HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT. October 25, 1827. Visit to the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb; Visit to the Prison.
The next place we went to was of a very different character, the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. The head teacher, Mr. Gallaudet, went both to London and Edinburgh, where he met with but little cordiality. There seemed to be a jealousy of letting a foreigner into their secret, so he went next to Paris, and there he was taken at once into the Abbe Sicard's school, got all the information and instruction he wished, and brought out with him a young man who had been educated there to be one of the teachers at this institution. Four of the teachers are deaf and dumb the other five have all their faculties. This happened to be the last day of vacation, so that the schools were not in operation, but most of the pupils had returned, and a more cheerful or more intelligent looking group I never saw. Mr. Gallaudet brought three of the girls and two boys into the school room to give us a specimen of their advancement. One of the young men, nineteen years old, is now a teacher. He is uncommonly intelligent and has read a great deal. There was no trick, nothing got up in the exhibition. We wrote down questions on the slate and they answered them, sometimes off hand, at other times they required a little reflection. We then wrote a word, an adjective, or adverb, or any part of speech we chose which they brought in in a sentence and always so as to show that they understood the meaning perfectly. There was generally a great deal of imagination in the form of their replies. The system of signs is very quick. They use the alphabet very little and entirely with one hand. One poor girl we saw who is deaf, dumb, and blind, of course she cannot be taught much, but I saw her knit and thread a needle. They do not teach their pupils to speak, in which I think they show their sense, for nothing can be more unearthly than the sound made by those who have lost the organ of hearing by which to modulate their voices. At first when they go to the Institution the children are in the habit of making disagreeable sounds, but the masters check them immediately, and except for one boy who had been there a very short time I did not hear a single sound except a hearty laugh, which had nothing strange in it. Mr. Gallaudet married one of his own pupils and Mr. Clerc, the teacher who came from France, also married a deaf and dumb person. He was extremely anxious to ascertain after the birth of his eldest child whether it heard, and it was sometime before they could persuade him that it did. He has since had two more equally gifted. Having gone through his own hobby Mr. Gallaudet next asked us if we would not go to the Retreat, the asylum for the insane, which is also particularly well conducted. We went there, accordingly, and were fortunate in finding the physician, Dr. Tod, who by the by is almost insane upon the subject, at home. His treatment of his patients is very different from that generally followed. Unless the person is in a state not to listen to anything, he tells him why he is sent there, that he is mad, and sent to be cured. He treats them all with the most perfect frankness, never resorts to confinement so long as the patient can be at large with safety to himself and others, provides amusement and occupation for them, and to those whom he thinks it will benefit carries strangers to visit them in their sitting room, where they have the companionship of those in an equal state of convalescence with themselves. The result of this system has been hitherto the cure of ninety-five persons out of a hundred. This appears a great many, but it is to be hoped that there will be no relapses, for as yet the establishment has only existed three years. It was delightful to see the three men at the head of those three institutions, each equally enthusiastic in his own department. Mr. Pilsbury at Weathersfield seemed to have no thought but for the Improvement of prison discipline and reformation of prisoners; Mr. Gallaudet's whole soul is wrapped up in the sharpening of the remaining faculties of his interesting charges; whilst Dr. Tod when speaking of the happy effects produced on the insane by gentle treatment, lashes up and kindles into a degree of enthusiasm which might lead one to think he may one day be a fit subject for his own experiments, especially when we are told that his father and only sister have both been mad and many other relations more or less deranged. Imagination carries one a great way while visiting such places. At the prison I saw crime in every countenance though the Prisoners proved often to be very trustworthy keepers. At the Deaf and Dumb I started when I heard anyone speak, and at the Retreat (having the first impression of the prison still on my mind) I wondered to see the women allowed to sit together and talk, forgetting that solitary confinement was not necessary there as a punishment.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. December 12, 1827. Visit to the Orphan Asylum; Visit to the Asylum for Poor Widows.
Our next visit was of a much more agreeable nature, the Orphan Asylum, an admirable institution, where upwards of sixty children are well taken care of and educated until they are twelve years old, when they are bound into different trades, the boys at least, and the girls go into service. Close to the Orphan Asylum is another excellent institution totally unconnected with it, an Asylum for Poor Widows, where for thirty dollars of entrance money, a sum easily procured amongst friends if the individual possesses it not, any widow of reduced circumstances and too infirm to better them, can gain admittance to a comfortable home for the rest of her life. There are forty-three now in the establishment, and really the old ladies look most comfortable, fifteen of them are unable to leave their rooms, at all events not able to go downstairs, but one story there is a gallery round the centre of the building where each can take exercise without having the fatigue of climbing the stair. Some have a room entirely to themselves, in other rooms here are two persons, but all of them look neat and clean and comfortable. It would be an excellent establishment in England for old housekeepers and such like.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. October 27, 1841 Meeting Laura Bridgeman at the Blind Asylum
In the Blind Asylum I saw Laura Bridgman, in her twelfth year. At the age of two she lost her sight and hearing by a severe illness, but although deaf, dumb, and blind, her mind has been so advanced by the method of instruction pursued by Dr. Howe, that she shows more intelligence and quickness of feeling than many girls of the same age who are in full possession of all their senses. The excellent reports of Dr. Howe, on the gradual development of her mind, have been long before the public, and have recently been cited by Mr. Dickens, together with some judicious observations of his own. Perhaps no one of the cases of a somewhat analogous nature, on which Dugald Stewart and others have philosophised, has furnished so many new and valuable facts illustrating the extent to which all intellectual developmcnt is dependent on the instrumentality of the senses in discerning external objects, and, at the same time, in how small a degree the relative acuteness of the organs of sense determine the moral and intellectual superiority of the individual.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. June 1, 1841 Visit to the Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents; Visit to the Eastern Penitentiary.
During my short stay in Philadelphia on this occasion, I visited several of its prisons, philanthropic institutions, et cet. These are pro-eminently the glory of this beautiful city; yet as they have been often described, I shall pass them by in silence, with the exception of two, the Refuge, and the Penitentiary; which I briefly notice because I may offer a few general remarks in another place, on the important subject of prison discipline. The Refuge is an asylum for juvenile delinquents, founded on the just and benevolent principle that offences against society, committed by very young persons, should be disciplined by training and education, rather than by punishment. In this establishment there are from eighty to ninety boys, and from forty to fifty girls, of ages varying from eight to twenty-one years. The former are employed in various light handicraft trades, and the latter in domestic services, and both spend a certain portion of their time in school. They remain from six months to four years. From the statements of the superintendent and matron, it appeared that about three-fourths of the male, and four-fifths of the female inmates become respectable members of society, and the remainder are chiefly such as are fifteen or sixteen years of age when first admitted into the Refuge, an age at which character may be considered as in a great measure formed. The labour of the children pays about one-fifth of the expense of the establishment, the rest being defrayed by the legislature.
The prejudice of colour intrudes even here, no children of that class being admitted into the Refuge. Coloured delinquency is left to ripen into crime, with little interference from public or private philanthropy. As might have been expected, coloured, are more numerous than white criminals, in proportion to relative population; and this is appealed to as a proof of their naturally vicious and inferior character; when in fact the government and society at large are chargeable with their degradation.
The Penitentiary contained, at the time of my visit, about three hundred and forty male, and thirty-five female prisoners. In this celebrated prison, hard labour is combined with solitary confinement, a system which is techincally known as the "separate" system. Silence and seclusion are so strictly enforced as to be almost absolute and uninterrupted; even the minister who addresses the prisoners on the sabbath is known to them only by his voice. A marked feature of this institution is security without the aid of any deadly weapon, none being allowed in the possession of the attendants, or indeed upon the premises. As compared with the " silent" system, exhibited in the not less famed prisons of the State of New York, this is much less economical, as the mode of employing the prisoners, in their solitary cells, greatly lessons the power of a profitable application of their labour.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. February 1842. Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind; Meeting Laura Bridgeman.
The thought occurred to me as I sat down in another room, before a girl, blind, deaf, and dumb; destitute of smell; and nearly so of taste: before a fair young creature with every human faculty, and hope, and power of goodness and affection, inclosed within her delicate frame, and but one outward sense-the sense of touch. There she was, before me; built up, as it were, in a marble cell, impervious to any ray of light, or particle of sound; with her poor white hand peeping through a chink in the wall, beckoning to some good man for help, that an Immortal soul might be awakened.
Long before I locked upon her, the help had come. Her face was radiant with intelligence and pleasure. Her hair, braided by her own hands, was bound about a head, whose intellectual capacity and development were beautifully expressed in its graceful outline, and its broad open brow; her dress, arranged by herself, was a pattern of neatness and simplicity; the work she had knitted, lay beside her; her writingbook was on the desk she leaned upon.-From the mournful ruin of such bereavement, there had slowly risen up this tender, guileless, grateful-hearted being.
Like other inmates of that house, she had a green ribbon bound round her eyelids. A doll she had dressed lay near upon the ground. I took it up, and saw that she had made a green fillet such as she wore herself, and fastened it about its mimic eyes.
She was seated in a little enclosure, made by school-desks and forms, writing her daily journal. But scan finishing this pursuit, she engaged in an animated communication with a teacher who sat beside her. This was a favourite mistress with the poor pupil. If she could see the face of her fair instructress, she would not love her less, I am sure.
I have extracted a few disjointed fragments of her history, from an account, written by that one man who has made her what she is. It is a very beautiful and touching narrative; and I wish I could present it entire.
Her name is Laura Bridgman. "She was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, on the twenty-first of December, 1829. She is described as having been a very sprightly and pretty infant, with bright blue eyes. She was, however, so puny and feeble until she was a year and a half old, that her parents hardly hoped to rear her. She was subject to severe fits, which seemed to rack her frame almost beyond her power of endurance: and life was held by the feeblest tenure: but when a year and a half old, she seemed to rally; the dangerous symptoms subsided; and at twenty months old, she was perfectly well.
"Then her mental powers, hitherto stinted in their growth, rapidly developed themselves; and during the four months of health which she enjoyed, she appears (making due allowance for a fond mother's account) to have displayed a considerable degree of intelligence.
"But suddenly she sickened again; her disease raged with great violence during five weeks, when her eyes and ears were inflamed, suppurated, and their contents were discharged. But though sight and hearing were gone for ever, the poor child's sufferings were not ended. The fever raged during seven weeks; for five months she was kept in bed in a darkened room; it was a year before she could walk unsupported, and two years before she could sit up all day. It was now observed that her sense of smell was almost entirely destroyed; and, consequently, that her taste was much blunted.
"It was not until four years of age that the poor child's bodily health seemed restored, and she was able to enter upon her apprenticeship of life and the world.
"But what a situation was hers! The darkness and the silence of the tomb were around her: no mother's smile called forth her answering smile, no father's voice taught her to imitate his sounds:-they, brothers and sisters, were but forms of matter which resisted her touch, but which differed not from the furniture of the house, save in warmth, and in the power of locomotion; and not even in these respects from the dog and the cat.
"But the immortal spirit which had been implanted within her could not die, nor be maimed nor mutilated; and though most of its avenues of communication with the world were cut off, it began to manifest itself through the others. As soon as she could walk, she began to explore the room, and then the house; she became familiar with the form, density, weight, and heat, of every article she could lay her hands upon. She followed her mother, and felt her hands and arms, as she was occupied about the house; and her disposition to imitate, led her to repeat everything herself. She even learned to sew a little, and to knit."
The reader will scarcely need to be told, however, that the opportunities of communicating with her, were very, very limited; and that the moral effects of her wretched state soon began to appear. Those who cannot be enlightened by reason, can only be controlled by force; and this, coupled with her great privations, must soon have reduced her to a worse condition than that of the beasts that perish, but for timely and unhoped-for aid.
"At this time, I was so fortunate as to hear of the child, and immediately hastened to Hanover to see her. I found her with a well-formed figure; a strongly-marked, nervous-sanguine temperament; a large and beautifully-shaped head; and the whole system in healthy action. The parents were easily induced to consent to her coming to Boston, and on the 4th of October, 1837, they brought her to the Institution.
"For a while, she was much bewildered; and after waiting about two weeks, until she became acquainted with her new locality, and somewhat familiar with the inmates, the attempt was made to give her knowledge of arbitrary signs, by which she could interchange thoughts with others.
"There was one of two ways to be adopted: either to go on to build up a language of signs on the basis of the natural language which she had already commenced herself, or to teach her the purely arbitrary language in common use: that is, to give her a sign for every individual thing, or to give her a knowledge of letters by combination of which she might express her idea of the existence, and the mode and condition of existence, of any thing. The former would have been easy, but very ineffectual; the latter seemed very difficult, but, if accomplished, very effectual. I determined therefore to try the latter.
"The first experiments were made by taking articles in common use, such as knives, forks, spoons, keys, &c., and pasting upon them labels with their names printed in raised letters. These she felt very carefully, and soon, of course, distinguished that the crooked lines s p o o n, differed as much from the crooked lines k e y, as the spoon differed from the key in form.
"Then small detached labels, with the same words printed upon them, were put into her hands; and she soon observed that they were similar to the ones pasted on the articles. She showed her perception of this similarity by laying the label k ey upon the key, and the label s p o o n upon the spoon. She was encouraged here by the natural sign of approbation, patting on the head.
"The same process was then repeated with all the articles which she could handle; and she very easily learned to place the proper labels upon them. It was evident, however, that the only intellectual exercise was that of imitation and memory. She recollected that the label b o o k was placed upon a book, and she repeated the process first from imitation, next from memory, with only the motive of love of approbation, but apparently without the intellectual perception of any relation between the things.
"After a while, instead of labels, the individual letters were given to her on detached bits of paper: they were arranged side by side so as to spell b o o k, k e y, &c.; then they were mixed up in a heap and a sign was made for her to arrange them herself so as to express the words b o o k, key, &c.; and she did so.
"Hitherto, the process had been mechanical, and the success about as great as teaching a very knowing dog a variety of tricks. The poor child had sat in mute a nazement, and patiently imitated everything her teacher did; but now the truth began to flash upon her: her intellect began to work: she perceived that here was a way by which she could herself make up a sign of anything that was in her own mind, and show it to another mind; and at once her countenance lighted up with a human expression: it was no longer a dog, or parrot: it was an immortal spirit, eagerly seizing upon a new link of union with other spirits. I could almost fix upon the moment when this truth dawned upon her mind, and spread its light to her countenance; I saw that the great obstacle was overcome; and that henceforward nothing but patient and persevering, but plain and straightforward, efforts were to be used.
"The result thus far, is quickly related, and easily conceived; but not so was the process; for many weeks of apparently unprofitable labour were passed before it was effected.
"When it was said above, that a sign was made, it was intended to say, that the action was performed by her teacher, she feeling his hands, and then imitating the motion.
"The next step was to procure a set of metal types, with the different letters of the alphabet cast upon their ends; also a board, in which were square holes, into which holes she could set the types; so that the letters on their ends could alone be felt above the surface.
"Then, on any article being handed to her, for instance a pencil, or a watch, she would select the component letters, and arrange them on her board, and read them with apparent pleasure.
"She was exercised for several weeks in this way, until her vocabulary became extensive; and then the important step was taken of teaching her how to represent the different letters by the position of her fingers, instead of the cumbrous apparatus of the board and types. She accomplished this speedily and easily, for her intellect had begun to work in aid of her teacher, and her progress was rapid.
"This was the period, about three months after she had commenced' that the first report of her case was made, in which it was stated that 'she has just learned the manual alphabet, as used by the deaf mutes, and it is a subject of delight and wonder to see how rapidly, correctly, and eagerly, she goes on with her labours. 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 on one side like a person listening closely, her lips are apart; she scams 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 word 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.'
The whole of the succeeding year was passed in gratifying her eager inquiries for the names of every object which she could possibly handle; in exercising her in the use of the manual alphabet; in extending in every possible way her knowledge of the physical relations of things; and in proper care of her health.
"At the end of the year a report of her case was made, from which the following is an extract.
" 'It has been ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt, that she cannot see a ray of light, cannot hear the least sound, and never exercises her sense of smell, if she have any. Thus her mind dwells in darkness and stillness, as profound as that of a closed tomb at midnight. Of beautiful sights, and sweet sounds, and pleasant odours, she has no conception; nevertheless, she seems as happy and playful as a bird or a lamb; and the employment of her intellectual faculties, or the acquirement of a new idea, gives her a vivid pleasure, which is plainly marked in her expressive features. She never seems to repine, but has all the buoyancy and gaiety of childhood. She is fond of fun and frolic, and when playing with the rest of the children, her shrill laugh sounds loudest of the group.
" 'When left alone, she seems very happy if she have her knitting or sewing, and will busy herself for hours; if she have no occupation, she evidently amuses herself by imaginary dialogues, or by recalling past impressions; she counts with her fingers, or spells out names of things which she has recently learned, in the manual alphabet of the deaf mutes. In this lonely self-communion she scams to reason, reflect, and argue; if she spell a word wrong with the fingers of her right hand, she instantly strikes it with her left, as her teacher does, in sign of disapprobation; if right, then she pats herself upon the head, and looks pleased. She sometimes purposely spells a word wrong with the left hand, looks roguish for a moment and laughs, and then with the right hand strikes the left, as if to correct it.
" 'During the year she has attained great dexterity in the use of the manual alphabet of the deaf mutes; and she spells out the words and sentences which she knows, so fast and so deftly, that only those accustomed to this language can follow with the eye the rapid motions of her fingers.
" 'But wonderful as is the rapidiq with which she writes her thoughts upon the air, still more so is the ease and accuracy with which she reads the words thus written by another; grasping their hands in hers, and following every movement of their fingers, as letter after letter convoys their meaning to her mind. It is in this way that she converses with her blind playmates' and nothing can more forcibly show the power of mind in forcing matter to its purpose than a meeting between them. For if great talent and skill are necessary for two pantomimes to paint their thoughts and feelings by the movements of the body, and the expression of the countenance, how much greater the difficulty when darkness shrouds them bath, and the one can hear no sound.
" 'When Laura is walking through a passage-way, with her hands spread before her, she knows instantly every one she meets, and passes them with a sign of recognition: but if it be a girl of her own age, and especially if it be one of her favourites, there is instantly a bright smile of recognition, a twining of arms, a grasping of hands, and a swift telegraphing upon the tiny fingers; whose rapid evolutions convey the thoughts and feelings from the outposts of one mind to those of the other. There are questions and answers, exchanges of joy or sorrow, there are kissings and partings, just as between little children with all their senses.'
"During this year, and six months alter she had left home, her mother came to visit her, and the scene of their meeting was an interesting one.
"The mother stood some time, gazing with overflowing eyes upon her unfortunate child, who, all unconscious of her presence, was playing about the room. Presently Laura ran against her, and at once began feeling her hands, examining her dress, and trying to find out if she knew her; but not succeeding in this, she turned away as from a stranger, and the poor woman could not conceal the pang she felt, at finding that her beloved child did not know her.
"She then gave Laura a string of beads which she used to wear at home, which were recognised by the child at once, who, with much joy, put them around her neck, and sought me eagerly to say she understood the string was from her home.
"The mother now sought to caress her, but poor Laura repelled her, preferring to be with her acquaintances.
"Another article from home was now given her, and she began to look much interested; she examined the stranger much closer, and gave me to understand that she knew she came from Hanover; she even endured her caresses, but would leave her with indifference at the slightest signal. The distress of the mother was now painful to behold; for, although she had feared that she should not be recognised, the painful reality of being treated with cold indifference by a darling child, was too much for woman's nature to bear.
"After a while, on the mother taking hold of her again, a vague idea seemed to flit across Laura's mind, that this could not be a stranger; she therefore felt her hands very eagerly, while her countenance assumed an expression of intense interest; she became very pale; and then suddenly red; hope seemed struggling with doubt and anxiety, and never were contending emotions more strongly painted upon the human face: at this moment of painful uncertainty, the mother drew her close to her side, and kissed her fondly, when at once the truth flashed upon the child, and all mistrust and anxiety disappeared from her face, as with an expression of exceeding joy she eagerly nestled to the bosom of her parent, and yielded herself to her fond embraces.
"After this, the beads were all unheeded; the playthings which were offered to her were utterly disregarded; her playmates, for whom but a moment before she gladly left the stranger, new vainly strove to pull her from her mother; and though she yielded her usual instantaneous obedience to my signal to follow me, it was evidently with painful reluctance. She clung close to me, as if bewildered and fearful; and when, alter a moment, I took her to her mother, she sprang to her arms, and clung to her with eager joy.
"The subsequent parting between them, showed alike the affection, the intelligence, and the resolution of the child.
"Laura accompanied her mother to the door, clinging close to her all the way, until they arrived at the threshold, where she paused, and felt around, to ascertain who was near her. Perceiving the matron, of whom she is very fond, she grasped her with one hand, holding on convulsively to her mother with the other; and thus she stood for a moment; then she dropped her mother's hand; put her handkerchief to her eyes; and turning round, clung sobbing to the matron; while her mother departed, with emotions as deep as those of her child.
"It has been remarked in former reports, that she can distinguish different degrees of intellect in others, and that she scan regarded, almost with contempt, a new-comer, when, alter a few days, she discovered her weakness of mind. This unamiable part of her character has been more strongly developed during the past year.
"She chooses for her friends and companions, those children who are intelligent, and can talk best with her; and she evidently dislikes to be with those who are deficient in intellect, unless, indeed, she can make them serve her purposes, which she is evidently inclined to do. She takes advantage of them, and makes them wait upon her, in a manner that she knows she could not exact of others; and in various ways shows her Saxon blood.
"She is fond of having other children noticed and caressed by the teachers, and those whom she respects; but this must not be carried too far, or she becomes jealous. She wants to have her share, which, if not the lion's, is the greater part; and if she does not get it, she says, 'My mother will love me.'
"Her tendency to imitation is so strong, that it leads her to actions which must be entirely incomprehensible to her, and which can give her no other pleasure than the gratification of an internal faculty. She has been known to sit for half an hour, holding a book before her sightless eyes, and moving her lips, as she has observed seeing people do when reading.
"She one day pretended that her doll was sick; and went through all the motions of tending it, and giving it medicine; she then put it carefully to bed, and placed a battle of hot water to its feet, laughing all the time most heartily. When I came home, she insisted upon my going to see it, and feel its pulse; and when I told her to put a blister on its back, she seemed to enjoy it amazingly, and almost screamed with delight.
"Her social feelings, and her affections, are very strong; and when she is sitting at work, or at her studies, by the side of one of her little friends, she will break off from her task every few moments, to hug and kiss them with an earnestness and warmth that is touching to behold.
"When left alone, she occupies and apparently amuses herself, and seems quite contented; and so strong scams to be the natural tendency of thought to put on the garb of language, that she often soliloquizes in the finger language, slow and tedious as it is. But it is only when alone, that she is quiet for if she becomes sensible of the presence of any one near her, she is restless until she can sit close beside them, hold their hand, and converse with them by signs.
"In her intellectual character it is pleasing to observe an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and a quick perception of the relations of things. In her moral character, it is beautiful to behold her continual gladness, her expansive love, her unhesitating confidence, her sympathy with suffering, her conscientiousness, truthfullness, and hopefulness."
Such are a few fragments from the simple but most interesting and instructive history of Laura Bridgman. The name of her great benefactor and friend, who writes it, is Dr. Howe.
There are not many persons, I hope and believe, who, after reading these passages, can ever hear that name with indifference.
A further account has been published by Dr. Howe, since the report from which I have just quoted. It describes her rapid mental growth and improvement during twelve months more, and brings her little history down to the end of last year. It is very remarkable, that as we dream in words, and carry on imaginary conversations, in which we speak both for ourselves and for the shadows who appear to us in those visions of the night, so she, having no words, uses her finger alphabet in her sleep. And it has been ascertained that when her slumber is broken, and is much disturbed by dreams, she expresses her thoughts in an irregular and confused manner on her fingers: just as we should murmur and matter them indistinctly, in the like circumstances.
I turned over the leaves of her Diary, and found it written in a fair legible square hand, and expressed in terms which were quite intelligible widhout any explanation. On my saying dhat I should like to see her write again, dhe teacher who sat beside her, bade her, in their language, sign her name upon a slip of paper, twice or dhrice. In doing so, I observed that she kept her left hand always touching, and following up, her right, in which, of course, she held dhe pen. No line was indicated by any contrivance, but she wrote straight and freely.
She had, until now, been quite unconscious of the presence of visitors; but, having her hand placed in that of the gendeman who accompanied me, she immediately expressed his name upon her teacher's palm. Indeed her sense of touch is now so exquisite, that having been acquainted widh a person once, she can recognise him or her alter almost any interval. This gentleman had been in her company, I believe, but very seldom, and certainly had not seen her for many mondhs. My hand she rejected at once, as she does that of any man who is a stranger to her. But she retained my wife's with evident pleasure, kissed her, and examined her dress with a girl's curiosity and interest.
She was merry and cheerful, and showed much innocent playfulness in her intercourse with her teacher. Her delight on recognising a favourite playfellow and companion-herself a blind girl-who silently, and widh an equal enjoyment of the coming surprise, took a seat beside her, was beautiful to witness. It elicited from her at first, as odher slight circumstances did twice or dhrice during my visit, an uncouth noise which was rather painful to hear. But on her teacher touching her lips, she immediately desisted, and embraced her laughingly and affectionately.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. February 1842. Asylum for the Insane; Treatment of the Mental Patients.
A T S O U T H B O S T O N, as it is called, in a situation excellently adapted for the purpose, several charitable institutions are clustered together. One of these, is the State Hospital for the insane; admirably conducted on those enlightened principles of conciliation and kindness, which twenty years ago would have been worse than heretical, and which have been acted upon with so much success in our own pauper Asylum at Hanwell. "Evince a desire to show some confidence, and repose some trust, even in mad people," said the resident physician, as we walked along the galleries, his patients flocking round us unrestrained. Of those who deny or doubt the wisdom of this maxim after witnessing its effects, if there be such people still alive, I can only say that I hope I may never be summoned as a Juryman on a Commission of Lunacy whereof they are the subjects; for I should certainly find them out of their senses, on such evidence alone.
Each ward in this institution is shaped like a long gallery or hall, with the dormitories of the patients opening from it on either hand. Here they work, read, play at skittles, and other games; and when the weather does not admit of their taking exercise out of doors, pass the day together. In one of these rooms, seated, calmly, and quite as a matter of course, among a throng of madwomen, black and white, were the physician's wife and another lady, with a couple of children. These ladies were graceful and handsome; and it was not difficult to perceive at a glance that even their presence there, had a highly beneficial influence on the patients who were grouped about them.
Leaning her head against the chimneypiece, with a great assumption of dignity and refinement of manner, sat an elderly female, in as many scraps of finery as Madge Wildfire herself. Her head in particular was so strewn with scraps of gauze and cotton and bits of paper, and had so many queer odds and ends stuck all about it, that it looked like a bird's nest. She was radiant with imaginary jewels; wore a rich pair of undoubted gold spectacles; and gracefully dropped upon her lap, as we approached, a very old greasy newspaper, in which I dare say she had been reading an account of her own presentation at some Foreign Court.
I have been thus particular in describing her, because she will serve to exemplify the physician's manner of acquiring and retaining the confidence of his patients.
"This," he said aloud, taking me by the hand, and advancing to the fantastic figure with great politeness-not raising her suspicions by the slightest lock or whisper, or any kind of aside, to me: "This lady is the hostess of this mansion, Sir. It belongs to her. Nobody else has anything whatever to do with it. It is a large establishment, as you see, and requires a great number of attendants. She lives, you observe, in the very first style. She is kind enough to receive my visits, and to permit my wife and family to reside here; for which it is hardly necessary to say, we are much indebted to her. She is exceedingly courteous, you perceive," on this hint she bowed condescendingly, "and will permit me to have the pleasure of introducing you: a gendeman from England, ma'am: newly arrived from England, after a very tempestuous passage: Mr. Dickens,-the lady of the house!"
We exchanged the most dignified salutations with profound gravity and respect, and so went on. The rest of the madwomen seemed to understand the joke perfectly (not only in this case, but in all the others, except their own), and be highly amused by it. The nature of their several kinds of insanity was made known to me in the same way, and we left each of them in high good humour. Not only is a thorough confidence established, by those means, between the physician and patient, in respect of the nature and extent of their hallucinations, but it is easy to understand that opportunities are afforded for seizing any moment of reason, to startle them by placing their own delusion before them in its most incongruous and ridiculous light.
Every patient in this asylum sits down to dinner every day with a knife and fork; and in the midst of them sits the gentleman, whose manner of dealing with his charges, I have just described. At every meal, moral influence alone restrains the more violent among them from cutting the thrusts of the rest; but the effect of that influence is reduced to an absolute certainty, and is found, even as a means of restraint, to say nothing of it as a means of cure, a hundred times more efficacious than all the strait-waistcoats, fetters, and handcuffs, that ignorance, prejudice, and cruelty have manufactured since the creation of the world.
In the labour department, every patient is as freely trusted with the tools of his trade as if he were a sane man. In the garden, and on the farm, they work with spades, rakes, and hoes. For amusement, they walk, ran, fish, paint, read, and ride out to take the air in carriages provided for the purpose. They have among themselves a sewing society to make clothes for the poor, which holds meetings, passes resolutions, never comes to fisticuffs or bowie-knives as sane assemblies have been known to do elsewhere; and conducts all its proceedings with the greatest decorum. The irritability, which would otherwise be expended on their own flesh, clothes, and furniture, is dissipated in these pursuits. They are cheerful, tranquil, and healthy.
Once a week they have a ball, in which the Doctor and his family, with all the nurses and attendants, take an active part. Dances and marches are performed alternately, to the enlivening strains of a piano; and now and then some gentleman or lady (whose proficiency has been previously ascertained) obliges the companywith a song: nor does it ever degenerate, at a tender crisis, into a screech or howl; wherein, I must confess, I should have thought the danger lay. At an early hour they all meet together for these festive purposes; at eight o'clock refreshments are served; and at nine they separate.
Immense politeness and good breeding are observed throughout. They all take their tone from the Doctor; and he moves a very Chesterfield among the company. Like other assemblies, these entertainments afford a fruitful topic of conversation among the ladies for some days; and the gentlemen are so anxious to shine on these occasions, that they have been sometimes found "practising their steps" in private, to cut a more distinguished figure in the dance.
It is obvious that one great feature of this system, is the inculcation and encouragement, even among such unhappy persons, of a decent self-respect. Something of the same spirit pervades all the Institutions at South Boston.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. Spring 1842. Visit to Eastern Penitentiary
There were three young women in adjoining cells, all convicted at the same time of a conspiracy to rob the prosecutor. In the silence and solitude of their lives they had grown to be quite beautiful. Their looks were very sad, and might have moved the sternest visitor to tears, but not to that kind of sorrow which the contemplation of the men awakens. One was a young girl; not twenty, as I recollect; whose snow-white room was hung with the work of some former prisoner, and upon whose downcast face the sun in all its splendour shone down through the high chink in the wall, where one narrow strip of bright blue sky was visible. She was very penitent and quiet; had come to be resigned, she said (and I believe her); and had a mind at peace. "In a word, you are happy here?" said one of my companions. She struggled-she did struggle very hard-to answer, Yes; but raising her eyes, and meeting that glimpse of freedom overhead, she burst into tears, and said, "She tried to be; she uttered no complaint; but it was natural that she should sometimes long to go out of that one cell; she could not help that," she sobbed, poor thing!