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The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller

 

Part II: Letters (1887 - 1901)

 

1901

- advertisements -

 

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 blind....

 

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 additional expense.

   

 

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 you.

 

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 deserves.

 

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 humanity.

 

With kind greetings, in which my teacher joins me, I am Affectionately your friend,

HELEN KELLER.

   

 

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....

 

 


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