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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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IT has not been thought necessary to publish every year an account of the mode of instruction pursued with Laura, because there has been no material change from that formerly pursued, and already published. There has been only an application of the same principles of instruction to higher subjects of study. Besides, the great point of interest was the beginning of the process. With her it was the first step that was most difficult and most interesting. When, in the stillness and darkness amid which she was so utterly lost to human fellowship, she began fairly to comprehend and to use arbitrary language, then she got hold of a thread by which her mind could be guided out into the light; she has held on to it firmly, and followed it eagerly, and come out into a world which has been made to her one of joy and gladness by the general welcome with which she has been greeted.


Her progress has been a curious and an interesting spectacle. She has come into human society with a sort of triumphal march; her course has been a perpetual ovation. Thousands have been watching her with eager eyes, and applauding each successful step, while she, all unconscious of their gaze, holding on to the slender thread, and feeling her way along, has advanced with faith and courage towards those who awaited her with trembling hope. Nothing shows more than her case the importance which, despite their useless waste of human life and human capacity, men really attach to a human soul. They owe to her something for furnishing an opportunity of showing how much of goodness there is in them; for surely the way in which she has been regarded is creditable to humanity. Perhaps there are not three living women whose names are more widely known than hers; and there is not one who has excited so much sympathy and interest. There are thousands of women in the world who are striving to attract its notice and gain its admiration, -- some by the natural magic of beauty and grace, some by the high nobility of talent, some by the lower nobility of rank and title, some by the vulgar show of wealth; but none of them has done it so effectually as this poor blind, deaf, and dumb girl, by the silent show of her misfortunes, and her successful efforts to surmount them.


The treatment she has received shows something of Human Progress too; for the time was when a child, bereaved of senses as she is, would have been regarded as a monster, and treated as a burden and a curse, even among the most civilized people of the world; -- she would, perhaps, have been thrown into the river, or exposed upon the mountain to wild beasts. But now there are millions of people by whom it is recognized as a duty, and esteemed as a privilege, to protect and cherish her, or any one in the like situation.


There is something, perhaps, in the rarity of such cases of manifold bereavement, -- something in the fact, that she is the first person who ever came out of such a dark and silent prison to tell us plainly of its condition, -- something of pride in the proof which she gives of the native power of the human soul; but still, bating all this, the amount of tender sympathy in her misfortunes, and of real interest in the attempt to lighten them, which has been shown by thousands of sensitive hearts, is most gratifying to reflect upon.


Every thing that has been printed here respecting her has been reprinted in England; and translations have been made into the Continental languages; so that Laura, without any other claim to notice than the weight of her misfortunes and the effort made to lighten them, enjoys almost a world-wide renown.


There will yet, perhaps, be found for her a biographer who has the qualifications necessary to gather from her story the abundant materials which it furnishes to illustrate many curious mental phenomena, and to draw from it the many beautiful moral lessons which it may be made to teach. Whatever I have written or may write can be regarded only as mémoires pour servir. (1)

(1) My learned friend, Professor Lieber, whose truly philosophic mind saw at once the important light which her ease might afford upon many psychological questions, has paid great attention to it. He has written a most interesting memoir upon the vocal sounds which she utters. This will be published in the Annals of the Smithsonian Institute.


At the period when the last mention was made of her in our Annual Report, she had gained a sufficient knowledge of language to converse freely, by means of the finger alphabet, on all topics which would be understood by girls generally of twelve years old. She had begun to come into relation with a variety of persons; with the teachers and pupils in the school for the blind, all of whom could converse rapidly and easily with her. She had become intimate with several instructed deaf mutes and had formed quite an extensive circle of acquaintance, with ladies for the most part, who had taken pains to learn the manual alphabet, and with whom she was very fond of talking.

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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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Her lessons now begin, and continue through the morning simultaneously with the lessons for the classes in the Institution, being each three quarters of an hour, with a recess of a quarter of an hour between them.


At this time she is studying algebra, geography, and history. She is very intent upon her lessons; she continually asks questions upon various subjects connected with them, and is willing at any time to forego a recess rather than break off.


She is acquiring a fondness for works of fancy, the nature of which she begins to understand. She is at this time much interested in "The Neighbours," which her teacher is reading to her.


The lessons over, she dresses for dinner. She is careful and painstaking with her toilette, but never in a fluster. She is considerate about her appearance, but never anxious. She is fond of dress, but, with a tact that seems incomprehensible, she avoids every thing gaudy, odd, or in bad taste. There may be, and probably is, some thought with her about the impression which her appearance makes upon others, -- something of that natural and proper desire which women have of improving the gifts of grace and beauty, -- but she is hardly conscious of it. She would dress herself just as neatly and tastefully as usual in the morning, if she were sure that no one would see her during the day. Indeed, what to her is seeing, -- she who lives in total darkness, and comprehends not what light is? The direct and instant motive with her is the gratification of a natural love of order, and sense of ideality, which have been cultivated until such gratification has become a necessity.


It is difficult to forego the pleasure of dwelling upon this pleasing trait, -- this love of beauty for beauty's sake, -- this lesser but essential virtue of the female character, without which other charms have no lasting power. The love of being graceful and beautiful is not an offshoot of selfish vanity; it is not a weed springing up in the shallow soil of artificial society, and which can live only in the light of the human eye; it is a plant whose roots are far down in the depths of the human heart, and it can be made to grow, and bear goodly fruits, even in the darkness and stillness of an isolation as great as that in which Laura lives.


But to return to the simple story of her usual daily occupation. She takes dinner at one o'clock, at the table with the blind, and generally contrives to exchange words frequently with whoever is sitting within her reach. She eats as sparingly and slowly at dinner as at breakfast; indeed, she is always a "dainty eater."


After dinner she takes her work and sews, or knits, or makes purses, bags, or chains, as the case may be, and works very busily and very neatly. She is a good needle-woman, and is very expert and dexterous at making various articles of female handicraft. If her teacher, or any one of her friends, sits within her reach, she frequently holds out her hand to exchange a word; but, notwithstanding this interruption, she is so diligent and nimble at her work, that she performs a good task.


This over, she goes out to walk with her teacher, and spends two or three hours in exercise, either taking a long stroll into the country, or through the streets. Sometimes she takes a few pennies or some fruit, and requests her teacher to give them to any poor woman or child she may meet. She is fond of going into town "shopping." She is expert at examining patterns, and chaffering about bargains, though she is too guileless to think of "beating down" the seller.


She takes this time to make calls upon her friends and acquaintance, of whom she has many. She gossips good-naturedly about every-day trifles, and gravely about the weightier matters of births, deaths, and marriages. Of what is called "scandal," she is still in blessed ignorance. She must feel of any new caps or bonnets, examine any new dresses or ornaments, and note any novelty in the fashion thereof. She must greet all the guests, make them all shake hands with her teacher, fondle the children, and dandle the baby. Such intercourse gives her great pleasure and some profit, and would give her more, were it not that most people reverse the ordinary rule, and desire to have her talk, rather than to talk themselves. In intercourse with others, they wish to give all and take nothing; with her, they incline to take all and give nothing. This is not fair, and is not profitable to Laura. In the commerce of ideas at least, there should be free trade and entire reciprocity, else half its benefits are lost.


She returns home to supper, after which she writes in her diary, or attends to some correspondence, for an hour or so. She then takes her work and occupies herself busily. She seems perfectly cheerful when by herself and unnoticed; she is better pleased, however, to have any one sit near her, even if they do not speak together. But she is most happy when her teacher sits within her reach, so that she can occasionally exchange a word and a laugh with her, and, when any emotion arises, can throw her arms around her neck and kiss her, which she often does, in the most earnest and touching manner. Usually, however, she is interrupted in the evening by some "callers"; -- a neighbour, one of the blind scholars, or a domestic.

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She receives every one, however simple or humble, with an earnest welcome, and busies herself equally for all in getting them seats, and seeing that they are pleasantly occupied.


A humble domestic sometimes comes up to take lessons in reading, which Miss Wight is kind enough to give her, and Laura is as glad to meet her, and as ready and happy to aid her, as though she were the richest lady in the land.


She retires to bed at nine o'clock, as a matter of habit and of duty, but never from a sense of drowsiness, for she never seems sleepy. She is wide awake, bright, and cheerful, to the last.


Sunday brings some change. Her work is laid aside, and her regular lessons are omitted. But the day brings no gloom or austerity. She regards it as a pleasant day, -- a day of relaxation from ordinary labor, -- a day devoted more than others to thoughtful self-communion; to a consideration and enjoyment of the blessings and pleasures of life; to social relations, and duties, and joys. She would no more think of suppressing a hearty laugh, or repressing any outbreak of mirthfulness, on Sunday, than on any other day; it is truly a day of thanksgiving, and surely the most acceptable worship that she or any one can pay is that of a glad and grateful heart.


This reminds me that upon one of the visits of Governor Briggs, just after he had issued a proclamation for the annual "Fast Day," Laura asked him earnestly why he did not rather make a proclamation for two Thanksgiving Days in the year, rather than for a Thanksgiving in the autumn, and a Fast in the spring.


On Sunday she writes letters to her relatives and friends. She takes great interest in her brothers, particularly in the youngest, who is still a boy at school. She writes him long letters, filled with kind and good advice, touching his health, and his improvement in his studies, and his conduct generally. Such is the daily course of her life, which is seldom interrupted.


It may seem strange to some to hear of a girl who is blind, and deaf, and dumb, and shorn of half the other senses, being cheerful, and even gay and frolicsome. Nevertheless, so it is. There are few persons so light-hearted, so cheery, so full of mirth, so ready at any moment to laugh at a joke, or join in a game at romps, as Laura Bridgman.


But what is her idea of fun? Precisely that of any other young person who has a like mental constitution, -- who has the sentiment or the disposition to mirthfulness. Given this natural disposition, and the opportunities for its gratification are found in any circumstances of life. The intellect has nothing to do with it. There need be no thought or idea about it; the sentiment or disposition will manifest itself somehow, irrespective of circumstances, and even in spite of circumstances. It leads one to laugh, as it seems to others, ill-timedly, and to say, "Well, I could not help it; I should have laughed if I had had to die for it."


Laura by nature has this disposition so strong, that her infirmities cannot repress it. Her education has never tended to lessen it; on the contrary, I have always tried to draw it out and to increase and strengthen it. It is a gift of God, precious indeed to any one, but to her beyond all price, because it gives what men could never give her, though they should pour the wealth of the world into her lap, and place its sceptre in her hands.


But be the philosophy of the matter what it may, Laura has a sprightly, cheerful disposition, and is given to merriment and hilarity. When she is in good health, and surrounded by her friends, her disposition manifests itself plainly in all her natural language. Smiles accompany every word and action; her spirits animate her, and make her lively in her looks and movements, the slightest manifestation of mirthfulness in others excites it in her instantly; she catches their good-humor by a sort of instinct, almost as quickly as we catch it in their smiles; she laughs at their pleasant remarks; she is ready to join them in any merriment; she makes some extravagant comparison, or some burlesque upon their words, and then bursts into laughter. It is with her as with others of the like disposition, -- the occasion does not create the cheerfulness, but the cheerfulness creates the occasion. Sometimes when sitting alone, sewing or communing with herself, a merry thought comes over her, and makes her laugh aloud; or if she is crossing the room, and stumbles over a chair, she laughs, and calls herself "very blind."


Natural cheerfulness, however, though it is an essential part of the character, and can hardly be obscured, -- though it illumines the pathway of life from the cradle to the grave, and breaks through the thickest clouds of sorrow and adversity, -- nevertheless manifests itself in different moods in different stages of our progress; the merry laugh of the boy is gradually softened into the cheerful smile of the old man.


I have spoken of Laura rather as she has been during the time since she was last mentioned, than as she actually is; for now, as she increases in years, the flowing tide of animal spirits subsides a little; the swelling waves of joy are seen, but they break not so often into boisterous mirth. Without being less cheerful and happy, she is in her usual mode more quiet and subdued. Life is to her a boon, and she so considers it, for often, in the fulness of her heart, she says, "I am so glad I have been created! "

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Her pleasures are of the simplest kind, and taken regularly, and therefore never pall upon the sense. She has not any of that moral intemperance which so often destroys happiness, -- the thirst for excitement, the wish for pressing the joys of years into one day, and drinking the whole at a draught, leaving the lees of satiety, perhaps of repentance and sorrow, as the portion of the future. A gleam of sunshine upon her face, a warm south wind, the soft grass under her feet, a growing plant, or an opening flower, -- any of these things awaken a feeling of pleasure, and often lead her thoughts up to Him who created them. Her lessons afford her continual pleasure. The simple portions of knowledge, -- her mind's daily bread, are earned by labor, which gives a relish to the homeliest morsel of truth.


Then there are her pure affections, still more abundant springs of enjoyment, from which the deepest draught can produce no moral intoxication. She loves her friends tenderly and indulgently. She never forgets them, but speaks of those whom she has not met for years with earnest interest. To their virtues and praises she is ever sensible; to their faults and their detractions she is indeed blind and deaf. Few persons are less exacting in their requirements and less censorious in their judgment respecting their friends and acquaintance, than she is. Indeed I do not recollect ever hearing her speak censoriously or unkindly of any person. Miss Wight mentions in her journal, that Laura has occasionally spoken of the faults of some of her friends with sorrow, but not in a detracting spirit.


Miss Wight, in her journal, observes, very properly, that


"There is one thing that seems worthy of remark about Laura, the affection which every body has for her here in the house, where the novelty has worn off, and where, from her love of conversation, she sometimes taxes severely the time and patience of her favorites. But every body loves her. As Sophia said yesterday, 'She is so good they can't help it.' And she is good to every one, -- and whoever comes here, be it Mrs. G ---, or the F. ---s, or S--- B---, she exerts herself to her utmost to make them happy. Sometimes a dozen little girls will crowd round her while she is writing, shaking the table, and pushing her arm, and interrupting her to try their powers of saying a few words with their fingers, all of which she will bear patiently, and is always glad when they come to see her."


It is most remarkable that she has not become very selfish, and inconsiderate of others, because she has necessarily been in the less blessed situation of receiver, and seldom in that of giver, of favors and kindnesses. This will often cause the seeds of many virtues to perish in the young mind. But though Laura may have suffered from this cause, she has not become selfish or inconsiderate of others. In the words of Miss Wight, "she is never as happy as when she is able to do something for the comfort and happiness of others, more especially if they are sick and suffering." Perhaps this is a strong expression, but if it cannot be taken in a literal sense, I, and many others, can testify to the readiness and eagerness with which Laura attempts to show her sympathy with any suffering, and to do something to lessen it.


It has ever been a subject of anxiety with me to have her furnished with opportunities of exercising these virtuous dispositions in the various offices of charity and love, knowing well that they need exercise, just as much as do the mental faculties. A man may as well expect that he can come to understand the Mécanique Céleste without early exercise of his mathematical powers, as expect to comprehend fully the Sermon on the Mount without previous training of his feelings of charity and love by actual exercise of them.


He who should propose to become a great mathematician by beginning his studies after his life is almost spent, would be called mad; but he who proposes to spend threes core years in the pursuit of mere pleasure or fortune, and then begin the practice of virtue, so as to die a saintly Christian at threescore and ten, finds so many to keep him company that his sanity is not doubted.


Laura's sympathy is ever ready to flow for those who are afflicted. She lately wrote, of her own accord, the following letter to a lady who had lost an only child.


"Sept. 28, 1849.




"I was very much surprised to hear of the decease of your darling, last Tuesday. I hoped that she would recover very soon. I trust that your little Mary is much happier at her new home than she was on the earth. I am very positive God, and his beloved Son Christ, will educate your child much better than men could in this world. I can scarcely realize that the school is so excessively beautiful in heaven. I can sympathize with you in your great affliction. I cannot help thinking of your trouble and little Mary's illness. I know very certainly that God will promote her happiness for ever. I loved her very dearly, as if she were my own daughter. I shall miss her very much every time I come to see you. I send my best love to you and a kiss. I am very sad for you. Yours, &c. L. B."

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It will be seen that she uses language which seems to imply considerable religious instruction, but it would not be fair to suffer such inference to be drawn, because she has not received what is usually considered religious instruction ; that is, she has not been indoctrinated into any particular creed or form of religious belief. Faith she has in God, ay! and love, too, -- that love which casteth out fear. Her veneration, which showed itself spontaneously, has been so directed upward to the Creator and Governor of all things, that she lives in consciousness of his protecting presence and loving care. His laws are his angelic messengers, ever hovering over us, -- not armed with whips and scorpions, to avenge themselves, but charged to win us upward by love and persuasion. Laura begins to understand and revere those laws, and thus her religious nature is developed without the aid of catechism. More than once it has been seen that the thought of God's presence and love, occurring in moments of irritation and discontent, has soothed her into placid peace and content. She often says, with a joyful and loving look, "our Father gives us all these things."


In childhood, while her mind was beginning to grow up towards the light of knowledge, and to put forth its timid tendrils to twine around some points of belief; which should be its support through its after growth, then I wished that those tendrils should cling only to what was firm and durable. I tried to keep out of her reach all pestilent catchwords and sectarian shibboleths. I tried to train her up according to what seemed to me the will of her Creator, whether written in a book or manifested in nature; but I did not care that she should know too early the name which men give to their notions of his attributes, whether it be Jove, Jehovah, or God. Having full faith in the religious nature of man, I could no more doubt that, with the growth of her mind, the religious capacities and dispositions would show themselves, than I could doubt that an acorn I had planted would grow to be an oak rather than a hemlock. I was not anxious to pull it up to look at its roots, or to twist and bend its twigs that it might grow in any particular form. I wished to encourage in her the growth of those virtues which seem to be the elements out of which the religious character is afterwards formed, -- veneration, trust, and love; conscientiousness, ideality, hope, and the like. As for the particular form of belief which she should adopt, I had less care.


I supposed that when, by the action of her perceptive faculties, her acquaintance with facts should become sufficiently extensive, then her mind would begin to put forth its higher powers, and generalize the knowledge that had been furnished to it. I wished to avoid the common error of giving a creed first, and the elements out of which faith ought to be formed afterwards, when the form of belief was fixed. I trusted that the free elements of thought would crystallize around certain natural points of belief; and I did not care to hasten the process by introducing any artificial nucleus to give special form to the future faith. Nor was my trust disappointed. It was a source of the highest satisfaction and pleasure to find, that, as causality began to work, these inferences were formed naturally: -- Women make bread, and clothes, and the like; men make tables, and chairs, and desks, and houses; but no woman nor man makes the sun to shine, the rain to fall, the grass to grow; therefore there must be a superhuman power. I do not mean to say that, at any particular time, and in any concrete form, she stated this inference; but I do say, that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, her mind passed through this process, and underwent these changes; that no one directly aided its progress, or shaped the form of her belief, but that alone and unguided she sought God, and found him in the Creator.


It was a touching and beautiful sight to see this young soul, that had lain so long in utter darkness and stillness, as soon as the obstacles were cleared from its path, begin to move forward and upward, to seek and to own its Creator, God! It was as if the lost Pleiad, brought back again to her native sphere, and under her native influences, should begin to move onward with graceful sweep, and, joining her sister stars, renew her circling homage around the central throne of light. Her intellect had done part of its work; it had brought God to her mind.


It would have been most interesting to watch the further progress of her mental development; to see, as her moral nature began to be active, with what moral attributes she would clothe the Creator, whose existence she had, as it were, discovered.


I should have been willing to bear the clamorous reprobation that was already beginning to rise from those who considered me as standing between her and what they called religion, and thus perilling her soul, because my faith in the correctness of my principles was as firm as theirs in their own, and my interest in Laura's well-being not less than theirs. I had, moreover, the full permission of Laura's parents to do as I thought best in the education of her who had become in some sense my child. But circumstances arose which obliged me to confide her to the care of others. She has had the guidance of an intelligent and virtuous woman, who has an earnest religious nature, without any bigoted attachment to the outward form in which the religious nature of other persons happens to manifest itself. It will be seen by Laura's manner of writing and talking, that she has adopted notions common to Liberal Christians, though I must say they are not more definite or firm than those of most young persons.

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Conversing one day lately about a friend who had gone far away, Laura said, "How glad I am that our minds are made to go thousands of miles away, to see our friends, and be with them, though they are so remote!" She sat reflecting a moment, and then said, "Will our minds be alike when they go to heaven, away from our bodies?" meaning, Will they be like in their powers to what they are now? The answer was, Probably they will be. She then added, "I have been thinking how powerful God is. How hard it is to think God has lived for ever. If we were all alike we could not know each other. I think we shall know our friends much better than we do here" (meaning in heaven). "But I have not naturally much trust and confidence in God; Christ had the most confidence in God, he was willing to be killed. Do you think Christ feels like himself now in heaven? Do we think as much of our only Father as we ought to? Does it not give you more love in your heart to think much of Him? It does me." After a pause she asked, "Should you like to live here as long as we live?" -- meaning, to live for ever in this world. The answer was, I am contented and happy here now; to which she rejoined, with much emphasis, "So am I!" This is human nature, alike in the richest prince and poorest peasant. The dying Medici murmured to the priest who pictured the splendors of the heavenly mansion he was about to enter, -- "But I should have been content with the Pitti Palace"; and Laura would not willingly leave a world, to the outward beauties and harmonies of which she is blind and deaf, for any paradise that can be painted to her. She now has faculties for comprehending, and capacities for enjoying, this part of heaven; she has none for the other. It would not be hard to make this world a vale of tears to her, or torture her into a desire to leave it; but at present she is grateful for the boon of existence, and happy in its enjoyment. By and by, when, by retrospection, she can understand what progress is, -- when she has made all she can here, -- then, perhaps, she will more willingly spread the pinions of her soul, and soar to higher states of existence.


She sometimes gives moral and religious advice to persons who are in every way her superiors in mind, with a beautiful simplicity. In a letter to Mrs. Farnham, who was going on a mission of good to California, she wrote: -- "I hope you will be very happy and useful and loving and kind always: and also that you will have reverence and respect for all human beings. I feel in my heart that you will strive to do the duty for God, and it will please Him so much to see you doing the most good to all in the world. I shall wish to hear of your happiness, and the country, &c. so much! You must think of me and ask for my -his?- sympathy and confidence when you are troubled and homesick in mind and heart. You must not think I shall forget you in my life, if I do not write to you frequently," &c.


It may surprise some, who know how many years have been spent in teaching language to Laura, and who read the foregoing specimens of her speech and writing, to hear that much of the labor, even of the last two years, has been upon language, and that her knowledge of it is yet so very imperfect, as to be a great stumbling-block in the way of her progress. Much has been said upon this subject in connection with her history, but I can never recur to that history without perceiving that its most interesting phenomena are so closely connected with the phenomena of the development of language, that they can hardly be considered apart. Her life and experience will be useful, in various ways, to those engaged in instruction, but in none, perhaps, more than by throwing light upon the subject of language, -- the mode in which it is learned, and its importance in the development of the intellect.


Language is important to her, and indeed to all of us, not merely as a vestment to the mind and an instrument of the thought, but important to the moral as well as the intellectual nature. It is not an outright gift from God, to be used or abused, cultivated or neglected, at man's will or whim, but, like all his precious gifts, it is in the nature of a trust, limited by conditions, and attended with responsibilities. These conditions and responsibilities are too often violated and neglected; hence men not only fail to reap all the profits from the use of the trust, but incur the penalties of its abuse. For instance, a great mind generates a great thought, such as those of common strength could neither conceive nor give birth to; he embodies it in words, and sends it forth upon the wings of language for the use of humanity. Without such embodiment it would be worthless to every one but himself, and even with it is useless to those who, having ears to hear, do not understand. The number of those who hear without comprehending is very great, -- greater, sometimes, than those who hear and understand also. Nay, it may be said, with regard even to some of the most precious words of wisdom, that they are comprehended by very few in each generation of those who repeat them over as familiarly as household words. This is often a source of loss, if not of evil. Children hear the words of some sentence which embodies a great truth; they repeat it over as they grow up, they assent to it, they seem to believe it, and yet never fully comprehend it in all its bearings. This is true even of simple propositions asserting concrete truths. For instance, "The earth revolves upon its axis, and around the sun." Many learn this at school, repeat it over ever afterwards, believe it all their lives, and seem to understand it, but form no adequate conception of its meaning. Many die without ever seeing with the mind's eye the bulky globe suspended in space, spinning swiftly around, now in the sunlight, now in the darkness, with its broad continents and towering mountains standing steadfast in their places, and the great ocean bulging out on either side, while the whole rushes forward on its circuit, steering its way among other globes, to come back in a year to precisely the same place from which it started, without having swerved from the path it was bidden to follow. How few there are who, if lifted off the earth and shown the magnificent spectacle, would not exclaim, that they never before comprehended the meaning of the words they had so often uttered, -- "The earth revolves upon its axis, and around the sun." We all know the earth is round, but how many there are, who, if asked which way China lies, would point to the east, rather than down between their legs! How few school-committee men think an artificial globe necessary, and how much fewer are those who would allow a master to take his class to the top of a hill or spire, to point out the coast and islands, mountains and rivers!

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Propositions like the above, concerning the globe, are simple indeed, compared with thousands to which men give unhesitating assent, without the capacity of comprehending them. Some are simple propositions touching mere doctrine, and comparatively unimportant, as, God is three, or God is one; but there are others which are accepted just as readily, though they involve abstract principles upon which depend all the great doctrines of morality and religion. These are learned by rote, and repeated over without being understood or felt, until they become dogmas, articles of faith, to which men cling as pagans cling to their idols. Hence the force of the satire, that some men will write for religion, fight for religion, die for religion, -- do any thing but live for religion. It is only now and then that a man of inquiring spirit strips off the husks of words that cover the kernel of truth. Others are brought to feel the depth and force of what before were unmeaning words by some personal experience, which brings it home to their bosoms. For instance, a man who was taught to lisp the Lord's Prayer from early infancy, may repeat it over every day, -- may seem to feel, comprehend, and accept the sublime doctrine of forgiveness there taught; -- he thinks he can forgive any injury. But let there come suddenly upon him one of those terrible wrongs which pierce the soul with a sharper pang than death of parent, child, or lover, and then let him pronounce the words, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," and he will falter; he will hesitate to ask God to mete out to him only that measure of forgiveness which he metes out to the offender against himself; and the Amen! will stick in his throat. It never stuck in Macbeth's, until the full force and meaning of the "God bless us!" which he had used all his life, was suddenly brought home to him by the fell deed he had just done.


Precepts given before they can be comprehended are apt to degenerate into lifeless and unmeaning dogmas; and it was partly to prevent their doing so that I deferred so long this part of her instruction. It would be absurd, of course, to push the doctrine to its extreme, and never impart an idea beyond the full comprehension of a child, but it is not absurd to keep the doctrine in view.


She was early taught that words must come to her as things bringing some meaning; if they do not show it at once, she challenges them and bids them answer. She will not go over the first chapter of a book, without stopping you at every verse. Tell her God created the world in some way that mortal cannot comprehend, and she lets it pass. Tell her that he created it out of nothing, and she cries, "How can that be? what is nothing?" When told he did it in six days, she simply exclaimed, "How industrious he must have been!" Other children have their capacity for receiving statements so early and enormously developed, that any doctrine is received easily; but Laura, beginning later, strains at gnats while they swallow camels. Of her own accord, she challenged doctrines that she would doubtless have embraced unwittingly if she had been taught in the common way; to say nothing of certain doctrines and dogmas, the piquancy and force of her objections to which might give offence if published. Take, for instance, her view of capital punishment, when first explained to her. The eye for an eye, and the tooth for a tooth, and the precept, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," and the like, had not prepared her for it; the usual process had been reversed; she had learned the doctrines of the Sermon on the Mount before those of the old dispensation. Hence, she was shocked at the idea of putting a man to death, and taking a second life because one had already been lost, -- punishing a man instead of forgiving him, -- doing him harm instead of doing him good! The manner in which she expressed thoughts, as they first came into her mind, has already been related.


She had been guarded in some measure from the error into which most of us fall, but to which children and uninstructed persons are especially prone, -- that of misunderstanding and perverting the true meaning of words. We are apt to use connotative terms without any precise idea of the connotation; we are satisfied if a word denotes the thing or subject of which we speak, without any definite notion of the attributes connoted by it. Children must, of course, rest satisfied at first with that part of the meaning of words which denotes the particular object of their thought; but they should be taught early to distinguish the attributes connoted by the word; that is, learn what qualities or conditions in the object are implied by its name. The omission of this exercise in the training of children is common, and it is fatal in most cases to all hopes of attaining precision and accuracy of language, because persons rarely learn to correct the fault afterward; and its consequences are felt by them in various ways, and often result in great mischief to individuals and to society.

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A word of explanation may not be amiss, because it illustrates the mode of teaching Laura in the beginning of her course. Little children amuse and train themselves by attaching names, as labels, to things, repeating them over and over and ringing changes upon them. There is little thought about it; it is merely a playful exercise of the mind, and yet the process is a very important one. They do not notice, at first, the attributes or qualities that go to make up the thing. They seize upon the general outline, or whole group of attributes, and utter some sound which is to them a name; or, if they hear us give a name to it, they instantly imitate us; they hang on a label as like ours as they can make it, no matter whether it is good or bad. For instance, we say dog, and a Frenchman says chien, and the child adopts either with equal readiness, because there is just as much fitness in the one name as in the other. But if our vocal sign bear any resemblance to any peculiarity about the beast, -- as bow-wow! -- the meaning of that sign is more quickly perceived; the imitation of it is more readily made; and if the child happen to hear the dog bark, the connection between the sound and the animal becomes indelibly impressed upon his mind. He hangs the label on to the right object at once, and never forgets where it belongs. "Bow-wow!" "baa! Baa! ""quack! quack!" are natural and good labels, more easily learned, more easily comprehended, and more firmly retained, than "dog," "sheep," and "duck," -- comprehended, too, the world over.


The next animal, however, that the child sees going upon four legs, bearing however remote likeness to the first, be it a bear, a sheep, or a calf, revives the impression made upon his mind by the dog, and he instantly produces its label, and, tacking it on to the creature, cries, "Bow-bow!" He has not yet learned what are the peculiar attributes connoted by the arbitrary word dog, or by his own more natural name, bow-bow! Little by little, he perceives that there are peculiarities about other animals, and notes the most striking of these, -- the horns, for instance, or the shaggy fur, -- and he then requires a sign-word or a label for each one of them, and makes one, or takes one used by others, as cow, bear, and the like. He learns, however, very slowly, perceiving only the most striking attributes of the object; he at first mistakes a wolf or a fox for a dog; and even after he has ceased to do this, he has yet more to learn about the thing signified by the word dog. He must become acquainted with poodles, terriers, spaniels, hounds, bull-dogs, lap-dogs, water-dogs, and all the varieties of the species, before he understands the most striking attributes connoted by the term dog; nor does he yet comprehend the whole of the connotation, unless he knows the habits of the animal and its anatomical and other peculiarities. It may seem pushing the figure too far to say, that few men comprehend fully, if any do, the whole meaning and connotation of the word dog; nevertheless, it is in some sense strictly true. A man may own packs of them, and not know the whole meaning and connotation of the word, unless he has paid uncommon attention to the natural history of the animal.


In view of the principle above alluded to, the teacher should train children as much as is possible to observe carefully, not only what objects are denoted by names, but what attributes are connoted also. This, however, is rarely done, and most of us grow up with very vague and imperfect notions of what is meant by the words we use. Children at first care only to obtain names for whatever presents itself to their senses in the concrete, -- a stone, a house, a tree; and of these they seize only upon the most obvious appearances, -- the hardness, the structure, or the foliage. They do not note the weight and texture of the first, the structure and plan of the second, or the growth and functions of the third. They gradually acquire vague notions of the attributes of an object, so far as they are presented in the concrete, but it is rarely that they come to think about all that is implied by the abstract terms weight, structure, and function. Nay, few grown people ask themselves what is implied by what seem concrete terms, but which are really abstract terms, such as size, weight, smell, &c.; and if they should be required to define such words as fault, virtue, affection, they would have to resort to an extensive circumlocution, and probably finish by giving an example instead of a definition. Such persons, talking with Laura in the early part of her studies, and running on glibly with what seemed to them the easiest and simplest words, used to be astonished at her stopping them to ask, What do you mean by virtue? What is quiet? What is solemn? Their amazement, however, was not equal to hers, at finding they could not explain the words they had been using.


Any one who has had dealings with the world, and has thought upon the subject of language, will see how this vagueness of people's ideas about the meaning of the words they use becomes the source of misunderstanding and mischief without end. To say nothing of the intentional double-dealing of all, from the Pythoness at Delphi, to the pettifogger everywhere, who purposely keep the word of promise to the ear, while they break it to the hope, -- what wars and fightings among nations, what disputes and quarrels among individuals, what polemics among divines, what protocols among statesmen, what speeches and fees among lawyers, might have been saved to the world, if certain words, written down hastily, had been clearly understood by the writers and by the readers!

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Why is it so notoriously difficult for a man to give clear instructions to an agent, to draw up a contract, or even to write his own will, so that his wishes and his meaning shall be clearly understood, when he is not by to explain it? Partly because his ideas of the meaning of language are so vague, that, as soon as he has written down one word, he is obliged to write down others in order to explain its meaning; to reaffirm the same thing in another way, forgetting that, the more he writes, the more room he leaves for doubt, -- the more he extends his flanks, the more he weakens his centre.


It may be the same with the will and testament of a generation, expressed in the form of a constitution. The hands that deliberately wrote it are scarcely cold, before people are quarrelling about its meaning. What a satire upon language is the fact, that the ablest men in our day and generation are employed in trying to teach the people to read understandingly, and succeed with only a few at the head of the class! If our fathers had written down, with Decalogic simplicity and terseness, Thus shall ye do, and Thus shall ye not do, where would have been the necessity of expounding their meaning?


Perhaps, however, the case is not a happy illustration of the principle; for sometimes writers, being afraid or ashamed to show exactly where they are and what they mean, scatter their ink about and make a cloud, after the manner of a certain fish, seeking darkness rather than light. The best illustration might be found in the mode of learning language by children, were it not that they fly on so swiftly from interjections and exclamations to words, from words to sentences, and from sentences to continuous speech, that we can hardly distinguish the steps of the process. When, however, they are kept back, as the deaf mutes are, and obliged to learn slowly, and still more in a case like Laura's, where every step is apparent and costs a great effort, then we can mark the exact course which nature causes them to take.


Laura's case, indeed, furnishes means by which a person of the plainest sense may see, as through a magnifying-glass, the workings of the mind, which are so rapid and subtile in ordinary cases, as to be understood only by the most keen and observing men. In learning words, she derived not so much advantage as other children do from the stimulus of pleasure, which makes what would be otherwise a task delightful play. Pleased and glad was she, indeed, to be able to learn language; but her pleasure was not exactly of the kind which little children feel. Many never think -- happy things! -- of the use which language is to be of to them; they do not perceive that the mind is at work in learning to talk, any more than the lambkin perceives that it is working its muscles when gambolling upon the greensward. The love of imitation, the disposition to name things, the pleasure of comparing them and finding resemblances and differences, and, above all, the unconscious desire to communicate with others, -- all these motives urge on the child to ceaseless prattle. Now in nature there is a time for every thing, and things learned out of season must be learned less easily and perfectly than if learned in season. Laura had passed the season of life when the vernacular tongue should be learned, before the help came by which she was enabled to learn at all. Five precious years, in which, perhaps, as much, if not more, is learned by children than in any other five years of life, had been to her a dark and silent blank. The natural disposition for speech had probably become weakened by long disuse. When she did begin, she was not impelled by sportive playfulness, but by a conscious desire for light, and by a wish to communicate with those who were striving to widen the narrow loopholes of her imprisoned mind. The history of Laura's case, though it teaches us how pleasant may be the pursuit of knowledge at any season, and under the greatest difficulties, teaches us, moreover, that it is most pleasant when conducted according to the indications of nature.


The child of two or three years old keeps continually repeating over the words it hears pronounced, wagging its baby tongue, trying to work its tiny muscles, and to pucker its little lips, without knowing why, or caring wherefore. It chases after new words with as much glee as it would chase after butterflies, and fills its infant mind with names of things and thoughts of resemblances among things, as gayly as it would gather into its apron smooth pebbles and shining shells. This delightful play lasts so long as we let dame Nature keep school, and content ourselves to act as her assistants. She calls out the higher faculties, one after the other, in their proper order, and furnishes them with the kind of knowledge suited to them; so that the exercise and gratification of each one of them give as much pleasure, though of a different kind, to the child, the boy, and the youth, as word-play gives to the infant.

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Work, painful labor, fatigue, -- such things are not known in dame Nature's school. Pleasure, and not pain, rewards, and not punishments, are the inducements she holds out for mental exercise. There is something wrong when study is a painful task, and enforced by fear of suffering. It shows that the mind of the scholar has been neglected, or that the wrong subject is presented, or presented in the wrong way or at the wrong time.


The end and aim of instruction are to make us wise and good men, -- to bring us to closer union with, and greater love of, God, by knowledge of the manifestations of his presence and the revelations of his goodness, by which we are everywhere surrounded. To suppose that any of the approaches to his presence are over stony soil and through thorny paths, and that we are to be driven by dread of something worse than bleeding feet and torn flesh, is to doubt whether the force by which he draws his children to his bosom is that of love.


The food we eat is not more certainly the means of growth and strength to the body, than is the knowledge we acquire the means of growth and strength to the mind; and the pleasure felt in eating healthy viands is not more natural and certain than that felt in learning, if it only be that the learning is rightly adapted as to time, and quality, and quantity. To give strong meat to babes, -- to stuff the stomach with food out of season, to coax it to carry an overload by making the burden sweet and luscious to the taste, -- is just like what we do when we give children instruction beyond their years, and induce them to take what they dislike, or more than they want.


Laura, by her experience, has enforced the lesson taught by thousands before her, but so often unheeded, that no theory of instruction can be perfect which overlooks the intimate connection and mutual dependence which God has established between the body and the mind. To keep this connection ever in view seems, to some, low and grovelling; but it is only false pride which makes it seem so. In the eye of God, that notes every falling sparrow, there is nothing created great, and nothing little. He gave us the stomach as well as the brain; the one to digest food for the body, the other, thoughts for the mind; and he coupled pleasures and pains, to mark our obedience or violation of the conditions of his gifts. The ills we suffer from abuse of the stomach are not more manifold and manifest, than those which follow abuse of the brain. The plethora or leanness, the risings and sinkings, the flush or the pallor, the craving or the nausea, the pains, the palpitations, the tremors, or whatever other ailments follow abuse of the first, have their counterparts in the consequences which follow abuse of the second; in thick-skinned stupidity or thin-skinned sensibility, in passion or apathy, in weak credulity or weaker skepticism, in timidity or in rashness, in oddities, irregularities, and the manifold forms of monomania and insanity.


Laura's case has been watched, not with the purblind eye of affection only, but with the aid of such light as physiology could give, and it has been seen that the condition of her mind and her affections was closely connected with the condition of her physical system. Let it not be supposed that her usual gentleness, her affectionate disposition, and her cheerfulness, come altogether from a happy constitutional temperament, for it is not so. On the contrary, she inherits a constitutional disposition to irritability and violence of temper. The nervous system is the predominant one in her physical constitution. When this is disordered, its tendency is to destroy the equanimity of her temper, and it requires a mental effort to prevent its doing so. Laura relates how impatient she used at times to be, before her instruction was commenced, and when she sat comparatively alone in her dark and silent prison; -- how at one time, starting with uncontrollable impatience, she threw the kitten from her lap into the fire.


She might have been ruined by hasty and injudicious treatment, or one which did not keep steadily in view the connection between her mental and physical condition. Miss Wight never lost sight of it; for even since her charge of Laura has commenced, there has been more than one occasion when Laura, unstrung of her temper as it were by bodily indisposition, has lost command. Allowance was made for the disturbing physical cause, but not so fully by herself as by others. Her awakened conscientiousness comes along close after the sin, and smites her terrible blows, disproportionate, indeed, to the offence. She has long been accustomed to make strong efforts to preserve an equable temper, and generally with entire success. Sometimes, however, there seems to be a sudden paroxysm, and an irrepressible nervous explosion. She immediately becomes conscious of it, and, if she has shown petulance to her teacher or unkindness to any one, she is sad and self-reproachful for a long time. Such scenes are rare, and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, never disconnected with some derangement of her physical health. Under ordinary circumstances she is removed, it is true, from many of the petty cares and ills of life which try the temper of others, and her mental horizon is as clear as a summer sky. When indisposed, however, it has sometimes been suddenly overcast, a flash seen, and then all has become clear and mild again. It is not very long since a painful scene of the kind occurred. She became intensely nervous and excited, without apparent cause; seemed to become almost beside herself with suppressed temper; grew white, and then, by a sudden movement, like that of an insane person, she struck her teacher a blow. It was over in an instant, and then she sunk as into a collapse. The agony of her self-reproach grew intense, irrepressible, and she ran away to her closet, shut herself in, and was heard for hours sobbing and weeping as though her heart would break. For a long time nothing could comfort her; tenderness and kindness seemed only to add to her distress.

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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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She knows the cost of rich shawls and fine lace, of precious stones, and jewelry, and furniture; but no display of them ever seems to affect her appreciation of the owner's worth. As yet, she has escaped the disturbing influence which wealth, and other hollow and factitious distinctions among persons, have upon the opinion and esteem in which they are held. She is no respecter of things artificial or superficial. The absence or presence of "the guinea's stamp" alters not, in her mind, the value of the metal that is in the man. No display of wealth or luxury can dazzle her, though it may be perceived by her. Even beauty of person or sweetness of voice fails to affect her. The seductions of the smile and of the eye charm not her judgment into sleep. The speaker must drop, before her, the masquerade of soft smiles and sweet tones, which impose upon others, and his words have weight only according to their real worth. They must be signs of feelings and deeds, and if they tally not in every particular with the things they represent, they are thrown aside as counterfeit and worthless coin.


She meets the Governor of the State as quietly as she does the most ordinary person; and she would meet the Queen of England just as quietly, though she might perhaps raise a curious hand to feel if she wore her crown. True, she is fond of being neatly dressed herself, as has been said, and she is curious to know all about the newest fashions. She would, if permitted, examine with eager fingers the new articles of dress upon a fashionable lady, fresh from Paris; but her admiration of their qualities would not be transferred to the wearer, any more than it would to the padded figure that turns round and round in a shop-window. Nevertheless, she has an appreciation of the value of the comforts and refinements of life, and of the importance of having the means to secure the enjoyment of them. Her father is a respectable farmer, and a man of some worldly inheritance, and he would gladly give her the shelter of his home for life. She loves her parents and her brothers, but she could not find in their remote village the means of continual culture and improvement, which are to her the bread of life, and the appetite for which grows by what it feeds upon. She desires to possess what she knows to be the key to many of the pleasures and advantages of life, -- to wit, money, -- and is beginning to gather it together in her small way. She works constantly, making bags, purses, &c., which are sold, and the profits paid to her. It is evident, however, that she cannot earn enough, by ever so diligent use of her fingers, to give her a competence. Other means she has none, though she sometimes, with pleasing simplicity, says she has. In a late conversation with Miss Bremer, Laura asked her, with perfect simplicity, whether she found that writing books "paid well." "Pretty well," was the reply. Upon which Laura eagerly rejoined, "Do you think, if I should write a book, it would pay well?"


Perhaps, by a little effort on the part of her friends, money enough might be raised to buy for her a life-annuity, which would place her beyond the reach of pecuniary want, and secure to her the attendance and companionship of some young lady, who could be to her what Miss Wight has so long been. Laura will do what she can, diligently and cheerfully, to perform those duties and labors of life, of which every conscientious person should discharge his proper share. She asks no one to do for her what she can do for herself. She wishes no one to be her menial or servant. She has already done some service in her day and generation, by setting forth in her deportment, under her sore afflictions, the native dignity of the human character. She has shown in what degree the spirit is dependent upon the senses for its manifestation and enjoyment. She has shown how little the factitious and arbitrary distinctions of life are necessary to happiness. She is, however, utterly dependent upon human sympathy and aid for the continuance of her happiness, and even of her life. She can appeal only as she has done, by the mute exhibition of her helplessness, for that sympathy and aid. Hitherto it has been proffered with eagerness and in abundance. May it never be withheld; may an hour of need never come to her; but may new friends be raised up to her, when those who now watch over her with the tender solicitude of parents can watch over and comfort her no longer upon earth!


Respectfully submitted,



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