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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 keen enjoyment of existence, her expansive love, her unhesitating confidence, her sympathy with suffering, her conscientiousness, truthfulness, and hopefulness.'
She now writes a legible hand, and can express all simple ideas in words, uniting nouns with adjectives and verbs in a manner perfectly intelligible. She writes with a pencil in a grooved line. At first she was puzzled to comprehend the meaning of the process to which she was subjected; but when the idea dawned upon her mind, that by means of it she could convey intelligence to her mother, her delight was unbounded. She applied herself with great diligence, and in a few months actually wrote a legible letter to her mother, in which she conveyed information of her being well, and of her coming home in ten weeks. It was indeed only the skeleton of a letter, but still it expressed in legible characters a vague outline of the ideas which were passing in her mind.
We are told that she has improved very much in personal appearance as well as in intellect ; her countenance beams with intelligence; she is always active at study, work, or play ; she never repines ; and most of her time is gay and frolicsome. She is now very expert with her needle, she knits easily, and can make twine bags and various fancy articles very prettily. She is very docile, has a quick sense of propriety, dresses herself with great neatness, and is always correct in her deportment. In short, it would be difficult to find a person in the possession of all her senses, and the enjoyment of the advantages that wealth and parental love can bestow, who is more contented and cheerful, or to whom existence seems a greater blessing, than it does to this bereaved creature, for whom the sun has no light, the air no sound, and the flowers no colour or smell.
Mr Charles Dickens, who visited the asylum in the course of his journey in the States some years ago, mentions, in his American Notes, that he had an interview with. Laura, whose condition greatly interested him. We take the liberty of extracting a few passages from the account of his visit.
'The thought occurred to me,' he observes, ' as I sat down 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, enclosed 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 looked 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 writing-book was on the desk she leaned upon. From the mournful ruin of such bereavement, there had slowly risen up this gentle, tender, guileless, grateful-hearted being. Like other inmates of that house, she had a green ribbon bound pun 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 soon 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 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 without any explanation. On my saying that I should like to see her write again, the teacher who sat beside her bade her, in their language, sign her name upon a slip of paper twice or thrice. In doing so, I observed that she kept her left hand always touching and following up her right, in which, of course, she held the 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 gentleman 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 with a person once, she can recognise him or her after almost any interval. This gentleman had been in her company, I believe, but very seldom, and certainly had not seen her for many months. 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 shewed 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 with an equal enjoyment of the coming surprise, took a seat beside her, was beautiful to witness. It elicited from her at first, as other slight circumstances did twice or thrice 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:
Since this account was given to the world, other reports have been issued, from which we learn that Laura has become one of the most skilful teachers in the asylum for the blind at Boston.
We learn from the further account of Mr Dickens, that there was in this institution a boy named Oliver Caswell, who had been deaf and blind since he was a few months old, and was now at thirteen years of age in a state resembling that of Laura Bridgeman. By the same kind attentions, he was learning to read by the touch, and to communicate his ideas by the fingers.
Of the performances of persons who have been blind from early infancy—their remarkable tact in finding their way unassisted, their accurate memory of events and places, their skill and taste in music, their dexterity in many operations in science and art, and their acquirements in other respects, numerous anecdotes might be related. The following will be read with a degree of interest, as exemplifying the abilities of this unfortunate class of individuals.
JOHN METCALF.—The case of this person has always been spoken of as bordering on the marvellous, though, as he did not lose his sight till he was six years of age, and after he had been at school two years, the wonder is considerably lessened. John was the son of poor parents, and was born at Knaresborough, in Yorkshire, in 1717. After recovering from the disease which deprived him of sight, he continued to take part in boyish sports with his companions as formerly, roamed fearlessly over fields, walls, and ditches, learned to ride on horseback, to take a hand at whist, bowls, and other games. Swimming was another of his accomplishments, and he performed feats in this department which astonished everybody. On one occasion, when two men were drowned in the Nidd, he was employed to dive for their bodies, and succeeded in bringing up one of them.
Music, the usual resource of the blind, was not neglected by Metcalf. Before he reached the age of sixteen, he had acquired such proficiency on the violin, as to be engaged as a performer both at Knaresborough and at Harrowgate, where he was much liked and caressed. With his earnings as a musical performer, he bought a horse, and not only rode frequently in the hunting-field, but ran his horse for small plates at York and elsewhere. On one occasion he engaged, for a considerable stake, to ride his own horse three times round a circular course of a mile in length against another party, As it was believed that Metcalf would never be able to keep the course, large odds were taken against him ; but by the ingenious plan of stationing persons with bells at different points, he not only kept the circle, but won the race.
At the age of twenty-one, John Metcalf was six feet one inch and a half in height, and extremely robust in person. He was so lively in spirits, and so quick in his motions, that few perceived his want at a casual glance ; nor durst any one presume so far upon his defects as to ill-use or insult him. Not deterred by his privation, he paid his addresses to Miss Benson, the daughter of a respectable innkeeper at Harrowgate, to whom he was married. After assuming this serious engagement, he continued to perform during every season at Harrowgate, increasing his income by keeping a chaise or two for hire. Being indefatigable in his search for means of bettering the condition of his family, he also travelled, at intervals of professional leisure, to the coast for fish, which he brought to the markets of Leeds and Manchester. Such was his quickness and ingenuity, that no accident ever happened to himself or his horses on these journeys.
When the rebellion broke out in 1745, Metcalf's stirring spirit led him to join the English army as a musician, and he remained with them up till the victory of Culloden. He then returned home, but not until he had formed a plan of future employment from what he had learned—for we can scarcely say observed-in Scotland. He adopted the idea that a number of the cotton and worsted manufactures of the north would sell well in England, and accordingly he made one or two journeys back to Scotland for these stuffs, which he disposed of in Yorkshire. Among a thousand articles, he knew exactly what each cost him, from a peculiar mode of marking. Still this trafficking did not prove suitable for a permanent line of life, and in 1751 he commenced driving a stage-wagon, twice a week in summer and once in winter, between York and Knaresborough. This employment apparently drew his attention to the subject of roads, and fixed him in the pursuit which finally gained him his. chief celebrity, and proved a source of no slight advantage to his country. During his leisure hours he had studied mensuration in a way peculiar to himself, and when certain of the girth and length of any piece of timber, could reduce its contents to feet and inches, or could bring the dimensions of any building into yards and feet. In short, he had formed for himself accurate and practical modes of mensuration. At this time it chanced that a new piece of road, about three miles long, was wanted between Fearnsby and Minskip Being well acquainted with the locality, he proposed to contract for it, and his offer was accepted. The materials for the road were to be taken from one quarry, and there, with his wonted activity, he erected temporary houses, hired horses, fixed racks and mangers, and set the work agoing with great spirit. He completed the road much sooner than was expected by the trustees, and in every way to their satisfaction.
Thus commenced the most remarkable portion of this man's life. Metcalf soon undertook other road contracts, and, strange to say, succeeded in laying down good lines where others were hopeless of success. In Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, during a period of nearly forty years, he pursued the employment of roadmaking and bridge-building, being by far the most noted and esteemed follower of such occupations in those parts. The large bridge at Boroughbridge, and various others, might be named as proofs of his abilities and success. An anecdote is told which will exhibit the ingenious way in which he overcame difficulties which staggered other surveyors. Among the numerous roads for which he contracted was one on the Manchester line between Blackmoor and Standish-Foot. The original surveyor took the new line over deep marshes, which, in the opinion of the trustees and all concerned, seemed only passable by cutting or digging the earth till a solid bottom was found. This plan appeared to Metcalf tedious and expensive, and he attempted to prove to the trustees that such was the case ; but they were fixed in their original views, and only permitted the blind road-maker to follow his own way, on condition that he should afterwards execute their plan if his own failed. Metcalf began to his task. The worst part of the line was on Standish Common, where a deep bog existed, which it seemed impossible to cut a road through. Metcalf set his men to work in 'cutting a line, and draining off the water, as far as that was possible. So little progress, however, was at first made, that everybody laughed at the poor blind man, who, it was thought, would have given up the task in despair had he had his eyes like other people. Nevertheless he proceeded unweariedly, until he had levelled the bog across, and he then ordered his men to collect heather or ling, and bind it in round bundles which they could span with their hands. These bundles were laid down close together on the cut line, and successive bundles laid over them again, after which they were covered and pressed down with stones and gravel. The issue was, that this portion of the road, when completed, was so remarkably firm and good, that it needed no repairs for twelve years, while other parts required frequent repairs. Even in winter it was perfectly dry.
It was Metcalf's custom, in making purchases of wood, hay, or stones, to span the articles with his arms, and then calculate the amount mentally. Having learned the height, he could tell with great accuracy what number of square yards were contained in a stack of grain, of any value between one and five hundred pounds. His memory was astonishing, and it was no doubt principally by this faculty that he was enabled to traverse so many towns, and ride along so many roads. While in York, on one occasion, a friend of his, the landlord of the George Inn, asked him as a personal favour to guide a gentleman towards Harrowgate. This place lay in Metcalf's own way, and he agreed to the request upon condition that his blindness was kept a secret from the gentleman. The pair accordingly started, both on horseback, and Metcalf taking the lead. By a little dexterity, Metcalf contrived to pass some gates without