Page images
PDF
EPUB

independence. Nor was this all ; he had succeeded in placing classical education on higher ground than any of his predecessors or contemporaries had done, and he felt proud to think that he was, in some measure, a benefactor to that college which, a few years before, he had entered in poverty, and quitted in blindness.

«The examination of candidates for admission into Columbia College, was, at that time, long and rigid, continuing for several days, and terminating in an arrangement of their names in order of merit. The older schools were not willing to yield pre-eminence to a blind competitor, and their choice scholars were therefore studiously drilled for the occasion; most of the teachers, and many anxious fathers, were in close attendance, to encourage their sons or pupils by their presence, or perhaps to become judges of the impartiality of the decision. Among these,' says Professor Mc. Vicker, Mr. Nelson might always be distinguished, the first to come, the last to go; the most anxious, and yet the most confident; his blind steps, as he entered the hall, being followed, rather than directed, by the youth who attended him, so singularly resolııte was he in all his motions.' His beloved pupil, Edmund Griffin, on this occasion triumphed over all competitors, though some of them were much his seniors, and of more than ordinary talents and attainments.”

AUTHORITY.

Blackwood's Magazine, for July, 1832.

ANECDOTES OF THE LIFE OF

MADEMOISELLE DE SALIGNAC,

A BLIND FRENCH LADY.

This distinguished individual was born in 1741, and was deprived of her sight when about three years of age. M. Diderot has given an interesting account of this accomplished young lady, and from his parrative we will give a few extracts, and allow the author to speak for himself.

“She had,” says M. Diderot," an unusual fund of good sense, the utmost mildness and sweetness of disposition, uncommon penetration, and great simplicity of character. In her dress and

person,

there

appeared a neatness, which was the more extraordinary, as not being able to see herself, she could never be sure that she had done all that was requisite to avoid disgusting others with the opposite quality. From her earliest youth it had been the study of those around her to improve her other senses to the utmost; and it is wonderful to what a degree they succeeded. By feeling, she could distinguish peculiarities which might be easily overlooked by those who had the best eyes; her hearing, and sense of smell, were also exquisite. She knew by the state of the atmosphere whether it was cloudy or serene ; whether she was in an open place or a close street; also, whether she was in the open air or in a room; or if in a room, whether it was large or small. She could calculate the size of a circumscribed space, by the sound produced by her feet or her voice. When she had once gone over a house, she so well knew the plan of it,

say, 'Take

that she was able to warn others of any darger; she would

care,

the door is too low'; or, ‘Do not forget that there is a step.' She accurately observed varieties of voices, and when once she had heard a person speak, she always knew the voice again: she was neither sensible to the charms of youth, nor shocked by the wrinkles of age, and said that she regarded nothing but the qualities of the heart and mind. She was much disposed to confide in others, and it would have been no less easy than base to have deceived her; it was an inexcusable cruelty to make her believe that she was alone in a room, when

any one was concealed there. She was not, however, subject to any kind of panic terrors; seldom did she feel ennui, for solitude had taught her to be every thing to herself. Of all the qualities of the heart and mind, a sound judgment, mildness, and cheerfulness, were those which she prized the most. She spoke little, and listened much ; 'I am like the birds,' said she, • I learn to sing in darkness.' In comparing things which she heard one day, with those that she heard another, she was shocked at the inconsistency of our opinions; and it seemed to her a matter of indifference, whether she was praised or blamed by beings so variable. She had been taught to read, by means of letters cut out. She sung with taste, having an agreeable voice; she also learned to play on the violin, and this latter was a great source of amusement to herself, by drawing about her the young people of her own age, whom she taught the dances that were most in fashion. Mademoiselle de Salignac was exceedingly beloved by all her brothers and sisters; `This,' she said, is another advantage which I deriye from my infirmity,--people are attached to me by the solicitude they feel for me, and by the efforts I make to deserve it, and be grateful for it; added to this, my brothers and sisters are not jealous of me. Indeed, I have many inducements to be good; what would become of me, if I were to lose the interest I inspire !' She was taught music by characters in relief, which were placed in raised lines, upon the surface of a large table; these characters she read with her fingers, then executed the air upon her instrument, and, after a very little study, could play a part in a concert, however long or complicated. She understood the elements of astronomy, algebra, and geometry. Her mother sometimes read to her the Abbé De Caille's book, and, on asking her whether she understood it, she replied, 'Oh, perfectly!'.Geometry,' she said, ‘is the proper science for the blind, because no assistance is wanting to carry it to perfection : the geometrician passes almost all his life with his eyes shut. I have seen the maps by which she studied geography; the parallels and meridians were of brass wire; the boundaries of kingdoms and provinces were marked out by threads of silk or of wool, more or less coarse; the rivers and mountains by pin-heads, some larger, others smaller; and the towns by drops of wax, proportioned to their size. I one day said to her, Mademoiselle, figure to yourself a cube.' 'I see it,' said she. "Imagine a point in the centre of the cube.' It is done.' 'From this point draw lines directly to the angles; you will then have divided the cube — Into six equal pyramids,' she answered,

having every one the same faces; the base of the cube, and the half of its height.' That is true, but where do you see it ?' 'In my head, as you do.' I will own that I never could conceive how she formed figures in her head without colour. She wrote with a pin, with wbich she pricked a sheet of paper, stretched upon a frame: on this were placed two moveable metal rods, having a sufficient space between them, in which to form the letters. The same mode of writing was adopted in answering her letters, which she read by passing her fingers over the inequalities made by the pin, on the reverse of the

paper. She could read a book printed only on one side, and Priault printed some in this manner for her use. The following fact appears difficult to be believed, though attested, not only by her own family, but by myself and twenty other persons still alive. In a composition of twelve or fifteen lines, if the first letter of every word was given her, with the number of letters of which each word was composed, she would find out every word, how oddly soever the composition might be put together. I made the experiment with some poems of Collè, and she even sometimes bit upon an expression much happier than that used by the poet. There was no sort of needle work that she could not execute. She made purses and bags, plain, or with fine open work, in different patterns, and with a variety of colours; garters, bracelets, and collars for the neck, with very small glass beads sewed upon them in alphabetical characters. The following conversation, in which I am the interlocutor, will shew the learness of her conceptions on the arts of drawing,

« PreviousContinue »