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In the Edipus at Colonus, no doubt other elements of tragic emotion are predominant; but no reader can be insensible to the degree in which the blindness of the dethroned and wandering monarch is made to add to the pathos of the character and the situation.
The philosophers, mentioned by Diogenes Laertius-among them Democritus—who put out their eyes in order to concentrate their attention on the abstractions with which they were engaged; and the more trustworthy allusions in many of Cicero's writings to his old teacher Diodotus, whose loss of sight did not interfere with his skill in teaching geometry,--are, as far as we know, the principal documents in relation to blindness to be found in the classical writers of heathendom.
Turning to the East, there is evidence that music was an art especially cultivated in Egypt by the blind. “ Among the mural tablets of the ancient Egyptians," says Dr. Kitto, “ there is one, copied by Rossellini and Sir J. G. Wilkinson, which is among the very few exhibiting any thing of character or sentiment, or able to inspire any emotion. It is from the tombs of Alabastron, and represents a blind harper sitting cross-legged on the ground, attended by seven other blind men similarly seated, who sing and beat time with their hands. They are clearly professional musicians; and from this we learn that music was a source of employment in Egypt to the blind, who in that country have always been frightfully numerous. That it was no less a source of enjoyment is manifest in their countenances, lighted up with animation and interest in their work; while the artist has contrived that not only the eyes, but every feature of the face, and the position of the heads, express the blindness of their condition."*
In more modern times, Chardin's account of the blind Persian princes at Ispahan, whose mathematical attainments and methods
of study he describes, and the more questionable stories told by Charlevoix of the college of blind men in Japan, to whose memory the public records of the empire are confided, are the chief records of this class in the East.
It would be an endless and useless task to enumerate even the names of those who, since the Christian era, have, notwithstanding the absence of what is ordinarily deemed the most essential of the inlets of knowledge, been distinguished by proficiency in the various departments of intellectual culture and research. A tolerably complete list of these will be found in the article on the Instruction of the Blind in the original edition of the Penny Cyclopædia. It presents us with votaries of the mathematical and physico-mathematical sciences, the sciences of observation and
• Kitto, p. 171,
experiment;-chemistry and natural history, speculative philosophy, law, medicine, and divinity, politics and history, poetry, music, and sculpture, and the various arts of mechanical construction. Unfortunately the names of those who thus pursued knowledge under difficulties, and the fact of their achievements, are all that is recorded. Stupid indifference and neglect, or scarcely more intelligent wonder (as at the tricks of trained animals, or at striking displays of untrained animal instinct), with its unfailing accompaniment of exaggeration, do not seem to have given place to any more worthy curiosity. It was not until the middle of the eighteenth century that an attempt was made to realise the intellectual and moral condition of the blind. Diderot's Lettre sur les Aveugles, à l'usage de ceux qui voient (“Letter on the Blind, for the use of those who see"), published in 1749, first distinctly suggested and exemplified the manner in which the study of the experience and feelings of the blind might be made to throw light upon some of the most interesting problems of mental science. If it can be ascertained that the blind are, as a rule, without, or possess only in an inferior degree and undeveloped condition, ideas and perceptions which are the common property of those who see; if certain otherwise universal emotions and feelings are absent from their minds, or only feebly present to them; if a marked mental tendency, a certain cast of character differencing them as a class from other human beings, can be detected,-an important aid is gained towards the determination of the part which the faculty of vision plays in the acquisition of knowledge, the training of the intellect, and the formation of the tastes, affections, and moral dispositions. This essay of Diderot's, and a subsequent production of the same author, Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets, à l'usage de ceux qui entendent et qui parlent (“Letter on Deaf Mutes, for the use of those who hear and speak”), published in 1751, occupy an important place in the history, not only of the literature of our present subject, but of philosophy in France, and, through France, in Europe. They suggested the method of exposition and illustration which Condillac made use of in his Traité des Sensations. Speculation in France, since the publication of that work, and until the reaction during the closing years of Napoleon's reign, was simply the explanation and development of the doctrines then laid down. In it, as is well known, Condillac supposes a "statue endowed with an interior organisation like our own, but with a mind totally destitute of ideas.” He further “supposes that the exterior, consisting entirely of marble, does not allow it the use of any of the senses; and reserves to himself the liberty of opening them at discretion to the different impressions of which they are susceptible.” By gifting it at first
with each sense separately, and then with all the possible combinations of the different senses, he endeavours to determine the feelings and conceptions due to their action, first in isolation, and secondly in conjunction.
“ The idea,” say the editors of the Brussels edition (1825) of Diderot's Philosophical Works, -" the idea of decomposing a man to ascertain what he derives from each of the senses which he possesses, and that of a company of five persons each endowed with only one sense, evidently gave birth to the Statue organisée intérieurement comme nous, which Condillac has placed in his Traité des Sensations, published three years after the Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets. * In his Réponse à un reproche qui m'a été fait sur le projet exécuté dans le Traité des Sensations, Condillac has not succeeded in exculpating himself; and the Biographie Universelle is in error in saying, “it is alleged that this work is contained in the Letters on the Blind and on Deaf Mutes. ... Condillac felt the imputation; he cited two fragments from Diderot, and it is clear that the latter was not the author of Condillac's treatise;' but every one acknowledges tbat Condillac drew from Diderot the idea of his Statue. Suum cuique."
It is not to the credit of English thinkers that the first really philosophical work on what Diderot calls “la morale et la métaphysique des aveugles” should have proceeded from a French writer, since his materials and his method of dealing with them certainly came from England. The doctrine which he aimed to enforce was derived (whether by a correct interpretation or not) from Locke. His method of inquiry was that of Bacon, of whose Novum Organon Diderot was the first French expounder. Special circumstances would seem likely to have directed attention in England to the condition of the blind, and to the various problems on which an examination of that condition might be expected to throw light. In Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, published in 1690, the question was mooted, whether a blind man restored to sight would be able to recognise by his eye, and without handling them, geometrical figures which he had known during his blindness by touch. Hobbes afterwards, we believe, discussed the same question. In 1709, Berkeley published his Theory of Vision. In 1728, Cheselden contributed to the Philosophical Transactions his celebrated report entitled, “ Account of some Observations made by a young gentleman who was born blind, or lost his sight so early that he had no remembrance of ever having seen, and was couched between thirteen and fourteen years of age. Dr. Saunderson, who died in 1739, had presented the extra
* The Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets was published in 1751.
ordinary spectacle of a man totally blind from his first year filling with distinction the office of Mathematical Professor at Cambridge, and instructing those who saw in the laws of light. Yet all these favouring circumstances failed to incite to intelligent curiosity. Diderot himself administered a well-deserved rebuke to this sluggish indifference: “ England,” he says, “is the country of philosophers, of inquirers, of men of system; nevertheless, except for Mr. Inchcliff, we should have known of Saunderson only what the most ordinary men could have told us; for example, that he recognised places into which he had once been introduced by the echo from the walls and pavements, and a hundred other things of the same kind which were common to him with nearly all blind men. What, then! are blind men of Saunderson's merit so frequently to be met with in England ? and are people to be found there every day who have never seen, and who lecture on optics ?” (p. 176.)
The subject opened out in Diderot's letter does not appear to have been followed up. Excepting its influence on Condillac, its only effect was one personal to the author. The heterodox
. opinions broached in it procured him a lettre de cachet and three months' imprisonment in the Bastille, of which twenty-nine days were spent in solitary confinement, without books or light. As he refused, however, to give up the name of his printer, and as his services were required for the forthcoming Encyclopædia, he was at length released.
To another Frenchman we owe the foundation of the first institution for the education of the blind. The success of the Abbé Epée as a teacher of the deaf and dumb suggested to Valentine Haüy (the brother of the discoverer of the derivative forms of crystals) the “idea of communicating to another class of unfortunates, hitherto not less neglected, the benefit of instruction.”
“But if this generous thought became henceforth fixed in his mind, an accidental and whimsical circumstance was needed to determine him to realise it. Haüy has himself related it in the following terms:
Many years ago, a novelty of a singular character attracted a crowd of people at the entrance of one of those public walks where honest citizens are wont to take relaxation at the fall of day: eight or ten blind men, with spectacles on nose, posted behind a desk, with musicbooks before them, performed a discordant symphony, which seemed very much to delight the standers-by. A feeling of quite a different kind took possession of my mind; and I conceived at that moment the possibility of turning to account for their benefit the means of which they made a pretended and ridiculous use. “Does not the blind man," I said to myself, “recognise objects by the diversity of their forms? Is he ever mistaken as to the value of a piece of money? Why should
he not distinguish an ut from a sol, an a from a g, if these characters were made palpable ??” Such was the origin of the method of special instruction created by Haüy" [by means of works printed in relief ].*
Having proved its practicability in the case of a single pupil, who up to this time had begged at church-doors, and whom he paid for receiving his instruction, Haüy obtained the coöperation, first of the Philanthropic Society,” and then of the government, for the purpose of experiments on a large scale. The result was the foundation of the School for the Young Blind, from which arose the National (now probably the Imperial) Institution for the Blind at Paris. In 1806, he visited St. Petersburg, at the invitation of the Russian government, in order to superintend the establishment of an institution of a similar character in that city. In this task he spent eleven years, and returned to France in 1817. The asylums and schools for the blind which now exist in almost every capital and populous town of Europe and the United States, are as certainly, if less directly, founded by Valentine Haüy as those of Paris and St. Petersburg. The systematic attention which, since the beginning of the present century, has been paid in these establishments to the condition of the blind, has been naturally directed more to the practical amelioration of their lot in life than to systematic inquiry into the points of scientific interest which their privation presents; in other words (unlike Diderot's Lettre), it has had for its end, not “the use of those who see,” but the benefit of those who do not see. The training provided in the schools for the blind, especially those in England and in the United States, is chiefly industrial. Only the most rudimentary general education is imparted. The inmates, belonging mostly to the indigent classes, are taught such trades as they can exercise with reasonable hope of supporting themselves when they quit the asylum. In many of the continental schools, on the other hand, notably in that at Paris, a higher intellectual training is aimed at. It is this circumstance, probably, which has given to the works of foreign writers a higher value and a wider scope than can in general be predicated of those of their English and American collaborateurs. The latter, no doubt, contain many valuable facts and suggestions; but they seldom rise above details, and are generally too much devoted to the technicalities of what a German writer, with true German love of an imposing terminology, calls typhlopädagogik, to be very profitable, except to professional teachers or others practically concerned in the administration of institutions for the blind.' The books, again, which address the general
* Dufau, Des Aveugles, pp. 305, 306.