« AnteriorContinuar »
Lucasian disciples had a chance of learning to read, if with difficulty, at a slight cost, and were glad to avail themselves of the chance, be it what it might. They have learned to read, therefore, by a very abbreviated and ambiguous kind of writing, sufficient perhaps for the seeing, who when learning short-hand have been previously instructed in reading, and yet very ill adapted to be the first and only reading taught to the blind.
• In a new stenographic alphabet for the blind Mr. Lucas had ‘an opportunity of framing a perfect one, containing a simple
character for each of the elementary sounds of the English • language; but instead of this he formed one deficient in no less “than ten and redundant in eight characters.' (Letter to Lord Lansdowne, p. 6.)
. To the blind the abbreviation of words, so as to bring them at once within the compass of the touch, is doubtless an object of the first importance; and this abbreviation is professedly the main principle of Lucas's system. But this very principle has been but partially applied. To the true elementary sounds ch, sh, and th, Lucas has appropriated a single stenographic character, but he has left the other ten, viz. the five long vowels, and five diphthongs, to be distinguished in his system, as in our orthography,- if distinguished at all, - by the addition of a second unsounded character. He seems to prefer, in practice, brevity to perspicuity; and rather than add the unsounded letter necessary to distinguish the long vowel from the short one, he makes no distinction between them; and thus - light,”-rays,' and ' east' are metamorphosed into lit,' ras,' and est. He has uselessly copied in his embossing the anomalies of our own common orthography; but only makes his system more complicated to the blind reader by using four different stenographic characters for the sound of (f) as ff, ph, gh; two for (s ) and two for (1), while he violates all consistency by amazing his disciples with such orthography as 'wid bems of lit in the skis' for ' wide beams
of light in the skies.' Well, therefore, may Mr. Frere remark, such a system as this is neither orthographical nor phonetic; it “accords neither with spelling nor. speech, and when made intelligible by being rendered into common characters, equally offends both the eye and ear. (Letter, p. 9.)
Of Mr. Frere's own system, which is also a stenographic and arbitrary one, we are glad to speak very much more favourably. Whatever faults it may have, its ruling principle is fully and impartially applied; and mere consistency is a decided advantage. It is based on the phonetic principle, or combination of elementary sounds; which sounds, says the author, consist of the
pure vowel sounds and the pure sounds of the consonant; which
• latter are expressed in the final sounds of the words,' according to the order of the short-hand alphabet. Instead of our old placid and sufficiently abstruse ABC we must now call to mind that more modern friend (though long since dead and buried) the fonetic Nuz;' and be introduced to sounds hissing, and sounds guttural, gushings, breathings, and aspirations, which are represented by thirty-six characters. This system,' says its author, ‘may be denominated a scientific representation of speech,
the alphabet containing one character, and but one, for each of the simple sounds of the English language, whose only names are the sounds they represent; and each word being em• bossed according to its actual pronunciation, the names of the
characters combined, or sounded together, give the word; and the pupil is thus nearly enabled to read as soon as he has learnt his alphabet.'
Thus writes Mr. Frere himself; and his words are well worthy of attention. After a long life of devotion to the blind, he is entitled to speak and to be heard. He has devoted, and still continues to devote his time, his talents, and his substance to their welfare, and has won from many a poor blind creature heart-felt gratitude and respect. But his system, like all other systems, has its faults,- of which his earnest and unwearied advocates do not seem aware. One fallacy contained in Mr. Frere's words above quoted we have italicised; the pupil is nearly enabled to read as soon as he knows his alphabet.'
There is no royal road to learning to read, for pupils with or without eyes,— by virtue of any system whatever. From the days of the first horn-book to this very hour of reading
made easy,' spelling made play,' when knowledge is offered to mankind without the trouble of learning, and sixpenny catechisms teach all things from Platonism to Pyrotechny,– there never has been a royal road. There never will be one. “Read‘ing made easy' is a rough, winding, difficult road, at the best. He that travels by it, - whoever be his guide,- must make up his mind to many difficulties, and the payment of many 'pikes, before he reach his journey's end. We appeal confidently to our readers, whose name is Legion,– and may their shadow never 'be less,' — if it be not so. Is there one among them all who mastered the easy art of reading without some juvenile suffering, some weeping, and many a hopeless sigh ; even long after the mysteries and woes of the alphabet were triumphantly passed? Who would not be a reader on Frere's system if his journey through the alphabet was to land him safely among words of three syllables? We fear that the sentence should stand thus, the pupil will in due time learn to reud as soon as he has learned
‘his alphabet.' One of Frere's most earnest, able, and unwearied advocates, who daily devotes time and talent, as well as an entire heart, to the instruction of the poor blind, thus speaks of his system :- It omits all superfluous letters of our common
spelling, and calls the consonants by the sounds they actually 'give instead of by their names; so that the pupil having learned the sign for each sound in the language has only to pronounce them, and he of necessity reads. This last remark is but a repetition of Mr. Frere's own words; and contains the same fallacy.
The same writer thus continues : As compared to Alston's . we should consider it only as an adjunct, but a necessary one;
for such pupils as we teach would be totally incapable either of
feeling the letters, or of overcoming the difficulties of ordinary 'reading and spelling. It is the system for the ignorant and
the incapable. To this the advocates of Alston (the Roman letter) strongly reply that the case is not proved; but that the contrary view is in their opinion the true one,- viz., that Alston's system is quite as easily taught as Frere's; that it possesses the inestimable advantage of being understood and read by any one who can read ordinary print, and thus is one strong check against the further isolation of the blind ;- and moreover that
the great majority of blind persons now in England who can read do so on an alphabetical system.'* This last fact, we must confess, argues strongly in favour of Alston. If Frere's system had been the easier and more expeditious of the two, surely the blind themselves are the very people to have discovered and profited by it long ago. Our own experience, formed chiefly from the testimony of the blind, leads us to believe that Alston's is as easily acquired as any other system, and when once acquired is the best. “As an adjunct' to Alston's, Frere's is a most useful system, but clearly not as a substitute for it. The laborious ' memoria technica' is far too long and too complicated; standing greatly in need of all the author can say in its defence at p. 14. of his letter. He appears himself to feel the
* Vide circular of the Society for printing Books for the Use of the poor Blind, 24. Arundel Street, Strand.
Mr. Taylor, the skilful printer of Queen's Street, Lincoln's Inn, has, under the direction of the Rev. W. Taylor (formerly Superintendent of the Blind School at York), printed in embossed type for the blind, a life of James Watt. The type used is lower case and Roman capitals, and to the few blind who can distinguish such small letters will no doubt be a great boon. It is only to be regretted that the divided energies and means of the different printing societies are not united for one great and vigorous effort.
weakness of this part of his cause when he admits of its employment being optional, though he instantly adds that any system would be incomplete without such a provision. If any such provision be at all necessary, we think it would be of far more. service in a very abridged form.
Mr. Frere's alphabet consists of twenty-nine signs, each of a purely arbitrary description, and having tagged on to it by way of description, some such 'morceau' for the memory of a child, - or an ignorant and older learner, -as the following:
L 8 An angle, the points forwards, the straight line downwards, • the same as a half circle the points forwards, the dot downwards
is cheh — [CHEH) is changed from a crescent by a dot on its • lower limb — atch, etch, itch, otch, utch. This versicle is to teach the blind scholar the sound of (ch), and must be repeated every time (CHEH) meets his fingers' ends; and this we are told is an easier process for the blind scholar, when multiplied by twenty-nine, than making acquaintance with our old sober friends, A, B, C, or , &c., in the same guise as that known to the rest of mankind. To make the whole matter clearer to the learner, Mr. Frere, having divided the vowels into five long and five short, abolishes their representation in embossed printing, except by simple dots, which in different positions denote different vowels. That our readers may understand this rather obscure arrangement, we will take an example from page 5. of the Grammar:-'Wherefore when the wise warn do not fools edify?' being translated into Frere, becomes '. .. r-fr ... n th ., z... awn d. . fiz.. nt d •f-' We leave the further consideration of this dialect to our readers' own judgment and good sense, only adding that the twenty-nine versicles, with their respective Angles . >, are followed by ' XII Rules in verse for
supplying the omitted vowels,' of which we feel bound to give one single specimen — the longest:
The middle i, the lower o or u;
You'll find the vowel out, and bring it in between.' The other XI all partake more or less of the same character, chiefly relating to the mystical dots which symbolise vowel sounds. We do not imagine that the blind have any peculiar liking for rhymes of this kind, and certain we are that ordinary
learners of alphabets would be apt to regard them as so many drags on the wheel of progress. It is not a fair argument to say, as Mr. Frere in his letter does, that he has derived great help himself from the use of a similar memoria technica. That which is of great service to a well-read scholar like Mr. Frere may be a drag and a burden to a dull, ignorant, young or stupid blind scholar. "A hint on the spot,' says Gray, 'is worth a cart
load of recollections. The remark is trite but true. Suppose, therefore, instead of giving the pupil twelve rhyming rules,
reading-finger a hint on the spot - the old Roman A. Let him feel it over in every part, and, if he pleases, associate with it the thought of a triangle, a pyramid, or any other figure of a like kind. To use his own phrase, let him look at it carefully,' as Master Johnny or Charles in a Belgravian nursery is taught to do at great A; and when once he has fully realised its shape and dimensions the chances are ten to one that he remembers the mwithout needing any aid from a “cart-load' of rhymes. Rule XII. and last is,
Whene'er the proper rule don't yield you satisfaction,
On trial you will find the word is a contraction.' Of the other objections which have been with difficulty alleged against this system, we will only remark that they appear to us trivial and unfair. It is true that Mr. Frere, in rather a despotic way, banishes the sound of (r) in such words as horse and force; omits the vowels in all monosyllables, so that (nt) stands for net, not, or nut; (st) for sot, sit, sat, or set, &c.; that he orders all such terminations as ing, ment, tion, to appear only in their final consonant; that long words, such as Jerusalem, nevertheless, are severely clipped, reappearing in some such shape as J—rsm, nv: rths; but such minor defects as these are not incompatible with much excellence.
We do not attach much value to the lists of cases which we have heard cited with great earnestness on behalf of the various systems by their respective disciples. Such lists of names irresistibly remind us of other advertisements, wherein we read of certain, speedy, perfect, infallible, easy, pleasant, surprising, delightful cures of every ailment, affliction, and calamity under the sun. We have but to take the Thirty Golden Drops,'—
• When straightway through our feeble worn-out frame
Rude blooming health at once resumes her sway.' The cures appear so magically perfect, that one almost longs to enjoy the luxury of so complete and sovereign a remedy.
Without doubt many blind persons have mastered Frere's