Page images

The personal instruction consists in fitting the pupil for a particular trade or profession. Without the assistance of Eschke, and of the explanatory powers scattered among the members of the institute, no master could easily teach his trade; nor without the observation of Eschke, and that of other old acquaintance, could the destination of any pupil be properly chosen. As printers and compositors, some have excelled; and telegraphs might be managed by the dumb. It would be curious to behold those, who cannot talk with their neighbours, employed to converse with the antipodes and with posterity.

The institute at Berlin is open once in a week to the inspection of strangers; and advantage is derived from the sensibility to public praise which the pupils acquire.

A Paris a similar foundation has long existed, and the Abbé de l'Epée acquired great celebrity as its superintendant. Annual exhibitions were adopted for the purpose of stimulating public contribution; a practice which introduced something of quackery into the forms of display, and enlisted the benevolent feelings in the busy panegyric of the conductor. His reputation in consequence somewhat exceeded his skill; for, in the account given of his method by his successor the Abbé Sicard, it appears that he only realized a parrot-like use of language, dazzling at the exhibition, but inapplicable in private life.

Sicard has considerably improved on the method of his predecessor. The writer of this article has been present, both at Paris and at Versailles, when Sicard was publicly examining his pupils. Questions were suggested by the spectators at their pleasure, many of which were of an abstruse and metaphysical kind; and Sicard went, step by step, through his mode of rendering such questions intelligible to the pupil. It is altogether an etymological process. Words are dissected into their first elements. When the sensible idea is seized, which the main root represents, the progress towards generalization or abstraction, which consists in omitting the partiticular, is made by including the word between hostile synonyms, if the expression may be allowed, the one of which draws the meaning aside one way, and the other another way. At length, the word is perceived to retain only those associated ideas, which it is intended to carry forwards into composition. Then follows a similar analysis of the inflective syllables, or other parts of the compound; and thus such a word as metaphysique is gradually explained to the pupil, so that he uses it with the precision of a philosopher.

K 2


The Abbé Sicard was careful to remark that the tensual system of the English is more natural than that of the southern languages; and he willingly barbarized his French verbs à l'Anglaise. Thus instead of j'y pense, for " I am thinking," he used je suis pensant. It is true, however, that a conspicuous portion of the audience were English. Sicard has published his system at great length; indeed it is too systematic; and it professes to be induction à priori, whereas all truth begins in fact. First should have come the records of experience; and then those inductions à posteriori, which serve to account for the phænomena, and to generalize the rule. Still his Cours d'Instruction d'un Sourd-Muet de Naissance, which was printed at Paris in 1803, is full of valuable details; and more may be expected in his promised volume concerning the pantomimic language which is natural among the dumb.

The method which Dr. Watson observes is more simple and more philosophic; it differs from that of Sicard, as Tooke's grammar differs from that of Harris. After a general introduction, he presents us with a chapter on articulation, which illustrates the proposition of Hartley, that words and phrases must excite ideas in us by association; and they excite ideas in us by no other means. The deaf have learnt a word completely, when they associate with it the same ideas, whether motions of the lip and tongue or other pictures of external nature, which the hearers attach to it.

The vowels are first treated, and then the consonants. Wis properly called a vowel, and employed by Dr. Watson for 0, as heard in the word book. A difficulty arises from i and u being diphthongal sounds. Among the consonants, the various sounds of care teasing; and the two sounds of g. It is probable that all children are as much delayed in the

of learning to read, by the imperfection of our alphabet, as the deaf and dumb; and if this delay amounts to three months in twelve, it annihilates one fourth of the time so engaged. Some person computes that, in a population of sixteen millions, a fortieth part, or four hundred thousand individuals, are habitually employed in learning to read; and hence it may be presumed that the labour of one hundred thousand persons is constantly sacrificed needlessly, by delaying to reform the alphabet.

Dr. W.'s observations on stammering deserve to be widely circulated:

Sometimes stammering takes place only in the utterance of such words as begin with certain letters; in general some of the labial or guttural consonants, as b, p, m, c, g, &c. Some persons, on the


contrary, stammer in the utterance of all words, indiscriminately, with whatever letter they begin, whether it be vowel or consonantat certain times only as, for instance, when the speaker is placed in any situation that occasions hurry or embarrassment.

These hesitations proceed from a sudden interruption, or break, in the connection of those sympathetic or linked (to use a plain word) muscular motions, that perform articulations in our ordinary discourse. This disseveration is not occasioned by any defect in the organs concerned in the formation of the sounds, for then it would operate uniformly; but by the influence which external objects, or circumstances, have on the mind. Fear, shame, or any other strong internal feeling, will, for the moment, produce faultering and hesita tion in speech, even in those who do not habitually stammer. Agreeably to this, we find that persons of great nervous irritability, and lively consciousness, are most liable to stammering. This sort of impediment is, in fact, a bad habit, founded upon this constitu tional susceptibility. And in attempting to correct or remove stammering, while every attention should be paid to such means as physical and medical science will point out, for the strengthening of the corporeal system, it is of the utmost importance to bring the persons afflicted with it to reason on the subject. Make them analyze and dissect articulations, if the term may be permitted. Let them practise the formation of the component parts of words, (that is, eimple vocal sounds and the powers of the consonants,) singly, and in combination, alternately, till a facility, and habit, of subjecting the muscles, concerned in speech, to the will, be acquired, or regained. Impress strongly on their understandings, and induce them continually to keep in view, that though we cannot explain how mind acts on animal fibre, yet experience proves, that there exists in our frame, somewhere, a power, which we call will, whereby our muscular strength is put in motion, or made quiescent: that by this power we first learnt to do those things, which repetition has converted into habit; though we are now no longer conscious of an act of the will in performing them, after we have willed to set about them. This may be exemplified by the acts of walking, running, speaking, writing, fingering a musical instrument, &c. and a little consideration will serve to make it understood.


It may be observed, that musical instruments afford an apt illus tration of the mechanism of speech. Instrumental music is harmony of sounds produced by forces purely mechanical; and speech is modulation of sounds produced by similar forces; but more perfect, by as much as nature exceeds art.

The organs of speech are moved by muscles, which, from the laws of animal economy, are the instruments of the will. But the frequent repetition of these motions so links or associates them, that they seem to proceed by sympathy, or habit; and we are conscious of an act of will, only at their commencement. Hence, any thing that suddenly dissevers them, throws the whole into disorder-involuntary or convulsive muscular motions take place- and, instead of the habit of regular and voluntary motions, succeeding each other in a train, if these interruptions are frequent, a habit of hesitation and stammering

K 3

stammering is introduced. This may account for the origin and progress of the first sort of impediments in speech.

To counteract stammering, as already hinted, we must appeal to the understanding, and endeavour to arouse the will into vigorous and vigilant control of the muscles. When a hesitation happens let a volition or direct act of this power take place: first to cease muscular motion altogether, and then to commence a new series. The greatest deliberation and recollection should be used in ordinary conversation; and the act of speaking, as such should be constantly present to the mind, till the wrong habit be overcome, and the right so confirmed as to leave no room to apprehend a relapse. The voice should be carefully pitched at that tone which nature in the individual points out as easiest to the organs, and most agreeable to the ear; and by no means should a hurried pronunciation, or fictitious voice, be resorted to. It should be studiously remembered, that we are accountable to no one for the innocent and decorous exercise of our muscular powers-that over them we ourselves alone ought to have control that speech, on proper occasions, is not only an innocent and a decorous, but, in the eyes of others, a necessary and an agreeable exercise of our muscles. Why then be thrown into perturbation and confusion, when we are to perform an action, confessedly in our power; and which others have not only no right to prevent, but are desirous that we should perform? If this train of reasoning be fairly entered upon, many other arguments will suggest themselves, and must inevitably produce good.

The following directions, with variations according to circumstances, will be found to be attended with advantage, if duly and perseveringly complied with.

In order to raise a voice, or that material of which speech is formed, let the vowels be practised in a natural key, but with firmness and strength, for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, at least, every morning. Then let the powers of the consonants be formed, in their order, singly, and variously combined with the vowels.

After a little rest, if imagination supply a subject, by all means let an imaginary conversation take place for twenty minutes, half an hour, or even an hour, in a firm and natural tone of voice, using every effort of fancy, to suppose it directed to persons indiscrimi nately; that is, sometimes to servants, sometimes to equals in age and rank, and sometimes to elders, or those considered as superior in consequence and rank in society, from whatever cause. But if imagination do not furnish a topic, then let the time be spent in reading, in a tone as nearly approaching to the case of familiar conversation as possible, taking care to manage the fancy as above. This will furnish the lesson:- and after an interval of a few hours, the same sort of conversation, or reading, should be repeated, two or three times more in the course of a day. And on mixing with real auditors, every exertion should be made to associate the ideas of their imagi nary with their actual presence.

These directions, it will be perceived, are founded upon the principle of the association of ideas; than which, a more powerful principle, in the formation of human habits, cannot be conceived.

It is a trite observation, that "we are the creatures of habit." Nothing can be more true and we become so by the influence of this principle. To overcome a bad habit is, therefore, no easy task; but the first step towards it is to break the chain of associations by which it was brought about, by introducing others of a contrary tendency. What can effect this but a rational system of action, carried on with watchfulness and perseverance?

I think it may be laid down as an incontrovertible position, that persons possessing an ordinary mental capacity, with an adequate share of industry and strength, may certainly overcome the habit of STAMMERING, by means such as here pointed out.'

The ensuing sections treat of writing, reading, and spelling. Then follows a specific dissertation on communicating a knowlege of language to the deaf and dumb. The author has found great need of a picture-dictionary, to teach, through the eye, the exact meaning of words which describe visible objects; and such a dictionary he has therefore constructed. It does not comprehend uncommon objects, but depicts all that are usual, and which could expediently be exhibited. The plates containing these figures are eighty in number, and are bound apart in the second volume. They include no anatomical delineations; no plates corresponding with the first chapter of the vocabulary, which begins with the words, Body, Head, Face, Nose, &c.; and we have remarked some other obvious deficiencies. A good and comprehensive picturedictionary is not only essential to the deaf and dumb, but would be useful to all young persons. Besides the general forms of objects, the principal classifications of natural history might thus be taught; with the costume of different ages and nations, and the progress of religious ceremony and architectural art.

The engraving of the manual alphabet teaches an easy mode of supplying the eye with words more rapidly than with the pencil. The first mention which we recollect of finger-language occurs in Dr. Holder's Elements of Speech, to which is appended a skilful treatise on the tuition of the deaf and dumb. This work was printed in 1669, and was much noticed in the Royal Society.

A curious case of a lad born blind and deaf is given in a note at p. 65. in the words of Mr. Astley Cooper.

Much light is thrown on various intellectual phænomena by the important observations which occur throughout this work; a spirit of benevolence and philosophy pervades the whole; and the style is clear, while the instruction is sound. On how many of the speechless will the luminous thinking powers here exerted be the means of bestowing the gift of expression! They may be compared to those first rays of the sun, which gave the power of melodious utterance to the statue of Memnon.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »