Imágenes de página

he blind schothe point, water, and acco

Into these holes he inserts his figure (2 or 8, or whatever it be), which consists of a small metal pentagonal plug terminating at one end in two forked points, at the other in a single obtuse point. When this plug is inserted into the hole, one end remains above the surface of the slate, and according to its position and the nature of the point, whether twofold or single, the finger of the blind scholar determines what figure is represented; the different positions being obviously ten in number. With an apparatus of this kind the scholar of an ordinary blind school manages to work simple sums in the four chief rules of arithmetic; but beyond a knowledge of these four comparatively few ever pass. It may be asked, "Why cannot the blind in some • degree emulate the skill and dexterity of Saunderson the • famous blind mathematician? How, if they as a class never

progress beyond the horrors of long division, could he, without

ingenious frames and pentagonal plugs, calculate the doctrine of .eclipses and comets, and explain those profound laws which guide the stars in their courses?'.

Genius like Saunderson's ever devises ways and means of its own. It has a thousand little contrivances unknown to the ordinary student, who is content enough to travel along the beaten road which others have fashioned for him. Saunderson's whole machinery for computing was a small sheet of deal, divided by lines into a certain number of squares, and pierced at certain angles with holes large enough to admit a metal pin. With this simple board and a box of pins he made all his calculations ; yet, in 1711, he was the friend of Sir Isaac Newton, and by his interest was elected Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. It is most probable that he never beheld the distant orbs of heaven, yet with the highest skill he reasoned of the laws which control them ; unfolding and explaining the nature and beauty of light which he could not behold, and the glory of that bow in the clouds which he had never seen.*

Thus, also, was it with Huber, the blind philosopher of Geneva. His discoveries in the honied labours of bees have equalled, if not surpassed, those of any other one student of Nature. It remained for Huber, not only to corroborate truths which others had partially discovered, but also to detect and

* Of the keenness with which he entered on these studies, and the readiness with which he received outward impressions, M. Dufau gives a striking proof:— Assistant un jour à des observations astro

nomiques qui se faisaient en plein air, s'apercevait des momens où le soleil était obscurci par des nuages passagers, au point de pouvoir 'indiquer lui-même avec précision l'instant où il fallait suspendre ou 'poursuivre les observations.

seni, but he furnishedt is true that even the acute

describe minute particulars which had escaped even the acute observation of Swammerdam. It is true that others supplied him with eyes, but he furnished them with thought and intellect; he saw with their eyes. Thus he clearly proved that there are two distinct sets of bees in every hive, honey gatherers and the wax makers and nurses; that the larvæ of working bees can by course of diet be changed to queens; thus also he accurately described the sanguinary conflicts of rival queens; the recognition of old companions or of royalty by the use of the antennæ ; thus he explained the busy hum and unceasing vibration of wing ever going on in the hive, as being necessary for due ventilation.*

One of the last incidents in the old man's life that seemed to rouse and interest him, was the arrival of a present of stingless bees, from their discoverer, Captain B. Hall. Unwearied diligence, and love for his work no doubt greatly aided him in all these discoveries; but genius effected for him what mere assiduity would never have accomplished. She taught him in a few minutes to swim the river of difficulty, while others spent hours in searching for a ford. It is the union of diligence and genius which has made so many a blind man famous among his brethren with eyes; not only the way to conceive but the hand to carry out and achieve, in its own way, the plan of wisdom and of beauty. Thus, Metcalf, the blind guide and engineer, constructed roads through the wilds of Derbyshire; thus, Davidson ventilated the deepest coal mines, and lectured on the structure of the eye ; as did Dr. Moyesf on chemistry and optics ; thus, Blacklock, poet and musician, master of four languages besides his own, wrote both prose and poetry with elegance and eases; thus

* A diseased state of an organ of sense will perpetually tamper with the understanding, and perhaps at last overthrow it. But when one organ is obliterated, the mind applies some other to a double use. Some ten years back, at Sowerby, I met a man perfectly blind, from infancy. His chief amusement was fishing on the wild uneven banks of the Eden, and up the difficult mountain streams. His friend, a dexterous card-player, also stone-blind, knew every gate and stile of the district. John Gough, of Kendal, blind, is not only a mathematician, but an infallible botanist and zoologist ; correcting mistakes of keen sportsmen as to birds and vermin. His face is all one eye. (Condensed from Coleridge's Omniana, p. 332.)

† The eyes of Moyes, although he was totally blind, were not insensible to intense light. Colours were not distinguished by him, but felt. Red was disagreeable; he said it was like the grating of . a saw ;' while green was very pleasant, and compared to "a smooth surface' when touched.

I In some instances blindness seems to have gifted the sufferer with new powers.

A Dr. Guyse, we read, lost his eyesight in the pulpit while lie

nearer to our own time, Holman the traveller, to whose labours we have already referred, has made himself a name far beyond the shores of Great Britain. We know not what Saundersons or Hubers the present generation is to see. One name equally great in another path of fame it already has; Prescott, the historian of Ferdinand and Isabella, Mexico and Peru, &c., who, though not blind, has a defect of the eyes which prevents him from reading and writing, but whose literary labours have nevertheless delighted and instructed thousands both in the Old and New World. We are glad also to observe, that Lord Cranborne has come before the world as an author; having written an excellent little • History of France' for children. We trust that this is but an earnest of what he intends to do for learners of a larger growth.

In the meanwhile it is pleasant to reflect that much more is now being attempted for the blind than has ever yet been accomplished. Asylums and schools are being established in many parts of England ; in all which we hope that the tone and extent of education are to rise far above what has yet been done. It argues well for the ground of this hope that a wellorganised society is at length in existence, the object of which is to provide a series of standard works for the blind at the smallest possible cost. Schools and asylums may be multiplied throughout the length and breadth of the land to any extent, but if the blind when they leave the school are to go back to the workhouse, the labourer's cottage, the crowded attic of the artisan, or even a workshop of their own, without books, and without the means of procuring them, — their having learned to dare will, after all its cost of toil and time, be but a cause of discontent and repining. We trust, therefore, that all success may attend the labours of The Society for Printing and Distributing Books for the Use of the Blind, especially if they print cheap bibles.

As it is probable that many of our readers have never visited a school for the blind, we will pay a short visit to the great one in St. George's Fields, probably the largest in the

was at prayer before the sermon; but nevertheless managed to preach as usual. An old lady of the congregation hearing him deplore his loss, thus strove to comfort him :-'God be praised,' said she, that • your sight is gone. I never heard your Reverence preach so power

ful a service in my life. I wish for my own part that the Lord had * taken away your sight twenty years ago; for your ministry would ' have been more useful by twenty degrees.' The old lady's judicial wish was rather a severe one; but of the correctness of her conclusion we are inclined to doubt.

world. Of the building we will only say that it is large and imposing in appearance. It contains about 150 pupils, both males and females, of very various ages, almost entirely from the indigent class. The object of the school is to teach the blind to read the Bible, and to impart to them such a knowledge of some useful trade as shall enable them if only in part to earn their own living. For this purpose they are usually retained in the school for a period of about six and a half years. All the pupils are totally blind, and yet the majority not only learn to read well, but to write, to cipher, and to spell, besides mastering a trade, or learning to play the organ. We will enter one of the chief work rooms. In it, hard at work, we find upwards of forty boys and men, all totally blind, making basket work of every possible size and description, from the finest and most delicate of dinner mats to the gigantic ark of unpeeled osier for packing swans for a journey across the North Sea. The workers are all cheerful, nay in most cases, merry. Baskets, flower-stands, chairs, and screens, in short, all kinds of wicker work, are here made by the thousand every year. The little boy on the left is a new comer. He is taking a first lesson from the foreman, and learning to split the osiers. In a month from this time he will be able to make a rough market basket. Two months ago he sat moping in a dark corner of a fisherman's cottage in Cornwall, in forlorn helplessness. Since then mind and body have begun to revive, - he is now bright, cheerful, and intelligent, - he can now use his limbs, and begins to find out that he has a mind — aye, and much more-- a soul, within him : he has mastered his alphabet, has begun the good habit of saying daily prayers with his companions, and hearing God's word read. His education has commenced, he is learning to think, he is waking up to a new life. *

Look where we will, the work goes busily and deftly on,

* The female pupils in this School undergo, we find, a somewhat similar education and training to the boys. A few learn basketmaking, &c.; but by far the greater number devote their time to various kinds of sewing, knitting, and netting, spinning twine, making window and picture-frame cord (used at the Royal Castle of Windsor for Her Majesty's pictures), purse-making, and hair-weaving of every possible description. All the household linen in use throughout the School is also made up by the girls and women.

We cannot mention this Institution without connecting with it the name of S. H. Sterry, Esq., of Bermondsey, who throughout a long and well-spent life has laboured most zealously and successfully for the Blind. His labours on their behalf date from the foundation of the school at the beginning of the present century.

as if all the workers had the best of eyes. They sort the osiers, peel them, split them, arrange them for use, if necessary point them, and chip off stray ends of obnoxious twigs with a sharp knife. Enter the shoe shop, and we are impressed with the same conviction, and judging only by the work done we decide at once that the workmen must have sharp eyes; hammering, cutting, sewing, going on as cleverly and quickly as among the most clear-sighted set of Crispins. In this room are made shoes for the whole 150 pupils. Enter the mat shop, look at that mountain of mats of all colours, asperities, and sizes; all made by more busy workers whose eyes never saw what their hands so diligently toiled at. The old man near us is busy at an enormous door mat too vast, thick, and solid, it would seem, for any but the sons of Anak. It is for the hall of the Guards' Club in Pall Mall. The boy next to him is fringing his mat with bright green ; it is a small neat and dainty affair to be placed inside the study door of dyspeptic Mr. Brown as he reads metaphysics. He is dreadfully afraid of draughts, and this diminutive mat has squared edges, that it may fit exactly into the required space inside his door which leads into the garden. The door opens inwards, but so thin is the mat, that the panel sweeps smoothly over it with ease. Matmaking appears to be hard work, requiring great exertion in beating and combing as the work proceeds, the workman standing during the whole day.

That huge pile on the right is chiefly of coloured rugs, decked with brilliant borders, wreaths of flowers, and patterns of all hues and sizes. It seems impossible that they are the work of the blind. But they can be, and are made in this very shop. The man working at a loom in the corner is making a rug, with a brilliant crimson scroll at either corner on a dark ground. His wools of different colours are given to him by the foreman in a certain order; and these he himself arranges by his side, easily within reach, also in a certain order. But how shall he know the pattern of the future rug ? No possible description, even if the busy foreman could afford time for it, could explain the intricacies of that scroll work. It must be exactly done, too, for it is to match a carpet ; every twisted leaf of that rare flower and that curious branch, which grow only in carpet-land, must be accurately copied, or Mr. Brown's critical eye will be offended as he stands in a judicial mood on the border where the land of drugget commences. How then is our rug-maker to follow a pattern he has never seen, in colours of which he has not the faintest notion ? Look at him, he is consulting his guide. It is a thin smooth sheet of deal, mathematically divided

« AnteriorContinuar »