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Eighteenth Annual Report Of The Trustees Of The Perkins Institution And Massachusetts Asylum For The Blind

Creator: Samuel Gridley Howe (author)
Date: 1850
Source: Perkins School for the Blind

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The next day she was still suffering, and said most earnestly, to some assurances of continued love for her and trust in her good conduct, "But how can you ever have confidence in me again? How can I learn to control myself? I often feel irritable and impatient, and can control myself, but occasionally my impatient feelings are so strong, I cannot control my body."


But I turn gladly from the blemishes which have appeared momentarily, and at long intervals, and which are mentioned only in the discharge of duty as a chronicler. It is far easier and pleasanter to speak of the habitual mood of her mind, and to dwell upon the gentleness, kindness, cheerfulness, and affection which she manifests, and which make her a truly amiable person in her deportment. The incident I have mentioned above is known only to her teacher and myself, and a knowledge of it will probably excite the surprise of those inmates of the house who see Laura most frequently.


There are perhaps maidens who have inherited a happy physical organization, which works on in healthful play, uninterrupted by an hour of disorder, without any jar, or discord; their harp of thousand strings has ever been in perfect tune, and discoursed sweet harmony of life and character. But such persons are rare. They would be rarer, if three of the great avenues of sense were blocked up; and rarer yet, if they were placed under a microscopic observation, as Laura has been, all their faults "observed, set in a note-book, learned and conned by rote." For the few there are, however, we must thank Heaven! Were there but one such among the countless generations that have been born, we should take courage, and hope for humanity. That one may be the perfect type of woman, and more may be formed like her, and yet more and more, till she shall be the prevailing type; for the highest possible attainment is the most desirable one; and what is most desirable is surely attainable, else the God we trust in is not the true God.


My hopes of Laura have been, in some respects, disappointed; but that is clearly because they were unreasonable. Some important considerations were overlooked; such as the hereditary disposition, the deranged constitution, the undue development of the nervous system. The result, however, has been to give an increase of faith, amounting to conviction, in the efficacy of wise measures for moulding and shaping character. Native dispositions, and tendencies, and peculiarities, may never be eradicated or entirely changed; but by repressing some and encouraging others, by removing this temptation and bringing in that inducement, the young and tender mind may be trained up to strength and beauty.


The disturbing forces are various and strong, but the native tendency towards good is uniform and everlasting. The corrupting influence of vicious associations is great, but the purifying influence of virtuous associations is greater. I now see, with pain and sorrow, how some unfavorable influences might have been kept from acting upon Laura's character; but I see also, how, under ordinary circumstances, a person inheriting the mental peculiarities that she does with imperfect health, wearing her nerves upon the outside, as it were, and so sorely bereaved of the senses through which come most of the material pleasures of life -- would almost certainly be selfish, querulous, and sad, whereas she is generous, uncomplaining, and even happy.


In the language of Miss Wight, "Much might be said of her sympathy with those about her who are sick or in trouble, and those who are suffering everywhere; of the innocent simplicity of character which she has preserved, notwithstanding the attention she is continually receiving; of her sorrow for the faults of others, speaking of them in sorrow and not in a detracting spirit." "I am confident," says Miss W., "that with me, or any one who loved her, she would work all day long patiently for her daily bread. Now and then, indeed, she speaks sadly of the time when she must leave the school and do so."


This leads me to speak of a subject about which there should be forethought and preparation, to wit, the means of her support in the future. She understands the worth and the importance of money, and begins to be desirous of possessing it, not as an end, but as a means. It would have been easy to conceal this knowledge from her, and some regret that it has not been done, lest it shall destroy to her some of the beauty and poetry of life. But it is a truth and reality, and there is no true poetry and beauty inconsistent with a knowledge of these. It never occurs to her that her friends may die, and she be left to the charities of the world, or that its charities are ever cold, for she has known only its loving-kindness; but she simply feels a desire for independence. She knows very well what this is; she perceives what a difference it makes among her friends and acquaintance. Some of them are wealthy, some are poor; and though she cares not for wealth, she would shun poverty.

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