Part 4 out of 8
TO MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER
South Boston, April 13, 1893.
...Teacher, Mrs. Pratt and I very unexpectedly decided to take a
journey with dear Dr. Bell Mr. Westervelt, a gentleman whom
father met in Washington, has a school for the deaf in Rochester.
We went there first....
Mr. Westervelt gave us a reception one afternoon. A great many
people came. Some of them asked odd questions. A lady seemed
surprised that I loved flowers when I could not see their
beautiful colors, and when I assured her I did love them, she
said, "no doubt you feel the colors with your fingers." But of
course, it is not alone for their bright colors that we love the
flowers.... A gentleman asked me what BEAUTY meant to my mind. I
must confess I was puzzled at first. But after a minute I
answered that beauty was a form of goodness--and he went away.
When the reception was over we went back to the hotel and teacher
slept quite unconscious of the surprise which was in store for
her. Mr. Bell and I planned it together, and Mr. Bell made all
the arrangements before we told teacher anything about it. This
was the surprise--I was to have the pleasure of taking my dear
teacher to see Niagara Falls!...
The hotel was so near the river that I could feel it rushing past
by putting my hand on the window. The next morning the sun rose
bright and warm, and we got up quickly for our hearts were full
of pleasant expectation.... You can never imagine how I felt when
I stood in the presence of Niagara until you have the same
mysterious sensations yourself. I could hardly realize that it
was water that I felt rushing and plunging with impetuous fury at
my feet. It seemed as if it were some living thing rushing on to
some terrible fate. I wish I could describe the cataract as it
is, its beauty and awful grandeur, and the fearful and
irresistible plunge of its waters over the brow of the precipice.
One feels helpless and overwhelmed in the presence of such a vast
force. I had the same feeling once before when I first stood by
the great ocean and felt its waves beating against the shore. I
suppose you feel so, too, when you gaze up to the stars in the
stillness of the night, do you not?... We went down a hundred and
twenty feet in an elevator that we might see the violent eddies
and whirlpools in the deep gorge below the Falls. Within two
miles of the Falls is a wonderful suspension bridge. It is thrown
across the gorge at a height of two hundred and fifty-eight feet
above the water and is supported on each bank by towers of solid
rock, which are eight hundred feet apart. When we crossed over to
the Canadian side, I cried, "God save the Queen!" Teacher said I
was a little traitor. But I do not think so. I was only doing as
the Canadians do, while I was in their country, and besides I
honor England's good queen.
You will be pleased, dear Mother, to hear that a kind lady whose
name is Miss Hooker is endeavoring to improve my speech. Oh, I do
so hope and pray that I shall speak well some day!...
Mr. Munsell spent last Sunday evening with us. How you would have
enjoyed hearing him tell about Venice! His beautiful
word-pictures made us feel as if we were sitting in the shadow of
San Marco, dreaming, or sailing upon the moonlit canal.... I hope
when I visit Venice, as I surely shall some day, that Mr. Munsell
will go with me. That is my castle in the air. You see, none of
my friends describe things to me so vividly and so beautifully as
Her visit to the World's Fair she described in a letter to Mr.
John P. Spaulding, which was published in St. Nicholas, and is
much like the following letter. In a prefatory note which Miss
Sullivan wrote for St. Nicholas, she says that people frequently
said to her, "Helen sees more with her fingers than we do with
our eyes." The President of the Exposition gave her this letter:
TO THE CHIEFS OF THE DEPARTMENTS AND OFFICERS IN CHARGE OF
BUILDINGS AND EXHIBITS
GENTLEMEN--The bearer, Miss Helen Keller, accompanied by Miss
Sullivan, is desirous of making a complete inspection of the
Exposition in all Departments. She is blind and deaf, but is able
to converse, and is introduced to me as one having a wonderful
ability to understand the objects she visits, and as being
possessed of a high order of intelligence and of culture beyond
her years. Please favour her with every facility to examine the
exhibits in the several Departments, and extend to her such other
courtesies as may be possible.
Thanking you in advance for the same, I am, with respect,
Very truly yours,
(signed) H. N. HIGINBOTHAM,
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
Hulton, Penn., August 17, 1893.
...Every one at the Fair was very kind to me... Nearly all of the
exhibitors seemed perfectly willing to let me touch the most
delicate things, and they were very nice about explaining
everything to me. A French gentleman, whose name I cannot
remember, showed me the great French bronzes. I believe they gave
me more pleasure than anything else at the Fair: they were so
lifelike and wonderful to my touch. Dr. Bell went with us himself
to the electrical building, and showed us some of the historical
telephones. I saw the one through which Emperor Dom Pedro
listened to the words, "To be, or not to be," at the Centennial.
Dr. Gillett of Illinois took us to the Liberal Arts and Woman's
buildings. In the former I visited Tiffany's exhibit, and held
the beautiful Tiffany diamond, which is valued at one hundred
thousand dollars, and touched many other rare and costly things.
I sat in King Ludwig's armchair and felt like a queen when Dr.
Gillett remarked that I had many loyal subjects. At the Woman's
building we met the Princess Maria Schaovskoy of Russia, and a
beautiful Syrian lady. I liked them both very much. I went to the
Japanese department with Prof. Morse who is a well-known
lecturer. I never realized what a wonderful people the Japanese
are until I saw their most interesting exhibit. Japan must indeed
be a paradise for children to judge from the great number of
playthings which are manufactured there. The queer-looking
Japanese musical instruments, and their beautiful works of art
were interesting. The Japanese books are very odd. There are
forty-seven letters in their alphabets. Prof. Morse knows a great
deal about Japan, and is very kind and wise. He invited me to
visit his museum in Salem the next time I go to Boston. But I
think I enjoyed the sails on the tranquil lagoon, and the lovely
scenes, as my friends described them to me, more than anything
else at the Fair. Once, while we were out on the water, the sun
went down over the rim of the earth, and threw a soft, rosy light
over the White City, making it look more than ever like
Of course, we visited the Midway Plaisance. It was a bewildering
and fascinating place. I went into the streets of Cairo, and rode
on the camel. That was fine fun. We also rode in the Ferris
wheel, and on the ice-railway, and had a sail in the
In the spring of 1893 a club was started in Tuscumbia, of which
Mrs. Keller was president, to establish a public library. Miss
"I wrote to my friends about the work and enlisted their
sympathy. Several hundred books, including many fine ones, were
sent to me in a short time, as well as money and encouragement.
This generous assistance encouraged the ladies, and they have
gone on collecting and buying books ever since, until now they
have a very respectable public library in the town."
TO MRS. CHARLES E. INCHES
Hulton, Penn., Oct. 21, 1893.
...We spent September at home in Tuscumbia... and were all very
happy together.... Our quiet mountain home was especially
attractive and restful after the excitement and fatigue of our
visit to the World's Fair. We enjoyed the beauty and solitude of
the hills more than ever.
And now we are in Hulton, Penn. again where I am going to study
this winter with a tutor assisted by my dear teacher. I study
Arithmetic, Latin and literature. I enjoy my lessons very much.
It is so pleasant to learn about new things. Every day I find how
little I know, but I do not feel discouraged since God has given
me an eternity in which to learn more. In literature I am
studying Longfellow's poetry. I know a great deal of it by heart,
for I loved it long before I knew a metaphor from a synecdoche. I
used to say I did not like arithmetic very well, but now I have
changed my mind. I see what a good and useful study it is, though
I must confess my mind wanders from it sometimes! for, nice and
useful as arithmetic is, it is not as interesting as a beautiful
poem or a lovely story. But bless me, how time does fly. I have
only a few moments left in which to answer your questions about
the "Helen Keller" Public Library.
1. I think there are about 3,000 people in Tuscumbia, Ala., and
perhaps half of them are colored people. 2. At present there is
no library of any sort in the town. That is why I thought about
starting one. My mother and several of my lady friends said they
would help me, and they formed a club, the object of which is to
work for the establishment of a free public library in Tuscumbia.
They have now about 100 books and about $55 in money, and a kind
gentleman has given us land on which to erect a library building.
But in the meantime the club has rented a little room in a
central part of the town, and the books which we already have are
free to all. 3. Only a few of my kind friends in Boston know
anything about the library. I did not like to trouble them while
I was trying to get money for poor little Tommy, for of course it
was more important that he should be educated than that my people
should have books to read. 4. I do not know what books we have,
but I think it is a miscellaneous (I think that is the word)
P.S. My teacher thinks it would be more businesslike to say that
a list of the contributors toward the building fund will be kept
and published in my father's paper, the "North Alabamian."
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
Hulton, Penn., December 28, 1893.
...Please thank dear Miss Derby for me for the pretty shield
which she sent me. It is a very interesting souvenir of Columbus,
and of the Fair White City; but I cannot imagine what discoveries
I have made,--I mean new discoveries. We are all discoverers in
one sense, being born quite ignorant of all things; but I hardly
think that is what she meant. Tell her she must explain why I am
TO DR. EDWARD EVERETT HALE
Hulton, Pennsylvania, January 14, .
My dear Cousin: I had thought to write to you long before this in
answer to your kind letter which I was so glad to receive, and to
thank you for the beautiful little book which you sent me; but I
have been very busy since the beginning of the New Year. The
publication of my little story in the Youth's Companion has
brought me a large number of letters,--last week I received
sixty-one!--and besides replying to some of these letters, I have
many lessons to learn, among them Arithmetic and Latin; and, you
know, Caesar is Caesar still, imperious and tyrannical, and if a
little girl would understand so great a man, and the wars and
conquests of which he tells in his beautiful Latin language, she
must study much and think much, and study and thought require
I shall prize the little book always, not only for its own value;
but because of its associations with you. It is a delight to
think of you as the giver of one of your books into which, I am
sure, you have wrought your own thoughts and feelings, and I
thank you very much for remembering me in such a very beautiful
In February Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to Tuscumbia. They
spent the rest of the spring reading and studying. In the summer
they attended the meeting at Chautauqua of the American
Association for the Promotion of the Teaching of Speech to the
Deaf, where Miss Sullivan read a paper on Helen Keller's
In the fall Helen and Miss Sullivan entered the Wright-Humason
School in New York, which makes a special of lip-reading and
voice-culture. The "singing lessons" were to strengthen her
voice. She had taken a few piano lessons at the Perkins
Institution. The experiment was interesting, but of course came
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
The Wright-Humason School.
42 West 76th St.
New York. Oct. 23, 1894.
...The school is very pleasant, and bless you! it is quite
fashionable.... I study Arithmetic, English Literature and United
States History as I did last winter. I also keep a diary. I enjoy
my singing lessons with Dr. Humason more than I can say. I expect
to take piano lessons sometime....
Last Saturday our kind teachers planned a delightful trip to
Bedloe's Island to see Bartholdi's great statue of Liberty
enlightening the world.... The ancient cannon, which look
seaward, wear a very menacing expression; but I doubt if there is
any unkindness in their rusty old hearts.
Liberty is a gigantic figure of a woman in Greek draperies,
holding in her right hand a torch.... A spiral stairway leads
from the base of this pedestal to the torch. We climbed up to the
head which will hold forty persons, and viewed the scene on which
Liberty gazes day and night, and O, how wonderful it was! We did
not wonder that the great French artist thought the place worthy
to be the home of his grand ideal. The glorious bay lay calm and
beautiful in the October sunshine, and the ships came and went
like idle dreams; those seaward going slowly disappeared like
clouds that change from gold to gray; those homeward coming sped
more quickly like birds that seek their mother's nest....
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
The Wright-Humason School.
New York, March 15, 1895.
...I think I have improved a little in lip-reading, though I
still find it very difficult to read rapid speech; but I am sure
I shall succeed some day if I only persevere. Dr. Humason is
still trying to improve my speech. Oh, Carrie, how I should like
to speak like other people! I should be willing to work night and
day if it could only be accomplished. Think what a joy it would
be to all of my friends to hear me speak naturally!! I wonder why
it is so difficult and perplexing for a deaf child to learn to
speak when it is so easy for other people; but I am sure I shall
speak perfectly some time if I am only patient....
Although I have been so busy, I have found time to read a good
deal.... I have lately read "Wilhelm Tell" by Schiller, and "The
Lost Vestal."... Now I am reading "Nathan the Wise" by Lessing
and "King Arthur" by Miss Mulock.
...You know our kind teachers take us to see everything which
they think will interest us, and we learn a great deal in that
delightful way. On George Washington's birthday we all went to
the Dog Show, and although there was a great crowd in the Madison
Square Garden, and despite the bewilderment caused by the variety
of sounds made by the dog-orchestra, which was very confusing to
those who could hear them, we enjoyed the afternoon very much.
Among the dogs which received the most attention were the
bulldogs. They permitted themselves startling liberties when any
one caressed them, crowding themselves almost into one's arms and
helping themselves without ceremony to kisses, apparently
unconscious of the impropriety of their conduct. Dear me, what
unbeautiful little beasts they are! But they are so good natured
and friendly, one cannot help liking them.
Dr. Humason, Teacher, and I left the others at the Dog Show and
went to a reception given by the "Metropolitan Club."... It is
sometimes called the "Millionaires' Club." The building is
magnificent, being built of white marble; the rooms are large and
splendidly furnished; but I must confess, so much splendor is
rather oppressive to me; and I didn't envy the millionaires in
the least all the happiness their gorgeous surroundings are
supposed to bring them....
TO MRS. KATE ADAMS KELLER
New York, March 31, 1895.
...Teacher and I spent the afternoon at Mr. Hutton's, and had a
most delightful time!... We met Mr. Clemens and Mr. Howells
there! I had known about them for a long time; but I had never
thought that I should see them, and talk to them; and I can
scarcely realize now that this great pleasure has been mine! But,
much as I wonder that I, only a little girl of fourteen, should
come in contact with so many distinguished people, I do realize
that I am a very happy child, and very grateful for the many
beautiful privileges I have enjoyed. The two distinguished
authors were very gentle and kind, and I could not tell which of
them I loved best. Mr. Clemens told us many entertaining stories,
and made us laugh till we cried. I only wish you could have seen
and heard him! He told us that he would go to Europe in a few
days to bring his wife and his daughter, Jeanne, back to America,
because Jeanne, who is studying in Paris, has learned so much in
three years and a half that if he did not bring her home, she
would soon know more than he did. I think Mark Twain is a very
appropriate nom de plume for Mr. Clemens because it has a funny
and quaint sound, and goes well with his amusing writings, and
its nautical significance suggests the deep and beautiful things
that he has written. I think he is very handsome indeed....
Teacher said she thought he looked something like Paradeuski. (If
that is the way to spell the name.) Mr. Howells told me a little
about Venice, which is one of his favorite cities, and spoke very
tenderly of his dear little girl, Winnifred, who is now with God.
He has another daughter, named Mildred, who knows Carrie. I might
have seen Mrs. Wiggin, the sweet author of "Birds' Christmas
Carol," but she had a dangerous cough and could not come. I was
much disappointed not to see her, but I hope I shall have that
pleasure some other time. Mr. Hutton gave me a lovely little
glass, shaped like a thistle, which belonged to his dear mother,
as a souvenir of my delightful visit. We also met Mr. Rogers...
who kindly left his carriage to bring us home.
When the Wright-Humason School closed for the summer, Miss
Sullivan and Helen went South.
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 29, 1895.
...I am spending my vacation very quietly and pleasantly at my
beautiful, sunny home, with my loving parents, my darling little
sister and my small brother, Phillips My precious teacher is
with me too, and so of course I am happy I read a little, walk a
little, write a little and play with the children a great deal,
and the days slip by delightfully!...
My friends are so pleased with the improvement which I made in
speech and lip-reading last year, that it has been decided best
for me to continue my studies in New York another year I am
delighted at the prospect, of spending another year in your great
city I used to think that I should never feel "at home" in New
York, but since I have made the acquaintance of so many people,
and can look back to such a bright and successful winter there, I
find myself looking forward to next year, and anticipating still
brighter and better times in the Metropolis
Please give my kindest love to Mr Hutton, and Mrs Riggs and Mr
Warner too, although I have never had the pleasure of knowing him
personally As I listen Venicewards, I hear Mr Hutton's pen
dancing over the pages of his new book It is a pleasant sound
because it is full of promise How much I shall enjoy reading it!
Please pardon me, my dear Mrs Hutton, for sending you a
typewritten letter across the ocean I have tried several times
to write with a pencil on my little writing machine since I came
home; but I have found it very difficult to do so on account of
the heat The moisture of my hand soils and blurs the paper so
dreadfully, that I am compelled to use my typewriter altogether
And it is not my "Remington" either, but a naughty little thing
that gets out of order on the slightest provocation, and cannot
be induced to make a period...
TO MRS. WILLIAM THAW
New York, October 16, 1895.
Here we are once more in the great metropolis! We left Hulton
Friday night and arrived here Saturday morning. Our friends were
greatly surprised to see us, as they had not expected us before
the last of this month. I rested Saturday afternoon, for I was
very tired, and Sunday I visited with my schoolmates, and now
that I feel quite rested, I am going to write to you; for I know
you will want to hear that we reached New York safely. We had to
change cars at Philadelphia; but we did not mind it much. After
we had had our breakfast, Teacher asked one of the train-men in
the station if the New York train was made up. He said no, it
would not be called for about fifteen minutes; so we sat down to
wait; but in a moment the man came back and asked Teacher if we
would like to go to the train at once. She said we would, and he
took us way out on the track and put us on board our train. Thus
we avoided the rush and had a nice quiet visit before the train
started. Was that not very kind? So it always is. Some one is
ever ready to scatter little acts of kindness along our pathway,
making it smooth and pleasant...
We had a quiet but very pleasant time in Hulton. Mr. Wade is just
as dear and good as ever! He has lately had several books printed
in England for me, "Old Mortality," "The Castle of Otranto" and
"King of No-land."...
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
New York, December 29, 1895.
...Teacher and I have been very gay of late. We have seen our
kind friends, Mrs. Dodge, Mr. and Mrs. Hutton, Mrs. Riggs and her
husband, and met many distinguished people, among whom were Miss
Ellen Terry, Sir Henry Irving and Mr. Stockton! Weren't we very
fortunate? Miss Terry was lovely. She kissed Teacher and said, "I
do not know whether I am glad to see you or not; for I feel so
ashamed of myself when I think of how much you have done for the
little girl." We also met Mr. and Mrs. Terry, Miss Terry's
brother and his wife. I thought her beauty angellic, and oh, what
a clear, beautiful voice she had! We saw Miss Terry again with
Sir Henry in "King Charles the First," a week ago last Friday,
and after the play they kindly let me feel of them and get an
idea of how they looked. How noble and kingly the King was,
especially in his misfortunes! And how pretty and faithful the
poor Queen was! The play seemed so real, we almost forgot where
we were, and believed we were watching the genuine scenes as they
were acted so long ago. The last act affected us most deeply, and
we all wept, wondering how the executioner could have the heart
to tear the King from his loving wife's arms.
I have just finished reading "Ivanhoe." It was very exciting; but
I must say I did not enjoy it very much. Sweet Rebecca, with her
strong, brave spirit, and her pure, generous nature, was the only
character which thoroughly won my admiration. Now I am reading
"Stories from Scottish History," and they are very thrilling and
The next two letters were written just after the death of Mr.
John P. Spaulding.
TO MRS. GEORGE H. BRADFORD
New York, February 4, 1896.
What can I say which will make you understand how much Teacher
and I appreciate your thoughtful kindness in sending us those
little souvenirs of the dear room where we first met the best and
kindest of friends? Indeed, you can never know all the comfort
you have given us. We have put the dear picture on the
mantel-piece in our room where we can see it every day, and I
often go and touch it, and somehow I cannot help feeling that our
beloved friend is very near to me.... It was very hard to take up
our school work again, as if nothing had happened; but I am sure
it is well that we have duties which must be done, and which take
our minds away for a time at least from our sorrow....
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
New York, March 2nd, 1896.
...We miss dear King John sadly. It was so hard to lose him, he
was the best and kindest of friends, and I do not know what we
shall do without him....
We went to a poultry-show... and the man there kindly permitted
us to feel of the birds. They were so tame, they stood perfectly
still when I handled them. I saw great big turkeys, geese,
guineas, ducks and many others.
Almost two weeks ago we called at Mr. Hutton's and had a
delightful time. We always do! We met Mr. Warner, the writer, Mr.
Mabie, the editor of the Outlook and other pleasant people. I am
sure you would like to know Mr. and Mrs. Hutton, they are so kind
and interesting. I can never tell you how much pleasure they have
Mr. Warner and Mr. Burroughs, the great lover of nature, came to
see us a few days after, and we had a delightful talk with them.
They were both very, very dear! Mr. Burroughs told me about his
home near the Hudson, and what a happy place it must be! I hope
we shall visit it some day. Teacher has read me his lively
stories about his boyhood, and I enjoyed them greatly. Have you
read the beautiful poem, "Waiting"? I know it, and it makes me
feel so happy, it has such sweet thoughts. Mr. Warner showed me a
scarf-pin with a beetle on it which was made in Egypt fifteen
hundred years before Christ, and told me that the beetle meant
immortality to the Egyptians because it wrapped itself up and
went to sleep and came out again in a new form, thus renewing
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
New York, April 25, 1896.
...My studies are the same as they were when I saw you, except
that I have taken up French with a French teacher who comes three
times a week. I read her lips almost exclusively, (she does not
know the manual alphabet) and we get on quite well. I have read
"Le Medecin Malgre Lui," a very good French comedy by Moliere,
with pleasure; and they say I speak French pretty well now, and
German also. Anyway, French and German people understand what I
am trying to say, and that is very encouraging. In voice-training
I have still the same old difficulties to contend against; and
the fulfilment of my wish to speak well seems O, so far away!
Sometimes I feel sure that I catch a faint glimpse of the goal I
am striving for, but in another minute a bend in the road hides
it from my view, and I am again left wandering in the dark! But I
try hard not to be discouraged. Surely we shall all find at last
the ideals we are seeking....
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
Brewster, Mass. July 15, 1896.
...As to the book, I am sure I shall enjoy it very much when I am
admitted, by the magic of Teacher's dear fingers, into the
companionship of the two sisters who went to the Immortal
As I sit by the window writing to you, it is so lovely to have
the soft, cool breezes fan my cheek and to feel that the hard
work of last year is over! Teacher seems to feel benefitted by
the change too; for she is already beginning to look like her
dear old self. We only need you, dear Mr. Hitz, to complete our
happiness. Teacher and Mrs. Hopkins both say you must come as
soon as you can! We will try to make you comfortable.
Teacher and I spent nine days at Philadelphia. Have you ever been
at Dr. Crouter's Institution? Mr. Howes has probably given you a
full account of our doings. We were busy all the time; we
attended the meetings and talked with hundreds of people, among
whom were dear Dr. Bell, Mr. Banerji of Calcutta, Monsieur Magnat
of Paris with whom I conversed in French exclusively, and many
other distinguished persons. We had looked forward to seeing you
there, and so we were greatly disappointed that you did not come.
We think of you so, so often! and our hearts go out to you in
tenderest sympathy; and you know better than this poor letter can
tell you how happy we always are to have you with us! I made a
"speech" on July eighth, telling the members of the Association
what an unspeakable blessing speech has been to me, and urging
them to give every little deaf child an opportunity to learn to
speak. Every one said I spoke very well and intelligibly. After
my little "speech," we attended a reception at which over six
hundred people were present. I must confess I do not like such
large receptions; the people crowd so, and we have to do so much
talking; and yet it is at receptions like the one in Philadelphia
that we often meet friends whom we learn to love afterwards. We
left the city last Thursday night, and arrived in Brewster Friday
afternoon. We missed the Cape Cod train Friday morning, and so we
came down to Provincetown in the steamer Longfellow. I am glad we
did so; for it was lovely and cool on the water, and Boston
Harbor is always interesting.
We spent about three weeks in Boston, after leaving New York, and
I need not tell you we had a most delightful time. We visited our
good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlin, at Wrentham, out in the
country, where they have a lovely home. Their house stands near a
charming lake where we went boating and canoeing, which was great
fun. We also went in bathing several times. Mr. and Mrs.
Chamberlin celebrated the 17th of June by giving a picnic to
their literary friends. There were about forty persons present,
all of whom were writers and publishers. Our friend, Mr. Alden,
the editor of Harper's was there, and of course we enjoyed his
society very much....
TO CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER
Brewster, Mass., September 3, 1896.
...I have been meaning to write to you all summer; there were
many things I wanted to tell you, and I thought perhaps you would
like to hear about our vacation by the seaside, and our plans for
next year; but the happy, idle days slipped away so quickly, and
there were so many pleasant things to do every moment, that I
never found time to clothe my thought in words, and send them to
you. I wonder what becomes of lost opportunities. Perhaps our
guardian angel gathers them up as we drop them, and will give
them back to us in the beautiful sometime when we have grown
wiser, and learned how to use them rightly. But, however this may
be, I cannot now write the letter which has lain in my thought
for you so long. My heart is too full of sadness to dwell upon
the happiness the summer has brought me. My father is dead. He
died last Saturday at my home in Tuscumbia, and I was not there.
My own dear loving father! Oh, dear friend, how shall I ever bear
On the first of October Miss Keller entered the Cambridge School
for Young Ladies, of which Mr. Arthur Gilman is Principal. The
"examinations" mentioned in this letter were merely tests given
in the school, but as they were old Harvard papers, it is evident
that in some subjects Miss Keller was already fairly well
prepared for Radcliffe.
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
37 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, Mass.
October 8, 1896.
...I got up early this morning, so that I could write you a few
lines. I know you want to hear how I like my school. I do wish
you could come and see for yourself what a beautiful school it
is! There are about a hundred girls, and they are all so bright
and happy; it is a joy to be with them.
You will be glad to hear that I passed my examinations
successfully. I have been examined in English, German, French,
and Greek and Roman history. They were the entrance examinations
for Harvard College; so I feel pleased to think I could pass
them. This year is going to be a very busy one for Teacher and
myself. I am studying Arithmetic, English Literature, English
History, German, Latin, and advanced geography; there is a great
deal of preparatory reading required, and, as few of the books
are in raised print, poor Teacher has to spell them all out to
me; and that means hard work.
You must tell Mr. Howells when you see him, that we are living in
TO MRS. WILLIAM THAW
37 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, Mass.,
December 2, 1896.
...It takes me a long time to prepare my lessons, because I have
to have every word of them spelled out in my hand. Not one of the
textbooks which I am obliged to use is in raised print; so of
course my work is harder than it would be if I could read my
lessons over by myself. But it is harder for Teacher than it is
for me because the strain on her poor eyes is so great, and I
cannot help worrying about them. Sometimes it really seems as if
the task which we have set ourselves were more than we can
accomplish; but at other times I enjoy my work more than I can
It is such a delight to be with the other girls, and do
everything that they do. I study Latin, German, Arithmetic and
English History, all of which I enjoy except Arithmetic. I am
afraid I have not a mathematical mind; for my figures always
manage to get into the wrong places!...
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
Cambridge, Mass., May 3, 1897.
...You know I am trying very hard to get through with the reading
for the examinations in June, and this, in addition to my regular
schoolwork keeps me awfully busy. But Johnson, and "The Plague"
and everything else must wait a few minutes this afternoon, while
I say, thank you, my dear Mrs. Hutton....
...What a splendid time we had at the "Players' Club." I always
thought clubs were dull, smoky places, where men talked politics,
and told endless stories, all about themselves and their
wonderful exploits: but now I see, I must have been quite
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
Wrentham, Mass. July 9, 1897.
...Teacher and I are going to spend the summer at Wrentham, Mass.
with our friends, the Chamberlins. I think you remember Mr.
Chamberlin, the "Listener" in the Boston Transcript. They are
dear, kind people....
But I know you want to hear about my examinations. I know that
you will be glad to hear that I passed all of them successfully.
The subjects I offered were elementary and advanced German,
French, Latin, English, and Greek and Roman History. It seems
almost too good to be true, does it not? All the time I was
preparing for the great ordeal, I could not suppress an inward
fear and trembling lest I should fail, and now it is an
unspeakable relief to know that I have passed the examinations
with credit. But what I consider my crown of success is the
happiness and pleasure that my victory has brought dear Teacher.
Indeed, I feel that the success is hers more than mine; for she
is my constant inspiration....
At the end of September Miss Sullivan and Miss Keller returned to
the Cambridge School, where they remained until early in
December. Then the interference of Mr. Gilman resulted in Mrs.
Keller's withdrawing Miss Helen and her sister, Miss Mildred,
from the school. Miss Sullivan and her pupil went to Wrentham,
where they worked under Mr. Merton S. Keith, an enthusiastic and
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
Wrentham, February 20, 1898.
...I resumed my studies soon after your departure, and in a very
little while we were working as merrily as if the dreadful
experience of a month ago had been but a dream. I cannot tell you
how much I enjoy the country. It is so fresh, and peaceful and
free! I do think I could work all day long without feeling tired
if they would let me. There are so many pleasant things to
do--not always very easy things,--much of my work in Algebra and
Geometry is hard: but I love it all, especially Greek. Just
think, I shall soon finish my grammar! Then comes the "Iliad."
What an inexpressible joy it will be to read about Achilles, and
Ulysses, and Andromache and Athene, and the rest of my old
friends in their own glorious language! I think Greek is the
loveliest language that I know anything about. If it is true that
the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek
is the violin of human thought.
We have had some splendid toboganning this month. Every morning,
before lesson-time, we all go out to the steep hill on the
northern shore of the lake near the house, and coast for an hour
or so. Some one balances the toboggan on the very crest of the
hill, while we get on, and when we are ready, off we dash down
the side of the hill in a headlong rush, and, leaping a
projection, plunge into a snow-drift and go swimming far across
the pond at a tremendous rate!...
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
[Wrentham] April 12, 1898.
...I am glad Mr. Keith is so well pleased with my progress. It is
true that Algebra and Geometry are growing easier all the time,
especially algebra; and I have just received books in raised
print which will greatly facilitate my work....
I find I get on faster, and do better work with Mr. Keith than I
did in the classes at the Cambridge School, and I think it was
well that I gave up that kind of work. At any rate, I have not
been idle since I left school; I have accomplished more, and been
happier than I could have been there....
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
[Wrentham] May 29, 1898.
...My work goes on bravely. Each day is filled to the brim with
hard study; for I am anxious to accomplish as much as possible
before I put away my books for the summer vacation. You will be
pleased to hear that I did three problems in Geometry yesterday
without assistance. Mr. Keith and Teacher were quite enthusiastic
over the achievement, and I must confess, I felt somewhat elated
myself. Now I feel as if I should succeed in doing something in
mathematics, although I cannot see why it is so very important to
know that the lines drawn from the extremities of the base of an
isosceles triangle to the middle points of the opposite sides are
equal! The knowledge doesn't make life any sweeter or happier,
does it? On the other hand, when we learn a new word, it is the
key to untold treasures....
TO CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER
Wrentham, Mass., June 7, 1898.
I am afraid you will conclude that I am not very anxious for a
tandem after all, since I have let nearly a week pass without
answering your letter in regard to the kind of wheel I should
like. But really, I have been so constantly occupied with my
studies since we returned from New York, that I have not had time
even to think of the fun it would be to have a bicycle! You see,
I am anxious to accomplish as much as possible before the long
summer vacation begins. I am glad, though, that it is nearly time
to put away my books; for the sunshine and flowers, and the
lovely lake in front of our house are doing their best to tempt
me away from my Greek and Mathematics, especially from the
latter! I am sure the daisies and buttercups have as little use
for the science of Geometry as I, in spite of the fact that they
so beautifully illustrate its principles.
But bless me, I mustn't forget the tandem! The truth is, I know
very little about bicycles. I have only ridden a "sociable,"
which is very different from the ordinary tandem. The "sociable"
is safer, perhaps, than the tandem; but it is very heavy and
awkward, and has a way of taking up the greater part of the road.
Besides, I have been told that "sociables" cost more than other
kinds of bicycles. My teacher and other friends think I could
ride a Columbia tandem in the country with perfect safety. They
also think your suggestion about a fixed handlebar a good one. I
ride with a divided skirt, and so does my teacher; but it would
be easier for her to mount a man's wheel than for me; so, if it
could be arranged to have the ladies' seat behind, I think it
would be better....
TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY
Wrentham, September 11, 1898.
...I am out of doors all the time, rowing, swimming, riding and
doing a multitude of other pleasant things. This morning I rode
over twelve miles on my tandem! I rode on a rough road, and fell
off three or four times, and am now awfully lame! But the weather
and the scenery were so beautiful, and it was such fun to go
scooting over the smoother part of the road, I didn't mind the
mishaps in the least.
I have really learned to swim and dive--after a fashion! I can
swim a little under water, and do almost anything I like, without
fear of getting drowned! Isn't that fine? It is almost no effort
for me to row around the lake, no matter how heavy the load may
be. So you can well imagine how strong and brown I am....
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
12 Newbury Street, Boston,
October 23, 1898.
This is the first opportunity I have had to write to you since we
came here last Monday. We have been in such a whirl ever since we
decided to come to Boston; it seemed as if we should never get
settled. Poor Teacher has had her hands full, attending to
movers, and express-men, and all sorts of people. I wish it were
not such a bother to move, especially as we have to do it so
...Mr. Keith comes here at half past three every day except
Saturday. He says he prefers to come here for the present. I am
reading the "Iliad," and the "Aeneid" and Cicero, besides doing a
lot in Geometry and Algebra. The "Iliad" is beautiful with all
the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike
people while the "Aeneid" is more stately and reserved. It is
like a beautiful maiden, who always lived in a palace, surrounded
by a magnificent court; while the "Iliad" is like a splendid
youth, who has had the earth for his playground.
The weather has been awfully dismal all the week; but to-day is
beautiful, and our room floor is flooded with sunlight. By and by
we shall take a little walk in the Public Gardens. I wish the
Wrentham woods were round the corner! But alas! they are not, and
I shall have to content myself with a stroll in the Gardens.
Somehow, after the great fields and pastures and lofty
pine-groves of the country, they seem shut-in and conventional.
Even the trees seem citified and self-conscious. Indeed, I doubt
if they are on speaking terms with their country cousins! Do you
know, I cannot help feeling sorry for these trees with all their
fashionable airs? They are like the people whom they see every
day, who prefer the crowded, noisy city to the quiet and freedom
of the country. They do not even suspect how circumscribed their
lives are. They look down pityingly on the country-folk, who have
never had an opportunity "to see the great world." Oh my! if they
only realized their limitations, they would flee for their lives
to the woods and fields. But what nonsense is this! You will
think I'm pining away for my beloved Wrentham, which is true in
one sense and not in another. I do miss Red Farm and the dear
ones there dreadfully; but I am not unhappy. I have Teacher and
my books, and I have the certainty that something sweet and good
will come to me in this great city, where human beings struggle
so bravely all their lives to wring happiness from cruel
circumstances. Anyway, I am glad to have my share in life,
whether it be bright or sad....
TO MRS. WILLIAM THAW
Boston, December 6th, 1898.
My teacher and I had a good laugh over the girls' frolic. How
funny they must have looked in their "rough-rider" costumes,
mounted upon their fiery steeds! "Slim" would describe them, if
they were anything like the saw-horses I have seen. What jolly
times they must have at --! I cannot help wishing sometimes that
I could have some of the fun that other girls have. How quickly I
should lock up all these mighty warriors, and hoary sages, and
impossible heroes, who are now almost my only companions; and
dance and sing and frolic like other girls! But I must not waste
my time wishing idle wishes; and after all my ancient friends are
very wise and interesting, and I usually enjoy their society very
much indeed. It is only once in a great while that I feel
discontented, and allow myself to wish for things I cannot hope
for in this life. But, as you know, my heart is usually brimful
of happiness. The thought that my dear Heavenly Father is always
near, giving me abundantly of all those things, which truly
enrich life and make it sweet and beautiful, makes every
deprivation seem of little moment compared with the countless
blessings I enjoy.
TO MRS. WILLIAM THAW
12 Newbury Street, Boston,
December 19th, 1898.
...I realize now what a selfish, greedy girl I was to ask that my
cup of happiness should be filled to overflowing, without
stopping to think how many other people's cups were quite empty.
I feel heartily ashamed of my thoughtlessness. One of the
childish illusions, which it has been hardest for me to get rid
of, is that we have only to make our wishes known in order to
have them granted. But I am slowly learning that there is not
happiness enough in the world for everyone to have all that he
wants; and it grieves me to think that I should have forgotten,
even for a moment, that I already have more than my share, and
that like poor little Oliver Twist I should have asked for
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
12 Newberry Street, Boston.
December 22, 
...I suppose Mr. Keith writes you the work-a-day news. If so, you
know that I have finished all the geometry, and nearly all the
Algebra required for the Harvard examinations, and after
Christmas I shall begin a very careful review of both subjects.
You will be glad to hear that I enjoy Mathematics now. Why, I can
do long, complicated quadratic equations in my head quite easily,
and it is great fun! I think Mr. Keith is a wonderful teacher,
and I feel very grateful to him for having made me see the beauty
of Mathematics. Next to my own dear teacher, he has done more
than any one else to enrich and broaden my mind.
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
12 Newbury Street, Boston,
January 17, 1899.
...Have you seen Kipling's "Dreaming True," or "Kitchener's
School?" It is a very strong poem and set me dreaming too. Of
course you have read about the "Gordon Memorial College," which
the English people are to erect at Khartoum. While I was thinking
over the blessings that would come to the people of Egypt through
this college, and eventually to England herself, there came into
my heart the strong desire that my own dear country should in a
similar way convert the terrible loss of her brave sons on the
"Maine" into a like blessing to the people of Cuba. Would a
college at Havana not be the noblest and most enduring monument
that could be raised to the brave men of the "Maine," as well as
a source of infinite good to all concerned? Imagine entering the
Havana harbor, and having the pier, where the "Maine" was
anchored on that dreadful night, when she was so mysteriously
destroyed, pointed out to you, and being told that the great,
beautiful building overlooking the spot was the "Maine Memorial
College," erected by the American people, and having for its
object the education both of Cubans and Spaniards! What a
glorious triumph such a monument would be of the best and highest
instincts of a Christian nation! In it there would be no
suggestion of hatred or revenge, nor a trace of the old-time
belief that might makes right. On the other hand, it would be a
pledge to the world that we intend to stand by our declaration of
war, and give Cuba to the Cubans, as soon as we have fitted them
to assume the duties and responsibilities of a self-governing
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
12 Newbury Street, Boston,
February 3, 1899.
...I had an exceedingly interesting experience last Monday. A
kind friend took me over in the morning to the Boston Art Museum.
She had previously obtained permission from General Loring, Supt.
of the Museum, for me to touch the statues, especially those
which represented my old friends in the "Iliad" and "Aeneid." Was
that not lovely? While I was there, General Loring himself came
in, and showed me some of the most beautiful statues, among which
were the Venus of Medici, the Minerva of the Parthenon, Diana, in
her hunting costume, with her hand on the quiver and a doe by her
side, and the unfortunate Laocoon and his two little sons,
struggling in the fearful coils of two huge serpents, and
stretching their arms to the skies with heart-rending cries. I
also saw Apollo Belvidere. He had just slain the Python and was
standing by a great pillar of rock, extending his graceful hand
in triumph over the terrible snake. Oh, he was simply beautiful!
Venus entranced me. She looked as if she had just risen from the
foam of the sea, and her loveliness was like a strain of heavenly
music. I also saw poor Niobe with her youngest child clinging
close to her while she implored the cruel goddess not to kill her
last darling. I almost cried, it was all so real and tragic.
General Loring kindly showed me a copy of one of the wonderful
bronze doors of the Baptistry of Florence, and I felt of the
graceful pillars, resting on the backs of fierce lions. So you
see, I had a foretaste of the pleasure which I hope some day to
have of visiting Florence. My friend said, she would sometime
show me the copies of the marbles brought away by Lord Elgin from
the Parthenon. But somehow, I should prefer to see the originals
in the place where Genius meant them to remain, not only as a
hymn of praise to the gods, but also as a monument of the glory
of Greece. It really seems wrong to snatch such sacred things
away from the sanctuary of the Past where they belong....
TO MR. WILLIAM WADE
Boston, February 19th, 1899.
Why, bless you, I thought I wrote to you the day after the
"Eclogues" arrived, and told you how glad I was to have them!
Perhaps you never got that letter. At any rate, I thank you, dear
friend, for taking such a world of trouble for me. You will be
glad to hear that the books from England are coming now. I
already have the seventh and eighth books of the "Aeneid" and one
book of the "Iliad," all of which is most fortunate, as I have
come almost to the end of my embossed text-books.
It gives me great pleasure to hear how much is being done for the
deaf-blind. The more I learn of them, the more kindness I find.
Why, only a little while ago people thought it quite impossible
to teach the deaf-blind anything; but no sooner was it proved
possible than hundreds of kind, sympathetic hearts were fired
with the desire to help them, and now we see how many of those
poor, unfortunate persons are being taught to see the beauty and
reality of life. Love always finds its way to an imprisoned soul,
and leads it out into the world of freedom and intelligence!
As to the two-handed alphabet, I think it is much easier for
those who have sight than the manual alphabet; for most of the
letters look like the large capitals in books; but I think when
it comes to teaching a deaf-blind person to spell, the manual
alphabet is much more convenient, and less conspicuous....
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
12 Newbury Street, Boston,
March 5, 1899.
...I am now sure that I shall be ready for my examinations in
June. There is but one cloud in my sky at present; but that is
one which casts a dark shadow over my life, and makes me very
anxious at times. My teacher's eyes are no better: indeed, I
think they grow more troublesome, though she is very brave and
patient, and will not give up. But it is most distressing to me
to feel that she is sacrificing her sight for me. I feel as if I
ought to give up the idea of going to college altogether: for not
all the knowledge in the world could make me happy, if obtained
at such a cost. I do wish, Mrs. Hutton, you would try to persuade
Teacher to take a rest, and have her eyes treated. She will not
listen to me.
I have just had some pictures taken, and if they are good, I
would like to send one to Mr. Rogers, if you think he would like
to have it. I would like so much to show him in some way how
deeply I appreciate all that he is doing for me, and I cannot
think of anything better to do.
Every one here is talking about the Sargent pictures. It is a
wonderful exhibition of portraits, they say. How I wish I had
eyes to see them! How I should delight in their beauty and color!
However, I am glad that I am not debarred from all pleasure in
the pictures. I have at least the satisfaction of seeing them
through the eyes of my friends, which is a real pleasure. I am so
thankful that I can rejoice in the beauties, which my friends
gather and put into my hands!
We are all so glad and thankful that Mr. Kipling did not die! I
have his "Jungle-Book" in raised print, and what a splendid,
refreshing book it is! I cannot help feeling as if I knew its
gifted author. What a real, manly, lovable nature his must be!...
TO DR. DAVID H. GREER
12 Newbury Street, Boston,
May 8, 1899.
...Each day brings me all that I can possibly accomplish, and
each night brings me rest, and the sweet thought that I am a
little nearer to my goal than ever before. My Greek progresses
finely. I have finished the ninth book of the "Iliad" and am just
beginning the "Odyssey." I am also reading the "Aeneid" and the
"Eclogues." Some of my friends tell me that I am very foolish to
give so much time to Greek and Latin; but I am sure they would
not think so, if they realized what a wonderful world of
experience and thought Homer and Virgil have opened up to me. I
think I shall enjoy the "Odyssey" most of all. The "Iliad" tells
of almost nothing but war, and one sometimes wearies of the clash
of spears and the din of battle; but the "Odyssey" tells of
nobler courage--the courage of a soul sore tried, but steadfast
to the end. I often wonder, as I read these splendid poems why,
at the same time that Homer's songs of war fired the Greeks with
valor, his songs of manly virtue did not have a stronger
influence upon the spiritual life of the people. Perhaps the
reason is, that thoughts truly great are like seeds cast into the
human mind, and either lie there unnoticed, or are tossed about
and played with, like toys, until, grown wise through suffering
and experience, a race discovers and cultivates them. Then the
world has advanced one step in its heavenward march.
I am working very hard just now. I intend to take my examinations
in June, and there is a great deal to be done, before I shall
feel ready to meet the ordeal....
You will be glad to hear that my mother, and little sister and
brother are coming north to spend this summer with me. We shall
all live together in a small cottage on one of the lakes at
Wrentham, while my dear teacher takes a much needed rest. She has
not had a vacation for twelve years, think of it, and all that
time she has been the sunshine of my life. Now her eyes are
troubling her a great deal, and we all think she ought to be
relieved, for a while, of every care and responsibility. But we
shall not be quite separated; we shall see each other every day,
I hope. And, when July comes, you can think of me as rowing my
dear ones around the lovely lake in the little boat you gave me,
the happiest girl in the world!...
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
[Boston] May 28th .
...We have had a hard day. Mr. Keith was here for three hours
this afternoon, pouring a torrent of Latin and Greek into my poor
bewildered brain. I really believe he knows more Latin and Greek
Grammar than Cicero or Homer ever dreamed of! Cicero is splendid,
but his orations are very difficult to translate. I feel ashamed
sometimes, when I make that eloquent man say what sounds absurd
or insipid; but how is a school-girl to interpret such genius?
Why, I should have to be a Cicero to talk like a Cicero!...
Linnie Haguewood is a deaf-blind girl, one of the many whom Mr.
William Wade has helped. She is being educated by Miss Dora
Donald who, at the beginning of her work with her pupil, was
supplied by Mr. Hitz, Superintendent of the Volta Bureau, with
copies of all documents relating to Miss Sullivan's work with
TO MR. WILLIAM WADE
Wrentham, Mass., June 5, 1899.
...Linnie Haguewood's letter, which you sent me some weeks ago,
interested me very much. It seemed to show spontaneity and great
sweetness of character. I was a good deal amused by what she said
about history. I am sorry she does not enjoy it; but I too feel
sometimes how dark, and mysterious and even fearful the history
of old peoples, old religions and old forms of government really
Well, I must confess, I do not like the sign-language, and I do
not think it would be of much use to the deaf-blind. I find it
very difficult to follow the rapid motions made by the
deaf-mutes, and besides, signs seem a great hindrance to them in
acquiring the power of using language easily and freely. Why, I
find it hard to understand them sometimes when they spell on
their fingers. On the whole, if they cannot be taught
articulation, the manual alphabet seems the best and most
convenient means of communication. At any rate, I am sure the
deaf-blind cannot learn to use signs with any degree of facility.
The other day, I met a deaf Norwegian gentleman, who knows
Ragnhild Kaata and her teacher very well, and we had a very
interesting conversation about her. He said she was very
industrious and happy. She spins, and does a great deal of fancy
work, and reads, and leads a pleasant, useful life. Just think,
she cannot use the manual alphabet! She reads the lips well, and
if she cannot understand a phrase, her friends write it in her
hand, and in this way she converses with strangers. I cannot make
out anything written in my hand, so you see, Ragnhild has got
ahead of me in some things. I do hope I shall see her sometime...
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
Wrentham, July 29, 1899.
...I passed in all the subjects I offered, and with credit in
advanced Latin.... But I must confess, I had a hard time on the
second day of my examinations. They would not allow Teacher to
read any of the papers to me; so the papers were copied for me in
braille. This arrangement worked very well in the languages, but
not nearly so well in the Mathematics. Consequently, I did not do
so well as I should have done, if Teacher had been allowed to
read the Algebra and Geometry to me. But you must not think I
blame any one. Of course they did not realize how difficult and
perplexing they were making the examinations for me. How could
they--they can see and hear, and I suppose they could not
understand matters from my point of view....
Thus far my summer has been sweeter than anything I can remember.
My mother, and sister and little brother have been here five
weeks, and our happiness knows no bounds. Not only do we enjoy
being together; but we also find our little home most delightful.
I do wish you could see the view of the beautiful lake from our
piazza, the islands looking like little emerald peaks in the
golden sunlight, and the canoes flitting here and there, like
autumn leaves in the gentle breeze, and breathe in the peculiarly
delicious fragrance of the woods, which comes like a murmur from
an unknown clime. I cannot help wondering if it is the same
fragrance that greeted the Norsemen long ago, when, according to
tradition, they visited our shores--an odorous echo of many
centuries of silent growth and decay in flower and tree....
TO MRS. SAMUEL RICHARD FULLER
Wrentham, October 20, 1899.
...I suppose it is time for me to tell you something about our
plans for the winter. You know it has long been my ambition to go
to Radcliffe, and receive a degree, as many other girls have
done; but Dean Irwin of Radcliffe, has persuaded me to take a
special course for the present. She said I had already shown the
world that I could do the college work, by passing all my
examinations successfully, in spite of many obstacles. She showed
me how very foolish it would be for me to pursue a four years'
course of study at Radcliffe, simply to be like other girls, when
I might better be cultivating whatever ability I had for writing.
She said she did not consider a degree of any real value, but
thought it was much more desirable to do something original than
to waste one's energies only for a degree. Her arguments seemed
so wise and practical, that I could not but yield. I found it
hard, very hard, to give up the idea of going to college; it had
been in my mind ever since I was a little girl; but there is no
use doing a foolish thing, because one has wanted to do it a long
time, is there?
But, while we were discussing plans for the winter, a suggestion
which Dr. Hale had made long ago flashed across Teacher's
mind--that I might take courses somewhat like those offered at
Radcliffe, under the instruction of the professors in these
courses. Miss Irwin seemed to have no objection to this proposal,
and kindly offered to see the professors and find out if they
would give me lessons. If they will be so good as to teach me and
if we have money enough to do as we have planned, my studies this
year will be English, English Literature of the Elizabethan
period, Latin and German....
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
138 Brattle St., Cambridge,
Nov. 11, 1899.
...As to the braille question, I cannot tell how deeply it
distresses me to hear that my statement with regard to the
examinations has been doubted. Ignorance seems to be at the
bottom of all these contradictions. Why, you yourself seem to
think that I taught you American braille, when you do not know a
single letter in the system! I could not help laughing when you
said you had been writing to me in American braille--and there
you were writing your letter in English braille!
The facts about the braille examinations are as follows:
How I passed my Entrance Examinations for Radcliffe College.
On the 29th and 30th of June, 1899, I took my examinations for
Radcliffe College. The first day I had elementary Greek and
advanced Latin, and the second day Geometry, Algebra and advanced
The college authorities would not permit Miss Sullivan to read
the examination papers to me; so Mr. Eugene C. Vining, one of the
instructors at the Perkins Institution for the Blind, was
employed to copy the papers for me in braille. Mr. Vining was a
perfect stranger to me, and could not communicate with me except
by writing in braille. The Proctor also was a stranger, and did
not attempt to communicate with me in any way; and, as they were
both unfamiliar with my speech, they could not readily understand
what I said to them.
However, the braille worked well enough in the languages; but
when it came to Geometry and Algebra, it was different. I was
sorely perplexed, and felt quite discouraged, and wasted much
precious time, especially in Algebra. It is true that I am
perfectly familiar with all literary braille--English, American,
and New York Point; but the method of writing the various signs
used in Geometry and Algebra in the three systems is very
different, and two days before the examinations I knew only the
English method. I had used it all through my school work, and
never any other system.
In Geometry, my chief difficulty was, that I had always been
accustomed to reading the propositions in Line Print, or having
them spelled into my hand; and somehow, although the propositions
were right before me, yet the braille confused me, and I could
not fix in my mind clearly what I was reading. But, when I took
up Algebra, I had a harder time still--I was terribly handicapped
by my imperfect knowledge of the notation. The signs, which I had
learned the day before, and which I thought I knew perfectly,
confused me. Consequently my work was painfully slow, and I was
obliged to read the examples over and over before I could form a
clear idea what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure now
that I read all the signs correctly, especially as I was much
distressed, and found it very hard to keep my wits about me....
Now there is one more fact, which I wish to state very plainly,
in regard to what Mr. Gilman wrote to you. I never received any
direct instruction in the Gilman School. Miss Sullivan always sat
beside me, and told me what the teachers said. I did teach Miss
Hall, my teacher in Physics, how to write the American braille,
but she never gave me any instruction by means of it, unless a
few problems written for practice, which made me waste much
precious time deciphering them, can be called instruction. Dear
Frau Grote learned the manual alphabet, and used to teach me
herself; but this was in private lessons, which were paid for by
my friends. In the German class Miss Sullivan interpreted to me
as well as she could what the teacher said.
Perhaps, if you would send a copy of this to the head of the
Cambridge School, it might enlighten his mind on a few subjects,
on which he seems to be in total darkness just now....
TO MISS MILDRED KELLER
138 Brattle Street, Cambridge,
November 26, 1899.
...At last we are settled for the winter, and our work is going
smoothly. Mr. Keith comes every afternoon at four o'clock, and
gives me a "friendly lift" over the rough stretches of road, over
which every student must go. I am studying English history,
English literature, French and Latin, and by and by I shall take
up German and English composition--let us groan! You know, I
detest grammar as much as you do; but I suppose I must go through
it if I am to write, just as we had to get ducked in the lake
hundreds of times before we could swim! In French Teacher is
reading "Columba" to me. It is a delightful novel, full of
piquant expressions and thrilling adventures, (don't dare to
blame me for using big words, since you do the same!) and, if you
ever read it, I think you will enjoy it immensely. You are
studying English history, aren't you. O but it's exceedingly
interesting! I'm making quite a thorough study of the Elizabethan
period--of the Reformation, and the Acts of Supremacy and
Conformity, and the maritime discoveries, and all the big things,
which the "deuce" seems to have invented to plague innocent
youngsters like yourself!...
Now we have a swell winter outfit--coats, hats, gowns, flannels
and all. We've just had four lovely dresses made by a French
dressmaker. I have two, of which one has a black silk skirt, with
a black lace net over it, and a waist of white poplin, with
turquoise velvet and chiffon, and cream lace over a satin yoke.
The other is woollen, and of a very pretty green. The waist is
trimmed with pink and green brocaded velvet, and white lace, I
think, and has double reefers on the front, tucked and trimmed
with velvet, and also a row of tiny white buttons. Teacher too
has a silk dress. The skirt is black, while the waist is mostly
yellow, trimmed with delicate lavender chiffon, and black velvet
bows and lace. Her other dress is purple, trimmed with purple
velvet, and the waist has a collar of cream lace. So you may
imagine that we look quite like peacocks, only we've no
A week ago yesterday there was [a] great football game between
Harvard and Yale, and there was tremendous excitement here. We
could hear the yells of the boys and the cheers of the lookers-on
as plainly in our room as if we had been on the field. Colonel
Roosevelt was there, on Harvard's side; but bless you, he wore a
white sweater, and no crimson that we know of! There were about
twenty-five thousand people at the game, and, when we went out,
the noise was so terrific, we nearly jumped out of our skins,
thinking it was the din of war, and not of a football game that
we heard. But, in spite of all their wild efforts, neither side
was scored, and we all laughed and said, "Oh, well now the pot
can't call the kettle black!"...
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
559 Madison Avenue, New York,
January 2, 1900.
...We have been here a week now, and are going to stay with Miss
Rhoades until Saturday. We are enjoying every moment of our
visit, every one is so good to us. We have seen many of our old
friends, and made some new ones. We dined with the Rogers last
Friday, and oh, they were so kind to us! The thought of their
gentle courtesy and genuine kindness brings a warm glow of joy
and gratitude to my heart. I have seen Dr. Greer too. He has such
a kind heart! I love him more than ever. We went to St.
Bartholomew's Sunday, and I have not felt so much at home in a
church since dear Bishop Brooks died. Dr. Greer read so slowly,
that my teacher could tell me every word. His people must have
wondered at his unusual deliberation. After the service he asked
Mr. Warren, the organist to play for me. I stood in the middle of
the church, where the vibrations from the great organ were
strongest, and I felt the mighty waves of sound beat against me,
as the great billows beat against a little ship at sea.
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
138 Brattle Street, Cambridge,
Feb. 3, 1900.
...My studies are more interesting than ever. In Latin, I am
reading Horace's odes. Although I find them difficult to
translate, yet I think they are the loveliest pieces of Latin
poetry I have read or shall ever read. In French we have finished
"Colomba," and I am reading "Horace" by Corneille and La
Fontaine's fables, both of which are in braille. I have not gone
far in either; but I know I shall enjoy the fables, they are so
delightfully written, and give such good lessons in a simple and
yet attractive way. I do not think I have told you that my dear
teacher is reading "The Faery Queen" to me. I am afraid I find
fault with the poem as much as I enjoy it. I do not care much for
the allegories, indeed I often find them tiresome, and I cannot
help thinking that Spenser's world of knights, paynims, fairies,
dragons and all sorts of strange creatures is a somewhat
grotesque and amusing world; but the poem itself is lovely and as
musical as a running brook.
I am now the proud owner of about fifteen new books, which we
ordered from Louisville. Among them are "Henry Esmond," "Bacon's
Essays" and extracts from "English Literature." Perhaps next week
I shall have some more books, "The Tempest," "A Midsummer Night's
Dream" and possibly some selections from Green's history of
England. Am I not very fortunate?
I am afraid this letter savors too much of books--but really they
make up my whole life these days, and I scarcely see or hear of
anything else! I do believe I sleep on books every night! You
know a student's life is of necessity somewhat circumscribed and
narrow and crowds out almost everything that is not in books....
TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE ACADEMIC BOARD OF RADCLIFFE COLLEGE
138 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass.,
May 5, 1900.
As an aid to me in determining my plans for study the coming
year, I apply to you for information as to the possibility of my
taking the regular courses in Radcliffe College.
Since receiving my certificate of admission to Radcliffe last
July, I have been studying with a private tutor, Horace,
Aeschylus, French, German, Rhetoric, English History, English
Literature and Criticism, and English composition.
In college I should wish to continue most, if not all of these
subjects. The conditions under which I work require the presence
of Miss Sullivan, who has been my teacher and companion for
thirteen years, as an interpreter of oral speech and as a reader
of examination papers. In college she, or possibly in some
subjects some one else, would of necessity be with me in the
lecture-room and at recitations. I should do all my written work
on a typewriter, and if a Professor could not understand my
speech, I could write out my answers to his questions and hand
them to him after the recitation.
Is it possible for the College to accommodate itself to these
unprecedented conditions, so as to enable me to pursue my studies
at Radcliffe? I realize that the obstacles in the way of my
receiving a college education are very great--to others they may
seem insurmountable; but, dear Sir, a true soldier does not
acknowledge defeat before the battle.
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
38 Brattle Street, Cambridge,
June 9, 1900.
...I have not yet heard from the Academic Board in reply to my
letter; but I sincerely hope they will answer favorably. My
friends think it very strange that they should hesitate so long,
especially when I have not asked them to simplify my work in the
least, but only to modify it so as to meet the existing
circumstances. Cornell has offered to make arrangements suited to
the conditions under which I work, if I should decide to go to
that college, and the University of Chicago has made a similar
offer, but I am afraid if I went to any other college, it would
be thought that I did not pass my examinations for Radcliffe
In the fall Miss Keller entered Radcliffe College.
TO MR. JOHN HITZ
14 Coolidge Ave., Cambridge,
Nov. 26, 1900.
...-- has already communicated with you in regard to her and my
plan of establishing an institution for deaf and blind children.
At first I was most enthusiastic in its support, and I never
dreamed that any grave objections could be raised except indeed
by those who are hostile to Teacher, but now, after thinking most
SERIOUSLY and consulting my friends, I have decided that --'s
plan is by no means feasible. In my eagerness to make it possible
for deaf and blind children to have the same advantages that I
have had, I quite forgot that there might be many obstacles in
the way of my accomplishing anything like what -- proposed.
My friends thought we might have one or two pupils in our own
home, thereby securing to me the advantage of being helpful to
others without any of the disadvantages of a large school. They
were very kind; but I could not help feeling that they spoke more
from a business than a humanitarian point of view. I am sure they
did not quite understand how passionately I desire that all who
are afflicted like myself shall receive their rightful
inheritance of thought, knowledge and love. Still I could not
shut my eyes to the force and weight of their arguments, and I
saw plainly that I must abandon --'s scheme as impracticable.
They also said that I ought to appoint an advisory committee to
control my affairs while I am at Radcliffe. I considered this
suggestion carefully, then I told Mr. Rhoades that I should be
proud and glad to have wise friends to whom I could always turn
for advice in all important matters. For this committee I chose
six, my mother, Teacher, because she is like a mother to me, Mrs.
Hutton, Mr. Rhoades, Dr. Greer and Mr. Rogers, because it is they
who have supported me all these years and made it possible for me
to enter college. Mrs. Hutton had already written to mother,
asking her to telegraph if she was willing for me to have other
advisers besides herself and Teacher. This morning we received
word that mother had given her consent to this arrangement. Now
it remains for me to write to Dr. Greer and Mr. Rogers....
We had a long talk with Dr. Bell. Finally he proposed a plan
which delighted us all beyond words. He said that it was a
gigantic blunder to attempt to found a school for deaf and blind
children, because then they would lose the most precious
opportunities of entering into the fuller, richer, freer life of
seeing and hearing children. I had had misgivings on this point;
but I could not see how we were to help it. However Mr. Bell
suggested that -- and all her friends who are interested in her
scheme should organize an association for the promotion of the
education of the deaf and blind, Teacher and myself being
included of course. Under his plan they were to appoint Teacher
to train others to instruct deaf and blind children in their own
homes, just as she had taught me. Funds were to be raised for the
teachers' lodgings and also for their salaries. At the same time
Dr. Bell added that I could rest content and fight my way through
Radcliffe in competition with seeing and hearing girls, while the
great desire of my heart was being fulfilled. We clapped our
hands and shouted; -- went away beaming with pleasure, and
Teacher and I felt more light of heart than we had for sometime.
Of course we can do nothing just now; but the painful anxiety
about my college work and the future welfare of the deaf and
blind has been lifted from our minds. Do tell me what you think
about Dr. Bell's suggestion. It seems most practical and wise to
me; but I must know all that there is to be known about it before
I speak or act in the matter....
TO MR. JOHN D. WRIGHT
Cambridge, December 9, 1900.
Do you think me a villain and--I can't think of a word bad enough
to express your opinion of me, unless indeed horse-thief will
answer the purpose. Tell me truly, do you think me as bad as
that? I hope not; for I have thought many letters to you which
never got on paper, and I am delighted to get your good letter,
yes, I really was, and I intended to answer it immediately, but
the days slip by unnoticed when one is busy, and I have been VERY
busy this fall. You must believe that. Radcliffe girls are always
up to their ears in work. If you doubt it, you'd better come and
see for yourself.
Yes, I am taking the regular college course for a degree. When I
am a B.A., I suppose you will not dare call me a villain! I am
studying English--Sophomore English, if you please, (though I
can't see that it is different from just plain English) German,
French and History. I'm enjoying my work even more than I
expected to, which is another way of saying that I'm glad I came.
It is hard, very hard at times; but it hasn't swamped me yet. No,
I am not studying Mathematics, or Greek or Latin either. The
courses at Radcliffe are elective, only certain courses in
English are prescribed. I passed off my English and advanced
French before I entered college, and I choose the courses I like
best. I don't however intend to give up Latin and Greek entirely.
Perhaps I shall take up these studies later; but I've said
goodbye to Mathematics forever, and I assure you, I was delighted
to see the last of those horrid goblins! I hope to obtain my
degree in four years; but I'm not very particular about that.
There's no great hurry, and I want to get as much as possible out
of my studies. Many of my friends would be well pleased if I
would take two or even one course a year, but I rather object to
spending the rest of my life in college....
TO MR. WILLIAM WADE
14 Coolidge Avenue, Cambridge,
December 9, 1900.
...Since you are so much interested in the deaf and blind, I will
begin by telling you of several cases I have come across lately.
Last October I heard of an unusually bright little girl in Texas.
Her name is Ruby Rice, and she is thirteen years old, I think.
She has never been taught; but they say she can sew and likes to
help others in this sort of work. Her sense of smell is
wonderful. Why, when she enters a store, she will go straight to
the showcases, and she can also distinguish her own things. Her
parents are very anxious indeed to find a teacher for her. They
have also written to Mr. Hitz about her.
I also know a child at the Institution for the Deaf in
Mississippi. Her name is Maud Scott, and she is six years old.
Miss Watkins, the lady who has charge of her wrote me a most
interesting letter. She said that Maud was born deaf and lost her
sight when she was only three months old, and that when she went
to the Institution a few weeks ago, she was quite helpless. She
could not even walk and had very little use of her hands. When
they tried to teach her to string beads, her little hands fell to
her side. Evidently her sense of touch has not been developed,
and as yet she can walk only when she holds some one's hand; but
she seems to be an exceedingly bright child. Miss Watkins adds
that she is very pretty. I have written to her that when Maud
learns to read, I shall have many stories to send her. The dear,
sweet little girl, it makes my heart ache to think how utterly
she is cut off from all that is good and desirable in life. But
Miss Watkins seems to be just the kind of teacher she needs.
I was in New York not long ago and I saw Miss Rhoades, who told
me that she had seen Katie McGirr. She said the poor young girl
talked and acted exactly like a little child. Katie played with
Miss Rhoades's rings and took them away, saying with a merry
laugh, "You shall not have them again!" She could only understand
Miss Rhoades when she talked about the simplest things. The
latter wished to send her some books; but she could not find
anything simple enough for her! She said Katie was very sweet
indeed, but sadly in need of proper instruction. I was much
surprised to hear all this; for I judged from your letters that
Katie was a very precocious girl....
A few days ago I met Tommy Stringer in the railroad station at
Wrentham. He is a great, strong boy now, and he will soon need a
man to take care of him; he is really too big for a lady to
manage. He goes to the public school, I hear, and his progress is
astonishing, they say; but it doesn't show as yet in his
conversation, which is limited to "Yes" and "No."...
TO MR. CHARLES T. COPELAND
December 20, 1900.
My dear Mr. Copeland;
I venture to write to you because I am afraid that if I do not
explain why I have stopped writing themes, you will think I have
become discouraged, or perhaps that to escape criticism I have
beat a cowardly retreat from your class. Please do not think
either of these very unpleasant thoughts. I am not discouraged,
nor am I afraid. I am confident that I could go on writing themes
like those I have written, and I suppose I should get through the
course with fairly good marks; but this sort of literary
patch-work has lost all interest for me. I have never been
satisfied with my work; but I never knew what my difficulty was
until you pointed it out to me. When I came to your class last
October, I was trying with all my might to be like everybody
else, to forget as entirely as possible my limitations and
peculiar environment. Now, however, I see the folly of attempting
to hitch one's wagon to a star with harness that does not belong
I have always accepted other peoples experiences and observations
as a matter of course. It never occurred to me that it might be
worth while to make my own observations and describe the
experiences peculiarly my own. Henceforth I am resolved to be
myself, to live my own life and write my own thoughts when I have
any. When I have written something that seems to be fresh and
spontaneous and worthy of your criticisms, I will bring it to
you, if I may, and if you think it good, I shall be happy; but if
your verdict is unfavorable, I shall try again and yet again
until I have succeeded in pleasing you...
TO MRS. LAURENCE HUTTON
14 Coolidge Avenue, Cambridge,
December 27, 1900.
...So you read about our class luncheon in the papers? How in the
world do the papers find out everything, I wonder. I am sure no
reporter was present. I had a splendid time; the toasts and
speeches were great fun. I only spoke a few words, as I did not
know I was expected to speak until a few minutes before I was
called upon. I think I wrote you that I had been elected
Vice-President of the Freshman Class of Radcliffe.
Did I tell you in my last letter that I had a new dress, a real
party dress with low neck and short sleeves and quite a train? It
is pale blue, trimmed with chiffon of the same color. I have worn
it only once, but then I felt that Solomon in all his glory was
not to be compared with me! Anyway, he certainly never had a
dress like mine!...
A gentleman in Philadelphia has just written to my teacher about
a deaf and blind child in Paris, whose parents are Poles. The
mother is a physician and a brilliant woman, he says. This little
boy could speak two or three languages before he lost his hearing
through sickness, and he is now only about five years old. Poor
little fellow, I wish I could do something for him; but he is so
young, my teacher thinks it would be too bad to separate him from
his mother. I have had a letter from Mrs. Thaw with regard to the
possibility of doing something for these children. Dr. Bell
thinks the present census will show that there are more than a
thousand in the United States alone [The number of deaf-blind
young enough to be benefited by education is not so large as
this; but the education of this class of defectives has been
neglected.]; and Mrs. Thaw thinks if all my friends were to unite
their efforts, "it would be an easy matter to establish at the
beginning of this new century a new line upon which mercy might
travel," and the rescue of these unfortunate children could be
TO MR. WILLIAM WADE
Cambridge, February 2, 1901.
...By the way, have you any specimens of English braille
especially printed for those who have lost their sight late in
life or have fingers hardened by long toil, so that their touch
is less sensitive than that of other blind people? I read an
account of such a system in one of my English magazines, and I am
anxious to know more about it. If it is as efficient as they say,
I see no reason why English braille should not be adopted by the
blind of all countries. Why, it is the print that can be most
readily adapted to many different languages. Even Greek can be
embossed in it, as you know. Then, too, it will be rendered still
more efficient by the "interpointing system," which will save an
immense amount of space and paper. There is nothing more absurd,
I think, than to have five or six different prints for the
This letter was written in response to a tentative offer from the
editor of The Great Round World to have the magazine published in
raised type for the blind, if enough were willing to subscribe.
It is evident that the blind should have a good magazine, not a
special magazine for the blind, but one of our best monthlies,
printed in embossed letters. The blind alone could not support
it, but it would not take very much money to make up the
To THE GREAT ROUND WORLD
Cambridge, Feb. 16, 1901.
The Great Round World,
New York City.
Gentlemen: I have only to-day found time to reply to your
interesting letter. A little bird had already sung the good news
in my ear; but it was doubly pleasant to have it straight from
It would be splendid to have The Great Round World printed in
"language that can be felt." I doubt if any one who enjoys the
wondrous privilege of seeing can have any conception of the boon
such a publication as you contemplate would be to the sightless.
To be able to read for one's self what is being willed, thought
and done in the world--the world in whose joys and sorrows,
failures and successes one feels the keenest interest--that would
indeed be a happiness too deep for words. I trust that the effort
of The Great Round World to bring light to those who sit in
darkness will receive the encouragement and support it so richly
I doubt, however, if the number of subscribers to an embossed
edition of The Great Round World would ever be large; for I am
told that the blind as a class are poor. But why should not the
friends of the blind assist The Great Round World, if necessary?
Surely there are hearts and hands ever ready to make it possible
for generous intentions to be wrought into noble deeds.
Wishing you godspeed in an undertaking that is very dear to my
heart, I am, etc.
TO MISS NINA RHOADES
Cambridge, Sept. 25, 1901.
...We remained in Halifax until about the middle of August....
Day after day the Harbor, the warships, and the park kept us busy
thinking and feeling and enjoying.... When the Indiana visited
Halifax, we were invited to go on board, and she sent her own
launch for us. I touched the immense cannon, read with my fingers
several of the names of the Spanish ships that were captured at
Santiago, and felt the places where she had been pierced with
shells. The Indiana was the largest and finest ship in the
Harbor, and we felt very proud of her.
After we left Halifax, we visited Dr. Bell at Cape Breton. He has
a charming, romantic house on a mountain called Beinn Bhreagh,
which overlooks the Bras d'Or Lake....
Dr. Bell told me many interesting things about his work. He had
just constructed a boat that could be propelled by a kite with
the wind in its favor, and one day he tried experiments to see if
he could steer the kite against the wind. I was there and really
helped him fly the kites. On one of them I noticed that the
strings were of wire, and having had some experience in bead
work, I said I thought they would break. Dr. Bell said "No!" with
great confidence, and the kite was sent up. It began to pull and
tug, and lo, the wires broke, and off went the great red dragon,
and poor Dr. Bell stood looking forlornly after it. After that he
asked me if the strings were all right and changed them at once
when I answered in the negative. Altogether we had great fun....
TO DR. EDWARD EVERETT HALE [Read by Dr. Hale at the celebration
of the centenary of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, at Tremont Temple,
Boston, Nov. 11, 1901.]
Cambridge, Nov. 10, 1901.
My teacher and I expect to be present at the meeting tomorrow in
commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of Dr. Howe's
birth; but I very much doubt if we shall have an opportunity to
speak with you; so I am writing now to tell you how delighted I
am that you are to speak at the meeting, because I feel that you,
better than any one I know will express the heartfelt gratitude
of those who owe their education, their opportunities, their
happiness to him who opened the eyes of the blind and gave the
dumb lip language.
Sitting here in my study, surrounded by my books, enjoying the
sweet and intimate companionship of the great and the wise, I am
trying to realize what my life might have been, if Dr. Howe had
failed in the great task God gave him to perform. If he had not
taken upon himself the responsibility of Laura Bridgman's
education and led her out of the pit of Acheron back to her human
inheritance, should I be a sophomore at Radcliffe College
to-day--who can say? But it is idle to speculate about what might
have been in connection with Dr. Howe's great achievement.
I think only those who have escaped that death-in-life existence,
from which Laura Bridgman was rescued, can realize how isolated,
how shrouded in darkness, how cramped by its own impotence is a
soul without thought or faith or hope. Words are powerless to
describe the desolation of that prison-house, or the joy of the
soul that is delivered out of its captivity. When we compare the
needs and helplessness of the blind before Dr. Howe began his
work, with their present usefulness and independence, we realize
that great things have been done in our midst. What if physical
conditions have built up high walls about us? Thanks to our
friend and helper, our world lies upward; the length and breadth
and sweep of the heavens are ours!
It is pleasant to think that Dr. Howe's noble deeds will receive
their due tribute of affection and gratitude, in the city, which
was the scene of his great labors and splendid victories for
With kind greetings, in which my teacher joins me, I am
Affectionately your friend,
TO THE HON. GEORGE FRISBIE HOAR
Cambridge, Mass., November 25, 1901.
My Dear Senator Hoar:--
I am glad you liked my letter about Dr. Howe. It was written out
of my heart, and perhaps that is why it met a sympathetic
response in other hearts. I will ask Dr. Hale to lend me the
letter, so that I can make a copy of it for you.
You see, I use a typewriter--it is my right hand man, so to
speak. Without it I do not see how I could go to college. I write
all my themes and examinations on it, even Greek. Indeed, it has
only one drawback, and that probably is regarded as an advantage
by the professors; it is that one's mistakes may be detected at a
glance; for there is no chance to hide them in illegible writing.
I know you will be amused when I tell you that I am deeply
interested in politics. I like to have the papers read to me, and
I try to understand the great questions of the day; but I am
afraid my knowledge is very unstable; for I change my opinions
with every new book I read. I used to think that when I studied
Civil Government and Economics, all my difficulties and
perplexities would blossom into beautiful certainties; but alas,
I find that there are more tares than wheat in these fertile
fields of knowledge....
Part III: A Supplementary Account of Helen Keller's Life and
CHAPTER I. The Writing of the Book
It is fitting that Miss Keller's "Story of My Life" should appear
at this time. What is remarkable in her career is already
accomplished, and whatever she may do in the future will be but a
relatively slight addition to the success which distinguishes her
now. That success has just been assured, for it is her work at
Radcliffe during the last two years which has shown that she can
carry her education as far as if she were studying under normal
conditions. Whatever doubts Miss Keller herself may have had are
now at rest.
Several passages of her autobiography, as it appeared in serial
form, have been made the subject of a grave editorial in a Boston
newspaper, in which the writer regretted Miss Keller's apparent
disillusionment in regard to the value of her college life. He
quoted the passages in which she explains that college is not the
"universal Athens" she had hoped to find, and cited the cases of
other remarkable persons whose college life had proved
disappointing. But it is to be remembered that Miss Keller has
written many things in her autobiography for the fun of writing
them, and the disillusion, which the writer of the editorial took
seriously, is in great part humorous. Miss Keller does not
suppose her views to be of great importance, and when she utters
her opinions on important matters she takes it for granted that
her reader will receive them as the opinions of a junior in
college, not of one who writes with the wisdom of maturity. For
instance, it surprised her that some people were annoyed at what
she said about the Bible, and she was amused that they did not
see, what was plain enough, that she had been obliged to read the
whole Bible in a course in English literature, not as a religious
duty put upon her by her teacher or her parents.
I ought to apologize to the reader and to Miss Keller for
presuming to say what her subject matter is worth, but one more
explanation is necessary. In her account of her early education
Miss Keller is not giving a scientifically accurate record of her
life, nor even of the important events. She cannot know in detail
how she was taught, and her memory of her childhood is in some
cases an idealized memory of what she has learned later from her
teacher and others. She is less able to recall events of fifteen
years ago than most of us are to recollect our childhood. That is
why her teacher's records may be found to differ in some
particulars from Miss Keller's account.
The way in which Miss Keller wrote her story shows, as nothing
else can show, the difficulties she had to overcome. When we
write, we can go back over our work, shuffle the pages,
interline, rearrange, see how the paragraphs look in proof, and
so construct the whole work before the eye, as an architect
constructs his plans. When Miss Keller puts her work in
typewritten form, she cannot refer to it again unless some one
reads it to her by means of the manual alphabet.
This difficulty is in part obviated by the use of her braille
machine, which makes a manuscript that she can read; but as her
work must be put ultimately in typewritten form, and as a braille
machine is somewhat cumbersome, she has got into the habit of
writing directly on her typewriter. She depends so little on her
braille manuscript, that, when she began to write her story more
than a year ago and had put in braille a hundred pages of
material and notes, she made the mistake of destroying these
notes before she had finished her manuscript. Thus she composed
much of her story on the typewriter, and in constructing it as a
whole depended on her memory to guide her in putting together the
detached episodes, which Miss Sullivan read over to her.
Last July, when she had finished under great pressure of work her
final chapter, she set to work to rewrite the whole story. Her
good friend, Mr. William Wade, had a complete braille copy made
for her from the magazine proofs. Then for the first time she had
her whole manuscript under her finger at once. She saw
imperfections in the arrangement of paragraphs and the repetition
of phrases. She saw, too, that her story properly fell into short
chapters and redivided it.
Partly from temperament, partly from the conditions of her work,
she has written rather a series of brilliant passages than a
unified narrative; in point of fact, several paragraphs of her
story are short themes written in her English courses, and the
small unit sometimes shows its original limits.
In rewriting the story, Miss Keller made corrections on separate
pages on her braille machine. Long corrections she wrote out on
her typewriter, with catch-words to indicate where they belonged.
Then she read from her braille copy the entire story, making
corrections as she read, which were taken down on the manuscript
that went to the printer. During this revision she discussed
questions of subject matter and phrasing. She sat running her
finger over the braille manuscript, stopping now and then to
refer to the braille notes on which she had indicated her
corrections, all the time reading aloud to verify the manuscript.
She listened to criticism just as any author listens to his
friends or his editor. Miss Sullivan, who is an excellent critic,
made suggestions at many points in the course of composition and
revision. One newspaper suggested that Miss Keller had been led
into writing the book and had been influenced to put certain
things into it by zealous friends. As a matter of fact, most of
the advice she has received and heeded has led to excisions
rather than to additions. The book is Miss Keller's and is final
proof of her independent power.
CHAPTER II. PERSONALITY
Mark Twain has said that the two most interesting characters of
the nineteenth century are Napoleon and Helen Keller. The
admiration with which the world has regarded her is more than
justified by what she has done. No one can tell any great truth
about her which has not already been written, and all that I can
do is to give a few more facts about Miss Keller's work and add a
little to what is known of her personality.
Miss Keller is tall and strongly built, and has always had good
health. She seems to be more nervous than she really is, because
she expresses more with her hands than do most English-speaking
people. One reason for this habit of gesture is that her hands
have been so long her instruments of communication that they have
taken to themselves the quick shiftings of the eye, and express
some of the things that we say in a glance. All deaf people
naturally gesticulate. Indeed, at one time it was believed that
the best way for them to communicate was through systematized
gestures, the sign language invented by the Abbe de l'Epee.
When Miss Keller speaks, her face is animated and expresses all
the modes of her thought--the expressions that make the features
eloquent and give speech half its meaning. On the other hand she
does not know another's expression. When she is talking with an
intimate friend, however, her hand goes quickly to her friend's
face to see, as she says, "the twist of the mouth." In this way
she is able to get the meaning of those half sentences which we
complete unconsciously from the tone of the voice or the twinkle
of the eye.
Her memory of people is remarkable. She remembers the grasp of
fingers she has held before, all the characteristic tightening of
the muscles that makes one person's handshake different from that
The trait most characteristic, perhaps, of Miss Keller (and also
of Miss Sullivan) is humour. Skill in the use of words and her
habit of playing with them make her ready with mots and epigrams.
Some one asked her if she liked to study.
"Yes," she replied, "but I like to play also, and I feel
sometimes as if I were a music box with all the play shut up
When she met Dr. Furness, the Shakespearean scholar, he warned
her not to let the college professors tell her too many assumed
facts about the life of Shakespeare; all we know, he said, is
that Shakespeare was baptized, married, and died.
"Well," she replied, "he seems to have done all the essential
Once a friend who was learning the manual alphabet kept making
"g," which is like the hand of a sign-post, for "h," which is
made with two fingers extended. Finally Miss Keller told him to
"fire both barrels."
Mr. Joseph Jefferson was once explaining to Miss Keller what the
bumps on her head meant.
"That," he said, "is your prize-fighting bump."
"I never fight," she replied, "except against difficulties."
Miss Keller's humour is that deeper kind of humour which is
Thirteen years ago she made up her mind to learn to speak, and
she gave her teacher no rest until she was allowed to take
lessons, although wise people, even Miss Sullivan, the wisest of
them all, regarded it as an experiment unlikely to succeed and
almost sure to make her unhappy. It was this same perseverance
that made her go to college. After she had passed her
examinations and received her certificate of admission, she was
advised by the Dean of Radcliffe and others not to go on. She
accordingly delayed a year. But she was not satisfied until she
had carried out her purpose and entered college.