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The Story of My Life 

NEV, , NY 10011 

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in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation 

Photograph by Folk, l8gS 





HER LETTERS (1887—1901) 



By John Albert Macy 




Copyright 1904, by 
The Century Company 

Copyright, 1902, 1903, 1905 by 
Helen Kelicr 



XXTHO has taught the deaf to speak 

and enabled the listening ear to hear 

speech from the Atlantic to the ^ockies^ 

1 DeDkate 

this Story of My Life. 


THIS book is in three parts. The first two, Miss Keller's 
story and the extracts from her letters, form a com- 
plete account of her life as far as she can give it. Much 
of her education she cannot explain herself, and since a knowl- 
edge of that is necessary to an understanding of what she has 
written, it was thought best to supplement her autobiography 
with the reports and letters of her teacher, Miss Anne Mansfield 
Sullivan. The addition of a further account of Miss Keller's 
personality and achievements may be unnecessary; yet it will 
help to make clear some of the traits of her character and the 
nature of the work which she and her teacher have done. 

For the third part of the book the Editor is reponsible, though 
all that is valid in it he owes to authentic records and to the 
advice of Miss Sullivan. 

The Editor desires to express his gratitude and the gratitude 
of Miss Keller and Miss Sullivan to The Ladies' Home Journal 
and to its editors, Mr. Edward Bok and Mr. William V. 
Alexander, who have been unfailingly kind and have given for 
use in this book all the photographs which were taken expressly 
for the Journal; and the Editor thanks Miss Keller's many 
friends who have lent him her letters to them and given him valu- 
able information; especially Mrs. Laurence Hutton, who supplied 
him with her large collection of notes and anecdotes ; Mr. John 
Hitz, Superintendent of the Volta Bureau for the Increase and 
Diffusion of Knowledge relating to the Deaf; and Mrs. Sophia 
C. Hopkins, to whom Miss Sullivan wrote those illuminating 
letters, the extracts from which give a better idea of her methods 
with her pupil than anything heretofore published. 

Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin and Company have courteously 
permitted the reprinting of Miss Keller's letter to Dr. Holmes, 
which appeared in "Over the Teacups," and one of Whittier's 
letters to Miss Keller. Mr. S. T. Pickard, Whittier's literary 
executor, kindly sent the original of another letter from Miss 
Keller to Whittier. 

John Albert Macy. 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, February i, 1903, 



Editor's Preface VII 




Chapters I— XXIII 3 



Introduction to Letters ...... 143 

Letters . . 145 




I. The Writing of the Book . . . .283 

II. Personality 286 

III. Education 297 

IV. Speech 384 

V. Literary Style 394 

Index j 433 


Helen Keller and Miss Sullivan 







Ivy Green," the Keller Homestead . 
(Showing also the small house where Helen Kel'er was born) 

Helen Keller at the Age of Seven 
Helen Keller and Jumbo ..... 
Miss Keller and Dr. Alexander Graham Bell 
Miss Keller at Work in Her Study 

Miss Keller and " Phiz " 

Miss Keller, Miss Sullivan and Mr. Joseph Jefferson 130 
Miss Keller, Miss Sullivan and Dr. Edward Everett 

Hale 136 

. 138 

. 250 

. 258 

. 292 

• 396 

Miss Keller and " Mark Twain " 

The Vibrations of the Piano 

Helen Keller in 1904 

Reading Raised Print . 

Mr. John Hitz Reading to M«so Keller 




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Facsimile of the braille manuscript of the passage on page 24, with equivalents 
— slightly reduced. (Underlined combinations of letters have one sign in braille. 
Note the omission of the vowels before "r" in "learn," and the joining of the sign for 
"to" with the word that follows it.) 




IT is with a kind of fear that I begin to write 
the history of my life. I have, as it were, 
a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil 
that clings about my childhood like a golden mist. 
The task of writing an autobiography is a difficult 
one. When I try to classify my earliest impressions, 
I find that fact and fancy look alike across the years 
that link the past with the present. The woman 
paints the child's experiences in her own fantasy. A 
few impressions stand out vividly from the first 
years of my life; but "the shadows of the prison- 
house are on the rest." Besides, many of the joys 
and sorrows of childhood have lost their poignancy ; 
and many incidents of vital importance in my early 
education have been forgotten in the excitement of 
great discoveries. In order, therefore, not to be 
tedious I shall try to present in a series of sketches 
only the episodes that seem to me to be the most 
interesting and important. 

I was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, a 
little town of northern Alabama. 

The family on my father's side is descended from 
Caspar Keller, a native of Switzerland, who settled 
in Maryland. One of my Swiss ancestors was the 
first teacher of the deaf in Zurich and wrote a book 
on the subject of their education — rather a singular 


coincidence; though it is true that there is no king 
who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and 
no slave who has not had a king among his. 

My grandfather, Caspar Keller's son, "entered" 
large tracts of land in Alabama and finally settled 
there. I have been told that once a year he went 
from Tuscumbia to Philadelphia on horseback to 
purchase supplies for the plantation, and my aunt 
has in her possession many of the letters to his 
family, which give charming and vivid accounts of 
these trips. 

My Grandmother Keller was a daughter of one 
of Lafayette's aides, Alexander Moore, and grand- 
daughter of Alexander Spotswood, an early Colonial 
Governor of Virginia. She was also second cousin 
to Robert E. Lee. 

My father, Arthur H. Keller, was a captain in the 
Confederate Army, and my mother, Kate Adams, 
was his second wife and many years younger. Her 
grandfather, Benjamin Adams, married Susanna E. 
Goodhue, and lived in Newbury, Massachusetts, for 
many years. Their son, Charles Adams, was born in 
Newburyport, Massachusetts, and moved to Helena, 
Arkansas. When the Civil War broke out, he fought 
on the side of the South and became a brigadier- 
general. He married Lucy Helen Everett, who 
belonged to the same family of Everetts as Edward 
Everett and Dr. Edward Everett Hale. After 
the war was over the family moved to Memphis, 

I lived, up to the time of the illness that deprived 
me of my sight and hearing, in a tiny house consist- 
ing of a large square room and a small one, in which 
the servant slept. It is a custom in the South to 



build a small house near the homestead as an annex 
to be used on occasion. Such a house my father 
built after the Civil War, and when he married my 
mother they went to live in it. It was completely 
covered with vines, climbing roses and honeysuckles. 
From the garden it looked like an arbour. The little 
porch was hidden from view by a screen of yellow 
roses and Southern smilax. It was the favourite 
haunt of humming-birds and bees. 

The Keller homestead, where the family lived, 
was a few steps from our little rose-bower. It was 
called " Ivy Green" because the house and the sur- 
rounding trees and fences were covered with 
beautiful English ivy. Its old-fashioned garden 
was the paradise of my childhood. 

Even in the days before my teacher came, I used 
to feel along the square stiff boxwood hedges, and, 
guided by the sense of smell, would find the first 
violets and lilies. There, too, after a fit of temper, I 
went to find comfort and to hide my hot face in the 
cool leaves and grass. What joy it was to lose 
myself in that garden of flowers, to wander happily 
from spot to spot, until, coming suddenly upon a 
beautiful vine, I recognized it by its leaves and 
blossoms, and knew it was the vine which covered 
the tumble-down summer-house at the farther end 
of the garden ! Here, also, were trailing clematis, 
drooping jessamine, and some rare sweet flowers 
called butterfly lilies, because their fragile petals 
resemble butterflies' wings. But the roses — they 
were loveliest of all. Never have I found in the 
greenhouses of the North such heart-satisfying roses 
as the climbing roses of my southern home. They 
used to hang in long festoons from our porch, filling 


the whole air with their fragrance, untainted by any 
earthy smell; and in the early morning, washed in 
the dew, they felt so soft, so pure, I could not help 
wondering if they did not resemble the asphodels of 
God's garden. 

The beginning of my life was simple and much 
like every other little life. I came, I saw, I con- 
quered, as the first baby in the family always does. 
There was the usual amount of discussion as to a 
name for me. The first baby in the family was not 
to be lightly named, every one was emphatic about 
that. My father suggested the name of Mildred 
Campbell, an ancestor whom he highly esteemed, 
and he declined to take any further part in the dis- 
cussion. My mother solved the problem by giving 
it as her wish that I should be called after her mother, 
whose maiden name was Helen Everett. But in the 
excitement of carrying me to church my father 
lost the name on the way, very naturally, since it 
was one in which he had declined to have a part. 
When the minister asked him for it, he just remem- 
bered that it had been decided to call me after my 
grandmother, and he gave her name as Helen 

I am told that while I was still in long dresses 
I showed many signs of an eager, self-asserting 
disposition. Everything that I saw other people do 
I insisted upon imitating. At six months I could 
pipe out " How d'ye, " and one day I attracted every 
one's attention by saying "Tea, tea, tea" quite 
plainly. Even after my illness I remembered one of 
the words I had learned in these early months. It 
was the word "water," and I continued to make 
some sound for that word after all other speech was 


lost. I ceased making the sound "wah-wah" only 
when I learned to spell the word. 

They tell me I walked the day I was a year old. 
My mother had just taken me out of the bath-tub 
and was holding me in her lap, when I was suddenly 
attracted by the flickering shadows of leaves that 
danced in the sunlight on the smooth floor. I 
slipped from my mother's lap and almost ran toward 
them. The impulse gone, I fell down and cried 
for her to take me up in her arms. 

These happy days did not last long. One brief 
spring, musical with the song of robin and mocking- 
bird, one summer rich in fruit and roses, one autumn 
of gold and crimson sped by and left their gifts at 
the feet of an eager, delighted child. Then, in the 
dreary month of February, came the illness which 
closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the 
unconsciousness of a new-born baby. They called 
it acute congestion of the stomach and brain. The 
doctor thought I could not live. Early one morning, 
however, the fever left me as suddenly and mysteri- 
ously as it had come. There was great rejoicing in 
the family that morning, but no one, not even the 
doctor, knew that I should never see or hear again. 

I fancy I still have confused recollections of that 
illness. I especially remember the tenderness with 
which my mother tried to soothe me in my waking 
hours of fret and pain, and the agony and bewilder- 
ment with which I awoke after a tossing half sleep, 
and turned my eyes, so dry and hot, to the wall, 
away from the once-loved light, which came to me 
dim and yet more dim each day. But, except for 
these fleeting memories, if, indeed, they be memories, 
it all seems very unreal, like a nightmare. Gradual}* 


I got used to the silence and darkness that surrounded 
me and forgot that it had ever been different, until 
she came — my teacher — who was to set my spirit 
free. But during the first nineteen months of my 
life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, 
a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the dark- 
ness that followed could not wholly blot out. If 
we have once seen, "the day is ours, and what the 
day has shown." 


/ cannot recall what happened during the first 
tenths after my illness. I only know that I sat in 
my mother's lap or clung to her dress as she went 
about her household duties. My hands felt every 
object and observed every motion, and in this way I 
learned to know many things. Soon I felt the need 
of some communication with others and began to 
make crude signs. A shake of the head meant " No' ' 
and a nod, " Yes, " a pull meant " Come " and a push, 
" Go. " Was it bread that I wanted ? Then I would 
imitate the acts of cutting the slices and buttering 
them. If I wanted my mother to make ice-cream 
for dinner I made the sign for working the freezer 
and shivered, indicating cold. My mother, more- 
over, succeeded in making me understand a good 
deal. I always knew when she wished me to bring 
her something, and I would run upstairs or any- 
where else she indicated. Indeed, I owe to her 
loving wisdom all that was bright and good in my 
long night. 

I understood a good deal of what was going on 
about me. At five I learned to fold and put away 
the clean clothes when they were brought in from 
the laundry, and I distinguished my own from the 
rest. I knew by the way my mother and aunt 
dressed when they were going out, and I invariably 
begged to go with them. I was always sent for 
when there was company, and when the guests took 


their leave, I waved my hand to them, I think with 
a vague remembrance of the meaning of the gesture. 
One day some gentlemen called on my mother, and 
I felt the shutting of the front door and other sounds 
that indicated their arrival. On a sudden thought 
I ran upstairs before any one could stop me, to put 
on my idea of a company dress. Standing before 
the mirror, as I had seen others do, I anointed mine 
head with oil and covered my face thickly with 
powder. Then I pinned a veil over my head so 
that it covered my face and fell in folds down to my 
shoulders, and tied an enormous bustle round my 
small waist, so that it dangled behind, almost 
meeting the hem of my skirt. Thus attired I went 
down to help entertain the company. 

I do not remember when I first realized that I was 
different from other people ; but I knew it before my 
teacher came to me. I had noticed that my mother 
and my friends did not use signs as I did when they 
wanted anything done, but talked with their mouths. 
Sometimes I stood between two persons who were 
conversing and touched their lips. I could not 
understand, and was vexed. I moved my lips and 
gesticulated frantically without result. This made 
me so angry at times that I kicked and screamed 
until I was exhausted. 

I think I knew when I was naughty, for I knew 
that it hurt Ella, my nurse, to kick her, and when 
my fit of temper was over I had a feeling akin to 
regret. But I cannot remember any instance in 
which this feeling prevented me from repeating 
the naughtiness when I failed to get what I wanted. 

In those days a little coloured girl, Martha Wash- 
ington, the child of our cook, and Belle, an old setter 


and a great hunter in her day, were my constant 
companions. Martha Washington understood my 
signs, and I seldom had any difficulty in making her 
do just as I wished. It pleased me to domineer over 
her, and she generally submitted to my tyranny 
rather than risk a hand-to-hand encounter. I was 
strong, active, indifferent to consequences. I knew 
my own mind well enough and always had my own 
way, even if I had to fight tooth and nail for it. We 
spent a great deal of time in the kitchen, kneading 
dough balls, helping make ice-cream, grinding coffee, 
quarreling over the cake-bowl, and feeding the hens 
and turkeys that swarmed about the kitchen steps. 
Many of them were so tame that they would eat 
from my hand and let me feel them. One big 
gobbler snatched a tomato from me one day and 
ran away with it. Inspired, perhaps, by Master 
Gobbler's success, we carried off to the woodpile a 
cake which the cook had just frosted, and ate every 
bit of it. I was quite ill afterward, and I wonder 
if retribution also overtook the turkey. 

The guinea-fowl likes to hide her nest in out-of- 
the-way places, and it was one of my greatest 
delights to hunt for the eggs in the long grass. I 
could not tell Martha Washington when I wanted 
to go egg-hunting, but I would double my hands 
and put them on the ground, which meant some- 
thing round in the grass, and Martha always under- 
stood. When we were fortunate enough to find a 
nest I never allowed her to carry the eggs home, 
making her understand by emphatic signs that she 
might fall and break them. 

The sheds where the corn was stored, the stable 
where the horses were kept, and the yard where the 


cows were milked morning and evening were unfail- 
ing sources of interest to Martha and me. The 
milkers would let me keep my hands on the cows 
while they milked, and I often got well switched by 
the cow for my curiosity. 

The making ready for Christmas was always a 
delight to me. Of course I did not know what it 
was all about, but I enjoyed the pleasant odours 
that filled the house and the tidbits that were given 
to Martha Washington and me to keep us quiet. 
We were sadly in the way, but that did not interfere 
with our pleasure in the least. They allowed us to 
grind the spices, pick over the raisins and lick the 
stirring spoons. I hung my stocking because the 
others did; I cannot remember, however, that the 
ceremony interested me especially, nor did my 
curiosity cause me to wake before daylight to look 
for my gifts. 

Martha Washington had as great a love of mischief 
as I. Two little children were seated on the veranda 
steps one hot July afternoon. One was black as 
ebony, with little bunches of fuzzy hair tied with 
shoestrings sticking out all over her head like cork- 
screws. The other was white, with long golden 
curls. One child was six years old, the other two or 
three years older. The younger child was blind — 
that was I— and the other was Martha Washington. 
We were busy cutting out paper dolls ; but we soon 
wearied of this amusement, and after cutting up 
our shoestrings and clipping all the leaves off the 
honeysuckle that were within reach, I turned my 
attention to Martha's corkscrews. She objected at 
first, but finally submitted. Thinking that turn 
and turn about is fair play, she seized the scissors 


and cut off one of my curls, and would have cut them 
all off but for my mother's timely interference. 

Belle, our dog, my other companion, was old and 
lazy and liked to sleep by the open fire rather than 
to romp with me. I tried hard to teach her my sign 
language, but she was dull and inattentive. She 
sometimes started and quivered with excitement, 
then she became perfectly rigid, as dogs do when 
they point a bird. I did not then know why 
Belle acted in this way; but I knew she was not 
doing as I wished. This vexed me and the lesson 
always ended in a one-sided boxing match. Belle 
would get up, stretch herself lazily, give one or two 
contemptuous sniffs, go to the opposite side of the 
hearth and lie down again, and I, wearied and 
disappointed, went off in search of Martha. 

Many incidents of those early years are fixed in 
my memory, isolated, but clear and distinct, making 
the sense of that silent, aimless, dayless life all the 
more intense. 

One day I happened to spill water on my apron, 
and I spread it out to dry before the fire which was 
flickering on the sitting-room hearth. The apron 
did not dry quickly enough to suit me, so I drew 
nearer and threw it right over the hot ashes. The 
fire leaped into life ; the flames encircled me so that 
in a moment my clothes were blazing. I made a 
terrified noise that brought Viny, my old nurse, 
to the rescue. Throwing a blanket over me, she 
almost suffocated me, but she put out the fire. 
Except for my hands and hair I was not badly 

About this time I found out the use of a key. 
One morning I locked my mother up in the pantry, 


where she was obliged to remain three hours, as the 

servants were in a detached part of the house. She 
kept pounding on the door, while I sat outside on 
the porch steps and laughed with glee as I felt the 
jar of the pounding. This most naughty prank of 
mine convinced my parents that I must be taught 
as soon as possible. After my teacher, Miss Sullivan, 
came to me, I sought an early opportunity to lock 
her in her room. I went upstairs with something 
which my mother made me understand I was to 
give to Miss Sullivan ; but no sooner had I given it to 
her than I slammed the door to, locked it, and hid 
the key under the wardrobe in the hall. I could not 
be induced to tell where the key was. My father 
was obliged to get a ladder and take Miss Sullivan 
out through the window — much to my delight. 
Months after I produced the key. 

When I was about five years old we moved from 
the little vine-covered house to a large new one. 
The family consisted of my father and mother, two 
older half-brothers, and, afterward, a little sister, 
Mildred. My earliest distinct recollection of my 
father is making my way through great drifts 
of newspapers to his side and finding him alone, 
holding a sheet of paper before his face. I was 
greatly puzzled to know what he was doing. I 
imitated this action, even wearing his spectacles, 
thinking they might help solve the mystery. But I 
did not find out the secret for several years. Then 
I learned what those papers were, and that my 
father edited one of them. 

My father was most loving and indulgent, devoted 
to his home, seldom leaving us, except in the hunting 
season. He was a great hunter, I have been told, 


and a celebrated shot. Next to his family he loved 
his dogs and gun. His hospitality was great, almost 
to a fault, and he seldom came home without bring- 
ing a guest. His special pride was the big garden 
where, it was said, he raised the finest watermelons 
and strawberries in the county ; and to me he brought 
the first ripe grapes and the choicest berries. I 
remember his caressing touch as he led me from tree 
to tree, from vine to vine, and his eager delight in 
whatever pleased me. 

He was a famous story-teller ; after I had acquired 
language he used to spell clumsily into my hand 
his cleverest anecdotes, and nothing pleased him 
more than to have me repeat them at an opportune 

I was in the North, enjoying the last beautiful 
days of the summer of 1896, when I heard the news of 
my father's death. He had had a short illness, there 
had been a brief time of acute suffering, then all was 
over. This was my first great sorrow — my first 
personal experience with death. 

How shall I write of my mother ? She is so near 
to me that it almost seems indelicate to speak of her. 

For a long time I regarded my little sister as an 
intruder. I knew that I had ceased to be my 
mother's only darling, and the thought filled me with 
jealousy. She sat in my mother's lap constantly, 
where I used to sit, and seemed to take up all her 
care and time. One day something happened which 
seemed to me to be adding insult to injury. 

At that time I had a much-petted, much-abused 
doll, which I afterward named Nancy. She was, 
alas, the helpless victim of my outbursts of temper 
and of affection, so that she became much the won e 


for wear. I had dolls which talked, and cried, and 
opened and shut their eyes ; yet I never loved one of 
them as I loved poor Nancy. She had a cradle, and 
I often spent an hour or more rocking her. I 
guarded both doll and cradle with the most jealous 
care; but once I discovered my little sister sleeping 
peacefully in the cradle. At this presumption on 
the part of one to whom as yet no tie of love bound 
me I grew angry. I rushed upon the cradle and 
overturned it, and the baby might have been killed 
had my mother not caught her as she fell. Thus it 
is that when we walk in the valley of twofold solitude 
we know little of the tender affections that grow out 
of endearing words and actions and companionship. 
But afterward, when I was restored to my human 
heritage, Mildred and I grew into each other's hearts, 
so that we were content to go hand-in-hand wherever 
caprice led us, although she could not understand 
my finger language, nor I her childish prattle. 


Meanwhile the desire to express myself grew. 
The few signs I used became less and less adequate, 
and my failures to make myself understood were in- 
variably followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if 
invisible hands were holding me, and I made frantic 
efforts to free myself. I struggled — not that strug- 
gling helped matters, but the spirit of resistance was 
strong within me ; I generally broke down in tears and 
physical exhaustion. If my mother happened to be 
near I crept into her arms, too miserable even to 
remember the cause of the tempest. After awhile 
the need of some means of communication became 
so urgent that these outbursts occurred daily, some- 
times hourly. 

My parents were deeply grieved and perplexed. 
We lived a long way from any school for the blind 
or the deaf, and it seemed unlikely that any one 
would come to such an out-of-the-way place as 
Tuscumbia to teach a child who was both deaf and 
blind. Indeed, my friends and relatives sometimes 
doubted whether I could be taught. My mother's 
only ray of hope came from Dickens's "American 
Notes." She had read his account of Laura Bridg- 
man, and remembered vaguely that she was deaf 
and blind, yet had been educated. But she also 
remembered with a hopeless pang that Dr. Howe, 
who had discovered the way to teach the deaf and 
blind, had been dead many years. His methods had 



probably died with him ; and if they had not, how 
was a little girl in a far-off town in Alabama to receive 
the benefit of them ? 

When I was about six years old, my father heard 
of an eminent oculist in Baltimore, who had been 
successful in many cases that had seemed hopeless. 
My parents at once determined to take me to 
Baltimore to see if anything could be done for 
my eyes. 

The journey, which I remember well, was very 
pleasant. I made friends with many people on the 
train. One lady gave me a box of shells. My father 
made holes in these so that I could string them, and 
for a long time they kept me happy and contented. 
The conductor, too, was kind. Often when he went 
his rounds I clung to his coat tails while he collected 
and punched the tickets. His punch, with which 
he let me play, was a delightful toy. Curled up in 
a corner of the seat I amused myself for hours 
making funny little holes in bits of cardboard. 

My aunt made me a big doll out of towels. It was 
the most comical, shapeless thing, this improvised 
doll, with no nose, mouth, ears or eyes — nothing 
that even the imagination of a child could convert 
into a face. Curiously enough, the absence of eyes 
struck me more than all the other defects put 
together. I pointed this out to everybody with 
provoking persistency, but no one seemed equal to 
the task of providing the doll with eyes. A bright 
idea, however, shot into my mind, and the problem 
was solved. I tumbled off the seat and searched 
under it until I found my aunt's cape, which was 
trimmed with large beads. I pulled two beads off 
and indicated to her that I wanted her to sew them 


on my doll. She raised my hand to her eyes in a 
questioning way, and I nodded energetically. The 
beads were sewed in the right place and I could not 
contain myself for joy; but immediately I lost all 
interest in the doll. During the whole trip I did not 
have one fit of temper, there were so many things 
to keep my mind and ringers busy. 

When we arrived in Baltimore, Dr. Chisholm 
received us kindly : but he could do nothing. He said; 
however, that I could be educated, and advised my 
father to consult Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, of 
Washington, who would be able to give him infor- 
mation about schools and teachers of deaf or blind 
children. Acting on the doctor's advice, we went 
immediately to Washington to see Dr. Bell, my 
father with a sad heart and many misgivings, I 
wholly unconscious of his anguish, finding pleasure 
in the excitement of moving from place to place. 
Child as I was, I at once felt the tenderness and 
sympathy which endeared Dr. Bell to so many 
hearts, as his wonderful achievements enlist their 
admiration. He held me on his knee while 
I examined his watch, and he made it strike 
for me. He understood my signs, and I knew it 
and loved him at once. But I did not dream that 
that interview would be the door through which I 
should pass from darkness into light, from isolation 
to friendship, companionship, knowledge, love. 

Dr. Bell advised my father to write to Mr. 
Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institution in 
Boston, the scene of Dr. Howe's great labours 
for the blind, and ask him if he had a teacher com- 
petent to begin my education. This my father did 
at once, and in a few weeks there came a kind letter 


from Mr. Anagnos with the comforting assurance 
that a teacher had been found. This was in the 
summer of 1886. But Miss Sullivan did not arrive 
until the following March. 

Thus I came up out of Egypt and stood before 
Sinai, and a power divine touched my spirit and 
gave it sight, so that I beheld many wonders. And 
from the sacred mountain I heard a voice which 
said, " Knowledge is love and light and vision. " 


The most important day I remember in all my 
life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield 
Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when 
I consider the immeasurable contrast between the 
two lives which it connects. It was the third of 
March, 1887, three months before I was seven years 

On the afternoon of that eventful day, I stood 
on the porch, dumb, expectant. I guessed vaguely 
from my mother's signs and from the hurrying to and 
fro in the house that something unusual was about 
to happen, so I went to the door and waited on the 
steps. The afternoon sun penetrated the mass of 
honeysuckle that covered the porch, and fell on my 
upturned face. My fingers lingered almost uncon- 
sciously on the familiar leaves and blossoms which 
had just come forth to greet the sweet southern 
spring. I did not know what the future held of 
marvel or surprise for me. Anger and bitterness 
had preyed upon me continually for weeks and a 
deep languor had succeeded this passionate struggle. 

Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it 
seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, 
and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her 
way toward the shore with plummet and sounding- 
line, and you waited with beating heart for some- 
thing to happen? I was like that ship before my 
education began, only I was without compass or 



sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near 
the harbour was. " Light ! give me light ! " was the 
wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone 
on me in that very hour. 

I felt approaching footsteps. I stretched out my 
hand as I supposed to my mother. Some one took 
it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of 
her who had come to reveal all things to me, and, 
more than all things else, to love me. 

The morning after my teacher came she led me 
into her room and gave me a doll. The little 
blind children at the Perkins Institution, had sent 
it and Laura Bridgman had dressed it ; but I did 
not know this until afterward. When I had played 
with it a little while, Miss Sullivan slowly spelled into 
my hand the word "d-o-1-1. " I was at once inter- 
ested in this finger play and tried to imitate it. 
When I finally succeeded in making the letters 
correctly I was flushed with childish pleasure and 
pride. Running downstairs to my mother I held up 
my hand and made the letters for doll. I did not 
know that I was spelling a word or even that words 
existed; I was simply making my fingers go in 
monkey-like imitation. In the days that followed 
I learned to spell in this uncomprehending way a 
great many words, among them pin, hat, cup and 
a few verbs like sit, stand and walk. But my 
teacher had been with me several weeks before I 
understood that everything has a name. 

One day, while I was playing with my new doll, 
Miss Sullivan put my big rag doll into my lap also, 
spelled "d-o-1-1" and tried to make me understand 
that "d-o-1-1" applied to both. Earlier in the day 
we had had a tussle over the words "m-u-g" and 

Photograph by Deane, i83r 


" w-a-t-e-r. " Miss Sullivan had tried to impress 
it upon me that "m-u-g" is mug and that 
"w-a-t-e-r" is water, but I persisted in confound- 
ing the two. In despair she had dropped the 
subject for the time, only to renew it at the first 
opportunity. I became impatient at her repeated 
attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon 
the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the 
fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither 
sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. 
I had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in 
which I lived there was no strong sentiment or 
tenderness. I felt my teacher sweep the fragments 
to one side of the hearth, and I had a sense of satis- 
faction that the cause of my discomfort was removed. 
She brought me my hat, and I knew I was going out 
into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless 
sensation may be called a thought, made me hop 
and skip with pleasure. 

We walked down the path to the well-house, 
attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with 
which it was covered. Some one was drawing water 
and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. 
As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled 
into the other the word water, first slowly, then 
rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed 
upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a 
misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a 
thrill of returning thought; and somehow the 
mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew 
then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool 
something that was flowing over my hand. That 
living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, 
joy, set it free ! There were barriers still, it 


is true, but barriers that could in time be swept 

I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything 
had a name, and each name gave birth to a new 
thought. As we returned to the house every object 
which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That 
was because I saw everything with the strange, new 
sight that had come to me. On entering the door 
I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way 
to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried 
vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled 
with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for 
the first time I felt repentance and sorrow. 

I learned a great many new words that day. I do 
not remember what they all were; but I do know 
that mother, father, sister, teacher were among 
them — words that were to make the world blos- 
som for me, "like Aaron's rod, with flowers." It 
would have been difficult to find a happier child than 
I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful 
day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and 
for the first time longed for a new day to come. 

♦See Miss Sullivan's letter, page 316. 


I recall many incidents of the summer of 
1887 that followed my soul's sudden awaken- 
ing. I did nothing but explore with my hands 
and learn the name of every object that I touched ; 
and the more I handled things and learned their 
names and uses, the more joyous and confident 
grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world. 

When the time of daisies and buttercups came 
Miss Sullivan took me by the hand across the fields, 
where men were preparing the earth for the seed, to 
the banks of the Tennessee River, and there, sitting 
on the warm grass, I had my first lessons in the 
beneficence of nature. I learned how the sun and 
the rain make to grow out of the ground every tree 
that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, how 
birds build their nests and live and thrive from land 
to land, how the squirrel, the deer, the Hon and 
every other creature finds food and shelter. As my 
knowledge of things grew I felt more and more the 
delight of the world I was in. Long before I learned 
to do a sum in arithmetic or describe the shape of 
the earth, Miss Sullivan had taught me to find 
beauty in the fragrant woods, in every blade of grass, 
and in the curves and dimples of my baby sister's 
hand. She linked my earliest thoughts with nature, 
and made me feel that " birds and flowers and I were 
happy peers." 

But about this time I had an experience which 


taught me that nature is not always kind. One 
day my teacher and I were returning from a long 
ramble. The morning had been fine, but it was 
growing warm and sultry when at last we turned our 
faces homeward. Two or three times we stopped to 
rest under a tree by the wayside. Our last halt was 
under a wild cherry tree a short distance from the 
house. The shade was grateful, and the tree was 
so easy to climb that with my teacher's assistance 
I was able to scramble to a seat in the branches. It 
was so cool up in the tree that Miss Sullivan proposed 
that we have our luncheon there. I promised to 
keep still while she went to the house to fetch it. 

Suddenly a change passed over the tree. All the 
sun's warmth left the air. I knew the sky was 
black, because all the heat, which meant light to 
me, had died out of the atmosphere. A strange 
odour came up from the earth. I knew it, it was the 
odour that always precedes a thunderstorm, and a 
nameless fear clutched at my heart. I felt abso- 
lutely alone, cut off from my friends and the firm 
earth. The immense, the unknown, enfolded me. 
I remained still and expectant; a chilling terror 
crept over me. I longed for my teacher's return; 
but above all things I wanted to get down from 
that tree. 

There was a moment of sinister silence, then a 
multitudinous stirring of the leaves. A shiver ran 
through the tree, and the wind sent forth a blast that 
would have knocked me off had I not clung to the 
branch with might and main. The tree swayed and 
strained. The small twigs snapped and fell about 
me in showers. A wild impulse to jump seized me, 
but terror held me fast. I crouched down in the 


fork of the tree. The branches lashed about me. I 
felt the intermittent jarring that came now and then, 
as if something heavy had fallen and the shock had 
traveled up till it reached the limb I sat on. It 
worked my suspense up to the highest point, and 
just as I was thinking the tree and I should fall 
together, my teacher seized my hand and helped 
me down. I clung to her, trembling with joy to feel 
the earth under my feet once more. I had learned 
a new lesson — that nature ' ' wages open war 
against her children, and under softest touch hides 
treacherous claws." 

After this experience it was a long time before I 
climbed another tree. The mere thought filled me 
with terror. It was the sweet allurement of the 
mimosa tree in full bloom that finally overcame my 
fears. One beautiful spring morning when I was 
alone in the summer-house, reading, I became 
aware of a wonderful subtle fragrance in the air. I 
started up and instinctively stretched out my hands. 
It seemed as if the spirit of spring had passed through 
the summer-house. " What is it ? " I asked, and the 
next minute I recognized the odour of the mimosa 
blossoms. I felt my way to the end of the garden, 
knowing that the mimosa tree was near the fence, 
at the turn of the path. Yes, there it was, all quiver- 
ing in the warm sunshine, its blossom -laden branches 
almost touching the long grass. Was there ever 
anything so exquisitely beautiful in the world before ! 
Its delicate blossoms shrank from the slightest 
earthly touch; it seemed as if a tree of paradise 
had been transplanted to earth. I made my way 
through a shower of petals to the great trunk and 
for one minute stood irresolute ; then, putting my foot 


in the broad space between the forked branches, I 
pulled myself up into the tree. I had some difficulty 
in holding on, for the branches were very large and 
the bark hurt my hands. But I had a delicious 
sense that I was doing something unusual and 
wonderful, so I kept on climbing higher and higher, 
until I reached a little seat which somebody had 
built there so long ago that it had grown part of the 
tree itself. I sat there for a long, long time, feeling 
like a fairy on a rosy cloud. After that I spent many 
happy hours in my tree of paradise, thinking fair 
thoughts and dreaming bright dreams. 


I had now the key to all language, and I was 
eager to learn to use it. Children who hear acquire 
language without any particular effort; the words 
that fall from others' lips they catch on the wing, 
as it were, delightedly, while the little deaf child 
must trap them by a slow and often painful process. 
But whatever the process, the result is wonderful. 
Gradually from naming an object we advance step 
by step until we have traversed the vast distance 
between our first stammered syllable and the sweep 
of thought in a line of Shakespeare. 

At first, when my teacher told me about a new 
thing I asked very few questions. My ideas were 
vague, and my vocabulary was inadequate; but as 
my knowledge of things grew, and I learned more 
and more words, my field of inquiry broadened, 
and I would return again and again to the same 
subject, eager for further information. Sometimes 
a new word revived an image that some earlier 
experience had engraved on my brain. 

I remember the morning that I first asked the 
meaning of the word, "love." This was before I 
knew many words. I had found a few early violets 
in the garden and brought them to my teacher. 
She tried to kiss me ; but at that time I did not like 
to have any one kiss me except my mother. Miss 
Sullivan put her arm gently round me and spelled 
into my hand, "I love Helen." 



"What is love?" I asked. 

She drew me closer to her and said, "It is here," 
pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious 
of for the first time. Her words puzzled me very 
much because I did not then understand anything 
unless I touched it. 

I smelt the violets in her hand and asked, half 
in words, half in signs, a question which meant, 
"Is love the sweetness of flowers?" 

"No," said my teacher. 

Again I thought. The warm sun was shining 
on us. 

"Is this not love?" I asked, pointing in the 
direction from which the heat came, "Is this not 

It seemed to me that there could be nothing more 
beautiful than the sun, whose warmth makes all 
things grow. But Miss Sullivan shook her head, 
and I was greatly puzzled and disappointed. I 
thought it strange that my teacher could not show 
me love. 

A day or two afterward I was stringing beads of 
different sizes in symmetrical groups — two large 
beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made 
many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed 
them out again and again with gentle patience. 
Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the 
sequence and for an instant I concentrated my atten- 
tion on the lesson and tried to think how I should 
have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched 
my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, 

In a flash I knew that the word was the name of 
the process that was going on in my head. Thiy 


was my first conscious perception of an abstract 

For a long time I was still — I was not thinking of 
the beads in my lap, but trying to find a meaning 
for "love" in the light of this new idea. The sun 
had been under a cloud all day, and there had been 
brief showers; but suddenly the sun broke forth in 
all its southern splendour. 

Again I asked my teacher, "Is this not love ?" 

"Love is something like the clouds that were in 
the sky before the sun came out," she replied. 
Then in simpler words than these, which at that 
time I could not have understood, she explained: 
"You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you 
feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the 
thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You 
cannot touch love either ; but you feel the sweetness 
that it pours into everything. Without love you 
would not be happy or want to play." 

The beautiful truth burst upon my mind — I felt 
that there were invisible lines stretched between 
my spirit and the spirits of others. 

From the beginning of my education Miss Sullivan 
made it a practice to speak to me as she would speak 
to any hearing child; the only difference was that 
she spelled the sentences into my hand instead of 
speaking them. If I did not know the words and 
idioms necessary to express my thoughts she sup- 
plied them, even suggesting conversation when 
I was unable to keep up my end of the dialogue. 

This process was continued for several years; for 
the deaf child does not learn in a month, or even 
in two or three years, the numberless idioms and 
expressions used in the simplest daily intercourse. 


The little hearing child learns these from constant 
repetition and imitation. The conversation he 
hears in his home stimulates his mind and suggests 
topics and calls forth the spontaneous expression of 
his own thoughts. This natural exchange of ideas is 
denied to the deaf child. My teacher, realizing this, 
determined to supply the kinds of stimulus I lacked. 
This she did by repeating to me as far as possible, 
verbatim, what she heard, and by showing me how 
I could take part in the conversation. But it was a 
long time before I ventured to take the initiative, 
and still longer before I could find somethmg 
appropriate to say at the right time. 

The deaf and the blind find it very difficult to 
acquire the amenities of conversation. How much 
more this difficulty must be augmented in the case of 
those who are both deaf and blind ! They cannot 
distinguish the tone of the voice or, without assist- 
ance, go up and down the gamut of tones that 
give significance to words; nor can they watch 
the expression of the speaker's face, and a look is 
often the very soul of what one says. 






The next important step in my education was 
learning to read. 

As soon as I could spell a few words my teacher 
gave me slips of cardboard on which were printed 
words in raised letters. I quickly learned that each 
printed word stood for an object, an act, or a quality. 
I had a frame in which I could arrange the words 
in little sentences; but before I ever put sentences 
in the frame I used to make them in objects. I 
found the slips of paper which represented, for 
example, "doll," "is," "on," "bed" and placed 
each name on its object ; then I put my doll on the 
bed with the words is, on, bed arranged beside the 
doll, thus making a sentence of the words, and at 
the same time carrying out the idea of the sentence 
with the things themselves. 

One day, Miss Sullivan tells me, I pinned the word 
girl on my pinafore and stood in the wardrobe. 
On the shelf I arranged the words, is, in, 
wardrobe. Nothing delighted me so much as 
this game. My teacher and I played it for hours 
at a time. Often everything in the room was 
arranged in object sentences. 

From the printed slip it was but a step to the 
printed book. I took my "Reader for Beginners" 
and hunted for the words I knew; when I found 
them my joy was like that of a game of hide- 
and-seek. Thus I began to read. Of the time 



when I began to read connected stories I shall 
speak later. 

For a long time I had no regular lessons. Even 
when I studied most earnestly it seemed more 
like play than work. Everything Miss Sullivan 
taught me she illustrated by a beautiful story or a 
poem. Whenever anything delighted or interested 
me she talked it over with me just as if she were a 
little girl herself. What many children think of 
with dread, as a painful plodding through grammar, 
hard sums and harder definitions, is to-day one of 
my most precious memories. 

I cannot explain the peculiar sympathy Miss 
Sullivan had with my pleasures and desires. Perhaps 
it was the result of long association with the 
blind. Added to this she had a wonderful faculty 
for description. She went quickly over uninterest- 
ing details, and never nagged me with questions 
to see if I remembered the day-before-yesterday's 
lesson. She introduced dry technicalities of science 
little by little, making every subject so real that I 
could not help remembering what she taught. 

We read and studied out of doors, preferring the 
sunlit woods to the house. All my early lessons have 
in them the breath of the woods — the fine, resinous 
odour of pine needles, blended with the perfume of 
wild grapes. Seated in the gracious shade of a wild 
tulip tree, I learned to think that everything has a 
lesson and a suggestion. "The loveliness of things 
taught me all their use." Indeed, everything that 
could hum, or buzz, or sing, or bloom, had a part in 
my education — noisy-throated frogs, katydids and 
crickets held in my hand until, forgetting their 
embarrassment, they trilled their reedy note, little 


'lorvny chickens and wildflowers, the dogwood 
blossoms, meadow-violets and budding fruit trees. 
I felt the bursting cotton-bolls and fingered their soft 
fiber and fuzzy seeds ; I felt the low soughing of the 
wind through the cornstalks, the silky rustling of 
the long leaves, and the indignant snort of my pony, 
as we caught him in the pasture and put the bit in 
his mouth — ah me ! how well I remember the spicy, 
clovery smell of his breath ! 

Sometimes I rose at dawn and stole into the 
garden while the heavy dew lay on the grass and 
flowers Few know what joy it is to feel the roses 
pressing softly into the hand, or the beautiful motion 
of the lilies as they sway in the morning breeze. 
Sometimes I caught an insect in the flower I was 
plucking, and I felt the faint noise of a pair of wings 
rubbed together in a sudden terror, as the little 
creature became aware of a pressure from without. 

Another favourite haunt of mine was the orchard, 
where the fruit ripened early in July. The large, 
downy peaches would reach themselves into my 
hand, and as the joyous breezes flew about the trees 
the apples tumbled at my feet. Oh, the delight 
with which I gathered up the fruit in my pinafore, 
pressed my face against the smooth cheeks of the 
apples, still warm from the sun, and skipped back 
to the house ! 

Our favourite walk was to Keller's Landing, an old 
tumble-down lumber-wharf on the Tennessee River, 
used during the Civil War to land soldiers. There 
we spent many happy hours and played at learning 
geography. I built dams of pebbles, made islands 
and lakes, and dug river-beds, all for fun, and never 
dreamed that I was learning a lesson. I listened 


with increasing wonder to Miss Sullivan's descrip- 
tions of the great round world with its burning 
mountains, buried cities, moving rivers of ice, and 
many other things as strange. She made raised 
maps in clay, so that I could feel the mountain 
ridges and valleys, and follow with my fingers the 
devious course of rivers. I liked this, too ; but the 
division of the earth into zones and poles confused 
and teased my mind. The illustrative strings and 
the orange stick representing the poles seemed so 
real that even to this day the mere mention of 
temperate zone suggests a series of twine circles ; 
and I believe that if any one should set about it 
he could convince me that white bears actually 
climb the North Pole. 

Arithmetic seems to have been the only study I 
did not like. From the first I was not interested 
in the science of numbers. Miss Sullivan tried to 
teach me to count by stringing beads in groups, and 
by arranging kintergarten straws I learned to add 
and subtract. I never had patience to arrange 
more than five or six groups at a time. When I 
had accomplished this my conscience was at rest 
for the day, and I went out quickly to find my 

In this same leisurely manner I studied zoology 
and botany. 

Once a gentleman, whose name I have forgotten, 
sent me a collection of fossils — tiny mollusk shells 
beautifully marked, and bits of sandstone with the 
print of birds' claws, and a lovely fern in bas-relief. 
These were the keys which unlocked the treasures 
of the antediluvian world for me. With trembling 
fingers I listened to Miss Sullivan's descriptions of 


the terrible beasts, with uncouth, unpronounceable 
names, which once went tramping through the 
primeval forests, tearing down the branches of 
gigantic trees for food, and died in the dismal 
swamps of an unknown age. For a long time these 
strange creatures haunted my dreams, and this 
gloomy period formed a somber background to 
the joyous Now, filled with sunshine and roses 
and echoing with the gentle beat of my pony's 

Another time a beautiful shell was given me, and 
with a child's surprise and delight I learned how a 
tiny mollusk had built the lustrous coil for his dwell- 
ing place, and how on still nights, when there is no 
breeze stirring the waves, the Nautilus sails on the 
blue waters of the Indian Ocean in his "ship of 
pearl." After I had learned a great many interest- 
ing things about the life and habits of the children 
of the sea— how in the midst of dashing waves the 
little polyps build the beautiful coral isles of the 
Pacific, and the foraminifera have made the chalk- 
hills of many a land — my teacher read me "The 
Chambered Nautilus," and showed me that the 
shell-building process of the mollusks is symbolical 
of the development of the mind. Just as the wonder, 
working mantle of the Nautilus changes the material 
it absorbs from the water and makes it a part of 
itself, so the bits of knowledge one gathers 
undergo a similar change and become pearls of 

Again, it was the growth of a plant that furnished 
the text for a lesson. We bought a lily and set it in 
a sunny window. Very soon the green, pointed buds 
showed signs of opening. The slender, fingerlike 


leaves on the outside opened slowly, reluctant, I 
thought, to reveal the loveliness they hid; once 
having made a start, however, the opening process 
went on rapidly, but in order and systematically. 
There was always one bud larger and more beau- 
tiful than the rest, which pushed her outer covering 
back with more pomp, as if the beauty in soft, silky 
robes knew that she was the lily-queen by right 
divine, while her more timid sisters doffed their 
green hoods shyly, until the whole plant was one 
nodding bough of loveliness and fragrance. 

Once there were eleven tadpoles in a glass globe 
set in a window full of plants. I remember the 
eagerness with which I made discoveries about them. 
It was great fun to plunge my hand into the bowl 
and feel the tadpoles frisk about, and to let them 
slip and slide between my fingers. One day a more 
ambitious fellow leaped beyond the edge of the bowl 
and fell on the floor, where I found him to all 
appearance more dead than alive. The only sign of 
life was a slight wriggling of his tail. But no sooner 
had he returned to his element than he darted to 
the bottom, swimming round and round in joyous 
activity. He had made his leap, he had seen the 
great world, and was content to stay in his pretty 
glass house under the big fuchsia tree until he 
attained the dignity of froghood. Then he went to 
live in the leafy pool at the end of the garden, 
where he made the summer nights musical with his 
quaint love-song. 

Thus I learned from life itself. At the beginning 
I was only a little mass of possibilities. It was my 
teacher who unfolded and developed them. When 
she came, everything about me breathed of love and 


joy and was full of meaning. She has never since 
let pass an opportunity to point out the beauty that 
is in everything, nor has she ceased trying in thought 
and action and example to make my life sweet and 

It was my teacher's genius, her quick sympathy, 
her loving tact which made the first years of my 
education so beautiful. It was because she seized 
the right moment to impart knowledge that made 
it so pleasant and acceptable to me. She realized 
that a child's mind is like a shallow brook which 
ripples and dances merrily over the stony course of 
its education and reflects here a flower, there a 
bush, yonder a fleecy cloud; and she attempted to 
guide my mind on its way, knowing that like a 
brook it should be fed by mountain streams and 
hidden springs, until it broadened out into a deep 
river, capable of reflecting in its placid surface, 
billowy hills, the luminous shadows of trees and 
the blue heavens, as well as the sweet face of a 
little flower. 

Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, 
but not every teacher can make him learn. He 
will not work joyously unless he feels that liberty is 
his, whether he is busy or at rest ; he must feel the 
flush of victory and the heart-sinking of disappoint- 
ment before he takes with a will the tasks distasteful 
to him and resolves to dance his way bravely through 
a dull routine of textbooks. 

My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think 
of myself apart from her. How much of my delight 
in all beautiful things is innate, and how much is 
due to her influence, I can never tell. I feel that 
her being is inseparable from my <~>wn, and that 


the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best 
of me belongs to her — there is not a talent, or an 
aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened 
by her loving touch. 


The first Christmas after Miss Sullivan came to 
Tuscumbia was a great event. Every one in the 
family prepared surprises for me; but what pleased 
me most, Miss Sullivan and I prepared surprises for 
everybody else. The mystery that surrounded the 
gifts was my greatest delight and amusement. My 
friends did all they could to excite my curiosity by 
hints and half-spelled sentences which they pre- 
tended to break off in the nick of time. Miss Sullivan 
and I kept up a game of guessing which taught me 
more about the use of language than any set lessons 
could have done. Every evening, seated round a 
glowing wood fire, we played our guessing game, 
which grew more and more exciting as Christmas 

On Christmas Eve the Tuscumbia schoolchildren 
had their tree, to which they invited me. In the 
centre of the schoolroom stood a beautiful tree 
ablaze and shimmering in the soft light, its branches 
loaded with strange, wonderful fruit. It was a 
moment of supreme happiness. I danced and 
capered round the tree in an ecstasy. When I 
learned that there was a gift for each child, I was 
delighted, and the kind people who had prepared 
the tree permitted me to hand the presents to the 
children. In the pleasure of doing this, I did not 
stop to look at my own gifts ; but when I was ready 
for them, my impatience for the real Christmas to 
begin almost got beyond control. I knew the gifts 



I already had were not those of which friends had 
thrown out such tantalizing hints, and my teacher 
said the presents I was to have would be even nicer 
than these. I was persuaded, however, to content 
myself with the gifts from the tree and leave the 
others until morning. 

That night, after I had hung my stocking, I 
lay awake a long time, pretending to be asleep 
and keeping alert to see what Santa Claus would 
do when he came. At last I fell asleep with a 
new doll and a white bear in my arms. Next morn- 
ing it was I who waked the whole family with 
my first "Merry Christmas !" I found surprises, 
not in the stocking only, but on the table, on all the 
chairs, at the door, on the very window-sill ; indeed, 
I could hardly walk without stumbling on a bit of 
Christmas wrapped up in tissue paper. But when 
my teacher presented me with a canary, my cup of 
happiness overflowed. 

Little Tim was so tame that he would hop on 
my finger and eat candied cherries out of my hand. 
Miss Sullivan taught me to take all the care of my 
new pet. Every morning after breakfast I prepared 
his bath, made his cage clean and sweet, filled his 
cups with fresh seed and water from the well-house, 
and hung a spray of chickweed in his swing. 

One morning I left the cage on the window-seat 
while I went to fetch water for his bath. When 
I returned I felt a big cat brush past me as I opened 
the door. At first I did not realize what had hap- 
pened; but when I put my hand in the cage and 
Tim's pretty wings did not meet my touch or his 
small pointed claws take hold of my finger, I knew 
that I should never see my sweet little singer again. 


The next important event in my life was my visit 
to Boston, in May, 1888. As if it were yesterday I 
remember the preparations, the departure with my 
teacher and my mother, the journey, and finally the 
arrival in Boston. How different this journey was 
from the one I had made to Baltimore two years 
before ! I was no longer a restless, excitable little 
creature, requiring the attention of everybody on the 
train to keep me amused. I sat quietly beside Miss 
Sullivan, taking in with eager interest all that she 
told me about what she saw out of the car window : 
the beautiful Tennessee River, the great cotton- 
fields, the hills and woods, and the crowds of laughing 
negroes at the stations, who waved to the people on 
the train and brought delicious candy and popcorn 
balls through the car. On the seat opposite me sat 
my big rag doll, Nancy, in a new gingham dress 
and a beruffled sunbonnet, looking at me out of two 
bead eyes. Sometimes, when I was not absorbed 
in Miss Sullivan's descriptions, I remembered 
Nancy's existence and took her up in my arms, but 
I generally calmed my conscience by making myself 
believe that she was asleep. 

As I shall not have occasion to refer to Nancy 
again, I wish to tell here a sad experience she had 
soon after our arrival in Boston. She was covered 
with dirt — the remains of mud pies I had com- 
pelled her to eat, although she had never shown 



any special liking for them. The laundress at the 
Perkins Institution secretly carried her off to give 
her a bath. This was too much for poor Nancy. 
When I next saw her she was a formless heap of 
cotton, which I should not have recognized at all 
except for the two bead eyes which looked out at me 

When the train at last pulled into the station at 
Boston it was as if a beautiful fairy tale had come 
true. The "once upon a time" was now; the "far- 
away country" was here. 

We had scarcely arrived at the Perkins Institution 
for the Blind when I began to make friends with the 
little blind children. It delighted me inexpressibly 
to find that they knew the manual alphabet. What 
joy to talk with other children in my own language ) 
Until then I had been like a foreigner speaking 
through an interpreter. In the school where Laura 
Bridgman was taught I was in my own country. It 
took me some time to appreciate the fact that my 
new friends were blind. I knew I could not see; 
but it did not seem possible that all the eager, loving 
children who gathered round me and joined heartily 
in my frolics were also blind. I remember the sur- 
prise and the pain I felt as I noticed that they placed 
their hands over mine when I talked to them and 
that they read books with their fingers. Although 
I had been told this before, and although I under- 
stood my own deprivations, yet I had thought 
vaguely that since they could hear, they must 
have a sort of "second sight," and I was not 
prepared to find one child and another and yet 
another deprived of the same precious gift. 
But they were so happy and contented that 1 lost 


all sense of pain in the pleasure of their com- 

One day spent with the blind children made me 
feel thoroughly at home in my new environment, 
and I looked eagerly from one pleasant experience 
to another as the days flew swiftly by. I could not 
quite convince myself that there was much world 
left, for I regarded Boston as the beginning and the 
end of creation. 

While we were in Boston we visited Bunker 
Hill, and there I had my first lesson in 
history. The story of the brave men who had 
fought on the spot where we stood excited me 
greatly. I climbed the monument, counting 
the steps, and wondering as I went higher and 
yet higher if the soldiers had climbed this great 
stairway and shot at the enemy on the ground 

The next day we went to Plymouth by water. 
This was my first trip on the ocean and my first 
voyage in a steamboat. How full of life and 
motion it was ! But the rumble of the machinery 
made me think it was thundering, and I began to 
cry, because I feared if it rained we should not be 
able to have our picnic out of doors. I was more 
interested, I think, in the great rock on which the 
Pilgrims landed than in anything else in Plymouth. 
I could touch it, and perhaps that made the coming 
of the Pilgrims and their toils and great deeds seem 
more real to me. I have often held in my hand a 
little model of the Plymouth Rock which a kind 
gentleman gave me at Pilgrim Hall, and I have 
fingered its curves, the split in the centre and the 
embossed figures "1620," and turned over in my 


mind all that I knew about the wonderful story 
of the Pilgrims. 

How my childish imagination glowed with the 
splendour of their enterprise ! I idealized them as 
the bravest and most generous men that ever sought 
a home in a strange land. I thought they desired 
the freedom of their fellow men as well as their own. 
I was keenly surprised and disappointed years later 
to learn of their acts of persecution that make us 
tingle with shame, even while we glory in the courage 
and energy that gave us our "Country Beautiful." 

Among the many friends I made in Boston were 
Mr. William Endicott and his daughter. Their 
kindness to me was the seed from which many 
pleasant memories have since grown. One day we 
visited their beautiful home at Beverly Farms. 
I remember with delight how I went through their 
rose-garden, how their dogs, big Leo and little 
curly-haired Fritz with long ears, came to meet me, 
and how Nimrod, the swiftest of the horses, poked 
his nose into my hands for a pat and a lump of 
sugar. I also remember the beach, where for the 
first time I played in the sand. It was hard, smooth 
sand, very different from the loose, sharp sand, 
mingled with kelp and shells, at Brewster. Mr. 
Endicott told me about the great ships that came 
sailing by from Boston, bound for Europe. I saw 
him many times after that, and he was always a 
good friend to me; indeed, I was thinking of him 
when I called Boston "the City of Kind Hearts." 


Just before the Perkins Institution closed for the 
summer, it was arranged that my teacher and I 
should spend our vacation at Brewster, on Cape 
Cod, with our dear friend, Mrs. Hopkins. I was 
delighted, for my mind was full of the prospective 
joys and of the wonderful stories I had heard about 
the sea. 

My most vivid recollection of that summer is the 
ocean. I had always lived far inland and had never 
had so much as a whirl of salt air ; but I had read in a 
big book called "Our World" a description of the 
ocean which filled me with wonder and an intense 
longing to touch the mighty sea and feel it roar. 
So my little heart leaped high with eager excitement 
when I knew that my wish was at last to be realized. 

No sooner had I been helped into my bathing-suit 
than I sprang out upon the warm sand and without 
thought of fear plunged into the cool water. I felt 
the great billows rock and sink. The buoyant 
motion of the water filled me with an exquisite, 
quivering joy. Suddenly my ecstasy gave place to 
terror; for my foot struck against a rock and the 
next instant there was a rush of water over my head. 
I thrust out my hands to grasp some support, I 
clutched at the water and at the seaweed which 
the waves tossed in my face. But all my frantic 
efforts were in vain. The waves seemed to be 
playing a game with me, and tossed me from one to 



another in their wild frolic. It was fearful ! The 
good, firm earth had slipped from my feet, and 
everything seemed shut out from this strange, 
all-enveloping element — life, air, warmth and love. 
At last, however, the sea, as if weary of its new toy, 
threw me back on the shore, and in another instant I 
was clasped in my teacher's arms. Oh, the comfort 
of the long, tender embrace ! As soon as I had 
recovered from my panic sufficiently to say anything, 
I demanded: "Who put salt in the water?" 

After I had recovered from my first experience 
in the water, I thought it great fun to sit on a big 
rock in my bathing-suit and feel wave after wave 
dash against the rock, sending up a shower of spray 
which quite covered me. I felt the pebbles rattling 
as the waves threw their ponderous weight against 
the shore; the whole beach seemed racked by their 
terrific onset, and the air throbbed with their pulsa- 
tions. The breakers would swoop back to gather 
themselves for a mightier leap, and I clung to the 
rock, tense, fascinated, as I felt the dash and roar of 
the rushing sea ! 

I could never stay long enough on the shore. The 
tang of the untainted, fresh and free sea air was like 
a cool, quieting thought, and the shells and pebbles 
and the seaweed with tiny living creatures attached 
to it never lost their fascination for me. One day 
Miss Sullivan attracted my attention to a strange 
object which she had captured basking in the shallow 
water. It was a great horseshoe crab — the first one 
I had ever seen. I felt of him and thought it very 
strange that he should carry his house on his back. 
It suddenly occurred to me that he might make a 
delightful pet ; so I seized him by the tail with both 


hands and carried him home. This feat pleased me 
highly, as his body was very heavy, and it took all 
my strength to drag him half a mile. I would not 
leave Miss Sullivan in peace until she had put the 
crab in a trough near the well where I was confident 
he would be secure. But next morning I went to 
the trough, and lo, he had disappeared ! Nobody 
knew where he had gone, or how he had escaped. 
My disappointment was bitter at the time ; but little 
by little I came to realize that it was not kind or 
wise to force this poor dumb creature out of his 
element, and after awhile I felt happy in the thought 
that perhaps he had returned to the sea. 


In the autumn I returned to my Southern home 
with a heart full of joyous memories. As I recall 
that visit North I am filled, with wonder at the 
richness and variety of the experiences that cluster 
about it. It seems to have been the beginning of 
everything. The treasures of a new, beautiful world 
were laid at my feet, and I took in pleasure and infor- 
mation at every turn. I lived myself into all things. 
I was never still a moment; my life was as full of 
motion as those little insects that crowd a whole 
existence into one brief day. I met many people 
who talked with me by spelling into my hand, and 
thought in joyous sympathy leaped up to meet 
thought, and behold, a miracle had been wrought ! 
The barren places between my mind and the minds 
of others blossomed like the rose. 

I spent the autumn months with my family at our 
summer cottage, on a mountain about fourteen miles 
from Tuscumbia. It was called Fern Quarry, 
because near it there was a limestone quarry, long 
since abandoned. Three frolicsome little streams 
ran through it from springs in the rocks above, leap- 
ing here and tumbling there in laughing cascades 
wherever the rocks tried to bar their way. The 
opening was filled with ferns which completely 
covered the beds of limestone and in places hid the 
streams. The rest of the mountain was thickly 
wooded. Here were great oaks and splendid ever 



greens with trunks like mossy pillars, from the 
branches of which hung garlands of ivy and mistletoe, 
and persimmon trees, the odour of which pervaded 
every nook and corner of the wood — an 'illusive, 
fragrant something that made the heart glad. In 
places the wild muscadine and scuppernong vines 
stretched from tree to tree, making arbours which 
were always full of butterflies and buzzing insects. 
It was delightful to lose ourselves in the green 
hollows of that tangled wood in the late afternoon, 
and to smell the cool, delicious odours that came 
up from the earth at the close of day. 

Our cottage was a sort of rough camp, beautifully 
situated on the top of the mountain among oaks 
and pines. The small rooms were arranged on 
each side of a long open hall. Round the house 
was a wide piazza, where the mountain winds blew, 
sweet with all wood-scents. We lived on the piazza 
most of the time — there we worked, ate and played. 
At the back door there was a great butternut tree, 
round which the steps had been built, and in front 
the trees stood so close that I could touch them and 
feel the wind shake their branches, or the leaves twirl 
downward in the autumn blast. 

Many visitors came to Fern Quarry. In the 
evening, by the campfire, the men played cards and 
whiled away the hours in talk and sport. They told 
stories of their wonderful feats with fowl, fish and 
quadruped — how many wild ducks and turkeys they 
had shot, what " savage trout " they had caught, and 
how they had bagged the craftiest foxes, outwitted 
the most clever 'possums and overtaken the fleetest 
deer, until I thought that surely the lion, the tiger, 
the bear and the rest of the wild tribe would not be 

15 WEST 16thSiK£ET 
NEW YORK, NY 10311 


able to stand before these wily hunters. ' ' To-morrow 
to the chase!" was their good-night shout as the 
circle of merry friends broke up for the night. The 
men slept in the hall outside our door, and I could 
feel the deep breathing of the dogs and the hunters 
as they lay on their improvised beds. 

At dawn I was awakened by the smell of coffee, 
the rattling of guns, and the heavy footsteps of the 
men as they strode about, promising themselves the 
greatest luck of the season. I could also feel the 
stamping of the horses, which they had ridden out 
from town and hitched under the trees, where they 
stood all night, neighing loudly, impatient to be 
off. At last the men mounted, and, as they say in 
the old songs, away went the steeds with bridles 
ringing and whips cracking and hounds racing 
ahead, and away went the champion hunters "with 
hark and whoop and wild halloo !" 

Later in the morning we made preparations for a 
barbecue. A fire was kindled at the bottom of a 
deep hole in the ground, big sticks were laid cross- 
wise at the top, and meat was hung from them and 
turned on spits. Around the fire squatted negroes, 
driving away the flies with long branches. The 
savoury odour of the meat made me hungry long 
before the tables were set. 

When the bustle and excitement of preparation 
was at its height, the hunting party made its appear- 
ance, struggling in by twos and threes, the men hot 
and weary, the horses covered with foam, and the 
jaded hounds panting and dejected — and not a 
single kill ! Every man declared that he had seen 
at least one deer, and that the animal had come very 
close ; but however hotly the dogs might pursue the 


game, however well the guns might be aimed, at the 
snap of the trigger there was not a deer in sight. 
They had been as fortunate as the little boy who 
said he came very near seeing a rabbit — he saw his 
tracks. The party soon forgot its disappointment, 
however, and we sat down, not to venison, but to a 
tamer feast of veal and roast pig. 

One summer I had my pony at Fern Quarry. I 
called him Black Beauty, as I had just read the book, 
and he resembled his namesake in every way, from 
his glossy black coat to the white star on his fore- 
head. I spent many of my happiest hours on his 
back. Occasionally, when it was quite safe, my 
teacher would let go the leading-rein, and the pony 
sauntered on or stopped at his sweet will to eat grass 
or nibble the leaves of the trees that grew beside the 
narrow trail. 

On mornings when I did not care for the ride, my 
teacher and I would start after breakfast for a ramble 
in the woods, and allow ourselves to get lost amid 
the trees and vines, with no road to follow except 
the paths made by cows and horses. Frequently 
we came upon impassable thickets which forced us 
to take a roundabout way. We always returned to 
the cottage with armfuls of laurel, goldenrod, ferns 
and gorgeous swamp-flowers such as grow only in 
the South. 

Sometimes I would go with Mildred and my little 
cousins to gather persimmons. I did not eat them; 
but I loved their fragrance and enjoyed hunting 
for them in the leaves and grass. We also went 
nutting, and I helped them open the chestnut burrs 
and break the shells of hickory-nuts and walnuts 
— the big, sweet walnuts ! 


At the foot of the mountain there was a railroad, 
and the children watched the trains whiz by. 
Sometimes a terrific whistle brought us to the steps, 
and Mildred told me in great excitement that a cow 
or a horse had strayed on the track. About a mile 
distant there was a trestle spanning a deep gorge. 
It was very difficult to walk over, the ties were wide 
apart and so narrow that one felt as if one were 
walking on knives. I had never crossed it until 
one day Mildred, Miss Sullivan and I were lost in 
the woods, and wandered for hours without finding 
a path. 

Suddenly Mildred pointed with her little hand and 
exclaimed, " There's the trestle !" We would have 
taken any way rather than this ; but it was late and 
growing dark, and the trestle was a short cut home. 
I had to feel for the rails with my toe ; but I was not 
afraid, and got on very well, until all at once there 
came a faint "puff, puff" from the distance. 

"I see the train!" cried Mildred, and in another 
minute it would have been upon us had we not 
climbed down on the crossbraces while it rushed over 
our heads. I felt the hot breath from the engine 
on my face, and the smoke and ashes almost choked 
us. As the train rumbled by, the trestle shook and 
swayed until I thought we should be dashed to the 
chasm below. With the utmost difficulty we 
regained the track. Long after dark we reached 
home and found the cottage empty ; the family were 
all out hunting for us. 


After my first visit to Boston, I spent almost 
every winter in the North. Once I went on a visit 
to a New England village with its frozen lakes and 
vast snow fields. It was then that I had oppor- 
tunities such as had never been mine to enter into 
the treasures of the snow. 

I recall my surprise on discovering that a mys- 
terious hand had stripped the trees and bushes, 
leaving only here and there a wrinkled leaf. The 
birds had flown, and their empty nests in the bare 
trees were filled with snow. Winter was on hill 
and field. The earth seemed benumbed by his icy 
touch, and the very spirits of the trees had with- 
drawn to their roots, and there, curled up in the 
dark, lay fast asleep. All life seemed to have ebbed 
away, and even when the sun shone the day was 

Shrunk and cold, 
As if her veins were sapless and old, 
And she rose up decrepitly 
For a last dim look at earth and sea. 

The withered grass and the bushes were transformed 
into a forest of icicles. 

Then came a day when the chill air portended 
a snowstorm. We rushed out-of-doors to feel the 
first few tiny flakes descending. Hour by hour 
the flakes dropped silently, softly from their airy 
height to the earth, and the country became more 
and more level. A snowy night closed upon the 



world, and in the morning one could scarcely recog- 
nize a feature of the landscape. All the roads were 
hidden, not a single landmark was visible, only a 
waste of snow with trees rising out of it. 

In the evening a wind from the northeast sprang 
up, and the flakes rushed hither and thither in 
furious melee. Around the great fire we sat and 
told merry tales, and frolicked, and quite forgot that 
we were in the midst of a desolate solitude, shut in 
from all communication with the outside world. 
But during the night the fury of the wind increased 
to such a degree that it thrilled us with a vague 
terror. The rafters creaked and strained, and the 
branches of the trees surrounding the house rattled 
and beat against the windows, as the winds rioted up 
and down the country. 

On the third day after the beginning of the storm 
the snow ceased. The sun broke through the clouds 
and shone upon a vast, undulating white plain. 
High mounds, pyramids heaped in fantastic shapes, 
and impenetrable drifts lay scatttered in every 

Narrow paths were shoveled through the drifts. 
I put on my cloak and hood and went out. The 
air stung my cheeks like fire. Half walking in the 
paths, half working our way through the lesser 
drifts, we succeeded in reaching a pine grove just 
outside a broad pasture. The trees stood motion- 
less and white like figures in a marble frieze. There 
was no odour of pine-needles. The rays of the sun 
fell upon the trees, so that the twigs sparkled like 
diamonds and dropped in showers when we touched 
them. So dazzling was the light, it penetrated even 
the darkness that veils my eyes. 


As the days wore on, the drifts gradually shrunk, 
but before they were wholly gone another storm 
came, so that I scarcely felt the earth under my 
feet once all winter. At intervals the trees lost their 
icy covering, and the bulrushes and underbrush 
were bare ; but the lake lay frozen and hard beneath 
the sun. 

Our favourite amusement during that winter was 
tobogganing. In places the shore of the lake rises 
abruptly from the water's edge. Down these steep 
slopes we used to coast. We would get on our 
toboggan, a boy would give us a shove, and off we 
went ! Plunging through drifts, leaping hollows, 
swooping down upon the lake, we would shoot across 
its gleaming surface to the opposite bank. What 
joy ! What exhilarating madness ! For one wild, 
glad moment we snapped the chain that binds us to 
earth, and joining hands with the winds we felt 
ourselves divine I 


It was in the spring of 1890 that I learned to 
speak.* The impulse to utter audible sounds had 
always been strong within me. I used to make 
noises, keeping one hand on my throat while the 
other hand felt the movements of my lips. I was 
pleased with anything that made a noise and liked 
to feel the cat purr and the dog bark. I also liked 
to keep my hand on a singer's throat, or on a piano 
when it was being played. Before I lost my sight 
and hearing, I was fast learning to talk, but after 
my illness it was found that I had ceased to speak 
because I could not hear. I used to sit in my 
mother's lap all day long and keep my hands on her 
face because it amused me to feel the motions of her 
lips; and I moved my lips, too, although I had for- 
gotten what talking was. My friends say that I 
laughed and cried naturally, and for awhile I made 
many sounds and word-elements, not because they 
were a means of communication, but because the 
need of exercising my vocal organs was imperative. 
There was, however, one word the meaning of 
which I still remembered, water. I pronounced 
it "wa-wa." Even this became less and less 
intelligible until the time when Miss Sullivan 
began to teach me. I stopped using it only after 
I had learned to spell the word on my fingers. 

I had known for a long time that the people about 

*For Miss Sullivan's account see page 386. 



me used a method of communication different from 
mine ; and even before I knew that a deaf child could 
be taught to speak, I was conscious of dissatisfac- 
tion with the means of communication I already 
possessed. One who is entirely dependent upon the 
manual alphabet has always a sense of restraint, of 
narrowness. This feeling began to agitate me with 
a vexing, forward-reaching sense of a lack that 
should be filled. My thoughts would often rise and 
beat up like birds against the wind ; and I persisted 
in using my lips and voice. Friends tried to dis- 
courage this tendency, fearing lest it would lead 
to disappointment. But I persisted, and an acci- 
dent soon occurred which resulted in the breaking 
down of this great barrier — I heard the story of 
Ragnhild Kaata. 

In 1890 Mrs. Lamson, who had been one of 
Laura Bridgman's teachers, and who had just 
returned from a visit to Norway and Sweden, -came 
to see me, and told me of Ragnhild Kaata, a deaf 
and blind girl in Norway who had actually been 
taught to speak. Mrs. Lamson had scarcely 
finished telling me about this girl's success before 
I was on fire with eagerness. I resolved that I, too, 
would learn to speak. I would not rest satisfied 
until my teacher took me, for advice and assistance, 
to Miss Sarah Fuller, principal of the Horace Mann 
School. This lovely, sweet-natured lady offered to 
teach me herself, and we began the twenty-sixth of 
March, 1890. 

Miss Fuller's method was this: she passed my 
hand lightly over her face, and let me feel the posi- 
tion of her tongue and lips when she made a sound. 
I was eager to imitate every motion and in an hour 


had learned six elements of speech : M, P, A, S, T, I. 
Miss Fuller gave me eleven lessons in all. I shall 
never forget the surprise and delight I felt when I 
uttered my first comiected sentence, "It is warm." 
True, they were broken and stammering syllables; 
but they were human speech. My soul, conscious of 
new strength, came out of bondage, and was 
reaching through those broken symbols of speech 
to all knowledge and all faith. 

No deaf child who has earnestly tried to speak 
the words which he has never heard — to come out 
of the prison of silence, where no tone of love, on 
song of bird, no strain of music ever pierces the 
stillness — can forget the thrill of surprise, the joy of 
discovery which came over him when he uttered 
his first word. Only such a one can appreciate the 
eagerness with which I talked to my toys, to stones, 
trees, birds and dumb animals, or the delight I felt 
when at my call Mildred ran to me or my dogs 
obeyed my commands. It is an unspeakable boon 
to me to be able to speak in winged words that need 
no interpretation. As I talked, happy thoughts 
fluttered up out of my words that might perhaps 
have struggled in vain to escape my fingers. 

But it must not be supposed that I could really 
talk in this short time. I had learned only the 
elements of speech. Miss Fuller and Miss Sullivan 
could understand me, but most people would not 
have understood one word in a hundred. Nor is it 
true that, after I had learned these elements, I did 
the rest of the work myself. But for Miss Sullivan's 
genius, untiring perseverance and devotion, I could 
not have progressed as far as I have toward natural 
speech. In the first place. I laboured night and 


day before I could be understood even by my most 
intimate friends ; in the second place, I needed Miss 
Sullivan's assistance constantly in my efforts to 
articulate each sound clearly and to combine all 
sounds in a thousand ways. Even now she calls 
my attention every day to mispronounced words. 

All teachers of the deaf know what this means, and 
only they can at all appreciate the peculiar diffi- 
culties with which I had to contend. In reading 
my teacher's lips I was wholly dependent on my 
fingers : I had to use the sense of touch in catching 
the vibrations of the throat, the movements of the 
mouth and the expression of the face; and often 
this sense was at fault. In such cases I was forced 
to repeat the words or sentences, sometimes for 
hours, until I felt the proper ring in my own 
voice. My work was practice, practice, practice. 
Discouragement and weariness cast me down fre- 
quently; but the next moment the thought that I 
should soon be at home and show my loved ones 
what I had accomplished, spurred me on, and I 
eagerly looked forward to their pleasure in my 

"My little sister will understand me now," was a 
thought stronger than all obstacles. I used to 
repeat ecstatically, "I am not dumb now." I could 
not be despondent while I anticipated the delight of 
talking to my mother and reading her responses from 
her lips. It astonished me to find how much easier 
it is to talk than to spell with the fingers, and I dis- 
carded the manual alphabet as a medium of com- 
munication on my part ; but Miss Sullivan and a few 
friends still use it in speaking to me, for it is more 
convenient and more rapid than lip-reading. 


Just here, perhaps, I had better explain our use 
of the manual alphabet, which seems to puzzle 
people who do not know us. One who reads or talks 
to me spells with his hand, using the single-hand 
manual alphabet generally employed by the deaf. 
I place my hand on the hand of the speaker so 
lightly as not to impede its movements. The 
position of the hand is as easy to feel as it is to see. 
I do not feel each letter any more than you see each 
letter separately when you read. Constant practice 
makes the fingers very flexible, and some of my 
friends spell rapidly — about as fast as an expert 
writes on a typewriter. The mere spelling is, of 
course, no more a conscious act than it is in writing. 

When I had made speech my own, I could not wait 
to go home. At last the happiest of happy moments 
arrived. I had made my homeward journey, talking 
constantly to Miss Sullivan, not for the sake of talk- 
ing, but determined to improve to the last minute. 
Almost before I knew it, the train stopped at the 
Tuscumbia station, and there on the platform stood 
the whole family. My eyes fill with tears now as I 
think how my mother pressed me close to her, 
speechless and trembling with delight, taking in 
every syllable that I spoke, while little Mildred 
seized my free hand and kissed it and danced, and 
my father expressed his pride and affection in a big 
silence. It was as if Isaiah's prophecy had been 
fulfilled in me, "The mountains and the hills shall 
break forth before you into singing, and all the 
trees of the field shall clap their hands I" 


The winter of 1892 was darkened by the one cloud 
in my childhood's bright sky. Joy deserted my 
heart, and for a long, long time I lived in doubt, 
anxiety and fear. Books lost their charm for me, 
and even now the thought of those dreadful days 
chills my heart. A little story called "The Frost 
King," which I wrote and sent to Mr. Anagnos, of 
the Perkins Institution for the Blind, was at the 
root of the trouble. In order to make the matter 
clear, I must set forth the facts connected with this 
episode, which justice to my teacher and to myself 
compels me to relate.* 

I wrote the story when I was at home, the autumn 
after I had learned to speak. We had stayed up at 
Fern Quarry later than usual. While we were there, 
Miss Sullivan had described to me the beauties of the 
late foliage, and it seems that her descriptions revived 
the memory of a story, which must have been read to 
me, and which I must have unconsciously retained. 
I thought then that I was "making up a story," as 
children say, and I eagerly sat down to write it 
before the ideas should slip from me. My thoughts 
flowed easily ; I felt a sense of joy in the composition. 
Words and images came tripping to my finger ends, 
and as I thought out sentence after sentence, I 
wrote them on my braille slate. Now, if words 
and images come to me without effort, it is a pretty 

*For the documents in this matter see page 396. 



sure sign that they are not the offspring of my own 
mind, but stray waifs that I regretfully dismiss. 
At that time I eagerly absorbed everything I read 
without a thought of authorship, and even now I 
cannot be quite sure of the boundary line between 
my ideas and those I find in books. I suppose that 
is because so many of my impressions come to me 
through the medium of others' eyes and ears. 

When the story was finished, I read it to my 
teacher, and I recall now vividly the pleasure I felt 
in the more beautiful passages, and my annoyance 
at being interrupted to have the pronounciation of 
a word corrected. At dinner it was read to the 
assembled family, who were surprised that I could 
write so well. Some one asked me if I had read it 
in a book. 

This question surprised me very much ; for I had 
not the faintest recollection of having had it read 
to me. I spoke up and said, " Oh, no, it is my story, 
and I have written it for Mr. Anagnos." 

Accordingly I copied the story and sent it to him 
for his birthday. It was suggested that I should 
change the title from "Autumn Leaves" to "The 
Frost King," which I did. I carried the little story 
to the post-office myself, feeling as if I were walking 
on air. I little dreamed how cruelly I should pay 
for that birthday gift. 

Mr. Anagnos was delighted with "The Frost 
King," and published it in one of the Perkins 
Institution reports. This was the pinnacle of my 
happiness, from which I was in a little while dashed 
to earth. I had been in Boston only a short time 
tvhen it was discovered that a story similar to " The 
Frost King," called "The Frost Fairies " by Miss 


Margaret T. Canby, had appeared before I was born 
in a book called " Birdie and His Friends." The two 
stories were so much alike in thought and language 
that it was evident Miss Canby's story had been 
read to me, and that mine was — a plagiarism. It 
was difficult to make me understand this ; but when 
I did understand I was astonished and grieved. No 
child ever drank deeper of the cup of bitterness 
than I did. I had disgraced myself ; I had brought 
suspicion upon those I loved best. And yet how 
could it possibly have happened? I racked my 
brain until I was weary to recall anything about the 
frost that I had read before I wrote "The Frost 
King"; but I could remember nothing, except the 
common reference to Jack Frost, and a poem for 
children, "The Freaks of the Frost," and I knew I 
had not used that in my composition. 

At first Mr. Anagnos, though deeply troubled, 
seemed to believe me. He was unusually tender 
and kind to me, and for a brief space the shadow 
lifted. To please him I tried not to be unhappy, 
and to make myself as pretty as possible for the 
celebration of Washington's birthday, which took 
place very soon after I received the sad news. 

I was to be Ceres in a kind of masque given 
by the blind girls. How well I remember the grace- 
ful draperies that enfolded me, the bright autumn 
leaves that wreathed my head, and the fruit and 
grain at my feet and in my bands, and beneath all 
the gaiety of the masque le oppressive sense of 
coming ill that made my ht.-rt heavy. 

The night before the ce.e oration, one of the 
teachers of the Institution ind asked me a ques- 
tion connected with "The Frost King," and I was 


telling her that Miss Sullivan had talked to me 
about Jack Frost and his wonderful works. Some- 
thing I said made her think she detected in my 
words a confession that I did remember Miss 
Canby's story of " The Frost Fairies," and she laid 
her conclusions before Mr. Anagnos, although I had 
told her most emphatically that she was mistaken. 

Mr. Anagnos, who loved me tenderly, thinking that 
he had been deceived, turned a deaf ear to the plead- 
ings of love and innocence. He believed, or at 
least suspected, that Miss Sullivan and I had delib- 
erately stolen the bright thoughts of another and 
imposed them on him to win his admiration. I was 
brought before a court of investigation composed 
of the teachers and officers of the Institution, and 
Miss Sullivan was asked to leave me. Then I was 
questioned and cross-questioned with what seemed 
to me a determination on the part of my judges to 
force me to acknowledge that I remembered having 
had %t The Frost Fairies" read to me. I felt in every 
question the doubt and suspicion that was in their 
minds, and I felt, too, that a loved friend was looking 
at me reproachfully, although I could not have put 
all this into words. The blood pressed about my 
thumping heart, and I could scarcely speak, except 
in monosyllables. Even the consciousness that it 
was only a dreadful mistake did not lessen my suffer- 
ing, and when at last I was allowed to leave the 
room, I was dazed and did not notice my teacher's 
caresses, or the tender words of my friends, who said 
I was a brave little girl and they were proud of me. 

As I lay in my bed that night, I wept as I hope 
few children have wept. I felt so cold, I imagined 
I should die before morning, and the thought com- 


forted me. I think if this sorrow had come to me 
when I was older, it would have broken my spirit 
beyond repairing. But the angel of forgetfulness 
has gathered up and earned away much of 
the misery and all the bitterness of those sad 

Miss Sullivan had never heard of "The Frost 
Fairies" or of the book in which it was published. 
With the assistance of Dr. Alexander Graham 
Bell, she investigated the matter carefully, and at 
last it came out that Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins had a 
copy of Miss Canby's "Birdie and His Friends" in 
1888, the year that we spent the summer with her 
at Brewster. Mrs. Hopkins was unable to find her 
copy ; but she has told me that at that time, while 
Miss Sullivan was away on a vacation, she tried to 
amuse me by reading from various books, and 
although she could not remember reading ' ' The 
Frost Fairies" any more than I, yet she felt sure 
that "Birdie and His Friends" was one of them. 
She explained the disappearance of the book by the 
fact that she had a short time before sold her house 
and disposed of many juvenile books, such as old 
school-books and fairy tales, and that "Birdie and 
His Friends" was probably among them. 

The stories had little or no meaning for me then ; 
but the mere spelling of the strange words was suffi- 
cient to amuse a little child who could do almost 
nothing to amuse ■ herself ; and although I do not 
recall a single circumstance connected with the read- 
ing of the stories, yet I cannot help thinking that I 
made a great effort to remember the words, with the 
intention of having my teacher explain them when 
she returned. One thing is certain, the language 


was ineffaceably stamped upon my brain, though for 
a long time no one knew it, least of all myself. 

When Miss Sullivan came back, I did not speak 
to her about "The Frost Fairies," probably because 
she began at once to read " Little Lord Fauntleroy," 
which filled my mmd to the exclusion of everything 
else. But the fact remains that Miss Canby's story- 
was read to me once, and that long after I had 
forgotten it, it came back to me so naturally that I 
never suspected that it was the child of another 

In my trouble I received many messages of love 
and sympathy. All the friends I loved best, except 
one, have remained my own to the present time. 
Miss Canby herself wrote kindly, "Some day you 
will write a great story out of your own head, that 
will be a comfort and help to many." But this kind 
prophecy has never been fulfilled. I have never 
played with words again for the mere pleasure of 
the game. Indeed, I have ever since been tortured 
by the fear that what i write is not my own. For a 
long time, when I wrote a letter, even to my mother, 
I was seized with a sudden feeling of terror, and I 
would spell the sentences over and over, to make 
sure that I had not read them in a book. Had it 
not been for the persistent encouragement of Miss 
Sullivan, I think I should have given up trying to 
write altogether. 

I have read "The Frost Fairies" since, also the 
letters I wrote in which I used other ideas of Miss 
Canby's I find in one of them, a letter to Mr. 
Anagnos, dated September 29, 1891, words and senti- 
ments exactly like those of the book. At the time 
I was writing "The Frost King," and this letter. 


like many others, contains phrases which show that 
my mind was saturated with the story. I represent 
my teacher as saying to me of the golden autumn 
leaves, " Yes, they are beautiful enough to comfort 
us for the flight of summer" — an idea direct from 
Miss Canby's story. 

This habit of assimilating what pleased me and 
giving it out again as my own appears in much of 
my early correspondence and my first attempts at 
writing. In a composition which I wrote about 
the old cities of Greece and Italy, I borrowed my 
glowing descriptions, with variations, from sources 
I have forgotten. I knew Mr. Anagnos's great love 
of antiquity and his enthusiastic appreciation of all 
beautiful sentiments about Italy and Greece. I 
therefore gathered from all the books I read every 
bit of poetry or of history that I thought would give 
him pleasure. Mr. Anagnos, in speaking of my 
composition on the cities, has said, "These ideas are 
poetic in their essence." But I do not understand 
how he ever thought a blind and deaf child of eleven 
could have invented them. Yet I cannot think that 
because I did not originate the ideas, my little com- 
position is therefore quite devoid of interest. It 
shows me that I could express my appreciation of 
beautiful and poetic ideas in clear and animated 

Those early compositions were mental gymnastics. 
I was learning, as all young and inexperienced 
persons learn, by assimilation and imitation, to put 
ideas into words. Everything I found in books that 
pleased me I retained in my memory, consciously 
or unconsciously, and adapted it. The young 
writer, as Stevenson has said, instinctively tries to 


copy whatever seems most admirable, and he shifts 
his admiration with astonishing versatility. It is 
only after years of this sort of practice that even 
great men have learned to marshal the legion of 
words which come thronging through every byway 
of the mind. 

I am afraid I have not yet completed this process. 
It is certain that I cannot always distinguish my 
own thoughts from those I read, because what I read 
become the very substance and texture of my mind. 
Consequently, in nearly all that I write, I produce 
something which very much resembles the crazy 
patchwork I used to make when I first learned to 
sew. This patchwork was made of all sorts of odds 
and ends — pretty bits of silk and velvet; but the 
coarse pieces that were not pleasant to touch always 
predominated. Likewise my compositions are made 
up of crude notions of my own, inlaid with the 
brighter thoughts and riper opinions of the authors 
I have read. It seems to me that the great difficulty 
of writing is to make the language of the educated 
mind express our confused ideas, half feelings, half 
thoughts, when we are little more than bundles of 
instinctive tendencies. Trying to write is very 
much like trying to put a Chinese puzzle together. 
We have a pattern in mind which we wish to work 
out in words; but the words will not fit the spaces, 
or, if they do, they will not match the design. But 
we keep on trying because we know that others 
have succeeded, and we are not willing to acknowl- 
edge defeat. 

"There is no way to become original, except to 
be born so," says Stevenson, and although I may 
not be original, I hope sometime to outgrow my 


artificial, periwigged compositions. Then, perhaps, 
my own thoughts and experiences will come to 
the surface. Meanwhile I trust and hope and 
persevere, and try not to let the bitter memory 
of "The Frost King" trammel my efforts. 

So this sad experience may have done me good 
and set me thinking on some of the problems of 
composition. My only regret is that it resulted in 
i:he loss of one of my dearest friends, Mr. Anagnos. 

Since the publication of "The Story of My Life" 
in the Ladies' Home Journal, Mr. Anagnos has made 
a statement, in a letter to Mr. Macy, that at the 
time of the "Frost King" matter, he believed I 
was innocent. He says, the court of investigation 
before which I was brought consisted of eight people : 
four blind, four seeing persons. Four of them, 
he says, thought I knew that Miss Canby's story 
had been read to me, and the others did not hold 
this view. Mr. Anagnos states that he cast his vote 
with those who were favourable to me. 

But, however the case may have been, with 
whichever side he may have cast his vote, when I 
went into the room where Mr. Anagnos had so often 
held me on his knee and, forgetting his many cares, 
had shared in my frolics, and found there persons 
who seemed to doubt me, I felt that there was some- 
thing hostile and menacing in the very atmosphere, 
and subsequent events have borne out this impres- 
sion. For two years he seems to have held the belief 
that Miss Sullivan and I were innocent. Then he 
evidently retracted his favourable judgment, why 
I do not know. Nor did I know the details of the 
investigation. I never knew even the names of the 
roembers of the "court" who did not speak to me. 


I was too excited to notice anything, too frightened 
to ask questions. Indeed, I could scarcely think 
what I was saying, or what was being said to me. 

I have given this account of the "Frost King" 
affair because it was important in my life and edu- 
cation; and, in order that there might be no mis- 
understanding, I have set forth all the facts as 
they appear to me, without a thought of defending 
myself or of laying blame on any one. 


The summer and winter following the "Frost 
King" incident I spent with my family in Alabama. 
I recall with delight that home -going. Everything 
had budded and blossomed. I was happy. "The 
Frost King" was forgotten. 

When the ground was strewn with the crimson 
and golden leaves of autumn, and the musk-scented 
grapes that covered the arbour at the end of the 
garden were turning golden brown in the sunshine, 
I began to write a sketch of my life — ■ a year after I 
had written "The Frost King." 

I was still excessively scrupulous about everything 
I wrote. The thought that what I wrote might 
not be absolutely my own tormented me. No 
one knew of these fears except my teacher. A 
strange sensitiveness prevented me from referring 
to che " Frost King " ; and often when an idea flashed 
out in the course of conversation I would spell softly 
to her, " I am not sure it is mine." At other times, 
in the midst of a paragraph I was writing, I said to 
myself, " Suppose it should be found that all this 
was written by some one long ago ! " An impish fear 
clutched my hand, so that I could not write any more 
that day. And even now I sometimes feel the same 
uneasiness and disquietude. Miss Sullivan consoled 
and helped me in every way she could think of ; but 
the terrible experience I had passed through left a 
lasting impression on my mind, the significance of 



which I am only just beginning to understand. It 
was with the hope of restoring my self-confidence 
that she persuaded me to write for the Youth's 
Companion a brief account of my life. I was then 
twelve years old. As I look back on my struggle 
to write that little story, it seems to me that I must 
have had a prophetic vision of the good that would 
come of the undertaking, or I should surely have 

I wrote timidly, fearfully, but resolutely, urged 
on by my teacher, who knew that if I persevered, I 
should find my mental foothold again and get a grip 
on my faculties. Up to the time of the "Frost 
King" episode, I had lived the unconscious life 
of a little child; now my thoughts were turned 
inward, and I beheld things invisible. Gradually 
I emerged from the penumbra of that experience 
with a mind made clearer by trial and with a 
truer knowledge of life. 

The chief events of the year 1893 were my trip 
to Washington during the inauguration of President 
Cleveland, and visits to Niagara and the World's 
Fair. Under such circumstances my studies were 
constantly interrupted and often put aside for many 
weeks, so that it is impossible for me to give a con- 
nected account of them. 

We went to Niagara in March, 1893. It is difficult 
to describe my emotions when I stood on the point 
which overhangs the American Fails and felt the air 
vibrate and the earth tremble. 

It seems strange to many people that I should be 
impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. 
They are always asking: " What does this beauty 
or that music mean to you? You cannot see the 


waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. 
What do they mean to you?" In the most evident 
sense they mean everything. I cannot fathom or 
define their meaning any more than I can fathom 
or define love or religion or goodness. 

During the summer of 1893, Miss Sullivan and I 
visited the World's Fair with Dr. Alexander 
Graham Bell. I recall with unmixed delight those 
days when a thousand childish fancies became 
beautiful realities. Every day in imagination I 
made a trip round the world, and I saw many 
wonders from the uttermost parts of the earth — 
marvels of invention, treasures of industry and skill 
and all the activities of human life actually passed 
under my finger tips. 

I liked to visit the Midway Plaisance. It seemed 
like the "Arabian Nights," it was crammed so full 
of novelty and interest. Here was the India of my 
books in the curious bazaar with its Shivas and 
elephant-gods ; there was the land of the Pyramids 
concentrated in a model Cairo with its mosques 
and its long processions of camels ; yonder were the 
lagoons of Venice, where we sailed every evening 
when the city and the fountains were illuminated. 
I also went on board a Viking ship which lay a short 
distance from the little craft. I had been on a 
man-of-war before, in Boston, and it interested me 
to see, on this Viking ship, how the seaman was once 
all in all — how he sailed and took storm and calm 
alike with undaunted heart, and gave chase to 
whosoever reechoed his cry, "We are of the sea !" 
and fought with brains and sinews, self-reliant, 
self-sufficient, instead of being thrust into the back- 
ground by unintelligent machinery, as Jack is 


to-day. So it always is — " man only is interesting 
to man." 

At a little distance from this ship there was a 
model of the Santa Maria, which I also examined. 
The captain showed me Columbus's cabin and the 
desk with an hour-glass on it. This small instru- 
ment impressed me most because it made me think 
how weary the heroic navigator must have felt as 
he saw the sand dropping grain by grain while 
desperate men were plotting against his life. 

Mr. Higinbotham, President of the World's 
Fair, kindly gave me permission to touch the 
exhibits, and with an eagerness as insatiable as 
that with which Pizarro seized the treasures of 
Peru, I took in the glories of the Fair with my 
fingers. It was a sort of tangible kaleidoscope, 
this white city of the West. Everything fascinated 
me, especially the French bronzes. They were so 
lifelike, I thought they were angel visions which the 
artist had caught and bound in earthly forms. 

At the Cape of Good Hope exhibit, I learned much 
about the processes of mining diamonds. Whenever 
it was possible, I touched the machinery while it 
was in motion, so as to get a clearer idea how the 
stones were weighed, cut, and polished. I searched 
in the washings for a diamond and found it myself 
— the only true diamond, they said, that was ever 
found in the United States. 

Dr. Bell went everywhere with us and in his 
own delightful way described to me the objects of 
greatest interest. In the electrical building we 
examined the telephones, autophones, phonographs, 
and other inventions, and he made me understand 
how it is possible to send a message on wires that 

Photograph by Marshall, 1902 



mock space and outrun time, and, like Prometheus, 
to draw fire from the sky. We also visited the 
anthropological department, and I was much intei 
ested in the relics of ancient Mexico, in the rud« stone 
implements that are so often the only record of an 
age — the simple monuments of nature's unlettered 
children (so I thought as I fingered them) that seem 
bound to last while the memorials of kings and 
sages crumble in dust away— and in the Egyptian 
mummies, which I shrank from touching. From 
these relics I learned more about the progress of 
man than I have heard or read since. 

All these experiences added a great many nrw 
terms to my vocabulary, and in the three weeks I 
spent at the Fair I took a long leap from the htU-z 
child's interest in fairy tales and toys to the apprr> 
ciation of the real and the earnest in the workada 


Before October, 1893, I had studied various sub- 
jects by myself in a more or less desultory manner. 
I read the histories of Greece, Rome and the United 
States. I had a French grammar in raised print, 
and as I already knew some French, I often amused 
myself by composing in my head short exercises, 
using the new words as I came across them, and 
ignoring rules and other technicalities as much as 
possible. I even tried, without aid, to master the 
French pronunciation, as I found all the letters and 
sounds described in the book. Of course this was 
tasking slender powers for great ends ; but it gave me 
something to do on a rainy day, and I acquired a 
sufficient knowledge of French to read with pleasure 
La Fontaine's "Fables," " Le Medecin Malgre Lui" 
and passages from "Athalie." 

I also gave considerable time to the improvement 
of my speech. I read aloud to Miss Sullivan and 
recited passages from my favourite poets, which I 
had committed to memory; she corrected my pro- 
nunciation and helped me to phrase and inflect. 
It was not, however, until October, 1893, after I 
had recovered from the fatigue and excitement of 
my visit to the World's Fair, that I began to have 
lessons in special subjects at fixed hours. 

Miss Sullivan and I were at that time in Hulton, 
Pennsylvania, visiting the family of Mr. William 
Wade. Mr. Irons, a neighbour of theirs, was a good 


i^atin scholar; it was arranged that I should study 
under him. I remember him as a man of rare 
sweet nature and of wide experience. He taught 
me Latin grammar principally ; but he often helped 
me in arithmetic, which I found as troublesome as 
it was uninteresting. Mr. Irons also read with me 
Tennyson's "In Memoriam." I had read many- 
books before, but never from a critical point of view. 
I learned for the first time to know an author, tc 
recognize his style as I recognize the clasp of a 
friend's hand. 

At first I was rather unwilling to study Latin 
grammar. It seemed absurd to waste time analyzing 
every word I came across — noun, genitive, singular, 
feminine — when its meaning was quite plain. I 
thought I might just as well describe my pet in order 
to know it — order, vertebrate ; division, quadruped ; 
class, mammalia; genus, felinus; species, cat; indi- 
vidual, Tabby. But as I got deeper into the subject, 
I became more interested, and the beauty of the 
language delighted me. I often amused myself by 
reading Latin passages, picking up words I under 
stood and trying to make sense. I have never 
ceased to enjoy this pastime. 

There is nothing more beautiful, I think, than 
the evanescent fleeting images and sentiments pre- 
sented by a language one is just becoming familiar 
with — ideas that flit across the mental sky, shaped 
and tinted by capricious fancy. Miss Sullivan 
sat beside me at my lessons, spelling into my 
hand whatever Mr. Irons said, and looking up 
new words for me. I was just beginning to read 
Caesar's "Gallic War" when I went to my home is 


In the summer of 1894, I attended the meet- 
ing at Chautauqua of the American Association 
to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. 
There it was arranged that I should go to the 
Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York 
City. I went there in October, 1894, accompanied 
by Miss Sullivan. This school was chosen especially 
for the purpose of obtaining the highest advantages 
in vocal culture and training in lip-reading. In 
addition to my work in these subjects, I studied, 
during the two years I was in the school, arithmetic, 
physical geography, French and German. 

Miss Reamy, my German teacher, could use the 
manual alphabet, and after I had acquired a small 
vocabulary, we talked together in German whenever 
we had a chance, and in a few months I could under- 
stand almost everything she said. Before the end 
of the first year I read"Wilhelm Tell" with the 
greatest delight. Indeed, I think I made more 
progress in German than in any of my other studies. 
I found French much more difficult. I studied it 
with Madame Olivier, a French lady who did not 
know the manual alphabet, and who was obliged to 
give her instruction orally. I could no\ read her 
lips easily ; so my progress was much slower than in 
German. I managed, however, to read " Le Medecin 
Malgre Lui" again. It was very amusing; but I did 
not like it nearly so well as "Wilhelm Tell." 


My progress in lip-reading and speech was not what 
my teachers and I had hoped and expected it would 
be. It was my ambition to speak like other people, 
and my teachers believed that this could be accom- 
plished ; but, although we worked hard and faithfully 
yet we did not quite reach our goal. I suppose we 
aimed too high, and disappointment was therefore 
inevitable. I still regarded arithmetic as a system 
of pitfalls. I hung about the dangerous frontier 
of "guess," avoiding with infinite trouble to myself 
and others the broad valley of reason. When 
I was not guessing, I was jumping at conclusions, 
and this fault, in addition to my dullness, 
aggravated my difficulties more than was right or 

But although these disappointments caused me 
great depression at times, I pursued my other 
studies with unflagging interest, especially physical 
geography. It was a joy to learn the secrets of 
nature: how — in the picturesque language of the 
Old Testament — the winds are made to blow from 
the four corners of the heavens, how the vapours 
ascend from the ends of the earth, how rivers are 
cut out among the rocks, and mountains overturned 
by the roots, and in what ways man may overcome 
many forces mightier than himself. The two years 
in New York were happy ones, and I look back to 
them with genuine pleasure. 

I remember especially the walks we all took 
together every day in Central Park, the only part of 
the city that was congenial to me. I never lost a 
jot of my delight in this great park. I loved to have 
it described every time I entered it; for it was 
beautiful in all its aspects, and these aspects were 


so many that it was beautiful in a different way each 
day of the nine months I spent in New York. 

In the spring we made excursions to various 
places of interest. We sailed on the Hudson River 
and wandered about on its green banks, of which 
Bryant loved to sing. I liked the simple, wild 
grandeur of the palisades. Among the places I 
visited were West Point, Tarry town, the home 
of Washington Irving, where I walked through 
"Sleepy Hollow." 

The teachers at the Wright-Humason School were 
always planning how they might give the pupils 
every advantage that those who hear enjoy — how 
they might make much of few tendencies and 
passive memories in the cases of the little ones — 
and lead them out of the cramping circumstances 
in which their lives were set. 

Before I left New York, these bright days were 
darkened by the greatest sorrow that I have ever 
borne, except the death of my father. Mr. John P. 
Spaulding, of Boston, died in February, 1896. 
Only those who knew and loved him best can 
understand what his friendship meant to me. 
He, who made every one happy in a beautiful, 
unobtrusive way, was most kind and tender to Miss 
Sullivan and me. So long as we felt his loving 
presence and knew that he took a watchful interest 
in our work, fraught with so many difficulties, we 
could not be discouraged. His going away left a 
vacancy in our lives that has never been filled. 


In October, 1896, I entered the Cambridge School 
for Young Ladies, to be prepared for Radcliffe. 

When I was a little girl, I visited Wellesley 
and surprised my friends by the announcement, 
"Some day I shall go to college — but I shall go to 
Harvard!" When asked why I would not go to 
Wellesley, I replied that there were only girls there. 
The thought of going to college took root in my heart 
and became an earnest desire, which nnpelled me to 
enter into competition for a degree with seeing and 
hearing girls, in the face of the strong opposition of 
many true and wise friends. When I left New York 
the idea had become a fixed purpose; and it was 
decided that I should go to Cambridge. This was 
the nearest approach I could get to Harvard and to 
the fulfillment of my childish declaration. 

At the Cambridge School the plan was to have 
Miss Sullivan attend the classes with me and 
interpret to me the instruction given. 

Of course my instructors had had no experience 
in teaching any but normal pupils, and my only 
means of conversing with them was reading 
their lips. My studies for the first year were 
English history, English literature, German, Latin, 
arithmetic, Latin composition and occasional 
themes. Until then I had never taken a course of 
study with the idea of preparing for college ; but I 
had been well drilled in English by Miss Sullivan, 



and it soon became evident to my teachers that I 
needed no special instruction in this subject beyond 
a critical study of the books prescribed by the 
college. I had had, moreover, a good start in 
French, and received six months' instruction in 
Latin; but German was the subject with which I 
was most familiar. 

In spite, however, of these advantages, there 
were serious drawbacks to my progress. Miss 
Sullivan could not spell out in my hand all that the 
books required, and it was very difficult to have 
text-books embossed in time to be of use to me, 
although my friends in London and Philadelphia 
were willing to hasten the work. For a while, 
indeed, I had to copy my Latin in braille, so that 
I could recite with the other girls. My instructors 
soon became sufficiently familiar with my imperfect 
speech to answer my questions readily and correct 
mistakes. I could not make notes in class or write 
exercises; but I wrote all my compositions and 
translations at home on my typewriter. 

Each day Miss Sullivan went to the classes with 
me and spelled into my hand with infinite patience 
all that the teachers said. In study hours she had 
to look up new words for me and read and reread 
notes and books I did not have in raised print. The 
tedium of that work is hard to conceive. Frau 
Grote, my German teacher, and Mr. Gilman, the 
principal, were the only teachers in the school who 
learned the finger alphabet to give me instruction. 
No one realized more fully than dear Frau Grote 
how slow and inadequate her spelling was. Never- 
theless, in the goodness of her heart she labouriously 
spelled out her instructions to me in special lesson? 


twice a week, to give Miss Sullivan a little rest. 
But, though everybody was kind and ready to help 
us, there was only one hand that could turn drudgery 
into pleasure. 

That year I finished arithmetic, reviewed my 
Latin grammar, and read three chapters of Caesar's 
"Gallic War." In German I read, partly with my 
fingers and partly with Miss Sullivan's assistance, 
Schiller's "Lied von der Glocke" and "Taucher/' 
Heine's "Harzreise," Freytag's "Aus dem Staat 
Friedrichs des Grossen," Riehl's "Fluch Der 
Schonheit," Lessing's "Minna von Barnhelm," and 
Goethe' s ' ' Aus meinem Leben. ' ' I took the greatest 
delight in these German books, especially Schiller's 
wonderful lyrics, the history of Frederick the Great's 
magnificent achievements and the account of 
Goethe's life. I was sorry to finish "Die Harz- 
reise," so full of happy witticisms and charming 
descriptions of vine-clad hills, streams that sing and 
ripple in the sunshine, and wild regions, sacred to 
tradition and legend, the gray sisters of a long- 
vanished, imaginative age — descriptions such as 
can be given only by those to whom nature is "a 
feeling, a love and an appetite." 

Mr. Gilman instructed me part of the year in 
English literature. We read together "As You 
Like It," Burke's "Speech on Conciliation with 
America," and Macaulay's "Life of Samuel 
Johnson." Mr, Oilman's broad views of history 
and literature and his clever explanations made 
my work easier and pleasanter than it could have 
been had I only read notes mechanically with the 
necessarily brief explanations given in the classes, 
Burke's speech was more instructive than any 


other book on a political subject that I had ever 

read. My mind stirred with the stirring times, and 
the characters round which the life of two contend- 
ing nations centred seemed to move right before 
me. 1 wondered more and more, while Burke's 
masterly speech rolled on in mighty surges of 
eloquence, how it was that King George and his 
ministers could have turned a deaf ear to his warn- 
ing prophecy of our victory and their humiliation. 
Then I entered into the melancholy details of the 
relation in which the great statesman stood to his 
party and to the representatives of the people. I 
thought how strange it was that such precious seeds 
of truth and wisdom should have fallen among the 
tares of ignorance and corruption. 

In a different way Macaulay's "Life of Samuel 
Johnson" was interesting. My heart went out to 
the lonely man who ate the bread of affliction in 
Grub Street, and yet, in the midst of toil and cruel 
suffering of body and soul, always had a kind word, 
and lent a helping hand to the poor and despised. 
I rejoiced over all his successes, I shut my eyes to 
his faults, and wondered, not that he had them, but 
that they had not crushed or dwarfed his soul. But 
in spite of Macaulay's brilliancy and his admirable 
faculty of making the commonplace seem fresh and 
picturesque, his positiveness wearied me at times, 
and his frequent sacrifices of truth to effect kept 
me in a questioning attitude very unlike the atti- 
tude of reverence in which I had listened to the 
Demosthenes of Great Britain. 

At the Cambridge school, for the first time in my 
life, I enjoyed the companionship of seeing and hear- 
ing girls of my own age. I lived with several others 


in one of the pleasant houses connected with the 
school, the house where Mr. Howells used to live, 
and we all had the advantage of home life. I joined 
them in many of their games, even blind man's 
buff and frolics in the snow ; I took long walks with 
them; we discussed our studies and read aloud the 
things that interested us. Some of the girls learned 
to speak to me, so that Miss Sullivan did not have 
to repeat their conversation. 

At Christmas, my mother and little sister spent 
the holidays with me, and Mr. Gilman kindly offered 
to let Mildred study in his school. So Mildred 
stayed with me in Cambridge, and for six happy 
months we were hardly ever apart. It makes me 
most happy to remember the hours we spent helping 
each other in study and sharing our recreation 

I took my preliminary examinations for Radcliffe 
from the 2 9th of June to the 3rd of July in 1897. The 
subjects I offered were Elementary and Advanced 
German, French, Latin, English, and Greek and 
Roman history, making nine hours in all. I passed 
in eveiything, and received "honours" in German 
and English. 

Perhaps an explanation of the method that was 
in use when I took my examinations will not be 
amiss here. The student was required to pass in 
sixteen hours — twelve hours being called elementary 
and four advanced. He had to pass five hours at 
a time to have them counted. The examination 
papers were given out at nine o'clock at Harvard 
and brought to Radcliffe by a special messenger. 
Each candidate was known, not by his name, 
but by a number. I was No. 233, but, as J 


had to use a typewriter, my identity could not be 

It was thought advisable for me to have my 
examinations in a room by myself, because the noise 
of the typewriter might disturb the other girls. 
Mr. Gilman read all the papers to me by means of 
the manual alphabet. A man was placed on guard 
at the door to prevent interruption. 

The first day I had German. Mr. Gilman sat 
beside me and read the paper through first, then 
sentence by sentence, while I repeated the words 
aloud, to make sure that I understood him perfectly. 
The papers were difficult, and I felt very anxious as 
I wrote out my answers on the typewriter. Mr. 
Gilman spelled to me what I had written, and I made 
such changes as I thought necessary, and he inserted 
them. I wish to say here that I have not had this 
advantage since in any of my examinations. At 
Radcliffe no one reads the papers to me after they 
are written, and I have no opportunity to correct 
errors unless I finish before the time is up. In 
that case I correct only such mistakes as I can 
recall in the few minutes allowed, and make notes 
of these corrections at the end of my paper. If I 
passed with higher credit in the preliminaries than 
in the finals, there are two reasons. In the finals, 
no one read my work over to me, and in the 
preliminaries I offered subjects with some of which 
I was in a measure familiar before my work in the 
Cambridge school ; for at the beginning of the year 
I had passed examinations in English, History, 
French and German, which Mr. Gilman gave me 
from previous Harvard papers. 

Mr. Gilman sent my written work to the examiners 


with a certificate that I, candidate No. 233, had 
written the papers. 

All the other preliminary examinations were 
conducted in the same manner. None of them was 
so difficult as the first. I remember that the day 
the Latin paper was brought to us, Professor 
Schilling came in and informed me I had passed 
satisfactorily in German. This encouraged me 
greatly, and I sped on to the end of the ordeal 
with a light heart and a steady hand. 


When I began my second year at the Gilman 
school, I was full of hope and determination to 
succeed. But during the first few weeks I was con- 
fronted with unforeseen difficulties. Mr. Gilman had 
agreed that that year I should study mathematics 
principally. I had physics, algebra, geometry, 
astronomy, Greek and Latin. Unfortunately, many 
of the books I needed had not been embossed in 
time for me to begin with the classes, and I lacked 
important apparatus for some of my studies. The 
classes I was in were very large, and it was impossible 
for the teachers to give me special instruction. 
Miss Sullivan was obliged to read all the books to me, 
and interpret for the instructors, and for the first 
time in eleven years it seemed as if her dear hand 
would not be equal to the task. 

It was necessary for me to write algebra and 
geometry in class and solve problems in physics, and 
this I could not do until we bought a braille writer, 
by means of which I could put down the steps and 
processes of my work. I could not follow with my 
eyes the geometrical figures drawn on the black- 
board, and my only means of getting a clear idea of 
them was to make them on a cushion with straight 
and curved wires, which had bent and pointed ends. 
I had to carry in my mind, as Mr. Keith says in his 
report, the lettering of the figures, the hypothesis 
and conclusion, the construction and the process of 



the proof. In a word, every study had its obstacles. 
Sometimes I lost all courage and betrayed my 
feelings in a way I am ashamed to remember, 
especially as the signs of my trouble were afterward 
used against Miss Sullivan, the only person of all the 
kind friends I had there, who could make the crooked 
straight and the rough places smooth, 

Little by little, however, my difficulties began to 
disappear. The embossed books and other appa- 
ratus arrived, and I threw myself into the work with 
renewed confidence. Algebra and geometry were 
the only studies that continued to defy my efforts 
to comprehend them. As I have said before, I 
had no aptitude for mathematics; the different 
points were not explained to me as fully as I wished. 
The geometrical diagrams were particularly vexing 
because I could not see the relation of the different 
parts to one another, even on the cushion. It was 
not until Mr. Keith taught me that I had a clear 
idea of mathematics. 

I was beginning to overcome these difficulties 
when an event occurred which changed everything. 

Just before the books came, Mr. Gilman had begun 
to remonstrate with Miss Sullivan on the ground 
that I was working too hard, and in spite of my 
earnest protestations, he reduced the number of 
my recitations. At the beginning we had agreed 
that I should, if necessary, take five years to prepare 
for college, but at the end of the first year the 
success of my examinations showed Miss Sullivan, 
Miss Harbaugh (Mr. Gilman' s head teacher), and 
one other, that I could without too much effort 
complete my preparation in two years more. Mr. 
Gilman at first agreed to this ; but when my tasks 


had become somewhat perplexing, he insisted that 
I was overworked, and that I should remain at his 
school three years longer. I did not like his plan, 
for I wished to enter college with my class. 

On the seventeenth of November I was not very 
well, and did not go to school. Although Miss 
Sullivan knew that my indisposition was not serious, 
yet Mr. Gilman, on hearing of it, declared that 
I was breaking down and made changes in my 
studies which would have rendered it impossible for 
me to take my final examinations with my class. 
In the end the difference of opinion between Mr. 
Gilman and Miss Sullivan resulted in my mother's 
withdrawing my sister Mildred and me from the 
Cambridge School. 

After some delay it was arranged that I should 
continue my studies under a tutor, Mr. Merton S. 
Keith, of Cambridge. Miss Sullivan and I spent the 
rest of the winter with our friends, the Chamberlins 
in Wrentham, twenty-five miles from Boston. 

From February to July, 1898, Mr. Keith came out 
to Wrentham twice a week, and taught me algebra, 
geometry, Greek and Latin. Miss Sullivan inter- 
preted his instruction. 

In October, 1898, we returned to Boston. For 
eight months Mr. Keith gave me lessons five times a 
week, in periods of about an hour. He explained 
each time what I did not understand in the previous 
lesson, assigned new work, and took home with him 
the Greek exercises which I had written during the 
week on my typewriter, corrected them fully, and 
returned them to me. 

In this way my preparation for college went 
on without interruption. I found it much easier and 


pleasanter to be taught by myself than to receive 
instruction in class. There was no hurry, no con- 
fusion. My tutor had plenty of time to explain 
what I did not understand, so I got on faster and did 
better work than I ever did in school. I still found 
more difficulty in mastering problems in mathe- 
matics than I did in any other of my studies. I 
wish algebra and geometry had been half as easy 
as the languages and literature. But even mathe- 
matics Mr. Keith made interesting; he succeeded in 
whittling problems small enough to get through 
my brain. He kept my mind alert and eager, and 
trained it to reason clearly, and to seek conclusions 
calmly and logically, instead of jumping wildly into 
space and arriving nowhere. He was always gentle 
and forbearing, no matter how dull I might be, and 
believe me, my stupidity would often have exhausted 
the patience of Job. 

On the 29th and 30th of June, 1899, I took my 
final 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 did not allow 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 American braille. Mr. Vining was 
a stranger to me, and could not communicate with 
me, except by writing braille. The proctor was also 
a stranger, and did not attempt to communicate 
with me in any way. 

The braille worked well enough in the languages, 
but when it came to geometry and algebra, difficulties' 


arose.* I was sorely perplexed, and felt discouraged 
wasting much precious time, especially in algebra. 
It is true that I was familiar with all literary 
braille in common use in this country — English, 
American, and New York Point; but the various 
signs and symbols in geometry and algebra in the 
three systems are very different, and I had used only 
the English braille in my algebra. 

Two days before the examinations, Mr. Vining 
sent me a braille copy of one of the old Harvard 
papers in algebra. To my dismay I found that it 
was in the American notation. I sat down immedi- 
ately and wrote to Mr. Vining, asking him to explain 
the signs. I received another paper and a table of 
signs by return mail, and I set to work to learn the 
notation. But on the night before the algebra 
examination, while I was struggling over some very 
complicated examples, I could not tell the combina- 
tions of bracket, brace and radical. Both Mr. 
Keith and I were distressed and full of forebodings 
for the morrow; but we went over to the college 
a little before the examination began, and had 
Mr. Vining explain more fully the American 

In geometry my chief difficulty was that I had 
always been accustomed to read the propositions in 
line print, or to have them spelled into my hand; 
and somehow, although the propositions were right 
before me, I found the braille confusing, and could 
not fix clearly in my mind what I was reading. But 
when I took up algebra I had a harder time still. 
The signs, which I had so lately learned, and which 
I thought I knew, perplexed me. Besides, I could 

*See Miss Keller's letter, page 259. 


not see what I wrote on my typewriter. I had 
always done my work in braille or in my head. 
Mr. Keith had relied too much on my ability to 
solve problems mentally, and had not trained me to 
write examination papers. Consequently my work 
was painfully slow, and I had to read the examples 
over and over before I could form any idea of 
what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure 
now that I read all the signs correctly. I found it 
very hard to keep my wits about me. 

But I do not blame any one. The administrative 
board of Radclifle did not realize how difficult they 
were making my examinations, nor did they under- 
stand the peculiar difficulties I had to surmount. 
But if they unintentionally placed obstacles in 
my way, I have the consolation of knowing that 
I overcame them all. 


The struggle for admission to college was ended, 
and I could now enter Radcliffe whenever I pleased. 
Before I entered college, however, it was thought 
best that I should study another year under Mr. 
Keith. It was not, therefore, until the fall of 1900 
that my dream of going to college was realized. 

I remember my first day at Radcliffe. It was a 
day full of interest for me. I had looked forward to 
it for years. A potent force within me, stronger 
than the persuasion of my friends, stronger even 
than the pleadings of my heart, had impelled me to 
try my strength by the standards of those who see 
and hear. I knew that there were obstacles in the 
way; but I was eager to overcome them. I had 
taken to heart the words of the wise Roman who 
said, " To be banished from Rome is but to live out- 
side of Rome." Debarred from the great highways 
of knowledge, I was compelled to make the journey 
across country by unfrequented roads — that was 
all; and I knew that in college there were many 
bypaths where I could touch hands with girls who 
were thinking, loving and struggling like me. 

I began my studies with eagerness. Before me 
I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and 
I felt within me the capacity to know all things. 
In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free 
as another. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, 
tragedies should be living, tangible interpreters of 



the real world. The lecture-halls seemed filled 
with the spirit of the great and the wise, and I 
thought the professors were the embodiment of 
wisdom. If I have since learned differently, I am 
not going to tell anybody. 

But I soon discovered that college was not quite 
the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the 
dreams that had delighted my young inexperience 
became beautifully less and "faded into the light 
of common day." Gradually I began to find that 
there were disadvantages in going to college. 

The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. 
I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and 
I. We would sit together of an evening and listen 
to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears 
only in leisure moments when the words of some 
loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that 
until then had been silent. But in college there is 
no time to commune with one's thoughts. \, One goes 
to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When 
one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the 
dearest pleasures— solitude, books and imagination 
— outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I 
ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am 
laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am 
improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoard- 
ing riches against a rainy day. 

My studies the first year were French, German, 
history, English composition and English literature. 
In the French course I read some of the works of 
Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Alfred de Musset and 
Sainte-Beuve, and in the German those of Goethe 
and Schiller. I reviewed rapidly the whole period 
of history from the fall of the Roman Empire to the 


eighteenth century, and in English literature studied 
critically Milton's poems and " Areopagitica." 

I am frequently asked how I overcome the pecu- 
liar conditions under which I work in college. In 
the classroom I am of course practically alone. The 
professor is as remote as if he were speaking through 
a telephone. The lectures are spelled into my hand 
as rapidly as possible, and much of the individuality 
of the lecturer is lost to me in the effort to keep in the 
race. The words rush through my hand like hounds 
in pursuit of a hare which they often miss. But in 
this respect I do not think I am much worse off than 
the girls who take notes. If the mind is occupied 
with the mechanical process of hearing and putting 
words on paper at pell-mell speed, I should not 
think one could pay much attention to the subject 
under consideration or the manner in which it is 
presented. I cannot make notes during the lectures, 
because my hands are busy listening. Usually I 
jot down what I can remember of them when I 
get home. I write the exercises, daily themes, 
criticisms and hour-tests, the mid-year and final 
examinations, on my typewriter, so that the profes- 
sors have no difficulty in rinding out how little I 
know. When I began the study of Latin prosody, 
I devised and explained to my professor a system of 
signs indicating the different meters and quantities. 

I use the Hammond typewriter. I have tried 
many machines, and I find the Hammond is the 
best adapted to the peculiar needs of my work. 
With this machine movable type shuttles can be 
used, and one can have several shuttles, each 
with a different set of characters — Greek, French, 
or mathematical, according to the kind of writing 


one wishes to do on the typewriter. Without it, I 
doubt if I could go to college. 

Very few of the books required in the various 
courses are printed for the blind, and I am obliged 
to have them spelled into my hand. Consequently 
I need more time to prepare my lessons than other 
girls. The manual part takes longer, and I have 
perplexities which they have not. There are days 
when the close attention I must give to details chafes 
my spirit, and the thought that I must spend hours 
reading a few chapters, while in the world without 
other girls are laughing and singing and dancing, 
makes me rebellious; but I soon recover my buoy- 
ancy and laugh the discontent out of my heart. 
For, after all, every one who wishes to gain true 
knowledge must climb the Hill Difficulty alone, 
and since there is no royal road to the summit, I 
must zigzag it in my own way. I slip back many 
times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of 
hidden obstacles. I lose my temper and find it again 
and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel 
encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and 
begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle 
is a victory. One more effort and I reach the 
luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the 
uplands of my desire. I am not always alone, how- 
ever, in these struggles. Mr. William Wade and 
Mr. E. E. Allen, Principal of the Pennsylvania 
Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, get 
for me many of the books I need in raised print. 
Their thoughtfulness has been more of a help and 
encouragement to me than they can ever know. 

Last year, my second year at Radcliffe, I studied 
English comoosition, the Bible as English literature, 


the governments of America and Europe, the Odes ot 
Horace, and Latin comedy. The class in composi- 
tion was the pleasant est. It was very lively. The 
lectures were always interesting, vivacious, witty; 
for the instructor, Mr. Charles Townsend Copeland, 
more than any one else I have had until this 
year, brings before you literature in all its 
original freshness and power. For one short 
hour you are permitted to drink in the eternal 
beauty of the old masters without needless inter- 
pretation or exposition. You revel in their fine 
thoughts. You enjoy with all your soul the sweet 
thunder of the Old Testament, forgetting the exist- 
ence of Jahweh and Elohim ; and you go home feel- 
ing that you have had ' ' a glimpse of that perfection 
in which spirit and form dwell in immortal har- 
mony; truth and beauty bearing a new growth 
on the ancient stem of time." 

This year is the happiest because I am 
studying subjects that especially interest me, 
economics, Elizabethan literature, Shakespeare 
under Professor George L. Kittredge, and the 
History of Philosophy under Professor Josiah 
Royce. Through philosophy one enters with sym- 
pathy of comprehension into the traditions of 
remote ages and other modes of thought, which 
erewhile seemed alien and without reason. 

But college is not the universal Athens I thought 
it was. There one does not meet the great and the 
wise face to face ; one does not even feel their living 
touch. They are there, it is true; but they seem 
mummified. We must extract them from the 
crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze 
them before we can be sure that we have a Milton or 


an Isaiah, and not merely a clever imitation. Many 
scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of 
the great works of literature depends more upon the 
depth of our sympathy than upon our understand- 
ing. The trouble is that very few of their laborious 
explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops 
them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. It is 
possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and 
all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appre- 
ciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven's dew. 
Again and again I ask impatiently, "Why concern 
myself with these explanations and hypotheses?" 
They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind 
birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not 
mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the 
famous works we read. I object only to the inter- 
minable comments and bewildering criticisms that 
teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as 
there are men. But when a great scholar like 
Professor Kittredge interprets what the master said, 
it is "as if new sight were given the blind." He 
brings back Shakespeare, the poet. 

There are, however, times when I long to sweep 
away half the things I am expected to learn ; for the 
overtaxed mind cannot enjoy the treasure it has 
secured at the greatest cost. It is impossible, I 
think, to read in one day four or five different books 
in different languages and treating of widely different 
subjects, and not lose sight of the very ends for which 
one reads. When one reads hurriedly and nervously, 
having in mind written tests and examinations, 
one's brain becomes encumbered with a lot of choice 
bric-a-brac for which there seems to be little use. 
A.t the present time my mind is so full of hetero 


geneous matter that I almost despair of ever being 
able to put it in order. Whenever I enter the region 
that was the kingdom of my mind I feel like the 
proverbial bull in the china shop. A thousand odds 
and ends of knowledge come crashing about my head 
like hailstones, and when I try to escape them, 
theme-goblins and college nixies of all sorts pursue 
me, until I wish — oh, may I be forgiven the wicked 
wish ! — that I might smash the idols I came to 

But the examinations are the chief bugbears of 
my college life. Although I have faced them many 
times and cast them down and made them bite the 
dust, yet they rise again and menace me with pale 
looks, until like Bob Acres I feel my courage oozing 
out at my finger ends. The days before these ordeals 
take place are spent in cramming your mind with 
mystic formulae and indigestible dates — unpalatable 
diets, until you wish that books and science and you 
were buried in the depths of the sea. 

At last the dreaded hour arrives, and you are a 
favoured being indeed if you feel prepared, and are 
able at the right time to call to your standard 
thoughts that will aid you in that supreme effort. 
It happens too often that your trumpet call is 
unheeded. It is most perplexing and exasperating 
that just at the moment when you need your 
memory and a nice sense of discrimination, these 
faculties take to themselves wings and fly away, 
The facts you have garnered with such infinite 
trouble invariably fail you at a pinch. 

"Give a brief account of Huss and his work." 
Huss ? Who was he and what did he do ? The name 
•ooks strangely familiar. You ransack your budget 


of historic facts much as you would hunt for a bit of 
silk in a rag-bag. You are sure it is somewhere in 
your mind near the top — you saw it there the other 
day when you were looking up the beginnings of the 
Reformation. But where is it now? You fish out 
all manner of odds and ends of knowledge — revolu- 
tions, schisms, massacres, systems of government; 
but Huss — where is he ? You are amazed at all the 
things you know which are not on the examination 
paper. In desperation you seize the budget and 
dump everything out, and there in a corner is your 
man, serenely brooding on his own private thought, 
unconscious of the catastrophe which he has brought 
upon you. 

Just then the proctor informs you that the time 
is up. With a feeling of intense disgust you kick 
the mass of rubbish into a corner and go home, your 
head full of revolutionary schemes to abolish the 
divine right of professors to ask questions without 
the consent of the questioned. 

It comes over me that in the last two or three 
pages of this chapter I have used figures which will 
turn the laugh against me. Ah, here they are — the 
mixed metaphors mocking and strutting about before 
me, pointing to the bull in the china shop assailed 
by hailstones and the bugbears with pale looks, 
an unanalyzed species ! Let them mock on. The 
words describe so exactly the atmosphere of jostling, 
tumbling ideas I live in that I will wink at them for 
once, and put on a deliberate air to say that my 
ideas of college have changed. 

While my days at Radcliffe were still in the future, 
they were encircled with a halo of romance, which 
they have lost ; but in the transition from romantic 


to actual I have learned many things I should 
never have known had I not tried the experiment. 
One of them is the precious science of patience, 
which teaches us that we should take our education 
as we would take a walk in the country, leisurely, 
our minds hospitably open to impressions of every 
sort. Such knowledge floods the soul unseen with 
a soundless tidal wave of deepening thought. 
"Knowledge is power." Rather, knowledge is 
happiness, because to have knowledge — broad, deep 
knowledge — is to know true ends from false, and 
lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and 
deeds that have marked man's progress is to feel 
the great heart-throbs of humanity through the 
centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsa- 
tions a heavenward striving, one must indeed be 
deaf to the harmonies of life. 


I have thus far sketched the events of my life, 
but I have not shown how much I have depended 
on books not only for pleasure and for the wisdom 
they bring to all who read, but also for that knowl- 
edge which comes to others through their eyes and 
their ears. Indeed, books have meant so much 
more in my education than in that of others, that 
I shall go back to the time when I began to read. 

I read my first connected story in May, 1887, when 
I was seven years old, and from that day to this I 
have devoured everything in the shape of a printed 
page that has come within the reach of my hungry 
finger tips. As I have said, I did not study regu- 
larly during the early years of my education; nor 
did I read according to rule. 

At first I had only a few books in raised print — 
"readers" for beginners, a collection of stories for 
children, and a book about the earth called "Our 
World." I think that was all ; but I read them over 
and over, until the words were so worn and pressed 
I could scarcely make them out. Sometimes Miss 
Sullivan read to me, spelling into my hand little 
stories and poems that she knew I should under- 
stand; but I preferred reading myself to being 
read to, because I liked to read again and again 
the things that pleased me. 

It was during my first visit to Boston that I really 
began to read in good earnest. I wa? permitted to 



spend a part of each day in the Institution library, 
and to wander from bookcase to bookcase, and take 
down whatever book my fingers lighted upon. And 
read I did, whether I understood one word in ten 
or two words on a page. The words themselves 
fascinated me; but I took no conscious account of 
what I read. My mind must, however, have been 
very impressionable at that period, for it retained 
many words and whole sentences, to the meaning of 
which I had not the faintest clue; and afterward, 
when I began to talk and write, these words and 
sentences would flash out quite naturally, so that 
my friends wondered at the richness of my vocab- 
ulary. I must have read parts of many books (in 
those early days I think I never read any one book 
through) and a great deal of poetry in this uncom- 
prehending way, until I discovered "Little Lord 
Fauntleroy," which was the first book of any conse- 
quence I read understandingly. 

One day my teacher found me in a corner of the 
library pouring over the pages of "The Scarlet 
Letter." I was then about eight years old. I 
remember she asked me if I liked little Pearl, and 
explained some of the words that had puzzled me. 
Then she told me that she had a beautiful story 
about a little boy which she was sure I should like 
better than " The Scarlet Letter." The name of the 
story was "Little Lord Fauntleroy," and she 
promised to read it to me the following summer. 
But we did not begin the story until August; the 
first few weeks of my stay at the seashore were so full 
of discoveries and excitement that I forgot the very 
existence of books. Then my teacher went to visit 
some friends in Boston, leaving me for a short time. 


When she returned almost the first thing we did 
fcras to begin the story of " Little Lord Fauntleroy." 
I recall distinctly the time and place when we read 
the first chapters of the fascinating child's story. It 
was a warm afternoon in August. We were sitting 
together in a hammock which swung from two solemn 
pines at a short distance from the house. We had 
hurried through the dish-washing after luncheon, 
in order that we might have as long an afternoon as 
possible for the story. As we hastened through the 
long grass toward the hammock, the grasshoppers 
swarmed about us and fastened themselves on our 
clothes, and I remember that my teacher insisted 
upon picking them all off before we sat down, which 
seemed to me an unnecessary waste of time. The 
hammock was covered with pine needles, for it had 
not been used while my teacher was away. The 
warm sun shone on the pine trees and drew out all 
their fragrance. The air was balmy, with a tang of 
the sea in it. Before we began the story Miss 
Sullivan explained to me the things that she knew 
I should not understand, and as we read on she 
explained the unfamiliar words. At first there were 
many words I did not know, and the reading was 
constantly interrupted ; but as soon as I thoroughly 
comprehended the situation, I became too eagerly 
absorbed in the story to notice mere words, and I 
am afraid I listened impatiently to the explanations 
that Miss Sullivan felt to be necessary. When her 
fingers were too tired to spell another word, I had for 
the first time a keen sense of my deprivations. I 
took the book in my hands and tried to feel 
the letters with an intensity of longing that I can 
never forget. 


Afterward, at my eager request, Mr. Anagnos had 
this story embossed, and I read it again and again, 
until I almost knew it by heart ; and all through my 
childhood "Little Lord Fauntleroy" was my sweet 
and gentle companion. I have given these details 
at the risk of being tedious, because they are in such 
vivid contrast with my vague, mutable and confused 
memories of earlier reading. 

From "Little Lord Fauntleroy" I date the begin- 
ning of my true interest in books. During the next 
two years I read many books at my home and on my 
visits to Boston. I cannot remember what they all 
were, or in what order I read them ; but I know that 
among them were "Greek Heroes," La Fontaine's 
"Fables," Hawthorne's "Wonder Book," "Bible 
Stories," Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare," "A 
Child's History of England" by Dickens, "The 
Arabian Nights," "The Swiss Family Robinson," 
"The Pilgrim's Progress," "Robinson Crusoe," 
"Little Women," and "Heidi," a beautiful little 
story which I afterward read in German. I read them 
in the intervals between study and play with an 
ever-deepening sense of pleasure. I did not study nor 
analyze them — I did not know whether they were 
well written or not; I never thought about style or 
authorship. They laid their treasures at my feet, 
and I accepted them as we accept the sunshine and 
the love of our friends. I loved "Little Women" 
because it gave me a sense of kinship with girls and 
boys who could see and hear. Circumscribed as my 
life was in so many ways, I had to look between the 
covers of books for news of the world that lay 
outside my own. 

I did not care especiallv for "The Pilgrim's 


Progress," which I think I did not finish, or for the 
"Fables." I read La Fontaine's "Fables" first in an 
English translation, and enjoyed them only after a 
half-hearted fashion. Later I read the book again in 
French, and I found that, in spite of the vivid word- 
pictures, and the wonderful mastery of language, I 
liked it no better. I do not know why it is, but 
stories in which animals are made to talk and act like 
human beings have never appealed to me very 
strongly. The ludicrous caricatures of the animals 
occupy my mind to the exclusion of the moral. 

Then, again, La Fontaine seldom, if ever, appeals 
to our higher moral sense. The highest chords he 
strikes are those of reason and self-love. Through 
all the fables runs the thought that man's morality 
springs wholly from self-love, and that if that self- 
love is directed and restrained by reason, happiness 
must follow. Now, so far as I can judge, self-love 
is the root of all evil ; but, of course, I may be wrong, 
for La Fontaine had greater opportunities of observ- 
ing men than I am likely ever to have. I do not 
object so much to the cynical and satirical fables as 
to those in which momentous truths are taught by 
monkeys and foxes. 

But I love " The Jungle Book" and " Wild Animals 
I Have Known." I feel a genuine interest in the 
animals themselves, because they are real animals 
and not caricatures of men. One sympathizes with 
their loves and hatreds, laughs over their comedies, 
and weeps over their tragedies. And if they point 
a moral, it is so subtle that we are not conscious 
of it. 

My mind opened naturally and joyously to a con- 
ception of antiquity. Greece, ancient Greece, exer- 


cised a mysterious fascination over me. In my 
fancy the pagan gods and goddesses still walked on 
earth and talked face to face with men, and in my 
heart I secretly built shrines to those I loved best. 
I knew and loved the whole tribe of nymphs and 
heroes and demigods — no, not quite all, for the 
cruelty and greed of Medea and Jason were too 
monstrous to be forgiven, and I used to wonder why 
the gods permitted them to do wrong and then 
punished them for their wickedness. And the 
mystery is still unsolved. I often wonder how 

God can dumbness keep 

While Sin creeps grinning through His house of Time. 

It was the Iliad that made Greece my paradise. 
I was familiar with the story of Troy before I read 
it in the original, and consequently I had little 
difficulty in making the Greek words surrender their 
treasures after I had passed the borderland of 
grammar. Great poetry, whether written in Greek or 
in English, needs no other interpreter than a respon- 
sive heart. Would that the host of those who 
make the great works of the poets odious by their 
analysis, impositions and laborious comments 
might learn this simple truth ! It is not necessary 
that one should be able to define every word and give 
it its principal parts and its grammatical position in 
the sentence in order to understand and appre- 
ciate a fine poem. I know my learned professors 
have found greater riches in the Iliad than I 
shall ever find; but I am not avaricious. I am 
content that others should be wiser than I. But 
with all their wide and comprehensive knowledge, 
they cannot measure their enjoyment of that splen- 


did epic, nor can I. When I read the finest pass- 
ages of the Iliad, I am conscious of a soul-sense 
that lifts me above the narrow, cramping circum- 
stances of my life. My physical limitations are 
forgotten — my world lies upward, the length and 
the breadth and the sweep of the heavens are 
mine ! 

My admiration for the ^Eneid is not so great, 
but it is none the less real. I read it as much as 
possible without the help of notes or dictionary, and 
I always like to translate the episodes that pleased 
me especially. The word-painting of Virgil is won- 
derful sometimes; but his gods and men move 
through the scenes of passion and strife and pity 
and love like the graceful figures in an Elizabethan 
mask, whereas in the Iliad they give three leaps 
and go on singing. Virgil is serene and lovely 
like a marble Apollo in the moonlight; Homer is a 
beautiful, animated youth in the full sunlight with 
the wind in his hair. 

How easy it is to fly on paper wings ! From 
"Greek Heroes" to the Iliad was no day's journey, 
nor was it altogether pleasant. One could have 
traveled round the world many times while I trudged 
my weary way through the labyrinthine mazes of 
grammars and dictionaries, or fell into those dreadful 
pitfalls called examinations, set by schools and 
colleges for the confusion of those who seek after 
knowledge. I suppose this sort of Pilgrim's Progress 
was justified by the end ; but it seemed interminable 
to me, in spite of the pleasant surprises that met me 
now and then at a turn in the road. 

I began to read the Bible long before I could under- 
stand it. Now it seems strange to me that there 


should have been a time when my spirit was deaf 
to its wondrous harmonies ; but I remember well a 
rainy Sunday morning when, having nothing else to 
do, I begged my cousin to read me a story out of the 
Bible. Although she did not think I should under- 
stand, she began to spell into my hand the story 
of Joseph and his brothers. Somehow it failed to 
interest me. The unusual language and repetition 
made the story seem unreal and far away in the 
land of Canaan, and I fell asleep and wandered 
off to the land of Nod, before the brothers came with 
the coat of many colours unto the tent of Jacob and 
told their wicked lie ! I cannot understand why the 
stories of the Greeks should have been so full of 
charm for me, and those of the Bible so devoid of 
interest, unless it was that I had made the acquaint- 
ance of several Greeks in Boston and been inspired 
by their enthusiasm for the stories of their country ; 
whereas I had not met a single Hebrew or Egyptian, 
and therefore concluded that they were nothing 
more than barbarians, and the stories about 
them were probably all made up, which hypothesis 
explained the repetitions and the queer names. 
Curiously enough, it never occurred to me to call 
Greek patronymics " queer. " 

But how shall I speak of the glories I have since 
discovered in the Bible? For years I have read it 
with an ever-broadening sense of joy and inspiration ; 
and I love it as I love no other book. Still there is 
much in the Bible against which every instinct of 
my being rebels, so much that I regret the necessity 
which has compelled me to read it through from 
beginning to end. I do not think that the knowledge 
which I have gained of its history and sources com- 


pensates me for the unpleasant details it has forced 
upon my attention. For my part, I wish, with Mr. 
Ho wells, that the literature of the past might be 
purged of all that is ugly and barbarous in it, 
although I should object as much as any one to 
having these great works weakened or falsified. 

There is something impressive, awful, in the sim- 
plicity and terrible directness of the book of Esther. 
Could there be anything more dramatic than the 
scene in which Esther stands before her wicked lord ? 
She knows her life is in his hands ; there is no one to 
protect her from his wrath. Yet, conquering her 
woman's fear, she approaches him, animated by the 
noblest patriotism, having but one thought: "If I 
perish, I perish ; but if I live, my people shall live. " 

The story of Ruth, too — how Oriental it is ! Yet 
how different is the life of these simple country folks 
from that of the Persian capital ! Ruth is so loyal 
and gentle-hearted, we cannot help loving her, as 
she stands with the reapers amid the waving corn. 
Her beautiful, unselfish spirit shines out like a bright 
star in the night of a dark and cruel age. Love like 
Ruth's, love which can rise above conflicting creeds 
and deep-seated racial prejudices, is hard to find in 
all the world. 

The Bible gives me a deep, comforting sense that 
"things seen are temporal, and things unseen are 
eternal. " 

I do not remember a time since I have been capable 
of loving books that I have not loved Shakespeare. 
I cannot tell exactly when I began Lamb's "Tales 
from Shakespeare"; but I know that I read them 
at first with a child's understanding and a child's 
wonder. "Macbeth" seems to have impressed me 


most. One reading was sufficient to stamp every 
detail of the story upon my memory forever. For a 
long time the ghosts and witches pursued me even 
into Dreamland. I could see, absolutely see, the 
dagger and Lady Macbeth's little white hand — the 
dreadful stain was as real to me as to the grief- 
stricken queen. 

I read " King Lear" soon after " Macbeth, " and I 
shall never forget the feeling of horror when I came 
to the scene in which Gloster's eyes are put out. 
Anger seized me, my fingers refused to move, I sat 
rigid for one long moment, the blood throbbing in 
my temples, and all the hatred that a child can feel 
concentrated in my heart. 

I must have made the acquaintance of Shylock 
and Satan about the same time, for the two charac- 
ters were long associated in my mind. I remember 
that I was sorry for them. I felt vaguely that they 
could not be good even if thev wished to, because no 
one seemed willing to help them or to give them a 
fair chance. Even now I cannot find it in my heart 
to condemn them utterly. There are moments 
when I feel that the Shylocks, the Judases, and even 
the Devil, are broken spokes in the great wheel of 
good which shall in due time be made whole. 

It seems strange that my first reading of Shake- 
speare should have left me so many unpleasant 
memories. The bright, gentle, fanciful plays — the 
ones I like best now — appear not to have impressed 
me at first, perhaps because they reflected the 
habitual sunshine and gaiety of a child's life. But 
" there is nothing more capricious than the memory 
of a child : what it will hold, and what it will lose." 

I have since read Shakespeare's plays many times 


and know parts of them by heart, but I cannot tell 
which of them I like best. My delight in them is as 
varied as my moods. The little songs and the sonnets 
have a meaning for me as fresh and wonderful as the 
dramas. But, with all my love for Shakespeare, it 
is often weary work to read all the meanings into 
his lines which critics and commentators have given 
them. I used to try to remember their interpreta- 
tions, but they discouraged and vexed me ; so I made 
a secret compact with myself not to try any more. 
This compact I have only just broken in my study 
of Shakespeare under Professor Kittredge. I know 
there are many things in Shakespeare, and in the 
world, that I do not understand; and I am glad to 
see veil after veil lift gradually, revealing new realms 
of thought and beauty. 

Next to poetry I love history. I have read every 
historical work that I have been able to lay my hands 
on, from a catalogue of dry facts and dryer dates 
to Green's impartial, picturesque " History of the 
English People"; from Freeman's "History of 
Europe" to Emerton's "Middle Ages." The first 
book that gave me any real sense of the value of 
history was Swinton's "World's History," which I 
received on my thirteenth birthday. Though I 
believe it is no longer considered valid, yet I have 
kept it ever since as one of my treasures. From it 
I learned how the races of men spread from land to 
land and built great cities, how a few great rulers, 
earthly Titans, put everything under their feet, and 
with a decisive word opened the gates of happiness 
for millions and closed them upon millions more; 
how different nations pioneered in art and knowledge 
and broke ground for the mightier growths of coming 


ages; how civilization underwent, as it were, the 
holocaust of a degenerate age, and rose again, like 
the Phoenix, among the nobler sons of the North; 
and how by liberty, tolerance and education the 
great and the wise have opened the way for the 
salvation of the whole world. 

In my college reading I have become somewhat 
familiar with French and German literature. The 
German puts strength before beauty, and truth 
before convention, both in life and in literature. 
There is a vehement, sledge-hammer vigour about 
everything that he does. When he speaks, it is not 
to impress others, but because his heart would burst 
if he did not find an outlet for the thoughts that burn 
in his soul. 

Then, too, there is in German literature a fine 
reserve which I like; but its chief glory is the 
recognition I find in it of the redeeming potency of 
woman's self-sacrificing love. This thought per- 
vades all German literature and is mystically 
expressed in Goethe's "Faust": 

All things transitory 

But as symbols are sent. 
Earth's insufficiency 

Here grows to event. 
The indescribable 
Here it is done. 
The Woman Soul leads us upward and on f 

Of all the French writers that I have read, I like 
Moliere and Racine best. There are fine things in 
Balzac and passages in Merimee which strike one 
like a keen blast of sea air. Alfred de Musset is 
impossible ! I admire Victor Hugo — I appreciate 
his genius, his brilliancy, his romanticism ; though he 
is not one of my literary passions. But Hugo and 


Goethe and Schiller and all great poets of all 
great nations are interpreters of eternal things, 
and my spirit reverently follows them into the 
regions where Beauty and Truth and Goodness 
are one. 

I am afraid I have written too much about my 
book-friends, and yet I have mentioned only the 
authors I love most; and from this fact one might 
easily suppose that my circle of friends was very 
limited and undemocratic, which would be a very 
wrong impression. I like many writers for many 
reasons — Carlyle for his ruggedness and scorn of 
shams ; Wordsworth, who teaches the oneness of man 
and nature ; I find an exquisite pleasure in the oddities 
and surprises of Hood, in Herrick's quaintness and 
the palpable scent of lily and rose in his verses; I 
like Whittier for his enthusiasms and moral rectitude. 
I knew him, and the gentle remembrance of our 
friendship doubles the pleasure I have in reading 
his poems. I love Mark Twain — who does not? 
The gods, too, loved him and put into his heart all 
manner of wisdom; then, fearing lest he should 
become a pessimist, they spanned his mind with a 
rainbow of love and faith. I like Scott for his 
freshness, dash and large honesty. I love all 
writers whose minds, like Lowell's, bubble up in 
the sunshine of optimism — fountains of joy and 
good will, with occasionally a splash of anger and 
here and there a healing spray of sympathy and 

In a word, literature is my Utopia. Here I am not 
disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me 
out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book- 
friends. They talk to me without embarrassment 01 


awkwardness. The things I have learned and the 
things I have been taught seem of ridiculously little 
importance compared with their "large loves and 
heavenly charities." 


I trust that my readers have not concluded from 
the preceding chapter on books that reading is my 
only pleasure; my pleasures and amusements are 
many and varied. 

More than once in the course of my story I have 
referred to my love of the country and out-of-door 
sports. When I was quite a little girl, I learned to 
row and swim, and during the summer, when I am 
at Wrentham, Massachusetts, I almost live ,in my 
boat. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to 
take my friends out rowing when they visit me. Of 
course, I cannot guide the boat very well. Some one 
usually sits in the stern and manages the rudder 
while I row. Sometimes, however, I go rowing 
without the rudder. It is fun to try to steer by the 
scent of watergrasses and lilies, and of bushes that 
grow on the shore. I use oars with leather bands, 
which keep them in position in the oarlocks, and I 
know by the resistance of the water when the oars 
are evenly poised. In the same manner I can also 
tell when I am pulling against the current. I like to 
contend with wind and wave. What is more 
exhilarating than to make your staunch little boat, 
obedient to your will and muscle, go skimming 
lightly over glistening, tilting waves, and to feel the 
steady, imperious surge of the water ! 

I also enjoy canoeing, and I suppose you will smile 
when I say that I especially like it on moonlight 



nights. I cannot, it is true, see the moon climb up 
the sky behind the pines and steal softly across the 
heavens, making a shining path for us to follow ; but 
I know she is there, and as I lie back among the 
pillows and put my hand in the water, I fancy that 
I feel the shimmer of her garments as she passes. 
Sometimes a daring little fish slips between my 
fingers, and often a pond-lily presses shyly against 
my hand. Frequently, as we emerge from the 
shelter of a cove or inlet, I am suddenly conscious 
of the spaciousness of the air about me. A lumin- 
ous warmth seems to enfold me. Whether it comes 
from the trees which have been heated by the sun, 
or from the water, I can never discover. I have had 
the same strange sensation even in the heart of the 
city. I have felt it on cold, stormy days and at 
night. It is like the kiss of warm lips on my face. 

My favourite amusement is sailing. In the sum- 
mer of 1 90 1 I visited Nova Scotia, and had oppor- 
tunities such as I had not enjoyed before to make 
the acquaintance of the ocean. After spending a 
few days in Evangeline's country, about which 
Longfellow's beautiful poem has woven a spell of 
enchantment, Miss Sullivan and I went to Halifax, 
where we remained the greater part of the summer. 
The harbour was our joy, our paradise. What 
glorious sails we had to Bedford Basin, to McNabb's 
Island, to York Redoubt, and to the Northwest 
Arm ! And at night what soothing, wondrous hours 
we spent in the shadow of the great, silent men-of- 
war. Oh, it was all so interesting, so beautiful! 
The memory of it is a joy forever. 

One day we had a thrilling experience. There 
was a regatta in the Northwest Arm, in which 


the boats from the different warships were engaged. 
We went in a sail-boat along with many others to 
watch the races. Hundreds of little sail-boats swung 
to and fro close by, and the sea was calm. When the 
races were over, and we turned our faces homeward, 
one of the party noticed a black cloud drifting in 
from the sea, which grew and spread and thickened 
until it covered the whole sky. The wind rose, and 
the waves chopped angrily at unseen barriers. Our 
little boat confronted the gale fearlessly ; with sails 
spread and ropes taut, she seemed to sit upon the 
wind. Now she swirled in the billows, now she 
sprang upward on a gigantic wave, only to be driven 
down with angry howl and hiss. Down came the 
mainsail. Tacking and jibbing, we wrestled with 
opposing winds that drove us from side to side with 
impetuous fury. Our hearts beat fast, and our 
hands trembled with excitement, not fear; for we 
had the hearts of vikings, and we knew that our 
skipper was master of the situation. He had steered 
through many a storm with firm hand and sea -wise 
eye. As they passed us, the large craft and the 
gunboats in the harbour saluted and the seamen 
shouted applause for the master of the only little 
sail-boat that ventured out into the storm. At last, 
cold, hungry and weary, we reached our pier. 

Last summer I spent in one of the loveliest nooks 
of one of the most charming villages in New England. 
Wrentham, Massachusetts, is associated with nearly 
all of my joys and sorrows. For many years Red 
Farm, by King Philip's Pond, the home of Mr. 
J. E. Chamberlin and his family, was my home. 
I remember with deepest gratitude the kindness of 
these dear friends and the happy days I spent with 


them. The sweet companionship of their children 
meant much to me. I joined in all their sports 
and rambles through the woods and frolics in the 
water. The prattle of the little ones and their 
pleasure in the stories I told them of elf and 
gnome, of hero and wily bear, are pleasant things to 
remember. Mr. Chamberlin initiated me into the 
mysteries of tree and wild-flower, until with the 
little ear of love I heard the flow of sap in the 
oak, and saw the sun glint from leaf to leaf. Thus 
it is that 

Even as the roots, shut in the darksome earth, 
Share in the tree-top's joyance, and. conceive 
Of sunshine and wide air and winged things, 
By sympathy of nature, so do I 

have evidence of things unseen. 

It seems to me that there is in each of us a capacity 
to comprehend the impressions and emotions which 
have been experienced by mankind from the begin- 
ning. Each individual has a subconscious memory 
of the green earth and murmuring waters, and blind- 
ness and deafness cannot rob him of this gift from 
past generations. This inherited capacity is a sort 
of sixth sense — a soul-sense which sees, hears, feels, 
all in one. 

I have many tree friends in Wrentham. One of 
them, a splendid oak, is the special pride of my heart. 
I take all my other friends to see this king-tree. It 
stands on a bluff overlooking King Philip's Pond, 
and those who are wise in tree lore say it must have 
stood there eight hundred or a thousand years. 
There is a tradition that under this tree King 
Philip, the heroic Indian chief, gazed his last on 
earth and sky. 


I had another tree friend, gentle and more 
approachable than the great oak — a linden that 
grew in the dooryard at Red Farm. One afternoon, 
during a terrible thunderstorm, I felt a tremendous 
crash against the side of the house and knew, even 
before they told me, that the linden had fallen. 
We went out to see the hero that had withstood 
so many tempests, and it wrung my heart to see 
him prostrate who had mightily striven and was 
now mightily fallen. 

But I must not forget that I was going to write 
about last summer in particular. As soon as my 
examinations were over, Miss Sullivan and I hastened 
to this green nook, where we have a little cottage on 
one of the three lakes for which Wrentham is famous. 
Here the long, sunny days were mine, and all 
thoughts of work and college and the noisy city 
were thrust into the background. In Wrentham we 
caught echoes of what was happening in the world 
— war, alliance, social conflict. We heard of the 
cruel, unnecessary fighting in the far-away Pacific, 
and learned of the struggles going on between capi- 
tal and labour. We knew that beyond the border 
of our Eden men were making history by the sweat 
of their brows when they might better make a 
holiday. But we little heeded these things. These 
things would pass away; here were lakes and woods, 
and broad daisy-starred fields and sweet-breathed 
meadows, and they shall endure forever. 

People who think that all sensations reach us 
through the eye and the ear have expressed surprise 
that I should notice any difference, except possibly 
the absence of pavements, between walking in city 
streets and in country roads. They forget that my 


whole body is alive to the conditions about me. The 
rumble and roar of the city smite the nerves of my 
face, and I feel the ceaseless tramp of an unseen 
multitude, and the dissonant tumult frets my spirit. 
The grinding of heavy wagons on hard pavements 
and the monotonous clangour of machinery are all 
the more torturing to the nerves if one's attention is 
not diverted by the panorama that is always present 
in the noisy streets to people who can see. 

In the country one sees only Nature's fair works, 
and one's soul is not saddened by the cruel struggle 
for mere existence that goes on in the crowded city. 
Several times I have visited the narrow, dirty streets 
where the poor live, and I grow hot and indignant to 
think that good people should be content to live in 
fine houses and become strong and beautiful, while 
others are condemned to live in hideous, sunless 
tenements and grow ugly, withered and cringing. 
The children who crowd these grimy alleys, half -clad 
and underfed, shrink away from your outstretched 
hand as if from a blow. Dear little creatures, they 
crouch in my heart and haunt me with a constant 
sense of pain. There are men and women, too, all 
gnarled and bent out of shape. I have felt their 
hard, rough hands and realized what an endless 
struggle their existence must be — no more than a 
series of scrimmages, thwarted attempts to do some- 
thing. Their life seems an immense disparity 
between effort and opportunity. The •sun and the 
air are God's free gifts to all, we say ; but are they so ? 
In yonder city's dingy alleys the sun shines not, and 
the air is foul. Oh, man, how dost thou forget and 
obstruct thy brother man, and say, "Give us this 
day our daily bread, " when he has none ! Oh f 


would that men would leave the city, its splendour 
and its tumult and its gold, and return to wood and 
field and simple, honest living ! Then would their 
children grow stately as noble trees, and their 
thoughts sweet and pure as wayside flowers. It is 
impossible not to think of all this when I return to 
the country after a year of work in town. 

What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth 
under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads 
that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my 
fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber 
over a stone wall into green fields that tumble 
and roll and climb in riotous gladness ! 

Next to a leisurely walk I enjoy a "spin" on my 
tandem bicycle. It is splendid to feel the wind 
blowing in my face and the springy motion of my 
iron steed. The rapid rush through the air gives 
me a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy, and 
the exercise makes my pulses dance and my heart 

Whenever it is possible, my dog accompanies me 
on a walk or ride or sail. I have had many dog 
friends — huge mastiffs, soft-eyed spaniels, wood- 
wise setters and honest, homely bull terriers. At 
present the lord of my affections is one of these bull 
terriers. He has a long pedigree, a crooked tail and 
the drollest "phiz" in dogdom. My dog friends 
seem to understand my limitations, and always 
keep close beside me when I am alone. I love 
their affectionate ways and the eloquent wag of 
their tails. 

When a rainy day keeps me indoors, I amuse 
myself after the manner of other girls. I like to 
knit and crochet ; I read in the happy-go-lucky way 


I love, here and there a line; or perhaps I play a 
game or two of checkers or chess with a friend. I 
have a special board on which I play these games. 
The squares are cut out, so that the men stand in 
them firmly. The black checkers are flat and the 
white ones curved on top. Each checker has a hole 
in the middle in which a brass knob can be placed 
to distinguish the king from the commons. The 
chessmen are of two sizes, the white larger than the 
black, so that I have no trouble in following my 
opponent's manoeuvers by moving my hands lightly 
over the board after a play. The jar made by 
shifting the men from one hole to another tells me 
when it is my turn. 

If I happen to be all alone and in an idle mood, I 
play a game of solitaire, of which I am very fond. 
I use playing cards marked in the upper right-hand 
corner with braille symbols which indicate the value 
of the card. 

It there are children around, nothing pleases me 
so much as to frolic with them. I find even the 
smallest child excellent company, and I am glad to 
say that children usually like me. They lead me 
about and show me the things they are interested in. 
Of course the little ones cannot spell on their fingers ; 
but I manage to read their lips. If I do not succeed 
they resort to dumb show. Sometimes I make a 
mistake and do the wrong thing. A burst of childish 
laughter greets my blunder, and the pantomime 
begins all over again. I often tell them stories or 
teach them a game, and the winged hours depart 
and leave us good and happy. 

Museums and art stores are also sources of pleasure 
and inspiration. Doubtless it will seem strange to 



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Copyright by Emily Stokes, igo2 Photograph by Emily Stokes, ipoa 



many that the hand unaided by sight can feel action, 
sentiment, beauty in the cold marble ; and yet it is 
true that I derive genuine pleasure from touching 
great works of art. As my finger tips trace line and 
curve, they discover the thought and emotion which 
the artist has portrayed. I can feel in the faces of 
gods and heroes hate, courage and love, just as I 
can detect them in living faces I am permitted to 
touch. I feel in Diana's posture the grace and free- 
dom of the forest and the spirit that tames the 
mountain lion and subdues the fiercest passions. 
My soul delights in the repose and gracious curves 
of the Venus ; and in Barre's bronzes the secrets of 
the jungle are revealed to me. 

A medallion of Homer hangs on the wall of my 
study, conveniently low, so that I can easily reach 
it and touch the beautiful, sad face with loving 
reverence. How well I know each line in that 
majestic brow — -tracks of life and bitter evidences 
of struggle and sorrow; those sightless eyes seeking, 
even in the cold plaster, for the light and the blue 
skies of his beloved Hellas, but seeking in vain; 
that beautiful mouth, firm and true and tender. 
It is the face of a poet, and of a man acquainted 
with sorrow. Ah, how well I understand his 
deprivation — the perpetual night in which ' he 
dwelt — 

O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, 
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse 
Without all hope of day ! 

In imagination I can hear Homer singing, as with 
unsteady, hesitating steps he gropes his way from 
camp to camp — singing of life, of love, of war, of the 
splendid achievements of a noble race. It was a 


wonderful, glorious song, and it won the blind poet 
an immortal crown, the admiration of all ages. 

I sometimes wonder if the hand is not more 
sensitive to the beauties of sculpture than the 
eye. I should think the wonderful rhythmical 
flow of lines and curves could be more subtly felt 
than seen. Be this as it may, I know that I can 
feel the heart-throbs of the ancient Greeks in 
their marble gods and goddesses. 

Another pleasure, which comes more rarely than 
the others, is going to the theatre. I enjoy having 
a play described to me while it is being acted on the 
stage far more than reading it, because then it seems 
as if I were living in the midst of stirring events. It 
has been my privilege to meet a few great actors and 
actresses who have the power of so bewitching you 
that you forget time and place and live again in the 
romantic past. I have been permitted to touch the 
face and costume of Miss Ellen Terry as she imper- 
sonated our ideal of a queen ; and there was about her 
that divinity that hedges sublimest woe. Beside her 
stood Sir Henry Irving, wearing the symbols of 
kingship; and there was majesty of intellect in his 
every gesture and attitude and the royalty that 
subdues and overcomes in every line of his sensitive 
face. In the king's face, which he wore as a mask, 
there was a remoteness and inaccessibility of grief 
which I shall never forget. 

I also know Mr. Jefferson. I am proud to count 
him among my friends. I go to see him whenever I 
happen to be where he is acting. The first time I 
saw him act was while at school in New York. He 
played "Rip Van Winkle." I had often read the 
story, but I had never felt the charm of Rip's 


slow, quaint, kind ways as I did in the play. Mr. 
Jefferson's beautiful, pathetic representation quite 
carried me away with delight. I have a picture of 
old Rip in my fingers which they will never lose. 
After the play Miss Sullivan took me to see him 
behind the scenes, and I felt of his curious garb and 
his flowing hair and beard. Mr. Jefferson let me 
touch his face so that I could imagine how he looked 
on waking from that strange sleep of twenty years, 
and he showed me how poor old Rip staggered to 
his feet. 

I have also seen him in " The Rivals. " Once while 
I was calling on him in Boston he acted the most 
striking parts of ' ' The Rivals ' ' for me. The reception- 
room where we sat served for a stage. He and 
his son seated themselves at the big table, and Bob 
Acres wrote his challenge. I followed all his move- 
ments with my hands, and caught the drollery of his 
blunders and gestures in a way that would have been 
impossible had it all been spelled to me. Then they 
rose to fight the duel, and I followed the swift thrusts 
and parries of the swords and the waverings of poor 
Bob as his courage oozed out at his finger ends. 
Then the great actor gave his coat a hitch and his 
mouth a twitch, and in an instant I was in the 
village of Falling Water and felt Schneider's shaggy 
head against my knee. Mr. Jefferson recited the 
best dialogues of "Rip Van Winkle," in which the 
tear came close upon the smile. He asked me to 
indicate as far as I could the gestures and action 
that should go with the lines. Of course, I have no 
sense whatever of dramatic action, and could make 
only random guesses; but with masterful art he 
suited the action to the word. The sigh of Rip as he 


murmurs, " Is a man so soon forgotten when he is 
gone?" the dismay with which he searches for dog 
and gun after his long sleep, and his comical irreso- 
lution over signing the contract with Derrick — all 
these seem to be right out of life itself ; that is, the 
ideal life, where things happen as we think they 

I remember well the first time I went to the 
theatre. It was twelve years ago. Elsie Leslie, the 
little actress, was in Boston, and Miss Sullivan took 
me to see her in ' ' The Prince and the Pauper. ' ' I 
shall never forget the ripple of alternating joy and 
woe that ran through that beautiful little play, or the 
wonderful child who acted it. After the play I was 
permitted to go behind the scenes and meet her in 
her royal costume. It would have been hard to 
find a lovelier or more lovable child than Elsie, as 
she stood with a cloud of golden hair floating over 
her shoulders, smiling brightly, showing no signs of 
shyness or fatigue, though she had been playing to 
an immense audience. I was only just learning to 
speak, and had previously repeated her name until I 
could say it perfectly. Imagine my delight when 
she understood the few words I spoke to her and 
without hesitation stretched her hand to greet me. 

Is it not true, then, that my life with all its 
limitations touches at many points the life of the 
World Beautiful? Everything has its wonders, 
even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever 
state I may be in, therein to be content. 

Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds 
me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life's 
shut gate. Beyond there is light, and music, and 
sweet companionship; but I may not enter. Fate, 

Copyright, 1902, by Gilbert 


silent, pitiless, bars the way. Fain would I question 
his imperious decree; for my heart is still undisci- 
plined and passionate ; but my tongue will not utter 
the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and 
they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. 
Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes 
hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in 
self -forget fulness." So I try to make the light in 
others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my 
symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness. 


Would that I could enrich this sketch with the 
names of all those who have ministered to my happi- 
ness ! Some of them would be found written in our 
literature and dear to the hearts of many, while 
others would be wholly unknown to most of my 
readers. But their influence, though it escapes 
fame, shall live immortal in the lives that have been 
sweetened and ennobled by it. Those are red-letter 
days in our lives when we meet people who thrill us 
like a fine poem, people whose handshake is brimful 
of unspoken sympathy, and whose sweet, rich natures 
impart to our eager, impatient spirits a wonderful 
restfulness which, in its essence, is divine. The 
perplexities, irritations and worries that have 
absorbed us pass like unpleasant dreams, and we 
wake to see with new eyes and hear with new ears 
the beauty and harmony of God's real world. The 
solemn nothings that fill our everyday life blossom 
suddenly into bright possibilities. In a word, while 
such friends are near us we feel that all is well. 
Perhaps we never saw them before, and they may 
never cross our life's path again; but the influence 
of their calm, mellow natures is a libation poured 
upon our discontent, and we feel its healing touch, 
as the ocean feels the mountain stream freshening 
its brine. 

I have often been asked, " Do not people bore 
you? " I do not understand quite what that means. 



I suppose the calls of the stupid and curious, espe 
cially of newspaper reporters, are always inop- 
portune. I also dislike people who try to talk down 
to my understanding. They are like people who 
when walking with you try to shorten their steps 
to suit yours ; the hypocrisy in both cases is equally 

The hands of those I meet are dumbly eloquent 
to me. The touch of some hands is an impertinence. 
I have met people so empty of joy, that when I 
clasped their frosty finger-tips, it seemed as if I were 
shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others 
there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so 
that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only 
the clinging touch of a child's hand ; but there is as 
much potential sunshine in it for me as there is in a 
loving glance for others. A hearty handshake cr a 
friendly letter gives me genuine pleasure. 

I have many far-off friends whom I have never 
seen. Indeed they are so many that I have often 
been unable to reply to their letters ; but I wish to 
say here that I am always grateful for their kind 
words, however insufficiently I acknowledge them. 

I count it one of the sweetest privileges of my life 
to have known and conversed with many men of 
genius. Only those who knew Bishop Brooks can 
appreciate the joy his friendship was to those who 
possessed it. As a child I loved to sit on his knee 
and clasp his great hand with one of mine, while 
Miss Sullivan spelled into the other his beautiful 
words about God and the spiritual world. I heard 
him with a child's wonder and delight. My spirit 
could not reach up to his, but he gave me a real 
sense of joy in life, and I never left him without 


carrying away a fine thought that grew in beauty 
and depth of meaning as I grew. Once, when I was 
puzzled to know why there were so many religions, 
he said: "There is one universal religion, Helen — 
the religion of love. Love your Heavenly Father 
with your whole heart and soul, love every child of 
God as much as ever you can, and remember that 
the possibilities of good are greater than the possi- 
bilities of evil; and you have the key to Heaven." 
And his life was a happy illustration of this great 
truth. In his noble soul love and widest knowledge 
were blended with faith that had become insight. 
He saw 

God in all that liberates and lifts, 

In all that humbles, sweetens and consoles. 

Bishop Brooks taught me no special creed or 
dogma ; but he impressed upon my mind two great 
ideas — the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood 
of man, and made me feel that these truths underlie 
all creeds and forms of worship. God is love, God 
is our Father, we are His children; therefore the 
darkest clouds will break, and though right be 
worsted, wrong shall not triumph. 

I am too happy in this world to think much about 
the future, except to remember that I have cher- 
ished friends awaiting me there in God's beautiful 
Somewhere. In spite of the lapse of years, they 
seem so close to me that I should not think it 
strange if at any moment they should clasp my 
hand and speak words of endearment as they used 
to before they went away. 

Since Bishop Brooks died I have read the Bibl 
through; also some philosophical works on religio 


among them Swedenborg's "Heaven and Hell" 
and Drummond's "Ascent of Man," and I have 
found no creed or system more soul-satisfying than 
Bishop Brooks's creed of love. I knew Mr. Henry 
Drummond, and the memory of his strong, warm 
hand-clasp is like a benediction. He was the most 
sympathetic of companions. He knew so much 
and was so genial that it was impossible to feel dull 
m his presence. 

I remember well the first time I saw Dr. Oliver 
Wendell Holmes. He had invited Miss Sullivan and 
me to call on him one Sunday afternoon. It was 
early in the spring, just after I had learned to speak. 
We were shown at once to his library where we found 
him seated in a big armchair by an open fire which 
glowed and crackled on the hearth, thinking, he said, 
of other days. 

"And listening to the murmur of the River 
Charles," I suggested. 

"Yes," he replied, "the Charles has many dear 
associations for me." There was an odour of print 
and leather in the room which told me that it was 
full of books, and I stretched out my hand instinc- 
tively to find them. My fingers lighted upon a 
beautiful volume of Tennyson's poems, and when 
Miss Sullivan told me what it was I began to recite : 

Break, break, break 

On thy cold gray stones, O sea ! 

But I stopped suddenly. I felt tears on my hand. 
I had made my beloved poet weep, and I was 
greatly distressed. He made me sit in his arm- 
chair, while he brought different interesting things 
for me to examine, and at his request I recited 


"The Chambered Nautilus," which was then my 
favorite poem. After that I saw Dr. Holmes many 
times and learned to love the man as well as the poet. 

One beautiful summer day, not long after my 
meeting with Dr. Holmes, Miss Sullivan and I 
visited Whittier in his quiet home on the Merrimac. 
His gentle courtesy and quaint speech won my heart. 
He had a book of his poems in raised print from 
which I read " In School Days. " He was delighted 
that I could pronounce the words so well, and 
said that he had no difficulty in understanding me. 
Then I asked many questions about the poem, and 
read his answers by placing my fingers on his lips. 
He said he was the little boy in the poem, and that 
the girl's name was Sally, and more which I have 
forgotten. I also recited "Laus Deo," and as I 
spoke the concluding verses, he placed in my hands 
a statue of a slave from whose crouching figure the 
fetters were falling, even as they fell from Peter's 
limbs when the angel led him forth out of prison. 
Afterward we went into his study, and he wrote his* 
autograph for my teacher and expressed his admira- 
tion of her work, saying to me, " She is thy spiritual 
liberator." Then he led me to the gate and kissed 
me tenderly on my forehead. I promised to visit 
him again the following summer ; but he died before 
the promise was fulfilled. 

Dr. Edward Everett Hale is one of my very 
oldest friends. I have known him since I was eight, 
and my love for him has increased with my years. 
His wise, tender sympathy has been the support of 

* " With great admiration of thy noble work in releasing from 
bondape the mind of thy dear pupil, I am truly thy friend, 
John G. Whittier." 

Photograph by Marshall, 1002 



Miss Sullivan and me in times of trial and sorrow, 
and his strong hand has helped us over many rough 
places ; and what he has done for us he has done for 
thousands of those who have difficult tasks to accom- 
plish. He has filled the old skins of dogma with 
the new wine of love, and shown men what it is to 
believe, live and be free. What he has taught we 
have seen beautifully expressed in his own life — 
love of country, kindness to the least of his brethren, 
and a sincere desire to live upward and onward. He 
has been a prophet and an inspirer of men, and a 
mighty doer of the Word, the friend of all his 
race — God bless him ! 

I have already written of my first meeting with 
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. Since then I have 
spent many happy days with him at Washington 
and at his beautiful home in the heart of Cape 
Breton Island, near Baddeck, the village made 
famous by Charles Dudley Warner's book. Here 
in Dr. Bell's laboratory, or in the fields on the 
shore of the great Bras d'Or, I have spent many 
delightful hours listening to what he had to tell me 
about his experiments, and helping him fly kites by 
means of which he expects to discover the laws 
that shall govern the future air-ship. Dr. Bell is 
proficient in many fields of science, and has the 
art of making every subject he touches interesting, 
even the most abstruse theories. He makes you feel 
that if you only had a little more time, you, too, 
might be an inventor. He has a humorous and 
poetic side, too. His dominating passion is his 
love for children. He is never quite so happy as 
when he has a little deaf child in his arms. His 
labours in behalf of the deaf will live on and bless 


generations of children yet to come ; and we love him 
alike for what he himself has achieved and for what 
he has evoked from others. 

During the two years I spent in New York I had 
many opportunities to talk with distinguished 
people whose names I had often heard, but whom I 
had never expected to meet. Most of them I met 
first in the house of my good friend, Mr. Laurence 
Hutton. It was a great privilege to visit him and 
dear Mrs. Hutton in their lovely home, and see their 
library and read the beautiful sentiments and bright 
thoughts gifted friends had written for them. It 
has been truly said that Mr. Hutton has the faculty 
cf bringing out in every one the best thoughts and 
kindest sentiments. One does not need to read 
"A Boy I Knew" to understand him — the most 
generous, sweet -natured boy I ever knew, a good 
friend in all sorts of weather, who traces the foot- 
prints of love in the life of dogs as well as in that 
of his fellowmen. 

Mrs. Hutton is a true and tried friend. Much that 
I hold sweetest, much that I hold most precious, 
I owe to her. She has oftenest advised and helped 
me in my progress through college. When I find 
my work particularly difficult and discouraging, 
she writes me letters that make me feel glad and 
brave; for she is one of those from whom we learn 
that one painful duty fulfilled makes the next 
plainer and easier. 

Mr. Hutton introduced me to many of his literary 
friends, greatest of whom are Mr. William Dean 
Howells and Mark Twain. I also met Mr. Richard 
Watson Gilder and Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman. 
I also knew Mr. Charles Dudley Warner, the mos 

1 mt ' "*■ dMF 

Photograph by E. C. Kopp, 1902 


delightful of story-tellers and the most beloved 
friend, whose sympathy was so broad that it may 
be truly said of him, he loved all living things and 
his neighbour as himself. Once Mr. Warner brought 
to see me the dear poet of the woodlands — Mr. John 
Burroughs. They were all gentle and sympathetic 
and I felt the charm of their manner as much 
as I had felt the brilliancy of their essays and poems. 
I could not keep pace with all these literary folk as 
they glanced from subject to subject and entered into 
deep dispute, or made conversation sparkle with 
epigrams and happy witticisms. I was like little 
Ascanir >, who followed with unequal steps the 
heroic strides of ^neas on his march toward 
mighty destinies. But they spoke many gracious 
words to me. Mr. Gilder told me about his 
moonlight journeys across the vast desert to the 
Pyramids, and in a letter he wrote me he made 
his mark under his signature deep in the paper so 
that I could feel it. This reminds me that Dr. Hale 
used to give a personal touch to his letters to me 
by pricking his signature in braille. I read from 
Mark Twain's lips one or two of his good stories. 
He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing 
everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his hand- 
shake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom 
in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel 
that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy. 
There are a host of other interesting people I met 
in New York: Mrs. Mary Mapes Dodge, the beloved 
editor of St. Nicholas, and Mrs. Riggs (Kate Douglas 
Wiggin), the sweet author of "Patsy." I received 
from them gifts that have the gentle concurrence of 
the heart, books containing their own thoughts.. 


soul-illumined letters, and photographs that 1 
love to have described again and again. But there 
is not space to mention all my friends, and indeed 
there are things about them hidden behind the 
wings of cherubim, things too sacred to set forth in 
cold print. It is with hesitancy that I have spoken 
even of Mrs. Laurence Hutton. 

I shall mention only two other friends. One is 
Mrs. William Thaw, of Pittsburgh, whom I have often 
visited in her home, Lyndhurst. She is always 
doing something to make some one happy, and her 
generosity and wise counsel have never failed my 
teacher and me in all the years we have km wn her. 

To the other friend I am also deeply indebted. 
He is well known for the powerful hand with which 
he guides vast enterprises, and his wonderful abili- 
ties have gained for him the respect of all. Kind 
to every one, he goes about doing good, silent and 
unseen. Again I touch upon the circle of honoured 
names I must not mention ; but I would fain acknowl- 
edge his generosity and affectionate interest which 
make it possible for me to go to college. 

Thus it is that my friends have made the story of 
my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my 
limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled 
me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by 
my deprivation. 


LETTERS (1887-1901) 


HELEN KELLER'S letters are important, not only as 
a supplementary story of her life, but as a demonstra- 
tion of her growth in thought and expression — the 
growth which in itself has made her distinguished. 

These letters, are, however, not merely remarkable as the 
productions of a deaf and blind girl, to be read with wonder 
and curiosity; they are good letters almost from the first. The 
best passages are those in which she talks about herself, and gives 
her world in terms of her experience of it. Her views on the 
precession of the equinoxes are not important, but most impor- 
tant are her accounts of what speech meant to her, of how she 
felt the statues, the dogs, the chickens at the poultry show, and 
how she stood in the aisle of St. Bartholomew's and felt the organ 
rumble. Those are passages of which one would ask for more. 
The reason they are comparatively few is that all her life she 
has been trying to be '"like other people," and so she too often 
describes things not as they appear to her, but as they appear 
to one with eyes and ears. 

One cause for the excellence of her letters is the great number 
of them. They are the exercises which have trained her to 
write. She has lived at different times in different parts of the 
country, and so has been separated from most of her friends 
and relatives. Of her friends, many have been distinguished 
people, to whom — not often, I think, at the sacrifice of spon- 
taneity — she has felt it necessary to write well. To them and 
to a few friends with whom she is in closest sympathy she writes 
with intimate frankness whatever she is thinking about. Her 
naive retelling of a child's tale she has heard, like the story of 
"Little Jakey," which she rehearses for Dr. Holmes and Bishop 
Brooks, is charming, and her grave paraphrase of the day's 
lesson in geography or botany, her parrot-like repetition of 
what she has heard, and her conscious display of new words, are 
delightful and instructive; for they show not only what she was 



learning, but how, by putting it all into letters, she made the 
new knowledge and the new words her own. 

So these selections from Miss Keller's correspondence are 
made with two purposes — to show her development and to 
preserve the most entertaining and significant passages from 
several hundred letters. Many of those written before 1892 
were published in the reports of the Perkins Institution for the 
Blind. All letters up to that year are printed intact, for it is 
legitimate to be interested in the degree of skill the child showed 
in writing, even to details of punctuation; so it is well to preserve 
a literal integrity of reproduction. From the letters after the 
year 1892 I have culled in the spirit of one making an anthology, 
choosing the passages best in style and most important from 
the point of view of biography. Where I have been able to 
collate the original letters I have preserved everything as Miss 
Keller wrote it, punctuation, spelling, and all. I have done 
nothing but select and cut. 

The letters are arranged in chronological order. One or two 
letters from Bishop Brooks, Dr. Holmes, and Whittier are put 
immediately after the letters to which they are replies. Except 
Tor two or three important letters of 1901, these selections cease 
with the year 1900. In that year Miss Keller entered college. 
Now that she is a grown woman, her mature letters should be 
judged like those of any other person, and it seems best that 
no more of her correspondence be published unless she should 
become distinguished beyond the fact that she is the only well- 
educated deaf and blind person in the world. 

LETTERS (i 887-1901) 

Miss Sullivan began to teach Helen Keller on 
March 3d, 1887. Three months and a half after the 
first word was spelled into her hand, she wrote in 
pencil this letter. 


[Tuscumbia, Alabama, June 17, 1887.] 
helen write anna george will give helen apple 
simpson will shoot bird jack will give helen stick of 
candy doctor will give mildred medicine mother will 
make mildred new dress 

[No signature.] 

Twenty-five days later, while she was on a short 
visit away from home, she wrote to her mother. 
Two words are almost illegible, and the angular 
print slants in every direction: 


[Huntsville, Alabama, July 12, 1887.] 
Helen will write mother letter papa did give 
helen medicine mildred will sit in swing mildred did 


i 4 6 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Se P t.,'8 7 

kiss helen teacher did give helen peach george is sick 
in bed george arm is hurt anna did give helen lemon- 
ade dog did stand up. 

conductor did punch ticket papa did give helen 
drink of water in car 

carlotta did give helen flowers anna will buy helen 
pretty new hat helen will hug and kiss mother helen 
will come home grandmother does love helen 


[No signature.] 

By the following September Helen shows improve- 
ment in fulness of construction and more extended 
relations of thought. 


[Tuscumbia, September, 1887.] 
Helen will write little blind girls a letter 
Helen and teacher will come to see little blind 
girls Helen and teacher will go in steam car 
to boston Helen and blind girls will have fun 
blind girls can talk on fingers Helen will see Mr 
anagnos Mr anagnos will love and kiss Helen Helen 
will go to school with blind girls Helen can read and 
count and spell and write like blind girls mildred 
will not go to boston Mildred does cry prince and 
jumbo will go to boston papa does shoot ducks with 
gun and ducks do fall in water and jumbo and mamie 
do swim in water and bring ducks out in mouth tc 

Aet. 7] LETTERS 147 

papa Helen does play with dogs Helen does ride 
on horseback with teacher Helen does give handee 
grass in hand teacher does whip handee to go fast 
Helen is blind Helen will put letter in envelope 
for blind girls good-by 

Helen Keller 

A few weeks later her style is more nearly correct 
and freer in movement. She improves in idiom, 
although she still omits articles and uses the " did" 
construction for the simple past. This is an idiom 
common among children. 


[Tuscumbia, October 24, 1887.] 
dear little blind girls 

I will write you a letter I thank you for pretty 
desk I did write to mother in memphis on it 
mother and mildred came home Wednesday mother 
brought me a pretty new dress and hat papa did go 
to huntsville he brought me apples and candy I 
and teacher will come to boston and see you nancy 
is my doll she does cry I do rock nancy to sleep 
mildred is sick doctor will give her medicine to 
make her well. I and teacher did go to church 
Sunday mr. lane did read in book and talk Lady 
did play organ. I did give man money in basket. 
I will be good girl and teacher will curl my hair 

i 4 8 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nav.,'87 

lovely. I will hug and kiss little blind girls mr. 
anagnos will come to see me. 

Helen Keller. 


[Tuscumbia, November, 1887.] 
dear mr. anagnos I will write you a letter. I and 
teacher did have pictures, teacher will send it to 
you. photographer does make pictures, carpenter 
does build new houses, gardener does dig and hce 
ground and plant vegetables, my doll nancy is 
sleeping, she is sick, mildred is well uncle frank 
has gone hunting deer, we will have venison for 
breakfast when he comes home. I did ride in wheel 
barrow and teacher did push it. simpson did give 
me popcorn and walnuts, cousin rosa has gone to 
see her mother, people do go to church Sunday. I 
did read in my book about fox and box. fox can 
sit in the box. I do like to read in my book, you 
do love me. I do love you. 

good by 

Helen Keller. 

to dr. alexander graham bell 

[Tuscumbia, November, 1887.] 
Dear Mr. Bell. 

I am glad to write you a letter. Father will 

Aet. 7) LETTERS 149 

send you picture. I and Father and aunt did 
go to see you in Washington. I did play with 
your watch. I do love you. I saw doctor in 
Washington. He looked at my eyes. I can read 
stories in my book. I can write and spell and count, 
good girl. My sister can walk and run. We do have 
fun with Jumbo. Prince is not good dog. He can 
not get birds. Rat did kill baby pigeons. I am 
sorry. Rat does not know wrong. I and mother 
and teacher will go to Boston in June. I will see 
little blind girls. Nancy will go with me. She is 
a good doll. Father will buy me lovely new watch. 
Cousin Anna gave me a pretty doll. Her name is 

Good by, 

Helen Keller. 

By the beginning of the next year her idioms are 
firmer. More adjectives appear, including adjec- 
tives of colour. Although she can have no sensuous 
knowledge of colour, she can use the words, as we 
use most of our vocabulary, intellectually, with 
truth, not to impression, but to fact. This letter 
is to a school-mate at the Perkins Institution. 


Tuscumbia, Ala. Jan. 2nd 1888. 
Dear Sarah 

I am happy to write to you this morn- 
ing. I hope Mr. Anagnos is coming to see me soon. 

i 5 o THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Jan. 2/88 

I will go to Boston in June and I will buy father 
gloves, and James nice collar, and Simpson cuffs. I 
saw Miss Betty and her scholars. They had a pretty 
Christmas-tree, and there were many pretty presents 
on it for little children. I had a mug, and little 
bird and candy. I had many lovely things for 
Christmas. Aunt gave me a trunk for Nancy and 
clothes. I went to party with teacher and mother. 
We did dance and play and eat nuts and candy and 
cakes and oranges and I did have fun with little boys 
and girls. Mrs. Hopkins did send me lovely ring, I 
do love her and little blind girls. 

Men and boys do make carpets in mills. Wool 
grows on sheep. Men do cut sheep's wool off with 
large shears, and send it to the mill. Men and 
women do make wool cloth in mills. 

Cotton grows on large stalks in fields. Men and 
boys and girls and women do pick cotton. We do 
make thread and cotton dresses of cotton. Cotton 
has pretty white and red flowers on it. Teacher did 
tear her dress. Mildred does cry. I will nurse 
Nancy. Mother will buy me lovely new aprons and 
dress to take to Boston. I went to Knoxville with 
father and aunt. Bessie is weak and little. Mrs. 
Thompson's chickens killed Leila's chickens. Eva 
does sleep in my bed. I do love good girls. 
Good by 

Helen Keller. 

The next two letters mention her visit in January 
to her relatives in Memphis, Tennessee. She was 
taken to the cotton exchange. When she felt the 

Aet. 7 ] LETTERS 15 1 

maps and blackboards she asked, "Do men go to 
school?" She wrote on the blackboard the names 
of all the gentlemen present. While at Memphis, 
she went over one of the large Mississippi steamers. 


Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 15th [1888]. 
Dear Mr. Hale, 

I am happy to write you a letter this 
morning. Teacher told me about kind gentleman 
I shall be glad to read pretty story I do read 
stories in my book about tigers and lions and sheep. 
I am coming to Boston in June to see little blind 
girls and I will come to see you. I went to Memphis 
to see grandmother and Aunt Nannie. Teacher 
bought me lovely new dress and cap and aprons. 
Little Natalie is a very weak and small baby. 
Father took us to see steamboat. It was on a large 
river. Boat is like house. Mildred is a good baby. 
I do love to play with little sister. Nancy was not 
a good child when I went to Memphis. She did cry 
loud. I will not write more to-day. I am tired. 


Helen Keller. 


Tuscumbia, Ala., Feb. 24th, 1888. 
My dear Mr. Anagnos, — I am glad to write you a 

152 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Feb. 24, '81 

letter in Braille. This morning Lucien Thompson 
sent me a beautiful bouquet of violets and crocuses 
and jonquils. Sunday Adeline Moses brought me 
a lovely doll. It came from New York. Her name 
is Adeline Keller. She can shut her eyes and bend 
her arms and sit down and stand up straight. She 
has on a pretty red dress. She is Nancy's sister and 
I am their mother. Allie is their cousin. Nancy 
was a bad child when I went to Memphis she cried 
loud, I whipped her with a stick. 

Mildred does feed little chickens with crumbs. I 
love to play with little sister. 

Teacher and I went to Memphis to see aunt 
Nannie and grandmother. Louise is aunt Nannie's 
child. Teacher bought me a lovely new dress and 
gloves and stockings and collars and grandmother 
made me warm flannels, and aunt Nannie made me 
aprons. Lady made me a pretty cap. I went to 
see Robert and Mr. Graves and Mrs. Graves and 
little Natalie, and Mr. Farris and Mr. Mayo and 
Mary and everyone. I do love Robert and teacher. 
She does not want me to write more today, I feel 

I found box of candy in Mr. Grave's pocket. 
Father took us to see steam boat it is like house. 
Boat was on very large river. Yates plowed yard 
today to plant grass. Mule pulled plow. Mother 
will make garden of vegetables. Father will plant 
melons and peas and beans. 

Cousin Bell will come to see us Saturday. Mother 
will make ice-cream for dinner, we will have ice- 
cream and cake for dinner. Lucien Thompson is 
sick. I am sorry for him. 

Teacher and I went to walk in the yard, and I 
learned about how flowers and trees grow. Sun 

Act. 7 \ LETTERS 153 

rises in the east and sets in the west. Sheffield is 
north and Tuscumbia is south. We will go to Boston 
in June. I will have fun with little blind girls. 

Good bye 

Helen Keller. 

" Uncle Morrie" of the next letter is Mr. Morrison 
Heady, of Normandy, Kentucky, who lost his sight 
and hearing when he was a boy. He is the author 
of some commendable verses. 


Tuscumbia, Ala. March 1st 1888. 

My dear uncle Morrie, — I am happy to write you 
a letter, I do love you, and I will hug and kiss you 
when I see you. 

Mr. Anagnos is coming to see me Monday. I do 
love to run and hop and skip with Robert in bright 
warm sun. I do know little girl in Lexington Ky. 
her name is Katherine Hobson. 

I am going to Boston in June with mother and 
teacher, I will have fun with little blind girls, and 
Mr. Hale will send me pretty story. I do read 
stories in my book about lions and tigers and bears. 

Mildred will not go to Boston, she does cry. I 
love to play with little sister, she is weak and small 
baby. Eva is better. 

Yates killed ants, ants stung Yates. Yates is 
digging in garden. Mr. Anagnos did see oranges, 
they look like golden apples. 

154 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May 3 , '88 

Robert will come to see me Sunday when sun 
shines and I will have fun with him. My cousin 
Frank lives in Louisville. I will come to Memphis 
again to see Mr. Farris and Mrs. Graves and Mr. 
Mayo and Mr. Graves. Natalie is a good girl and 
does not cry, and she will be big and Mrs. Graves is 
making short dresses for her. Natalie has a little 
carriage. Mr. Mayo has been to Duck Hill and he 
brought sweet flowers home. 

With much love and a kiss 

Helen A. Keller. 

In this account of the picnic we get an illumi- 
nating glimpse of Miss Sullivan's skill in teaching 
her pupil during play hours. This was a day when 
the child's vocabulary grew. 


Tuscumbia, Ala. May 3rd 1888. 

Dear Mr. Anagnos. — I am glad to write to you 
this morning, because I love you very much. I was 
very happy to receive pretty book and nice candy 
and two letters from you. I will come to see you 
soon and will ask you many questions about 
countries and you will love good child. 

Mother is making me pretty new dresses to wear 
in Boston and I will look lovely to see little girls and 
boys and you. Friday teacher and I went to a 
picnic with little children. We played games and 
ate dinner under the trees, and we found ferns and 

Aei.ft LETTERS 155 

wild flowers. I walked in the woods and learned 
names of many trees. There are poplar and cedar 
and pine and oak and ash and hickory and maple 
trees. They make a pleasant shade and the little 
birds love to swing to and fro and sing sweetly up in 
the trees. Rabbits hop and squirrels run and ugly 
snakes do crawl in the woods. Geraniums and 
roses jasamines and japonieas are cultivated flowers. 
I help mother and teacher water them every night 
before supper. 

Cousin Arthur made me a swing in the ash tree. 
Aunt Ev. has gone to Memphis. Uncle Frank is 
here. He is picking strawberries for dinner. Nancy 
is sick again, new teeth do make her ill. Adeline is 
well and she can go to Cincinnati Monday with me. 
Aunt Ev. will send me a boy doll, Harry will be 
Nancy's and Adeline's brother. Wee sister is a 
good girl. I am tired now and I do want to go 
down stairs. I send many kisses and hugs with 

Your darling child 

Helen Keller. 

Toward the end of May Mrs. Keller, Helen, and 
Miss Sullivan started for Boston. On the way they 
spent a few days in Washington, where they 
saw Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and called on 
President Cleveland. On May 26th they arrived 
in Boston and went to the Perkins Institution ; here 
Helen met the little blind girls with whom she had 
iorresponde 1 the year before. 

156 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Sept. '88 

Early in July she went to Brewster, Massachu- 
setts, and spent the rest of the summer. Here 
occurred her first encounter with the sea, of which 
she has since written. 


So. Boston, Mass. Sept. 1888. 
My dear Miss Moore 

Are you very glad to receive a nice 
letter from your darling little friend? I love you 
very dearly because you are my friend. My 
precious little sister is quite well now. She likes 
to sit in my little rocking-chair and put her kitty to 
sleep. Would you like to see darling little Mildred ? 
She is a very pretty baby. Her eyes are very big 
and blue, and her cheeks are soft and round and rosy 
and her hair is very bright and golden. She is very 
good and sweet when she does not cry loud. Next 
summer Mildred will go out in the garden with me 
and pick the big sweet strawberries and then she will 
be very happy. I hope she will not eat too many 
of the delicious fruit for they will make her very ill. 

Sometime will you please come to Alabama and 
visit me ? My uncle James is going to buy me a very 
gentle pony and a pretty cart and I shall be very 
happy to take you and Harry to ride. I hope Harry 
will not be afraid of my pony. I think my father 
will buy me a beautiful little brother some day. I 
shall be very gentle and patient to my new little 
brother. When I visit many strange countries my 
brother and Mildred will stay with grandmother 

Aet.8] LETTERS 157 

because they will be too small to see a great many 
people and I think they would cry loud on the great 
rough ocean. 

When Capt. Baker gets well he will take me in his 
big ship to Africa. Then I shall see lions and tigers 
and monkeys. I will get a baby lion and a white 
monkey and a mild bear to bring home. I had a 
very pleasant time at Brewster. I went in bathing 
almost every day and Carrie and Frank and little 
Helen and I had fun. We splashed and jumped and 
waded in the deep water. I am not afraid to float 
now. Can Harry float and swim? We came to 
Boston last Thursday, and Mr. Anagnos was de- 
lighted to see me, and he hugged and kissed me. 
The little girls are coming back to school next 

Will you please tell Harry to write me a very long 
letter soon? When you come to Tuscumbia to see 
me I hope my father will have many sweet apples 
and juicy peaches and fine pears and delicious 
grapes and large water melons. 

I hope you think about me and love me because 
X am a good little child. 

With much love and two kisses 

From your little friend 

Helen A. Keller. 

In this account of a visit to some friends, Helen's 
thought is much what one would expect from an 
ordinary child of eight, except perhaps her naive 
satisfaction in the boldness of the young gentlemen. 

158 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Sept.24,'88 


So. Boston, Mass, Sept. 24th [1888]. 
My dear Mother, 

I think you will be very glad to know 
all about my visit to West Newton. Teacher and I 
had a lovely time with many kind friends. West 
Newton is not far from Boston and we went there 
in the steam cars very quickly. 

Mrs. Freeman and Carrie and Ethel and Frank 
and Helen came to station to meet us in a huge 
carriage. I was delighted to see my dear little 
friends and I hugged and kissed them. Then we 
rode for a long time to see all the beautiful things in 
West Newton. Many very handsome houses and 
large soft green lawns around them and trees and 
bright flowers and fountains. The horse's name 
was Prince and he was gentle and liked to trot very 
fast. When we went home we saw eight rabbits 
and two fat puppies, and a nice little white pony, 
and two wee kittens and a pretty curly dog named 
Don. Pony's name was Mollie and I had a nice ride 
on her back ; I was not afraid, I hope my uncle will 
get me a dear little pony and a little cart very soon. 

Clifton did not kiss me because he does not like 
to kiss little girls. He is shy. I am very glad that 
Frank and Clarence and Robbie and Eddie and 
Charles and George were not very shy. I played 
with many little girls and we had fun. I rode on 
Carrie's tricicle and picked .flowers and ate fruit, 
and hopped and skipped and danced and went to 
ride. Many ladies and gentlemen came to see us. 
Lucy and Dora and Charles were born in China. I 
was born in America, and Mr. Anagnos was born in 

Aet.8] LETTERS 159 

Greece. Mr. Drew says little girls in China cannot 
talk on their fingers but I think when I go to China 
I will teach them. Chinese nurse came to see me, 
her name was Asu. She showed me a tiny atze that 
very rich ladies in China wear because their feet 
never grow large. Amah means a nurse. We 
came home in horse cars because it was Sunday and 
steam cars do not go often on Sunday. Conductors 
and engineers do get very tired and go home to rest. 
I saw little Willie Swan in the car and he gave me a 
juicy pear. He was six years old. What did I do 
when I was six years old ? Will you please ask my 
father to come to train to meet teacher and me? 
I am very sorry that Eva and Bessie are sick. I 
hope I can have a nice party my birthday, and I 
do want Carrie and Ethel and Frank and Helen to 
come to Alabama to visit me. Will Mildred sleep 
with me when I come home. 

With much love and thousand kisses. 

From your dear little daughter. 

Helen A. Keller. 

Her visit to Plymouth was in July. This letter, 
written three months later, shows how well she 
remembered her first lesson in history. 


South Boston, Mass. October 1st, ii 

My dear uncle Morrie,— I think you will be very 

glad to receive a letter from your dear little friend 

i6o THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Oct. i, '88 

Helen. I am very happy to write to you because I 
think of you and love you. I read pretty stories in 
the book you sent me, about Charles and his boat, 
and Arthur and his dream, and Rosa and the sheep. 

I have been in a large boat. It was like a ship. 
Mother and teacher and Mrs. Hopkins and Mr. 
Anagnos and Mr. Rodocanachi and many other 
friends went to Plymouth to see many old things. I 
will tell you a little story about Plymouth. 

Many years ago there lived in England many good 
people, but the king and his friends were not kind 
and gentle and patient with good people, because 
the king did not like to have the people disobey him. 
People did not like to go to church with the king; 
but they did like to build very nice little churches 
for themselves. 

The king was very angry with the people and they 
were sorry and they said, we will go away to a strange 
country to live and leave very dear home and friends 
and naughty king. So, they put all their things into 
big boxes, and said, Good-bye. I am sorry for them 
because they cried much. When they went to 
Holland they did not know anyone ; and they could 
not know what the people were talking about 
because they did not know Dutch. But soon they 
learned some Dutch words ; but they loved their own 
language and they did not want little boys and girls 
to forget it and learn to talk funny Dutch. So they 
said, We must go to a new country far away and 
build schools and houses and churches and make 
new cities. So they put all their things in boxes 
and said, Good bye to their new friends and sailed 
Away in a large boat to find a new country. Poor 
people were not happy for their hearts were full of 
sad thoughts because they did not know much about 

Aet.8] LETTERS 161 

America. I think little children must have been 
afraid of a great ocean for it is very strong and it 
makes a large boat rock and then the little children 
would fall down and hurt their heads. After they 
had been many we^ks on the deep ocean where they 
could not see trees or flowers or grass, but just water 
and the beautiful sky, for ships could not sail quickly- 
then because men did not know about engines and 
steam. One day a dear little baby-boy was born. 
His name was Peregrine White. I am very sorry 
that poor little Peregrine is dead now. Every day 
the people went upon deck to look out for land. 
One day there was a great shout on the ship for the 
people saw the land and they were full of joy because 
they had reached a new country safely. Little 
girls and boys umped and clapped their hands. 
They were all glad when they stepped upon a huge 
rock. I did see the rock in Plymouth and a little 
ship like the Mayflower and the cradle that dear 
little Peregrine slept in and many old things that 
came in the Mayflower. Would you like to visit 
Plymouth some time and see many old things. 

Now I am very tired and I will rest. 

With much love and many kisses, from your little 

Helen A. Keller. 

The foreign words in these two letters, the first of 
which was written during a visit to the kindergarten 
for the blind, she had been told months before, and 
had stowed them away in her memory. She assimi' 

i62 THE STORY OF MY LIFE {Oct. 17, '88 

lated words and practised with them, sometimes 
using them intelligently, sometimes repeating them 
in a parrot-like fashion. Even when she did not 
fully understand words or ideas, she liked to set 
them down as though she did. It was in this way 
that she learned to use correctly words of sound and 
vision which express ideas outside of her experience. 
"Edith" is Edith Thomas. 


Roxbury, Mass. Oct. 17th, 1888. 
Mon cher Monsieur Anagnos, 

I am sitting by the window and the beautiful 
sun is shining on me Teacher and I came to 
the kindergarten yesterday. There are twenty 
seven little children here and they are all blind. 
I am sorry because they cannot see much. 
Sometime will they have very well eyes? Poor 
Edith is blind and deaf and dumb. Are you very 
sad for Edith and me? Soon I shall go home 
to see my mother and my father and my dear good 
and sweet little sister. I hope you will come to 
Alabama to visit me and I will take you to ride in 
my little cart and I think you will like to see me on 
my dear little pony's back. I shall wear my lovely 
cap and my new riding dress. If the sun shines 
brightly I will take you to see Leila and Eva and 
Bessie. When I am thirteen years old I am going 
to travel in many strange and beautiful countries. 
I shall m climb very high mountains in Norway and 
see much ice and snow I hope I will not fall and 
hurt my head I shall visit little Lord Fauntleroy 
in England and he will be glad to show me his grand 

Aet. 8] LETTERS 163 

and very ancient castle And we will run with the 
deer and feed the rabbits and catch the squirrels. I 
shall not be afraid of Fauntleroy's great dog Dougah 
I hope Fauntleroy take me to see a very kind 
queen. When I go to France I will talk French. A 
little French boy will say, Parlez-vous Francaisf and 
I will say, Out, Monsieur, vous avez un joli chapeau. 
Donnez moi un baiser. I hope you will go with me 
to Athens to see the maid of Athens. She was 
very lovely lady and I will talk Greek to her. 
I will say, se agapo and, pos echete and I think 
she will say, kalos, and then I will say chaere. 
Will you please come to see me soon and take 
me to the theater? When you come I will say, 
Kale emera, and when you go home I will say, Kale 
nykta. Now I am too tired to write more. Je vous 
lime. Au revoir 

From your darling little friend 

Helen A. Keller. 


[So. Boston, Mass. October 29, 1888.] 
My dearest Aunt, — I am coming home very soon 
and I think you and every one will be very glad 
to see my teacher and me. I am very happy because 
I have learned much about many things. I am 
studying French and German and Latin and Greek. 
Se agapo is Greek, and it means I love thee. J'ai 
une bonne petite saur is French, and it means I have a 
good little sister. Nous avons un bon pere et une 
bonne mere means, we have a good father and a good 

1 64 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec. it, '88 

mother. Puer is boy in Latin, and Mutter is mother 
m German. I will teach Mildred many languages 
when I come home. 

Helen A. Keller. 


Tuscumbia, Ala. Dec. nth, 1888. 

My dear Mrs. Hopkins : — 

I have just fed my dear little 
pigeon. My brother Simpson gave it to me 
last Sunday. I named it Annie, for my teacher. 
My puppy has had his supper and gone to bed. My 
rabbits are sleeping, too; and very soon I shall go 
to bed. Teacher is writing letters to her friends. 
Mother and father and their friends have gone to 
see a huge furnace. The furnace is to make iron. 
The iron ore is found in the ground ; but it cannot be 
used until it has been brought to the furnace and 
melted, and all the dirt taken out, and just the pure 
iron left. Then it is all ready to be manufactured 
into engines, stoves, kettles and many other things. 

Coal is found in the ground, too. Many years ago, 
before people came to live on the earth, great trees 
and tall grasses and huge ferns and all the beautiful 
flowers covered the earth. When the leaves and 
the trees fell, the water and the soil covered them ; 
and then more trees grew and fell also, and were 
buried under water and soil. After they had all 
been pressed together for many thousands of years. 
the wood grew very hard, like rock, and then it was 
all ready for people to burn. Can you see leaves 
and ferns and bark on the coal ? Men go down into 

Aet. 8] LETTERS 165 

the ground and dig out the coal, and steam-cars take 
it to the large cities, and sell it to people to burn, 
to make them warm and happy when it is cold out of 

Are you very lonely and sad now? I hope you 
will come to see me soon, and stay a long time. 
With much love from your little friend 

Helen A. Keller. 


Tuscumbia, Ala., Jan. 29, 1889. 

My dear Miss Bennett : — I am delighted to write 
to you this morning. We have just eaten our 
breakfast. Mildred is running about downstairs. 
I have been reading in my book about astronomers. 
Astronomer comes from the Latin word astra, which 
means stars; and astronomers are men who study 
the stars, and tell us about them. When we are 
sleeping quietly in our beds, they are watching the 
beautiful sky through the telescope. A telescope 
is like a very strong eye. The stars are so far away 
that people cannot tell much about them, without 
very excellent instruments. Do you like to look out 
of your window, and see little stars ? Teacher says 
she can see Venus from our window, and it is a large 
and beautiful star. The stars are called the earth's 
brothers and sisters. 

There are a great many instruments besides those 
which the astronomers use. A knife is an instru- 
ment to cut with. I think the bell is an instrument. 
too. I will tell you what I know about bells. 

i66 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Feb. 3I , ^ 

Some bells are musical and others are unmusical. 
Some are very tiny and some are very large. I. saw 
a very large bell at Wellesley. It came from Japan. 
Bells are used for many purposes. The}'' tell us 
when breakfast is ready, when to go to school, 
when it is time for church, and when there is a 
fire. They tell people when to go to work, and 
when to go home and rest. The engine-bell tells 
the passengers that they are coming to a sta- 
tion, and it tells the people to keep out of the 
way. Sometimes very terrible accidents happen, 
and many people are burned and drowned and 
injured. The other day I broke my doll's head off; 
but that was not a dreadful accident, because dolls 
do not live and feel, like people. My little pigeons 
are well, and so is my little bird. I would like to 
have some clay. Teacher says it is time for me to 
study now. Good-bye. 

With much love, and many kisses, 

Helen A. Keller. 


Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 21st, 1889. 
My dear Mr. Hale, 

I am very much afraid that you are 
thinking in your mind that little Helen has forgotten 
all about you and her dear cousins. But I think 
vou will be delighted to receive this letter because 
then you will know that I of[ten] think about 
you and I love you dearly for you are my dear cousin. 
I have been at home a great many weeks now. It 

Aet.8] LETTERS 167 

made me feel very sad to leave Boston and I missed 
all of my friends greatly, but of course I was glad 
to get back to my lovely home once more. My 
darling little sister is growing very fast. Sometimes 
she tries to spell very short words on her small 
[fingers] but she is too young to remember hard 
words. When she is older I will teach her many 
things if she is patient and obedient. My teacher 
says, if children learn to be patient and gentle while 
they are little, that when they grow to be young 
ladies and gentlemen they will not forget to be kind 
and loving and brave. I hope I shall be courageous 
always. A little girl in a story was not courageous. 
She thought she saw little elves with tall pointed 
[hats] peeping from between the bushes and dancing 
down the long alleys, and the poor little girl was 
terrified. Did you have a pleasant Christmas? I 
had many lovely presents given to me. The other 
day I had a fine party. All of my dear little friends 
came to see me. We played games, and ate ice- 
cream and cake and fruit. Then we had great fun. 
The sun is shining brightly to-day and I hope we 
shall go to ride if the roads are dry. In a few days 
the beautiful spring will be here. I am very glad 
because I love the warm sunshine and the fragrant 
flowers. I think Flowers grow to make people 
happy and good. I have four dolls now. Cedric 
is my little boy, he is named for Lord Fauntleroy. 
He has big brown eyes and long golden hair and 
pretty round cheeks. Ida is my baby. A lady 
brought her to me from Paris. She can drink milk 
like a real baby. Lucy is a fine young lady. She 
has on a dainty lace dress and satin slippers. Poor 
old Nancy is growing old and very feeble. She is 

1 68 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May i8,'8g 

almost an invalid. I have two tame pigeons and 
a tiny canary bird. Jumbo is very strong and 
faithful. He will not let anything harm us at night. 
I go to school every day I am studying reading, 
writing, arithmetic, geography and language. My 
Mother and teacher send you and Mrs. Hale their 
kind greetings and Mildred sends you. a kiss. 
With much love and kisses, from your 
Affectionate cousin 

Helen A. Keller. 

During the winter Miss Sullivan and her pupil 
were working at Helen's home in Tuscumbia, and to 
good purpose, for by spring Helen had learned to 
write idiomatic English. After May, 1889, I find 
almost no inaccuracies, except some evident slips of 
the pencil. She uses words precisely and makes 
easy, fluent sentences. 


Tuscumbia, Ala., May 18, 1889. 
My Dear Mr. Anagnos: — You cannot imagine, 
how delighted I was to receive a letter from you 
last evening. I am very sorry that you are going so 
far away. We shall miss you very, very much. I 
would love to visit many beautiful cities with you. 
When I was in Huntsville I saw Dr. Bryson, and he 
told me that he had been to Rome and Athens and 
Paris and London. He had climbed the high moun- 
tains in Switzerland and visited beautiful churches in 

Aet. 8] LETTERS 169 

Italy and France, and he saw a great many ancient 
castles. I hope you will please write to me from all 
the cities you visit. When you go to Holland please 
give my love to the lovely princess Wilhelmina. 
She is a dear little girl, and when she is old enough 
she will be the queen of Holland. If you go to 
Roumania please ask the good queen Elizabeth 
about her little invalid brother, and tell her that I 
am very sorry that her darling little girl died. I 
should like to send a kiss to Vittorio, the little prince 
of Naples, but teacher says she is afraid you will not 
remember so many messages. When I am thirteen 
years old I shall visit them all myself. 

I thank you very much for the beautiful story 
about Lord Fauntleroy, and so does teacher. 

I am so glad that Eva is coming to stay with me 
this summer. We will have fine times together. 
Give Howard my love, and tell him to answer my 
letter. Thursday we had a picnic. It was very 
pleasant out in the shady woods, and we all enjoyed 
the picnic very much. 

Mildred is out in the yard playing, and mother is 
picking the delicious strawberries. Father and 
Uncle Frank are down town. Simpson is coming 
home soon. Mildred and I had our pictures taken 
while we were in Huntsville. I will send you one. 

The roses have been beautiful. Mother has a 
great many fine roses. The La France and the 
Lamarque are the most fragrant ; but the Marechal 
Neil, Solfaterre, Jacqueminot, Nipheots, Etoile de 
Lyon, Papa Gontier, Gabrielle Drevet and the Perle 
des Jardines are all lovely roses. 

Please give the little boys and girls my love. I 
think of them every day and I love them dearly in 

iyo THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May 17, '8 9 

my heart. When you come home from Europe I 
hope you will be all well and very happy to get 
home again. Do not forget to give my love to 
Miss Calliope Kehayia and Mr. Francis Demetrios 

Lovingly, your little friend, 

Helen Adams Keller. 

Like a good many of Helen Keller's early letters, 
this to her French teacher is her re-phrasing of a 
story. It shows how much the gift of writing is, 
in the early stages of its development, the gift of 



Tuscumbia, Ala., May 17, 1889. 
My Dear Miss Marrett— I am thinking about 
a dear little girl, who wept very hard. She wept 
because her brother teased her very much. I will 
tell you what he did, and I think you will feel very 
sorry for the little child. She had a most beautiful 
doll given her. Oh, it was a lovely and delicate doll ! 
but the little girl's brother, a tall lad, had taken the 
doll, and set it up in a high tree in the garden, and 
had run away. The little girl could not reach the 
doll, and could not help it down, and therefore she 
cried. The doll cried, too, and stretched out its 
arms from among the green branches, and looked 
distressed. Soon the dismal night would come — 
and was the doll to sit up in the tree all night, a no 

Jet. SI' LETTERS 171 

by herself? The little girl could not endure that 
thought. "I will stay with you," said she to the 
doll, although she was not at all courageous. Already 
she began to see quite plainly the little elves in their 
tall pointed hats, dancing down the dusky alleys, 
and peeping from between the bushes, and they 
seemed to come nearer and nearer; and she stretched 
her hands up towards the tree in which the doll sat 
and they laughed, and pointed their fingers at her. 
How terrified was the little girl; but if one has 
not done anything wrong, these strange little elves 
cannot harm one. "Have I done anything wrong? 
Ah, yes!" said the little girl. "I have laughed at 
the poor duck, with the red rag tied round its leg. 
It hobbled, and that made me laugh; but it is wrong 
to laugh at the poor animals!" 

Is it not a pitiful story? I hope the father pun- 
ished the naughty little boy. Shall you be very 
glad to see my teacher next Thursday? She is 
going home to rest, but she will come back to me 
next autumn. 

Lovingly, your little friend, 

Helen Adams Keller. 


Tuscumbia, Ala., May 27, 1889. 

My Dear Miss Riley: — I wish you were here in 

the warm, sunny south today. Little sister and I 

would take you out into the garden, and pick the 

delicious rascberries and a few strawberries for you. 

172 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May 27, '89 

How would you like that? The strawberries are 
nearly all gone. In the evening, when it is cool and 
pleasant, we would walk in the yard, and catch the 
grasshoppers and butterflies. We would talk about 
the birds and flowers and grass and Jumbo and 
Pearl. If you liked, we would run and jump and hop 
and dance, and be very happy. I think, you would 
enjoy hearing the mocking-birds sing. One sits on 
the twig of a tree, just beneath jui window, and he 
fills the air with his glad songs. But I am afraid 
you cannot come to Tuscumbia; so I will write to 
you, and send you a sweet kiss and my love. How 
is Dick? Daisy is happy, but she would be happy 
ever if she had a little mate. My little children are 
all well except Nancy, and she is quite feeble. My 
grandmother and aunt Corinne are here. Grand- 
mother is going to make me two new dresses. Give 
my love to all the little girls, and tell them that 
Helen loves them very, very much. Eva sends love 
to all. 

With much love and many kisses, from your affec- 
tionate little friend, 

Helen Adams Keller. 

During the summer Miss Sullivan was away from 
Helen for three months and a half, the first separa- 
tion of teacher and pupil. Only once afterward in 
fifteen years was their constant companionship 
broken for more than a few days at a time. 

Aet.p) LETTERS 173 


Tuscumbia, Ala., August 7, 1889. 

Dearest Teacher — I am very glad to write to 
you this evening, for I have been thinking much 
about you all day. I am sitting on the piazza, and 
my little white pigeon is perched on the back of my 
chair, watching me write. Her little brown mate has 
flown away with the other birds ; but Annie is not sad, 
for she likes to stay with me. Fauntleroy is asleep 
upstairs, and Nancy is putting Lucy to bed. Perhaps 
the mocking bird is singing them to sleep. All the 
beautiful flowers are in bloom now. The air is sweet 
with the perfume of jasmines, heliotropes and roses. 
It is getting warm here now, so father is going to 
take us to the Quarry on the 20th of August. I 
think we shall have a beautiful time out in the cool, 
pleasant woods. I will write and tell you all the 
pleasant things we do. I am so glad that Lester 
and Henry are good little infants. Give them many 
sweet kisses for me. 

What was the name of the little boy who fell in 
love with the beautiful star? Eva has been telling 
me a story about a lovely little girl named Heidi. 
Will you please send it to me ? I shall be delighted 
to have a typewriter. 

Little Arthur is growing very fast. He has on 
short dresses now. Cousin Leila thinks he will walk 
in a little while. Then I will take his soft chubby 
hand in mine, and go out in the bright sunshine with 
him. He will pull the largest roses, and chase the 
gayest butterflies. I will take very good care of 
him, and not let him fall and hurt himself. Father 
and some other gentlemen went hunting yesterday. 

174 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Au g . 7 ,'8 P 

Father killed thirty-eight birds. We had some of 
them for supper, and they were very nice. Last 
Monday Simpson shot a pretty crane. The crane is 
a large and strong bird. His wings are as long as 
my arm, and his bill is as long as my foot. He eats 
little fishes, and other small animals. Father says 
he can fly nearly all day without stopping. 

Mildred is the dearest and sweetest little maiden in 
the world. She is very roguish, too. Sometimes, 
when mother does not know it, she goes out into 
the vineyard, and gets her apron full of delicious 
grapes. I think she would like to put her two 
soft arms around your neck and hug you. 

Sunday I went to church. I love to go to church, 
because I like to see my friends. 

A gentleman gave me a beautiful card. It was a 
picture of a mill, near a beautiful brook. There was 
a boat floating on the water, and the fragrant lilies 
were growing all around the boat. Not far from 
the mill there was an old house, with many trees 
growing close to it. There were eight pigeons on the 
roof of the house, and a great dog on the step. 
Pearl is a very proud mother-dog now. She has 
eight puppies, and she thinks there never were such 
fine puppies as hers. 

I read in my books every day. I love them very, 
very, very much. I do want you to come back to 
me soon. I miss you so very, very much. I cannot 
know about many things, when my dear teacher is 
not here. I send you five thousand kisses, and more 
love than I can tell. I send Mrs. H. much love and 
a kiss. 

From your affectionate little pupil, 

Helen A. Keller, 

Aet.g) LETTERS 175 

In the fall Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to 
Perkins Institution at South Boston. 


South Boston, Oct. 24, 1889. 

My Precious Little Sister: — Good morning. I 
am going to send you a birthday gift with this letter. 
I hope it will please you very much, because it makes 
me happy to send it. The dress is blue like your 
eyes, and candy is sweet just like your dear little 
self. I think mother will be glad to make the dress 
for you, and when you wear it you will look as pretty 
as a rose. The picture-book will tell you all about 
many strange and wild animals. You must not be 
afraid of them. They cannot come out of the picture 
to harm you. 

I go to school every day, and I learn many new 
things. At eight I study arithmetic. I like that. 
At nine I go to the gymnasium with the little girls, 
and we have great fun. I wish you could be here to 
play three little squirrels, and two gentle doves, 
and to make a pretty nest for a dear little robin. 
The mocking bird does not live in the cold north. 
At ten I study about the earth on which we all live. 
At eleven I talk with teacher and at twelve I study 
zoology. I do not know what I shall do in the after- 
noon yet. 

Now, my darling little Mildred, good bye. Give 
father and mother a great deal of love and many 
hugs and kisses for me. Teacher sends her love too. 
From your loving sister, 

Helen A. Keller. 

176 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nov. 20, '8 9 


South Boston, Mass., Nov. 20, 1889. 
My Dear Mr. Wade:— I have just received a 
letter from my mother, telling me that the beautiful 
mastiff puppy you sent me had arrived in Tuscumbia 
safely. Thank you very much for the nice gift. I 
am very sorry that I was not at home to welcome 
her; but my mother and my baby sister will be very 
kind to her while her mistress is away. I hope she 
is not lonely and unhappy. I think puppies can feel 
very home-sick, as well as little girls. I should like 
to call her Lioness, for your dog. May I ? I hope 
she will be very faithful, — and brave, too. 

I am studying in Boston, with my dear teacher. 
I learn a great many new and wonderful things. I 
study about the earth, and the animals, and I like 
arithmetic exceedingly. I learn many new words, 
too. Exceedingly is one that I learned yesterday. 
When I see Lioness I will tell her many things 
which will surprise her greatly. I think she will 
laugh when I tell her she is a vertebrate, a mammal, 
a quadruped ; and I shall be very sorry to tell her that 
she belongs to the order Carnivora. I study French, 
too. When I talk French to Lioness I will call her 
mon beau chien. Please tell Lion that I will take 
good care of Lioness. I shall be happy to have a 
letter from you when you like to write to me. 
From your loving little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 
P. S. I am studying at the Institution for the 
Blind. H. A. K. 

Ad. p) LETTERS 177 

This letter is indorsed in Whittier's hand, " Helen 
A.. Keller — deaf dumb and blind — aged nine years." 
" Browns" is a lapse of the pencil for "brown eyes.' ? 


Inst, for the Blind, So. Boston, Mass., 

Nov. 27, i88q. 

Dear Poet, 

I think you will be surprised to 
receive a letter from a little girl whom you do not 
know, but I thought you would be glad to hear 
that your beautiful poems make me very happy. 
Yesterday I read "In School Days" and "My Play- 
mate," and I enjoyed them greatly. I was very 
sorry that the poor little girl with the browns and 
the ' ' tangled golden curls ' ' died. It is very pleasant 
to live here in our beautiful world. I cannot see the 
lovely things with my eyes, but my mind can see 
them all, and so I am joyful all the day long. 

When I walk out in my garden I cannot see the 
beautiful flowers but I know that they are all 
around me ; for is not the air sweet with their fra- 
grance? I know too that the tiny lily -bells are 
whispering pretty secrets to their companions else 
they would not look so happy. I love you very 
dearly, because you have taught me so many lovely 
things about flowers, and birds, and people. Now 
I must say, good-bye. I hope [you] will enjoy the 
Thanksgiving very much. 

From your loving little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 
To Mr. John Greenleaf Whittier. 

*7& THE STORY OF MY LIFE iDec. 3 ,>8$ 

Whittier's reply, to which there is a reference in 
the following letter, has been lost. 


South Boston, Mass., Dec. 3, 1889. 

My Dear Mother: — Your little daughter is very 
happy to write to you this beautiful morning. It 
is cold and rainy here to-day. Yesterday the 
Countess of Meath came again to see me. She gave 
me a beautiful bunch of violets. Her little girls are 
named Violet and May. The Earl said he should 
be delighted to visit Tuscumbia the next time he 
comes to America. Lady Meath said she would 
like to see your flowers, and hear the mocking-birds 
sing. When I visit England they want me to come 
to see them, and stay a few weeks. They will take 
me to see the Queen. 

I had a lovely letter from the poet Whittier. He 
loves me. Mr. Wade wants teacher and me to 
come and see him next spring. May we go 7 He 
said you must feed Lioness from your hand, 
because she will be more gentle if she does not eat 
with other dogs. 

Mr. Wilson came to call on us one Thursday. I 
was delighted to receive the flowers from home. 
They came while we were eating breakfast, and my 
friends enjoyed them with me. We had a very nice 
dinner on Thanksgiving day, — turkey and plum- 
pudding. Last week I visited a beautiful art store. 
I saw a great many statues, and the gentleman gave 
me an angel. 

Sunday I went to church on board a great war- 
ship. After the services were over the soldier- 

Aet.g] LETTERS 179 

sailors showed us around. There were four hundred 
and sixty sailors. They were very kind to me. 
One carried me in his arms so that my feet would 
not touch the water. They wore blue uniforms 
and queer little caps. There was a terrible fire 
Thursday. Many stores were burned, and four men 
were killed. I am very sorry for them. Tell father, 
please, to write to me. How is dear little sister? 
Give her many kisses for me. Now I must close. 
With much love, from your darling child, 

Helen A. Keller. 


So. Boston, Mass., Dec. 24, 1889. 
My dear Mother, 

Yesterday I sent you a little Christ- 
mas box. I am very sorry that I could not send, 
it before so that you would receive it to morrow, 
but I could not finish the watch-case any sooner. 
I made all of the gifts myself, excepting father's 
handkerchief. I wish I could have made father a 
gift too, but I did not have sufficient time. I hope 
you will like your watch-case, for it made me very 
happy to make it for you. You must keep your 
lovely new montre in it. If it is too warm in 
Tuscumbia for little sister to wear her pretty 
mittens, she can keep them because her sister made 
them for her. I imagine she will have fun with the 
little toy man. Tell her to shake him, and then he 
will blow his trumpet. I thank my dear kind father 
for sending me some money, to buy gifts for my 

180 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec. 24, '89 

friends. I love to make everybody happy. I 
should like to be at home on Christmas day. We 
would be very happy together. I think of my 
beautiful home every day. Please do not forget to 
send me some pretty presents to hang on my tree. 
I am going to have a Christmas tree, in the parlor 
and teacher will hang all of my gifts upon it. It 
will be a funny tree. All of the girls have gone home 
to spend Christmas Teacher and I are the only 
babies left for Mrs. Hopkins to care for. Teacher 
has been sick in bed for many days. Her throat 
was very sore and the doctor thought she would 
have to go away to the hospital, but she is better 
now. I have not been sick at all. The little girls 
are well too. Friday I am going to spend the day 
with my little friends Carrie, Ethel, Frank and Helen 
Freeman. We will have great fun I am sure. 

Mr. and Miss Endicott came to see me, and I went 
to ride in the carriage. They are going to give me 
a lovely present, but I cannot guess what it will be. 
Sammy has a dear new brother. He is very soft 
and delicate yet. Mr. Anagnos is in Athens now 
He is delighted because I am here. Now I must 
say, good-bye. I hope I have written my letter 
nicely, but it is very difficult to write on this paper 
and teacher is not here to give me better. Give 
many kisses to little sister and much love to all. 
Lovingly Helen. 

let. p] LETTERS 181 


South Boston, Jan. 8, 1890. 
My dear Mr. Hale: 

The beautiful shells came last night. 
I thank you very much for them. I shall always 
keep them, and it will make me very happy to 
think, that you found them, on that far away 
island, from which Columbus sailed to discover 
our dear country. When I am eleven years old it 
will be four hundred years since he started with the 
three small ships to cross the great strange ocean. 
He was very brave. The little girls were delighted 
to see the lovely shells. I told them all I knew 
about them. Are you very glad that you could 
make so many happy? I am. I should be very 
happy to come and teach you the Braille sometime, 
if you have time to learn, but I am afraid you are 
too busy. A few days ago I received a little box 
of English violets from Lady Meath. The flowers 
were wilted, but the kind thought which came with 
them was as sweet and as fresh as newly pulled 

With loving greeting to the little cousins, and 
Mrs. Hale and a sweet kiss for yourself, 
From your little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 

This, the first of Helen's letters to Dr. Holmes, 
written soon after a visit to him, he published in 
"Over the Teacups." 

182 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [March r, 'po 


South Boston, Mass., March i, 1890. 

Dear, Kind Poet: — I have thought of you many 
times since that bright Sunday when I bade you 
good-bye; and I am going to write you a letter, 
because I love you. I am sorry that you have no 
little children to play with you sometimes; but I 
think you are very happy with your books, and your 
many, many friends. On Washington's birthday a 
great many people came here to see the blind chil- 
dren; and I read for them from your poems, and 
showed them some beautiful shells, which came from 
a little island near Palos. 

I am reading a very sad story, called "Little 
Jakey. " Jakey was the sweetest little fellow you 
can imagine, but he was poor and blind. I used to 
think — when I was small, and before I could read — 
that everybody was always happy, and at first it 
made me very sad to know about pain and great 
sorrow; but now I know that we could never learn 
to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the 

I am studying about insects in zoology, and I have 
learned many things about butterflies. They do not 
make honey for us, like the bees, but many of them 
are as beautiful as the flowers they light upon, and 
they always delight the hearts of little children. 
They live a gay life, flitting from flower to flower, 
sipping the drops of honeydew, without a thought 
for the morrow. They are just like little boys and 
girls when they forget books and studies, and run 
away to the woods and the fields, to gather wild 

* The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1890. By permission of 
Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 

A*. <?] LETTERS 183 

flowers, or wade in the ponds for fragrant lilies, 
happy in the bright sunshine. 

If my little sister comes to Boston next June, will 
you let me bring her to see you? She is a lovely 
baby, and I am sure you will love her. 

Now I must tell my gentle poet good-bye, for I 
have a letter to write home before I go to bed. 
From your loving little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 


South Boston, Mass., April 3, 1890, 
My dear Miss Fuller, 

My heart is full of joy this beautiful 
morning, because I have learned to speak many 
new words, and I can make a few sentences. Last 
evening I went out in the yard and spoke to the 
moon. I said, "O ! moon come to me!" Do you 
think the lovely moon was glad that I could speak to 
her? How glad my mother will be I can hardly 
wait for June to come I am so eager to speak to her 
and to my precious little sister. Mildred could not 
understand me when I spelled with my fingers, but 
now she will sit in my lap and I will tell her many 
things to please her, and we shall be so happy 
together. Are you very, very happy because you 
can make so many people happy ? I think you are 
very kind and patient, and I love you very dearly. 
My teacher told me Tuesday that you wanted tc 

* Miss Fuller gave Helen Keller her first lesson in articulation 
"?or an account of this see page 386. 

1 84 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [April 3, '90 

know how I came to wish to talk with my mouth. I 
will tell you all about it, for I remember my thoughts 
perfectly. When I was a very little child I used to 
sit in my mother's lap all the time, because I was 
very timid, and did not like to be left by myself. 
And I would keep my little hand on her face all the 
while, because it amused me to feel her face and lips 
move when she talked with people. I did not know 
then what she was doing, for I was quite ignorant of 
all things. Then when I was older I learned to play 
with my nurse and the little negro children and I 
noticed that they kept moving their lips just like 
my mother, so I moved mine too, but sometimes it 
made me angry and I would hold my playmates' 
mouths very hard. I did not know then that it was 
very naughty to do so. After a long time my dear 
teacher came to me, and taught me to communicate 
with my fingers and I was satisfied and happy. But 
when I came to school in Boston I met some deaf 
people who talked with their mouths like all other 
people, and one day a lady who had been to Norway 
came to see me, and told me of a blind and deaf girl* 
she had seen in that far away land who had been 
taught to speak and understand others when they 
spoke to her. This good and happy news delighted 
me exceedingly, for then I was sure that I should 
learn also. I tried to make sounds like my little 
playmates, but teacher told me that the voice was 
very delicate and sensitive and that it would injure 
it to make incorrect sounds, and promised to take 
me to see a kind and wise lady who would teach me 
rightly. That lady was yourself. Now I am as 
happy as the little birds, because I can speak and 

* Ragnhild Kaata. 

Aet. jo] LETTERS 18$ 

perhaps I shall sing too. All of my friends will 
be so surprised and glad. 

Your loving little pupil, 

Helen A. Keller. 

When the Perkins Institution closed for the sum 
mer, Helen and Miss Sullivan went to Tuscumbia- 
This was the first home-going after she had learned 
to " talk with her mouth." 


Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 14, 1890. 
My dear Mr. Brooks, I am very glad to write 
to you this beautiful day because you are my 
kind friend and I love you, and because I wish to 
know many things. I have been at home three 
weeks, and Oh, how happy I have been with dear 
mother and father and precious little sister. I was 
very, very sad to part with all of my friends in 
Boston, but I was so eager to see my baby sister I 
could hardly wait for the train to take me home. 
But I tried very hard to be patient for teacher's 
sake. Mildred has grown much taller and stronger 
than she was when I went to Boston, and she is the 
sweetest and dearest little child in the world My 
parents were delighted to hear me speak, and I was 
overjoyed to give them such a happy surprise. I 
think it is so pleasant to make everybody happy. 
Why does the dear Father in heaven think it best 
^v us to have very great sorrow sometimes ? I am 


always happy and so was Little Lord Fauntleroy, 
but dear Little Jakey's life was full of sadness. God 
did not put the light in Jakey's eyes and he was 
blind, and his father was not gentle and loving. Do 
you think poor Jakey loved his Father in heaven 
more because his other father was unkind to him? 
How did God tell people that his home was in 
heaven? When people do very wrong and hurt 
animals and treat children unkindly God is grieved, 
but what will he do to them to teach them to be 
pitiful and loving? I think he will tell them how 
dearly He loves them and that He wants them to be 
good and happy, and they will not wish to grieve 
their father who loves them so much, and they will 
want to please him in everything they do, so they 
will love each other and do good to everyone, and 
be kind to animals. 

Please tell me something that you know about 
God. It makes me happy to know much about my 
loving Father, who is good and wise. I hope you 
will write to your little friend when you have time. 
I should like very much to see you today Is the 
sun very hot in Boston now? this afternoon if it is 
cool enough I shall take Mildred for a ride on my 
donkey. Mr. Wade sent Neddy to me, and he is 
the prettiest donkey you can imagine. My great 
dog Lioness goes with us when we ride to protect 
us. Simpson, that is my brother, brought me some 
beautiful pond lilies yesterday — he is a very brother 
to me. 

Teacher sends you her kind remembrances, and 
f a.ther and mother also send their regards. 
From your loving little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 

Aet.ioj LETTERS 187 

dr. brooks's reply 

London, August 3, 1890. 

My Dear Helen — I was very glad indeed to get 
your letter. It has followed me across the ocean 
and found me in this magnificent great city which 
I should like to tell you all about if I could take time 
for it and make my letter long enough. Some 
time when you come and see me in my study in 
Boston I shall be glad to talk to you about it all if 
you care to hear. 

But now I want to tell you how glad I am that you 
are so happy and enjoying your home so very much. 
I can almost think I see you with your father and 
mother and little sister, with all the brightness of 
the beautiful country about you, and it makes me 
very glad to know how glad you are. 

I am glad also to know, from the questions which 
you ask me, what you are thinking about. I do not 
see how we can help thinking about God when He 
is so good to us all the time. Let me tell you how it 
seems to me that we come to know about our 
heavenly Father. It is from the power of love 
which is in our own hearts. Love is at the soul of 
everything. Whatever has not the power of loving 
must have a very dreary life indeed. We like to 
think that the sunshine and the winds and the trees 
are able to love in some way of their own, for it 
would make us know that they were happy if we 
knew that they could love. And so God who is the 
greatest and happiest of all beings is the most 
loving too. All the love that is in our hearts 
comes from him, as all the light which is in the 
flowers com^s from the sun. And the more we love 
the more near we are to God and His Love. 

188 THE STORY OP MY LIFE [Aug. 3,^90 

I told you that I was very happy because of your 
happiness. Indeed I am. So are your Father and 
your Mother and your Teacher and all your friends. 
But do you not think that God is happy too because 
you are happy? I am sure He is. And He is 
happier than any of us because He is greater than 
any of us, and also because He not merely sees your 
happiness as we do, but He also made it. He 
gives it to you as the sun gives light and color 
to the rose. And we are always most glad of what 
we not merely see our friends enjoy, but of what we 
give them to enjoy. Are we not ? 

But God does not only want us to be happy; He 
wants us to be good. He wants that most of all. 
He knows that we can be really happy only when we 
are good. A great deal of the trouble that is in the 
world is medicine which is very bad to take, but 
which it is good to take because it makes us better. 
We see how good people may be in great trouble 
when we think of Jesus who was the greatest 
sufferer that ever lived and yet was the best Being 
and so, I am sure, the happiest Being that the world 
has ever seen. 

I love to tell you about God. But He will tell you 
Himself by the love which He will put into your 
heart if you ask Him. And Jesus, who is His Son, 
but is nearer to Him than all of us His other 
Children, came into the world on purpose to tell 
us all about our Father's Love. If you read His 
words, you will see how full His heart is of the love 
of God. "We know that He loves us," He says. 
And so He loved men Himself and though they 
were very cruel to Him and at last killed Him, He 
was willing to die for them because He loved them 

ah. to] LETTERS 189 

so. And, Helen, He loves men still, and He loves 
us, and He tells us that we may love Him. 

And so love is everything. And if anybody asks 
you, or if you ask yourself what God is, answer, 
" God is Love." That is the beautiful answer which 
the Bible gives. 

All this is what you are to think of and to under- 
stand more and more as you grow older. Think of 
it now, and let it make every blessing brighter 
because your dear Father sends it to you. 

You will come back to Boston I hope soon after 
I do. I shall be there by the middle of September. 
I shall want you to tell me all about everything, and 
not forget the Donkey. 

I send my kind remembrance to your father and 
mother, and to your teacher. I wish I could see 
your little sister. 

Good Bye, dear Helen. Do write to me soon 
again, directing your letter to Boston. 
Your affectionate friend 

Phillips Brooks. 


' o a letter which has been lost. 

Beverly Farms, Mass., August 1, 1890. 
My Dear Little Friend Helen: 

I received your welcome letter several days ago, 
but I have so much writing to do that I am apt to 
make my letters wait a good while before they get 

It gratifies me very much to find that you remem • 

xqo THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Aug. i, 'pa 

ber me so kindly. Your letter is charming, and 1 
am greatly pleased with it. I rejoice to know that 
you are well and happy, I am very much delighted 
to hear of your new acquisition — that you "talk 
with your mouth" as well as with your fingers. 
What a curious thing speech is ! The tongue is so 
serviceable a member (taking all sorts of shapes, 
just as is wanted), — the teeth, the lips, the roof of 
the mouth, all ready to help, and so heap up the 
sound of the voice into the solid bits which we call 
consonants, and make room for the curiously shaped 
breathings which we call vowels ! You have studied 
all this, I don't doubt, since you have practised vocal 

I am surprised at the mastery of language which 
your letter shows. It almost makes me think the 
world would get along as well without seeing and 
hearing as with. them. Perhaps people would be 
better in a great many ways, for they could not fight 
as they do now. Just think of an army of blind 
people, with guns and cannon ! Think of the poor 
drummers ! Of what use would they and their drum- 
sticks be ? You are spared the pain of many sights 
and sounds, which you are only too happy in escaping. 
Then think how much kindness you are sure of as 
long as you live. Everybody will feel an interest in 
dear little Helen; everybody will want to do some- 
thing for her ; and, if she becomes an ancient, gray- 
haired woman, she is still sure of being thoughtfully 
cared for. 

Your parents and friends must take great satisfac- 
tion in your progress. It does great credit, not only 
to you, but to your instructors, who have so broken 
down the walls that seemed to shut you in that now 

/let. id) LETTERS 19 1 

your outlook seems more bright and cheerful than 
that of many seeing and hearing children. 

Good-bye, dear little Helen ! With every kind 
wish from your friend, 

Oliver Wendell Holmes. 

This letter was written to some gentlemen in 
Gardiner, Maine, who named a lumber vessel after 


Tuscumbia, Ala., July 14, 1890. 

My Dear, Kind Friends : — I thank you very, very 
much for naming your beautiful new ship for me. 
It makes me very happy to know that I have kind 
and loving friends in the far-away State of Maine. I 
did not imagine, when I studied about the forests of 
Maine, that a strong and beautiful ship would go 
sailing all over the world, carrying wood from those 
rich forests, to build pleasant homes and schools and 
churches in distant countries. I hope the great 
ocean will love the new Helen, and let her sail over 
its blue waves peacefully. Please tell the brave 
sailors, who have charge of the Helen Keller, 
that little Helen who stays at home will often think 
of them with loving thoughts. I hope I shall see 
you and my beautiful namesake some time. 

With much love, from your little friend, 

Helen A, Keller. 
To the Messrs. Bradstreet. 

192 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nov. to, «p« 

Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to the Perkins 
Institution early in November. 


South Boston, Nov. 10, 1890. 

My Dearest Mother : — My heart has been full of 
thoughts of you and my beautiful home ever since 
we parted so sadly on Wednesday night. How I 
wish I could see you this lovely morning, and tell you 
all that has happened since I left home ! And my 
darling little sister, how I wish I could give her a 
hundred kisses ! And my dear father, how he would 
like to hear about our journey ! But I cannot see 
you and talk to you, so I will write and tell you all 
that I can think of. 

We did not reach Boston until Saturday morning. 
I am sorry to say that our train was delayed in 
several places, which made us late in reaching New 
York. When we got to Jersey City at six o'clock 
Friday evening we were obliged to cross the Harlem 
River in a ferry-boat. We found the boat and the 
transfer carriage with much less difficulty than 
teacher expected. When we arrived at the station 
they told us that the train did not leave for Boston 
until eleven o'clock, but that we could take the 
sleeper at nine, which we did. We went to bed and 
slept until morning. When we awoke we were in 
Boston. I was delighted to get there, though I was 
much disappointed because we did not arrive on 
Mr. Anagnos' birthday. We surprised our deal 
friends, however, for they did not expect us Satur- 
day ; but when the bell rung Miss Marrett guessed 

Aa. 10} LETTERS 193 

who was at the door, and Mrs. Hopkins jumped up 
from the breakfast table and ran to the door to meet 
us; she was indeed much astonished to see us. 
After we had had some breakfast we went up to see 
Mr. Anagnos. I was overjoyed to see my dearest 
and kindest friend once more. He gave me a 
beautiful watch. I have it pinned to my dress. 1 
tell everybody the time when they ask me. I have 
only seen Mr. Anagnos twice. I have many ques- 
tions to ask him about the countries he has been 
travelling in. But I suppose he is very busy now. 

The hills in Virginia were very lovely. Jack 
Frost had dressed them in gold and crimson. The 
view was most charmingly picturesque. Pennsyl- 
vania is a very beautiful State. The grass was as 
green as though it was springtime, and the golden 
ears of corn gathered together in heaps in the great 
fields looked very pretty. In Harrisburg we saw a 
donkey like Neddy. How I wish I could see my own 
donkey and my dear Lioness ! Do they miss their 
mistress very much ? Tell Mildred she must be kind 
to them for my sake. 

Our room is pleasant and comfortable. 

My typewriter was much injured coming. The 
case was broken and the keys are nearly all out. 
Teacher is going to see if it can be fixed. 

There are many new books in the library. What 
a nice time I shall have reading them ! I have 
already read Sara Crewe. It is a very pretty 
story, and I will tell it to you some time. Now, 
sweet mother, your little girl must say good-bye. 

With much love to father, Mildred, you and all 
the dear friends, lovingly your little daughter, 

Helen A. Keller, 

i 9 4 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec. i 7 ,> 9 o 


South Boston Dec. 17 1890. 

Dear Kind Poet, 

This is your birthday ; that was the first 
thought which came into my mind when I awoke 
this morning; and it made me glad to think 
I could write you a letter and tell you how much 
your little friends love their sweet poet and his birth- 
day. This evening they are going to entertain 
their friends with readings from your poems and 
music. I hope the swift winged messengers of love 
will be here to carry some of the sweet melody to 
you, in your little study by the Merrimac. At first 
I was very sorry when I found that the sun had 
hidden his shining face behind dull clouds, but after- 
wards I thought why he did it, and then I was happy. 
The sun knows that you like to see the world covered 
with beautiful white snow and so he kept back all his 
brightness, and let the little crystals form in the sky. 
When they are ready, they will softly fall and ten- 
derly cover every object. Then the sun will appear 
in all his radiance and fill the world with light. If I 
were with you to-day I would give you eighty-three 
kisses, one for each year you have lived. Eighty- 
three years seems very long to me. Does it seem long 
to you ? I wonder how many years there will be in 
eternity. I am afraid I cannot think about so much 
time. I received the letter which you wrote to me 
last summer, and I thank you for it. I am staying 
in Boston now at the Institution for the Blind, but 
I have not commenced my studies yet f because my 
dearest friend, Mr. Anagnos wants me to rest and 
play a great deal. 

Teacher is well and sends her kind remembrance 

Aet. 10] LETTERS 195 

to you. The happy Christmas time is almost here ! 
I can hardly wait for the fun to begin ! I hope your 
Christmas Day will be a very happy one and that the 
New Year will be full of brightness and joy for you 
and every one. 

From your little friend 

Helen A. Keller. 


My Dear Young Friend — I was very glad to have 
such a pleasant letter on my birthday. I had two 
or three hundred others and thine was one of the 
most welcome of all. I must tell thee about how 
the day passed at Oak Knoll. Of course the sun 
did not shine, but we had great open wood fires in 
the rooms, which were all very sweet with roses and 
other flowers, which were sent to me from distant 
friends ; and fruits of all kinds from California and 
other places. Some relatives and dear old friends 
were with me through the day. I do not wonder 
thee thinks eighty three years a long time, but to 
me it seems but a very little while since I was a boy 
no older than thee, playing on the old farm at 
Haverhill. I thank thee for all thy good wishes, 
and wish thee as many. I am glad thee is at the 
Institution; it is an excellent place. Give my best 
regards to Miss Sullivan, and with a great deal of 
love I am 

Thy old friend, 

John G. Whittier. 

1 96 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [March 20/91 

Tommy Stringer, who appears in several of the fol- 
lowing letters, became blind and deaf when he was 
four years old. His mother was dead and his father 
was too poor to take care of him. For a while he 
was kept in the general hospital at Allegheny. 
From here he was to be sent to an almshouse, for 
at that time there was no other place for him in 
Pennsylvania. Helen heard of him through Mr. 
J. G. Brown of Pittsburgh, who wrote her that 
he had failed to secure a tutor for Tommy. She 
wanted him brought to Boston, and when she 
was told that money would be needed to get him 
a teacher, she answered, "We will raise it." She 
began to solicit contributions from her friends, and 
saved her pennies. 

Dr. Alexander Graham Bell advised Tommy's 
friends to send him to Boston, and the trustees of 
the Perkins Institution agreed to admit him to the 
kindergarten for the blind. 

Meanwhile opportunity came to Helen to make 
a considerable contribution to Tommy's education. 
The winter before, her dog Lioness had been killed, 
and friends set to work to raise money to buy Helen 
another dog. Helen asked that the contributions, 
which people were sending from all over America 
and England, be devoted to Tommy's education. 
Turned to this new use, the fund grew fast, and 
Tommy was provided for. He was admitted to the 
kindergarten on the sixth of April. 

Miss Keller wrote lately, "I shall never forget 
the pennies sent by many a poor child who could 
ill spare them, 'for little Tommy,' or the swift 
sympathy with which people from far and near, 
whom I had never seen, responded to the dumb cry 
of a little captive soul for aid." 

Aet. 10] LETTERS 197 

to mr. george r. krehl 

Institution for the Blind, 
South Boston, Mass., March 20, 1891. 
My Dear Friend, Mr. Krehl: — I have just heard, 
through Mr. Wade, of your kind offer to buy me 
a gentle dog, and I want to thank you for the 
kind thought. It makes me very happy indeed to 
know that I have such dear friends in other lands. It 
makes me think that all people are good and loving. 
I have read that the English and Americans are 
cousins ; but I am sure it would be much truer to say 
that we are brothers and sisters. My friends have 
told me about your great and magnificent city, and 
I have read a great deal that wise Englishmen have 
written. I have begun to read "Enoch Arden," 
and I know several of the great poet's poems by 
heart. I am eager to cross the ocean, for I want to 
see my English friends and their good and wise 
queen. Once the Earl of Meath came to see me, and 
he told me that the queen was much beloved by 
her people, because of her gentleness and wisdom. 
Some day you will be surprised to see a little strange 
girl coming into your office ; but when you know it 
is the little girl who loves dogs and all other animals, 
you will laugh, and I hope you will give her a kiss, 
just as Mr. Wade does. He has another dog for me, 
and he thinks she will be as brave and faithful as 
my beautiful Lioness. And now I want to tell you 
what the dog lovers in America are going to do. 
They are going to send me some money for a poor 
little deaf and dumb and blind child. His name is 
Tommy, and he is five years old. His parents are 
too poor to pay to have the little fellow sent to 
school ; so, instead of giving me a dog, the gentle- 

198 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [April, > 9 i 

men are going to help make Tommy's life as bright 
and joyous as mine. Is it not a beautiful plan? 
Education will bring light and music into Tommy's 
soul, and then he cannot help being happy. 
From your loving little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 


[South Boston, Mass., April, 1891.] 
Dear Dr. Holmes: — Your beautiful words about 
spring have been making music in my heart, 
these bright April days. I love every word of 
"Spring" and "Spring Has Come." I think you 
will be glad to hear that these poems have taught 
me to enjoy and love the beautiful springtime, 
even though I cannot see the fair, frail blossoms 
which proclaim its approach, or hear the joyous 
warbling of the home-coming birds. But when I 
read "Spring Has Come," lo ! I am not blind any 
longer, for I see with your eyes and hear with your 
ears. Sweet Mother Nature can have no secrets 
from me when my poet is near. I have chosen 
this paper because I want the spray of violets in 
the corner to tell you of my grateful love. I want 
you to see baby Tom, the little blind and deaf and 
dumb child who has just come to our pretty garden. 
He is poor and helpless and lonely now, but before 
another April education will have brought light and 
gladness into Tommy's life. If you do come, you 
will want to ask the kind people of Boston to help 
brighten Tommy's whole life. Your loving friend, 

Helen Keller. 

Aet. id) LETTERS 199 

to sir john everett millais 

Perkins Institution for the Blind, 
South Boston, Mass., April 30, 1891. 
My Dear Mr. Millais: — Your little American 
sister is going to write you a letter, because she wants 
you to know how pleased she was to hear you were 
interested in our poor little Tommy, and had sent 
some money to help educate him. It is very 
beautiful to think that people far away in England 
feel sorry for a little helpless child in America. I 
used to think, when I read in my books about your 
great city, that when I visited it the people would be 
strangers to me, but now I feel differently. It seems 
to me that all people who have loving, pitying hearts, 
are not strangers to each other. I can hardly wait 
patiently for the time to come when I shall see my 
dear English friends, and their beautiful island home. 
My favorite poet has written some lines about 
England which I love very much. I think you will 
like them too, so I will try to write them for you. 

" Hugged in the clinging billow's clasp. 

From seaweed fringe to mountain heather, 
The British oak with rooted grasp 

Her slender handful holds together, 
With cliffs of white and bowers of green, 

And ocean narrowing to caress her, 
And hills and threaded streams between, 

Our little mother isle, God bless her !" 

You will be glad to hear that Tommy has a kind 
lady to teach him, and that he is a pretty, active 
little fellow. He loves to climb much better than to 
spell, but that is because he does not know yet what 
a wonderful thing language is. He cannot imagine 
Vow very, very happy he will be when he can tell us 

2oo THE STORY OF MY LIFE {Maying* 

his thoughts, and we can tell him how we have loved 
him so long. 

Tomorrow April will hide her tears and blushes 
beneath the flowers of lovely May. I wonder if the 
May-days in England are as beautiful as they are 

Now I must say good-bye. Please think of me 
always as your loving little sister, 

Helen Keller. 


So. Boston, May i, 1891. 
My Dear Mr. Brooks: 

Helen sends you a loving greeting this bright 
May-day. My teacher has just told me that 
you have been made a bishop, and that your 
friends everywhere are rejoicing because one whom 
they love has been greatly honored. I do not 
understand very well what a bishop's work is, but 
I am sure it must be good and helpful, and I am 
glad that my dear friend is brave, and wise, and 
loving enough to do it. It is very beautiful to think 
that you can tell so many people of the heavenly 
Father's tender love for all His children even when 
they are not gentle and noble as He wishes them to 
be. I hope the glad news which you will tell them 
will make their hearts beat fast with joy and love. 
I hope too, that Bishop Brooks' whole life will be 
as rich in happiness as the month of May is full of 
blossoms and singing birds. 

From your loving little friend, 

Helen Keller. 

Art. jo] LETTERS 201 

Before a teacher was found for Tommy and while 
he was still in the care of Helen and Miss Sullivan, a 
reception was held for him at the kindergarten. At 
Helen's request Bishop Brooks made an address. 
Helen wrote letters to the newspapers which brought 
many generous replies. All of these she answered 
herself, and she made public acknowledgment in 
letters to the newspapers. This letter is to the editor 
of the Boston Herald, enclosing a complete list of the 
subscribers. The contributions amounted to more 
than sixteen hundred dollars. 


South Boston, May 13, 1891. 
Editor of the Boston Herald: 

My Dear Mr. Holmes: — Will you kindly print, in 
the Herald, the enclosed list ? I think the readers of 
your paper will be glad to know that so much has 
been done for dear little Tommy, and that they will 
all wish to share in the pleasure of helping him. 
He is very happy indeed at the kindergarten, and is 
learning something every day. He has found out 
that doors have locks, and that little sticks and bits 
of paper can be got into the key -hole quite easily ; 
but he does not seem very eager to get them out after 
they are in. He loves to climb the bed-posts and 
unscrew the steam valves much better than to spell, 
but that is because he does not understand that 
words would help him to make new and interesting 
discoveries. I hope that good people will continue to 
work for Tommy until his fund is completed, and 
education has brought light and music into his little 
life. From your little friend, 

Helen Keller. 

202 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May 27, 'gr 


South Boston, May 27, 1891. 

Dear, Gentle Poet: — I fear that you will think 
Helen a very troublesome little girl if she writes 
to you too often; but how is she to help send- 
ing you loving and grateful messages, when you 
do so much to make her glad ? I cannot begin 
to tell you how delighted I was when Mr. Anagnos 
told me that you had sent him some money 
to help educate "Baby Tom." Then I knew 
that you had not forgotten the dear little 
child, for the gift brought with it the thought of 
tender sympathy. I am very sorry to say that 
Tommy has not learned any words yet. He is the 
same restless little creature he was when you saw him. 
But it is pleasant to think that he is happy and 
playful in his bright new home, and by and by that 
strange, wonderful thing teacher calls mind, will 
begin to spread its beautiful wings and fly away in 
search of knowledge-land. Words are the mind's 
wings, are they not ? 

I have been to Andover since I saw you, and I 
was greatly interested in all that my friends told me 
about Phillips Academy, because I knew you had 
been there, and I felt it was a place dear to you, 
I tried to imagine my gentle poet when he was a 
school-boy, and I wondered if it was in Andover he 
learned the songs of the birds and the secrets of 
the shy little woodland children. I am sure his heart 
was always full of music, and in God's beautiful 
world he must have heard love's sweet replying. 
When I came home teacher read to me "The 
School-boy," for it is not in our print. 

Did you know that the blind children are going 

Aet. 10] 


to have their commencement exercises in Tremont 
Temple, next Tuesday afternoon? I enclose a 
ticket, hoping that you will come. We shall all be 
proud and happy to welcome our poet friend. I 
shall recite about the beautiful cities of sunny 
Italy. I hope our kind friend Dr. Ellis will come 
too, and take Tom in his arms. 

With much love and a kiss, from your little friend, 

Helen A. Keller. 


South Boston, June 8, 1891. 

My dear Mr. Brooks, 

I send you my picture as I promised, and 1 
hope when you look at it this summer your 
thoughts will fly southward to your happy 
little friend. I used to wish that I could see 
pictures with my hands as I do statues, but now I 
do not often think about it because my dear Father 
has filled my mind with beautiful pictures, even of 
things I cannot see. If the light were not in your 
eyes, dear Mr. Brooks, you would understand better 
how happy your little Helen was when her teacher 
explained to her that the best and most beautiful 
things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, 
but just felt in the heart. Every day I find out 
something which makes me glad. Yesterday I 
thought for the first time what a beautiful thing 
motion was, and it seemed to me that everything 
was trying to get near to God, does it seem that way 
to von ? It is Sunday morning, and while I sit here 

2o 4 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Mar. 10, '93 

in the library writing this letter you are teaching 
hundreds of people some of the grand and beautiful 
things about their heavenly Father. Are you not 
very, very happy? and when you are a Bishop you 
will preach to more people and more and more will 
be made glad. Teacher sends her kind remem- 
brances, and I send you with my picture my dear 

From your little friend 

Helen Keller. 

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 unhap- 
piness. An analysis of the case has been made 
elsewhere,* and Miss Keller has written her 
account of it. j" 


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 

*Paee 306. tPaee 63. 

Aet. a) LETTERS 205 

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 turbu- 
lent 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 grow- 
ing 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 monarchfs] 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 photo- 
graph 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. 

206 THE STORY OF MY LIFE \i8 9 z 

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 

* Reprinted by courteous permission of the Century Co. LETTERS 207 

Helen's kindest and most liberal friends. The tea 
brought more than two thousand dollars for the 
blind children. 


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 tomorrow 
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. 

2 o8 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May u, '02 


South Boston, May nth, 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 beauti- 
ful 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 1 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. 

Art. it] LETTERS 209 


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 disap- 
point 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 beau- 
tiful 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. 

2io THE STORY OF MY LIFE \Jul y9 , '92 


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 01 
letters, or any pleasant employment, seem quite 
impossible. Nevertheless, I must tell you that we 
are alive, — that we reached home safely, and that w e 
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 ham- 
mock, 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 t< 
ride? I have a very pretty little cart now, and if :t 
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 

Act. 12] LOITERS 211 

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 cou&ins 
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 poli- 
ticians 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 ? 



^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 

212 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec, ip, '93 

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 omis- 
sions are indicated. 


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 wa, e 

Aet.i2) LETTERS 213 

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 1 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 today 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 con- 

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 

214 THE STORY OF MY LIFE {Feb. 18,-93 

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 pleasec 1 
with, and love any little creature you send vc.2, 



Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 18, 1893. 
. You have often been in my thoughts 
during these sad days, while my heart has been 

Aet.i2\ LETTERS 215 

grieving over the loss of my beloved friend,* and I 
have wished many times that I was in Boston with 
those who knew and loved him as I did ... he 
was so much of a friend to me ! so tender and loving 
always ! I do try not to mourn his death too sadly. 
I do try to think that he is still near, very near ; but 
sometimes the thought that he is not here, that I 
shall not see him when I go to Boston, — that he 
is gone, — rushes over my soul like a great wave of 
sorrow. But at other times, when I am happier, I 
do feel his beautiful presence, and his loving hand 
leading me in pleasant ways. Do you remember 
the happy hour we spent with him last June when 
he held my hand, as he always did, and talked to us 
about his friend Tennyson, and our own dear poet 
Dr. Holmes, and I tried to teach him the manual 
alphabet, and he laughed so gaily over his mistakes, 
and afterward I told him about my tea, and he 
promised to come ? I can hear him now, saying in 
his cheerful, decided way, in reply to my wish that 
my tea might be a success, " Of course it will, Helen. 
Put your whole heart in the good work, my child, 
and it cannot fail. " I am glad the people are going 
to raise a monument to his memory. . . . 

In March Helen and Miss Sullivan went North, 
and spent the next few months traveling and visit- 
ing friends. 

In reading this letter about Niagara one should 
remember that Miss Keller knows distance and shape, 
and that the size of Niagara is within her experi- 

* Phillips Brooks, died January 23, 1893. 

3i6 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [April 13, -pj 

ence after she has explored it, crossed the bridge, 
and gone down in the elevator. Especially impor- 
tant are such details as her feeling the rush of the 
water by putting her hand on the window. Dr. 
Bell gave her a down pillow, which she held against 
her to increase the vibrations. 


South Boston, April 13, 1893. 

. . . Teacher, Mrs. Pratt and I very unex- 
pectedly decided to take a journey with deai 
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 ] 
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. . s , 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 good- 
ness, — 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] LETTERS 217 

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 sensa- 
tions yourself, I could hardly realize that it was 
water that I felt rushing and plunging with impetu- 
ous 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 sup- 
ported 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 . . . 

2i8 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Apr. 13,^3 

You will be pleased, dear Mother, to hear that a 
kind lady whose name is Miss Hooker is endeavor- 
ing 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 beautifullv 
as he does. . . . 

Her visit to the World's Fair she described in 
a letter to Mr. John P. Spaulding, which was pub- 
lished 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 


Gentlemen — The bearer, Miss Helen Keller, 
accompanied by Miss Sullivan, is desirous of mak- 
ing a complete inspection of the Exposition in all 

Aet. i3\ LETTERS 


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, 



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 histori- 
cal 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 

2 2o THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Aug. i 7 , > M 

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 wh n 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 alpha- 
bets. 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 1 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 Dreamland. . . . 

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 
Whaleback. . . . 

Aet.i 3 ] LETTERS 221 

In the spring of 1893 a club was started in 
.Tuscumbia, of which Mrs. Keller was president, to 
establish a public library. Miss Keller says: 

"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. " 


HULTON, PENN., Oct. 21, 1893. 

. . . We spent September at home in Tus- 
cumbia . . . 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 arith- 
metic very well, but now I have changed my mind. 

222 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Oct. si, < 93 

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. 

i. 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 mean- 
time 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) collec- 
tion. . . . 

P. S. My teacher thinks it would be more busi- 
nesslike 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." 

H. K. 

Aet. 13} LETTERS 223 


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 a 
discoverer. . . . 


Hulton, Pennsylvania, January 14, [1894]. 
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, Csesar is Caesar still, imperious and 
tyrannical, and if a little girl would understand so 
great a man, and the wars and conquests of whicb 
he tells in his beautiful Latin language, she must 
study much and think much, and study and thought 
require time. 

224 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Oct. 23, '94 

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 way. . . . 

In February Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to 
Tuscumbia. They spent the rest of the spring read- 
ing 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 education. 

In the fall Helen and Miss Sullivan entered the 
Wright-Humason School in New York, which makes 
a specialty 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 little. 

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 

Aet.i 4 ] LETTERS 225 

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 verv difficult to read 

226 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Mar. 15, ' 95 

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 accom- 
plished. 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 
" Wiihelm 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 after- 
noon very much. Among the dogs which receive< j 
the most attention were the bull-dogs. They per 
mitted 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. 

Aet. H \ LETTERS 227 

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. . . . 


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 

228 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Mar. 31, '9$ 

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. Howeils 
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 

When the Wright-Humason School closed for the 
summer, Miss Sullivan and Helen went South. 

Art. 15] LETTERS 229 


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 delight- 
fully ! . . . 

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 

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 send- 
ing 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 out 
I have found it very difficult to do so on account of 

2 3 o THE STORY OF MY LIFE [oa. i6 t > 95 

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 . „ . 


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 sur- 
prised 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. . . , 

Aet. z 5 , BETTERS 23* 

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." . . . 


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 teai 
the King from his loving wife's arms. 

232 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Feb. 4, '96 

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 absorbing ! . . . 

The next two letters were written just after the 
death of Mr. John P. Spaulding. 


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. . . 

Aet. j S ] LETTERS 233 


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 oerfectly 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 given us. 

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 itself. , . . 

234 THE STORY OF MY LIFE \juiy i 5 , '0 


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 under- 
stand 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. . . . 


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 Fountain. 

As I sit by the window writing to you, it is so 
lovely to have the soft, cool breezes fan my cheek, 

Aet. 16} LETTERS 235 

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 disap- 
pointed that you did not come. We think of you so, 
so often ! and oar 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 Brewstef 

*See page 39 2. 

236 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Se P t. 3t >Q6 

Friday afternoon. We missed the Cape Cod train 
Friday morning, and so we came down to Province- 
town 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 Sovely 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 1 7 th 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. . . . 


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 

Aet. i6\ BETTERS 


wonder what becomes of lost opportunities. Per- 
haps 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 it ! . . . 

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 examina- 
tions 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 prepara- 
tory 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 his house. . . . 

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 text- 
books 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 say. 

It is such a delight to be with the other girls, and 

Aet. 16] LETTERS 239 

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 mathe- 
matical mind ; for my figures always manage to get 
into the wrong places ! . . . 


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 school- 
work 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 
11 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 wrong. . . . 


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. Chamber- 
lin, the "Listener" in the Boston Transcript. They 
are dear, kind people. . . . 

240 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Feb. 20, »pl 

But I know you want to hear about my examina- 
tions. 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 skilful teacher. 


Wrentham, February 20, 1898. 
. . . I resumed my studies soon after your 
departure, and in a very little while we were work- 
ing as merrily as if the dreadful experience of a 

Aet. if\ LETTERS 241 

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 any 
thing 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 tobogganing 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 skimming far across the 
pond at a tremendous rate ! . » . 


[Wrentham] April 12, 1898 
. . . I am glad Mr. Keith is so well pleased 
with mv progress. It is true that Algebra and 

242 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May 29 , * P 5 

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 achieve- 
ment, 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. . . . 

Aet. irt LETTERS 243 


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 sun- 
shine 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 handle- 
bar 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 

244 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Oct. 23, '98 

arranged to have the ladies' seat behind, I think it 
would be better. « . , 


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 oft 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 

_ I have really learned to swim and dive — after a 
fashion ! I can swim a little under water, and dc 
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 

Aet. 18] LETTERS 24$ 

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 often ! „ 3 

, . . 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 "^neid" and Cicero, besides doing a lot 
in Geometry and Algebra. The "Iliad" is beautiful 
with all the truth, and grace and simplicity of a won- 
derfully childlike people, while the "/Eneid" is more 
stately and reserved. It is like a beautiful maiden, 
who always lived in a palace, surrounded by a mag- 
nificent 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 free- 
dom 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 

2 4 5 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec. 6, *q8 

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. „ . 3 


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 

Art. 18] LETTERS 247 

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 " more. " . . . 

i 4 8 THE STORY OF MY LIFE l>«. n\ '90 

to mrs, laurence huttqn 

12 Newbury Street, Boston, 
December 22, [1898.] 
, 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 coun- 
try should in a. similar way convert the terrible loss 

Aet. 18} LETTERS 249 

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 
people. . . . 

to mr. john hitz 

12 Newbury Street, Boston, 
February 3, 1899. 
, . . I had an exceedingly interesting experi- 
ence last Monday. A kind friend took me over in 
the morning to the Boston Art Museum. She had 
previously obtained permission from General Loring 

250 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [F g b. 3 ,'gg 

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 hunt- 
ing 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. Go 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 

Photograph by Whitman Studio 


Aet.iS) LETTERS 251 

things away from the sanctuary of the Past where 
they belong. . . . 


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 teach- 

252 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Mar. 5/99 

\ng 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! 

Aet. i&i LETTERS 253 

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 

254 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [May 8/99 

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 hap- 
piest girl in the world ! . . . 

Art. i8] LETTERS 255 


[Boston] May 28th [1899]. 
. . . 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 Miss Keller. 


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 

256 THE STORY OF MY LIFE \june 5,-99 

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 is. 

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. . . . 

A*t. xg] LETTERS 2 $t 


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 the}? - — 
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 any- 
thing 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. . . . 

258 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [ca*. 23 ,*p* 


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 suc- 
cessfully, 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 culti- 
vating 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 some- 
thing 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 pro- 
fessors 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 

. -5*".. ... * 

Copyright, IQ04, by Whitman 


Aet, ig\ LETTERS 259 

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 writ- 
ing 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 Greek. 

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 

2 6o THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nov. n, 99 

also was a stranger, and did not attempt to com- 
municate 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 

Aet. ip] LETTERS 261 

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 inter- 
preted to me as well as she could what the teacher 

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, 

262 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nov. 26, '99 

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 inter- 
esting ! 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 trains. . . . 

Act. 19] LETTERS 263 

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 crim- 
son 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 

264 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Feb. 3 r<n 

since dear Bishop Brooks died. Dr. Greer read! 
so slowly, that my teacher could tell me every wofdL 
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 

Aet. i 9 \ LETTERS 265 

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 circum- 
scribed and narrow and crowds out almost every- 
thing that is not in books. . . . 

to the chairman of the academic board 
of radcliffe college 

138 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass., 
May 5, 1900. 
Dear Sir: 

As an aid to me in determining my plans for 
study the coming year, I apply to you for infor- 
mation as to the possibility of my taking the 
regular courses in RadclirTe 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 

riticism, and English composition. 

266 THE STORY OF MY LIFE \june Q ,-oo 

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 

to mrs. laurence hutton 

138 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 

Aet. 20) LETTERS 267 

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 exami- 
nations for Radcliffe satisfactorily. . . . 

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 institu- 
tion 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 advan- 
tages 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 

268 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nov. 26, *oo 

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 argu- 
ments, 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 opportuni- 
ties 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 
>ielp it. However Mr. Bell suggested that ■ 

Aet. 20] LETTERS 269 

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 sugges- 
tion. 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. . . . 


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 

270 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec.9,'00 

which never got on paper, and I am delighted to 
get your good letter, yes, 1 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 Mathe- 
matics 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. . . . 

Aet.2o) LETTERS 271 

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 

27a THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec. 20/00 

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 

An 2n | LETTERS 273 

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 unpleas- 
ant thoughts. I am not discouraged, nor am I 
afraid. I am confident that I could go on writ- 
ing 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 to it. 

I have always accepted other people's 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 « . - 

274 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Dec. 27,'* 

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* 

* 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. 

Aet.2o] LETTERS 275 

in the United States alone; 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 unfor- 
tunate children could be accomplished. . . . 


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 
%ffer from the editor of The Great Round World to 

276 THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Feb. 16, 'oi 

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 

to The Great Round World 

Cambridge, Feb. i6, 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 suc- 
cesses 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 

A*. 2 i] LETTERS 277 

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 
* r erv dear to my heart, I am, etc. 


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 over- 
looks 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 t© 


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* 

Cambridge, Nov. io, 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 xnow 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 

* Read by Dr. Hale at the celebration of the centenary of Dr. 
Samuel Gridley Howe, at Tremont Temple, Boston, Nov. 1 1 , 1901. 

Aet.21] LETTERS 279 

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 inde- 
pendence, 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. 

2 8o THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Nov. 25, '01 


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. . . . 





The Writing of the Book. 




Literary Style. 



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 edi- 
torial 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 pre- 
suming to say what her subject matter is worth, but one more 



explanation is necessary. In her account of her early educa- 
tion 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 con- 
structing 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 para- 
graphs 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 sepa- 
rate 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. 



Mark Twain has said that the two most interesting charac- 
ters 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 com- 
munication 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 com- 
municate 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 of another. 

The trait most characteristic, perhaps, of Miss Keller (and alsc 



of Miss Sullivan) is humour. Skill in the use of words and her 
habit of playing with them make her ready with mots and epi- 

Some one asked her if she liked to study. 

"Yes," she replied, "but I like to play also, and I feel some- 
times as if I were a music box with all the play shut up inside 

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 persever- 
ance 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. 

Her life has been a series of attempts to do whatever other 
people do, and to do it as well. Her success has been complete, 
for in trying to be like other people she has come most fully 
to be herself. Her unwillingness to be beaten has developed 
her courage. Where another can go, she can go. Her respect 
for physical bravery is like Stevenson's — the boy's contempt for 
the fellow who cries, with a touch of young bravado in it. She 
takes tramps in the woods, plunging through the underbrush 


where she is scratched and bruised ; yet you could not get her to 
admit that she is hurt, and you certainly could not persuade her 
to stay at home next time. 

So when people try experiments with her, she displays a 
sportsmanlike determination to win in any test, however unrea- 
sonable, that one may wish to put her to. 

If she does not know the answer to a question, she guesses 
with mischievous assurance. Ask her the colour of your coat 
(no blind person can tell colour), she will feel it and say 
"black." If it happens to be blue, and you tell her so triumph- 
antly, she is likely to answer, "Thank you. I am glad you 
know. Why did you ask me ?" 

Her whimsical and adventuresome spirit puts her so much 
on her mettle that she makes rather a poor subject for the 
psychological experimenter. Moreover, Miss Sullivan does not 
see why Miss Keller should be subjected to the investigation 
of the scientist, and has not herself made many experiments. 
When a psychologist asked her if Miss Keller spelled on her 
fingers in her sleep, Miss Sullivan replied that she did not think 
it worthwhile to sit up and watch, such matters were of so little 

Miss Keller likes to be part of the company. If any one 
whom she is touching laughs at a joke, she laughs, too, just as 
if she had heard it. If others are aglow with music, a respond- 
ing glow, caught sympathetically, shines in her face. Indeed, 
she feels the movements of Miss Sullivan so minutely that she 
responds to her moods, and so she seems to know what is going 
on, even though the conversation has not been spelled to her 
lor some time. In the same way her response to music is in 
part sympathetic, although she enjoys it for its own sake. 

Music probably can mean little to her but beat and pulsation. 
She cannot sing and she cannot play the piano, although, as 
some early experiments show, she could learn mechanically to 
beat out a tune on the keys. Her enjoyment of music, however, 
is very genuine, for she has a tactile recognition of sound when 
the waves of air beat against her. Part of her experience of 
the rhythm of music comes, no doubt, from the vibration of 
solid objects which she is touching: the floor, or, what is more 
evident, the case of the piano, on which her hand rests. But she 
seems to feel the pulsation of the air itself. When the organ was 
played for her in St. Bartholomew's,* the whole building shook 

♦See page 263. 


with the great pedal notes, but that does not altogether account 
for what she felt and enjoyed. The vibration of the air as the 
organ notes swelled made her sway in answer. Sometimes 
she puts her hand on a singer's throat to feel the muscular thrill 
and contraction, and from this she gets genuine pleasure. No 
one knows, however, just what her sensations are. It is amusing 
to read in one of the magazines of 1895 that Miss Keller "has 
a just and intelligent appreciation of different composers from 
having literally felt their music, Schumann being her favourite." 
If she knows the difference between Schumann and Beethoven, 
it is because she has read it, and if she has read it, she remembers 
it and can tell any one who asks her. 

Miss Keller's effort to reach out and meet other people on their 
own intellectual ground has kept her informed of daily affairs. 
When her education became more systematic and she was 
busy with books, it would have been very easy for Miss Sullivan 
to let her draw into herself, if she had been so inclined. But 
every one who has met her has given his best ideas to her and she 
has taken them. If, in the course of a conversation, the friend 
next to her has ceased for some moments to spell into her hand, 
the question comes inevitably, "What are you talking about?" 
Thus she picks up the fragments of the daily intercourse of 
normal people, so that her detailed information is singularly full 
and accurate. She is a good talker on the little occasional affairs 
of life. 

Much of her knowledge comes to her directly. When she is 
out walking she often stops suddenly, attracted by the odour of 
a bit of shrubbery. She reaches out and touches the leaves, 
and the world of growing things is hers, as truly as it is ours, to 
enjoy while she holds the leaves in her fingers and smells the 
blossoms, and to remember when the walk is done. 

When she is in a new place, especially an interesting place like 
Niagara, whoever accompanies her — usually, of course, Miss 
Sullivan — is kept busy giving her an idea of visible details. 
Miss Sullivan, who knows her pupil's mind, selects from the 
passing landscape essential elements, which give a certain clear- 
ness to Miss Keller's imagined view of an outer world that to 
our eyes is confused and overloaded with particulars. If her 
companion does not give her enough details, Miss Keller asks 
questions until she has completed the view to her satisfaction. 
She does not see with her eyes, but through the inner faculty 


to serve which eyes were given to us. "When she returns from 
a walk and tells some one about it, her descriptions are accurate 
and vivid. A comparative experience drawn from written 
descriptions and from her teacher's words has kept her free from 
errors in her use of terms of sound and vision. True, her view 
of life is highly coloured and full of poetic exaggeration; the 
universe, as she sees it, is no doubt a little better than it really 
is. But her knowledge of it is not so incomplete as one might 
suppose. Occasionally she astonishes you by ignorance of some 
fact which no one happens to have told her; for instance, 
she did not know, until her first plunge into the sea, that it is 
salt. Many of the detached incidents and facts of our daily life 
pass around and over her unobserved; but she has enough 
detailed acquaintance with the world to keep her view of it from 
being essentially defective. 

Most that she knows at first hand comes from her sense of 
touch. This sense is not, however, so finely developed as in 
some other blind people. Laura Bridgman could tell minute 
shades of difference in the size of thread, and made beautiful lace. 
Miss Keller used to knit and crochet, but she has had better 
things to do. With her varied powers and accomplishments, 
her sense of touch has not been used enough to develop it very 
far beyond normal acuteness. A friend tried Miss Keller one 
day with several coins. She was slower than he expected her to 
be in identifying them by their relative weight and size. But it 
should be said she almost never handles money — one of the many 
sordid and petty details of life, by the way, which she has been 

She recognizes the subject and general intention of a statuette 
six inches high. Anything shallower than a half-inch bas-relief 
is a blank to her, so far as it expresses an idea of beauty. Large 
statues, of which she can feel the sweep of line with her whole 
hand, she knows in their higher esthetic value. She suggests 
herself that she can know them better than we do, because she 
can get the true dimensions and appreciate more immediately 
the solid nature of a sculptured figure. When she was at the 
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston she stood on a step-ladder and 
let both hands play over the statues. When she felt a bas-relief 
of dancing girls she asked, "Where are the singers? ' When 
she found them she said, "One is silent." The lips of the 
singer were closed. 


It is, however, in her daily life that one can best measure the 
delicacy of her senses and her manual skill. She seems to have 
very little sense of direction. She gropes her way without much 
certainty in rooms where she is quite familiar. Most blind people 
are aided by the sense of sound, so that a fair comparison is hard 
to make, except with other deaf-blind persons. Her dexterity 
is not notable either in comparison with the normal person, 
whose movements are guided by the eye, or, I am told, with 
other blind people. She has practised no single constructive 
craft which would call for the use of her hands. When she was 
twelve, her friend Mr. Albert H. Munsell, the artist, let her 
experiment with a wax tablet and a stylus. He says that she 
did pretty well and managed to make, after models, some con- 
ventional designs of the outlines of leaves and rosettes. The 
only thing she does which requires skill with the hands is her 
work on the typewriter. Although she has used the typewriter 
since she was eleven years old, she is rather careful than rapid. 
She writes with fair speed and absolute sureness. Her manu- 
scripts seldom contain typographical errors when she hands 
them to Miss Sullivan to read. Her typewriter has no special 
attachments. She keeps the relative position of the keys by 
an occasional touch of the little fingers on the outer edge of the 

Miss Keller's reading of the manual alphabet by her sense of 
touch seems to cause some perplexity. Even people who know 
her fairly well have written in the magazines about Miss 
Sullivan's "mysterious telegraphic communications" with her 
pupil. The manual alphabet is that in use among all educated 
deaf people. Most dictionaries contain an engraving of the 
manual letters. The deaf person with sight looks at the fingers 
of his companion, but it is also possible to feel them. Miss Keller 
puts her fingers lightly over the hand of one who is talking to 
her and gets the words as rapidly as they can be spelled. As she 
explains, she is not conscious of the single letters or of sepa- 
rate words. Miss Sullivan and others who live constantly with 
the deaf can spell very rapidly — fast enough to get a slow 
lecture, not fast enough to get every word of a rapid speaker. 

Anybody can learn the manual letters in a few minutes, use 
them slowly in a day, and in thirty days of constant use talk to 
Miss Keller or any other deaf person without realizing what his 
fingers are doing. If more people knew this, and the friends and 


relatives of deaf children learned the manual alphabet at once, 
the deaf all over the world would be happier and better educated. 

Miss Keller reads by means of embossed print or the various 
kinds of braille. The ordinary embossed book is made with 
roman letters, both small letters and capitals. These letters 
are of simple, square, angular design. The small letters are 
about three-sixteenths of an inch high, and are raised from the 
page the thickness of the thumbnail. The books are large, about 
the size of a volume of an encyclopedia. Green '-s " Short History 
of the English People" is in six large volumes. The books are 
not heavy, because the leaves with the raised type do not lie close. 
The time that one of Miss Keller's friends realizes most strongly 
that she is blind, is when he comes on her suddenly in the dark 
and hears the rustle of her fingers across the page. 

The most convenient print for the blind is braille, which has 
several variations, too many, indeed — English, American, New 
York Point. Miss Keller reads them all. Most educated blind 
people know several, but it would save trouble if, as Miss Keller 
suggests, English braille were universally adopted. The fac- 
simile on page xv gives an idea of how the raised dots look. 
Each character (either a letter or a special braille contrac- 
tion) is a combination made by varying in place and num- 
ber points in six possible positions. Miss Keller has a braille 
writer on which she keeps notes and writes letters to her blind 
friends. There are six keys, and by pressing different combina- 
tions at a stroke (as one plays a chord on the piano) the 
operator makes a character at a time in a sheet of thick paper, 
and can write about half as rapidly as on a typewriter. Braille 
is especially useful in making single manuscript copies of books. 

Books for the blind are very limited in number. They cost a 
great deal to publish and they have not a large enough sale to 
make them profitable to the publisher; but there are several 
institutions with special funds to pay for embossed books. 
Miss Keller is more fortunate than most blind people in the kind- 
ness of her friends who have books made especially for her, and 
in the willingness of gentlemen, like Mr. E. E. Allen of the 
Pennsylvania Institute for the Instruction of the Blind, to print, 
as he has on several occasions, editions of books that she has 

Miss Keller does not as a rule read very fast, but she reads 
deliberately, not so much because she feels the words less quickly 

Copyright, IQ07, by Whitman 



than we see them, as because it is one of her habits of mind to do 
things thoroughly and well. When a passage interests her, or 
she needs to remember it for some future use, she flutters it off 
swiftly on the fingers of her right hand. Sometimes this finger- 
play is unconscious. Miss Keller talks to herself absent- 
mindedly in the manual alphabet. Yv'hen she is walking up or 
down the hall or along the veranda, her hands go flying along 
beside her like a confusion of birds' wings. 

There is, I am told, tactile memory as well as visual and aural 
memory. Miss Sullivan says that both she and Miss Keller 
remember "in their fingers" what they ha\e said. For Miss 
Keller to spell a sentence in the manual alphabet impresses it 
on her mind just as we learn a thing from having heard it many 
times and can call back the memory ot its sound. 

Like every deaf or blind person, Miss Keller depends on her 
sense of smell to an unusual degree. When she was a little 
girl she smelled everything and knew where she was, what 
neighbour's house she was passing, by the distinctive odours. As 
her intellect grew she became less dependent on this sense. 
To what extent she now identifies objects by their odour is hard 
to determine. The sense of smell has fallen into disrepute, and a 
deaf person is reluctant to speak of it. Miss Keller s acute sense 
of smell may account, however, in some part for that recognition 
of persons and things which it has been customary to attribute 
to a special sense, or to an unusual development of the power 
that we all seem to have of telling when some one is near. 

The question of a special "sixth sense," such as people have 
ascribed to Miss Keller, is a delicate one. This much is certain, 
she cannot have any sense that other people may not have, and 
the existence of a special sense is not evident to her or to any one 
who knows her. Miss Keller is distinctly not a singular proof of 
occult and mysterious theories, and any attempt to explain her 
in that way fails to reckon with her normality. She is no more 
mysterious and complex than any other person. All that she is, 
all that she has done, can be explained directly, except such 
things in every human being as never can be explained. She 
does not, it would seem, prove the existence of spirit without 
matter, or of innate ideas, or of immortality, or anything else 
that any other human being does not prove. Philosophers have 
tried to find out what was her conception of abstract ideas before 
she learned language. If she had any conception, there is no 


way of discovering it now; for she cannot remember, and 
obviously there was no record at the time. She had no concep- 
tion of God before she heard the word "God," as her comments 
very clearly show.* 

Her sense of time is excellent, but whether it would have 
developed as a special faculty cannot be known, for she has 
had a watch since she was seven years old. 

Miss Keller has two watches, which have been given her. They 
are, I think, the only ones of their kind in America. The watch 
has on the back cover a flat gold indicator which can be pushed 
freely around from left to right until, by means of a pin inside 
the case, it locks with the hour hand and takes a corresponding 
position. The point of this gold indicator bends over the edge 
of the case, round which are set eleven raised points — the stem 
forms the twelfth. Thus the watch, an ordinary watch with a 
white dial for the person who sees, becomes for a blind person 
by this special attachment in effect one with a single raised hour 
hand and raised figures. Though there is less than half an inch 
between the points — a space which represents sixty minutes — 
Miss Keller tells the time almost exactly. It should be said that 
any double-case watch with the crystal removed serves well 
enough for a blind person whose touch is sufficiently delicate 
to feel the position of the hands and not disturb or injure them. 

The finer traits of Miss Keller's character are so well known 
that one need not say much about them. Good sense, good 
humour, and imagination keep her scheme of things sane and 
beautiful. No attempt is made by those around her either to 
preserve or to break her illusions. When she was a little girl, 
a good many unwise and tactless things that were said for her 
benefit were not repeated to her, thanks to the wise watchfulness 
of Miss Sullivan. Now that she has grown up, nobody thinks of 
being less frank with her than with any other intelligent young 
woman. What her good friend, Charles Dudley Warner, 
wrote about her in Harper's Magazine in 1896 was true then, 
and it remains true now: 

"I believe she is the purest-minded human being ever in 
existence. . . . The world to her is what her own mind is. 
She has not even learned that exhibition on which so many pride 
themselves, of 'righteous indignation.' 

* See pages 36Q and 3*. ' ■ 


"Some time ago, when a policeman shot dead her dog, a 
dearly loved daily companion, she found in her forgiving heart 
no condemnation for the man; she only said, 'If he had only 
known what a good dog she was, he wouldn't have shot her.' It 
was said of old time, 'Lord forgive them, they know not what 
they do ! ' 

"Of course the question will arise whether, if Helen Keller 
had not been guarded from the knowledge of evil, she would have 
been what she is to-day. . . . Her mind has neither been 
made effeminate by the weak and silly literature, nor has it been 
vitiated by that which is suggestive of baseness. In consequence 
her mind is not only vigorous, but it is pure. She is in love with 
noble things, with noble thoughts, and with the characters of 
noble men and women." 

She still has a childlike aversion to tragedies. Her imagination 
is so vital that she falls completely under the illusion of a story, 
and lives in its world. Miss Sullivan writes in a letter of 189 1 : 

"Yesterday I read to her the story of 'Macbeth,' as told by 
Charles and Mary Lamb. She was very greatly excited by it, 
and said : ' It is terrible ! It makes me tremble ! ' After thinking 
a little while, she added, 'I think Shakespeare made it very 
terrible so that people would see how fearful it is to do wrong. ' " 

Of the real world she knows more of the good and less of the evil 
than most people seem to know. Her teacher does not harass her 
with the little unhappy things; but of the important difficulties 
they have been through, Miss Keller was fully informed, took 
her share of the suffering, and put her mind to the problems, 
She is logical and tolerant, most trustful of a world that has 
treated her kindly. 

Once when some one asked her to define "love," she replied, 
"Why, bless you, that is easy; it is what everybody feels for 
everybody else." 

'Toleration," she said once, when she was visiting her friend 
Mrs. Laurence Hutton, "is the greatest gift of the mind; it 
requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance 
oneself on a bicycle." 

She has a large, generous sympathy and absolute fairness of 
temper. So far as she is noticeably different from other people 
she is less bound by convention. She has the courage of her 
metaphors and lets them take her skyward when we poor self- 
conscious folk would think them rather too bookish for ordinary 


conversation. She always says exactly what she thinks, without 
tear of the plain truth; yet no one is more xactful and adroit than 
she in turning an unpleasant truth so that it will do the least 
possible hurt to the teelings of others. Not all the attention that 
has been paid her since she was a child has made her take herself 
too seriously. Sometimes she gets started on a very solemn 
preachment. Then her teacher calls her an incorrigible little 
sermonizer, and she laughs at herself. Often, however, her 
sober ideas are not to be laughed at, for her earnestness carries 
her listeners with her. There is ne /er the least false sententious- 
ness in what she says. She means everything so thoroughly 
that her very quotations, her echoes from what she has read, 
are in truth original. 

Her logic and her sympathy are in excellent balance. Her 
sympathy is of the swift and ministering sort which, fortu- 
nately, she has found so often in other people. And her sympa- 
thies go further and shape her opinions on political and national 
movements. She was intensely pro-Boer and wrote a strong 
argument in favour of Boer independence. When she was told 
of the surrender of the brave little people, her face clouded and 
she was silent a few minutes. Then she asked clear, penetrat- 
ing questions about the terms of the surrender, and began 
to discuss them. 

Both Mr. Gilman and Mr. Keith, the teachers who prepared 
her for college, were struck by her power of constructive reason- 
ing; and she was excellent in pure mathematics, though she 
seems never to have enjoyed it much. Some of the best of her 
writing, apart from her fanciful and imaginative work, is her 
exposition in examinations and technical themes, and in some 
letters which she found it necessary to write to clear up mis- 
understandings, and which are models of close thinking enforced 
with sweet vehemence. 

She is an optimist and an idealist. 

"I hope," she writes in a letter, "that L isn't too practical, 

for if she is, I'm afraid she'll miss a great deal of pleasure." 

In the diary that she kept at the Wright- Humason school 
in New York she wrote on October 18. 1894, "I find that I 
have four things to learn in my school life here, and indeed, in 
life — to think clearly without hurry or confusion, to love every- 
body sincerely, to act in everything with the highest motives, 
and to trust in dear God unhesitatingly." 



It is now sixty-five years since Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe 
knew that he had made his way through Laura Bridgman's 
fingers to her intelligence. The names of Laura Bridgman and 
Helen Keller will always be linked together, and it is necessary 
to understand what Dr. Howe did for his pupil before one 
comes to an account of Miss Sullivan's work. For Dr. 
Howe is the great pioneer on whose work that of Miss Sullivan 
and other teachers of the deaf-blind immediately depends. 

Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe was born in Boston,, November 
10, 1801, and died in Boston, January 9, 1876. He was a great 
philanthropist, interested especially in the education of all 
defectives, the feeble-minded , the blind, and the deaf. Far in 
advance of his time he advocated many public measures for the 
relief of the poor and the diseased, for which he was laughed 
at then, but which have since been put into practice. As head 
of the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, he heard 
of Laura Bridgman and had her brought to the Institution on 
October 4, 1837. 

Laura Bridgman was born at Hanover, New Hampshire, 
December 21, 1829; so she was almost eight years old when 
Dr. Howe began his experiments with her. At the age of twenty- 
six months scarlet fever left her without sight or hearing. She also 
lost her sense of smell and taste. Dr. Howe was an experi- 
mental scientist and had in him the spirit of New England 
transcendentalism with its large faith and large charities. 
Science and faith together led him to try to make his way into 
the soul which he believed was born in Laura Bridgman as 
in every other human being. His plan was to teach Laura by 
means of raised types. He pasted raised labels on objects and 
made her fit the labels to the objects and the objects to the 
labels. When she had learned in this way to associate raised 
words with things, in much the same manner, he says, as a dog 



learns tricks, he began to resolve the words into their letter 
elements and to teach her to put together "k-e-y," "c-a-p." His 
success convinced him that language can be conveyed through 
type to the mind of the blind-deaf child, who, before education, 
is in the state of the baby who has not learned to prattle; indeed, 
is in a much worse state, for the brain has grown in years without 
natural nourishment. 

After Laura's education had progressed for two months with 
the use only of raised letters, Dr. Howe sent one of his teachers 
to learn the manual alphabet from a deaf-mute. She taught it 
to Laura, and from that time on the manual alphabet was the 
means of communicating with her. 

After the first year or two Dr. Howe did not teach Laura 
Bridgman himself, but gave her over to other teachers, who 
under his direction carried on the work of teaching her language.* 

Too much cannot be said in praise of Dr. Howe's work. 
As an investigator he kept always the scientist's attitude. He 
never forgot to keep his records of Laura Bridgman in the fashion 
of one who works in a laboratory. The result is, his records 
of her are systematic and careful. From a scientific stand- 
point, it is unfortunate that it was impossible to keep such a 
complete record of Helen Keller's development. This in itself 
is a great comment on the difference between Laura Bridgman 
j.nd Helen Keller. Laura always remained an object of curious 
6tudy . Helen Keller became so rapidly a distinctive personality 
that she kept her teacher in a breathless race to meet the needs 
of her pupil, with no time or strength to make a scientific study. 

In some ways this is unfortunate. Miss Sullivan knew at the 
beginning that Helen Keller would be more interesting and suc- 
cessful than Laura Bridgman, and she expresses in one of her 
letters the need of keeping notes. But neither temperament nor 
training allowed her to make her pupil the object of any experi- 
ment or observation which did not help in the child's development. 
As soon as a thing was done, a definite goal passed, the teacher 
did not always look back and describe the way she had come. 
The explanation of the fact was unimportant compared to the 
fact itself and the need of hurrying on. There are two other 
reasons why Miss Sullivan's records are incomplete. It has 
always been a severe tax on her eyes to write, and she was early 

♦See "The Life and Education of Laura Dewey Bridgman," by Mrs. Mary 
Swift Lamson. 


discouraged from publishing data by the inaccurate use made 
of what she at first supplied. 

When she first wrote from Tuscumbia to Mr. Michael Anagnos, 
Dr. Howe's son-in-law and his successor as Director of the 
Perkins Institution, about her work with her pupil, the Boston 
papers began at once to publish exaggerated accounts of Helen 
Keller. Miss Sullivan protested. In a letter dated April 10, 
1887, only five weeks after she went to Helen Keller, she wrote 
to a friend: 

" sent me a Boston Herald containing a stupid article 

about Helen. How perfectly absurd to say that Helen is 
'already talking fluently !' Why, one might just as well say that 
a two-year-old child converses fluently when he says 'apple 
give,' or 'baby walk go.' I suppose if you included his scream- 
ing, crowing, whimpering, grunting, squalling, with occasional 
kicks, in his conversation, it might be regarded as fluent — even 
eloquent. Then it is amusing to read of the elaborate prepara- 
tion I underwent to fit me for the great task my friends entrusted 
to me. I am sorry that preparation didn't include spelling, it 
would have saved me such a lot of trouble." 

On March 4, 1888, she writes in a letter: 

"Indeed, I am heartily glad that I don't know all that is 
being said and written about Helen and myself. I assure you 
I know quite enough. Nearly every mail brings some absurd 
statement, printed or written. The truth is not wonderful 
enough to suit the newspapers; so they enlarge upon it and 
invent ridiculous embellishments. One paper has Helen demon- 
strating problems in geometry by means of her playing blocks. 
I expect to hear next that she has written a treatise on the 
origin and future of the planets !" 

In December, 1887, appeared the first report of the Director 
of the Perkins Institution, which deals with Helen Keller. For 
this report Miss Sullivan prepared, in reluctant compliance with 
the request of Mr. Anagnos, an account of her work. This with the 
extracts from her letters, scattered through the report, is the 
first valid source of information about Helen Keller. Of this 
report Miss Sullivan wrote in a letter dated October 30, 1887 : 

"Have you seen the paper I wrote for the 'report'? Mr 
Anagnos was delighted with it. He says Helen's progress has 
been 'a triumphal march from the beginning,' and he has many 
flattering things to say about her teacher. I think he is inclined 


to exaggerate; at all events, his language is too glowing, and 
simple facts are set forth in such a manner that they bewilder 
one. Doubtless the work of the past few months does seem 
like a triumphal march to him; but then people seldom see the 
halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success 
is achieved." 

As Mr. Anagnos was the head of a great institution, what he 
said had much more effect than the facts in Miss Sullivan's 
account on which he based his statements. The newspapers 
caught Mr. Anagnos's spirit and exaggerated a hundred-fold. 
In a year after she first went to Helen Keller, Miss Sullivan found 
herself and her pupil the centre of a stupendous fiction. Then 
the educators all over the world said their say and for the most 
part did not help matters. There grew up a mass of contro- 
versial matter which it is amusing to read now. Teachers of 
the deaf proved a priori that what Miss Sullivan had done 
could not be, and some discredit was reflected on her statements, 
because they were surrounded by the vague eloquence of Mr. 
Anagnos. Thus the story of Helen Keller, incredible when 
told with moderation, had the misfortune to be heralded by 
exaggerated announcements, and naturally met either an 
ignorant credulity or an incredulous hostility. 

In November, 1888, another report of the Perkins Institution 
appeared with a second paper by Miss Sullivan, and then 
nothing official was published until November, 1891, when Mr. 
Anagnos issued the last Perkins Institution report containing 
anything about Helen Keller. For this report Miss Sullivan 
wrote the fullest and largest account she has ever written; and 
in this report appeared the "Frost King," which is discussed 
fully in a later chapter. Then the controversy waxed fiercer 
than ever. 

Finding that other people seemed to know so much more 
about Helen Keller than she did, Miss Sullivan kept silent and 
has been silent for ten years, except for her paper in the first Volta 
Bureau Souvenir of Helen Keller* and the paper which, at Dr. 
Bell's request, she prepared in 1S94 for the meeting at Chau- 
tauqua of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of 
Speech to the Deaf. When Dr. Bell and others tell her, what 
is certainly true from an impersonal point of view, that she 
owes it to the cause of education to write what she knows, she 

♦See pags 396. 


answers very properly that she owes all her time and all her 
energies to her pupil. 

Although Miss Sullivan is still rather amused than distressed 
when some one, even one of her friends, makes mistakes in pub- 
lished articles about her and Miss Keller, still she sees that 
Miss Keller's book should include all the information that the 
teacher could at present furnish. So she consented to the publi- 
cation of extracts from letters which she wrote during the first 
year of her work with her pupil. These letters were written to 
Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins, the only person to whom Miss Sullivan 
ever wrote freely. Mrs. Hopkins has been a matron at the 
Perkins Institution for twenty years, and during the time that 
Miss Sullivan was a pupil there she was like a mother to her. In 
these letters we have an almost weekly record of Miss Sullivan's 
work. Some of the details she had forgotten, as she grew more 
and more to generalize. Many people have thought that any 
attempt to find the principles in her method would be nothing 
but a later theory superimposed on Miss Sullivan's work. But 
it is evident that in these letters she was making a clear 
analysis of what she was doing. She was her own critic, and in 
spite of her later declaration, made with her modest carelessness, 
that she followed no particular method, she was very clearly 
learning from her task and phrasing at the time principles of 
education of unique value not only in the teaching of the deaf 
but in the teaching of all children. The extracts from her letters 
and reports form an important contribution to pedagogy, and 
more than justify the opinion of Dr. Daniel C. Gilman, who wrote 
in 1893, when he was President of Johns Hopkins University: 

"I have just read . . . your most interesting account 
of the various steps you have taken in the education of your 
wonderful pupil, and I hope you will allow me to express my 
admiration for the wisdom that has guided your methods and 
the affection which has inspired your labours." 

Miss Anne Mansfield Sullivan was born at Springfield, Massa- 
chusetts. Very early in her life she became almost totally 
blind, and she entered the Perkins Institution October 7, 1880, 
when she was fourteen years old. Later her sight was par- 
tially restored. 

Mr. Anagnos says in his report of 1887: "She was obliged 


to begin her education at the lowest and most elementary point; 
but she showed from the very start that she had in herself the 
force and capacity which insure success, . . . She has 
finally reached the goal for which she strove so bravely. The 
golden words that Dr. Howe uttered and the example that he 
left passed into her thoughts and heart and helped her on the 
road to usefulness; and now she stands by his side as his worthy 
successor in one of the most cherished branches of his work. 
. . Miss Sullivan's talents are of the highest order." 
In 1886 she graduated from the Perkins Institution. When 
Captain Keller applied to the director for a teacher, Mr. Amagnos 
recommended her. The only time she had to prepare herself for 
the work with her pupil was from August, 1886, when Captain 
Keller wrote, to February, 1887. During this time she read 
Dr. Howe's reports, She was further aided by the fact that 
during the six years of her school life she had lived in the house 
with Laura Bridgman. It was Dr. Howe who, by his work 
with Laura Bridgman, made Miss Sullivan's work possible; 
but it was Miss Sullivan who discovered the way to teach 
language to the deaf -blind. 

It must be remembered that Miss Sullivan had to solve her 
problems unaided by previous experience or the assistance of any 
other teacher. During the first year of her work with Helen 
Keller, in which she taught her pupil language, they were in 
Tuscumbia; and when they came North and visited the Perkins 
Institution, Helen Keller was never a regular student there or 
subject to the discipline of the Institution. The impression that 
Miss Sullivan educated Helen Keller "under the direction of 
Mr. Anagnos" is erroneous. In the three years during which at 
various times Miss Keller and Miss Sullivan were guests of the 
Perkins Institution, the teachers there did not help Miss Sullivan, 
and Mr. Anagnos did not even use the manual alphabet with 
facility as a means of communication . Mr. Anagnos wrote 
in the report of the Perkins Institution, dated November 27, 
1888: "At my urgent request, Helen, accompanied by her 
mother and her teacher, came to the North in the last week of 
May, and spent several months with us as our guests. . . . 
We gladly allowed her to use freely our library of embossed books t 
our collection of stuffed animals, sea-shells, models of flowers 
and plants, and the rest of our apparatus for instructing the 
blind through the sense of touch. I do not doubt that she derived 


from them much pleasure and not a little profit. But whether 
Helen stays at home or makes visits in other parts of the country, 
her education is always under the immediate direction and 
exclusive control of her teacher. No one interferes with 
Miss Sullivan's plans, or shares in her tasks. She has been 
allowed entire freedom in the choice of means and methods for 
carrying on her great work; and, as we can judge by the results, 
she has made a most judicious and discreet use of this privilege. 
What the little pupil has thus far accomplished is widely known, 
and her wonderful attainments command general admiration; 
but only those who are familiar with the particulars of the grand 
achievement know that the credit is largely due to the intel- 
ligence, wisdom, sagacity, unremitting perseverance and 
unbending will of the instructress, who rescued the child from 
the depths of everlasting night and stillness, and watched over 
the different phases of her mental and moral development with 
maternal solicitude and enthusiastic devotion." 

Here follow in order Miss Sullivan's letters and the most 
important passages from the reports. I have omitted from each 
succeeding report what has already been explained and does not 
need to be repeated. For the ease of the reader I have, with 
Miss Sullivan's consent, made the extracts run together con- 
tinuously and supplied words of connection and the resulting 
necessary changes in syntax, and Miss Sullivan has made slight 
changes in the phrasing of her reports and also of her letters, 
which were carelessly written. I have also italicized a few 
important passages. Some of her opinions Miss Sullivan would 
like to enlarge and revise. That remains for her to do at 
another time. At present we have here the fullest record that 
has been published. The first letter is dated March 6, 1887, 
three days after her arrival in Tuscumbia. 

It was 6.30 when I reached Tuscumbia. T found 
Mrs. Keller and Mr. James Keller waiting for me. They said 
somebody had met every train for two days. The drive from 
the station to the house, a distance of one mile, was very lovely 
and restful. I was surprised to find Mrs. Keller a very young- 
looking woman, not much older than myself, I should think. 
Captain Keller met us in the yard and gave me a cheery welcome 
and a hearty handshake. My first question was, "Where is 
Helen?" I tried with all my might to control the eagerness 
that made me tremble so that I could hardly walk. As we 


approached the house I saw a child standing in the doorway, 
and Captain Keller said, "There she is. She has known all 
day that some one was expected, and she has been wild ever 
since her mother went to the station for you." I had scarcely 
put my foot on the steps, when she rushed toward me with such 
force that she would have thrown me backward if Captain 
Keller had not been behind me. She felt my face and dress and 
my bag, which she took out of my hand and tried to open. It 
did not open easily, and she felt carefully to see if there was a key- 
hole. Finding that there was, she turned to me, making the sign 
of turning a key and pointing to the bag. Her mother inter- 
fered at this point and showed Helen by signs that she must not 
touch the bag. Her face flushed, and when her mother attempted 
to take the bag from her, she grew very angry. I attracted htr 
attention by showing her my watch and letting her hold it in her 
hand. Instantly the tempest subsided, and we went upstairs 
together. Here I opened the bag, and she went through it 
eagerly, probably expecting to find something to eat. Friends 
had probably brought her candy in their bags, and she expected 
to find some in mine. I made her understand, by pointing to a 
trunk in the hall and to myself and nodding my head, that I 
had a trunk, and then made the sign that she had used for eat- 
ing, and nodded again. She understood in a flash and ran down- 
stairs to tell her mother, by means of emphatic signs, that there 
was some candy in a trunk for her. She returned in a few 
minutes and helped me put away my things. It was too comical 
to see her put on my bonnet and cock her head first on one side, 
then on the other, and look in the mirror, just as if she could see. 
Somehow I had expected to see a pale, delicate child — I suppose 
I got the idea from Dr. Howe's description of Laura Bridgman 
when she came to the Institution. But there's nothing pale or 
delicate about Helen. She is large, strong, and ruddy, and as 
unrestrained in her movements as a young colt. She has none 
of those nervous habits that are so noticeable and so distressing 
in blind children. Her body is well formed and vigorous, and 
Mrs. Keller says she has not been ill a day since the illness that 
deprived her of her sight and hearing. She has a fine head, 
and it is set on her shoulders just right. Her face is hard to 
describe. It is intelligent, but lacks mobility, or soul, or some- 
thing. Her mouth is large and finely shaped. You see at a 
elance that she is blind. One eye is larger than the other, an<? 


protrudes noticeably. She rarely smiles; indeed, I have seen 
her smile only once or twice since I came. She is unresponsive 
and even impatient of caresses from any one except her mother. 
She is very quick-tempered and wilful, and nobody, except her 
brother James, has attempted to control her. The greatest 
problem I shall have to solve is how to discipline and control 
her without breaking her spirit. I shall go rather slowly at first 
and try to win her love. I shall not attempt to conquer her by 
force alone; but I shall insist on reasonable obedience from the 
start. One thing that impresses everybody is Helen's tireless 
activity. She is never still a moment. She is here, there, and 
everywhere. Her hands are in everything; but nothing holds 
her attention for long. Dear child, her restless spirit gropes in 
the dark. Her untaught, unsatisfied hands destroy whatever 
they touch because they do not know what else to do with 

She helped me unpack my trunk when it came, and was 
delighted when she found the doll the little girls sent her. I 
thought it a good opportunity to teach her her first word. I 
spelled "d-o-1-1" slowly in her hand and pointed to the doll 
and nodded my head, which seems to be her sign for possession. 
Whenever anybody gives her anything, she points to it, then to 
herself, and nods her head. She looked puzzled and felt my 
hand, and I repeated the letters. She imitated them very well 
and pointed to the doll. Then I took the doll, meaning to give 
it back to her when she had made the letters; but she thought 
I meant to take it from her, and in an instant she was in a 
temper, and tried to seize the doll. I shook my head and tried 
to form the letters with her fingers; but she got more and more 
angry. I forced her into a chair and held her there until I was 
nearly exhausted. Then it occurred to me that it was useless to 
continue the struggle — I must do something to turn the current 
of her thoughts. I let her go, but refused to give up the doll. 
I went downstairs and got some cake (she is very fond of sweets) . 
I showed Helen the cake and spelled "c-a-k-e" in her hand, 
holding the cake toward her. Of course she wanted it and tried 
to take it; but I spelled the word again and patted her hand. 
She made the letters rapidly, and I gave her the cake, which she 
ate in a great hurry, thinking, I suppose, that I might take it 
from her. Then I showed her the doll and spelled the word 
again, holding the doll toward her as I held the cake. She made 


the letters "d-o-1" and I made the other "1" and gave her the 
doll. She ran downstairs with it and could not be induced to 
return to my room all day. 

Yesterday I gave her a sewing-card to do. I made the first 
row of vertical lines and let her feel it and notice that there were 
several rows of little holes. She began to work delightedly and 
finished the card in a few minutes, and did it very neatly indeed. 
I thought I would try another word; so I spelled "c-a-r-d" 
She made the "c-a," then stopped and thought, and making 
the sign for eating and pointing downward she pushed me 
toward the door, meaning that I must go downstairs for some 
cake. The two letters "c-a," you see, had reminded her of 
Friday's "lesson" — not that she had any idea that cake was the 
name of the thing, but it was simply a matter of association, I 
suppose. I finished the word "c-a-k-e" and obeyed her 
command. She was delighted. Then I spelled "d-o-1-1" 
and began to hunt for it. She follows with her hands every 
motion you make, and she knew that I was looking for the doll. 
She pointed down, meaning that the doll was downstairs. I 
made the signs that she had used when she wished me to go 
for the cake, and pushed her toward the door. She started 
forward, then hesitated a moment, evidently debating within 
herself whether she would go or not. She decided to send 
me instead. I shook my head and spelled "d-o-1-1" more 
emphatically, and opened the door for her; but she obstinately 
refused to obey. She had not finished the cake she was eating, 
and I took it away, indicating that if she brought the doll I 
would give her back the cake. She stood perfectly still for one 
long moment, her face crimson; then her desire for the cake 
triumphed, and she ran downstairs and brought the doll, and of 
course I gave her the cake, but could not persuade her to enter 
the room again. 

She was very troublesome when I began to write this morning. 
She kept coming up behind me and putting her hand on the paper 
and into the ink-bottle. These blots are her handiwork. Finally 
I remembered the kindergarten beads, and set her to work 
stringing them. First I put on two wooden beads and one glass 
bead, then made her feel of the string and the two boxes of beads. 
She nodded and began at once to fill the string with wooden 
beads. I shook my head and took them all off and made her feel 
of the two wooden beads and the one glass bead. She examined 


them thoughtfully and began again. This time she put on the 
glass bead first and the two wooden ones next. I took them off 
and showed her that the two wooden ones must go on first, then 
the glass bead. She had no further trouble and filled the string 
quickly, too quickly, in fact. She tied the ends together when 
she had finished the string, and put the beads round her neck. 
I did not make the knot large enough in the next string, and the 
beads came off as fast as she put them on; but she solved the 
difficulty herself by putting the string through a bead and tying 
it. I thought this very clever. She amused herself with the 
beads until dinner-time, bringing the strings to me now and then 
for my approval. 

My eyes are very much inflamed. I know this letter is 
very carelessly written. I had a lot to say, and couldn't stop 
to think how to express things neatly. Please do not show my 
letter to any one. If you want to, you may read it to my 

Monday P. M. 

I had a battle royal with Helen this morning. Although I 
try very hard not to force issues, I find it very difficult to avoid 

Helen's table manners are appalling. She puts her hands in 
our plates and helps herself, and when the dishes are passed, 
she grabs them and takes out whatever she wants. This morning 
I would not let her put her hand in my plate. She persisted, 
and a contest of wills followed. Naturally the family was much 
disturbed, and left the room. I locked the dining-room door, 
and proceeded to eat my breakfast, though the food almost 
choked me. Helen was lying on the floor, kicking and scream- 
ing and trying to pull my chair from under me. She kept this 
up for half an hour, then she got up to see what I was doing. I 
let her see that I was eating, but did not let her put her hand 
in the plate. She pinched me, and I slapped her every time 
she did it. Then she went all round the table to see who was 
there, and finding no one but me, she seemed bewildered. After 
a few minutes she came back to her place and began to eat her 
breakfast with her fingers. I gave her a spoon, which she threw 
on the floor. I forced her out of the chair and made her pick 
it up. Finally I succeeded in getting her back in her chair again, 
and held the spoon in her hand, compelling her to take up the 
food with it and put it in her mouth. In a few minutes she 


yielded and finished her breakfast peaceably. Then we had 
another tussle over folding her napkin. When she had finished, 
she threw it on the floor and ran toward the door. Finding it 
locked, she began to kick and scream all over again. It was 
another hour before I succeeded in getting her napkin folded. 
Then I let her out into the warm sunshine and went up to my 
room and threw myself on the bed exhausted. I had a good 
cry and felt better. I suppose I shall have many such battles 
with the little woman before she learns the only two essential 
things I can teach her, obedience and love. 

Good-by, dear. Don't worry; I'll do my best and leave the 
rest to whatever power manages that which we cannot. I like 
Mrs. Keller very much. 

Tuscumbia, Alabama, March n, 1887. 
Since I wrote you, Helen and I have gone to live all by our- 
selves in a little garden-house about a quarter of a mile from 
her home, only a short distance from Ivy Green, the Keller 
homestead. I very soon made up my mind that I could do 
nothing with Helen in the midst of the family, who have always 
allowed her to do exactly as she pleased. She has tyrannized 
over everybody, her mother, her father, the servants, the little 
darkies who play with her, and nobody had ever seriously 
disputed her will, except occasionally her brother James, until I 
came; and like all tyrants she holds tenaciously to her divine 
right to do as she pleases. If she ever failed to get what she 
wanted, it was because of her inability to make the vassals of 
her household understand what it was. Every thwarted desire 
was the signal for a passionate outburst, and as she grew older 
and stronger, these tempests became more violent. As I began 
to teach her, I was beset by many difficulties. She wouldn't 
yield a point without contesting it to the bitter end. I couldn't 
coax her or compromise with her. To get her to do the simplest 
thing, such as combing her hair or washing her hands or button- 
ing her boots, it was necessary to use force, and, of course, a dis- 
tressing scene followed. The family naturally felt inclined to 
interfere, especially her father, who cannot bear to see her cry. 
So they were all willing to give in for the sake of peace. Besides, 
her past experiences and associations were all against me. I 
saw clearly that it was useless to try to teach her language 


or anything else until she learned to obey me. I have thought 
about it a great deal, and the more I think, the more certa : n 
1 am that obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, 
yes, and love, too, enter the mind of the child. As I wrote 
you, I meant to go slowly at first. I had an idea that I could 
win the love and confidence of my little pupil by the same 
means that I should use if she could see and hear. But I soon 
found that I was cut off from all the usual approaches to th« 
child's heart. She accepted everything I did for her as a matter 
of course, and refused to be caressed, and there was noway of 
appealing to her affection or sympathy or childish love of appro- 
bation. She would or she wouldn't, and there was an end of it. 
Thus it is, we study, plan and prepare ourselves for a task, and 
when the hour for action arrives, we find that the system we have 
followed with such labour and pride does not fit the occasion; 
and then there's nothing for us to do but rely on something 
within us, some innate capacity for knowing and doing, which 
we did not know we possessed until the hour of our great need 
brought it to light. 

I had a good, frank talk with Mrs. Keller, and explained 
to her how difficult it was going to be to do anything with 
Helen under the existing circumstances. I told her that in 
my opinion the child ought to be separated from the family for a 
few weeks at least — that she must learn to depend on and obey 
me before I could make any headway. After a long time Mrs. 
Keller said that she would think the matter over and see what 
Captain Keller thought of sending Helen away with me. Captain 
Keller fell in with the scheme most readily and suggested 
that the little garden-house at the "old place" be got ready 
for us. He said that Helen might recognize the place, as 
she had often been there; but she would have no idea of her 
surroundings, and they could come every day to see that all 
was going well, with the understanding, of course, that she 
was to know nothing of their visits. I hurried the preparations 
for our departure as much as possible, and here we are. 

The little house is a genuine bit of paradise. It consists of 
one large square room with a great fireplace, a spacious bay- 
window, and a small room where our servant, a little negro 
boy, sleeps. There is a piazza in front, covered with vines 
that grow so luxuriantly that you have to part them to see the 
garden beyond. Our meals are brought from the house, and 


we usually eat on the piazza. The little negro boy takes care 
of the fire when we need one ; so I can give my whole attention 
to Helen. 

She was greatly excited at first, and kicked and screamed 
herself into a sort of stupor; but when supper was brought 
she ate heartily and seemed brighter, although she refused to 
let me touch her. She devoted herself to her dolls the first 
evening, and when it was bedtime she undressed very quietly; 
but when she felt me get into bed with her, she jumped out on 
the other side, and nothing that I could do would induce her 
to get in again. But I was afraid she would take cold, and I 
insisted that she must go to bed. We had a terrific tussle, I 
can tell you. The struggle lasted for nearly two hours. I never 
saw such strength and endurance in a child. But fortunately 
for us both, I am a little stronger, and quite as obstinate when 
I set out. I finally succeeded in getting her on the bed and 
covered her up, and she lay curled up as near the edge of the 
bed as possible. 

The next morning she was very docile, but evidently homesick. 
She kept going to the door, as if she expected some one, and 
every now and then she would touch her cheek, which is her 
sign for her mother, and shake her head sadly. She played 
with her dolls more than usual, and would have nothing to do 
with me. It is amusing and pathetic to see Helen with her 
dolls. I don't think she has any special tenderness for them — 
I have never seen her caress them ; but she dresses and undresses 
them many times during the day and handles them exactly 
as she has seen her mother and the nurse handle her baby 

This morning Nancy, her favourite doll, seemed to have 
some difficulty about swallowing the milk that was being admin- 
istered to her in large spoonfuls; for Helen suddenly put down 
the cup and began to slap her on the back and turn her over 
on her knees, trotting her gently and patting her softly all the 
time. This lasted for several minutes; then this mood passed, 
and Nancy was thrown ruthlessly on the floor and pushed to 
one side, while a large, pink-cheeked, fuzzy-haired member of 
the family received the little mother's undivided attention. 

Helen knows several words now, but has no idea how to use 
them, or that everything has a name. I think, however, she 
will learn quickly enough by and by. As I have said before, 


she is wonderfully bright and active and as quick as lightning 
in her movements. 

March 13, 1887. 

You will be glad to hear that my experiment is working out 
finely. I have not had any trouble at all with Helen, either 
yesterday or to-day. She has learned three new words, and 
when I give her the objects, the names of which she has learned, 
she spells them unhesitatingly; but she seems glad when the 
lesson is over. 

We had a good frolic this morning out in the garden. Helen 
evidently knew where she was as soon as she touched the box- 
wood hedges, and made many signs which I did not understand. 
No doubt they were signs for the different members of the 
family at Ivy Green. 

I have just heard something that surprised me very much. 
It seems that Mr. Anagnos had heard of Helen before he received 
Captain Keller's letter last summer. Mr. Wilson, a teacher 
at Florence, and a friend of the Kellers', studied at Harvard 
the summer before and went to the Perkins Institution to 
learn if anything could be done for his friend's child. He saw 
a gentleman whom he presumed to be the director, and told 
him about Helen. He says the gentleman was not particularly 
interested, but said he would see if anything could be done. 
Doesn't it seem strange that Mr. Anagnos never referred to 
this interview ? 

March 20, 1887. 

My heart is singing for joy this morning. A miracle has 
happened ! The light of understanding has shone upon my little 
pupil's mind, and behold, all things are changed ! 

The wild little creature of two weeks ago has been transformed 
into a gentle child. She is sitting by me as I write, her face 
serene and happy, crocheting a long red chain of Scotch wool. 
She learned the stitch this week, and is very proud of the achieve- 
ment. When she succeeded in making a chain that would 
reach across the room, she patted herself on the arm and put 
the first work of her hands lovingly against her cheek. She lets 
me kiss her now, and when she is in a particularly gentle mood, 


she will sit in my lap for a minute or two; but she does not 
return my caresses. The great step — the step that counts — 
has been taken. The little savage has learned her first lesson 
in oDedience, and finds the yoke easy. It now remains my 
pleasant task to direct and mould the beautiful intelligence 
that is beginning to stir in the child-soul. Already people 
remark the change in Helen. Her father looks in at us morning 
and evening as he goes to and from his office, and sees her 
contentedly stringing her beads or making horizontal lines on 
her sewing-card, and exclaims, "How quiet she is!" When I 
came, her movements were so insistent that one always felt 
there was something unnatural and almost weird about her. 
I have noticed also that she eats much less, a fact which troubles 
her father so much that he is anxious to get her home. He 
says she is homesick. I don't agree with him; but I suppose 
we shall have to leave our little bower very soon. 

Helen has learned several nouns this week. "M-u-g" and 
"m-i-l-k," have given her more trouble than other words. 
When she spells "milk," she points to the mug, and when she 
spells "mug," she makes the sign for pouring or drinking, which 
shows that she has confused the words. She has no idea yet 
that everything has a name. 

Yesterday I had the little negro boy come in when Helen 
was having her lesson , and learn the letters, too. This pleased her 
very much and stimulated her ambition to excel Percy. She 
was delighted if he made a mistake, and made him form the 
letter over several times. When he succeeded in forming it to 
suit her, she patted him on his woolly head so vigorously 
that I thought some of his slips were intentional. 

One day this week Captain Keller brought Belle, a setter of 
which he is very proud, to see us. He wondered if Helen would 
recognize her old playmate. Helen was giving Nancy a bath, 
and didn't notice the dog at first. She usually feels the softest 
step and throws out her arms to ascertain if any one is near 
her. Belle didn't seem very anxious to attract her attention. 
I imagine she has been rather roughly handled sometimes by 
her little mistress. The dog hadn't been in the room more 
than half a minute, however, before Helen began to sniff, and 
dumped the doll into the wash-bowl and felt about the room. 
She stumbled upon Belle, who was crouching near the window 
where Captain Keller was standing. It was evident that she 


recognized the dog; for she put her arms round her neck and 
squeezed her. Then Helen sat down by her and began to manip- 
ulate her claws. We couldn't think for a second what she was 
doing; but when we saw her make the letters "d-o-1-1 " on her 
own fingers, we knew that she was trying to teach Belle to 

March 28, 1887. 

Helen and I came home yesterday. I am sorry they wouldn't 
let us stay another week; but I think I have made the most 
I could of the opportunities that were mine the past two weeks, 
and I don't expect that I shall have any serious trouble with 
Helen in the future. The back of the greatest obstacle in the 
path of progress is broken. I think "no" and "yes," conveyed 
by a shake or a nod of my head, have become facts as apparent 
to her as hot and cold or as the difference between pain and 
pleasure. And I don't intend that the lesson she has learned 
at the cost of so much pain and trouble shall be unlearned. 
I shall stand between her and the over-indulgence of her parents. 
I have told Captain and Mrs. Keller that they must not inter- 
fere with me in any way. I have done my best to make them 
see the terrible injustice to Helen of allowing her to have her 
way in everything, and I have pointed out that the processes of 
teaching the child that everything cannot be as he wills it, are 
apt to be painful both to him and to his teacher. They have 
promised to let me have a free hand and help me as much as 
possible. The improvement they cannot help seeing in their 
child has given them more confidence in me. Of course, it 
is hard for them. I realize that it hurts to see their afflicted 
little child punished and made to do things against her will. 
Only a few hours after my talk with Captain and Mrs. Keller 
(and they had agreed to everything), Helen took a notion that 
she wouldn't use her napkin at table. I think she wanted 
to see what would happen. I attempted several times to put 
the napkin round her neck; but each time she tore it off and 
threw it on the floor and finally began to kick the table. I took 
her plate away and started to take her out of the room. Her 
father objected and said that no child of his should be deprived 
of his food on any account. 

Helen didn't come up to my room after supper, and I didn'< 


see her again until breakfast-time. She was at her place when 
I came down. She had put the napkin under her chin, instead 
of pinning it at the back, as was her custom. She called my 
attention to the new arrangement, and when I did not object 
she seemed pleased and patted herself. When she left the 
dining-room, she took my hand and patted it. I wondered if 
she was trying to "make up." I thought I would try the effect 
of a little belated discipline. I went back to the dining-room 
and got a napkin. When Helen came upstairs for her lesson, 
I arranged the objects on the table as usual, except that the 
cake, which I always give her in bits as a reward when she 
spells a word quickly and correctly, was not there. She noticed 
this at once and made the sign for it. I showed her the napkin 
and pinned it round her neck, then tore it off and threw it on 
the floor and shook my head. I repeated this performance 
several times. I think she understood perfectly well; for she 
slapped her hand two or three times and shook her head. We 
began the lesson as usual. I gave her an object, and she spelled 
the name (she knows twelve now) . After spelling half the words, 
she stopped suddenly, as if a thought had flashed into her 
mind, and felt for the napkin. She pinned it round her neck 
and made the sign for cake (it didn't occur to her to spell the 
word, you see). I took this for a promise that if I gave her 
some cake she would be a good girl. 1 gave her a larger piece 
than usual, and she chuckled and patted herself. 

April 3, 1887. 

We almost live in the garden, where everything is growing and 
blooming and glowing. After breakfast we go out and watch 
the men at work. Helen loves to dig and play in the dirt like 
any other child. This morning she planted her doll and showed 
me that she expected her to grow as tall as I. You must see 
that she is very bright, but you have no idea how cunning she is. 

At ten we come in and string beads for a few minutes. She 
can make a great many combinations now, and often invents 
new ones herself. Then I let her decide whether she will sew 
or knit or crochet. She learned to knit very quickly, and is 
making a wash-cloth for her mother. Last week she made her 
doll an apron, and it was done as well as any child of her age 
TOuld do it. But I am always glad when this work is over foi 


the day. Sewing and crocheting are inventions of the devil, I 
think. I'd rather break stones on the king's highway than hem 
a handkerchief. At eleven we have gymnastics. She knows 
all the free-hand movements and the "Anvil Chorus" with the 
dumb-belis. Her father says he is going to fit up a gymnasium 
for her in the pump-house; but we both like a good romp better 
than set exercises. The hour from twelve to one is devoted to 
the learning of new words. But you mustn't think this is the only 
time I spell to Helen; for I spell in her hand everything we do all 
day long, although she has no idea as yet what the spelling means. 
After dinner I rest for an hour, and Helen plays with her dolls 
or frolics in the yard with the little darkies, who were her 
constant companions before I came. Later I join them, and 
we make the rounds of the outhouses. We visit the horses and 
mules in their stalls and hunt for eggs and feed the turkeys. 
Often, when the weather is fine, we drive from four to six, or go 
to see her aunt at Ivy Green or her cousins in the town. Helen's 
instincts are decidedly social; she likes to have people about her 
and to visit her friends, partly, I think, because they always have 
things she likes to eat. After supper we go to my room and do 
all sorts of things until eight, when I undress the little woman 
and put her to bed. She sleeps with me now. Mrs. Keller 
wanted to get a nurse for her; but I concluded I'd rather be her 
nurse than look after a stupid, lazy negress. Besides, I like 
to have Helen depend on me for everything, and I find it much 
easier to teach her things at odd moments than at set times. 

On March 31st I found that Helen knew eighteen nouns 
and three verbs. Here is a list of the words. Those with a 
cross after them are words she asked for herself: Doll, mug, 
pin, key, dog, hat, cup, box, water, milk, candy, eye (x) , finger (x), 
toe (x), head (x), cake, baby, mother, sit, stand, walk. On April 
1st she learned the nouns knije, fork, spoon, saucer, tea, papa, 
bed, and the verb run. 

April 5, 1887. 
I must write you a line this morning because something very 
important has happened. Helen has taken the second great 
step in her education. She has learned that everything has a 
name, and that the manual alphabet is the key to everything she 
wants to know. 


In a previous letter I think I wrote you that "mug" and "milk" 
had given Helen more trouble than all the rest. She confused 
the nouns with the verb "drink." She didn't know the word 
for "drink," but went through the pantomime of drinking when- 
ever she spelled "mug" or "milk." This morning, while she 
was washing, she wanted to know the name for "water." 
When she wants to know the name of anything, she points to 
it and pats my hand. I spelled "w-a-t-e-r" and thought no more 
about it until after breakfast. Then it occurred to me that with 
the help of this new word I might succeed in straightening out 
the "mug-milk" difficulty. We went out to the pump-house, 
and I made Helen hold her mug under the spout while I pumped. 
As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled 
"w-a-t-e-r" in Helen's free hand. The word coming so close 
upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand 
seemed to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one 
transfixed. A new light came into her face. She spelled 
"water" several times. Then she dropped on the ground and 
asked for its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis, 
and suddenly turning round she asked for my name. I spelled 
"Teacher." Just then the nurse brought Helen's little sister 
into the pump-house, and Helen spelled "baby" and pointed 
to the nurse. All the way back to the house she was highly 
excited, and learned the name of every object she touched, so 
that in a few hours she had added thirty new words to her 
vocabulary. Here are some of them: Door, open, shut, give, 
go, come, and a great many more. 

P. S. — I didn't finish my letter in time to get it posted last 
night; so I shall add a line. Helen got up this morning like a 
radiant fairy. She has flitted from object to object, asking the 
name of everything and kissing me for very gladness. Last night 
when I got in bed, she stole into my arms of her own accord and 
kissed me for the first time, and I thought my heart would burst, 
so full was it of joy. 

April 10, 1887. 

I see an improvement in Helen from day to day, almost from 

hour to hour. Everything must have a name now. Wherever 

we go, she asks eagerly for the names of things she has not 

Varned at home. She is anxious for her friends to spell, and 


eager to teach the letters to every one she meets. She drops the 
signs and pantomime she used before, as soon as she has words 
to supply their place, and the acquirement of a new word 
affords her the liveliest pleasure. And we notice that her face 
grows more expressive each day. 

/ have decided not to try to have regular lessons for the present. 
1 am going to treat Helen exactly like a two-year-old child. It 
occurred to me the other day that it is absurd to require a child to 
come to a certain place at a certain time and recite certain lessons, 
when he has not yet acquired a working vocabulary. I sent Helen 
away and sat down to think. I asked myself, "How does a 
normal child learn language?" The answer was simple, "By 
imitation." The child comes into the world with the ability to 
learn, and he learns of himself, provided he is supplied with 
sufficient outward stimulus. He sees people do things, and he 
tries to do them. He hears others speak, and he tries to speak. 
But long before he utters his first word, he understands what is said 
to him. I have been observing Helen's little cousin lately. 
She is about fifteen months old, and already understands a 
great deal. In response to questions she points out prettily her 
nose, mouth, eye, chin, cheek, ear. If I say, "Where is baby's 
other ear?" she points it out correctly. If I hand her a flower, 
and say, '' Give it to mamma," she takes it to her mother. If I 
say, "Where is the little rogue ?" she hides behind her mother's 
chair, or covers her face with her hands and peeps out at me with 
an expression of genuine roguishness. She obeys many com- 
mands like these: "Come," ' Kiss," "Go to papa," "Shut the 
door," "Give me the biscuit." But I have not heard her try to 
say any of these words, although they have been repeated hun- 
dreds of times in her hearing, and it is perfectly evident that she 
understands them. These observations have given me a clue 
to the method to be followed in teaching Helen language. / 
shall talk into her hand as we talk into the baby's ears. I shall 
assume that she has the normal child's capacity of assimilation 
and imitation. / shall use complete sentences in talking to her, 
and fill out the meaning with gestures and her descriptive signs 
when necessity requires it ; but I shall not try to keep her mind 
fixed on any one thing. I shall do all I can to interest and 
stimulate it, and wait for results. 


April 24, 1887. 

The new scheme works splendidly. Helen knows the meaning 
of more than a hundred words now, and learns new ones daily 
without the slightest suspicion that she is performing a most 
difficult feat. She learns because she can't help it, just as the 
bird learns to fly. But don't imagine that she "talks fluently." 
Like her baby cousin, she expresses whole sentences by single 
words. "Milk," with a gesture means, " Give me more milk"; 
"Mother," accompanied by an inquiring look, means, " Where is 
mother?" "Go" means, "I want to go out." But when I spell 
into her hand, " Give me some bread," she hands me the bread; 
or if I say, "Get your hat and we will go to walk," she obeys 
instantly. The two words, "hat" and "walk" would have the 
same effect; but the whole sentence, repeated many times during 
the day, must in time impress itself upon the brain, and by and by 
she will use it herself. 

We play a little game which I find most useful in developing 
the intellect, and which incidentally answers the purpose of ? 
language lesson. It is an adaptation of hide-the-thimbl'- 1 
hide something, a ball or a spool, and we hunt for it. When we 
first played this game two or three days ago, she showed no 
ingenuity at all in finding the object. She looked in places 
where it would have been impossible to put the ball or the spool. 
For instance, when I hid the ball, she looked under her writing- 
board. Again, when I hid the spool, she looked for it in a little 
box not more than an inch long; and she very soon gave up the 
search. Now I can keep up her interest in the game for an hour 
or longer, and she shows much more intelligence, and often great 
ingenuity in the search. This morning I hid a cracker. She 
looked everywhere she could think of without success, and was 
evidently in despair, when suddenly a thought struck her, and 
she came running to me and made me open my mouth very wide, 
while she gave it a thorough investigation. Finding no trace of 
the cracker there, she pointed to my stomach and spelled " eat," 
meaning "Did you eat it?" 

Friday we went down town and met a gentleman who gave 
Helen some candy, which she ate, except one small piece which 
she put in her apron pocket. When we reached home, she found 
her mother, and of her own accord said, "Give baby candy." 
Mrs. Keller spelled, "No — baby eat — no." Helen went to the 
cradle and felt of Mildred's mouth and pointed to her own teeth. 


Mrs. Keller spelled "teeth." Helen shook her head and spelled 
"Baby teeth— no, baby eat— no," meaning of course, "Baby 
cannot eat because she has no teeth." 

May 8, 1887. 

No, I don't want any more kindergarten materials. I used 
my little stock of beads, cards and straws at first because I didn't 
know what else to do ; but the need for them is past, for the present 
at any rate. 

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems 
of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposi- 
tion that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to 
think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think 
more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, 
let him touch real things and combine his impressions for him- 
self, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a 
sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his 
wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured 
paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching 
fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got 
rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of 
actual experiences. 

Helen is learning adjectives and adverbs as easily as she 
learned nouns. The idea always precedes the word. She had 
signs for small and large long before I came to her. If she 
wanted a small object and was given a large one, she would 
shake her head and take up a tiny bit of the skin of one 
hand between the thumb and finger of the other. If she wanted 
to indicate something large, she spread the fingers of both hands 
as wide as she could, and brought them together, as if to clasp a 
big ball. The other day I substituted the words small and 
large for these signs, and she at once adopted the words and 
discarded the signs. I can now tell her to bring me a large 
book or a small plate, to go upstairs slowly, to run fast and to 
walk quickly. This morning she used the conjunction and 
for the first time. I told her to shut the door, and she added, 
"and lock." 

She came tearing upstairs a few minutes ago in a state of great 
excitement. I couldn't make out at first what it was all about. 
She kept spelling "dog— baby" and pointing to her five finger? 


one after another, and sucking them. My first thought was, 
one of the dogs has hurt Mildred; but Helen's beaming face set 
my fears at rest. Nothing would do but I must go somewhere 
with her to see something. She led the way to the pump-house, 
and there in the corner was one of the setters with five dear little 
pups! I taught her the word "puppy" and drew her hand over 
them all, while they sucked, and spelled "puppies." She was 
much interested in the feeding process, and spelled "mother- 
dog" and "baby" several times. Helen noticed that the puppies' 
eyes were closed, and she said, "Eyes — shut. Sleep — no," 
meaning, "The eyes are shut, but the puppies are not 
asleep." She screamed with glee when the little things squealed 
and squirmed in their efforts to get back to their mother, and 
spelled, " Baby — eat large." I suppose her idea was " Baby eats 
much." She pointed to each puppy, one after another, and to 
her five fingers, and I taught her the word five. Then she 
held up one finger and said "baby." I knew she was thinking of 
Mildred, and I spelled, "One baby and five puppies." After 
she had played with them a little while, the thought occurred to 
her that the puppies must have special names, like people, and she 
asked for the name of each pup. I told her to ask her father, 
and she said, "No — mother." She evidently thought mothers 
were more likely to know about babies of all sorts. She noticed 
that one of the puppies was much smaller than the others, and 
she spelled "small," making the sign at the same time, and I said 
"very small." She evidently understood that very was the 
name of the new thing that had come into her head; for all the 
way back to the house she used the word very correctly. 
One stone was "small," another was "very small." When she 
touched her little sister, she said: "Baby — small. Puppy — 
very small." Soon after, she began to vary her steps from large 
to small, and little mincing steps were "very small." She is 
going through the house now, applying the new words to all 
kinds of objects. 

Since I have abandoned the idea of regular lessons, I find that 
Helen learns much faster. I am convinced that the time spent 
by the teacher in digging out of the child what she has put into 
him, for the sake of satisfying herself that it has taken root, is 
so much time thrown away. It's much better, I think, to assume 
that the child is doing his part, and that the seed you have sown 


will bear fruit in due time. It's only fair to the child, anyhow, 
and it saves you much unnecessary trouble. 

May 16, 1887. 

We have begun to take long walks every morning, immediately 
after breakfast. The weather is fine, and the air is full of the 
scent of strawberries. Our objective point is Keller's Landing, 
on the Tennessee, about two miles distant. We never know how 
we get there, or where we are at a given moment; but that only 
adds to our enjoyment, especially when everything is new and 
strange. Indeed, I feel as if I had never seen anything until 
now, Helen finds so much to ask about along the way. We 
chase butterflies, and sometimes catch one. Then we sit down 
under a tree, or in the shade of a bush, and talk about it. After- 
wards, if it has survived the lesson, we let it go; but usually its 
life and beauty are sacrificed on the altar of learning, though in 
another sense it lives forever; for has it not been transformed 
into living thoughts ? It is wonderful how words generate ideas ! 
Every new word Helen learns seems to carry with it the necessity 
for many more. Her mind grows through its ceaseless activity. 

Keller's Landing was used during the war to land troops, but 
has long since gone to pieces, and is overgrown with moss and 
weeds. The solitude of the place sets one dreaming. Near the 
landing there is a beautiful little spring, which Helen calls 
"squirrel-cup," because I told her the squirrels came there to 
drink. She has felt dead squirrels and rabbits and other 
wild animals, and is anxious to see a "walk-squirrel," which 
interpreted, means, I think-, a "live squirrel." We go home 
about dinner-time usually, and Helen is eager to tell her mother 
everything she has seen. This desire to repeat what has been told 
her shows a marked advance in the development of her intellect, and 
is an invaluable stimulus to the acquisition of language. I ask all 
her friends to encourage her to tell them of her doings, and to mani- 
fest as much curiosity and pleasure in her little adventures as they 
possibly can. This gratifies the child's love of approbation 
and keeps up her interest in things. This is the basis of real 
intercourse. She makes many mistakes, of course, twists words 
and phrases, puts the cart before the horse, and gets herself into 
hopeless tangles of nouns and verbs; but so does the hearing 
child. I am sure these difficulties will take care of themselves. 


The impulse to tell is the important thing. I supply a word 
here and there, sometimes a sentence, and suggest something 
which she has omitted or forgotten. Thus her vocabulary 
grows apace, and the new words germinate and bring forth new 
ideas; and they are the stuff out of which heaven and earth are 

May 22, 1887. 

My work grows more absorbing and interesting every day. 
Helen is a wonderful child, so spontaneous and eager to learn. 
She knows about 300 words now and a great many common 
idioms, and it is not three months yet since she learned her first 
word. It is a rare privilege to watch the birth, growth, and first 
feeble struggles of a living mind; this privilege is mine; and more- 
over, it is given me to rouse and guide this bright intelligence. 

If only I were better fitted for the great task ! I feel every 
day more and more inadequate. My mind is full of ideas; but 
i cannot get them into working shape. You see, my mind is 
undisciplined, full of skips and jumps, and here and there a lot 
of things huddled together in dark corners. How I long to put 
it in order ! Oh, if only there were some one to help me ! I 
need a teacher quite as much as Helen. I know that the 
education of this child will be the distinguishing event of my 
life, if I have the brains and perseverance to accomplish it. I 
have made up my mind about one thing: Helen must learn to 
use books — indeed, we must both learn to use them, and that 
reminds me — will you please ask Mr. Anagnos to get me Perez's 
and Sully's Psychologies ? I think I shall find them helpful. 

We have reading lessons every day. Usually we take one of 
the little "Readers" up in a big tree near the house and spend 
an hour or two finding the words Helen already knows. We 
make a sort of game of it and try to see who can find the words 
most quickly, Helen with her fingers, or I with my eyes, and 
she learns as many new words as I can explain with the help 
of those she knows. When her fingers light upon words she 
knows, she fairly screams with pleasure and hugs and kisses me 
for joy, especially if she thinks she has me beaten. It would 
astonish you to see how many words she learns in an hour in this 
pleasant manner. Afterward I put the new words into little 
sentences in the frame, and' sometimes it is possible to tell a 


little story about a bee or a cat or a little boy in this way. I 
can now tell her to go upstairs or down, out of doors or into 
the house, lock or unlock a door, take or bring objects, sit, stand, 
walk, run, lie, creep, roll, or climb. She is delighted with action- 
words; so it is no trouble at all to teach her verbs. She is always 
ready for a lesson, and the eagerness with which she absorbs 
ideas is very delightful. She is as triumphant over the con- 
quest of a sentence as a general who has captured the enemy's 

One of Helen's old habits, that is strongest and hardest to 
correct, is a tendency to break things. If she finds anything in 
her way, she flings it on the floor, no matter what it is: a glass, a 
pitcher, or even a lamp. She has a great many dolls, and every 
one of them has been broken in a fit of temper or ennui. The 
other day a friend brought her a new doll from Memphis, and I 
thought I would see if I could make Helen understand that she 
must not break it. I made her go through the motion of knock- 
ing the doll's head on the table and spelled to her: "No, no, 
Helen is naughty. Teacher is sad," and let her feel the grieved 
expression on my face. Then I made her caress the doll and 
kiss the hurt spot and hold it gently in her arms, and I spelled 
to her, "Good Helen, teacher is happy," and let her feel the smile 
on my face. She went through these motions several times, 
mimicking every movement, then she stood very still for a 
moment with a troubled look on her face, which suddenly 
cleared, and she spelled, "Good Helen," and wreathed her face 
in a very large, artificial smile. Then she carried the doll 
upstairs and put it on the top shelf of the wardrobe, and she 
has not touched it since. 

Please give my kind regards to Mr. Anagnos and let him see 
my letter, if you think best. I hear there is a deaf and blind 
child being educated at the Baltimore Institution. 

June 2, 1887. 
The weather is scorching. "We need rain badly. We are all 
troubled about Helen. She is very nervous and excitable. 
She is restless at night and has no appetite. It is hard to know 
what to do with her. The doctor says her mind is too active; 
but how are we to keep her from thinking? She begins to 
spell the minute she wakes up in the morning, and continues 


all day long. If I refuse to talk to her, she spells into her own 
hand, and apparently carries on the liveliest conversation 
with herself. 

I gave her my braille slate to play with, thinking that the 
mechanical pricking of holes in the paper would amuse her 
and rest her mind. But what was my astonishment when I 
found that the little witch was writing letters ! I had no idea 
she knew what a letter was. She has often gone with me to 
the post-office to mail letters, and I suppose I have repeated 
to her things I wrote to you. She knew, too, that I sometimes 
write "letters to blind girls" on the slate; but I didn't suppose 
that she had any clear idea what a letter was. One day she 
brought me a sheet that she had punched full of holes, and 
wanted to put it in an envelope and take it to the post-office,. 
She said, "Frank — letter." I asked her what she had written 
to Frank. She replied, "Much words. Puppy motherdog 
— five. Baby — cry. Hot. Helen walk — no. Sunfire — bad. 
Frank — come. Helen — kiss Frank. Strawberries — very good." 

Helen is almost as eager to read as she is to talk. I find 
she grasps the import of whole sentences, catching from the 
context the meaning of words she doesn't know; and her eager 
questions indicate the outward reaching of her mind and its 
unusual powers. 

The other night when I went to bed, I found Helen sound 
asleep with a big book clasped tightly in her arms. She had 
evidently been reading, and fallen asleep. When I asked her 
about it in the morning, she said, "Book — cry," and completed 
her meaning by shaking and other signs of fear. I taught her 
the word afraid, and she said: "Helen is not afraid. Book is 
afraid. Book will sleep with girl." I told her that the book 
wasn't afraid, and must sleep in its case, and that "girl" mustn't 
read in bed. She looked very roguish, and apparently under- 
stood that I saw through her ruse. 

I am glad Mr. Anagnos thinks so highly of me as a teacher. 
But "genius" and "originality" are words we should not use 
lightly. If, indeed, they apply to me even remotely, I do not 
see that I deserve any laudation on that account. 

And right here I want to say something which is for your 
ears alone. Something within me tells me that I shall succeed 
beyond my dreams. Were it not for some circumstances that 
make such an idea highly improbable, even absurd, I should 


think Helen's education would surpass in interest and wonder 
Dr. Howe's achievement. I know that she has remarkable 
powers, and I believe that I shall be able to develop and mould 
them. I cannot tell how I know these things. I had no idea 
a short time ago how to go to work; I was feeling about in the 
dark; but somehow I know now, and I know that I know. 
I cannot explain it; but when difficulties arise, I am not per- 
plexed or doubtful. I know how to meet them ; I seem to divine 
Helen's peculiar needs. It is wonderful. 

Already people are taking a deep interest in Helen. No 
one can see her without being impressed. She is no ordinary 
child, and people's interest in her education will be no ordinary 
interest. Therefore let us be exceedingly careful what we say 
and write about her. I shall write freely to you and tell you 
everything, on one condition. It is this: you must promise 
never to show my letters to any one. My beautiful Helen 
shall not be transformed into a prodigy if I can help it. 

June 5, 1887. 

The heat makes Helen languid and quiet. Indeed, the 
Tophetic weather has reduced us all to a semi-liquid state. 
Yesterday Helen took off her clothes and sat in her skin all the 
afternoon. When the sun got round to the window where 
she was sitting with her book, she got up impatiently and shut 
the window. But when the sun came in just the same, she came 
over to me with a grieved look and spelled emphatically: "Sun 
is bad boy. Sun must go to bed." 

She is the dearest, cutest little thing now, and so loving! 
One day, when I wanted her to bring me some water, she said : 
"Legs very tired. Legs cry much." 

She is much interested in some little chickens that are pecking 
their way into the world this morning. I let her hold a shell in 
her hand, and feel the chicken "chip, chip." Her astonish- 
ment, when she felt the tiny creature inside, cannot be put in a 
letter. The hen was very gentle, and made no objection to 
our investigations. Besides the chickens, we have several 
other additions to the family — two calves, a colt, and a penful 
of funny little pigs. You would be amused to see me hold 
a squealing pig in my arms, while Helen feels it all over, and 
asks countless questions— questions not easy to answer either 


After seeing the chicken come out of the egg, she asked: "Did 
baby pig grow in egg ? Where are many shells ?" 

Helen's head measures twenty and one-half inches, and mine 
measures twenty-one and one-half inches. You see, I'm only 
one inch ahead ! 

June 12, 1887. 

The weather continues hot. Helen is about the same — pale 
and thin; but you mustn't think she is really ill. I am sure 
the heat, and not the natural, beautiful activity of her mind, 
is responsible for her condition. Of course, I shall not overtax 
her brain. We are bothered a good deal by people who assume 
the responsibility of the world when God is neglectful. They 
tell us that Helen is "overdoing," that her mind is too active 
(these very people thought she had no mind at all a few months 
ago !) and sv»ggest many absurd and impossible remedies. But 
so far nobody seems to have thought of chloroforming her, 
which is, I think, the only effective way of stopping the natural 
exercise of her faculties. It's queer how ready people always 
are with advice in any real or imaginary emergency, and no 
matter how many times experience has shown them to be 
wrong, they continue to set forth their opinions, as if they had 
received them from the Almighty ! 

I am teaching Helen the square -hand letters as a sort of 
diversion. It gives her something to do, and keeps her quiet, 
which I think is desirable while this enervating weather lasts. 
She has a perfect mania for counting. She has counted every- 
thing in the house, and is now busy counting the words in her 
primer. I hope it will not occur to her to count the hairs of 
her head. If she could see and hear, I suppose she would get 
rid of her superfluous energy in ways which would not, perhaps, 
tax her brain so much, although I suspect that, the ordinary 
child takes his play pretty seriously. The little fellow who 
whirls his "New York Flyer" round the nursery, making 
" horseshoe curves " undreamed of by less imaginative engi- 
neers, is concentrating his whole soul on his toy locomotive. 

She just came to say, with a worried expression, "Girl — not 
count very large (many) words." I said, "No, go and play 
with Nancy." This suggestion didn't please her, however; 
for she replied, "No, Nancy is very sick." I asked what was 


the matter, and she said, "Much (many) teeth do make 
Nancy sick." (Mildred is teething.) 

I happened to tell her the other day that the vine on the 
fence was a "creeper." She was greatly amused, and began at 
once to find analogies between her movements and those of 
the plants. They run, creep, hop, and skip, bend, fall, climb, 
and swing; but she tells me roguishly that she is "walk-plant." 

Helen held some worsted for me last night while I wound it. 
Afterward she began to swing round and round, spelling to 
herself all the time, "Wind fast, wind slow," and apparently 
enjoying her conceit very much. 

June 15, 1887. 
We had a glorious thunder-tempest last night, and it's much 
cooler to-day. We all feel refreshed, as if we'd had a shower- 
bath. Helen's as lively as a cricket. She wanted to know if 
men were shooting in the sky when she felt the thunder, and 
if the trees and flowers drank all the rain. 

June 19, 1887.* 
My little pupil continues to manifest the same eagerness to 
learn as at first. Her every waking moment is spent in the 
endeavour to satisfy her innate desire for knowledge, and her 
mind works so incessantly that we have feared for her health. 
But her appetite, which left her a few weeks ago, has returned, 
and her sleep seems more quiet and natural. She will be seven 
years old the twenty-seventh of this month. Her height is 
four feet one inch, and her head measures twenty and one- 
half inches in circumference, the line being drawn round the 
head so as to pass over the prominences of the parietal and 
frontal bones. Above this lint the head rises one and one- 
fourth inches. 

During our walks she keeps up a continual spelling, and 
delights to accompany it with actions such as skipping, hopping, 
jumping, running, walking fast, walking slow, and the like. 
When she drops stitches she says, "Helen wrong, teacher will 
cry." If she wants water she says, "Give Helen drink water." 
She knows four hundred words besides numerous proper nouns 
♦This extract was published in The Perkins Institution Report of 1887. 


Tn one lesson I taught her these words: bedstead, mattress, sheet, 
blanket, comforter, spread, pillow. The next day I found that 
she remembered all but spread. The same day she had learned, 
at different times, the words: house, weed, dust, swing, molasses, 
fast, slow, niaple-sugar and counter, and she had not forgotten 
one of these last. This will give you an idea of the retentive 
memory she possesses. She can count to thirty very quickly, 
and can write seven of the square-hand letters and the words 
which can be made with them. She seems to understand 
about writing letters, and is impatient to "write Frank letter." 
She enjoys punching holes in paper with the stiletto, and J. 
supposed it was because she could examine the result of her 
work; but we watched her one day, and I was much surprised 
to find that she imagined she was writing a letter. She would 
spell "Eva" (a cousin of whom she is very fond) with one hand, 
then make believe to write it; then spell, "sick in bed," and write 
that. She kept this up for nearly an hour. She was (or imag- 
ined she was) putting on paper the things which had interested 
her. When she had finished the letter she carried it to her 
mother and spelled, "Frank letter," and gave it to her brother 
to take to the post-office. She had been with me to take letters 
to the post-office. 

She recognizes instantly a person whom she has once met, and 
spells the name. Unlike Laura Bridgman, she is fond of gentle- 
men, and we notice that she makes friends with a gentleman 
sooner than with a lady. 

She is always ready to share whatever she has with those 
about her, often keeping but very little for herself. She is 
very fond of dress and of all kinds of finery, and is very 
unhappy when she finds a hole in anything she is wearing. She 
will insist on having her hair put in curl papers when she is 
so sleepy she can scarcely stand. She discovered a hole in 
her boot the other morning, and, after breakfast, she went to 
her father and spelled, "Helen new boot Simpson (her brother) 
buggy store man." One can easily see her meaning. 

July 3, 1887. 
There was a great rumpus downstairs this morning. I heard 
Helen screaming, and ran down to see what was the matter. 
I found her in a terrible passion. I had hoped this would 


never happen again. She has been so gentle and obedient 
the past two months, I thought love had subdued the lion; 
but it seems he was only sleeping. At all events, there she was, 
tearing and scratching and biting Viney like some wild thing. 
It seems Viney had attempted to take a glass, which Helen 
was filling with stones, fearing that she would break it. Helen 
resisted, and Viney tried to force it out of her hand, and I 
suspect that she slapped the child, or did something which 
caused this unusual outburst of temper. When I took her 
hand she was trembling violently, and began to cry. I asked 
what was the matter, and she spelled: "Viney — bad," and began 
to slap and kick her with renewed violence. I held her hands 
firmly until she became more calm. 

Later Helen came to my room, looking very sad, and wanted 
to kiss me. I said, "I cannot kiss naughty girl." She spelled, 
"Helen is good, Viney is bad." I said: "You struck Viney and 
kicked hei and hurt her. You were very naughty, and I cannot 
kiss naughty girl." She stood very still for a moment, and it 
was evident from her face, which was flushed and troubled, 
that a struggle was going on in her mind. Then she 
said: "Helen did (does) not love teacher. Helen do love 
mother. Mother will whip Viney." I told her that she had 
better not talk about it any more, but think. She knew that 
I was much troubled, and would have liked to stay near me; 
but I thought it best for her to sit by herself. At the dinner- 
table she was greatly disturbed because I didn't eat, and 
suggested that "Cook make tea for teacher." But I told her 
that my heart was sad, and I didn't feel like eating. She 
began to cry and sob and clung to me. 

She was very much excited when we went upstairs; so I 
tried to interest her in a curious insect called a stick-bug. It's 
the queerest thing I ever saw — a little bundle of fagots fastened 
together in the middle. I wouldn't believe it was alive until I 
saw it move. Even then it looked more like a mechanical toy than 
a living creature. But the poor little girl couldn't fix her atten- 
tion. Her heart was full of trouble, and she wanted to talk 
about it. She said: "Can bug know about naughty girl? Is 
bug very happy?" Then, putting her arms round my neck, 
she said: "I am (will be) good to-morrow. Helen is (will be) 
good all days." I said, "Will you tell Viney you are very sorry 
you scratched and kicked her?" She smiled and answered, 


"Viney (can) not spell words." " I will tell Viney you are 
very sorry," I said. "Will you go with me and find Viney?" 
She was very willing to go, and let Viney kiss her, though she 
didn't return the caress. She has been unusually affectionate 
since, and it seems to me there is a sweetness — a soul-beauty 
in her face which 1 have not seen before. 

July 31, 1887. 

Helen's pencil-writing is excellent, as you will see from the 
enclosed letter, which she wrote for her own amusement. I am 
teaching her the braille alphabet, and she is delighted to be 
able to make words herself that she can feel. 

She has now reached the question stage of her development. 
It is "what ?" "why ?" "when ?" especially "why ?" all day long, 
and as her intelligence grows her inquiries become more insistent. 
I remember how unbearable I used to find the inquisitiveness of 
my friends' children; but I know now that these questions 
indicate the child's growing interest in the cause of things. 
The "why ?" is the door through which he enters the world of 
reason and reflection. "How does carpenter know to build 
house?" "Who put chickens in eggs?" "Why is Viney black?" 
"Flies bite — why ?" "Can flies know not to bite?" "Why did 
father kill sheep?" Of course she asks many questions that 
are not as intelligent as these. Her mind isn't more logical 
than the minds of ordinary children. On the whole, her ques- 
tions are analogous to those that a bright three-year-old child 
asks; but her desire for knowledge is so earnest, the questions 
are never tedious, though they draw heavily upon my meager 
store of information, and tax my ingenuity to the utmost. 

I had a letter from Laura [Bridgman] last Sunday. Please 
give her my love, and tell her Helen sends her a kiss. I read 
the letter at the supper-table, and Mrs. Keller exclaimed: 
"Why, Miss Annie, Helen writes almost as well as that now !" 
It is true. 

August 21, 1887. 
We had a beautiful time in Huntsville. Everybody there 
was delighted with Helen, and showered her with gifts and 
kisses. The first evening she learned the names of all the ^sople 


in the hotel, about twenty, I think. The next morning we 
were astonished to find that she remembered all of them, and 
recognized every one she had met the night before. She taught 
the young people the alphabet, and several of them learned to 
talk with her. One of the girls taught her to dance the polka, 
and a little boy showed her his rabbits and spelled their names 
for her. She was delighted, and showed her pleasure by hugging 
and kissing the little fellow, which embarrassed him very much. 
We had Helen's picture taken with a fuzzy, red-eyed little 
poodle, who got himself into my lady's good graces by tricks 
and cunning devices known only to dogs with an instinct for 
getting what they want. 

She has talked incessantly since her return about what she 
did in Huntsville, and we notice a very decided improvement 
in her ability to use language. Curiously enough, a drive we 
took to the top of Monte Sano, a beautiful mountain not far 
from Huntsville, seems to have impressed her more than any- 
thing else, except the wonderful poodle. She remembers all 
that I told her about it, and in telling her mother repeated the 
very words and phrases I had used in describing it to her. In 
conclusion she asked her mother if she should like to see "very 
high mountain and beautiful cloud-caps." I hadn't used this 
expression. I said, "The clouds touch the mountain softly 
like beautiful flowers." You see, I had to use words and images 
with which she was familiar through the sense of touch. But 
it hardly seems possible that any mere words should convey to 
one who has never seen a mountain the faintest idea of its 
grandeur; and I don't see how any one is ever to know what 
impression she did receive, or the cause of her pleasure in what 
was told her about it. All that we do know certainly is that 
she has a good memory and imagination and the faculty of 

August 28, 1887 
1 do wish things would stop being born! '-New puppies," 
"new calves" and "new babies" keep Helen's interest in the 
why and wherefore of things at white heat. The arrival of a 
new baby at Ivy Green the other day was the occasion of a 
fresh outburst of questions about the origin of babies and 
live things in general. "Where did Leila get new baby ? How 


did doctor know where to find baby ? Did Leila tell doctor to 
get very small new baby ? Where did doctor find Guy and 
Prince?" (puppies) "Why is Elizabeth Evelyn's sister ?" etc., 
etc. These questions were sometimes asked under circum- 
stances which rendered them embarrassing, and I made up my 
mind that something must be done. If it was natural for 
Helen to ask such questions, it was my duty to answer them. 
It's a great mistake, I think, to put children off with false- 
hoods and nonsense, when their growing powers of observation 
and discrimination excite in them a desire to know about things. 
From the beginning, I have made it a practice to answer all Helen s 
questions to the best of my ability in a way intelligible to her, and 
at the same time truthfully. "Why should I treat these ques- 
tions differently?" I asked myself. I decided that there was 
no reason, except my deplorable ignorance of the great facts 
that underlie our physical existence. It was no doubt because 
of tnis ignorance that I rushed in where more experienced 
angels fear to tread. There isn't a living soul in this part of 
the world to whom I can go for advice in this, or indeed, in any 
other educational difficulty. The only thing for me to do in a 
perplexity is to go ahead, and learn by making mistakes. But 
in this case I don't think I made a mistake. I took Helen 
and my Botany, "How Plants Grow," up in the tree, where we 
often go to read and study, and I told her in simple words 
the story of plant-life. I reminded her of the corn, beans and 
watermelon-seed she had planted in the spring, and told her 
that the tall corn in the garden, and the beans and water- 
melon vines had grown from those seeds. I explained how 
the earth keeps the seeds warm and moist, until the little leaves 
are strong enough to push themselves out into the light and air 
where they can breathe and grow and bloom and make more 
seeds, from which other baby-plants shall grow. I drew an 
analogy between plant and animal-life, and told her that 
seeds are eggs as truly as hens' eggs and birds' eggs — that the 
mother hen keeps her eggs warm and dry until the little chicks 
come out. I made her understand that all life comes from an 
egg. The mother bird lays her eggs in a nest and keeps them 
warm until the birdhngs are hatched. The mother fish lays 
her eggs where she knows they will be moist and safe, until it 
is time for the little fish to come out. I told her that she could 
call the egg the cradle of life. Then I told her that other animals 


like the dog and cow, and human beings, do not lay their eggs, 
but nourish their young in their own bodies. I had no diffi- 
culty in making it clear to her that if plants and animals didn't 
produce offspring after their kind, they would cease to exist, 
and everything in the world would soon die. But the function 
of sex I passed over as lightly as possible. I did, however, 
try to give her the idea that love is the great continuer of 
life. The subject was difficult, and my knowledge inadequate; 
but I am glad I didn't shirk my responsibility; for, stumbling, 
hesitating, and incomplete as my explanation was, it touched 
deep responsive chords in the soul of my little pupil, and the 
readiness with which she comprehended the great facts of phys- 
ical life confirmed me in the opinion that the child has dormant 
within him, when he comes into the world, all the experiences 
of the race. These experiences are like photographic nega- 
tives, until language develops them and brings out the memory- 

September 4, 1887. 

Helen had a letter this morning from her uncle, Doctor Keller. 
He invited her to come to see him at Hot Springs. The name 
Hot Springs interested her, and she asked many questions 
about it. She knows about cold springs. There are several 
near Tuscumbia; one very large one from which the town got its 
name. "Tuscumbia" is the Indian for "Great Spring." But 
she was surprised that hot water should come out of the ground. 
She wanted to know who made fire under the ground, and if 
it was like the fire in stoves, and if it burned the roots of plants 
and trees. 

She was much pleased with the letter, and after she had 
asked all the questions she could think of, she took it to her 
mother, who was sewing in the hall, and read it to her. It was 
amusing to see her hold it before her eyes and spell the sen- 
tences out on her fingers, just as I had done. Afterward she 
tried to read it to Belle (the dog) and Mildred. Mrs. Keller 
and I watched the nursery comedy from the door. Belle was 
sleepy, and Mildred inattentive. Helen looked very serious, 
and, once or twice, when Mildred tried to take the letter, she 
put her hand away impatiently. Finally Belle got up, shook 
herself, and was about to walk away, when Helen caught ner 


by the neck and forced her to lie down again. In the mean- 
time Mildred had got the letter and crept away with it. Helen 
felt on the floor for it, but not finding it there, she evidently 
suspected Mildred; for she made the little sound which is her 
"baby call." Then she got up and stood very still, as if listen- 
ing with her feet for Mildred's "thump, thump." When she 
had located the sound, she went quickl; toward the little 
culprit and found her chewing the precious letter ! This was 
too much for Helen. She snatched the letter and slapped the 
little hands soundly. Mrs. Keller took the baby in her arms, 
and when we had succeeded in pacifying her, I asked Helen, 
"What did you do to baby?" She looked troubled, and hesi- 
tated a moment before answering. Then she said: "Wrong girl 
did eat letter. Helen did slap very wrong girl." I told her 
that Mildred was very small, and didn't know that it was wrong 
to put the letter in her mouth. 

"I did tell baby, no, no, much (many) times," was Helen's 

I said, "Mildred doesn't understand your fingers, and we 
must be very gentle with her." 

She shook her head. 

"Baby — not think. Helen will give baby pretty letter," and 
with that she ran upstairs and brought down a neatly folded 
sheet of braille, on which she had written some words, and 
gave it to Mildred, saying, "Baby can eat all words." 

September 18, 1887. 

I do not wonder you were surprised to hear that I was going 
to write something for the report. I do not know myself how 
it happened, except that I got tired of saying "no," and Captain 
Keller urged me to do it. He agreed with Mr. Anagnos that 
it was my duty to give others the benefit of my experience. 
Besides, they said Helen's wonderful deliverance might be £. 
boon to other afflicted children. 

When I sit down to write, my thoughts freeze, and when 
I get them on paper they look like wooden soldiers all in a 
row, and if a live one happens along, I put him in a straight- 
jacket. It's easy enough, however, to say Helen is wonderful, 
because she really is. I kept a record of everything she said 
last week, and I found that she knows six hundred words. 


This does not mean, however, that she always uses them cor- 
rectly. Sometimes her sentences are like Chinese puzzles; but 
they are the kind of puzzles children make when they try to 
express their half-formed ideas by means of arbitrary language. 
She has the true language-impulse, and shows great fertility 
of resource in making the words at her command convey her 

Lately she has been much interested in colour. She found 
the word "brown" in her primer and wanted to know its mean- 
ing. I told her that her hair was brown, and she asked, "Is 
brown very pretty?" After we had been all over the house, 
and I had told her the colour of everything she touched, she 
suggested that we go to the hen-houses and barns; but I told 
her she must wait until another day because I was very tired. 
We sat in the hammock; but there was no rest for the weary 
there. Helen was eager to know "more colour." I wonder 
if she has any vague idea of colour — any reminiscent impression 
of light and sound. It seems as if a child who could see and 
hear until her nineteenth month must retain some of her first 
impressions, though ever so faintly. Helen talks a great deal 
about things that she cannot know of through the sense of 
touch. She asks many questions about the sky, day and 
night, the ocean and mountains. She likes to have me tell her 
what I see in pictures. 

But I seem to have lost the thread of my discourse. 
"What colour is think?" was one of the restful questions she 
asked, as we swung to and fro in the hammock. I told her 
that when we are happy our thoughts are bright, and when 
we are naughty they are sad. Quick as a flash she said, "My 
think is white, Viney's think is black." You see, she had 
an idea that the colour of our thoughts matched that of our 
skin. I couldn't help laughing, for at that very moment Viney 
was shouting at the top of her voice: 

"I long to sit on dem jasper walls 
And see dem sinners stumble and fall!" 

October 3, 1887. 
My account for the report is finished and sent off. I have 
two copies, and will send you one; but you mustn't show it to 
anybody. It's Mr. Anagnos's property until it is published. 


I suppose the little girls enjoyed Helen's letter.* She wrote 
it out of her own head, as the children say. 

She talks a great deal about what she will do when she goes 
to Boston. She asked the other day, "Who made all things 
and Boston?" She says Mildred will not go there because 
"Baby does cry all days." 

October 25, 1887. 

Helen wrote another letterf to the little girls yesterday, and her 
father sent it to Mr. Anagnos. Ask him to let you see it. She 
has begun to use the pronouns of her own accord. This morning 
I happened to say, "Helen will go upstairs." She laughed 
and said, "Teacher is wrong. You will go upstairs." This is 
another great forward step. Thus it always is. Yesterday's 
perplexities are strangely simple to-day, and to-day's diffi- 
culties become to-morrow's pastime. 

The rapid development of Helen's mind is beautiful to watch. 
I doubt if any teacher ever had a work of such absorbing interest. 
There must have been one lucky star in the heavens at my 
birth, and I am just beginning to feel its beneficent influence. 

I had two letters from Mr. Anagnos last week. He is more 
grateful for my report than the English idiom will express. 
Now he wants a picture "of darling Helen and her illustrious 
teacher, to grace the pages of the forthcoming annual report." 

October, 18874 
You have probably read, ere this, Helen's second letter to the 
little girls. I am aware that the progress which she has made 
between the writing of the two letters must seem incredible. 
Only those who are with her daily can realize the rapid advance- 
ment which she is making in the acquisition of language, You 
will see from her letter that she uses many pronouns correctly. 
She rarely misuses or omits one in conversation. Her passion 
for writing letters and putting her thoughts upon paper grows 
more intense. She now tells stories in which the imagination 

*See page 146. +See page 147. 

J This extract from a letter to Mr- Anagnos was published in the Perkins 
Institutim Report of 1887. 


plays an important part. She is also beginning to realize that 
she is not like other children. The other day she asked, " What 
do my eyes do?" I told her that I could see things with my 
eyes, and that she could see them with her fingers. After think- 
ing a moment she said, " My eyes are bad !" then she changed it 
into "My eyes are sick!" 

Miss Sullivan's first report, which was published in the official 
report of the Perkins Institution for the year 1887, is a short 
summary of what is fully recorded in the letters. Here follows 
the last part, beginning with the great day, April 5th, when 

Helen learned water. 

In her reports Miss Sullivan speaks of "lessons" as if they 
came in regular order. This is the effect of putting it all in a 
summary. "Lesson" is too formal for the continuous daily 

One day I took her to the cistern. As the water gushed from 
the pump I spelled "w-a-t-e-r." Instantly she tapped my hand 
for a repetition, and then made the word herself with a radiant 
face. Just then the nurse came into the cistern-house bringing 
her little sister. I put Helen's hand on the baby and formed 
the letters "b-a-b-y," which she repeated without help and with 
the light of a new intelligence in her face. 

On our way back to the house everything she touched had to 
be named for her, and repetition was seldom necessary. Neither 
the length of the word nor the combination of letters seems to 
make any difference to the child. Indeed, she remembers 
heliotrope and chrysanthemum more readily than she does 
shorter names. At the end of August she knew 625 words. 

This lesson was followed by one on words indicative of 
place-relations. Her dress was put in a trunk, and then on it, 
and these prepositions were spelled for her. Very soon she 
learned the difference between on and in, though it was some 
time before she could use these words in sentences of her own. 
Whenever it was possible she was made the actor in the lesson, 
and was delighted to stand on the chair, and to be put into the 
wardrobe. In connection with this lesson she learned the names 
of the members of the family and the word is. "Helen is in 


wardrobe," "Mildred is in crib," "Box is on table," "Papa is 
on bed," are specimens of sentences constructed by her during 
the latter part of April. 

Next came a lesson on words expressive of positive quality. 
For the first lesson I had two balls, one made of worsted, large 
and soft, the other a bullet. She perceived the difference in size 
at once. Taking the bullet she made her habitual sign for small — 
that is, by pinching a little bit of the skin of one hand. Then 
she took the other ball and made her sign for large by spreading 
both hands over it. I substituted the adjectives large and 
small for those signs. Then her attention was called to the 
hardness of the one ball and the softness of the other, and she 
learned soft and hard. A few minutes afterward she felt of her 
little sister's head and said to her mother, "Mildred's head is 
small and hard." Next I tried to teach her the meaning of fast 
and slow. She helped me wind some worsted one day, first 
rapidly and afterward slowly. I then said to her with the finger 
alphabet, "wind fast," or "wind slow," holding her hands and 
showing her how to do as I wished. The next day, while exer- 
cising, she spelled to me, "Helen wind fast," and began to walk 
rapidly. Then she said, "Helen wind slow," again suiting the 
action to the words. 

I now thought it time to teach her to read printed words. A 
slip on which was printed, in raised letters, the word box was 
placed on the object; and the same experiment was tried with 
a great many articles, but she did not immediately comprehend 
that the label-name represented the thing. Then I took an 
alphabet sheet and put her finger on the letter A, at the same 
time making A with my fingers. She moved her finger from 
one printed character to another as I formed each letter on my 
fingers. She learned all the letters, both capital and small, in 
one day. Next I turned to the first page of the primer and made 
her touch the word cat, spelling it on my fingers at the same 
time. Instantly she caught the idea, and asked me to find 
dog and many other words. Indeed, she was much displeased 
because I could not find her name in the book. Just then I had 
no sentences in raised letters which she could understand; but 
she would sit for hours feeling each word in her book. When she 
touched one with which she was familiar, a peculiarly sweet 
expression lighted her face, and we saw her countenance growing 
sweeter and more earnest every day. About this time I sent a 


list of the words she knew to Mr. Anagnos, and he very kindly had 
them printed for her. Her mother and I cut up several sheets 
of printed words so that she could arrange them into sentences. 
This delighted her more than anything she had yet done; and 
the practice thus obtained prepared the way for the writing 
lessons. There was no difficulty in making her understand how 
to write the same sentences with pencil and paper which she 
made every day with the slips, and she very soon perceived that 
she need not confine herself to phrases already learned, but could 
communicate any thought that was passing through her mind. 
I put one of the writing boards used by the blind between the 
folds of the paper on the table, and allowed her to examine an 
alphabet of the square letters, such as she was to make. I then 
guided her hand to form the sentence, "Cat does drink milk." 
When she finished it she was overjoyed. She carried it to her 
mother, who spelled it to her. 

Day after day she moved her pencil in the same tracks along 
the grooved paper, never for a moment expressing the least 
impatience or sense of fatigue. 

As she had now learned to express her ideas on paper, I next 
taught her the braille system. She learned it gladly when she 
discovered that she could herself read what she had written; 
and this still affords her constant pleasure. For a whole evening 
she will sit at the table writing whatever comes into her busy 
brain; and I seldom find any difficulty in reading what she has 

Her progress in arithmetic has been equally remarkable. 
She can add and subtract with great rapidity up to the sum of 
one hundred; and she knows the multiplication tables as far as 
the fives. She was working recently with the number forty, 
when I said to her, "Make twos." She replied immediately, 
/'Twenty twos make forty." Later I said, "Make fifteen threes 
and count." I wished her to make the groups of threes and 
supposed she would then have to count them in order to know 
what number fifteen threes would make. But instantly she 
spelled the answer: "Fifteen threes make forty-five." 

On being told that she was white and that one of the servants 
was black, she concluded that all who occupied a similar menial 
position were of the same hue; and whenever I asked her the 
colour of a servant she would say "black." When asked the 


colour of some one whose occupation she did not know she 
seemed bewildered, and finally said "blue." 

She has never been told anything about death or the burial of 
the body, and yet on entering the cemetery for the first time 
in her life, with her mother and me, to look at some flowers, 
she laid her hand on our eyes and repeatedly spelled "cry — ■ 
cry." Her eyes actually filled with tears. The flowers did not 
seem to give her pleasure, and she was very quiet while we 
stayed there. 

On another occasion while walking with me she seemed 
conscious of the presence of her brother, although we were 
distant from him. She spelled his name repeatedly and started 
in the direction in which he was coming. 

When walking or riding she often gives the names of the 
people we meet almost as soon as we recognize them. 

The letters take up the account again. 

November 13, 1887. 
We took Helen to the circus, and had "the time of our lives" ! 
The circus people were much interested in Helen, and did every- 
thing they could to make her first circus a memorable event. 
They let her feel the animals whenever it was safe. She fed the 
elephants, and was allowed to climb up on the back of the 
largest, and sit in the lap of the "Oriental Princess," while the 
elephant marched majestically around the ring. She felt some 
young lions. They were as gentle as kittens; but I told her they 
would get wild and fierce as they grew older. She said to the 
keeper, "I will take the baby lions home and teach them to be 
mild." The keeper of the bears made one big black fellow stand 
on his hind legs and hold out his great paw to us, which Helen 
shook politely. She was greatly delighted with the monkeys and 
kept her hand on the star performer while he went through 
his tricks, and laughed heartily when he took off his hat to 
the audience. One cute little fellow stole her hair- ribbon, and 
another tried to snatch the flowers out of her hat. I don't know 
who had the best time, the monkeys, Helen, or the spectators. 


One of the leopards licked her hands, and the man in charge of 
the giraffes lifted her up in his arms so that she could feel their 
ears and see how tall they were. She also felt a Greek chariot 
and the charioteer would have liked to take her round the ring- 
but she was afraid of "many swift horses." The riders and 
clowns and rope-walkers were all glad to let the little blind girl 
feel their costumes and follow their motions whenever it was 
possible, and she kissed them all, to show her gratitude. Some 
of them cried, and the wild man of Borneo shrank from her 
sweet little face in terror. She has talked about nothing but the 
circus ever since. In order to answer her questions, I have been 
obliged to read a great deal about animals. At present I feel 
like a jungle on wheels ! 

December 12, 1887. 
I find it hard to realize that Christmas is almost here, in spite 
of the fact that Helen talks about nothing else. Do you 
remember what a happy time we had last Christmas ? 

Helen has learned to tell the time at last, and her father is 
going to give her a watch for Christmas. 

Helen is as eager to have stories told her as any hearing child 
I ever knew. She has made me repeat the story of little Red 
Riding Hood so often that I believe I could say it backward 
She likes stories that make her cry— I think we all do, it's so 
mce to feel sad when you've nothing particular to be sad about 
I am teaching her little rhymes and verses, too. They fix 
beautiful thoughts in her memory. I think, too, that they 
quicken all the child's faculties, because they stimulate the 
imagination. Of course I don't try to explain everything. If 
I did, there would be no opportunity for the play of fancy 
Too much explanation directs the child's attention to words and 
sentences, so that he jails to get the thought as a whole. I do not 
think any one can read, or talk for that matter, until he forgets 
words and sentences in the technical sense. 

January 1, 1888. 
It is a great thing to feel that you are of some use in the world, 
that you are necessary to somebody. Helen's dependence on 
me for almost everything makes me strong and glad. 


Christmas week was a very busy one here, too. Helen is 
invited to all the children's entertainments, and I take her to 
as many as I can. I want her to know children and to be with 
them as much as possible. Several little girls have learned to 
spell on their fingers and are very proud of the accomplishment. 
One little chap, about seven, was persuaded to learn the letters, 
and he spelled his name for Helen. She was delighted, and 
showed her joy by hugging and kissing him, much to his 

Saturday the school-children had their tree, and I took Helen. 
It was the first Christmas tree she had ever seen, and she was 
puzzled, and asked many questions. "Who made tree grow 
in house? Why? Who put many things on tree?" She 
objected to its miscellaneous fruits and began to remove theon, 
evidently thinking they were all meant for her. It was not 
difficult, however, to make her understand that there was a 
present for each child, and to her great delight she was per- 
mitted to hand the gifts to the children. There were several 
presents for herself. She placed them in a chair, resisting all 
temptation to look at them until every child had received his 
gifts. One little girl had fewer presents than the rest, and 
Helen insisted on sharing her gifts with her. It was very sweet 
to see the children's eager interest in Helen, and their readiness 
to give her pleasure. The exercises began at nine, and it was 
one o'clock before we could leave. My fingers and head ached; 
but Helen was as fresh and full of spirit as when we left home 

After dinner it began to snow, and we had a good frolic and 
an interesting lesson about the snow. Sunday morning the 
ground was covered, and Helen and the cook's children and I 
played snowball. By noon the snow was all gone. It was the 
first snow I had seen here, and it made me a little homesick. 
The Christmas season has furnished many lessons, and added 
scores of new words to Helen's vocabulary. 

For weeks we did nothing but talk and read and tell each 
other stories about Christmas. Of course I do not try to explain 
all the new words, nor does Helen fully understand the little 
stories I tell her; but constant repetition fixes the words and 
phrases in the mind, and little by little the meaning will come 
to her. / see no sense in "faking" conversation for the sake of 
teaching language. It's stupid and deadening to pupil and teacher. 
Talk should be natural and have for its object an exchange of 


ideas. If there is nothing in the child's mind to communicate, 
it hardly seems worth while to require him to write on the 
blackboard, or spell on his fingers, cut and dried sentences about 
"the cat," "the bird," "a dog." / have tried from the beginning 
to talk naturally to Helen and to teach her to tell me only things 
that interest her and ask questions only for the sake of finding out 
what she wants to know. When I see that she is eager to tell 
me something, but is hampered because she does not know the 
words, I supply them and the necessary idioms, and we get 
ilong finely. The child's eagerness and interest carry her over 
nany obstacles that would be our undoing if we stopped to 
iefine and explain everything. What would happen, do you 
Shink, if some one should try to measure our intelligence by 
our ability to define the commonest words we use? I fear 
me, if I were put to such a test, I should be consigned to the 
primary class in a school for the feeble-minded. 

It was touching and beautiful to see Helen enjoy her first 
Christmas. Of course, she hung her stocking — two of them, 
lest Santa Claus should forget one, and she lay awake for a long 
time and got up two or three times to see if anything had hap- 
pened. When I told her that Santa Claus would not come 
until she was asleep, she shut her eyes and said, "He will think 
girl is asleep." She was awake the first thing in the morning, 
and ran to the fireplace for her stocking; and when she found 
that Santa Claus had filled both stockings, she danced about 
for a minute, then grew very quiet, and came to ask me if I 
.thought Santa Claus had made a mistake, and thought there 
were two little girls, and would come back for the gifts when he 
discovered his mistake. The ring you sent her was in the toe 
of the stocking, and when I told her you gave it to Santa Claus 
for her, she said, "I do love Mrs. Hopkins." She had a trunk 
and clothes for Nancy, and her comment was, "Now Nancy 
will go to party." When she saw the braille slate and paper, 
she said, "I will write many letters, and I will thank Santa 
Claus very much." It was evident that every one, especially 
Captain and Mrs. Keller, was deeply moved at the thought 
of the difference between this bright Christmas and the last, 
when their little girl had no conscious part in the Christmas 
festivities. As we came downstairs, Mrs. Keller said to me 
with tears in her eyes, "Miss Annie, I thank God every day 
of my life for sending you to v& ; but I never realized until this 


morning what a blessing you have been to us."' Captain Kelle* 
took my hand, but could not speak. But his silence was more 
eloquent than words. My heart, too, was full of gratitude 
and solemn joy. 

The other day Helen came across the word grandfather in a 
little story and asked her mother, "Where is grandfather?" 
meaning her grandfather. Mrs. Keller replied, "He is dead." 
"Did father shoot him?" Helen asked, and added, "I will eat 
grandfather for dinner." So far, her only knowledge of death 
is in connection with things to eat. She knows that her father 
shoots partridges and deer and other game. 

This morning she asked me the meaning of "carpenter," and 
the question furnished the text for the day's lesson. After 
talking about the various things that carpenters make, she 
asked me, "Did carpenter make me ?" and before 1 could answer, 
she spelled quickly, "No, no, photographer made me in Sheffield." 

One of the great iron furnaces has been started in Sheffield, 
and we went over the other evening to see them make a "run." 
Helen felt the heat and asked, "Did the sun fall?" 

January o, 1888. 
The report came last night. I appreciate the kind things 
Mr. Anagnos has said about Helen and me; but his extravagant 
way of saying them rubs me the wrong way. The simple 
facts would be so much more convincing ! "Why, for instance ; 
does he take the trouble to ascribe motives to me that I never 
dreamed of ? You know, and he knows, and I know, that my 
motive in coming here was not in any sense philanthropic 
How ridiculous it is to say I had drunk so copiously of the 
noble spirit of Dr. Howe that I was fired with the desire to 
rescue from darkness and obscurity the little Alabamian ! 1 
came here simply because circumstances made it necessary foi 
me to earn my living, and I seized upon the first opportunity 
that offered itself, although I did not suspect, nor did he, that 
I had any special fitness for the work. 

January 26, 1888- 
I suppose you got Helen's letter. The little rascal has taken 
it into her head not to write with a pencil. I wanted her to write 


to her Uncle Frank this morning, but she objected. She said: 
"Pencil is very tired in head. I will write Uncle Frank braille 
letter." I said, "But Uncle Frank cannot read braille." "I 
will teach him," she said. I explained that Uncle Frank was 
old, and couldn't learn braille easily. In a flash she answered, 
"I think Uncle Frank is much (too) old to read very small 
letters." Finally I persuaded her to write a few lines; but she 
broke her pencil six times before she finished it. I said to her, 
"You are a naughty girl." "No," she replied, "pencil is very 
weak." I think her objection to pencil- writing is readily 
accounted for by the fact that she has been asked to write so 
many specimens for friends and strangers. You know how 
the children at the Institution detest it. It is irksome because 
the process is so slow, and they cannot read what they have 
written or correct their mistakes. 

Helen is more and more interested in colour. When I told 
her that Mildred's eyes were blue, she asked, "Are they like wee 
skies?" A little while after I had told her that a carnation 
that had been given her was red, she puckered up her mouth 
and said, " Lips are like one pink." I told her they were tulips; 
but of course she didn't understand the word-play. I can't 
believe that the colour-impressions she received during the year 
and a half she could see and hear are entirely lost. Everything 
we have seen and heard is in the mind somewhere. It may be 
too vague and confused to be recognizable, but it is there all the 
same, like the landscape we lose in the deepening twilight. 

February 10, 1888. 
We got home last night. We had a splendid time in Memphis, 
but I didn't rest much. It was nothing but excitement from 
first to last — drives, luncheons, receptions, and all that they 
involve when you have an eager, tireless child like Helen on 
your hands. She talked incessantly. I don't know what I 
should have done, had some of the young people not learned to 
talk with her. They relieved me as much as possible. But even 
then I can never have a quiet half hour to myself. It is always : 
"Oh, Miss Sullivan, please come and tell us what Helen means," 
or "Miss Sullivan, won't you please explain this to Helen ? We 
can't make her understand." I believe half the white popula- 
tion of Memphis called on us. Helen was petted and caressed 


enough to spoil an angel; but I do not think it is possible to s; c ; ' 
her, she is too unconscious of herself, and too loving. 

The stores in Memphis are very good, and I managed to spenc 
all the money that I had with me. One day Helen said, " 1 
must buy Nancy a very pretty hat." I said, "Very well, we 
will go shopping this afternoon." She had a silver dollar and 
a dime. When we reached the shop, I asked her how much she 
would pay for Nancy's hat. She answered promptly, "I will 
pay ten cents." "What will you do with the dollar?" I asked. 
"I will buy some good candy to take to Tuscumbia," was her 

We visited the Stock Exchange and a steamboat. Helen was 
greatly interested in the boat, and insisted on being shown 
every inch of it from the engine to the flag on the flagstaff. I 
was gratified to read what the Nation had to say about Helen 
last week. 

Captain Keller has had two interesting letters since the publi- 
cation of the "Report," one from Dr. Alexander Graham 
Bell, and the other from Dr. Edward Everett Hale. Dr. Hale 
claims kinship with Helen, and seems very proud of his 
little cousin. Dr. Bell writes that Helen's progress is without 
a parallel in the education of the deaf, or something like that, 
and he says many nice things about her teacher. 

March 5, 1888. 

I did not have a chance to finish my letter yesterday. Miss 
Ev. came up to help me make a list of words Helen has learned. 
We have got as far as P, and there are 900 words to her credit. 
I had Helen begin a journal* March 1st. I don't know how long 
she will keep it up. It's rather stupid business, I think. Just 
now she finds it great fun. She seems to like to tell all she 
knows. This is what Helen wrote Sunday: 

" I got up, washed my face and hands, combed my hair, picked 
three dew violets for Teacher and ate my breakfast. After 
breakfast I played with dolls short. Nancy was cross. Cross 
is cry and kick. I read in my book about large, fierce animals. 
Fierce is much cross and strong and very hungry. I do not 

* Most of this journal was lost. Fortunately, however, Helen Keller wrote 
to many letters and exercises that there is no lack of records of that sort. 


love fierce animals. I wrote letter to Uncle James. He lives 
in Hotsprings. He is doctor. Doctor makes sick girl well. I 
do not like sick. Then I ate my dinner. I like much icecream 
very much. After dinner father went to Birmingham on train 
far away. I had letter from Robert. He loves me. He said, 
Dear Helen, Robert was glad to get a letter from dear, sweet 
little Helen. I will come to see you when the sun shines. Mrs. 
Newsum is Robert's wife. Robert is her husband. Robert 
and l will run and jump and hop and dance and swing and 
talk about birds and flowers and trees and grass and Jumbo and 
Pearl will go with us. Teacher will say, We are silly. She is 
funny. Funny makes us 1 augh. Natalie is a good girl and does 
not cry. Mildred does cry. She will be a nice girl in many days 
and run and play with me. Mrs. Graves is making short dresses 
for Natalie. Mr. Mayo went to Duckhill and brought home 
many sweet flowers. Mr. Mayo and Mr. Farris and Mr. Graves 
love me and Teacher. I am going to Memphis to see them soon, 
and they will hug and kiss me. Thornton goes to school and 
gets his face dirty. Boy must be very careful. After supper I 
played romp with Teacher in bed. She buried me under the 
pillows and then I grew very slow like tree out of ground. 
Now I will go to bed. Helen Keller." 

April 16, 1888. 
We are just back from church. Captain Keller said at break- 
fast this morning that he wished I would take Helen to church. 
The Presbytery would be there in a body, and he wanted 
the ministers to see Helen. The Sunday-school was in session 
when we arrived, and I wish you could have seen the sensation 
Helen's entrance caused. The children were so pleased to see 
her at Sunday-school, they paid no attention to their teachers, 
but rushed out of their seats and surrounded us. She kissed 
them all, boys and girls, willing or unwilling. She seemed to 
think at first that the children all belonged to the visiting 
ministers; but soon she recognized some little friends among 
them, and I told her the ministers didn't bring their children 
with them. She looked disappointed and said, "I'll send them 
many kisses." One of the ministers wished me to ask Helen, 
"What do ministers do ?" She said, "They read and talk loud 
for people to be good." He put her answer down in his note- 


book. When it was time for the church service to begin, she 
was in such a state of excitement that I thought it best to take 
her away; but Captain Keller said, "No, she will be all right.' 
So there was nothing to do but stay. It was impossible to keep 
Helen quiet. She hugged and kissed me, and the quiet-looking 
divine who sat on the other side of her. He gave her his watch 
to play with; but that didn't keep her still. She wanted to show 
it to the little boy in the seat behind us. When the communion 
service began, she smelt the wine, and sniffed so loud that every 
one in the church could hear. When the wine was passed to our 
neighbour, he was obliged to stand up to prevent her taking it 
away from him. I never was so glad to get out of a place as I 
was to leave that church ! I tried to hurry Helen out-of-doors, 
but she kept her arm extended, and every coat-taii she touched 
must needs turn round and give an account of the children 
lie left at home, and receive kisses according to their number. 
Everybody laughed at her antics, and you would have thought 
they were leaving a place of amusement rather than a church. 
Captain Keller invited some of the ministers to dinner. Helen 
was irrepressible. She described in the most animated panto- 
mime, supplemented by spelling, what she was going to do in 
Brewster. Finally she got up from the table and went through 
the motion of picking seaweed and shells, and splashing in the 
water, holding up her skirts higher than was proper under the 
circumstance?. Then she threw herself on the floor and began 
to swim so energetically that some of us thought we should be 
kicked out of our chairs ! Her motions are often more expressive 
than any words, and she is as graceful as a nymph. 

I wonder if the days seem as interminable to you as they do 
to me. We talk and plan and dream about nothing but Boston, 
Boston, Boston. I think Mrs. Keller has definitely decided to 
go with us, but she will not stay all summer. 

May 15, 1888. 

Do you realize that this is the last letter I shall write to you 
for a long, long time ? The next word that you receive from 
me will be in a yellow envelope, and it will tell you when we 
shall reach Boston. I am too happy to write letters; but I 
must tell you about our visit to Cincinnati. 

We spent a delightful week with the "doctors " Dr. Keller 


met us in Memphis. Almost every one on the train was a 
physician, and Dr. Keller seemed to know them all. When 
we reached Cincinnati, we found the place full of doctors. 
There were several prominent Boston physicians among them. 
We stayed at the Burnet House. Everybody was delighted 
with Helen. All the learned men marveled at her intelligence 
and gaiety. There is something about her that attracts people. 
I think it is her joyous interest in everything and everybody. 

Wherever she went she was the centre of interest. She was 
delighted with the orchestra at the hotel, and whenever the 
music began she danced round the room, hugging and kissing 
every one she happened to touch. Her happiness impressed 
all; nobody seemed to pity her. One gentleman said to Dr. 
Keller, "I have lived long and seen many happy faces; but I 
have never seen such a radiant face as this child's before 
to-night." Another said, "Damn me! but I'd give everything 
I own in the world to have that little girl always near me." 
But I haven't time to write all the pleasant things people said — 
they would make a very large book, and the kind things they 
did for us would fill another volume. Dr. Keller distributed 
the extracts from the report that Mr. Anagnos sent me, and he 
could have disposed of a thousand if he had had them. Do you 
remember Dr. Garcelon, who was Governor of Maine several 
years ago? He took us to drive one afternoon, and wanted to 
give Helen a doll; but she said: "I do not like too many children. 
Nancy is sick, and Adeline is cross, and Ida is very bad." We 
laughed until we cried, she was so serious about it. "What 
would you like, then?" asked the Doctor. "Some beautiful 
gloves to talk with," she answered. The Doctor was puzzled. 
He had never heard of "talking-gloves"; but I explained that 
she had seen a glove on which the alphabet was printed, and 
evidently thought they could be bought. I told him he could 
buy some gloves if he wished, and that I would have the alphabet 
stamped on them. 

We lunched with Mr. Thayer (your former pastor) and his 
wife. He asked me how I had taught Helen adjectives and the 
names of abstract ideas like goodness and happiness. These 
same questions had been asked me a hundred times by the 
learned doctors. It seems strange that people should marvel at 
what is really so simple. Why, it is as easy to teach the name of 
an idea, if it is clearly formulated in the child's mind, as to teacb 


the name of an object. It would indeed be a herculean task to 
teach the words if the ideas did not already exist in the child's 
mind. If his experiences and observations hadn't led him to 
the concepts, small, large, good, bad, sweet, sour, he would have 
nothing to attach the word-tags to. 

I, little ignorant I, found myself explaining to the wise men of 
the East and the West such simple things as these: If you give 
a child something sweet, and he wags his tongue and smacks his 
lips and looks pleased, he has a very definite sensation; and if, 
every time he has this experience, he hears the word sweet, 
or has it spelled into his hand, he will quickly adopt this arbi- 
trary sign for his sensation. Likewise, if you put a bit of lemon 
on his tongue, he puckers up his lips and tries to spit it out; and 
after he has had this experience a few times, if you offer him a 
lemon, he shuts his mouth and makes faces, clearly indicating 
that he remembers the unpleasant sensation. You label it 
sour, and he adopts your symbol. If you had called these 
sensations respectively black and white, he would have adopted 
them as readily; but he would mean by black and white the 
same things that he means by sweet and sour. In the same way 
the child learns from many experiences to differentiate his 
feelings, and we name them for him — good, bad, gentle, rough, 
happy, sad. It is not the word, but the capacity to experience 
the sensation that counts in his education. 

This extract from one of Miss Sullivan's letters is added 
because it contains interesting casual opinions stimulated by 
observing the methods of others. 

We visited a little school for the deaf. We were very kindly 
received, and Helen enjoyed meeting the children. Two of the 
teachers knew the manual alphabet, and talked to her without 
an interpreter. They were astonished at her command of 
language. Not a child in the school, they said, had anything like 
Helen's facility of expression, and some of them had been under 
instruction for two or three years. I was incredulous at first; 
but after I had watched the children at work for a couple of 


hours, I knew that what I had been told was true, and I wasn't 
surprised. In one room some little tots were standing before 
the blackboard, painfully constructing "simple sentences." A 
little girl had written: " I have a new dress. It is a pretty dress. 
My mamma made my pretty new dress. I love mamma." A 
curly-headed little boy was writing: " I have a large ball. I like 
to kick my large ball." When we entered the room, the 
children's attention was riveted on Helen. One of them pulled 
me by the sleeve and said, "Girl is blind." The teacher was 
writing on the blackboard: "The girl's name is Helen. She is 
deaf. She cannot see. We are very sorry." I said: "Why 
do you write those sentences on the board ? Wouldn't the 
children understand if you talked to them about Helen?" 
The teacher said something about getting the correct construc- 
tion, and continued to construct an exercise out of Helen. 
I asked her if the little girl who had written about the 
new dress was particularly pleased with her dress. "No," she 
replied, "I think not; but children learn better if they write 
about things that concern them personally." It seemed all so 
mechanical and difficult, my heart ached for the poor little 
children. Nobody thinks of making a hearing child say, "I 
have a pretty new dress," at the beginning. These children 
were older in years, it is true, than the baby who lisps, "Papa 
kiss baby — pretty," and fills out her meaning by pointing to her 
new dress; but their ability to understand and use language 
was no greater. 

There was the same difficulty throughout the school. In 
every classroom I saw sentences on the blackboard, which 
evidently had been written to illustrate some grammatical rule, 
or for the purpose of using words that had previously been 
taught in the same, or in some other connection. This sort of 
thing may be necessary in some stages of education; but it isn't 
the way to acquire language. Nothing, I think, crushes the 
child's impulse to talk naturally more effectually than these black- 
board exercises. The schoolroom is not the place to teach any 
young child language, least of all the deaf child. He must be 
kept as unconscious as the hearing child of the fact that he is 
learning words, and he should be allowed to prattle on his fingers, 
or with his pencil, in monosyllables if he chooses, until such time 
as his growing intelligence demands the sentence. Language 
should not be associated in his mind with endless hours in school 


with puzzling questions in grammar, or with anything that is an 
enemy to joy. But I must not get into the habit of criticizing 
other people's methods too severely. I may be as far from the 
straight road as they 

Miss Sullivan's second report brings the account down to 
October ist, 1888. 

During the past year Helen has enjoyed excellent health. 
Her eyes and ears have been examined by specialists, and it is 
their opinion that she cannot have the slightest perception of 
either light or sound. 

It is impossible to tell exactly to what extent the senses of 
smell and taste aid her in gaining information respecting physical 
qualities; but, according to eminent authority, these senses do 
exert a great influence on the mental and moral development. 
Dugald Stewart says, "Some of the most significant words 
relating to the human mind are borrowed from the sense of 
smell; and the conspicuous place which its sensations occupy 
in the poetical language of all nations shows how easily and 
naturally they ally themselves with the refined operations of the 
fancy ana the moral emotions of the heart." Helen certainly 
derives great pleasure from the exercise of these senses. On 
entering a greenhouse her countenance becomes radiant, and 
she will tell the names of the flowers with which she is familiar, 
by the sense of smell alone. Her recollections of the sensations 
of smell are very vivid. She enjoys in anticipation the scent of 
a rose or a violet; and if she is promised a bouquet of these 
flowers, a peculiarly happy expression lights her face, indicating 
that in imagination she perceives their fragrance, and that it is 
pleasant to her. It frequently happens that the perfume of a 
flower or the flavour of a fruit recalls to her mind some happy 
event in home life, or a delightful birthday party. 

Her sense of touch has sensibly increased during the year, 
and has gained in acuteness and delicacy. Indeed, her whole 
body is so finely organized that she seems to use it as a medium 
for bringing herself into closer relations with her fellow creature*- 


She is able not only to distinguish with great accuracy the 
different undulations of the air and the vibrations of the floor 
made by various sounds and motions, and to recognize her 
friends and acquaintances the instant she touches their hands 
or clothing, but she also perceives the state of mind of those 
around her. It is impossible for any one with whom Helen is 
conversing to be particularly happy or sad, and withhold 
the knowledge of this fact from her. 

She observes the slightest emphasis placed upon a word in 
conversation, and she discovers meaning in every change of 
position, and in the varied play of the muscles of the hand. 
She responds quickly to the gentle pressure of affection, the 
pat of approval, the jerk of impatience, the firm motion of 
command, and to the many other variations of the almost 
infinite language of the feelings; and she has become so expert 
in interpreting this unconscious language of the emotions that 
she is often able to divine our very thoughts. 

In my account of Helen last year,* I mentioned several 
instances where she seemed to have called into use an 
inexplicable mental faculty; but it now seems to me, after 
carefully considering the matter, that this power may be 
explained by her perfect familiarity with the muscular varia- 
tions of those with whom she comes into contact, caused by 
their emotions. She has been forced to depend largely upon 
this muscular sense as a means of ascertaining the mental 
condition of those about her. She has learned to connect 
certain movements of the body with anger, others with joy, 
and others still with sorrow. One day, while she was walking 
out with her mother and Mr. Anagnos, a boy threw a torpedo, 
which startled Mrs. Keller. Helen felt the change in her mother's 
movements instantly, and asked, "What are we afraid of?" 
On one occasion, while walking on the Common with her. I saw 
a police officer taking a man to the station-house. The agita- 
tion which I felt evidently produced a perceptible physical 
change; for Helen asked, excitedly, "What do you see?" 

A striking ilhtstration of this strange power was recently 
shown while her ears were being examined by the aurists in 
Cincinnati. Several experiments were tried, to determine 
positively whether or not she had any perception of sound. 

*See Perkins Institution Report for 1887, page 105. 


All present were astonished when she appeared not only to 
hear a whistle, but also an ordinary tone of voice. She would 
turn her head, smile, and act as though she had heard what 
was said. I was then standing beside her, holding her hand. 
Thinking that she was receiving impressions from me, I put 
her hands upon the table, and withdrew to the opposite side of 
the room. The aurists then tried their experiments with quite 
different results. Helen remained motionless through them 
all, not once showing the least sign that she realized what was 
going on. At my suggestion, one of the gentlemen took her 
hand, and the tests were repeated. This time her countenance 
changed whenever she was spoken to, but there was not such 
a decided lighting up of the features as when I had held her 

In the account of Helen last year it was stated that she knew 
nothing about death, or the burial of the body; yet on entering 
a cemetery for the first time in her life, she showed signs of 
emotion — her eyes actually filling with tears. 

A circumstance equally remarkable occurred last summer; 
but, before relating it, I will mention what she now knows 
with regard to death. Even before 1 knew her, she had handled 
a dead chicken, or bird, or some other small animal. Some 
time after the visit to the cemetery before referred to, Helen 
became interested in a horse that had met with an accident 
by which one of his legs had been badly injured, and she went 
daily with me to visit him. The wounded leg soon became so 
much worse that the horse was suspended from a beam. The 
animal groaned with pain, and Helen, perceiving his groans, 
was filled with pity. At last it became necessary to kill him, 
and, when Helen next asked to go and see him, I told her that 
he was dead. This was the first time that she had heard the 
word. I then explained that he had been shot to relieve him 
from suffering, and that he was now buried — put into the ground. 
I am inclined to believe that the idea of his having been inten- 
tionally shot did not make much impression upon her; but 1 
think she did realize the fact that life was extinct in the horse 
as in the dead birds she had touched, and also that he had been 
put into the ground. Since this occurrence, I have used the 
word dead whenever occasion required, but with no further 
explanation of its meaning. 

While making a visit at Brewster, Massachusetts, she one day 


accompanied my friend and me through the graveyard. She 
examined one stone after another, and seemed pleased when she 
could decipher a name. She smelt of the flowers, but showed no 
desire to pluck them; and, when I gathered a few for her, she 
refused to have them pinned on her dress. When her attention 
was drawn to a marble slab inscribed with the name Florence in 
relief, she dropped upon the ground as though looking for 
something, then turned to me with a face full of trouble, and 
asked, "Where is poor little Florence ?" I evaded the question, 
but she persisted. Turning to my friend, she asked, "Did you 
cry loud for poor little Florence?" Then she added: "I think 
she is very dead. Who put her in big hole ?" As she continued 
to ask these distressing questions, we left the cemetery. Florence 
vvas the daughter of my friend, and was a young lady at the time 
of her death; but Helen had been told nothing about her, nor 
did she even know that my friend had had a daughter. Helen 
had been given a bed and carriage for her dolls, which she had 
received and used like any other gift. On her return to the 
house after her visit to the cemetery, she ran to the closet 
where these toys were kept, and carried them to my friend, 
saying, "They are poor little Florence's." This was truei 
although we were at a loss to understand how she guessed it. 
A letter written to her mother in the course of the following 
Wc!ek gave an account of her impression in her own words: 

"I put my little babies to sleep in Florence's little bed, and 1 
take them to ride in her carriage. Poor little Florence is dead. 
She was very sick and died. Mrs. H. did cry loud for her dear 
little child. She got in the ground, and she is very dirty, and she 
is cold. Florence was very lovely like Sadie, and Mrs. H. kissed 
her and hugged her much. Florence is very sad in big hole. 
Doctor gave her medicine to make her well, but poor Florence did 
not get well. When she was very sick she tossed and moaned 
in bed. Mrs. H. will go to see her soon. " 

Notwithstanding the activity of Helen's mind, she is a very 
natural child. She is fond of fun and frolic, and loves dearly 
to be with other children. She is never fretful or irritable, 
and I have never seen her impatient with her playmates because 
they failed to understand her. She will play for hours together 
with children who cannot understand a single word she spells, 
and it is pathetic to watch the eager gestures and excited panto- 
mime through which her ideas and emotions find expression. 


Occasionally some little boy or girl will try to learn the manual 
alphabet. Then it is beautiful to observe with what patience, 
sweetness, and perseverance Helen endeavours to bring the 
unruly fingers of her little friend into proper position. 

One day, while Helen was wearing a little jacket of which 
she was very proud, her mother said: "There is a poor little 
girl who has no cloak to keep her warm. Will you give her 
yours?" Helen began to pull off the jacket, saying, "I must 
give it to a poor little strange girl." 

She is very fond of children younger than herself, and a 
baby invariably calls fdrth all the motherly instincts of her 
nature. She will handle the baby as tenderly as the most 
careful nurse could desire. It is pleasant, too, to note her 
thoughtfulness for little children, and her readiness to yield 
to their whims. 

She has a very sociable disposition, and delights in the com- 
panionship of those who can follow the rapid motions of her 
fingers; but if left alone she will amuse herself for hours at a 
time with her knitting or sewing. 

She reads a great deal. She bends over her book with a look 
of intense interest, and as the forefinger of her left hand runs 
along the line, she spells out the words with the other hand; 
but often her motions are so rapid as to be unintelligible even 
to those accustomed to reading the swift and varied movements 
of her fingers. 

Every shade of feeling finds expression through her mobile 
features. Her behaviour is easy and natural, and it is charming 
because of its frankness and evident sincerity. Her heart is too 
full of unselfishness and affection to allow a dream of fear or 
unkindness. She does not realize that one can be anything 
but kind-hearted and tender. She is not conscious of any 
reason why she should be awkward; consequently, her move- 
ments are free and graceful. 

She is very fond of all the living things at heme, and she 
will not have them unkindly treated. When she is riding in 
the carriage she will not allow the driver to use the whip, 
because, she says, "poor horses will cry." One morning she 
was greatly distressed by finding that one of the dogs had a 
block fastened to her collar. We explained that it was done 
to keep Pearl from running away. Helen expressed a great 
deal of sympathy, and at every opportunity during the day 


she would find Pearl and carry the burden from place to 

Her father wrote to her last summer that the birds and bees 
were eating all his grapes. At first she was very indignant, 
and said the little creatures were "very wrong"; but she seemed 
pleased when I explained to her that the birds and bees were 
hungry, and did not know that it was selfish to eat all the fruit. 
In a letter written soon afterward she says: 

"I am very sorry that bumblebees and hornets and birds and 
large flies and worms are eating all of my father's delicious 
grapes. They like juicy fruit to eat as well as people, and 
they are hungry. They are not very wrong to eat too many 
grapes because they do not know much." 

She continues to make rapid progress in the acquisition of 
language as her experiences increase. While these were few 
and elementary, her vocabulary was necessarily limited; but, 
as she learns more of the world about her, her judgment grows 
more accurate, her reasoning powers grow stronger, more active 
and subtle, and the language by which she expresses this intel- 
lectual activity gains in fluency and logic. 

When traveling she drinks in thought and language. Sitting 
beside her in the car, I describe what I see from the window — 
hills and valleys and the rivers; cotton-fields and gardens in 
which strawberries, peaches, pears, melons, and vegetables are 
growing; herds of cows and horses feeding in broad meadows, 
and flocks of sheep on the hillside; the cities with their churches 
and schools, hotels and warehouses, and the occupations of the 
busy people. While I am communicating these things, Helen 
manifests intense interest; and, in default of words, she indicates 
by gestures and pantomime her desire to learn more of her 
surroundings toid of the great forces which are operating every- 
where. In this way, she learns countless new expressions 
without any apparent effort. 

From the day when Helen first grasped the idea that all 
objects have names, and that these can be communicated by 
certain movements of the fingers, I have talked to her exactly 
as I should have done had she been able to hear, with only this 
exception, that I have addressed the words to her fingers instead 
of to her ears. Naturally, there was at first a strong tendency 
on her part to use only the important words in a sentence. She 
would say. "Helen milk." I got the milk, to show her that sh* 


had used the correct word; but I did not let her drink it until 
she had, with my assistance, made a complete sentence, as, 
"Give Helen some milk to drink." In these early lessons I 
encouraged her in the use of different forms of expression for 
conveying the same idea. If she was eating some candy, I 
said: "Will Helen please give teacher some candy ?" or, "Teacher 
would like to eat some of Helen's candy," emphasizing the 's. 
She very soon perceived that the same idea could be expressed 
in a great many ways. In two or three months after I began 
to teach her she would say: "Helen wants to go to bed," or, 
"Helen is sleepy, and Helen will go to bed." 

I am constantly asked the question, "How did you teach her 
the meaning of words expressive of intellectual and moral 
qualities?" I believe it was more through association and 
repetition than through any explanation of mine. This is 
especially true of her earlier lessons, when her knowledge of 
language was so slight as to make explanation impossible. 

I have always made it a practice to use the words descrip- 
tive of emotions, of intellectual or moral qualities and actions, 
in connection with the circumstance which required these words. 
Soon after I became her teacher Helen broke her new doll, 
of which she was very fond. She began to cry. I said to her, 
"Teacher is sorry." After a few repetitions she came to associate 
the word with the feeling. 

The word happy she learned in the same way; also, right, 
wrong, good, bad, and other adjectives. The word love she 
learned as other children do — by its association with caresses. 

One day I asked her a simple question in a combination of 
numbers, which I was sure she knew. She answered at random. 
I checked her, and she stood still, the expression of her face 
plainly showing that she was trying to think. I touched her 
forehead, and spelled "t-h-i-n-k." The word, thus connected 
with the act, seemed to impress itself on her mind much as if 
I had placed her hand upon an object and then spelled its name. 
Since that time she has always used the word think. 

At a later period I began to use such words as perhaps, 
suppose, expect, forget, remember. If Helen asked, "Where is 
mother now?" I replied: "I do not know. Perhaps she is 
with Leila." 

She is always anxious to learn the names of people we meet 
in the horse-cars or elsewhere, and to know where they are going. 


and what they will do. Conversations of this kind are frequent: 

Helen. What is little boy's name ? 

Teacher. I do not know, for he is a little stranger; but 
perhaps his name is Jack. 

Helen. Where is he going? 

Teacher. He may be going to the Common to have fun 
with other boys. 

Helen. What will he play ? 

Teacher. I suppose he will play ball. 

Helen. What are boys doing now ? 

Teacher. Perhaps they are expecting Jack, and are 
waiting for him. 

After the words have become familiar to her, she uses them 
in composition. 

"September 26, [1888.] 

" This morning teacher and I sat by the window and we saw 
a little boy walking on the sidewalk. It was raining very hard 
and he had a very large umbrella to keep off the rain-drops. 

"I do not know how old he was but think he may have been six 
years old. Perhaps his name was Joe. I do not know where he 
was going because he was a little strange boy. But perhaps his 
mother sent him to a store to buy something for dinner. He had 
a bag in one hand. I suppose he was going to take it to his 

In teaching her the use of language, I have not confined 
myself to any particular theory or system. I have observed 
the spontaneous movements of my pupil's mind, and have 
tried to follow the suggestions thus given to me. 

Owing to the nervousness of Helen's temperament, every 
precaution has been taken to avoid unduly exciting her already 
very active brain. The greater part of the year has been spent 
in travel and in' visits to different places, and her lessons have 
been those suggested by the various scenes and experiences 
through which she has passed. She continues to manifest the 
same eagerness to learn as at first. It is never necessary to 
urge her to study. Indeed, I am often obliged to coax her to 
leave an example or a composition. 

While not confining myself to any special system of instruction, 
I have tried to add to her general information and intelligence, 
to enlarge her acquaintance with things around her, and to 
bring her into easy and natural relations with people. I have 


encouraged her to keep a diary, from which the following selec- 
tion has been made: 

"March 22nd, 1888. 
"Mr. Anagnos came to see me Thursday. I was glad to hug 
and kiss him. He takes care of sixty little blind girls and seventy 
little blind boys. I do love them. Little blind girls sent me a 
pretty workbasket. I found scissors and thread, and needle- 
book with many needles in it, and crochet hook and emery, and 
thimble, and box, and yard measure and buttons, and pin- 
cushion. I will write little blind girls a letter to thank them. 
I will make pretty clothes for Nancy and Adeline and Allie. 
I will go to Cincinnati in May and buy another child. Then I 
will have four children. New baby's name is Harry. Mr. 
Wilson and Mr. Mitchell came to see us Sunday. Mr. Anagnos 
went to Louisville Monday to see little blind children. Mother 
went to Huntsville. I slept with father, and Mildred slept 
with teacher. I did learn about calm. It does mean quiet and 
happy. Uncle Morrie sent me pretty stories. I read about birds. 
The quail lays fifteen or twenty eggs and they are white. She 
makes her nest on the ground. The blue-bird makes her nest 
in a hollow tree and her eggs are blue. The robin's eggs are 
green. I learned a song about spring. March, April, May are 

Now melts the snow. 
The warm winds blow 
The waters flow 
And robin dear. 
Is come to show 
That Spring is here. 

" James killed snipes for breakfast. Little chickens did get 
very cold and die. I am sorry. Teacher and I went to ride on 
Tennessee River, in a boat. I saw Mr. Wilson and James row 
with oars. Boat did glide swiftly and I put hand in water and 
felt it flowing. 

"I caught fish with hook and line and pole. We oimbed high 
hill and teacher fell and hurt her head. I ate very small fish 
for supper. I did read about cow and calf. The cow loves to 
eat grass as well as girl does bread and butter and milk. Little 
calf does run and leap in field. She likes to skip and play, for 
she is happy when the sun is bright and warm. Little boy did 
love his calf. And he did say, I will kiss vou. little calf, and he 


put his arms around calf's neck and kissed her. The calf licked 
good boy's face with long rough tongue. Calf must not open 
mouth much to kiss. I am tired, and teacher does not want 
me to write more." 

In the autumn she went to a circus. While we were standing 
before his cage the lion roared, and Helen felt the vibration 
of the air so distinctly that she was able to reproduce th« 
noise quite accurately. 

I tried to describe to her the appearance of a camel; but, as 
we were not allowed to touch the animal, I feared that she did 
not get a correct idea of its shape. A few days afterward, 
however, hearing a commotion in the schoolroom, I went in and 
found Helen on all fours with a pillow so strapped upon her back 
as to leave a hollow in the middle, thus making a hump on 
either side. Between these humps she had placed her doll, 
which she was giving a ride around the room. 1 watched her for 
some time as she moved about, trying to take long strides in 
order to carry out the idea I had given her of the camel's gait. 
When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, "I am a very 
funny camel." 

During the next two years neither Mr. Anagnos, who was in 
Europe for a year, nor Miss Sullivan wrote anything about 
Helen Keller for publication. In 1892 appeared the Perkins 
Institution report for 1891, containing a full account of Helen 
Keller, including many of her letters, exercises, and composi- 
tions. As some of the letters and the story of the "Frost King" 
are published here, there is no need of printing any more 
samples of Helen Keller's writing during the third, fourth and 
fifth years of her education. It was the first two years that 
counted. From Miss Sullivan's part of this report I give her 
most important comments and such biographical matter as 
ioes not appear elsewhere in the present volume. 

These extracts Mr. Anagnos took from Miss Sullivan's notes 
and memoranda. 


One day, while her pony and her donkey were standing side by 
side, Helen went from one to the other, examining them closely. 
At last she paused with her hand upon Neddy's head, and 
addressed him thus: "Yes, dear Neddy, it is true that you are 
not as beautiful as Black Beauty. Your body is not so hand* 
somely formed, and there is no proud look in your face, and 
your neck does not arch. Besides, your long ears make you 
look a little funny. Of course, you cannot help it, and I love 
you just as well as if you were the most beautiful creature in 
the world." 

Helen has been greatly interested in the story of "Black 
Beauty." To show how quickly she perceives and associates 
ideas, I will give an instance which all who have read the 
book will be able to appreciate. I was reading the following 
paragraph to her: 

"The horse was an old, worn-out chestnut, with an ill-kept 
coat, and bones that showed plainly through it; the knees 
knuckled over, and the forelegs were very unsteady. I had 
been eating some hay, and the wind rolled a little lock of it 
that way, and the poor creature put out her long, thin neck 
and picked it up, and then turned round and looked about 
for more. There was a hopeless look in the dull eye that I 
Could not help noticing, and then, as I was thinking where 
i had seen that horse before, she looked full at me and said, 
Black Beauty, is that you?' " 

At this point Helen pressed my hand to stop me. She was 
Sobbing convulsively. "It was poor Ginger," was all she could 
say at first. Later, when she was able to talk about it, she said: 
"Poor Ginger ! The words made a distinct picture in my mind. 
I could see the way Ginger looked; all her beauty gone, her 
beautiful arched neck drooping, all the spirit gone out of her 
flashing eyes, all the playfulness gone out of her manner. Oh, 
how terrible it was ! I never knew before that there could 
be such a change in anything. There were very few spots 
of sunshine in poor Ginger's life, and the sadnesses were so 
many !" After a moment she added, mournfully, "I fear some 
people's lives are just like Ginger's." 

This morning Helen was reading for the first time Bryant's 
poem, "Oh, mother of a mighty race !" I said to her, "Tell 
me, when you have read the poem through, who you think the 
mother is." When she came to the line, "There's freedom at 


thy gates, and rest," she exclaimed: "It means America ! The 
gate, I suppose, is New York City, and Freedom is the great 
statue of Liberty." After she had read "The Battlefield," 
by the same author, I asked her which verse she thought was 
the most beautiful. She replied, "I like this verse best: 

'Truth crushed to earth shall rise again; 

The eternal years of God are hers; 

But Error, wounded, writhes with pain, 

And dies among his worshipers.' " 

She is at once transported into the midst of the events of 
S. story. She rejoices when justice wins, she is sad when virtue 
lies low, and her face glows with admiration and reverence 
when heroic deeds are described. She even enters into the spirit 
of battle; she says, "I think it is right for men to fight against 
wrongs and tyrants." 

Here begins Miss Sullivan's connected account in the report 
of 189 1 : 

During the past three years Helen has continued to make 
rapid progress in the acquisition of language. She has one 
advantage over ordinary children, that nothing from without 
distracts her attention from her studies. 

But this advantage involves a corresponding disadvantage; 
the danger of unduly severe mental application. Her mind 
is so constituted that she is in a state of feverish unrest while 
conscious that there is something that she does not compre- 
hend. I have never known her to be willing to leave a lesson 
when she felt that there was anything in it which she did not 
understand. If I suggest her leaving a problem in arithmetic 
until the next day, she answers, "I think it will make my mind 
stronger to do it now." 

A few evenings ago we were discussing the tariff. Helen 
wanted me to tell her about it. I said: "No. You cannot 
understand it yet." She was quiet for a moment, and then 
asked, with spirit: "How do you know that I cannot understand ? 


I ha\3 a good mind! You must remember, dear teacher, that 
Greek parents were very particular with their children, and 
they used to let them listen to wise words, and I think they 
understood some of them." I have found it best not to tell 
her that she cannot understand, because she is almost certain 
to become excited. 

Not long ago I tried to show her how to build a tower with 
her blocks. As the design was somewhat complicated, the 
slightest jar made the structure fall. After a time I became 
discouraged, and told her I was afraid she could not make it 
stand, but that I would build it for her; but she did not approve 
of this plan. She was determined to build the tower herself; 
and for nearly three hours she worked away, patiently gathering 
up the blocks whenever they fell, and beginning over again, 
until at last her perseverance was crowned with success. The 
tower stood complete in every part. 

Until October, 1889, I had not deemed it best to confine 
Helen to any regular and systematic course of study. For 
the first two years of her intellectual life she was like a child in a 
strange country, where everything was new and perplexing; 
and, until she gained a knowledge of language, it was not possible 
to give her a definite course of instruction. 

Moreover, Helen's inquisitiveness was so great during these 
years that it would have interfered with her progress in the 
acquisition of language, if a consideration of the questions 
which were constantly occurring to her had been deferred until 
the completion of a lesson. In all probability she would have 
forgotten the question, and a good opportunity to explain 
something of real interest to her would have been lost. There- 
fore it has always seemed best to me to teach anything when- 
ever my pupil needed to know it, whether it had any bearing on 
the projected lesson or not; her inquiries have often led us fai 
away from the subject under immediate consideration. 

Since October, 1889, her work has been more regular and has 
included arithmetic, geography, zoology, botany and reading. 

She has made considerable progress in the study of arithmetic. 
She readily explains the processes of multiplication, addition, 
subtraction, and division, and seems to understand the opera- 
tions. She has nearly finished Colbui'n's mental arithmetic, 
her last work being in improper fractions. She has also done 
some good work in written arithmetic. Her mind works sc 


rapidly, that it often happens that when I give her an example 
she will give me the correct answer before I have time to write 
out the question. She pays little attention to the language 
used in stating a problem, and seldom stops to ask the meaning 
of unknown words or phrases until she is ready to explain her 
work. Once, when a question puzzled her very much, I sug- 
gested that we take a walk and then perhaps she would under- 
stand it. She shook her head decidedly, and said: "My enemies 
would think I was running away. I must stay and conquer 
them now," and she did. 

The intellectual improvement which Helen has made in 
the past two years is shown more clearly in her greater com- 
mand of language and in her ability to recognize nicer shades 
of meaning in the use of words, than in any other branch of 
her education. 

Not a day passes that she does not learn many new words, 
nor are these merely the names of tangible and sensible objects. 
For instance, she one day wished to know the meaning of the 
following words: Phenomenon, comprise, energy, reproduction, 
extraordinary, perpetual and mystery. Some of these words 
have successive steps of meaning, beginning with what is simple 
and leading on to what is abstract. It would have been a 
hopeless task to make Helen comprehend the more abstruse 
meanings of the word mystery, but she understood readily 
that it signified something hidden or concealed, and when she 
makes greater progress she will grasp its more abstruse mean- 
ing as easily as she now does the simpler signification. In 
investigating any subject there must occur at the beginning 
words and phrases which cannot be adequately understood 
until the pupil has made considerable advancement; yet I have 
thought it best to go on giving my pupil simple definitions, 
thinking that, although these may be somewhat vague and 
provisional, they will come to one another's assistance, and that 
what is obscure to-day will be plain to-morrow. 

I regard my pupil as a free and active being, whose own 
spontaneous impulses must be ray surest guide. I have always 
talked to Helen exactly as I would talk to a seeing and hearing 
child, and I have insisted that other people should do the same. 
Whenever any one asks me if she will understand this or that 
word I always reply: "Never mind whether she understands 
each separate word of a sentence or not. She will guess the 


meanings of the new words from their connection with others 
which are already intelligible to her." 

In selecting books for Helen to read, I have never chosen 
them with reference to her deafness and blindness. She 
always reads such books as seeing and hearing children of her 
age read and enjoy. Of course, in the beginning it was neces- 
sary that the things described should be familiar and interesting, 
and the English pure and simple. I remember distinctly when 
she first attempted to read a little story. She had learned the 
printed letters, and for some time had amused herself by making 
simple sentences, using slips on which the words were printed 
in raised letters; but these sentences had no special relation to 
one another. One morning we caught a mouse, and it occurred 
to me, with a live mouse and a live cat to stimulate her interest, 
that I might arrange some sentences in such a way as to form 
a little story, and thus give her a new conception of the use of 
language. So I put the following sentences in the frame, and 
gave it to Helen: "The cat is on the box. A mouse is in the 
box. The cat can see the mouse. The cat would like to eat 
the mouse. Do not let the cat get the mouse. The cat can 
have some milk, and the mouse can have some cake." The 
word the she did not know, and of course she wished it explained. 
At that stage of her advancement it would have been impos- 
sible to explain its use, and so I did not try, but moved her 
finger on to the next word, which she recognized with a bright 
smile. Then, as I put her hand upon puss sitting on the box, 
she made a little exclamation of surprise, and the rest of the 
sentence became perfectly clear to her. When she had read 
the words of the second sentence, I showed her that there really 
was a mouse in the box. She then moved her finger to the 
next line with an expression of eager interest. "The cat can 
see the mouse." Here I made the cat look at the mouse, and 
let Helen feel the cat. The expression of the little girl's coun- 
tenance showed that she was perplexed. I called her attention 
to the following line, and, although she knew only the three 
words, cat, eat and mouse, she caught the idea. She pulled the 
cat away and put her on the floor, at the same time covering 
the box with the frame. When she read, "Do not let the cat 
get the mouse!" she recognized the negation in the sentence, 
and seemed to know that the cat must not get the 
mouse. Get and let were new words. She was familiar with the 


words of the last sentence, and was delighted when allowed 
to act them out. By signs she made me understand that she 
wished another story, and 1 gave her a book containing very 
short stories, written in the most elementary style. She ran 
her fingers along the lines, finding the words she knew and guess- 
ing at the meaning of others, in a way that would convince 
the most conservative of educators that a little deaf child, if 
given the opportunity, will learn to read as easily and naturally 
as ordinary children. 

I am convinced that Helen's use of English is due largely to 
her familiarity with books. She often reads for two or three 
hours in succession, and then lays aside her book reluctantly. 
One day as we left the library I noticed that she appeared more 
serious than usual, and 1 asked the cause. "1 am thinking 
how much wiser we always are when we leave here than we 
are when we come," was her reply. 

When asked why she loved books so much, she once replied: 
"Because they tell me so much that is interesting about things 
I cannot see, and they are never tired or troubled like people. 
They tell me over and over what I want to know." 

While reading from Dickens's "Child's History of England," 
we came to the sentence, "Still the spirit of the Britons was not 
broken." I asked what she thought that meant. She replied, 
"I think it means that the brave Britons were not discouraged 
because the Romans had won so many battles, and they wished 
all the more to drive them away." It would not have been 
possible for her to define the words in this sentence; and yet she 
had caught the author's meaning, and was able to give it in her 
own words. The next lines are still more idiomatic, "When 
Suetonius left the country, they fell upon his troops and retook 
the island of Anglesea." Here is her interpretation of the 
sentence: "It means that when the Roman general had gone 
away, the Britons began to fight again; and because the Roman 
soldiers had no general to tell them what to do, they were over* 
come by the Britons and lost the island they had captured." 

She prefers intellectual to manual occupations, and is not 
so fond of fancy work as many of the blind children are; yet 
she is eager to join them in whatever they are doing. She 
has learned to use the Caligraph typewriter, and writes very 
correctly, but not rapidly as yet, having had less than a month'? 


More than two years ago a cousin taught her the telegraph 
alphabet by making the dots and dashes on the back of her 
hand with his finger. Whenever she meets any one who is 
familiar with this system, she is delighted to use it in conversa- 
tion. 1 have found it a convenient medium of communicating 
with Helen when she is at some distance from me, for it enables 
me to talk with her by tapping upon the floor with my foot 
She feels the vibrations and understands what is said to her. 

It was hoped that one so peculiarly endowed by nature as 
Helen, would, if left entirely to her own resources, throw some 
light upon such psychological questions as were not exhaust- 
ively investigated by Dr. Howe; but their hopes were not to 
be realized. In the case of Helen, as in that of Laura Bridgman, 
disappointment was inevitable. It is impossible to isolate a 
child in the midst of society, so that he shall not be influenced 
by the beliefs of those with whom he associates. In Helen's 
case such an end could not have been attained without depriv- 
ing her of that intercourse with others, which is essential to 
her nature. 

It must have been evident to those who watched the rapid 
unfolding of Helen's faculties that it would not be possible to 
keep her inquisitive spirit for any length of time from reaching 
out toward the unfathomable mysteries of life. But great care 
has been taken not to lead her thoughts prematurely to the 
consideration of subjects which perplex and confuse all minds. 
Children ask profound questions, but they often receive shallow 
answers, or, to speak more correctly, they are quieted by such 

"Where did I come from ?" and "Where shall I go when I die ?'" 
were questions Helen at>lred when she was eight years old. 
But the explanations which she was able to understand at that 
time did not satisfy, although they forced her to remain silent, 
until her mind should begin 10 put forth its higher powers, and 
generalize from innumerable impressions and ideas which 
streamed in upon it from books and from her daily experiences. 
Her mind sought for the cause of things. 

As her observation of phenomena became more extensive 
and her vocabulary richer and more subtle, enabling her to 
express her own conceptions and ideas clearly, and also to 
comprehend the thoughts and experiences ot others, she became 
acquainted with the limit of human creative power, and per 


ceived that some power, not human, must have created the 
earth, the sun, and the thousand natural objects with which 
she was perfectly familiar. 

Finally she one day demanded a name for the power, the 
existence of which she had already conceived in her own mind. 

Through Charles Kingsley's "Greek Heroes" she had become 
familiar with the beautiful stories of the Greek gods and god- 
desses, and she must have met with the words God, heaven, 
soul, and a great many similar expressions in books. 

She never asked the meaning of such words, nor made any 
comment when they occurred; and until February, 1889, no one 
had ever spoken to her of God. At that time, a dear relative 
who was also an earnest Christian, tried to tell her about God; 
but, as this lady did not use words suited to the comprehension 
of the child, they made little impression upon Helen's mind. 
When I subsequently talked with her she said: "I have some- 
thing very funny to tell you. A. says God made me and every 
one out of sand; but it must be a joke. I am made of flesh 
and blood and bone, am I not?" Here she examined her arm 
with evident satisfaction, laughing heartily to herself. After 
a moment she went on: "A. says God is everywhere, and that 
He is all love; but I do not think a person can be made out of 
love. Love is only something in our hearts. Then A. said 
another very comical thing. She says He (meaning God) is 
my dear father. It made me laugh quite h^ard, for I know my 
father is Arthur Keller." 

I explained to her that she was not yet able to understand 
what had been told her, and so easily led her to see that it 
would be better not to talk about such things until she was wiser. 

She had met with the expression Mother Nature in the course 
of her reading, and for a long time she was in the habit of ascrib- 
ng to Mother Nature whatever she felt to be beyond the power 
of man to accomplish. She would say, when speaking of the 
growth of a plant, "Mother Nature sends the sunshine and the 
rain to make the trees and the grass and the flowers grow." 
The following extract from my notes will «show wnat were her 
ideas at this time: 

Helen seemed a little serious after supper, and Mrs. H. asked 
her of what she was thinking. "I am thinking how very busy 
dear Mother Nature is in the springtime," she replied. When 
asked why, she answered: "Because she has so many children 


to take care of. She is the mother of everything; the flowers 
and trees and winds." 

"How does Mother Nature take care of the flowers ?" I asked. 
"She sends the sunshine and rain to make them grow," Helen 
replied; and after a moment she added, "I think the sunshine 
is Nature's warm smile, and the raindrops are her tears." 

Later she said: "I do not know if Mother Nature made me. 
I think my mother got me from heaven, but I do not know 
where that place is. I know that daises and pansies come from 
seeds which have been put in the ground; but children do not 
grow out of the ground, I am sure. I have never seen a plant- 
child ! But I cannot imagine who made Mother Nature, can 
you? I love the beautiful spring, because the budding trees 
and the blossoming flowers and the tender green leaves fill my 
heart with joy. I must go now to see my garden. The daisies 
and the pansies will think I have forgotten them." 

After May, 1890, it was evident to me that she had reached 
a point where it was impossible to keep from her the religious 
beliefs held by those with whom she was in daily contact. She 
almost overwhelmed me with inquiries which were the natural 
outgrowth of her quickened intelligence. 

Early in May she wrote on her tablet the following list of 

" I wish to write about things I do not understand. Who made 
the earth and the seas, and everything? What makes the sun 
hot ? Where was I before I came to mother ? I know that 
plants grow from seeds which are in the ground, but I am sure 
people do not grow that way. I never saw a child-plant. Little 
birds and chickens come out of eggs. I have seen them. What 
was the egg before it was an egg ? Why does not the earth fall, 
it is so very large and heavy ? Tell me something that Father 
Nature does. May I read the book called the Bible ? Please 
tell your little pupil many things when you have much time." 

Can any one doubt after reading these questions that the child 
who was capable of asking them was also capable of under- 
standing at least their elementary answers ? She could not, of 
course, have grasped such abstractions as a complete answer to 
her questions would involve; but one's whole life is nothing 
aiore than a continual advance in the comprehension of the 
meaning and scope of such ideas. 

Throughout Helen's education I have invariably a»«umed 


that she can understand whatever it is desirable for her to know. 
Unless there had been in Helen's mind some such intellectual 
process as the questions indicate, any explanation of them 
would have been unintelligible to her. Without that degree of 
mental development and activity which perceives the neces- 
sity of superhuman creative power, no explanation of natural 
phenomena is possible. 

After she had succeeded in formulating the ideas which had 
been slowly growing in her mind, they seemed suddenly to 
absorb all her thoughts, and she became impatient to have 
everything explained. As we were passing a large globe a short 
time after she had written the questions, she stopped before 
it and asked, "Who made the real world?" I replied, "No one 
knows how the earth, the sun, and all the worlds which we call 
stars came to be; but I will tell you how wise men have tried 
to account for their origin, and to interpret the great and 
mysterious forces of nature." 

She knew that the Greeks had many gods to whom they 
ascribed various powers, because they believed that the sun, 
the lightning, and a hundred other natural forces, were inde- 
pendent and superhuman powers. But after a great deal of 
thought and study, I told her, men came to believe that all 
forces were manifestations of one power, and to that power they 
gave the name God. 

She was very still for a few minutes, evidently thinking 
earnestly. She then asked, "Who made God?" I was com- 
pelled to evade her question, for I could not explain to her the 
mystery of a self-existent being. Indeed, many of her eager 
questions would have puzzled a far wiser person than I am. 
Here are some of them: "What did God make the new worlds 
out of?" "Where did he get the soil, and the water, and the 
seeds, and the first animals?" "Where is God?" "Did you 
ever see God?" I told her that God was everywhere, and that 
she must not think of Him as a person, but as the life, the mind, 
the soul of everything. She interrupted me: "Everything does 
not have life. The rocks have not life, and they cannot think." 
It is often necessary to remind her that there are infinitely 
many things that the wisest people in the world cannot explain. 

No creed or dogma has been taught to Helen, nor has any 
effort been made to force religious beliefs upon her attention. 
Being fully aware of my own incompetence to give her any 


adequate explanations of the mysteries which underlie the names 
of God, soul, and immortality, I have always felt obliged, by a 
sense of duty to my pupil, to say as little as possible about 
spiritual matters. The Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks* has explained 
to her in a beautiful way the fatherhood of God. 

She has not as yet been allowed to read the Bible, because 
I do not see how she can do so at present without getting a 
very erroneous conception of the attributes of God. I have 
already told her in simple language of the beautiful and helpful 
life of Jesus, and of his cruel death. The narrative affected 
her greatly when first she listened to it. 

When she referred to our conversation again, it was to ask, 
"Why did not Jesus go away, so that his enemies could not find 
Him ?" She thought the miracles of Jesus very strange. When 
told that Jesus walked on the sea to meet His disciples, she 
said, decidedly, "It does not mean walked, it means swam." 
When told of the instance in which Jesus raised the dead, she 
was much perplexed, saying, "I did not know life could come 
back into the dead body !" 

One day she said, sadly: "I am blind and deaf. That is 
why I cannot see God." I taught her the word invisible, and 
told her we could not see God with our eyes, because He was a 
spirit; but that when our hearts were full of goodness and 
gentleness, then we saw Him because then we were more like 

At another time she asked, "What is a soul?" "No one 
knows what the soul is like," I replied; "but we know that it is 
not the body, and it is that part of us which thinks and loves 
and hopes, and which Christian people believe will live on after 
the body is dead." I then asked her, "Can you think of your 
soul as separate from your body?" "Oh, yes!" she replied; 
"because last hour I was thinking very hard of Mr. Anagnos, 
and then my mind," — then changing the word — "my soul was 
in Athens, but my body was here in the study." At this moment 
another thought seemed to flash through her mind, and she 
added, "But Mr. Anagnos did not speak to my soul." I explained 
to her that the soul, too, is invisible, or in other words, that it 
is without apparent form. "But if I write what my soul thinks," 
she said, "then it will be visible, and the words will be its body." 

A long time ago Helen said to me, "I would like to live sixteen 

* See page i8t 


hundred years." "When asked if she would not like to live 
always in a beautiful country called heaven, her first question 
was, "Where is heaven?" I was obliged to confess that I did 
not know, but suggested that it might be on one of the stars. 
A moment after she said, "Will you please go first and tell 
me all about it?" and then she added, "Tuscumbia is a very 
beautiful little town." It was more than a year before she 
alluded to the subject again, and when she did return to it, 
her questions were numerous and persistent. She asked: 
"Where is heaven, and what is it like ? Why cannot we know 
as much about heaven as we do about foreign countries?" I 
told her in very simple language that there may be many places 
called heaven, but that essentially it was a condition — the ful- 
filment of the heart's desire, the satisfaction of its wants; and 
that heaven existed wherever right was acknowledged, believed 
in, and loved. 

She shrinks from the thought of death with evident dismay. 
Recently, on being shown a deer which had been killed by 
her brother, she was greatly distressed, and asked sorrowfully, 
"Why must everything die, even the fleet-footed deer?" At 
another time she asked, "Do you not think we would be very 
much happier always, if we did not have to die ?" I said, "No; 
because, if there were no death, our world would soon be so 
crowded with living creatures that it would be impossible for 
any of them to live comfortably." "But," said Helen, quickly, 
"I think God could make some more worlds as well as he made 
this one." 

When friends have told her of the great happiness which 
awaits her in another life, she instantly asked: "How do you 
know, if you have not been dead?" 

The literal sense in which she sometimes takes common 
words and idioms shows how necessary it is that we should 
make sure that she receives their correct meaning. When 
told recently that Hungarians were born musicians, she asked 
in surprise, "Do they sing when they are born?" When her 
friend added that some of the pupils he had seen in Budapest 
had more than one hundred tunes in their heads, she said, 
laughing, "I think their heads must be very noisy." She sees 
the ridiculous quickly, and, instead of being seriously troubled 
by metaphorical language, she is often amused at her own too 
literal conception of its meaning. 


Having been told that the soul was without form, she was 
much perplexed at David's words, "He leadeth my soul." 
"Has it feet? Can it walk? Is it blind?" she asked; for in 
her mind the idea of being led was associated with blindness. 

Of all the subjects which perplex and trouble Helen, none 
distresses her so much as the knowledge of the existence of 
evil, and of the suffering which results from it. For a long 
time it was possible to keep this knowledge from her; and it 
will always be comparatively easy to prevent her from coming 
in personal contact with vice and wickedness. The fact that 
sin exists, and that great misery results from it, dawned gradu- 
ally upon her mind as she understood more and more clearly 
the lives and experiences of those around her. The necessity of 
laws and penalties had to be explained to her. She found it very 
hard to reconcile the presence of evil in the world with the idea 
of God which had been presented to her mind. 

One day she asked, "Does God take care of us all the time?" 
She was answered in the affirmative. "Then why did he let 
little sister fall this morning, and hurt her head so badly ?' v 
Another time she was asking about the power and goodness of 
God. She had been told of a terrible storm at sea, in which 
several lives were lost, and she asked, "Why did not God 
save the people if he can do all things ?" 

Surrounded by loving friends and the gentlest influences, 
as Helen had always been, she has, from the earliest stage of 
her intellectual enlightenment, willingly done right. She 
knows with unerring instinct what is right, and does it joyously. 
She does not think of one wrong act as harmless, of another as 
of no consequence, and of another as not intended. To her 
pure soul all evil is equally unlovely. 

These passages from the paper Miss Sullivan prepared for the 
meeting at Chautauqua, in July, 1894, of the American Associa- 
tion to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, contain 
her latest written account of her methods. 

You must not imagine that as soon as Helen grasped t r l« 
idea that everything had a name, she at once became mistress 


of the treasury of the English language, or that "her mental 
faculties emerged, full armed, from their then living tomb, as 
Pallas Athene from the head of Zeus," as one of her enthusiastic 
admirers would have us believe. At first, the words, phrases 
and sentences which she used in expressing her thoughts were 
all reproductions of what we had used in conversation with 
her, and which her memory had unconsciously retained. And 
indeed, this is true of the language of all children. Their 
language is the memory of the language they hear spoken in 
their homes. Countless repetition of the conversation of daily 
life has impressed certain words and phrases upon their memories, 
and when they come to talk themselves, memory supplies the 
words they lisp. Likewise, the language of educated people 
is the memory of the language of books. 

Language grows out of life, out of its needs and experiences. 
At first my little pupil's mind was all but vacant. She had 
been living in a world she could not realize. Language and 
knowledge are indissolubly connected; they are interdependent. 
Good work in language presupposes and depends on a real 
knowledge of things. As soon as Helen grasped the idea that 
everything had a name, and that by means of the manual 
alphabet these names could be transmitted from one to another, 
I proceeded to awaken her further interest in the objects whose 
names she learned to spell with such evident joy. / never 
taught language for the purpose of teaching it; but invariably 
used language as a medium for the communication of thought; 
thus the learning of language was coincident with the acquisition 
of knowledge. In order to use language intelligently, one must 
have something to talk about, and having something to talk 
about is the result of having had experiences; no amount of 
language training will enable our little children to use language 
with ease and fluency unless they have something clearly in their 
minds which they wish to communicate, or unless we succeed 
in awakening in them a desire to know what is in the minds of 

At first I did not attempt to confine my pupil to any system. 
I always tried to find out what interested her most, and made 
that the starting-point for the new lesson, whether it had any 
bearing on the lesson I had planned to teach or not. During 
the first two years of her intellectual life, I required Helen 
to write very little. In order to write one must have some- 


thing to -write about, and having something to write about 
requires some mental preparation. The memory must be 
stored with ideas and the mind must be enriched with knowledge, 
before writing becomes a natural and pleasurable effort. Too 
often, I think, children are required to write before they have 
anything to say. Teach them to think and read and talk 
without self-repression, and they will write because they cannot 
help it. 

Helen acquired language by practice and habit rather than 
by study of rules and definitions. Grammar with its puzzling 
array of classifications, nomenclatures, and paradigms, was 
wholly discarded in her education. She learned language by 
being brought in contact with the living language itself; she 
was made to deal with it in everyday conversation, and in her 
books, and to turn it over in a variety of ways until she was 
able to use it correctly. No doubt I talked much more with 
my fingers, and more constantly than I should have done with 
my mouth; for had she possessed the use of sight and hearing, 
she would have been less dependent on me for entertainment 
and instruction. 

I believe every child has hidden away somewhere in his being 
noble capacities which may be quickened and developed if we 
go about it in the right way ; but we shall never properly develop 
the higher natures of our little ones while we continue to fill 
their minds with the so-called rudiments. Mathematics will 
never make them loving, nor will the accurate knowledge of 
the size and shape of the world help them to appreciate its 
beauties. Let us lead them during the first years to find their 
greatest pleasure in Nature. Let them run in the fields, learn 
about animals, and observe real things. Children will educate 
themselves under right conditions. They require guidance 
and sympathy far more than instruction. 

I think much of the fluency with which Helen uses language 
is due to the fact that nearly every impression which she receives 
comes through the medium of language. But after due allow, 
ance has been made for Helen's natural aptitude for acquiring 
language, and for the advantage resulting from her peculiar 
environment, I think that we shall still find that the constant 
companionship of good books has been of supreme impor- 
tance in her education. It may be true, as some maintain, that 
language cannot express to us much beyond what we have 


lived and experienced; but I have always observed that children 
manifest the greatest delight in the lofty, poetic language 
which we are too ready to think beyond their comprehension. 
"This is all you will understand," said a teacher to a class of 
little children, closing the book which she had been reading 
to them. "Oh, please read us the rest, even if we won't under- 
stand it," they pleaded, delighted with the rhythm, and the 
beauty which they felt, even though they could not have 
explained it. It is not necessary that a child should under- 
stand every word in a book before he can read with pleasure 
and profit. Indeed, only such explanations should be given as 
are really essential. Helen drank in language which she at 
first could not understand, and it remained in her mind until 
needed, when it fitted itself naturally and easily into her con- 
versation and compositions. Indeed, it is maintained by some 
that she reads too much, that a great deal of originative force 
is dissipated in the enjoyment of books; that when she might 
see and say things for herself, she sees them only through the 
eyes of others, and says them in their language; but I am 
convinced that original composition without the preparation of 
much reading is an impossibility. Helen has had the best 
and purest models in language constantly presented to her, 
and her conversation and her writing are unconscious repro- 
ductions of what she has read. Reading, I think, should be 
kept independent of the regular school exercises. Children 
should be encouraged to read for the pure delight of it. The 
attitude of the child toward his books should be that of uncon- 
scious receptivity. The great works of the imagination ought 
to become a. part of his life, as they were once of the very 
substance of the men who wrote them. It is true, the more 
sensitive and imaginative the mind is that receives the thought- 
pictures and images of literature, the more nicely the finest 
lines are reproduced. Helen has the vitality of feeling, the 
freshness and eagerness of interest, and the spiritual insight of 
the artistic temperament, and naturally she has a more active 
and intense joy in life, simply as life, and in nature, books, and 
people than less gifted mortals. Her mind is so filled with the 
beautiful thoughts and ideals of the great poets that nothing 
seems commonplace to her; for her imagination colours all life 
with its own rich hues. 


There has been much discussion of such of Miss Sullivan's 
statements and explanations as have been published before. 
Too much has been written by people who do not know the 
problems of the deaf at first hand, and I do not care to add 
much to it. Miss Keller's education, however, is so funda- 
mentally a question of language teaching that it rather includes 
the problems of the deaf than limits itself to the deaf alone. 
Teachers can draw their own conclusions. For the majority 
of readers, who will not approach Miss Keller's life from the 
educator's point of view, I will summarize a few principal things 
in Miss Sullivan's methods. 

Miss Sullivan has begun where Dr. Howe left off. He 
invented the instrument, the physical means of working, but 
the teaching of language is quite another thing from the mechan- 
ical means by which language may be taught. By experiment, 
by studying other children , Miss Sullivan came upon the practical 
way of teaching language by the natural method. It was for 
this "natural method" that Dr. Howe was groping, but he 
never got to this idea, that a deaf child should not be taught 
each word separate^ by definition, but should be given language 
by endless repetition of language which it does not understand. 
And this is Miss Sullivan's great discovery. All day long in 
their play-time and work-time Miss Sullivan kept spelling into 
her pupil's hand, and by that Helen Keller absorbed words, 
just as the child in the cradle absorbs words by hearing thou- 
sands of them before he uses one and by associating the words 
with the occasion of their utterance. Thus he learns that words 
name things and actions and feelings. Now, that is the first 
principle in Miss Sullivan's method, one that had practical 
results, and one which, so far as I can discover, had never been 
put in practice in the education of a deaf child, not to say a deaf- 
blind child, until Miss Sullivan tried it with Helen Keller. 
And the principle had never been formulated clearly until 
Miss Sullivan wrote her letters. 

The second principle in her method (the numerical order is, 
of course, arbitrary) is never to talk to the child about things 
distasteful or wearisome to him. In the first deaf school Miss 
Sullivan ever visited, the teacher was busy at the blackboard 
telling the children by written words something they did not 
want to know, while they were crowding round their visitor 
with wide-awake curiosity, showing there were a thousand things 


they did want to know. Why not, says Miss Sullivan, make a 
language lesson out of what they were interested in ?* 

Akin to this idea of talking to the child about what interests 
him, is the principle never to silence a child who asks questions, 
but to answer the questions as truly as possible; for, says Miss 
Sullivan, the question is the door to the child's mind. Miss 
Sullivan never needlessly belittled her ideas or expressions 
to suit the supposed state of the child's intelligence. She 
urged every one to speak to Helen naturally, to give her full 
sentences and intelligent ideas, never minding whether Helen 
understood or not. Thus Miss Sullivan knew what so many 
people do not understand, that after the first rudimentary 
definitions of hat, cup, go, sit, the unit of language, as 
the child learns it, is the sentence, which is also the unit 
of language in our adult experience. We do not take in a 
sentence word by word, but as a whole. It is the proposition, 
something predicated about something, that conveys an idea. 
True, single words do suggest and express ideas; the child may 
say simply "mamma" when he means "Where is mamma?" but 
he learns the expression of the ideas that relate to mamma — he 
learns language — by hearing complete sentences. And though 
Miss Sullivan did not force grammatical completeness upon the 
first finger-lispings of her pupil, yet when she herself repeated 
Helen's sentence, "mamma milk," she filled out the construction, 
completed the child's ellipsis and said, "Mamma will bring Helen 
some milk." 

Thus Miss Sullivan was working out a natural method, which 
is so simple, so lacking in artificial system, that her method 
seems rather to be a destruction of method. It is doubtful if 
we should have heard of Helen Keller if Miss Sullivan had not 
been where there were other children. By watching them, she 
learned to treat her pupil as nearly as possible like an ordinary 

The manual alphabet was not the only means of presenting 
words to Helen Keller's fingers. Books supplemented, perhaps 
equaled in importance, the manual alphabet, as a means of 
teaching language. Helen sat poring over them before she could 
read, not at first for the story, but to find words she knew; 
and the definition of new words which is implied in their con- 
text, in their position with reference to words known, added 

•Page $*", 


to Helen's vocabulary. Books are the storehouse of language, 
and any child, whether deaf or not, if he has his attention 
attracted in any way to printed pages, must learn. He learns 
not by reading what he understands, but by reading and remem- 
bering words he does not understand. And though perhaps few 
children will have as much precocious interest in books as did 
Helen Keller, yet the natural curiosity of every healthy child 
may be turned to printed pages, especially if the teacher is 
clever and plays a word game as Miss Sullivan did. Helen 
Keller is supposed to have a special aptitude for languages. 
It is true rather that she has a special aptitude for thinking, 
and her leaning toward language is due to the fact that language 
to her meant life. It was not a special subject, like geography 
or arithmetic, but her way to outward things. 

When at the age of fourteen she had had but a few lessons 
£n German, she read over the words of "Wilhelm Tell" and 
managed to get the story. Of grammar she knew nothing and 
she cared nothing for it. She got the language from the language 
itself, and this is, next to hearing the language spoken, the way 
for any one to get a foreign tongue, more vital and, in the 
end, easier than our schoolroom method of beginning with the 
grammar. In the same way she played with Latin, learning 
not only from the lessons her first Latin teacher gave her, but 
from going over and over the words of a text, a game she played 
by herself. 

Mr. John D. Wright, one of her teachers at the Wright- 
Humason school, says in a letter to me: 

"Often I found her, when she had a little leisure, sitting in her 
favourite corner, in a chair whose arms supported the big volume 
prepared for the blind, and passing her finger slowly over the 
*ines of Moliere's 'Le Medecin Malgre Lui,' chuckling to herself 
at the comical situations and humorous lines. At that time 
her actual working vocabulary in French was very small, but 
by using her judgment, as we laughingly called the mental 
process, she could guess at the meanings of the words and put 
the sense together much as a child puzzles out a sliced object. 
The result was that in a few weeks she and I spent a most 
hilarious hour one evening while she poured out to me the whols 
story, dwelling with great gusto on its humour and sparkling 
wit. It was not a lesson, but only one of her recreations." 

So Helen Keller's aptitude for language is her whole menta' 


aptitude, turned to language because of its extraordinary value 
to her. 

There have been many discussions of the question whether 
Helen Keller's achievements are due to her natural ability or to 
the method by which she was taught. 

It is true that a teacher with ten times Miss Sullivan's genius 
could not have made a pupil so remarkable as Helen Keller 
out of a child born dull and mentally deficient. But it is also 
true that, with ten times her native genius, Helen Keller could 
not have grown to what she is, if she had not been excellently 
taught from the very start, and especially at the start. And 
the fact remains that she was taught by a method of teaching 
language to the deaf, the essential principles of which are clearly 
expressed in Miss Sullivan's letters, written while she was dis- 
covering the method and putting it successfully into practice. 
And it can be applied by any teacher to any healthy deaf 
child, and in the broadest interpretation of the principles, can 
be applied to the teaching of language of all kinds to all children. 

In the many discussions of this question writers seem to 
throw us from one horn to another of a dilemma — either a 
born genius in Helen Keller, or a perfect method in the teacher. 
Both things may be true at once, and there is another truth 
which makes the dilemma imperfect. Miss Sullivan is a person 
of extraordinary power. Her method might not succeed so 
completely in the hands of any one else. Miss Sullivan's vigor- 
ous, original mind has lent much of its vitality to her pupil. 
If Miss Keller is fond of language and not interested especially 
in mathematics, it is not surprising to find Miss Sullivan's 
interests very similar. And this does not mean that Miss Keller 
is unduly dependent on her teacher. It is told of her that, as a 
child of eight, when some one tried to interfere with her, she 
sat sober a few moments and, when asked what was the trouble, 
answered, "I am preparing to assert my independence." Such 
an aggressive personality cannot grow up in mere dependence 
even under the guidance of a will like Miss Sullivan's. But 
Miss Sullivan by her "natural aptitude" has done for her pupil 
much that is not capable of analysis and reduction to principle; 
she has given the inspiration which is in all close friendship, and 
which rather develops than limits the powers of either person. 
Moreover, if Miss Keller is a "marvel of sweetness and good- 
ness," if she has a love "of all things good and beautiful," this 


implies something about the teacher who has lived with her fol 
sixteen years. 

There is, then, a good deal that Miss Sullivan has done for 
Miss Keller which no other teacher can do in just the same way 
for any one else. To have another Helen Keller there must be 
another Miss Sullivan. To have another well-educated deaf 
and blind child, there need only be another teacher, living under 
favourable conditions, among plenty of external interests, unsep- 
arated from her pupil, allowed to have a free hand, and using 
as many as she needs of the principles which Miss Sullivan has 
saved her the trouble of finding out for herself, modifying and 
adding as she finds it necessary; and there must be a pupil in 
good health, of good native powers, young enough not to have 
grown beyond recovery in ignorance. Any deaf child or deaf 
and blind child in good health can be taught. And the one 
to do it is the parent or the special teacher, not the school. I 
know that this idea will be vigorously combated by those who 
conduct schools for the deaf. To be sure, the deaf school is 
the only thing possible for children educated by the State. But 
it is evident that precisely what the deaf child needs to be 
taught is what other children learn before they go to school at 
all. When Miss Sullivan went out in the barnyard and picked 
up a little chicken and talked to Helen about it, she was giving 
a kind of instruction impossible inside four walls, and impossible 
with more than one pupil at a time. 

Surely Dr. Howe is wrong when he says, " A teacher cannot 
be a child." That is just what the teacher of the deaf child 
must be, a child ready to play and romp, and interested in all 
childish things. 

The temptation to discuss, solely in the light of Helen Keller, 
the whole matter of educating the deaf is a dangerous one, and 
one which I have not taken particular care to avoid, because 
my opinions are of no authority and I have merely tried to 
suggest problems and reinforce some of the main ideas expressed 
by Miss Sullivan, who is an authority. It is a question whether 
Helen Keller's success has not led teachers to expect too much 
of other children, and I know of deaf-blind children who are 
dragged along by their teachers and friends, and become the 
subjects of glowing reports, which are pathetically untrue, 
because one sees behind the reports how the children are tugged 


at to bring them somewhere near the exaggerated things that 
are said about them. 

Let me sum up a few of the elements that made Helen Keller 
what she is. In the first place she had nineteen months' experi- 
ence of sight and sound. This meant some mental development. 
She had inherited vigour of body and mind. She expressed 
ideas in signs before she learned language. Mrs. Keller writes 
me that before her illness Helen made signs for everything, 
and her mother thought this habit the cause of her slowness in 
learning to speak. After the illness, when they were dependent 
on signs, Helen's tendency to gesture developed. How far 
she could receive communications is hard to determine, but 
she knew much that was going on around her. She recognized 
that others used their lips; she "saw" her father reading a paper 
and when he laid it down she sat in his chair and held the paper 
before her face. Her early rages were an unhappy expression 
of the natural force of character which instruction was to turn 
into trained and organized power. 

It was, then, to a good subject that Miss Sullivan brought her 
devotion and intelligence, and fearless willingness to experiment. 
Miss Sullivan s methods were so good that even without the 
practical result, any one would recognize the truth of the 
teacher's ideas. Miss Sullivan has in addition a vigorous 
personality. And finally all the conditions were good for that 
first nature school, in which the teacher and pupil played 
together, exploring together and educating themselves, pupil 
and teacher inseparable. 

Miss Keller's later education is easy to understand and needs 
no further explanation than she has given. Those interested 
may get on application to the Volta Bureau, Washington, D. C, 
the reports of the teachers who prepared her for college, Mr. 
Arthur Gilman of the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, and 
Mr. Merton S. Keith. 



The two persons who have written authoritatively about 
Miss Keller's speech and the way she learned it are Miss Sarah 
Fuller,* of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston, 
Massachusetts, who gave her the first lessons, and Miss Sullivan, 
who, by her unremitting discipline, carried on the success of 
these first lessons. 

Before I quote from Miss Sullivan's account, let me try to 
give some impression of what Miss Keller's speech and voice 
qualities are at present. 

Her voice is low and pleasant to listen to. Her speech lacks 
variety and modulation; it runs in a sing-song when she is 
reading aloud; and when she speaks with fair degree of loud- 
ness, it hovers about two or three middle tones. Her voice 
has an aspirate quality; there seems always to be too much 
breath for the amount of tone. Some of her notes are musical 
and charming. When she is telling a child's story, or one with 
pathos in it, her voice runs into pretty slurs from one tone to 
another. This is like the effect of the slow dwelling on long 
words, not quite well managed, that one notices in a child whc 
is telling a solemn story. 

The principal thing that is lacking is sentence accent and 
variety in the inflection of phrases. Miss Keller pronounces 
each word as a foreigner does when he is still labouring with the 
elements of a sentence, or as children sometimes read in school 
when they have to pick out each word . 

She speaks French and German. Her friend, Mr. John Hitz, 
whose native tongue is German, says that her pronunciation is 
excellent. Another friend, who is as familiar with French as 
with English, finds her French much more intelligible than 
her English. When she speaks English she distributes her 

* Miss Fuller's account may be obtained on application to the Volta Bureau, 
Washington, D. C. 



emphasis as in French and so does not put sufficient stress on 
accented syllables. She says, for example, "pro'-vo'-ca'-tion ," 
"in'-di'-vi'-du'-al," with ever so little difference between the 
value of the syllables, and a good deal of inconsistency in the 
pronunciation of the same word one day and the next. It would, 
I think, be hard to make her feel just how to pronounce dtc* 
tionary without her erring either toward dtcltonayry or 
dtctton'ry, and, of course, the word is neither one nor the 
other. For no system of marks in a lexicon can tell one how 
to pronounce a word. The only way is to hear it, especially in 
a language like English which is so full of unspellable, suppressed 
vowels and quasi- vowels. 

Miss Keller's vowels are not firm. Her awful is nearly awfil. 
The wavering is caused by the absence of accent on ful, for 
she pronounces full correctly. 

She sometimes mispronounces as she reads aloud and comes 
on a word which she happens never to have uttered, though 
she may have written it many times. This difficulty and some 
others may be corrected when she and Miss Sullivan have more 
time. Since 1894, they have been so much in their books that 
they have neglected everything that was not necessary to the 
immediate task of passing the school years successfully. Miss 
Keller will never be able, I believe, to speak loud without 
destroying the pleasant quality and the distinctness of her 
words, but she can do much to make her speech clearer. 

When she was at the Wright-Humason School in New York, 
Dr. Humason tried to improve her voice, not only her word 
pronunciation, but the voice itself, and gave her lessons fn tone 
and vocal exercises. 

It is hard to say whether or not Miss Keller's speech is easy 
to understand. Some understand her readily; others do not. 
Her friends grow accustomed to her speech and forget that it is 
different from that of any one else. Children seldom have any 
difficulty in understanding her; which suggests that her delib- 
erate, measured speech is like theirs, before they come to the 
adult trick of running all the words of a phrase into one move- 
ment of the breath. I am told that Miss Keller speaks better 
than most other deaf people. 

Miss Keller has told how she learned to speak.* Miss Sulli- 

* Page 58. 


van's account in her address at Chautauqua, in July, 1894, 
at the meeting of The American Association to Promote the 
Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, is substantially like Miss Keller's 
in points of tact. 


It was three years from the time when Helen began to com- 
municate by means of the manual alphabet that she received 
her first lesson in the more natural and universal medium of 
human intercourse — oral language. She had become very profi- 
cient in the use of the manual alphabet, which was her only 
means of communication with the outside world; through 
it she had acquired a vocabulary which enabled her to converse 
freely, read intelligently, and write with comparative ease 
and correctness. Nevertheless, the impulse to utter audible 
sounds was strong within her, and the constant efforts which 
I made to repress this instinctive tendency, which I feared in 
time would become unpleasant, were of no avail. I made no 
effort to teach her to speak, because I regarded her inability to 
watch the lips of others as an insurmountable obstacle. But 
she gradually became conscious that her way of communicating 
Was different from that used by those around her, and one day 
her thoughts found expression. 'How do the blind girls know 
what to say with their mouths ? Why do you not teach me to 
talk like them ? Do deaf children ever learn to speak ?" I 
explained to her that some deaf children were taught to speakj 
but that they could see their teachers' mouths, and that that 
was a very great assistance to them. But she interrupted me 
to say she was very sure she could feel my mouth very well. 
Soon after this conversation, a lady came to see her and told 
her about the deaf and blind Norwegian child, Ragnhild Kaata, 
who had been taught to speak and understand what her teacher 
said to her by touching his lips with her fingers. She at once 
resolved to learn to speak, and from that day to this she has 
never wavered in that resolution. She began immediately 
to make sounds which she called speaking, and I saw the neces- 
sity of correct instruction, since her heart was set upon learning 
to talk; and, feeling mv own incompetence to teach her, neve* 


having given the subject of articulation serious study, I 
went with my pupil, for advice and assistance, to Miss Sarah 
Fuller. Miss Fuller was delighted with Helen's earnestness and 
enthusiasm, and at once began to teach her. In a few lessons 
she learned nearly all of the English sounds, and in less than a 
month she was able to articulate a great many words distinctly. 
From the first she was not content to be drilled in single 
sounds, but was impatient to pronounce words and sentences. 
The length of the word or the difficulty of the arrangement 
of the elements never seemed to discourage her. But, with 
all her eagerness and intelligence, learning to speak taxed her 
powers to the utmost. But there was satisfaction in seeing 
from day to day the evidence of growing mastery and the 
possibility of final success. And Helen's success has been more 
complete and inspiring than any of her friends expected, and 
the child's delight in being able to utter her thoughts in living 
and distinct speech is shared by all who witness her pleasure 
when strangers tell her that they understand her. 

I have been asked a great many times whether I think Helen 
will ever speak naturally; that is, as other people speak. I am 
hardly prepared to decide that question, or even give an opinion 
regarding it. I believe that I have hardly begun yet to know 
what is possible. Teachers of the deaf often express surprise 
that Helen's speech is so good when she has not received any 
regular instruction in speech since the first few lessons given 
her by Miss Fuller. I can only say in reply, "This is due to 
habitual imitation and practice ! practice ! practice !" Nature 
has determined how the child shall learn to speak, and all we 
can do is to aid him in the simplest, easiest way possible, by 
encouraging him to observe and imitate the vibrations in the 

Some further details appear in an earlier, more detailed 
account, which Miss Sullivan wrote for the Perkins Institution 
Report of 1891. 

I knew that Laura Bridgman had shown the same intuitive 
desire to produce sounds, and had even learned to pronounc- 


a few simple words, which she took great delight in using, and 
I did not doubt that Helen could accomplish as much as this. 
I thought, however, that the advantage she would derive would 
not repay her for the time and labour that such an experiment 
would cost. 

Moreover, the absence of hearing renders the voice monoto- 
nous and often very disagreeable; and such speech is generally 
unintelligible except to those familiar with the speaker. 

The acquiring of speech by untaught deaf children is always 
slow and often painful. Too much stress, it seems to me, is 
often laid upon the importance of teaching a deaf child to 
articulate — a process which may be detrimental to the pupil's 
intellectual development. In the very nature of things, articu- 
lation is an unsatisfactory means of education; while the use of 
the manual alphabet quickens and invigorates mental activity, 
since through it the deaf child is brought into close contact with 
the English language, and the highest and most abstract ideas 
may be conveyed to the mind readily and accurately. Helen's 
case proved it to be also an invaluable aid in acquiring articu- 
lation. She was already perfectly familiar with words and the 
construction of sentences, and had only mechanical difficulties 
to overcome. Moreover, she knew what a pleasure speech 
would be to her, and this definite knowledge of what she was 
striving for gave her the delight of anticipation which made 
drudgery easy. The untaught deaf child who is made to articu- 
late does not know what the goal is, and his lessons in speech 
are for a long time tedious and meaningless. 

Before describing the process of teaching Helen to speak, 
it may be well to state briefly to what extent she had used the 
vocal organs before she began to receive regular instruction 
in articulation. When she was stricken down with the illness 
which resulted in her loss of sight and hearing, at the age of 
nineteen months, she was learning to talk. The unmeaning 
babblings of the infant were becoming day by day conscious 
and voluntary signs of what she felt and thought. But the 
disease checked her progress in the acquisition of oral language, 
and, when her physical strength returned, it was found that she 
had ceased to speak intelligibly because she could no longer 
hear a sound. She continued to exercise her vocal organs 
mechanically, as ordinary children do. Her cries and laughter 
and the tones of her voice as she pronounced many word ele- 


ments were perfectly natural, but the child evidently attached 
no significance to them, and with one exception they were 
produced not with any intention of communicating with those 
around her, but from the sheer necessity of exercising her 
innate, organic, and hereditary faculty of expression. She 
always attached a meaning to the word water, which was one 
of the first sounds her baby lips learned to form, and it was 
the only word which she continued to articulate after she 
lost her hearing. Her pronunciation of this gradually became 
indistinct, and when I first knew her it was nothing more than 
a peculiar noise. Nevertheless, it was the only sign she ever 
made for water, and not until she had learned to spell the word 
with her fingers did she forget the spoken symbol. The word 
water, and the gesture which corresponds to the word good-by, 
seem to have been all that the child remembered of the natural 
and acquired signs with which she had been familiar before 
her illness. 

As she became acquainted with her surroundings through the 
sense of feeling (I use the word in the broadest sense, as includ- 
ing all tactile impressions) , she felt more and more the pressing 
necessity of communicating with those around her. Her 
little hands felt every object and observed every movement 
of the persons about her, and she was quick to imitate these 
movements. She was thus able to express her more imperative 
needs and many of her thoughts. 

At the time when I became her teacher, she had made for 
herself upward of sixty signs, all of which were imitative and 
were readily understood by those who know her. The only 
signs which I think she may have invented were her signs for 
small and large* Whenever she wished for anything very 
much she would gesticulate in a very expressive manner. Failing 
to make herself understood, she would become violent. In 
the years of her mental imprisonment she depended entirely 
upon signs, and she did not work out for herself any sort of 
articulate language capable of expressing ideas. It seems, 
however, that, while she was still suffering from severe pain, she 
noticed the movements of her mother's lips. 

When she was not occupied, she wandered restlessly about 
the house, making strange though rarely unpleasant sounds 

See Pages 319 and 338. 


I have seen her rock her doll, making a continuous, monotonous 
sound, keeping one hand on her throat, while the fingers of the 
other hand noted the movements of her lips. This was in 
imitation of her mother's crooning to the baby. Occasionally 
she broke out into a merry laugh, and then she would reach out 
and touch the mouth of any one who happened to be near her, 
to see if he were laughing also. If she detected no smile, she 
gesticulated excitedly, trying to convey her thought; but if she 
failed to make her companion laugh, she sat still for a few 
moments, with a troubled and disappointed expression. She was 
pleased with anything which made a noise. She liked to feel 
the cat purr; and if by chance she felt of a dog in the act of 
barking, she showed great pleasure. She always liked to stand 
by the piano when some one was playing and singing. She 
kept one hand on the singer's mouth, while the other rested on 
the piano, and she stood in this position as long as any one 
would sing to her; and afterward she would make a continuous 
sound which she called singing. The only words she had 
learned to pronounce with any degree of distinctness previous 
to March, 1890, were papa, mamma, baby, sister. These 
words she had caught without instruction from the lips of 
friends. It will be seen that they contain three vowel and 
six consonant elements, and these formed the foundation for her 
first real lesson in speaking. 

At the end of the first lesson she was able to pronounce dis- 
tinctly the following sounds: a, a, d, e, I, 6, c soft like 5 and hard 
like k, g hard, b, I, n, m, t, p, s, u, k, f and d. Hard consonants 
were, and indeed still are, very difficult for her to pronounce 
in connection with one another in the same word; she often 
suppresses the one and changes the other, and sometimes she 
replaces both by an analogous sound with soft aspiration. 
The confusion between I and r was very noticeable in her speech 
at first. She would repeatedly use one for the other. The 
great difficulty in the pronunciation of the r made it one of the 
last elements which she mastered. The ch, sh and soft g also 
gave her much trouble, and she does not yet enunciate them 

When she had been talking for less than a week, she met her 
friend, Mr. Rodocanachi, and immediately began to struggle 

♦The difficulties which Miss Sullivan found in 1&91 are, in a measure, the 
difficulties which show in Miss Keller's speech to-day. 


with the pronunciation of his name; nor would she give it up 
until she was able to articulate the word distinctly. Her 
interest never diminished for a moment; and, in her eagerness 
to overcome the difficulties which beset her on all sides, she 
taxed her powers to the utmost, and learned in eleven lessons 
9U of the separate elements of speech. 

Enough appears in the accounts by Miss Keller's teacher 
to show the process by which she reads the lips with her fingers, 
the process by which she was taught to speak, and by which, of 
course, she can listen to conversation now. In reading the 
lips she is not so quick or so accurate as some reports declare. It 
is a clumsy and unsatisfactory way of receiving communication, 
useless when Miss Sullivan or some one else who knows the 
manual alphabet is present to give Miss Keller the spoken words 
of others. Indeed, when some friend is trying to speak to 
Miss Keller, and the attempt is not proving successful, Miss 
Suilivan usually helps by spelling the lost words into Miss 
Keller's hand. 

President Roosevelt had little difficulty last spring in making 
Miss Keller understand him, and especially requested Miss 
Sullivan not to spell into her hand. She got every word, for 
the President's speech is notably distinct. Other people say 
they have no success in making Miss Keller "hear" them. 

A few friends to whom she is accustomed, like Mrs. A. C. Pratt, 
and Mr. J. E. Chamberlin, can pass a whole day with her and 
•-ell her everything without the manual alphabet. The ability 
> read the lips helps Miss Keller in getting corrections of her 
pronunciation from Miss Sullivan and others, just as it was 
the means of her learning to speak at all, but it is rather an 
accomplishment than a necessity. 

It must be remembered that speech contributed in no way to 
her fundamental education, though without the ability to speak, 
she could hardly have gone t® higher schools and to college. 
But she knows better than any one else what value speech 
has had for her. The following is her address at the fiftb 
-neeting of the American Association to Promote the Teaching 


:>f Speech to the Deaf, at Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 
[uly 8, 1896: 


If you knew all the joy I feel in being able to speak to you 
to-day, I think you would have some idea of the value of speech 
to the deaf, and you would understand why I want every little 
deaf child in all this great world to have an opportunity to 
iearn to speak. I know that much has been said and written 
on this subject, and that there is a wide difference of opinion 
among teachers of the deaf in regard to oral instruction. It 
seems very strange to me that there should be this difference of 
opinion; I cannot understand how any one interested in our 
aducation can fail to appreciate the satisfaction we feel in being 
able to express our thoughts in living words. Why, I use 
speech constantly, and I cannot begin to tell you how much 
pleasure it gives me to do so. Of course I know that it is not 
always easy for strangers to understand me, but it will be by 
and by; and in the meantime I have the unspeakable happiness 
of knowing that my family and friends rejoice in my ability to 
speak. My little sister and baby brother love to have me 
tell them stories in the long summer evenings when I am at 
home; and my mother and teacher often ask me to read to 
them from my favourite books. I also discuss the political 
situation with my dear father, and we decide the most per- 
plexing questions quite as satisfactorily to ourselves as if I 
could see and hear. So you see what a blessing speech is to 
me. It brings me into closer and tenderer relationship with 
those I love, and makes it possible for me to enjoy the sweet 
companionship of a great many persons from whom I should 
be entirely cut off if I could not talk. 

I can remember the time before I learned to speak, and how 
I used to struggle to express my thoughts by means of the 
manual alphabet — how my thoughts used to beat against my 
finger tips like little birds striving to gain their freedom, until 
one day Miss Fuller opened wide the prison-door and let them 
escape. I wonder if she remembers how eagerly and gladly 
they spread their wings and flew away. Of course, it was not 
easy at first to fly. The speech-wings were weak and broken, 
and had lost all the grace and beauty that had once been theirs; 


trtdeed, nothing was left save the impulse to fly, but that was 
something. One can never consent to creep when one feels an 
Impulse to soar. But, nevertheless, it seemed to me sometimes 
that I could never use my speech-wings as God intended 1 
should use them; there were so many difficulties in the way, 
so many discouragements; but I kept on trying, knowing that 
patience and perseverance would win in the end. And while 
I worked, I built the most beautiful air-castles, and dreamed 
dreams, the pleasantest of which was of the time when I should 
talk like other people; and the thought of the pleasure it would 
give my mother to hear my voice once more, sweetened every 
effort and made every failure an incentive to try harder next 
time. So I want to say to those who are trying to learn to 
speak and those who are teaching them: Be of good cheer, 
Do not think of to-day's failures, but of the success that may 
come to-morrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but 
you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in 
overcoming obstacles — a delight in climbing rugged paths, 
which you would perhaps never know if you did not sometime 
slip backward — if the road was always smooth and pleasant. 
Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful 
Ss ever lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we shall find 
that which we seek. We shall speak, yes, and sing, ItJO,. P'i 
<k>d intended we should speak and sing. 



No one can have read Miss Keller's autobiography without 
feeling that she writes unusually fine English. Any teacher 
of composition knows that he can bring his pupils to the point 
of writing without errors in syntax or in the choice of words 
[t is just this accuracy which Miss Keller's early education 
fixes as the point to which any healthy child can be brought, 
S>id which the analysis of that education accounts for. Those 
who try to make her an exception, not to be explained by any 
such analysis of her early education, fortify their position by 
an appeal to the remarkable excellence of her use of language 
even when she was a child. 

This appeal is to a certain degree valid; for, indeed, those 
additional harmonies of language and beauties of thought which 
make style are the gifts of the gods. No teacher could have 
made Helen Keller sensitive to the beauties of language and 
to the finer interplay of thought which demands expression in 
melodious word groupings. 

At the same time the inborn gift of style can be starved 
or stimulated. No innate genius can invent fine language, 
The stuff of which good style is made must be given to 
the mind from without and given skilfully. A child of the 
muses cannot write fine English unless fine English has 
been its nourishment. In this, as in all other things, Miss 
Sullivan has been the wise teacher. If she had not had taste 
and an enthusiasm for good English, Helen Keller might have 
been brought up on the "Juvenile Literature," which belittles 
the language under pretense of being simply phrased for chil- 
dren; as if a child's book could not, like " Treasure Island" or 
"Robinson Crusoe" or the "Jungle Book," be in good style. 

If Miss Sullivan wrote fine English, the beauty of Helen 
Keller's style would, in part, be explicable at once. But the 
extracts from Miss Sullivan's letters and from her reports, 



although they are clear and accurate, have not the beauty which 
distinguishes Miss Keller's English. Her service as a teacher of 
English is not to be measured by her own skill in composition. 
The reason why she read to her pupil so many good books is due, 
in some measure, to the fact that she had so recently recovered 
her eyesight. When she became Helen Keller's teacher she 
was just awakening to the good things that are in books, from 
which she had been shut out during her years of blindness. 

In Captain Keller's library she found excellent books, 
Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare," and better still, Montaigne. 
After the first year or so of elementary work she met her 
pupil on equal terms, and they read and enjoyed good books 

Besides the selection of good books, there is one other cause 
for Miss Keller's excellence in writing, for which Miss Sullivan 
deserves unlimited credit. That is her tireless and unrelenting 
discipline, which is evident in all her work. She never allowed 
her pupil to send off letters which contained offenses against 
taste, but made her write them over until they were not only 
correct, but charming and well phrased. 

Any one who has tried to write knows what Miss Keller owes 
to the endless practice which Miss Sullivan demanded of her. 
Let a teacher with a liking for good style insist on a child's 
writing a paragraph over and over again until it is more than 
correct, and he will be training, even beyond his own power of 
expression, the power of expression in the child. 

How far Miss Sullivan carried this process of refinement 
and selection is evident from the humorous comment of Dr< 
Bell, that she made her pupil a little old woman, too widely 
different from ordinary children in her maturity of thought. 
When Dr. Bell said this he was arguing his own case. For 
it was Dr. Bell who first saw the principles that underlie 
Miss Sullivan's method, and explained the process by which 
Helen Keller absorbed language from books. 

There is, moreover, a reason why Helen Keller writes good 
English, which lies in the very absence of sight and hearing. 
The disadvantages of being deaf and blind were overcome 
and the advantages remained. She excels other deaf people 
because she was taught as if she were normal. On the other 
hand, the peculiar value to her of language, which ordinary 
people take for granted as a necessary part of them like 


their right hand, made her think about language and love it. 
Language was her liberator, and from the first she cherished it. 
The proof of Miss Keller's early skill in the use of English, and 
the final comment on the excellence of this whole method of 
teaching, is contained in an incident, which, although at the time 
it seemed unfortunate, can no longer be regretted. I refer to the 
"Frost King" episode, which I shall explain in detail. Miss 
Keller has given her account of it, and the whole matter was 
discussed in the first Volta Bureau Souvenir from which I quote 
at length: 

miss sully van's account of the " frost king* 

Hon. John Hitz, 

Superintendent of the Volta Bureau, Washington, D. C. 

Dear Sir: Since my paper was prepared for the second 
edition of the Souvenir "Helen Keller," some facts have been 
brought to my notice which are of interest in connection with 
the subject of the acquisition of language by my pupil, and if 
it is not already too late for publication in this issue of the 
Souvenir, I shall be glad if I may have opportunity to explain 
them in detail. 

Perhaps it will be remembered that in my paper,* where allu- 

* In this paper Miss Stiliivan says: " During this winter (1891-92) I went 
with her into the yard while a light snow was falling, and let her feel the falling 
flakes. She appeared to enjoy it very much indeed. As we went in she 
repeated these words, ° Out of the cloud-folds of his garments Winter shakes 
the snow.' I inquired of her where she had read this; she did not remember 
having read it, did not seem to know that she had learned it. As I had never 
heard it, I inquired of several cf my friends if they recalled the words; no one 
seemed to remember it. The teachers at the Institution expressed the opinion 
that the description did not appear in any book in raised print in that library; 
but one lady, Miss Marrett, took upon herself the task of examining books of 
poems in ordinary type, and was rewarded by finding the following lines in one 
of Longfellow's minor ooems, entitled ' Snowflakes ' ; 
* Out of the bosom of the air, 
Out of the cloud -folds of her garments shaken, 

Over the woodlands brown and bare, 
Over the harvest-fields forsaken. 

Silent, and soft, and slow. 
Descends the snow*. 
"It would seem that Helen had learned and treasured the memory of this 
expression of the poet, and this morning in the snow-storm had found its 

Photograph by Whitman Studio 



sion is mads to Helen's remarkable memory, it is noted that 
she appears to retain in her mind many forms of expression 
which, at the time they are received, she probably does not 
understand; but when further information is acquired, the 
language retained in her memory finds full or partial expres- 
sion in her conversation or writing, according as it proves of 
greater or less value to her in the fitness of its application to 
the new experience. Doubtless this is true in the case of every 
intelligent child, and should not, perhaps, be considered worthy 
of especial mention in Helen's case, but for the fact that a child 
who is deprived c^ the senses of sight and hearing might not 
be expected to be as gifted mentally as this little girl proves to 
be; hence it is quite possible we may be inclined to class as 
marvelous many things we discover in the development of her 
mind which do not merit such an explanation. 

In the hope that I may be pardoned if I appear to over- 
estimate the remarkable mental capacity and power of compre- 
hension and discrimination which my pupil possesses, I wish 
to add that, while I have always known that Helen made great 
use of such descriptions and comparisons as appeal to her imag- 
ination and fine poetic nature, yet recent developments in her 
writings convince me of the fact that I have not in the past been 
fully aware to what extent she absorbs the language of her 
favourite authors. In the early part of her education I had 
full knowledge of all the books she read and of nearly all the 
stories which were read to her, and could without difficulty 
trace the source of any adaptations noted in her writing or 
conversation; and I have always been much pleased to observe 
how appropriately she applies the expressions of a favourite 
author in her own compositions. 

The following extracts from a few of her published letters 
give evidence of how valuable this power of retaining the mem- 
ory of beautiful language has been to her. One warm, sunny 
day in early spring, when we were at the North, the balmy 
atmosphere appears to have brought to her mind the sentiment 
expressed by Longfellow in "Hiawatha," and she almost sings 
with the poet: "The ground was all aquiver with the stir ot 
new life. My heart sang for very joy. I thought of my own 
dear home. I knew that in that sunny land spring had come 
in all its splendour. 'All its birds and all its blossoms, all its 
flowers and all its grasses.' " 


About the same time, in a letter to a friend, in which shft 
makes mention of her Southern home, she gives so close a 
reproduction from a poem by one of her favourite authors that I 
will give extracts from Helen's letter and from the poem itself: 


\The entire letter is published 
on pp. 245 and 246 of the Re- 
port of the Perkins Institution 
for 1 891] 

The blue-bird with his azure 
plumes, the thrush clad all in 
brown, the robin jerking his 
spasmodic throat, the oriole 
drifting like a flake of fire, 
the jolly bobolink and his 
happy mate, the mocking-bird 
imitating the notes of all, the 
red-bird with his one sweet 
trill, and the busy little wren, 
are all making the trees in 
our front yard ring with their 
glad songs. 


The bluebird, breathing from 
his azure plumes 

The fragrance borrowed from 
the myrtle blooms; 

The thrush, poor wanderer, 
dropping meekly down, 

Clad in his remnant of autum- 
nal brown; 

The oriole, drifting like a flake 
of fire 

Rent by a whirlwind from a 
blazing spire; 

The robin, jerking his spas- 
modic throat, 

Repeats imperious, his stac- 
cato note; 

The crack-brained bobolink 
courts his crazy mate, 

Poised on a bullrush tipsy 
with his weight: 

Nay, in his cage the lone 
canary sings, 

Feels the soft air, and spreads 
his idle wings. 

On the last day of April she uses another expression from 
the same poem, which is more an adaption than a reproduc- 
tion: "To-morrow April will hide her tears and blushes beneath 
the flowers of lovely May." 

In a letter to a friend* at the Perkins Institution, dated May 
17, 1889, she gives a reproduction from one of Hans Christian 


Andersen's stories, which I had read to her not long before. 
This letter is published in the Perkins Institution Report (1891), 
p. 204. The original story was read to her from a copy of 
"Andersen's Stories," published by Leavitt & Allen Bros., and 
may be found on p. 97 of Part I. in that volume. 

Her admiration for the impressive explanations which Bishop 
Brooks has given her of the Fatherhood of God is well known. 
In one of his letters, speaking of how God in every way tells us 
of his love, he says, "I think he writes it even upon the walls 
of the great house of nature which we live in, that he is our 
Father." The next year at Andover she said: "It seems to 
me the world is full of goodness, beauty, and love; and how 
grateful we must be to our heavenly Father, who has given us 
so much to enjoy I His love and care are written all over the 
walls of nature." 

In these later years, since Helen has come in contact with so 
many persons who are able to converse freely with her, she has 
made the acquaintance of some literature with which I am not 
familiar; she has also found in books printed in raised letters, 
in the reading of which I have been unable to follow her, much 
material for the cultivation of the taste she possesses for poetical 
imagery. The pages of the book she reads become to her 
like paintings, to which her imaginative powers give life and 
colour. She is at once transported into the midst of the events 
portrayed in the story she reads or is told, and the characters 
and descriptions become real to her; she rejoices when justice 
wins, and is sad when virtue goes unrewarded. The pictures 
the language paints on her memory appear to make an indelible 
impression; and many times, when an experience comes to 
her similar in character, the language starts forth with wonder- 
ful accuracy, like the reflection from a mirror. 

Helen's mind is so gifted by nature that she seems able to 
understand with only the faintest touch of explanation every 
possible variety of external relations. One day in Alabama, as 
we were gathering wild flowers near the springs on the hill- 
sides, she seemed to understand for the first time that the 
springs were surrounded by mountains, and she exclaimed: 
"The mountains are crowding around the springs to look at 
their own beautiful reflections !" I do not know where she 
obtained this language, yet it is evident that it must have 
come to her from without, as it would hardly be possible for a 


person deprived of the visual sense to originate such an idea. 
In mentioning a visit to Lexington, Mass., she writes: "As 
we rode along we could see the forest monarchs bend their 
proud forms to listen to the little children of the woodlands 
whispering their secrets. The anemone, the wild violet, the 
hepatica, and the funny little curled-up ferns all peeped out at 
us from beneath the brown leaves." She closes this letter 
with, "I must go to bed, for Morpheus has touched my eye- 
lids with his golden wand." Here again, I am unable to state 
where she acquired these expressions. 

She has always seemed to prefer stories which exercise the 
imagination, and catches and retains the poetic spirit in all such 
literature; but not until this winter have I been conscious that 
her memory absorbed the exact language to such an extent 
that she is herself unable to trace the source. 

This is shown in a little story she wrote in October last 
at the home of her parents in Tuscumbia, which she called 
"Autumn Leaves." She was at work upon it about two weeks, 
writing a little each day, at her own pleasure. When it was 
finished, and we read it in the family, it occasioned much com- 
ment on account of the beautiful imagery, and we could not 
understand how Helen could describe such pictures without 
the aid of sight. As we had never seen or heard of any such 
etory as this before, we inquired of her where she read it; she 
replied, "I did not read it; it is my story for Mr. Anagnos's 
birthday." While I was surprised that she could write like 
this, I was not more astonished than I had been many times 
before at the unexpected achievements of my little pupil, 
especially as we had exchanged many beautiful thoughts on 
the subject of the glory of the ripening foliage during the autumn 
of this year. 

Before Helen made her final copy of the story, it was sug- 
gested to her to change its title to "The Frost King," as more 
appropriate to the subject of which the story treated; to this 
she willingly assented. The story was written by Helen in 
braille, as usual, and copied by her in the same manner; I 
then interlined the manuscript for the greater convenience of 
those who desired to read it. Helen wrote a little letter, and, 
enclosing the manuscript, forwarded both by mail to Mr. Anagnos 
for his birthday. 

The story was printed in the January number of the Mentor 


*od, from a review of it in the Goodson Gazette. I was startled 
to find that a very similar story had been published in 1873, 
seven years before Helen was born. This story, "Frost Fairies," 
appeared in a book written by Miss Margaret T. Canby, entitled 
"Birdie and his Fairy Friends." The passages quoted from the 
two stories were so much alike in thought and expression as to 
convince me that Miss Canby's story must at some time have 
been read to Helen. 

As I had never read this story, or even heard of the book, 
I inquired of Helen if she knew anything about, the matter, 
and found she did not. She was utterly unable to recall either 
the name of the story or the book. Careful examination was 
made of the books in raised print in the library of the Perkins 
Institution to learn if any extracts from this volume could 
be found there; but nothing was discovered. I then concluded 
that the story must have been read to her a long time ago, as 
her memory usually retains with great distinctness facts and 
impressions which have been committed to its keeping. 

After making careful inquiry, I succeeded in obtaining the 
information that our friend, Mrs. S. C. Hopkins, had a copy of 
this book in 1888, which was presented to her little daughter 
in 1873 or 1874. Helen and I spent the summer of 1888 with 
Mrs. Hopkins at her home in Brewster, Mass., where she kindly 
relieved me, a part of the time, of the care of Helen. She 
amused and entertained Helen by reading to her from a collection 
of juvenile publications, among which was the copy of "Birdie 
and his Fairy Friends"; and, while Mrs. Hopkins does not 
remember this story of "Frost Fairies," she is confident that she 
read to Helen extracts, if not entire stories, from this volume. 
But as she was not able to find her copy, and applications for the 
volume at bookstores in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Albany, 
and other places resulted only in failure, search was insti- 
tuted for the author herself. This became a difficult task, as 
her publishers in Philadelphia had retired from business many 
years ago; however, it was eventually discovered that her 
residence is at Wilmington, Delaware, and copies of the second 
edition of the book, 1889, were obtained from her. She has 
since secured and forwarded to me a copy of the first edition. 
The most generous and gratifying letters have been received 
from Miss Canby by Helen's friends, a few extracts from which 
are given. 


Under date of February 24, 1892, after mentioning the order 
of the publication of the stories in the magazine, she writes: 

"All the stories were revised before publishing them in book 
form; additions were made to the number as first published, I 
think, and some of the titles may have been changed." 

In the same letter she writes: 

"I hope that you will be able to make her understand that I 
am glad she enjoyed my story, and that I hope the new book 
will give her pleasure by renewing her friendship with the 
Fairies. I shall write to her in a short time. I am so much 
impressed with what I have learned of her that I have written 
a little poem entitled A Silent Singer, which I may send to her 
mother after a while. Can you tell me in what paper the 
article appeared accusing Helen of plagiarism, and giving 
passages from both stories? I should like much to see it, and 
to obtain a few copies if possible." 

Under date of March 9, 1892, Miss Canby writes: 

"I find traces, in the Report which you so kindly sent me, 
of little Helen having heard other stories than that of 'Frost 
Fairies.' On page 132, in a letter, there is a passage which 
must have been suggested by my story called 'The Rose Fairies' 
(see pp. 13-16 of 'Birdie') and on pages 93 and 94 of the Report 
the description of a thunderstorm is very much like Birdie's 
idea of the same in the 'Dew Fairies' on pages 59 and 60 of my 
book. What a wonderfully active and retentive mind that 
gifted child must have! If she had remembered and written 
down accurately, a short story, and that soon after hearing it, 
it would have been a marvel; but to have heard the story once, 
three years ago, and in such a way that neither her parents nor 
teacher could ever allude to it or refresh her memory about 
it, and then to have been able to reproduce it so vividly, even 
adding some touches of her own in perfect keeping with the 
rest, which really improve the original, is something that very 
few girls of riper age, and with every advantage of sight, hearing, 
and even great talents for composition, could have done as 
well, if at all. Under the circumstances, I do not see how any 
one can be so unkind as to call it a plagiarism; it is a wonderful 
feat of memory, and stands alone, as doubtless much of her 
work will in future, if her mental powers grow and develop with 
her years as greatly as in the few years past. I have known 
many children well, have been surrounded by them all my life, 


and love nothing better than to talk with them, amuse them, 
and quietly notice their traits of mind and character; but I do 
not recollect more than one girl of Helen's age who had the love 
and thirst for knowledge, and the store of literary and general 
information, and the skill in composition, which Helen possesses. 
She is indeed a 'Wonder-Child.' Thank you very much for 
the Report, Gazette, and Helen's Journal. The last made me 
realize the great disappointment to the dear child more than 
before. Please give her my warm love, and tell her not to feel 
troubled about it any more. No one shall be allowed to think 
it was anything wrong; and some day she will write a great, 
beautiful story or poem that will make many people happy. 
Tell her there are a few bitter drops in every one's cup, and the 
only way is to take the bitter patiently, and the sweet thankfully. 
I shall love to hear of her reception of the book and how she 
likes the stories which are new to her." 

I have now (March, 1892) read to Helen "The Frost Fairies," 
"The Rose Fairies," and a portion of "The Dew Fairies," but 
she is unable to throw any light on the matter. She recognized 
them at once as her own stories, with variations, and was much 
puzzled to know how they could have been published before 
f he was born ! She thinks it is wonderful that two people 
should write stories so much alike; but she still considers her 
own as original. 

I give below a portion of Miss Canby's story, "The Rose 
Fairies," and also Helen's letter to Mr. Anagnos containing her 
"dream," so that the likenesses and differences may be studied 
by those interested in the subject: 


[From "Birdie and his Fairy Friends," by Margaret T. Canby] 

One pleasant morning little Birdie might have been seen 
sitting quietly on the grass-plat at the side of his mother's 
house, looking very earnestly at the rose-bushes. 

It was quite early; great Mr. Sun, who is such an early riser 
in summer time, had not been up very long; the birds were just 
beginning to chirp their "good-mornings" to each other; and 
as for the flowers, they were still asleep. But Birdie was so 
busy all day, trotting about the house and garden, that he was 
always ready for his nest at night, before the birds and flowers 


had thought of seeking theirs; and so it came to pass that when 
Mr. Sun raised his head above the green woods and smiled 
lovingly upon the earth, Birdie was often the first to see him, 
and to smile back at him, all the while rubbing his eyes with his 
dimpled fists, until between smiling and rubbing, he was wide 

And what do you think he did next ! "Why, the little rogue 
rolled into his mamma's bed, and kissed her eyelids, her cheeks, 
and her mouth, until she began to dream that it was raining 
kisses; and at last she opened her eyes to see what it all meant, 
and found that it was Birdie, trying to "kiss her awake," as 
he said. 

She loved her little boy very dearly, and liked to make him 
happy, and when he said, "Please dress me, dear mamma, and 
let me go out to play in the garden," she cheerfully consented; 
and, soon after, Birdie went downstairs in his morning-dress of 
cool linen, and with his round face bright and rosy from its 
bath, and ran out on the gravel path to play until breakfast 
was ready. 

He stood still a moment to look about him, and think what 
he should do first. The fresh morning air blew softly in his 
face, as if to welcome him and be his merry playmate; and the 
bright eye of Mr. Sun looked at him with a warm and glowing 
smile; but Birdie soon walked on to find something to play with. 
As he came in sight of the rose-bushes that grew near the side 
of the house, he suddenly clapped his hands, and with a little 
shout of joy stopped to look at them; they were all covered 
with lovely rosebuds. Some were red, some white, and others 
pale pink, and they were just peeping out of the green leaves, 
as rosy-faced children peep out from their warm beds in winter- 
time before they are quite willing to get up. A few days before, 
Birdie's papa had told him that the green balls on the rose- 
bushes had beautiful flowers shut up within them, but the 
little boy found it hard to believe, for he was so young that he 
did not remember how pretty the roses had been the summer 
before. Now he found out that his father's words were true, 
for a few days of warm weather had turned the green balls 
into rosebuds, and they were so beautiful that it was enough 
to make Birdie stand still before them, his blue eyes dancing 
with delight and his little hands clasped tightly together. 

After awhile he went nearer, and looking closelv at the 


buds, found that they were folded up, leaf over leaf, as eyelids 
are folded over sleeping eyes, so that Birdie thought they must 
be asleep. "Lazy roses, wake up," said he, giving the branches 
a gentle shake; but only the dew fell off in bright drops, and the 
flowers were still shut up. At last Birdie remembered how he 
had awakened his mother with kisses, and thought he would 
try the same plan with the roses; so he drew up his red lips 
until they looked like a rosebud, too, and bending down a 
branch with a lovely pink bud upon it, he kissed it softly two 
or three times. 

Here the similarity in the language of the story to that in 
the letter ceases. 

Helen's letter to mr. anagnos 

(Written February 2 and 3, 1890.) 

[This letter was enclosed in another written in French, dated 

Le 1 fevrier 1890.] 
My dear Mr. Anagnos: You will laugh when you open your 
little friend's letter and see all the queer mistakes she has made 
in French, but I think you will be pleased to know that I can 
write even a short letter in French. It makes me very happy 
to please you and my dear teacher. I wish I could see your little 
niece Amelia. I am sure we should love each other. I hope 
you will bring some of Virginia Evanghelides' poems home 
with you, and translate them for me. Teacher and I have just 
returned from our walk. It is a beautiful day. We met a 
sweet little child. She was playing on the pier with a wee 
brother. She gave me a kiss and then ran away, because she 
was a shy little girl. I wonder if you would like to have me tell 
you a pretty dream which I had a long time ago when I was a 
very little child ? Teacher says it was a day-dream, and she 
thinks you would be delighted to hear it. One pleasant morning 
in the beautiful springtime, I thought I was sitting on the soft 
grass under my dear mother's window, looking very earnestly 
at the rose-bushes which were growing all around me. It 
was quite early, the sun had not been up very long; the birds 
were just beginning to sing joyously. The flowers were still 
asleep. They would not awake until the sun had smiled lov- 
ingly upon them. I was a very happy little child with rosy 


cheeks, and large blue eyes, and the most beautiful golden 
ringlets you can imagine. The fresh morning air blew gently 
in my face, as if to welcome me, and be my merry playmate, 
and the sun looked at me with a warm and tender smile. I 
clapped my chubby hands for joy when I saw that the rose- 
bushes were covered with lovely buds. Some were red, some 
white, and others were delicate pink, and they were peeping out 
from between the green leaves like beautiful little fairies. I 
had never seen anything so lovely before, for I was very young 
and I could not remember how pretty the roses had been the 
summer before. My little heart was filled with a sweet joy, 
and I danced around the rose-bushes to show my delight. After 
a while I went very near to a beautiful white rose-bush which 
was completely covered with buds and sparkling with dew- 
drops; I bent down one cf the branches with a lovely pure 
white bud upon it, and kissed it softly many times; just then 
I felt two loving arms steal gently around me, and loving lips 
kissing my eyelids, my cheeks, and my mouth, until I began 
to think it was raining kisses; and at last I opened my eyes to 
see what it all meant, and found it was my precious mother, 
who was bending over me, trying to kiss me awake. Do you 
like my day-dream? If you do, perhaps I will dream again for 
you some time. 

Teacher and all of your friends send you their love. I shall 
be so glad when you come home, for I greatly miss you. Please 
give my love to your good Greek friends, and tell them that 
I shall come to Athens some day. 

Lovingly your little friend and playmate, 

Helen A. Keller. 

"The Frost Fairies" and "The Frost King" are given in full, 
as the differences are as important as the resemblances: 


[From "Birdie and his Fairy Friends'*] 

By Margaret T. Canby By Helen A. Keller 

King Frost, or Jack Frost as King Frost lives in a beauti- 

he is sometimes called, lives ful palace far to the North> in 
in a cold country far to the 

North; but every year he takes the land of perpetual snow, 

a journey over the world in a The palace, which is magnl. 



car of golden clouds drawn by 
a strong and rapid steed called 
"North Wind." Wherever he 
goes he does many wonderful 
things; he builds bridges over 
every stream, clear as glass 
in appearance but often strong 
as iron; he puts the flowers and 
plants to sleep by one touch 
of his hand, and they all bow 
down and sink into the warm 
earth, until spring returns; 
then, lest we should grieve for 
the flowers, he places at our 
windows lovely wreaths and 
sprays of his white northern 
flowers, or delicate little forests 
of fairy pine-trees, pure white 
and very beautiful. But his 
most wonderful work is the 
painting of the trees, which 
look, after his task is done, 
as if they were covered with 
the brightest layers of gold 
and rubies; and are beautiful 
enough to comfort us for the 
flight of summer. 

I will tell you how King 
Frost first thought of this kind 
work, for it is a strange story. 
You must know that this King, 
like all other kings, has great 
treasures of gold and precious 
stones in his palace; but, being 
a good-hearted old fellow, he 
does not keep his riches 
locked up all the time, but 
tries to do good and make 
others happy with them. He 
has two neighbours, who 
live still farther north; one is 

ficent beyond description, was 
built centuries ago, in the 
reign of King Glacier. At a 
little distance from the palace 
we might easily mistake it 
for a mountain whose peaks 
were mounting heavenward to 
receive the last kiss of the 
departing day. But on nearer 
approach we should discover 
our error. What we had 
supposed to be peaks were in 
reality a thousand glittering 
spires. Nothing could be more 
beautiful than the architec- 
ture of this ice-palace. The 
walls are curiously constructed 
of massive blocks of ice which 
terminate in cliff-like towers. 
The entrance to the palace is 
at the end of an arched recess, 
and it is guarded night and 
day by twelve soldierly-look- 
ing white Bears. 

But, children, you must 
make King Frost a visit the 
very first opportunity you 
have, and see for yourselves 
this wonderful palace. The 
old King will welcome you 
kindly, for he loves children, 
and it is his chief delight to 
give them pleasure. 


King Winter, a cross and 
churlish old monarch, who is 
hard and cruel, and delights 
in making the poor suffer and 
weep ; but the other neighbour 
is Santa Claus, a fine, good- 
natured, jolly old soul, who 
loves to do good, and who 
brings presents to the poor, 
and to nice little children at 

Well, one day King Frost 
was trying to think of some 
good that he could do with 
his treasure; smd suddenly he 
concluded to send some of it 
to his kind neighbour, Santa 
Claus, to buy presents of food 
and clothing for the poor, 
that they might not suffer so 
much when King Winter went 
near their homes. So he called 
together his merry little fairies, 
and showing them a number 
of jars and vases filled with 
gold and precious stones, told 
them to carry those carefully 
to the palace of Santa Claus, 
and give tkem to him with the 
compliments of King Frost. 
"He will know how to make 
good use of the treasure," 
added Jack Frost; then he 
told the fairies not to loiter 
by the way, but to do his 
bidding quickly. 

The fairies promised obedi- 
ence and soon started on their 
journey, dragging the great 
glass jars and vases along, as 
well as they could, and now 

You must know that King 
Frost, like all other kings, has 
great treasures of gold and 
precious stones; but as he 
is a generous old monarch, 
he endeavours to make a right 
use of his riches. So wherever 
he goes he does many wonder- 
ful works; he builds bridges 
over every stream, as trans- 
parent as glass, but often as 
strong as iron; he shakes the 
forest trees until the ripe nuts 
fall into the laps of laughing 
children; he puts the flowers 
to sleep with one touch of his 
hand; then, lest we should 
mourn for the bright faces of 
the flowers, he paints the 
leaves with gold and crimson 
and emerald, and when his 
task is done the trees are beau- 
tiful enough to comfort us for 
the flight of summer. I will 
tell you how King Frost hap- 
pened to think of painting the 
leaves, for it is a strange 

One day while King Frost 
was surveying his vast wealth 
and thinking what good he 
could do with it, he suddenly 
bethought him of his jolly 
old neighbour, Santa Claus. 



and then grumbling a little at 
having such hard work to do, 
for they were idle fairies, and 
liked play better than work. 
At last they reached a great 
forest, and, being quite tired, 
they decided to rest awhile 
and look for nuts before going 
any further. But lest the 
treasure should be stolen from 
them, they hid the jars among 
the thick leaves of the forest 
trees, placing some high up 
near the top, and others in 
different parts of the various 
trees, until they thought no 
one could find them. 

Then they began to wan- 
der about and hunt for nuts, 
and climb the trees to shake 
them down, and worked much 
harder for their own pleasure 
than they had done for their 
master's bidding, for it is a 
strange truth that fairies and 
children never complain of 
the toil and trouble they 
take in search of amusement, 
although they often grumble 
when asked to work for the 
good of others. 

The frost fairies were so 
busy and so merry over their 
nutting frolic that they soon 
forgot their errand and their 
King s command to go quickly; 
but, as they played and loit- 
ered in the forest until noon, 
they found the reason why 
they were told to hasten; for 
although they had, as they 

*T will send my treasures to 
Santa Claus," said the King to 
himself. "He is the very man 
to dispose of them satisfac- 
torily, for he knows where the 
poor and the unhappy live, 
and his kind old heart is 
always full of benevolent plans 
for their relief." So he called 
together the merry little fairies 
of his household and, showing 
them the jars and vases con- 
taining his treasures, he bade 
them carry them to the palace 
of Santa Claus as quickly as 
they could,. The fairies prom- 
ised obedience, and were ofZ 
in a twinkling, dragging the 
heavy jars and vases along 
after them as well as they 
could, now and then grumb- 
ling a little at having such a 
hard task, for they were idle 
fairies and loved to play better 
than to work. After awhile 
they came to a great forest 
and, being tired and hungry, 
they thought they would rest 
a little and look for nuts 
before continuing their jour- 
Fey. But thinking their treas- 
ure might be stolen irci_. 
them, they hid the jars ame^ 
the thick green leaves of the 


thought, hidden the treasure 
so carefully, they had not 
secured it from the power of 
Mr. Sun, who was an enemy 
of Jack Frost, and delighted 
co undo bis work and weaken 
him whenever he could. 

His bright eyes found out 
the jars of treasure among the 
trees, and as the idle fairies 
left them there until noon, at 
which time Mr. Sun is the 
strongest, the delicate glass 
began to melt and break, and 
before long every jar and vase 
was cracked or broken, and the 
precious treasures they con- 
tained were melting, too, and 
dripping slowly in streams of 
gold and crimson over the 
trees and bushes of the forest. 

Still, for awhile, the frost 
fairies did not notice this 
strange occurrence, for they 
were down on the grass, so 
far below the tree-tops that 
the wonderful shower of treas- 
ure was a long time in reach- 
ing them; but at last one of 
them said, "Hark ! I believe 
it is raining; I certainly hear 
the falling drops. ' ' The others 
laughed, and told him that it 
seldom rained when the sun 
was shining; but as they lis- 
tened they plainly heard the 
tinkling of many drops falling 
through the forest, and slid- 
ing from leaf to leaf until they 
reached the bramble-bushes 
beside them, when, to their 

various trees until they were 
sure that no one could find 
them. Then they began to 
wander merrily about search- 
ing for nuts, climbing trees, 
peeping curiously into the 
empty birds' nests, and play- 
ing hide and seek from behind 
the trees. Now, these naughty 
fairies were so busy and so 
merry over their frolic that 
they forgot all about their 
errand and their master's 
command to go quickly, but 
soon they found to their dis- 
may why they had been bid- 
den to hasten, for although 
they had, as they supposed, 
hidden the treasure carefully, 
yet the bright eyes of King 
Sun had spied out the jars 
among the leaves, and as he 
and King Frost could never 
agree as to what was the best 
way of benefiting the world, 
he was very glad of a good 
opportunity of playing a joke 
upon his rather sharp rival. 
King Sun laughed softly to 
himself when the delicate jars 
began to melt and break. At 
length every jar and vase was 
cracked or broken, and the 
precious stones they contained 



great dismay, they found that 
the rain-drops were melted 
rubies, which hardened on the 
leaves and turned them to 
bright crimson in a moment. 
Then looking more closely at 
the trees around, they saw 
that the treasure was all 
melting away, and that much 
of it was already spread over 
the leaves of the oak trees and 
maples, which were shining 
with their gorgeous dress of 
gold and bronze, crimson and 
emerald. It was very beau- 
tiful; but the idle fairies were 
too much frightened at the 
mischief their disobedience 
had caused, to admire the 
beauty of the forest, and at 
once tried to hide themselves 
among the bushes, lest King 
Frost should come and punish 

Their fears were well found- 
ed, for their long absence had 
alarmed the king, and he 
had started out to look for 
his tardy servants, and just 
as they were all hidden, he 
came along slowly, looking on 
all sides for the fairies. Of 
course, he soon noticed the 
brightness of the leaves, and 
discovered the cause, too, 
when he caught sight of the 
broken jars and vases from 
which the melted treasure was 
still dropping. And when he 
came to the nut trees, and 
saw the shells left by the idle 

were melting, too, and running 
in little streams over the trees 
and bushes of the forest. 

Still the idle fairies did not 
notice what was happening, 
for they were down on the 
grass, and the wonderful 
shower of treasure was a long 
time in reaching them; but at 
last they plainly heard the 
tinkling of many drops falling 
like rain through the forest, 
and sliding from leaf to leaf 
until they reached the little 
bushes by their side, when to 
their astonishment they dis- 
covered that the rain-drops 
were melted rubies which 
hardened on the leaves, and 
turned them to crimson and 
gold in a moment. Then, 
looking around more closely, 
they saw that much of the 
treasure was already melted, 
for the oaks and maples were 
arrayed in gorgeous dresses of 
gold and crimson and emerald. 
It was very beautiful, but the 
disobedient fairies were too 
frightened to notice the beauty 
of the trees. They were afraid 
that King Frost would come 
and punish them. So they hid 
themselves among the busher 


fairies and all the traces of 
their frolic, he knew exactly 
how they had acted, and that 
they had disobeyed him by 
playing and loitering on their 
way through the woods. 

King Frost frowned and 
looked very angry at first, 
and his fairies trembled for 
fear and cowered still lower in 
their hiding-places; but just 
then two little children came 
dancing through the wood, 
and though they did not see 
King Frost or the fairies, they 
saw the beautiful colour of 
the leaves, and laughed with 
delight, and began picking 
great bunches to take to their 
mother. "The leaves are as 
pretty as flowers," said they; 
and they callM the golden 
leaves "buttercups," and the 
red ones "roses," and were 
very happy as they went sing- 
ing through the wood. 

Their pleasure charmed 
away King Frost's anger, and 
he, too, began to admire the 
painted trees, and at last he 
said to himself, "My treasures 
are not wasted if they make 
little children happy. I will 
not be offended at my idle, 
thoughtless fairies, for they 
have taught me a new way of 
doing good." When the frost 
fairies heard these words they 
crept, one by one, from their 
corners, and, kneeling down 
before their master, confessed 

and waited silently for some- 
thing to happen. Their fears 
were well founded, for their 
long absence had alarmed the 
King, and he mounted North 
Wind and went out in search 
of his tardy couriers. Of 
course, he had not gone far 
when he noticed the bright- 
ness of the leaves, and he 
quickly guessed the cause 
when he saw the broken jars 
from which the treasure was 
still dropping. At first King 
Frost was very angry, and 
the fairies trembled and 
crouched lower in their hiding- 
places, and I do not know 
what might have happened to 
them if just then a party of 
boys and girls had not entered 
the wood. When the children 
saw the trees all aglow with 
brilliant colors they clapped 
their hands and shouted for 
joy, and immediately began 
tc pick great bunches to take 
home. "The leaves are as 
lovely as the flowers !" cried 
they, in their delight. Their 
pleasure banished the anger 
from King Frost's heart and 
the frown from his brow, and 
he, too, began to admire t-he 



their fault, and asked his par- 
don. He frowned upon them 
for awhile, and scolded them, 
too, but he soon relented, and 
said he would forgive them 
this time, and would only 
punish them by making them 
carry more treasure to the 
forest, and hide it in the trees, 
until all the leaves, with 
Mr. Sun's help, were covered 
with gold and ruby coats. 

Then the fairies thanked 
him for his forgiveness, and 
promised to work very hard 
to please him; and the good- 
natured king took them all 
up in his arms, and carried 
them safely home to his palace. 
From that time, I suppose, it 
has been part of Jack Frost's 
work to paint the trees with 
the glowing colours we see in 
the autumn; and if they are 
not covered with gold and 
precious stones, I do not know 
how he makes them so bright ; 
do you? 

painted trees. He said to 
himself, "My treasures are 
not wasted if they make lit- 
tle children happy. My idle 
fairies and my fiery enemy 
have taught me a new way of 
doing good." 

When the fairies heard this, 
they were greatly relieved and 
came forth from their hiding- 
places, confessed their fault, 
and asked their master's for- 

Ever since that time it has 
been King Frost's great de- 
light to paint the leaves with 
the glowing colors we see in 
the autumn, and if they are 
not covered with gold and 
precious stones I cannot im- 
agine what makes them so 
bright, can you? 

If the story of "The Frost Fairies" was read to Helen in the 
summer of 1888, she could not have understood very much of 
it at that time, for she had only been under instruction since 
March, 1887. 

Can it be that the language of the story had remained dor- 
mant in her mind until my description of the beauty of the 
autumn scenery in 1891 brought it vividly before her mental 
vision ? 

I have made careful investigation among Helen's friends in 
Alabama and in Boston and its vicinity, but thus far have been 
unable to ascertain any later date when it could have been read 
to her 


Another fact is of great significance in this connection. "The 
Rose Fairies" was published in the same volume with "The 
Frost Fairies," and, therefore, was probably read to Helen at 
or about the same time. 

Now Helen, in her letter of February, 1890 (quoted above), 
alludes to this story of Miss Canby's as dream "which I had a 
long time ago when I was a very little child." Surely, a year 
and a half would appear "a long time ago" to a little girl like 
Helen ; we therefore have reason to believe that the stories must 
have been read to her at least as early as the summer of 1888. 

helen Keller's own statement 
{The following entry made by Helen in her diary speaks for itself.) 

1892. January 30. This morning I took a bath, and when 
teacher came upstairs to comb my hair she told me some very 
sad news which made me unhappy all day. Some one wrote to 
Mr. Anagnos that the story which I sent him as a birthday 
gift, and which I wrote myself, was not my story at all. but that 
a lady had written it a long time ago. The person said her story 
was called "Frost Fairies." I am sure I never heard it. It 
made us feel so bad to think that people thought we had been 
untrue and wicked. My heart was full of tears, for I love the 
beautiful truth with my whole heart and mind. 

It troubles me greatly now. I do not know what I shall do. 
I never thought that people could make such mistakes. I am 
perfectly sure I wrote the story myself. Mr. Anagnos is much 
troubled. It grieves me to think that I have been the cause of 
his unhappiness, but of course I did not mean to do it. 

I thought about my story in the autumn, because teacher 
told me about the autumn leaves while we walked in the woods 
at Fern Quarry. I thought fairies must have painted them 
because they are so wonderful, and I thought, too, that King 
Frost must have jars and vases containing precious treasures, 
because I knew that other kings long ago had, and because 
teacher told me that the leaves were painted ruby, emerald, 
gold, crimson, and brown; so that I thought the paint must be 
melted stones. I knew that they must make children happy 
because they are so lovely, and it made me very happy to think 
that the leaves were so beautiful and that the trees glowed 
so, although I could not see them. 


i thought everybody had the same thought about the leaves, 
but I do not know now. I thought very much about the sad 
news when teacher Went to the doctor's; she was not here at 
dinner and I missed her. 

I do not feel that I can add anything more that will be of 
interest. My own heart is too "full of tears" when I remember 
how my dear little pupil suffered when she knew "that people 
thought we had been untrue and wicked," for I know that she 
does indeed "love the beautiful truth with her whole heart 
and mind." 

Yours truly, 


So much appears in the Volta Bureau Souvenir. The following 
letter from Mr. Anagnos is reprinted from the American Annals 
of the Deaf, April, 1892 : 


So. Boston, March 11, 1892. 
To the Editor of the Annals. 

Sir: In compliance with your wishes I make the following 
statement concerning Helen Keller's story of "King Frost." 
It was sent to me as a birthday gift on November 7th, from 
Tuscumbia, Alabama. Knowing as well as I do Helen's extra- 
ordinary abilities I did not hesitate to accept it as her own 
work; nor do I doubt to-day that she is fully capable of writing 
such a composition. Soon after its appearance in print I 
was pained to learn, through the Goodson Gazette, that a portion 
of the story (eight or nine passages) is either a reproduction or 
adaptation of Miss Margaret Canby's "Frost Fairies." I 
immediately instituted an inquiry to ascertain the facts in the 
case. None of our teachers or officers who are accustomed to 
converse with Helen ever knew or heard about Miss Canby's 
book, nor did the child's parents and relatives at home have 
any knowledge of it. Her father, Captain Keller, wrote to me 
as follows on the subject: 

"I hasten to assure you that Helen could not have received any 
idea of the story from any of her relations or friends here, none 


of whom can communicate with her readily enough to impress 
her with the details of a story of that character." 

At my request, one of the* teachers in the girls' department 
examined Helen in regard to the construction of the story. 
Her testimony is as follows: 

"I first tried to ascertain what had suggested to Helen's mind 
the particular fancies which made her story seem like a repro- 
duction of one written by Miss Margaret Canby. Helen told 
me that for a long time she had thought of Jack Frost as a king, 
because of the many treasures which he possessed. Such 
rich treasures must be kept in a safe place, and so she had 
imagined them stored in jars and vases in one part of the 
royal palace. She said that one autumn day her teacher told her 
as they were walking together in the woods, about the many 
beautiful colours of the leaves, and she had thought that such 
beauty must make people very happy, and very grateful to 
King Frost. I asked Helen what stories she had read about 
Jack Frost. In answer to my question she recited a part of 
the poem called 'Freaks of the Frost,' and she referred to a 
little piece about winter, in one of the school readers. She could 
not remember that any one had ever read to her any stories 
about King Frost, but said she had talked with her teacher 
about Jack Frost and the wonderful things he did." 

The only person that we supposed might possibly have read 
the story to Helen was her friend, Mrs. Hopkins, whom she was 
visiting at the time in Brewster. I asked Miss Sullivan to go 
at once to see Mrs. Hopkins and ascertain the facts in the matter. 
The result of her investigation is embodied in the printed note 
herewith enclosed.* 

I have scarcely any doubt that Miss Canby's little book was 
read to Helen, by Mrs. Hopkins, in the summer of 1888. But 
the child has no recollection whatever of this fact. On Miss 
Sullivan's return to Brewster, she read to Helen the story of 
"Little Lord Fauntleroy," which she had purchased in Boston 
for the purpose. The child was at once fascinated and absorbed 
with the charming story, which evidently made a deeper impres- 
sion upon her mind than any previously read to her, as was 
shown in the frequent reference to it, both in her conversation 
and letters, for many months afterward. Her intense interest 

* This note is a statement of the bare facts and an apology, which Mr. Anagnot 
Inserted in hi* reports of the Perkins Institute. 


In Fauntleroy must have buried all remembrance of ''Frost 
Fairies," and when, more than three years later, she had acquired 
a fuller knowledge and use of language, and was told of Jack 
Frost and his work, the seed so long buried sprang up into new 
thoughts and fancies. This may explain the reason why Helen 
claims persistently that "The Frost King" is her own story. 
She seems to have some idea of the difference between original 
composition and reproduction. She did not know the meaning 
of the word "plagiarism" until quite recently, when it was 
explained to her. She is absolutely truthful. Veracity is the 
strongest element of her character. She was very much sur- 
prised and grieved when she was told that her composition 
was an adaptation of Miss Canby's story of "Frost Fairies." 
She could not keep back her tears, and the chief cause of her 
pain seemed to be the fear lest people should doubt her truth- 
fulness. She said, with great intensity of feeling, "I love the 
beautiful truth." A most rigid examination of the child of 
about two hours' duration, at which eight persons were present 
and asked all sorts of questions with perfect freedom, failed 
to elicit in the least any testimony convicting either her teacher 
or any one else of the intention or attempt to practice deception. 
In view of these facts I cannot but think that Helen, while 
writing "The Frost King," was entirely unconscious of ever 
having had the story of "Frost Fairies" read to her, and that hei 
memory has been accompanied by such a loss of associations 
that she herself honestly believed her composition to be 
original. This theory is shared by many persons who are 
perfectly well acquainted with the child and who are able to 
rise above the clouds of a narrow prejudice. 

Very sincerely yours, 

M. Anagnos. 
Director of the Perkins Institution and 

Massachusetts School for the Blind. 

The episode had a deadening effect on Helen Keller and on 
Miss Sullivan, who feared that she had allowed the habit iS 
imitation, which has in truth made Miss Keller a writer, xo go 
too far. Even to-day, when Miss Keller strikes off a fine phrase, 
Miss Sullivan says in humorous despair, "I wonder where she 
got that ?" But she knows now, since she has studied with her 
pupil in college the problems of composition, under the wise. 


advice of Mr. Charles T. Copeland, that the style of every 
writer and indeed, of every human being, illiterate or culti- 
vated, is a composite reminiscence of all that he has read and 
heard. Of the sources of his vocabulary he is, for the most 
part, as unaware as he is of the moment when he ate the food 
which makes a bit of his thumbnail. With most of us the 
contributions from different sources are blended, crossed and 
confused. A child with but few sources may keep distinct 
what he draws from each. In this case Helen Keller held almost 
intact in her mind, unmixed with other ideas, the words of a 
story which at the time it was read to her, she did not fully 
understand. The importance of this cannot be overestimated. 
It shows how the child-mind gathers into itself words it has 
heard, and how they lurk there ready to come out when the key 
that releases the spring is touched. The reason that we do not 
observe this process in ordinary children is, because we seldom 
observe them at all, and because they are fed from so many 
sources that the memories are confused and mutually destructive. 
The story of "The Frost King" did not, however, come from 
Helen Keller's mind intact, but had taken to itself the mould 
of the child's temperament and had drawn on a vocabulary 
that to some extent had been supplied in other ways. The 
style of her version is in some respects even better than the 
style of Miss Canby's story. It has the imaginative credulity 
of a primitive folk-tale; whereas Miss Canby's story is evi- 
dently told for children by an older person, who adopts the 
manner of a fairy tale and cannot conceal the mature mood 
which allows such didactic phrases as "Jack Frost as he is some- 
times called," "Noon, at which time Mr. Sun is strongest." 
Most people will feel the superior imaginative quality of Helen 
Keller's opening paragraph. Surely the writer must become as 
a little child to see things like that. "Twelve soldierly looking 
white bears" is a stroke of genius, and there is beauty of rhythm 
throughout the child's narrative. It is original in the same 
way that a poet's version of an old story is original. 

This little story calls into life all the questions of language 
and the philosophy of style. Some conclusions may be briefly 

All use of language is imitative, and one's style is made up of 
ill other styles that one has met. 

The way to write good English is to read it and hear it. Thus 


it is that any child may be taught to use correct English by not 
being allowed to read or hear any other kind. In a child, the 
selection of the better from the worse is not conscious ; he is the 
servant of his word experience. 

The ordinary man will never be rid of the fallacy that words 
obey thought, that one thinks first and phrases afterward. 
There must first, it is true, be the intention, the desire to utter 
something, but the idea does not often become specific, does 
not take shape until it is phrased; certainly an idea is a different 
thing by virtue of being phrased. Words often make the 
thought, and the master of words will say things greater than 
are in him. A remarkable example is a paragraph from Miss 
Keller's sketch in the Youth's Companion. Writing of the 
moment when she learned that everything has a name, she 
says: "We met the nurse carrying my little cousin; and teacher 
spelled 'baby.' And for the first time I was impressed with the 
smallness and helplessness of a little baby, and mingled with 
the thought there was another one of myself, and I was glad 
I was myself, and not a baby." It was a word that created 
these thoughts in her mind. So the master of words is master 
of thoughts which the words create, and says things greater 
than he could otherwise know. Helen Keller writing "The 
Frost King" was building better than she knew and saying 
more than she meant. 

Whoever makes a sentence of words utters not his wisdom, 
but the wisdom of the race whose life is in the words, though 
they have never been so grouped before. The man who can 
write stories thinks of stories to write. The medium calls forth 
the thing it conveys, and the greater the medium the deeper the 

The educated man is the man whose expression is educated. 
The substance of thought is language, and language is the 
one thing to teach the deaf child and every other child. Let 
him get language and he gets the very stuff that language is 
made of, the thought and the experience of his race. The lan- 
guage must be one used by a nation, not an artificial thing. 
Volapiik is a paradox, unless one has French or English or 
German or some other language that has grown up in a nation. 
The deaf child who has only the sign language of De l'Epee is 
an intellectual Philip Nolan, an alien from all races, and his 
thoughts are not the thoughts of an Englishman, or a 


Frenchman, or a Spaniard. The Lord's prayer in signs is not 
the Lord's prayer in English. 

In his essay on style De Quincey says that the best English 
is to be found in the letters of the cultivated gentlewoman, 
because she has read only a few good books and has not been 
corrupted by the style of newspapers and the jargon of street;, 
market-place, and assembly hall. 

Precisely these outward circumstances account for Helen 
Keller's use of English. In the early years of her education 
she had only good things to read; some were, indeed, trivial and 
not excellent in style, but not one was positively bad in manner 
or substance. This happy condition has obtained throughout 
her life. She has been nurtured on imaginative literature, 
and she has gathered from it into her vigorous and tenacioits 
memory the style of great writers. "A new word opens its 
heart to me," she writes in a letter; and when she uses the word 
its heart is still open. When she was twelve years old, she was 
asked what book she would take on a long railroad journey, 
"Paradise Lost," she answered, and she read it on the 

Until the last year or two she has not been master of her 
style; rather has her style been master of her. It is only since 
she has made composition a more conscious study that she 
has ceased to be the victim of the phrase; the lucky victim, 
fortunately, of the good phrase. 

When in 1892, she was encouraged to write a sketch of her 
life for the Youth's Companion, in the hope that it would 
reassure her and help her to recover from the effect of "The Frost 
King," she produced a piece of composition which is much 
more remarkable and in itself more entertaining at some points 
than the corresponding part of her story in this book. When 
she came to retell the story in a fuller form, the echo was still 
in her mind of the phrases she had written nine years before. 
Yet she had not seen her sketch in the Youth's Companion since 
she wrote it, except two passages which Miss Sullivan read to 
her to remind her of things she should say in this autobiography,, 
and to show her, when her phrasing troubled her, how much 
better she did as a little girl. 

From the early sketch I take a few passages which seem to 
me, without making very much allowance for difference in time^ 
almost as good as anything she has written since; 


I [discovered the true way to walk when I was a year old, and 
during the radiant summer days that followed I was never still 

a minute. . . . 

Then when my father came in the evening, I would run to 
the gate to meet him, and he would take me up in his strong arms 
and put back the tangled curls from my face and kiss me many 
times, saying, "What has my Little Woman been doing 
to-day? " 

But the brightest summer has winter behind it. In the 
cold, dreary- month of February, when I was nineteen months 
old, I had a serious illness. I still have confused memories 
of that illness. My mother sat beside my little bed and tried 
to soothe my feverish moans while in her troubled heart she 
prayed, "Father in Heaven, spare my baby's life!" But 
the fever grew and flamed in my eyes, and for several days my 
kind physician thought I would die. 

But early one morning the fever left me as mysteriously and 
unexpectedly as it had come, and I fell into a quiet sleep. Then 
my parents knew I would live, and they were very happy. 
They did not know for some time after my recovery that the 
cruel fever had taken my sight and hearing ; taken all the light 
and music and gladness out of my little life. 

But I was too young to realize what had happened. When 
I awoke and found that all was dark and still, I suppose I thought 
it was night, and I must have wondered why day was so long 
coming. Gradually, however, I got used to the silence and 
darkness that surrounded me, and forgot that it had ever 
been day. 

I forgot everything that had been except my mother's tender 
love. Soon even my childish voice was stilled, because I had 
ceased to hear any sound. 

But all was not lost! After all, sight and hearing are but 
two of the beautiful blessings which God had given me. The 
most precious, the most wonderful of His gifts was still mine. 
My mind remained clear and active, "though fled fore'er the 

As soon as my strength returned, I began to take an interest 
in what the people around me were doing. I would cling 
to my mother's dress as she went about her household duties, 
and my little hands felt every object and observed every motion, 
B.nd in this way J learned a great many things. 


When I was a little older I felt the need of some means o4 
communication with those around me, and I began to make 
simple signs which my parents and friends readily understood; 
but it often happened that I was unable to express my thoughts 
intelligibly, and at such times I would give way to my angry 
feelings utterly. . . . 

Teacher had been with me nearly two weeks, and I had 
learned eighteen or twenty words, before that thought flashed 
into my mind, as the sun breaks upon the sleeping world; and 
in that moment of illumination the secret of language was 
revealed to me, and I caught a glimpse of the beautiful country 
I was about to explore. 

Teacher had been tiying all the morning to make me under- 
stand that the mug and the milk in the mug had different 
names; but I was very dull, and kept spelling milk for mug, and 
mug for milk until teacher must have lost all hope of making 
me see my mistake. At last she got up, gave me the mug, and 
led me out of the door to the pump-house. Some one was 
pumping water, and as the cool, fresh stream burst forth, teacher 
made me put my mug under the spout and spelled "w-a-t-e-r," 
Water ! 

That word startled my soul, and it awoke, full of the spirit 
of the morning, full of joyous, exultant song. Until that day 
my mind had been like a darkened chamber, waiting for words 
to enter and light the lamp, which is thought. . . . 

I learned a great many words that day. I do not remem- 
ber what they all were; but I do know that mother, father, sister 
and teacher were among them. It would have been difficult 
to find a happier little child than I was that night as I lay in 
my crib and thought over the joy the day had brought me, and 
for the first time longed for a new day to come. 

The next morning 1 awoke with joy in my heart. Every- 
thing I touched seemed to quiver with life. It was because I 
saw everything with the new, strange, beautiful sight which 
had been given me. I was never angry after that because I 
understood what my friends said to me, and I was very busy 
learning many wonderful things. I was never still during the 
first glad days of my freedom. I was continually spelling, 
and acting out the words as I spelled them. I would run, skip, 
jump and swing, no matter where I happened to be. Every* 
Maine was budding and blossoming. The honeysuckle hung is 


ong garlands, deliciously fragrant, and the roses had neve* 
been so beautiful before. Teacher and I lived out-of-doors 
irom morning until night, and I rejoiced greatly in the forgotten 
light and sunshine found again. . . . 

The morning after our arrival I awoke bright and early. 
A. beautiful summer day had dawned, the day on which I was 
to make the acquaintance of a somber and mysterious friend 
I got up, and dressed quickly and ran downstairs. I met 
Teacher in the hall, and begged to be taken to the sea at once. 
"'Not yet," she responded, laughing. "We must have breakfast 
first. " As soon as breakfast was over we hurried off to the 
shore. Our pathway led through low, sandy hills, and as we 
hastened on, I often caught my feet in the long, coarse grass, 
and tumbled, laughing, in the warm, shining sand. The beauti- 
ful, warm air was peculiarly fragrant, and I noticed it got cooler 
and fresher as we went on. 

Suddenly we stopped, and I knew, without being told, the 
Sea was at my feet. I knew, too, it was immense ! awful ! and 
for a moment some of the sunshine seemed to have gone out 
of the day. But I do not think I was afraid; for later, when 
I had put on my bathing-suit, and the little waves ran up on the 
beach and kissed my feet, 1 shouted for joy, and plunged fear- 
lessly into the surf. But, unfortunately, I struck my foot on a 
rock and fell forward into the cold water. 

Then a strange, fearful sense of danger terrified me. The 
salt water filled my eyes, and took away my breath, and a 
great wave threw me up on the beach as easily as if I liad been 
a little pebble. For several days after that I was very timid, 
and could hardly be persuaded to go in the water at all; but by 
degrees my courage returned, and almost before the summer 
was over, i thought it the greatest fun to be tossed about by the 
^ea-waves. . , • 

I do not know whether the difference or the similarity in 
phrasing between the child's version and the woman's is the more 
remarkable. The early story is simpler and shows less deliberate 
artifice, though even then Miss Kellei was prematurely conscious 
vf stvle; but the art of the later narrative, as in the passage 


a bout tne sea, or the passage on the medallion of Homer, is sure!} 
h fulfilment of the promise of the early story. It was in these 
early days that Dr. Holmes wrote to her: "I am delighted 
with the style of your letters. There is no affectation about them, 
and as they come straight from your heart, so they go straight 
to mine." 

In the years when she was growing out of childhood, her style 
lost it* early simplicity and became stiff and, as she says, "peri- 
wigged." In these years the fear came many times to Miss 
Sullivan lest the success of the child was to cease with child- 
hood. At times Miss Keller seemed to lack flexibility; hei 
thoughts ran in set phrases which she seemed to have no power 
to revise or turn over in new ways. 

Then came the work in college — original theme writing with 
new ideals of composition or at least new methods of suggesting 
those ideals Miss Keller began to get the better of her old 
friendly taskmaster, the phrase. This book, her first mature 
experiment in writing, settles the question of her ability to write 

The style of the Bible is everywhere in Miss Keller's work, 
just as it is in the style of most great English writers, Stevenson, 
whom Miss Sullivan likes and used to read to her pupil, is another 
marked influence. In her autobiography are many quotations, 
chiefly from the Bible and Stevenson, distinct from the context 
or interwoven with it, the whole a fabric quite of her own design, 
Her vocabulary has all the phrases that other people use, and 
the explanation of it and the reasonableness of it ought to be 
evident by this time, There is no reason why she should strike 
from her vocabulary all words of sound and vision. Writing 
for other people, she should in many cases be true to outer 
fact rather than to her own experience, So long as she uses 
words correctly, she should be granted the privilege of using 
them freely, and not be expected to confine herself to a vocabu- 
lary true to her lack of sight and hearing. In her style, as in 
what she writes about, we must concede to the artist what we 
dawv to the autobioprar>ber. It should be ext>3«in«3. *v»« looh and see are used by the blind, and hear by tne 
deaf, for perceive; they are simple and more convenient 
words Only a literal person could think of holding the 
blind to perception or apperception, when seeing and looking 
are so much easier, and have, moreover, in the speech of all 
nsn the meaning of intellectual recognition as well as recogm 



tion through the sense of sight. When Miss Keller examines 
a statue, she says in her natural idiom, as her fingers run over 
the marble, "It looks like a head of Flora." 

It is true, on the other hand, that in her descriptions, she is 
best from the point of view of art when she is faithful to her 
own sensations; and this is precisely true of all artists. 

Her recent training has taught her to drop a good deal of 
her conventionality and to write about experiences in her life 
which are peculiar to her and which, like the storm in the wild 
cherry tree, mean most and call for the truest phrasing. She 
has learned more and more to give up the style she borrowed 
from books and tried to use, because she wanted to write like 
other people; she has learned that she is at her best when she 
"feels" the lilies sway; lets the roses press into her hands and 
speaks of the heat which to her means light, 

Miss Keller's autobiography contains almost everything 
that she ever intended to publish. It seems worth while, how- 
ever, to quote from some of her chance bits of writing, which 
are neither so informal as her letters nor so carefully composed 
as her story of her life. These extracts are from her exercises 
in her course in composition, where she showed herself at the 
beginning of her college life quite without rival among her 
classmates. Mr. Charles T. Copeland, who has been for many 
years instructor in English and Lecturer on English Literature 
at Harvard and Radcliffe, said to me: "In some of her 
work she has shown that she can write better than any pupil 
I ever had, man or woman. She has an excellent 'ear' for ths 
flow of sentences." The extracts follow: 

A few verses of Omar Khayyam's poetry have just been 
read to me, and I feel as if I had spent the last half -hour in a 
magnificent sepulcher. Yes, it is a tomb in which hope, joy 
and the power of acting nobly lie buried. Every beautiful 
description, every deep thought glides insensibly into the same 
mournful chant of the brevity of life, of the slow decay and 
dissolution of all earthly things. The poet's bright, fond 
memories of love, youth and beauty are but the funeral torches 
shedding their light on this tomb, or to modify the image a 
little, they are the flowers that bloom on it, watered with tears 
And fed by a bleeding heart Beside the tomb sits a weary soul. 


rejoicing neither in the joys of the past nor in the possibilities of 
the future, but seeking consolation in forget fulness. In vain 
the inspiring sea shouts to this languid soul, in vain the heavens 
strive with its weakness; it still persists in regretting and seeks 
a refuge in oblivion from the pangs of present woe. At times 
St catches some faint echo from the living, joyous, real world, a 
gleam of the perfection that is to be; and, thrilled out of its 
despondency, feels capable of working out a grand ideal even 
J 'in the poor, miserable, hampered actual," wherein it is placed; 
but in a moment the inspiration, the vision is gone, and this 
great, much-suffering soul is again enveloped in the darkness 
of uncertainty and despair 

It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting 
the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of 
energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own 
tracks of ennui, 

I often think that beautiful ideas embarrass most people 
as much as the company of great men. They are regarded 
generally as far more appropriate in books and in public dis- 
courses than in the parlor or at the table. Of course I do not 
refer to beautiful sentiments, but to the higher truths relating 
to everyday life Few people that I know seem ever to pause 
in their daily intercourse to wonder at the beautiful bits of 
truth they have gathered during their years of study. Often, 
when I speak enthusiastically of something in history or in 
poetry, I receive no response, and I feel that I must change the 
subject and return to the commonest topics, such as the weather, 
dressmaking, sports, sickness, "blues" and "worries." To be 
sure, I take the keenest interest in everything that concerns 
those who surround me; it is this very interest which makes 
it so difficult for me to carry on a conversation with some people 
who will not talk or say what they think; but I should not be sorry 
to find more friends ready to talk with me now and then about 
the wonderful things I read. We need not be like "Les Femmes 
Savantes"; but we ought to have something to say about what 
we learn as well as about what we must do, and what our pro 
fessors say or how they mark our themes. 

To-day X took luncheon with the Freshman Class of Radcliffe. 


This was my first real experience in college life, and a delightful 
experience it was ! For the first time since my entrance into 
Radcliffe I had the opportunity to make friends with all my 
classmates, and the pleasure of knowing that they regarded 
me as one of themselves, instead of thinking of me as living 
apart and taking no interest in the everyday nothings of their 
life, as I had sometimes feared they did. I have often been 
surprised to hear this opinion expressed or rather implied by 
girls of my own age and even by people advanced in years. 
Once some one wrote to me that in his mind I was always "sweet 
and earnest," thinking only of what is wise, good and interesting 
—as if he thought I was one of those wearisome saints of whom 
there are only too many in the world ! I always laugh at 
these foolish notions, and assure my friends that it is much better 
to have a few faults and be cheerful and responsive in spite of 
all deprivations than to retire into one's shell, pet one's affliction, 
clothe it with sanctity, and then set one's self up as a monument 
of patience, virtue, goodness and all in all; but even while 
I laugh I feel a twinge of pain in my heart, because it seems 
rather hard to me that any one should imagine that I do not 
feel the tender bonds which draw me to my young sisters — 
the sympathies springing from what we have in common — 
youth, hope, a half-eager, half-timid attitude towards the life 
before us and above all the royalty of maidenhood. 

Sainte-Beuve says, u Il vient un age peut-Stre quand on n'ecrit 
plus." This is the only allusion I have read to the possibility that 
the sources of literature, varied and infinite as they seem now, 
may sometime be exhausted. It surprises me to find that such 
an idea has crossed the mind of any one, especially of a highly 
gifted critic. The very fact that the nineteenth century has 
not produced many authors whom the world may count among 
the greatest of all time does not in my opinion justify the remark 
"There may come a time when people cease to write." 

In the first place, the fountains of literature are fed by two 
vast worlds, one of action, one of thought, by a succession of 
creations in the one and of changes in the other. New experiences 
and events call forth new ideas and stir men to ask questions 
un thought of before, and seek a definite answer in the depths 
of human knowledge. 

In the second place, if it is true that as manv centuries must 


pass before the world becomes perfect as passed before it became 
what it is to-day, literature will surely be enriched incalculably 
by the tremendous changes, acquisitions and improvements 
that cannot fail to take place in the distant future. If genius 
has been silent for a century it has not been idle. On the 
contrary, it has been collecting fresh materials not only from 
the remote past, but also from the age of progress and develop- 
ment, and perhaps in the new century there will be outbursts 
of splendor in all the various branches of literature. At 
present the world is undergoing a complete revolution, and in 
the midst of falling systems and empires, conflicting theories 
and creeds, discoveries and inventions, it is a marvel how one 
can produce any great literary works at all. This is an age ot 
workers, not of thinkers. The song to-day is; 

Let the dead past bury its dead. 
Act, act in the living present. 
Heart within and God overhead - 

A little later, when the rush and heat of achievement relax, we 
can begin to expect the appearance of grand men to celebrate 
in glorious poetry and prose the deeds and triumphs of the 
last few centuries. 

It is very interesting to watch a plant grow, it is like taking 
part in creation. When all outside is cold and white, when the 
little children of the woodland are gone to their nurseries in the 
warm earth, and the empty nests on the bare trees fill with snow, 
my window-garden glows and smiles, making summer within 
while it is winter without. It is wonderful to see flowers bloom 
in the midst of a snow-storm ! I have felt a bud "shyly doft 
her green hood and blossom with a silken burst of sound," 
while the icy fingers of the snow beat against the window- 
panes. What secret power, I wonder, caused this blossoming 
miracle? What mysterious force guided the seedling from 
the dark earth up to the light, through leaf and stem and bud, 
to glorious fulfilment in the perfect flower? Who could have 
dreamed that such beauty larked in the dark earth, was latent 
in the tiny seed we planted ? Beautiful flower, you have taught 
me to see a little way into the hidden heart of things. Now 
I understand that the darkness everywhere may hold possi- 
bilities better even than my hopes. 



Book II — iS. 

I am not one of those on whom fortune deigns to smile. My 
house is not resplendent with ivory and gold; nor is it adorned 
with marble arches, resting on graceful columns brought from 
the quarries of distant Africa. For me no thrifty spinners 
weave purple garments. I have not unexpectedly fallen heir 
to princely estates, titles or power; but I have something more 
to be desired than all the world's treasures — the love of my 
friends, and honorable fame, won by my own industry and 
talents. Despite my poverty, it is my privilege to be the 
companion of the rich and mighty. I am too grateful for al/ 
these blessings to wish for more from princes, or from, the gods 
My little Sabine farm is dear to me; for here I spend my happiesl 
days, far from the noise and strife of the world. 

0, ye who live in the midst of luxury, who seek beautiful 
marbles for new villas, that shall surpass the old in splendor, 
you never dream that the shadow of death is hanging over yout 
halls. Forgetful of the tomb, you lay the foundation of your 
palaces. In your mad pursuit of pleasure you rob the sea of 
its beach and desecrate hallowed ground. More even than this, 
in your wickedness you destroy the peaceful homes of your 
clients ! Without a touch of remorse you drive the father from 
his land, clasping to his bosom his household gods and his 
half-naked children. 

You forget that death comes to the rich and the poor alike, 
and comes once for all; but remember, Acheron could not be 
bribed by gold to ferry the crafty Prometheus back to the sunlit 
world. Tantalus, too, great as he was above all mortals, went 
down to the kingdom of the dead, never to return. Remember, 
too, that, although death is inexorable, yet he is just; for 
he brings retribution to the rich for their wickedness, and gives 
the poor eternal rest from their toil and sorrow. 

Ah, the pranks that the nixies of Dreamland play on us 
while we sleep ! Methinks "they are jesters at the Court of 
Heaven." They frequently take the shape of daily themes to 
mock me; they strut about on the stage of Sleep like foolish 
virgins, only they carry well-trimmed note-books in theif 


hands instead of empty lamps. At other times they examine 
and cross-examine me in all the studies I have ever had, and 
invariably ask me questions as easy to answer as this: "What 
was the name of the first mouse that worried Hippopotamus, 
satrap of Cambridge under Astyagas, grandfather of Cyrus 
the Great?" I wake terror-stricken with the words ringing 
in my ears, "An answer or your life !" 

Such are the distorted fancies that flit through the mind oi 
one who is at college and lives as I do in an atmosphere of 
ideas, conceptions and half- thoughts, half-feelings which tumble 
and jostle each other until one is almost crazy. I rarely have 
dreams that are not in keeping with what I really think and feel, 
but one night my very nature seemed to change, and I stood 
in the eye of the world a mighty man and a terrible. Naturally 
I love peace and hate war and all that pertains to war; I see 
nothing admirable in the ruthless career of Napoleon, save its 
finish. Nevertheless, in that dream the spirit of that pitiless 
slayer of men entered me ! I shall never forget how the fury of 
battle throbbed in my veins — it seemed as if the tumultuous 
beating of my heart would stop my breath. I rode a fiery 
hunter — I can feel the impatient toss of his head now and 
the quiver that ran through him at the first roar of the cannon. 

Frcm the top of the hill where I stood I saw my army surging 
over b sunlit plain like angry breakers, and as they moved, I 
saw the green of fields, like the cool hollows between billows. 
Trumpet answered trumpet above the steady beat of drums 
and the rhythm of marching feet. I spurred my panting 
steed and waving my sword on high and shouting, ''I come ! 
Behold me, warriors — Europe !" I plunged into the oncoming 
billows, as a strong swimmer dives into breakers, and struck, 
alas, 'tis true, the bedpost ! 

Now I rarely sleep without dreaming; but before Miss Sullivan 
came to me, my dreams were few and far between, devoid 
of thought or coherency, except those of a purely physical 
nature. In my dreams something was always falling suddenly 
and heavily, and at times my nurse seemed to punish me for my 
unkind treatment of her in the daytime and return at an usurer's 
rate of interest my kickings and pinchings. I would wake 
with a start or struggle frantically to escape from my tormentor. 
I was very fond of bananas, and one night I dreamed that I 
found a long string of them in the dining-room, near the cup- 


board, all peeled and deliriously ripe, and all I had to do was 
to stand under the string and eat as long as I could eat. 

After Miss Sullivan came to me, the more I learned, the 
oftener I dreamed; but with the waking of my mind there came 
many dreary fancies and vague terrors which troubled my sleep 
for a long time. I dreaded the darkness and loved the wood- 
fire. Its warm touch seemed so like a human caress, I really 
thought it was a sentient being, capable of loving and protecting 
me. One cold winter night I was alone in my room. Miss 
Sullivan had put out the light and gone away, thinking I was 
sound asleep. Suddenly I felt my bed shake, and a wolf seemed 
to spring on me and snarl in my face. It was only a dream, but 
I thought it real, and my heart sank within me. I dared not 
scream, and I dared not stay in bed. Perhaps this was a con- 
fused recollection of the story I had heard not long before 
about Red Riding Hood. At all events, I slipped down from the 
bed and nestled close to the fire which had not flickered out. 
The instant I felt its warmth I was reassured, and I sat a long 
time watching it climb higher and higher in shining waves. 
At last sleep surprised me, and when Miss Sullivan returned 
she found me wrapped in a blanket by the hearth. 

Often when I dream, thoughts pass through my mind like 
cowled shadows, silent and remote, and disappear. Perhaps 
they are the ghosts of thoughts that once inhabited the mind of 
an ancestor. At other times the things I have learned and the 
things I have been taught, drop away, as the lizard sheds its 
skin, and I see my soul as God sees it. There are also rare and 
beautiful moments when I see and hear in Dreamland. What 
if in my waking hours a sound should ring through the silent 
halls of hearing? What if a ray of light should flash through 
the darkened chambers of my soul ? What would happen, I 
ask many and many a time. Would the bow-and-string tension 
of life snap ? Would the heart, overweighted with sudden 
joy, stop beating for very excess of happiness ? 


Abstract Ideas, 30-31, 350, 
358-359, 365. See _ also 
Innate ideas and Religion. 

Adams, Benjamin, 4. 

Adams, Charles, 4. 

JEneid, 111, 245, 251, 253. 

Alden, Mr. William L., 236. 

Alexander, Mr. Wm. V., see 
Editor's Preface. 

Algebra, study of, 90-95, 241- 
242, 248. 

Allen, Mr. E. E., 99, 292. 

Alphabet, see Manual. 

American Annals of the Deaf, 

415- ... 

American Association to Pro- 
mote the Teaching of Speech 
to the Deaf, meeting at 
Chautauqua, 80, 224, 300; 
extracts from Miss Sulli- 
van's paper before, 374~377. 
386-387; Helen Keller's 
address at meeting at Mt. 
Airy, 392-393. 

Anagnos, Mr. Michael, 19, 63- 
71, 108, 180, 193, 299, 300, 
302, 311, 324, 344; letter 
from, 415; letters to, 148, 
151, 154, 162, 168, 405. 

Andersen, Hans Christian, 399. 

Andover, visit to, 202, 399. 

Anna, Cousin (Mrs. George T. 
Turner), letter to, 145. 

Arabian Nights, The, 108. 

Arithmetic, study of, 36, 81, 

175. 2 39- 339. 3 6 4~3 6 5- 
.As You Like It, 85. 
Astronomy, study of, 90, 165. 

Bacon's Essays, 265. 

Bell, Dr. Alexander Graham, 
20, 67, 75, 76, 137-138, 15s. 
196, 216, 219, 235, 268-269, 
274, 277, 278, 346, 395; 
letter to, 148. 

Belle, "our dog," 13, 312- 

Bennett, Miss Delia, letter to, 

Bible, 99, 111-113, 283. 
Bible Stories, 108. 
Bicycle, 125, 243-244. 
Birdie and His Fairy Fne-nas, 

65. 401-413- 
Black Beauty, 53, 362. 
Blind Girls, letters to, 146, 

Bok, Mr. Edward W., see 

Editor's Preface. 
Books, 105-118, 367, 376-377, 

379-380, 395. See also 

Language, Method, Style, and 

specific titles. 
Botany, study of, 36, 364. 
Boy I Knew, A, 138. 
Bradford, Mrs. George H., 

letter to, 232. 
Bradstreet, Messrs., letter to, 

Braille, 84, 90, 152, 275, 284, 

292, 324, 339; difficulty of, 

in examinations, 93-95, 259- 

Braille Machine, 285, 292. 
Bridgman, Laura, 17, 22, 279 

290, 297-298, 302, 330, 368. 
Brooks, Phillips, 133, 215. 372, 

399; letter from, 187; letters 

to, 185, 200, 203. 
Bryant, William Cullen, 82, 





Bunker Hill, visit to, 45. 
Burke's Speech on Conciliation 

with America, 85-86. 
Burroughs, Mr. John, 139, 233. 

C«sar, study of , 79, 223. 
Cambridge School for Young 

Ladies, 83-92, 237—240. 
Campbell, Mildred, 6. 
Canby, Miss Margaret T., 65— 

68, 401; letters from, 402— 

Cards, playing, 126. 
Carlyle, 117. 

Castle of Otranto, The, 231. 
Chambered Nautilus, The, $j. 
Chamberlin, Mr. J. E., 121- 

122, 236, 391. 
Chamberlin, Mrs. J. E., 236. 
Checkers, 126. 
Chess, 126. 

Children, love of, 126. 
Chisholm, Dr., 20 
Christmas, first, 41—42, 150, 

Church, first visit to, 347-348. 
Cicero, 255. 
Circus, 340—341. 
Clemens, Mr. Samuel L., 117, 

138, 139, 227, 228, 286. 
Clement, Mr. Edward H., 

letter to, 209. 
Cleveland, Mr. Grover, 155. 
Cleveland, Mrs. Grover, letter 

to, 211. 
Colomba, 262, 264. 
Colour, idea of, 149, 288, 335, 

Communication. See Convert 

sation^ Manual Alphabet, 

Signs, Speech. 
Conversation, knowledge 

gained from, 289; theme 

on, 426. 
Copeland, Mr. Charles Town- 
send, 100, 418, 425; letter 

to, 272. 
Corneille, 97, 264. 
Cornell University, 266. 
Crouter, Dr., 235. 

Death, idea of, 344, 354-355- 
Derby, Miss Caroline, letters 

to, 207, 210, 214, 219, 223, 

224, 225, 231, 233, 234, 244. 
Diary, see Journals. 
Dickens's American Notes, 17; 

A Child's History of England, 

108, 367. 
Dodge, Mrs. Mary Mapes, 139, 

Dog Show, 226. 
Dogs, 125. 

"Doll," 22-24, 305-306. 
Donald, Miss Dora, 255. 
Dreams, 429-431. 
Drummond, Mr. Henry, 135. 

Eclogues, Virgil's, 251, 253. 
Economics, study of, 100. 
Education, Chapter on, 297- 

383. See also for specific 

discussions, Books, Language 

Method, Style. 
Elizabethan Literature, study 

of, 100. 
Eferton's Middle Ages, 115. 
Endicott, Mr. William, 46, 

English, study of, 83, 97, 99, 

100, 224, 273. See also 

Enoch Arden, 197. 
Everett, Edward, 4. 
Everett, Lucy Helen, 4. 
Examinations. See Radcliffe. 

Faery Queen, The, 264. 
Fern Quarry, 50-54, 63. 
Fire, experience with, 13. 
Freeman's History of Europe, 

„ "5- T . 

French Literature, comments 

on, 116. 
French, study of, 78, 80, 97, 

161-163, 380. 
Frey tag's Aus dem Staat Fried' 

rtchs des Grossen, 85. 
Frost Fairies, The, 64-68, 401; 

story quoted in full, 406- 




"Frost King" episode, The, 
204; Editor's discussion of, 
417-419; Helen Keller's 
account of, 63-72, 73; Miss 
Sullivan's account of, 396- 


Frost King, The, Helen 

Keller's, 406-413. 
Fuller, Mrs. S. R., letter to, 

Fuller, Miss Sarah, 59-60, 384, 

387; letter to, 183. 
Furness, Dr. H. H., 287. 

Games. See Cards, Checkers, 

Chess, etc. 
Garcelon, Dr., 349. 
Geography, study of, 35-36, 

Geometry, study of, 90-94, 

German Literature, comments 

on , 116, 117. 
German, study of, 80, 83, 97, 

Gilder, Mr. Richard Watson, 

138, 139- 
Gilman, Mr. Arthur, 83-92, 
237, 240, 260—261, 296, 

Gilman, Dr. Daniel C, extract 

from letter to Miss Sullivan, 

Goethe, gy;Aus Meinem Leben, 

85; Faust, 116. 
Goodhue, Susanna E., 4. 
Goodson Gazette, The, 40 1 . 
Great Round World, The, letter 

to, 276. 
Greece, interest in, 109— no. 
"Greek Heroes" (Charles 

Kingsley's The Heroes), 108, 

Greek, study of, 90, no— in, 

241, 253. 
Green's A Short History of the 

English People, 115, 265, 

Greer, Dr. David H., 263-264, 

^68; letter to, 253. 

Grote, Frau, 84, 261. 
Government, study of, 100. 

HAGUEW00D,Miss Linnie, 255. 

Hale, Dr. Edward E., 4, 136- 
137, 139, 258, 346; letters to, 
151, 166, 181, 223, 278. 

Halifax, visit to, 120-12 1, 277- 

Hammond. See Typewriter. 

Hands, recognition of, 133, 

Harbaugh, Miss, 91. 

Hawthorne's The Wonder 
Book, 108. 

Heady, Mr. Morrison, letters 
tp,i53, 159. 

Heidi, 108. 

Heine's Harzreise, 85. 

Henry Esmond, 265. 

Herrick, Robert, 117. 

Higinbotham, Mr. H. N., 76, 

History, study of, 83, 97, 115, 
116, 224. 

Hitz, Mr. John, 255,384; let- 
ters to, 212, 234, 239, 249, 
259, 264, 267. See also 
Editor's Preface. 

Hoar, Hon. George F., letter 
to, 280. 

Holmes, Mr. John H., letter 
to, 201. 

Holmes, Dr. Oliver "Wendell, 
135-136; extract from poem , 
"Spring," 398; letters from, 
189, 424; letters to, 182, 198, 

Homer, 254; medallion of, 127- 
128. See Greek, Iliad. 

Hood, Thomas, 117. 

Hooker, Miss, 218. 

Hopkins, Sophia C, 67, 301, 
401; Helen Keller's letter to, 
164; Miss Sullivan's letters 
to, 3°3-337. 340-352. See 
also Editor's Preface. 

Horace, Odes of, 100, 264; 
Helen Keller's translation 
from, 429. 



Howe, Dr. Samuel Gridley, 17, 
278—279, 280, 297-298, 302, 

Howells, Mr. William Dean, 

87, 138, 227, 228, 238. 
Hugo, 116. 
Humason, Dr. T. A., 225, 226, 


Huss, examination on, 102- 

Hutton, Mr. Laurence, 138, 
227, 228, 231. 

Hutton, Mrs. Laurence, 138, 
140, 231, 268, 295; letters 
to, 229, 237, 239, 240, 241 
242, 244, 248, 252, 255, 257, 
263, 266, 274. See also 
Editor's Preface. 

Iliad, ho, hi, 241, 245, 251, 

In Memoriam, 79. 
Inches, Mrs. Charles E., letter 

to, 221. 
Innate ideas, 293-294. 
Irons, Rev. John D., 78-79, 

Irving, Sir Henry, 128, 231. 
Irving, Washington, 82. 
Irwin, Miss Agnes, 258, 287. 
Ivanhoe, 232. 
Ivy Green, 5, 308. 

Jefferson, Mr. Joseph 128- 

130, 287. 
Johnson, Samuel, 86. 
Journals, extracts from Helen 

Keller's, 296, 346-347, 360- 

361, 414-415. 
Jungle Book, The, 109, 253, 394 

Kaata, Miss Ragnhild, 59, 184, 

Keith, Mr. Merton S., 92-95, 

240, 240-242, 245, 248, 255, 

261, 296, 383. 
Keller, Captain Arthur H., 4, 

14-15, 237, 304, 309, 312, 

343> 344, 347-348. 

Keller, Caspar, 3. 

Keller, Miss Evelina H., lettel 
to, 163. 

Keller, "Grandfather," 4. 

Keller, Helen, ancestry, 3; 
birth, 3; characteristics, 6, 
14, 17, 287—288, 294—296, 

304-305. 3 2 3. 355-357. 363- 
364; christening, 6; early 
home, 4; first lesson, 22, 305; 
Frost King episode, 63-72, 
396-419; illness, 7; journey 
to Baltimore, 18; journey 
to Boston, 43; knowledge 
before education, 10, 21, 
304, 307; knowledge gained 
from conversation, 289; 
knowledge of life, 295; 
knowledge of visible world, 
289-290, 357; plan to estab- 
lish an institution for deaf 
and blind children, 267-269; 
pleasures, 119— 131; post- 
pones entering Radcliffe, 
258; studies at Hulton, 
Penn., 78-79, 221; studies 
at Wright-Humason School, 
80-82, 224-226; studies 
under Mr, Merton S. Keith, 
240-242, 244-245, 248, 253- 
255; tea for kindergarten, 
206—209; visit to Andover, 
202 ; visit to Cincinnati, 348- 
349; visit to Halifax, 120, 
277-278; visit to Memphis, 
iSo-^ 2 . 345-346; visit to 
Niagara, 74, 215-217; visit 
to Plymouth, 45, 159— 161; 
visit to World's Fair, 75-77, 
218-220; work for Tommy 
Stringer, 196-202; 
Keller, Dr. James, 2>33t 34$, 

347. 349- 
Keller, Mr. James, 303, 305, 


Keller, Mrs. Kate Adams, 4, 9, 
87, 221, 303, 304, 308, 
343-344 ; letters to, 145 
158, 178, 179, 192, 216, 227 

Keller, Miss Mildred, 16, 87 
333-334 ; letters to, 175, 261 



Keller, Phillips Brooks, 210, 

Keller's Landing, 35, 321 
Khayyam, see Omar. 
King Lear, 113. 
King of No-land, 231. 
Kipling, Mr. Rudyard, 253. 
Kipling's Dreaming True, 248; 

Jungle Book, 109, 253, 394. 
Kittredge, Professor George 

Lyman, 100, 115. 
Knowledge, before education, 

10, 21, 304, 307; of life, 295; 

of visible world, 289—290, 

"Knowledge is power,' 104. 
Krehl, Mr. George R., letter 

to, 197 

Ladies' Home Journal, 71; 
see also Editor's Preface. 

La Fontaine's Fables, 78, 108, 

Lamb's Tales from Shakes- 
peare, 108, 395. 

Lamson, Mrs. Mary Swift, 59, 
298 footnote. 

Language, absorption of, 106, 
161-162, 318, 375, 378, 397. 
See also Books, Method, 

Latin, study of, 79, 83, 90, in, 
223, 245. 253, 255. 3 8 °- 

Lee, Robert E., 4. 

Leslie, Miss Elsie, 130. 

Lessing's Minna von Barn- 
helm, 85. 

Letters from Helen Keller to 
Mr. Michael Anagnos, 148, 
151, 154, 162, 168, 405; Dr. 
Alexander G. Bell, 148; 
Miss Delia Bennett, 165; 
Blind Girls at Perkins Insti- 
tution, 146, 147 ; Mrs. George 
B. Bradford, 232; Messrs. 
Bradstreet, 191; Phillips 
Brooks, 185, 200, 203; Mr. 
Edward H. Clement, 209; 
Mrs. Grover Cleveland, 211; 

Letters from Helen Keller to 
Mr. Charles T. Copeland, 
272; Miss Caroline Derby, 
207, 210, 214, 219, 223, 224, 
225, 231, 233, 234, 244; 
Miss Sarah Fuller, 183; Mrs. 
Samuel R. Fuller, 258; The 
Great Round World, 276; 
Dr. David H. Greer, 2153; 
Dr. E. E. Hale, 151, 166, 
181, 223, 278; Mr. Morrison 
Heady, 153, 159; Mr. John 
Hitz, 212, 234, 239, 249, 
259, 264, 267 ; Senator 
George F. Hoar, 280; Mr. 
John H. Holmes, 201; Dr. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 182, 
198, 202; Mrs. Sophia C. 
Hopkins, 164; Mrs. Laurence 
Hutton, 229, 237, 239, 240, 
241, 242, 244, 248, 252, 
2 55. 257, 263, 266, 274; 
Mrs. Charles E. Inches, 221; 
Miss Evelina H. Keller, 163; 
Mrs. Kate Adams Keller, 
145, 158, 178, 179, 192, 216^ 
227; Miss Mildred Keller, 
175, 261; Mr. George R. 
Krehl, 197; Miss Fannie S. 
Marrett, 170 ; Sir John 
Everett Millais, 199; Miss 
Mary C. Moore, 156; Mr. 
Albert H. Munsell, 204; 
Chairman of Academic 
Board of Radcliffe College, 
265; Miss Nina Rhoades, 
277; Miss Mary E. Riley, 
171; St. Nicholas, 206; John 
P. Spaulding, 208; Miss 
Anne M. Sullivan, 173; 
Mrs. William Thaw, 230, 
238, 246, 247; Miss Sarah 
Tomlinson, 149; Mrs. George 
T. Turner , 145 ; Mr. 
William Wade, 176, 251, 
255, 271, 275; Charles 
Dudley Warner, 236, 
243 ; John G. Whittier, 
177, 194; Mr. John D. 
Wright, 269. 



Letters from Miss Sullivan to 
Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins, 

303-337. 34o-35 2 - 
Letters, style of Helen Keller s, 

Letters to Helen Keller from 

Phillips Brooks, 187; Dr. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, 189; 

John Greenleaf Whittier, 


Liberty, visit to Statue of, 225. 

Library at Tuscumbia, 221- 

Line Print, "embossed print," 

Lip-reading, 61, 81, 224—226, 
391; see also Speech. 

Literature. See Books, Eng- 
lish, French, German, Greek, 
Latin, Style. 

"Little Jakey," 182, 186. 

Little Lord Fauntleroy, 68, 
106—108, 162—163, 169, 416— 

4 I 7- 
Little Red Riding Hood, 341, 


Little Women, 108. 
Longfellow, 221, 396 footnote. 
"Love," 29. 
Lowell, J. R., 117. 

Masie, Mr. H. W., 233. 
Macaulay's Samuel Johnson, 

Macbeth, 113, 114, 295. 
McGirr, Miss Katie, 272. 
Magazine for the blind, 275— 

, 2 77- 
"Maine Memorial College," 

Manual alphabet, 62, 98, 238, 

251—252, 256, 291—292. 
Manual skill, 290-291, 390, 

391, 314. 
Marrett, Miss Fannie S., letter 

to, 170. 
Mathematics. See Algebra, 

A rithmetic , Geometry. 
Meath, Earl of, and Lady, 178, 

181, 197. 

Medecin Malgre Lui, Le, 78, 

80, 234. 
Memory, of people, 286; tactile, 

293. See Hands, Touch. 
Memphis, visit to, 150-152, 

Merimee, 116. 
Method, Miss Sullivan's, 22, 

29-3 2 . 34, 3 8 -40, 301, 308, 

3 I 3~3 I 4. 3 : 5. 3*7> 320-321, 

33o, 332, 341, 342-343, 35 1 . 

358-359, 365-366, 370-37 1 . 

375-377; Editor's discussion 

of, 3787383, 395- 
Metropolitan Club, 227. 
Midsummer Night's Dream, A, 

Millais, Sir John Everett, 

letter to, 199. 
Milton, 98; Paradise Lost, 420. 
Molierc , 97, 116; Medecin 

Malgr6 Lui, 78, 80, 234. 
Moore, Alexander, 4. 
Moore, Miss Mary C, letter 

to, 156. 
Morse, Professor, 220. 
Munsell, Mr. Albert H., 217, 

291; letter to, 204. 
Museums, experiences in, 126— 

127, 249—250, 290. 
Music, knowledge of, 288- 

289; study of, 224. 
Musset, Alfred de, 97. 

"Nancy," 43~44, 152, 3 IQ - 

Nature, enjoyment of, 122— 
125; lessons in, 25, 34-38, 
321, 325-326, 332, 369- 
370; theme on, 428. 

Niagara, visit to, 74, 215-217. 

North Alabamian, The, 222. 

Odyssey, 253. 

Old Mortality, 231. 

Olivier, Madame, 80. 

Omar Khayyam, theme on, 

Our World, 47, 105. 
Over the Teacups, i8i„ 



Perkins Institution, 44, 106; 

See also M. Anagnos, S. G. 

Howe, and Reports. 
Personality, 286-296. See 

under Helen Keller, charac- 
Philosophy, study of, 100. 
Physics, study of, 90. 
plague, The, Defoe's, 239. 
Play, education by means of, 

318, 322, 326, 380, 382. 
"Players, The," 239. 
Pleasures, 11 9-1 31. 
Plymouth, visit to, 45, 159- 

Politics, interest in, 280. 
Poultry Show, 233. 
Pratt, Mrs. A. C, 391. 
Prince and the Pauper, The, 

Pronouns, use of, ^Z^* 

Racine, 97, 116. 

Radcliffe College, 96-104, 274, 
283; Miss Agnes Irwin, dean 
of, 258, 287; examinations 
for, 87-89, 93-95, 240, 257, 
259—260; examinations in, 
1 01— 102 ; letter to the Chair- 
man of the Academic Board, 
265; theme on, 426-427. 

Reader for Beginners, 33. 

Reading, exercises in, 67, 331, 
338-339, 366; manner of, 
393-294; raised print, 292— 
293. See Books. 

Reamy, Miss, 80. 

Red Farm. See Wrentham. 

Religion, 134-135, 368-374. 
See also Phillips Brooks. 

Reports of Perkins Institu- 
tion, 299, 300, 334, 335, 
344; extracts from, 302, 
302-303, 337-340, 35 2 -374, 

Rhoades, Mr. J. Harsen, 268. 

Rhoades, Miss Nina, 263, 272; 
letter to, 277. 

Rice, Ruby, 271. 

Riehl's Fluch aer Schonheit, 85. 

Riggs, Mrs. Kate Douglas 

Wiggin, 139, 228, 229, 231. 

Riley, Miss Mary E., letter to, 

I 7 I - 

Rip Van Winkle, 128—130. 

Rivals, The, 129. 
Robinson Crusoe, 108, 394. 
Rogers, Mr. Henry H., 228, 

Roosevelt, Mr. Theodore, 263, 

Rose Fairies, The, extract 

from, 403—404. 
Roses, 5-6, 169. 
Rowing, 119, 120, 344. 
Royce, Professor Josiah, 100. 
Ruskin, John, 213. 

Sailing, 120. 

St. Bartholomew's Church, 

St. Nicholas, 218; letter to, 206. 

Sainte-Beuve, 97, 427. 

Sara Crew, 193. 

Sargent, Mr. John S., 252. 

Scarlet Letter, The, 106. 

Schiller, 97, 117; Lied von der 
Glocke, 85; Taucher, 85; 
Wilhelm Tell, 85, 380- 

Scott, Maud, 271. 

Scott, Walter, 117. 

Sculptures, 178. See also 

Sea, experience with, 47—49, 

Sense impressions, 122, 123- 
124. See also Smell, Taste, 

Sense of time, 294. 

Sense, sixth, 122, 293. 

Shakespeare, study of, 100, 
101, 115. 

Shakespeare's As You Like It, 
8 5 ; King Lear, 113; Macbeth, 
113, 114, 295; A Mid- 
summer Night's Dream, 265; 
The Tempest, 265. 

Ship, visit to, 179. 

Sign-language, 256, 286. 419, 




Signs, use of, 9, 17, 304, 319, 

33S, 357. 3*3, 389. 
Silent Worker, The, 213. 
Smell, sense of, 293, 352. 
Spaulding, Mr. John P., 82, 

207,232, 233; letter to, 208. 
Spaulding, Mrs. Mahlon D., 

Speech, Helen Keller's account 

of, 58-62; letters on, 183, 

224-226. 235; chapter on, 

Spotswood, Alexander, 4. 
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 70, 

287; Treasure Island, 394. 
Stockton, Frank R., 231. 
Storm, experiences in, 25-27, 

I20— 121. 

Stringer, Tommy, 196—202, 

Studies. See Algebra, Aritli- 
metic, English, French, 
Geometry, German, Greek, 
History, Latin, Nature, etc.; 
also titles of books in various 

Style, 63, 64, 69-71; chapter 
on, 394-431. 

Sullivan, Miss Anne Mansfield, 
14, 20, 21-23, 34, 60, 252, 
300, 302-303, 430, 431; let- 
ters from, 299, 303—337, 
340-352; letter to, 173. 
See also Method. 

Swedenborg's Heaven and 
Hell, _ 135. 

Swimming, 119, 244 

Swinton's World' s History, 115. 

Swiss Family Robinson, The, 

Tadpoles, episode of, 38. 

Taste, sense of, 352. 

Tea for Kindergarten, 206- 

Teacher. See Miss Anne M. 

Telegraph alphabet, 368. 
Tempest, The, 265. 
Terry, Miss Ellen, 128, 231. 

Thaw, Mrs. William, 140, 275; 

letters to, 230, 238, 246, 247. 
Theatre, 128-130. 
Themes, extracts from Helen 

Keller's, 425-431. 
"Think," 30. 
Thomas, Miss Edith, 162. 
Tobogganing, 57, 241. 
Tomlinson, Miss Sarah, letter 

to, 149. 
Touch, sense of, 290—291, 352- 

354; memory through, 293. 
Trestle, adventure on, 54. 
Turner, Mrs. George T., letter 

to, 145. 
"Twain, Mark." See Mr. S. L. 

Typewriter, use of, 84, 98, 

229—230, 280, 284, 291, 367. 

University of Chicago, 267. 

"Very," 320. 

Vining, Mr. Eugene C, 93, 94, 

Voice-culture, 224, 234. See 

Volta Bureau, 383; souvenir 

of Helen Keller, 300 ; extract 

from, 396-415. 

Wade, Mr. William, 78, 99, 

186, 231, 2S4; letters to, 

176, 251, 255, 271, 275. 
Warner, Charles Dudley, 137, 

13S-139. 22S, 233, 2 94I 

letters to, 236, 243. 
Washington, Martha, 11— 12. 
Watch, 294, 341. 
"Water," 6, 22, 23, 58, 316, 

337. 422. 
Westervelt, Mr. Z. F., 216. 
Whittier, John Greenleaf, 117, 

136, 178; letter from, 195; 

letters to, 177, 194. 
Wild Animals I Have Known, 

Winter, description of, 55-57- 



Wordsworth, 117. 

World's Fair, 75-77, 218-220. 

Wrentham, Massachusetts, 

studies at, 92; vacations at, 

119-125, 257. 
Wright, Mr. John D., 380; 

letter to, 269; See Wright- 

Humason School. 
Wright- Humason School, 80- 

82, 224—226. 
Writing of the Book, The, 283- 

Writing with pencil, 145, 2o6 r 

S 10 "" 1 ' " 9f 33 . 6 ' 339, 345- 
oee also fypewrtter. 

Youth's Companion, The, 74, 
213; extracts from Helen 
Keller's story in, 419, 420- 

Zoology, study of, 36, 18* 

The Country Life Press 
Garden City, N. Y. 

HV1624 Keller, Helen . 

K281 The story of my life. 




HV1624 Keller, Helen . 

K281 The story of ray life. 




P^JU*- Ci^Uy 



15 WEST 16th STREET 
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10011