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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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These influences were found to be favorable to the development of her character, and she was left to them. I thought it better to pursue this course than keep her as strictly under the influence of her teacher's mind as she had been in the early period of her instruction. She needed, however, and has continued to have, special instruction. Miss Sarah Wight has continued to give all her time and attention to her education. She has been to her a constant companion, friend, teacher, and exemplar. She has devoted herself to Laura for years, by day and by night, in health and in sickness, in joy and in sorrow, with zeal, patience, and discretion, and has had a wholesome influence upon her mind, heart, and character.


I can claim no other credit for the improvement which Laura has made in latter years, than that of securing for her such a teacher. If she is shortcoming of any natural qualification for the task she undertook, at my urgent request, I can only say, on the other hand, it would be very hard to find any one who possesses so many natural and acquired qualifications for so novel and arduous an undertaking. Her success has been great. She has done far better than I could have done. Her gentleness and equanimity of temper have tended to keep her pupil in that happy mean between excesses of feeling, to which persons of her temperament are constitutionally disposed.


Laura loves her and respects her, and makes no severer criticism upon her than the playful one in the following extract from her little diary: --


"I had a very pleasant day. I have been very hilarious. I could not help laughing incessantly. My mind is so very full of drollery and mirthfulness. I wish that my dear teacher would have a little share of my mirthfulness. She does not like fun as well as I do. I love fun so much.


"As I was very busily engaged at eleven o'clock, I was agreeably interrupted by some circumstances which occurred so unexpectedly. It was -the entrance of- one of my very dear friends Miss E. R. the sister of my old teacher. She took my dirty right hand, greeting me very warmly -- who wore gloves.


"I asked her how she liked our Sunny Home, she said she admired it very much. She surveyed it with much interest. She asked me whose the bouquet of flowers were. I assuredly told her, that they belonged to Miss W. She returned that they smelt very fragrantly and delicious. E. altered her mind at length as she could not stay as long as she -had- hoped.


The words included between brackets are added; the rest is an exact copy, punctuatim et literatim, from her diary, which she writes in a legible hand.


Her health has not been uniformly good, and there have been times when we were alarmed about her. She lost her appetite, pined away, and became very feeble, though her spirits did not flag; she bore up bravely, recovered, and became again strong, active, and buoyant with animal spirits and gayety.


She is fond of exercise in the open air, and walks from four to six miles daily, besides taking care of her room, and occupying herself about the house. Her diet is spare and simple. She eats rather to satisfy hunger than to tickle her palate.


Her life is very uniform. This is found to be necessary, because departure from her usual habits causes excitement, which is sometimes injurious.


She is a light sleeper, and wakes at an early hour. Her capacity for perceiving the lapse of time seems uncommonly good, and, with the aid of certain regularly occurring events, enables her to ascertain pretty accurately the hour. For instance, she often perceives, by a slight vibration of the floor and walls, when any of the domestics are astir, and she rises immediately. She then takes her bath, arranges her hair very neatly, and with much care, for the day, puts on a common dress, and proceeds to put her room in order. Not a scrap of paper, not a particle of dirt escapes her notice. She puts up every book in the case, places the furniture in order, and makes every thing tidy. If she completes this task before it is time to go to breakfast, she sits down and sews diligently during the few moments there may be to spare.


At the table, she helps herself to her food, and manages her fork and spoon very dexterously. She eats moderately and with great deliberation, sitting a long while at her meals, and never likes to be hurried. She loves to have some one within reach with whom she can occasionally exchange words.


After breakfast her teacher reads to her a portion of the Scriptures, and then takes a sort of review of her conduct and actions the day before, making such remarks in commendation or criticism as may be desirable. Her diary is then examined, and criticized. Her letters also are examined, (for she has many correspondents,) to see if they are legibly written.


She is aware that the countenance is an index of the state of the mind, and that the expression of her own changes with varying conditions of bodily or mental well-being; hence, after this morning self-examination, she sometimes asks her teacher what her countenance expresses.

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