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ART. II.- 1. Annual Report of the Blind School, St. George's
Fields. 1853. 2. Letter to the Rt. Hon. Lord Wharncliffe on the Phonetic
System for the Blind. By J. H. FRERE, Esq. 1843. 3. Annual Report of the Pennsylvanian Institution for the In
struction of the Blind. 4. Tangible Typography, or how the Blind read. By E. C.
JOHNSON, Esq. 1853. 5. The Lost Senses. By J. KITTO. (1845.) 6. Observations on different Modes of Educating the Blind.
By Rev. W. TAYLOR, F. R. S. 1853. 7. A History of France for Children. By Lord CRANBORNE. * 8. Des Aveugles. Considérations sur leur Etat Physique, Moral
et Intellectuel. Par P. A. DUFAU. Paris : 1850. No man becomes blind,' says the proverb, by merely shutting
" his eyes ; nor does a fool always see by opening them.' Yet, in spite of Sancho and the proverb, when we think or reason about the blind, we are apt to judge of them as simply having their eyes shut, while we have our's open ; and that therein lies the great difference between us. This is but a hundredth part of the difference.
• Eyes and No-eyes,' says didactic Mr. Mavor, ‘made together 'a tour, in which Eyes saw everything, and No-eyes nothing ;' notwithstanding which stern truth No-eyes was not a blind man - certainly not Mr. Holman, who, in spite of total blindness, has visited and described half the known countries of the world. Let us further illustrate the case from life. Mr. Onesimus Smith has for a neighbour Mr. Cassio Brown. Mr. Smith caught a cold in his eyes some six or seven years after his first appearance in the Smithian halls, and became totally blind; while his neighbour Brown's eyes are still, at forty, as keen as a hawk's, and scorn the aid of glasses. It is a winter evening, and Mr. Brown sits reading in his library. He has mastered three chapters of metaphysics, and now closes his eyes for a moment to ponder on the last and toughest. As his bodily eyes close, his mental eyes open; and the very objects which he but now beheld, reappear almost as they fade away.+ He still sees
* Lord Cranborne, since childhood, has been totally blind.
† Malebranche, when he wished to think intensely, used to close his window-shutters in the daytime, excluding every ray of light; the printed page which he was reading a minute ago; opposite, over the fire-place, still appears to hang that incomparable likeness of himself as the President of the Little Pedlington Archery Club, in full uniform; he can still see the ruddy fire as well as hear it crackle, and the shadow on the wall still flickers in the uncertain light. On whichever of these points his thoughts chance to dwell — metaphysics, archery, his own noble mien as President, the price of coals, or the theory of shadows—of that very one may his eyes, though closely shut, still behold a visible symbol: Non cernenda sibi lumina clausa vident.'
But suppose Mr. 0. Smith under precisely similar circumstances, save that he is blind. He too reads metaphysics, and is given to meditation. He leans back in his chair, and thinks on the last tough chapter. He has been blind since he was eight years old, and is now forty. He cannot remember, with any accuracy, the shapes of the thousand objects of sight which greet the traveller through little Pedlington, though he can with ease find his way through every part of the village. He knows where to turn off from the main road to the stile across the fields, precisely where the pump stands outside Firkins the grocer's door; and can even run without danger through the paternal mansion of the Smiths. He is well acquainted with all the details of the room in which he sits, can find almost any one volume that is wanted, and is aware of the portrait over the fire-place.* But when he leans back to muse on that last tough chapter of metaphysics, no sudden change takes place further than this, that a minute ago he was reading, now he is thinking, or not, as the case may chance.
But no visions of shadows on the wall, of printed type, or
and, for a like reason, Democritus is said to have put out his eyes in order that he might philosophise the better ;- which latter story, however, it should be observed, though told by several ancient writers, is doubted by Cicero (De Fin. v. 39.), and discredited by Plutarch (De Curiosit. c. 12.) Speaking on this point, M. Dufau (the Manager of the famous French Schools) says, — Lorsque nous
voulons ajouter accidentellement à notre force habituelle d'attention, nous fermons les yeux, nous nous faisons artificiellement aveugles. Diderot tenait souvent en parlant les yeux entièrement clos, et sa
parole avait alors, au dire de la Harpe, une éloquence qui s'élevait . quelquefois jusqu'au sublime.'
* There is now living in the county of York a gentleman of fortune, who, though totally blind, is an expert archer : so expert,' says our informant (who knows him well) that out of twenty shots with the • long bow he was far my superior. His sense of hearing was so
keen, that when a boy behind the target rang a bell, the blind archer “knew precisely how to aim the shaft.'
prorid of thwhich they can existence,
page, of portrait, or of archery, are ready to spring up at a moment's notice to be scanned, or dismissed as intruders. Blank night shuts him on all sides as he reads; it still shuts him in when he has ceased to read. Of the very light, in which live all the rest of the world, he most probably can form little, if any, conception, but from its genial warmth as the sun greets him in his morning walk, or dies along the elm-tree avenue as he strolls at eventide through his father's park.
If his thoughts stray for a moment from metaphysics to the crackling sound of his fire, his mental vision may at once form such idea as it can of blazing coals, but it has no help in the conception from aught of the visible, external world. The • world of the blind,' says Prescott, 'is circumscribed by the • little circle which they can span with their own arms. All • beyond has for them no real existence.' (Essays, p. 47.)
A man who has been blind from birth or even early childhood fails in realising even what light is, much less a blazing flame. In the same way he fails to realise, even remotely, descriptions of the stars, the starry heavens at night, the sun, the moon. He has scarcely any idea of distance; such words as the arched * canopy of heaven,' which seeing men call boundless, convey to him, after all, but a vague and dreamy idea of space and distance, but not even a faint conception of the glorious spectacle which delights his fellow-men.
So again, of the sea he can form no accurate conception. “I have been told,' said a poor blind man to us not long since, that the ocean is like an immense green field; but of what use is that? How do I know what a field is, or what green is ?' (A blind companion had used this simile in trying to make him understand what the sea was like.) The words sea' and 'sky' therefore do not convey to the blind man the impression which they convey to us. His world, so to speak, is without sky or sea; but of such a world we can form no idea. The picture, therefore, now before Mr. Smith, however vague or imperfect, comes to him when summoned; but is the result rather of inward power than outward impression. He has no remembrance of the fire at which he burnt his fingers in the nursery some five and thirty years ago, save that it was hot and painful. He may remember sitting as a boy on the bench under the great walnut tree, but he cannot now call to mind even its colour, shape, or size; and still more faint is his remembrance of that striking portrait of Onesimus Smith, Sen., Esq., major in the Yorkshire Invincibles, which still hangs where his son was held up in nurse's arms to see it on the walnut wainscot of the dining-room. But it must not be forgotten, that although the
1. Sen, "emembra, its colorcat circuit the big intellect to gath Whatever objecal musings, rised
circle of which Prescott speaks is a narrow one, yet within that circuit the blind student has full sway, and that nothing is too distant for his intellect to gather even from far-off sources, and bring within his own range. Whatever object, therefore, rises in his thoughts to interfere with the metaphysical musings, rises up from within; and the very fact of its being thus isolated from the external world tends to render the mental vision, if not keener, yet more concentrated; as the rays of common light gathered into a focus burn the hand on which the hottest July sun shines harmlessly.
And thus it happens, that on whatever subject-- the blind man thinks with greater concentration and individuality of purpose than the student who has eyes; if he loses the help of external objects in forming certain conceptions or ideas, he gains by not being liable to their intrusion in tangible and solid reality, when not wanted.
How imperfectly, and with what difficulty, the blind realise space and distance, even if their sight be restored, may be seen from the following most interesting case, extracted from the • Philosophical Transactions :'
• The boy born blind, upon whom Cheselden so successfully operated, believed, when first he saw, that the objects touched • his eyes, as the things which he felt touched his skin; conse
quently he had no idea of distance. He did not know the • form of any object, nor could he distinguish one object from • another, however different their figure or size might be: when • objects were shown to him which he had known formerly by " the touch, he looked at them with attention, and observed * them carefully, in order to know them again; but as he had · too many objects to retain at once, he forgot the greater part
of them; and when he first learned, as he said, to see and • know objects, he forgot a thousand for one that he recollected. • It was two months before he discovered that pictures repreo sented solid bodies ; until that time he had considered them as
planes and surfaces differently coloured, and diversified by a • variety of shades; but when he began to conceive that these pictures represented solid bodies, in touching the canvas of a picture with his hand, he expected to find something in reality solid upon it: and he was much astonished when, on touching those parts which seemed round and unequal, he found them · flat and smooth like the rest. He asked which was the sense • that deceived him, the sight or the touch? There was shown • to him a little portrait of his father, which was in the case of • bis mother's watch; he said that he knew very well that it was the resemblance of his father; but he asked, with great
might"ador the head is in short one at,
astonishment, how it was possible for so large a visage to be . kept in so small a space ? as that appeared to him as impossible as that a bushel could be contained in a pint.'
It is but natural, therefore, to find that the blind, as a class, when once they have been roused to exertion, and their education has been really commenced, even in every day practical life act with greater individuality and concentration of purpose than many cleverer friends who have eyes. If neglected, and left alone, they will doubtless stagnate in mind and body. The darkness surrounding the body seems to penetrate and pervade the mind; and not only does it appear to them that the day is over, and the night come when none may work, but that the sun is set, and that there can be no moon or stars to govern the night.
But only once convince the blind man that He who made the day made also the night, that very night in which he lives and is to work — show to him but one star of hope — point out to him but one work which he can and ought to do — make your demonstration practical, and show that the work proposed can be done by him — raise in short one spark of interest in what the hand or the head is to do, and it will soon be done with might and earnestness. The one solitary, dim spark will increase in brilliancy and size; soon other stars will dawn upon the sight where but now was darkness, as each heaviest, darkest cloud · Unfolds her silver lining to the night,' and the whole heaven soon glows with innumerable points of fire.
But to return to the prose reality of the matter, and cut short our moonlit walk. When one point of interest is thoroughly roused in the mind of a blind child of whatever age, the work quickly progresses, whatever that point of interest be. It may chance to be in the art of making a basket, or a pair of shoes ; in the learning of a psalm, or the art of using a knife; it may be of walking uprightly, or finding his way through the asylum into which he is received, from room to room of his new home. It matters little where the interest is first roused, provided it be real, and is at once cherished into active life and exertion. Much will depend on the habit and disposition of the learner, his previous mode of life, his parents' occupation, ignorance and poverty, neglect or care of their child.
One boy will, we find, learn in a month what it takes another a year to acquire, and which perhaps a third is never able to acquire. Outside one of the workshops in St. George's Fields is a long covered pathway for the use of the pupils in wet weather, and on it may be often seen some forty or fifty boys and men promenading with as much ease and regularity in twos
VOL. XCIX. NO. CCI.