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The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller

 

Part II: Letters (1887 - 1901)

 

1892

 

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When the Perkins Institution closed in June, Helen and her teacher went south to Tuscumbia, where they remained until December. There is a hiatus of several months in the letters, caused by the depressing effect on Helen and Miss Sullivan of the "Frost King" episode. At the time this trouble seemed very grave and brought them much unhappiness. An analysis of the case has been made elsewhere, and Miss Keller has written her account of it.

TO  MR. ALBERT H. MUNSELL

Brewster, Mar. 10, 1892.  

 

My dear Mr. Munsell, Surely I need not tell you that your letter was very welcome. I enjoyed every word of it and wished that it was longer. I laughed when you spoke of old Neptune's wild moods. He has, in truth, behaved very strangely ever since we came to Brewster. It is evident that something has displeased his Majesty but I cannot imagine what it can be. His expression has been so turbulent that I have feared to give him your kind message. Who knows! Perhaps the Old Sea God as he lay asleep upon the shore, heard the soft music of growing things--the stir of life in the earth's bosom, and his stormy heart was angry, because he knew that his and Winter's reign was almost at an end. So together the unhappy monarch[s] fought most despairingly, thinking that gentle Spring would turn and fly at the very sight of the havoc caused by their forces. But lo! the lovely maiden only smiles more sweetly, and breathes upon the icy battlements of her enemies, and in a moment they vanish, and the glad Earth gives her a royal welcome. But I must put away these idle fancies until we meet again. Please give your dear mother my love. Teacher wishes me to say that she liked the photograph very much and she will see about having some when we return. Now, dear friend, Please accept these few words because of the love that is linked with them.

Lovingly yours

HELEN KELLER.

 

This letter was reproduced in facsimile in St. Nicholas, June, 1892. It is undated, but must have been written two or three months before it was published.

To St. Nicholas

Dear St. Nicholas:

 

It gives me very great pleasure to send you my autograph because I want the boys and girls who read St. Nicholas to know how blind children write. I suppose some of them wonder how we keep the lines so straight so I will try to tell them how it is done. We have a grooved board which we put between the pages when we wish to write. The parallel grooves correspond to lines and when we have pressed the paper into them by means of the blunt end of the pencil it is very easy to keep the words even. The small letters are all made in the grooves, while the long ones extend above and below them. We guide the pencil with the right hand, and feel carefully with the forefinger of the left hand to see that we shape and space the letters correctly. It is very difficult at first to form them plainly, but if we keep on trying it gradually becomes easier, and after a great deal of practice we can write legible letters to our friends. Then we are very, very happy. Sometime they may visit a school for the blind. If they do, I am sure they will wish to see the pupils write. Very sincerely your little friend HELEN KELLER.

 

In May, 1892, Helen gave a tea in aid of the kindergarten for the blind. It was quite her own idea, and was given in the house of Mrs. Mahlon D. Spaulding, sister of Mr. John P. Spaulding, one of Helen's kindest and most liberal friends. The tea brought more than two thousand dollars for the blind children.

 

TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY

South Boston, May 9, 1892.

 

My dear Miss Carrie:--I was much pleased to receive your kind letter. Need I tell you that I was more than delighted to hear that you are really interested in the "tea"? Of course we must not give it up. Very soon I am going far away, to my own dear home, in the sunny south, and it would always make me happy to think that the last thing which my dear friends in Boston did for my pleasure was to help make the lives of many little sightless children good and happy. I know that kind people cannot help feeling a tender sympathy for the little ones, who cannot see the beautiful light, or any of the wonderful things which give them pleasure; and it seems to me that all loving sympathy must express itself in acts of kindness; and when the friends of little helpless blind children understand that we are working for their happiness, they will come and make our "tea" a success, and I am sure I shall be the happiest little girl in all the world. Please let Bishop Brooks know our plans, so that he may arrange to be with us. I am glad Miss Eleanor is interested. Please give her my love. I will see you to-morrow and then we can make the rest of our plans. Please give your dear aunt teacher's and my love and tell her that we enjoyed our little visit very much indeed.

Lovingly yours,

HELEN KELLER.

 

TO  MR. JOHN P. SPAULDING

South Boston, May 11th, 1892.

 

My dear Mr. Spaulding:--I am afraid you will think your little friend, Helen, very troublesome when you read this letter; but I am sure you will not blame me when I tell you that I am very anxious about something. You remember teacher and I told you Sunday that I wanted to have a little tea in aid of the kindergarten. We thought everything was arranged: but we found Monday that Mrs. Elliott would not be willing to let us invite more than fifty people, because Mrs. Howe's house is quite small. I am sure that a great many people would like to come to the tea, and help me do something to brighten the lives of little blind children; but some of my friends say that I shall have to give up the idea of having a tea unless we can find another house. Teacher said yesterday, that perhaps Mrs. Spaulding would be willing to let us have her beautiful house, and [I] thought I would ask you about it. Do you think Mrs. Spaulding would help me, if I wrote to her? I shall be so disappointed if my little plans fail, because I have wanted for a long time to do something for the poor little ones who are waiting to enter the kindergarten. Please let me know what you think about the house, and try to forgive me for troubling you so much.

Lovingly your little friend,

HELEN KELLER.

 

TO MR. EDWARD H. CLEMENT

South Boston, May 18th, 1892.

 

My dear Mr. Clement:--I am going to write to you this beautiful morning because my heart is brimful of happiness and I want you and all my dear friends in the Transcript office to rejoice with me. The preparations for my tea are nearly completed, and I am looking forward joyfully to the event. I know I shall not fail. Kind people will not disappoint me, when they know that I plead for helpless little children who live in darkness and ignorance. They will come to my tea and buy light,--the beautiful light of knowledge and love for many little ones who are blind and friendless. I remember perfectly when my dear teacher came to me. Then I was like the little blind children who are waiting to enter the kindergarten. There was no light in my soul. This wonderful world with all its sunlight and beauty was hidden from me, and I had never dreamed of its loveliness. But teacher came to me and taught my little fingers to use the beautiful key that has unlocked the door of my dark prison and set my spirit free.

 

It is my earnest wish to share my happiness with others, and I ask the kind people of Boston to help me make the lives of little blind children brighter and happier.

Lovingly your little friend,

HELEN KELLER.

 

At the end of June Miss Sullivan and Helen went home to Tuscumbia.

TO MISS CAROLINE DERBY

Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 9th 1892.

 

My dear Carrie--You are to look upon it as a most positive proof of my love that I write to you to-day. For a whole week it has been "cold and dark and dreary" in Tuscumbia, and I must confess the continuous rain and dismalness of the weather fills me with gloomy thoughts and makes the writing of letters, or any pleasant employment, seem quite impossible. Nevertheless, I must tell you that we are alive,--that we reached home safely, and that we speak of you daily, and enjoy your interesting letters very much. I had a beautiful visit at Hulton. Everything was fresh and spring-like, and we stayed out of doors all day. We even ate our breakfast out on the piazza. Sometimes we sat in the hammock, and teacher read to me. I rode horseback nearly every evening and once I rode five miles at a fast gallop. O, it was great fun! Do you like to ride? I have a very pretty little cart now, and if it ever stops raining teacher and I are going to drive every evening. And I have another beautiful Mastiff- the largest one I ever saw--and he will go along to protect us. His name is Eumer. A queer name, is it not? I think it is Saxon. We expect to go to the mountains next week. My little brother, Phillips, is not well, and we think the clear mountain air will benefit him. Mildred is a sweet little sister and I am sure you would love her. I thank you very much for your photograph. I like to have my friends' pictures even though I cannot see them. I was greatly amused at the idea of your writing the square hand. I do not write on a Braille tablet, as you suppose, but on a grooved board like the piece which I enclose. You could not read Braille; for it is written in dots, not at all like ordinary letters. Please give my love to Miss Derby and tell her that I hope she gave my sweetest love to Baby Ruth. What was the book you sent me for my birthday? I received several, and I do not know which was from you. I had one gift which especially pleased me. It was a lovely cape crocheted, for me, by an old gentleman, seventy-five years of age. And every stitch, he writes, represents a kind wish for my health and happiness. Tell your little cousins I think they had better get upon the fence with me until after the election; for there are so many parties and candidates that I doubt if such youthful politicians would make a wise selection. Please give my love to Rosy when you write, and believe me,

Your loving friend

HELEN KELLER.

P.S. How do you like this type-written letter?

H. K.

 

TO  MRS. GROVER CLEVELAND

My dear Mrs. Cleveland,

 

I am going to write you a little letter this beautiful morning because I love you and dear little Ruth very much indeed, and also because I wish to thank you for the loving message which you sent me through Miss Derby. I am glad, very glad that such a kind, beautiful lady loves me. I have loved you for a long time, but I did not think you had ever heard of me until your sweet message came. Please kiss your dear little baby for me, and tell her I have a little brother nearly sixteen months old. His name is Phillips Brooks. I named him myself after my dear friend Phillips Brooks. I send you with this letter a pretty book which my teacher thinks will interest you, and my picture. Please accept them with the love and good wishes of your friend,

HELEN KELLER.

Tuscumbia, Alabama.

November fourth. [1892.]

 

Hitherto the letters have been given in full; from this point on passages are omitted and the omissions are indicated.

 

TO MR. JOHN HITZ

Tuscumbia, Alabama, Dec. 19, 1892.

 

My Dear Mr. Hitz,

I hardly know how to begin a letter to you, it has been such a long time since your kind letter reached me, and there is so much that I would like to write if I could. You must have wondered why your letter has not had an answer, and perhaps you have thought Teacher and me very naughty indeed. If so, you will be very sorry when I tell you something. Teacher's eyes have been hurting her so that she could not write to any one, and I have been trying to fulfil a promise which I made last summer. Before I left Boston, I was asked to write a sketch of my life for the Youth's Companion. I had intended to write the sketch during my vacation: but I was not well, and I did not feel able to write even to my friends. But when the bright, pleasant autumn days came, and I felt strong again I began to think about the sketch. It was some time before I could plan it to suit me. You see, it is not very pleasant to write all about one's self. At last, however, I got something bit by bit that Teacher thought would do, and I set about putting the scraps together, which was not an easy task: for, although I worked some on it every day, I did not finish it until a week ago Saturday. I sent the sketch to the Companion as soon as it was finished; but I do not know that they will accept it. Since then, I have not been well, and I have been obliged to keep very quiet, and rest; but to-day I am better, and to-morrow I shall be well again, I hope.

 

The reports which you have read in the paper about me are not true at all. We received the Silent Worker which you sent, and I wrote right away to the editor to tell him that it was a mistake. Sometimes I am not well; but I am not a "wreck," and there is nothing "distressing" about my condition.

 

I enjoyed your dear letter so much! I am always delighted when anyone writes me a beautiful thought which I can treasure in my memory forever. It is because my books are full of the riches of which Mr. Ruskin speaks that I love them so dearly. I did not realize until I began to write the sketch for the Companion, what precious companions books have been to me, and how blessed even my life has been: and now I am happier than ever because I do realize the happiness that has come to me. I hope you will write to me as often as you can. Teacher and I are always delighted to hear from you. I want to write to Mr. Bell and send him my picture. I suppose he has been too busy to write to his little friend. I often think of the pleasant time we had all together in Boston last spring.

 

Now I am going to tell you a secret. I think we, Teacher, and my father and little sister, and myself, will visit Washington next March!!! Then I shall see you, and dear Mr. Bell, and Elsie and Daisy again! Would not it be lovely if Mrs. Pratt could meet us there? I think I will write to her and tell her the secret too....

Lovingly your little friend,

 

HELEN KELLER.

P.S. Teacher says you want to know what kind of a pet I would like to have. I love all living things,--I suppose everyone does; but of course I cannot have a menagerie. I have a beautiful pony, and a large dog. And I would like a little dog to hold in my lap, or a big pussy (there are no fine cats in Tuscumbia) or a parrot. I would like to feel a parrot talk, it would be so much fun! but I would be pleased with, and love any little creature you send me.

H. K.  

 


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