour and keener life, and thus save him from the full pang of knowing all his loss; and yet, the result if tried sharply will too often be found imperfect and incomplete. It has been up-hill work all the way through, accomplished only by incessant and patient toil, by perseverance and unwearied ingenuity, and on this ground admirable and worthy of praise. For though Huber, in spite of the darkness about him, managed to make and to record some striking discoveries in the domestic life of ants and bees, he would have done far more with his own eyes than with those of his faithful servant, or even of his clever and sparkling little wife Marie Lullin.* And had Didymus of Alexandria, the friend of Rufinus and Isidore, A.D. 350, mathematician, linguist, and theologian, not been blind, he would have left behind him far more trace than a slight mention in the pages of his famous pupil St. Jerome. Saunderson would have left behind him some imperishable record of his genius; his manhood would have been saved from many an excess, and his old age have been preserved from the deadly taint of scepticism. John Stanley, the organist of St. Andrew's, Holborn † (1730), to whose playing Handel often listened with delight, would have been known to all England, instead of to one parish in London. Blacklock might have written poetry instead of rhyme

* A single quotation, taken quite at random, from Huber's charming book on Ants, will prove to what a good use he put their eyes, and how acutely he describes what he never saw. I noticed these ants (brought home from a wood) four months, without allowing them to quit my study; and then wishing them to be nearer a state of nature, I carried the ruche into the garden, about ten paces from the natural ant-hill. The prisoners, profiting by my negligence in not renewing the water which blockaded their passage, escaped and ran about. The ants near the chestnut-tree came and recognised their former companions, fell to mutual caresses with their antennæ, took them up by their mandibles, led them to their own nests; next a crowd came up to the Bell-glass, and searched out every fugitive, to be carried away with joy.'-P. 173.

† So great was Stanley's skill that he is said on one occasion, when the other instruments were too sharp for the organ, to have transposed one of Handel's • Te Deums' into the key of C# major, rarely used on account of its excessive difficulty; and that, too, at once," without time for premeditation.


« EelmineJätka »