Infomotions, Inc.The Story of my life; with her letters (1887-1901) and a supplementary account of her education, including passages from the reports and letters of her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, by John Albert Macy /

Title: The Story of my life; with her letters (1887-1901) and a supplementary account of her education, including passages from the reports and letters of her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, by John Albert Macy
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): helen; miss sullivan; keller; sullivan; helen keller; teacher; miss keller; deaf; perkins institution; miss; boston; miss sullivan's; manual alphabet
Contributor(s): Widger, David, 1932- [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 135,416 words (average) Grade range: 9-12 (high school) Readability score: 63 (easy)
Identifier: etext2397
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Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

November, 2000  [Etext #2397]

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WITH HER LETTERS (1887-1901)
By John Albert Macy

Special Edition, Illustrated


Who has taught the deaf to speak
and enabled the listening ear to hear speech
from the Atlantic to the Rockies,
I dedicate
this Story of My Life.

Editor's Preface
This book is in three parts. The first two, Miss Keller's story
and the extracts from her letters, form a complete account of her
life as far as she can give it. Much of her education she cannot
explain herself, and since a knowledge 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 responsible, 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 valuable 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

John Albert Macy.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 1, 1903.


Editor's Preface
Part I. The Story of My Life   Chapter I-XXIII
     II. Introduction to Letters, Letters
     III. A Supplementary Account of Helen Keller's Life and     

        Chapter I. The Writing of the Book
                II. Personality
                III. Education
                IV. Speech
                V. Literary Style

Part I. The Story of My Life

Chapter I

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 granddaughter 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, Tennessee.

I lived, up to the time of the illness that deprived me of my
sight and hearing, in a tiny house consisting 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

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 surrounding 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 conquered, 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
discussion. 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 remembered that it had been decided to call
me after my grandmother, and he gave her name as Helen Adams.

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 mysteriously 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 waling hours of fret and pain, and the agony and
bewilderment 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. Gradually 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 darkness that
followed could not wholly blot out. If we have once seen, "the
day is ours, and what the day has shown."

Chapter II

I cannot recall what happened during the first months 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, moreover,
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
anywhere 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

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 Washington, 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

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 something round in the grass, and Martha
always understood. 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 unfailing 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
corkscrews. 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

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 burned.

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 bringing 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 moment.

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
worse 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 over-turned 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

Chapter III

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 invariably 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 struggling 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, sometimes 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 Bridgman, 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
fingers 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 information
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 competent
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."

Chapter IV

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 contrasts
between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of
March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.

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 unconsciously 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 something 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-l-l." I was at once interested 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

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

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 away.

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 blossom 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.

Chapter V

I recall many incidents of the summer of 1887 that followed my
soul's sudden awakening. 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

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 lion
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 absolutely 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
quivering 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.

Chapter VI

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

"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 love?"

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 attention on the lesson and tried to think how I
should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead
and spelled with decided emphasis, "Think."

In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that
was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception
of an abstract idea.

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

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 supplied 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 something 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 assistance,
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.

Chapter VII

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 uninteresting
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 downy 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 tumbledown
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 descriptions 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 playmates.

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 hoof.

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 dwelling 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 interesting 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 thought.

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
beautiful 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 useful.

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 disappointment
before he takes with a will the tasks distasteful to him and
resolves to dance his way bravely through a dull routine of

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 own, 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.

Chapter VIII

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 pretended 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 approached.

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 morning 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
happened; 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.

Chapter IX

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

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
compelled 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 reproachfully.

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 surprise 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 understood 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 I lost all sense of
pain in the pleasure of their companionship.

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 below.

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

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."

Chapter X

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 whiff 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 pulsations. 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

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

Chapter XI

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 information 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, leaping 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
evergreens 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 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

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 crosswise 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 appearance, 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 forehead. 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 round
about 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

Chapter XII

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
opportunities such as had never been mine to enter into the
treasures of the snow.

I recall my surprise on discovering that a mysterious 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 withdrawn 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 recognize 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 scattered in every direction.

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 motionless 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

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!

Chapter XIII

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 forgotten 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 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 dissatisfaction 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 discourage this tendency, fearing
lest it would lead to disappointment. But I persisted, and an
accident 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 position 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 connected
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, no 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 difficulties 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 frequently; 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 achievement.

"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 discarded the manual alphabet as a
medium of communication 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 talking, 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!"

Chapter XIV

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

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 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
pronunciation 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 when 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 graceful draperies that enfolded me, the
bright autumn leaves that wreathed my head, and the fruit and
grain at my feet and in my hands, and beneath all the piety of
the masque the oppressive sense of coming ill that made my heart

The night before the celebration, one of the teachers of the
Institution had asked me a question connected with "The Frost
King," and I was telling her that Miss Sullivan had talked to me
about Jack Frost and his wonderful works. Something 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 pleadings of love and
innocence. He believed, or at least suspected, that Miss Sullivan
and I had deliberately 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 "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 suffering, 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 comforted 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
carried away much of the misery and all the bitterness of those
sad days.

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 schoolbooks 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 sufficient 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 reading
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 mind 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 mind.

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 sentiments 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 composition 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 becomes 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 acknowledge 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 the 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 something hostile and menacing in
the very atmosphere, and subsequent events have borne out this
impression. 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
members 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

I have given this account of the "Frost King" affair because it
was important in my life and education; and, in order that there
might be no misunderstanding, 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.

Chapter XV

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 the "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 connected account of

We went to Niagara in March, 1893. It is difficult to describe my
emotions when I stood on the point which overhangs the American
Falls 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, treasuries 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 background by unintelligent machinery, as
Jack is to-day. So it always is--"man only is interesting to

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 instrument 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 mock space and
outrun time, and, like Prometheus, to draw fire from the sky. We
also visited the anthropological department, and I was much
interested in the relics of ancient Mexico, in the rude 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

All these experiences added a great many new terms to my
vocabulary, and in the three weeks I spent at the Fair I took a
long leap from the little child's interest in fairy tales and
toys to the appreciation of the real and the earnest in the
workaday world.

Chapter XVI

Before October, 1893, I had studied various subjects 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

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 pronunciation 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 Latin 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, to 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; individual, 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 understood 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 presented 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 in Alabama.

Chapter XVII

In the summer of 1894, I attended the meeting 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
understand 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 not 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 accomplished; 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, Tarrytown, 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.

Chapter XVIII

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 impelled 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 textbooks 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. Nevertheless, in the goodness of her
heart she laboriously spelled out her instructions to me in
special lessons 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 Harzreise," 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. Gilman'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
contending nations centred seemed to move right before me. I
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 warning
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
attitude 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 hearing 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

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 together.

I took my preliminary examinations for Radcliffe from the 29th 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
everything, 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 I had to use a typewriter, my
identity could not be concealed.

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

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

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.

Chapter XIX

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 confronted 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 blackboard, 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

Little by little, however, my difficulties began to disappear.
The embossed books and other apparatus 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 interpreted 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 confusion. 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 mathematics 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 mathematics 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
immediately 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 combinations 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 symbols.

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 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 Radcliffe
did not realize how difficult they were making my examinations,
nor did they understand 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.

Chapter XX

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 outside 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

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 hoarding
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 peculiar 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 professors have no
difficulty in finding 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 buoyancy 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, however, 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
composition, the Bible as English composition, the governments of
America and Europe, the Odes of Horace, and Latin comedy. The
class in composition was the pleasantest. 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 interpretation or exposition. You revel in their
fine thoughts. You enjoy with all your soul the sweet thunder of
the Old Testament, forgetting the existence of Jahweh and Elohim;
and you go home feeling that you have had "a glimpse of that
perfection in which spirit and form dwell in immortal harmony;
truth and beauty bearing a new growth on the ancient stem of

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 sympathy 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 understanding. 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 appreciation 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 interminable 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. At the present time my mind is so full of
heterogeneous 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 formula 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 looks 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--revolutions,
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 pulsations a
heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of

Chapter XXI

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
knowledge 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 regularly
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 understand; 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 was 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 vocabulary. 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 uncomprehending way, until I discovered "Little Lord
Fauntleroy," which was the first book of any consequence I read

One day my teacher found me in a corner of the library poring
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 was 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

From "Little Lord Fauntleroy" I date the beginning 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 especially 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 highest
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 observing 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 conception of
antiquity. Greece, ancient Greece, exercised 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 responsive 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
appreciate 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 splendid epic, nor can I. When I
read the finest passages of the Iliad, I am conscious of a
soul-sense that lifts me above the narrow, cramping circumstances
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 Aeneid 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 please me especially. The word-painting of Virgil is
wonderful 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 word 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 understand 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 understand, 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
acquaintance 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 compensates me for the unpleasant details it has forced
upon my attention. For my part, I wish, with Mr. Howells, 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 simplicity 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

I must have made the acquaintance of Shylock and Satan about the
same time, for the two characters 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 they 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 Shakespeare 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
interpretations, 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

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 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
pervades 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!

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 pity.

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 or 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."

Chapter XXII

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 luminous 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 summer of 1901 I
visited Nova Scotia, and had opportunities 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
spring 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

gave 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 beginning. Each individual has a
subconscious memory of the green earth and murmuring waters, and
blindness 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

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 capital 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 something. 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, 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

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 sing.

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 maneuvers 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.

If 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 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
freedom 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, 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

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 impersonated 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

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 movements 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 irresolution 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 should.

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, silent, pitiless, bars the way. Fain would I
question his imperious decree, for my heart is still
undisciplined 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-forgetfulness." 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.

Chapter XXIII

Would that I could enrich this sketch with the names of all those
who have ministered to my happiness! 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, especially of newspaper reporters, are always
inopportune. 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 exasperating.

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 or 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 possibilities 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 cherished 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 Bible through; also some
philosophical works on religion, 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 in 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
instinctively 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 armchair, 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

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 ["With great admiration of thy noble
work in releasing from bondage the mind of thy dear pupil, I am
truly thy friend. john J. Whittier."] and expressed his
admiration 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
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 accomplish. 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 of 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 footprints 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 most
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 Ascanius, who followed with
unequal steps the heroic strides of Aeneas 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 handshake. 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 I 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 known 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 abilities 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 acknowledge his generosity and
affectionate interest which make it possible for me to go to

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.

Part II. Letters(1887-1901)


Helen Keller's letters are important, not only as a supplementary
story of her life, but as a demonstration of her growth in
thought and expression--the growth which in itself has made her

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 important
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 spontaneity--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
for 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 (1887-1901)

Miss Sullivan began to teach Helen Keller on March 3rd, 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 kiss helen teacher did give
helen peach george is sick in bed george arm is hurt anna did
give helen lemonade dog did stand up.

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

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 improvement 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 to 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

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


[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 hoe 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.


[Tuscumbia, November, 1887.]

Dear Mr. Bell.
I am glad to write you a letter, Father will 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 Allie.


By the beginning of the next year her idioms are firmer. More
adjectives appear, including adjectives 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 morning. I hope Mr. Anagnos is
coming to see me soon. 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.


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 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.


Tuscumbia, Ala., Feb. 24th, 1888.

My dear Mr. Anagnos,--I am glad to write you a 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 tired.

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

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 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

"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

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.

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

In this account of the picnic we get an illuminating 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 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 japonicas are cultivated
flowers. I help mother and teacher water them every night before

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 letter.

Your darling child

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 corresponded the year before.

Early in July she went to Brewster, Massachusetts, 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
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 delighted 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 I am a good little

With much love and two kisses
From your little friend

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.

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 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.

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

South Boston, Mass. October 1st, 1888.

My dear uncle Morrie,--I think you will be very glad to receive a
letter from your dear little friend 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

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
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 weeks 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 jumped 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 friend.

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 assimilated 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 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
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 Dougal. I hope Fauntleroy take me to see a
very kind queen. When I go to France I will take French. A little
French boy will say, Parlez-vous Francais? and I will say, Oui,
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 aime. Au revoir

From your darling little friend

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

Tuscumbia, Ala. Dec. 11th, 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 cover 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 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 doors.

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

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 instrument to cut with. I think
the bell is an instrument, too. I will tell you what I know about

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.
They 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 station, 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,

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 you 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 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 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
With much love and kisses, from your
Affectionate cousin

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

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
mountains in Switzerland and visited beautiful churches in 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 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 Kalopothakes.
Lovingly, your little friend,

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 mimicry.

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, and
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 punished 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,

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 raspberries and a few strawberries
for you. 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 our 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. Grandmother 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 affectionate little

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

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. 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,

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 afternoon 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,

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

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, 1889.

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 Playmate," 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 fragrance? 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

From your loving little friend,
To Mr. John Greenleaf Whittier.

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? 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 warship. After the
services were over the soldier-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,

So. Boston, Mass., Dec. 24, 1889

My dear Mother,
Yesterday I sent you a little Christmas box. I am very sorry that
I could not send it before so that you would receive it tomorrow,
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 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

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 violets.

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

This, the first of Helen's letters to Dr. Holmes, written soon
after a visit to him, he published in "Over the Teacups."
[Atlantic Monthly, May, 1890]

South Boston, Mass., March 1, 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 children; and I read for them from your poems, and showed
them some beautiful shells, which came from a little island near

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 world.

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
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,

TO MISS SARAH FULLER [Miss Fuller gave Helen Keller her first
lesson in articulation. See Chapter IV, Speech.]
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 to
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 [Ragnhild Kaata] 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 perhaps I shall sing too. All of my friends will be
so surprised and glad.
Your loving little pupil,

When the Perkins Institution closed for the summer, 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
for 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 to-day 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 father and mother
also send their regards.
From your loving little friend,

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 comes from the sun. And the more we love the more
near we are to God and His Love.

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 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 understand 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

To 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 answered.

It gratifies me very much to find that you remember me so kindly.
Your letter is charming, and I 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 speaking.

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
drumsticks 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
something 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 satisfaction 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 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

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

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,
To the Messrs. Bradstreet.

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 dear friends, however, for they did
not expect us Saturday; but when the bell rung Miss Marrett
guessed 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. I tell everybody the time when they ask me. I
have only seen Mr. Anagnos twice. I have many questions 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. Pennsylvania 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

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

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,

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 birthday. 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
afterwards 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 tenderly 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, because
my dearest friend, Mr. Anagnos wants me to rest and play a great

Teacher is well and sends her kind remembrance 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


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
Thy old friend,

Tommy Stringer, who appears in several of the following 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."

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 gentlemen 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,

[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,

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 favourite 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 how
very, very happy he will be when he can tell us 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 here.

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

So. Boston, May 1, 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,

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,

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 sending 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 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,

South Boston, June 8, 1891.
My dear Mr. Brooks,
I send you my picture as I promised, and I 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 you? It is Sunday morning, and while I sit here 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 remembrances, and I send you with my
picture my dear love.
From your little friend

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

Brewster, Mar. 10, 1892.
My dear Mr. Munsell,
Surely I need not tell you that your letter was very welcome. I
enjoyed every word of it and wished that it was longer. I laughed
when you spoke of old Neptune's wild moods. He has, in truth,
behaved very strangely ever since we came to Brewster. It is
evident that something has displeased his Majesty but I cannot
imagine what it can be. His expression has been so turbulent that
I have feared to give him your kind message. Who knows! Perhaps
the Old Sea God as he lay asleep upon the shore, heard the soft
music of growing things--the stir of life in the earth's bosom,
and his stormy heart was angry, because he knew that his and
Winter's reign was almost at an end. So together the unhappy
monarch[s] fought most despairingly, thinking that gentle Spring
would turn and fly at the very sight of the havoc caused by their
forces. But lo! the lovely maiden only smiles more sweetly, and
breathes upon the icy battlements of her enemies, and in a moment
they vanish, and the glad Earth gives her a royal welcome. But I
must put away these idle fancies until we meet again. Please give
your dear mother my love. Teacher wishes me to say that she liked
the photograph very much and she will see about having some when
we return. Now, dear friend, Please accept these few words
because of the love that is linked with them.
Lovingly yours

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

To St. Nicholas
Dear St. Nicholas:

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

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

South Boston, May 9, 1892.
My dear Miss Carrie:--I was much pleased to receive your kind
letter. Need I tell you that I was more than delighted to hear
that you are really interested in the "tea"? Of course we must
not give it up. Very soon I am going far away, to my own dear
home, in the sunny south, and it would always make me happy to
think that the last thing which my dear friends in Boston did for
my pleasure was to help make the lives of many little sightless
children good and happy. I know that kind people cannot help
feeling a tender sympathy for the little ones, who cannot see the
beautiful light, or any of the wonderful things which give them
pleasure; and it seems to me that all loving sympathy must
express itself in acts of kindness; and when the friends of
little helpless blind children understand that we are working for
their happiness, they will come and make our "tea" a success, and
I am sure I shall be the happiest little girl in all the world.
Please let Bishop Brooks know our plans, so that he may arrange
to be with us. I am glad Miss Eleanor is interested. Please give
her my love. I will see you to-morrow and then we can make the
rest of our plans. Please give your dear aunt teacher's and my
love and tell her that we enjoyed our little visit very much
Lovingly yours,

South Boston, May 11th, 1892.
My dear Mr. Spaulding:--I am afraid you will think your little
friend, Helen, very troublesome when you read this letter; but I
am sure you will not blame me when I tell you that I am very
anxious about something. You remember teacher and I told you
Sunday that I wanted to have a little tea in aid of the
kindergarten. We thought everything was arranged: but we found
Monday that Mrs. Elliott would not be willing to let us invite
more than fifty people, because Mrs. Howe's house is quite small.
I am sure that a great many people would like to come to the tea,
and help me do something to brighten the lives of little blind
children; but some of my friends say that I shall have to give up
the idea of having a tea unless we can find another house.
Teacher said yesterday, that perhaps Mrs. Spaulding would be
willing to let us have her beautiful house, and [I] thought I
would ask you about it. Do you think Mrs. Spaulding would help
me, if I wrote to her? I shall be so disappointed if my little
plans fail, because I have wanted for a long time to do something
for the poor little ones who are waiting to enter the
kindergarten. Please let me know what you think about the house,
and try to forgive me for troubling you so much.
Lovingly your little friend,

South Boston, May 18th, 1892.
My dear Mr. Clement:--I am going to write to you this beautiful
morning because my heart is brimful of happiness and I want you
and all my dear friends in the Transcript office to rejoice with
me. The preparations for my tea are nearly completed, and I am
looking forward joyfully to the event. I know I shall not fail.
Kind people will not disappoint me, when they know that I plead
for helpless little children who live in darkness and ignorance.
They will come to my tea and buy light,--the beautiful light of
knowledge and love for many little ones who are blind and
friendless. I remember perfectly when my dear teacher came to me.
Then I was like the little blind children who are waiting to
enter the kindergarten. There was no light in my soul. This
wonderful world with all its sunlight and beauty was hidden from
me, and I had never dreamed of its loveliness. But teacher came
to me and taught my little fingers to use the beautiful key that
has unlocked the door of my dark prison and set my spirit free.

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

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

Tuscumbia, Alabama, July 9th 1892.

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

My dear Mrs. Cleveland,
I am going to write you a little letter this beautiful morning
because I love you and dear little Ruth very much indeed, and
also because I wish to thank you for the loving message which you
sent me through Miss Derby. I am glad, very glad that such a
kind, beautiful lady loves me. I have loved you for a long time,
but I did not think you had ever heard of me until your sweet
message came. Please kiss your dear little baby for me, and tell
her I have a little brother nearly sixteen months old. His name
is Phillips Brooks. I named him myself after my dear friend
Phillips Brooks. I send you with this letter a pretty book which
my teacher thinks will interest you, and my picture. Please
accept them with the love and good wishes of your friend,
Tuscumbia, Alabama.
November fourth. [1892.]

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

Tuscumbia, Alabama, Dec. 19, 1892.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuscumbia, Alabama, February 18, 1893.
...You have often been in my thoughts during these sad days,
while my heart has been grieving over the loss of my beloved
friend [Phillips Brooks died January 23, 1893], 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 visiting 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 experience after she has explored it,
crossed the bridge and gone down in the elevator. Especially
important 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 unexpectedly decided to take a
journey with dear 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 I 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.... 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 goodness--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 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 sensations yourself. I could hardly realize that it
was water that I felt rushing and plunging with impetuous 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 supported 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.

You will be pleased, dear Mother, to hear that a kind lady whose
name is Miss Hooker is endeavoring 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 beautifully as
he does....

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


GENTLEMEN--The bearer, Miss Helen Keller, accompanied by Miss
Sullivan, is desirous of making a complete inspection of the
Exposition in all 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 historical
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 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 when 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 alphabets. 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 I 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

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

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 Tuscumbia... 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 arithmetic very well, but now I have
changed my mind. 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.

1. 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 meantime 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)

P.S. My teacher thinks it would be more businesslike 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.

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, Caesar is Caesar still, imperious and tyrannical, and if a
little girl would understand so great a man, and the wars and
conquests of which he tells in his beautiful Latin language, she
must study much and think much, and study and thought require

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

In February Helen and Miss Sullivan returned to Tuscumbia. They
spent the rest of the spring reading 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

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

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 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....

The Wright-Humason School.
New York, March 15, 1895.
...I think I have improved a little in lip-reading, though I
still find it very difficult to read 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 accomplished. 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 "Wilhelm 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 afternoon very much.
Among the dogs which received the most attention were the
bulldogs. They permitted 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.

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 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. Howells 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 home.

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

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 delightfully!...

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 Metropolis

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 sending 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; but I have found it very difficult to do so on account of
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 surprised 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...

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 tear the King from his loving wife's arms.

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

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....

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 perfectly
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

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 understand 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

As I sit by the window writing to you, it is so lovely to have
the soft, cool breezes fan my cheek 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 disappointed that you did not come.
We think of you so, so often! and our 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 Brewster Friday
afternoon. We missed the Cape Cod train Friday morning, and so we
came down to Provincetown 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 lovely 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 17th 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 wonder what becomes of lost opportunities. Perhaps 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

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.

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 examinations
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 preparatory 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....

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
textbooks 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

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

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.
Chamberlin, the "Listener" in the Boston Transcript. They are
dear, kind people....

But I know you want to hear about my examinations. 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 working as merrily as if the dreadful
experience of a 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 anything 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 toboganning 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 swimming far across
the pond at a tremendous rate!...

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

[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 achievement, 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....

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 sunshine 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 handlebar 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 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
off 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 least.

I have really learned to swim and dive--after a fashion! I can
swim a little under water, and do 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....

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 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

...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 "Aeneid" and Cicero, besides doing a
lot in Geometry and Algebra. The "Iliad" is beautiful with all
the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike
people while the "Aeneid" is more stately and reserved. It is
like a beautiful maiden, who always lived in a palace, surrounded
by a magnificent 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 freedom
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 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....

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 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.

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

12 Newberry 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.

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 country should in a
similar way convert the terrible loss 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

12 Newbury Street, Boston,
February 3, 1899.
...I had an exceedingly interesting experience last Monday. A
kind friend took me over in the morning to the Boston Art Museum.
She had previously obtained permission from General Loring, 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 hunting 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. So 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 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 teaching a deaf-blind person to spell, the manual
alphabet is much more convenient, and less conspicuous....

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!
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!...

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 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 happiest girl in the world!...

[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 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

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...

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
they--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 anything 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....

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 successfully, 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 cultivating 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 something 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 professors 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 this
year will be English, English Literature of the Elizabethan
period, Latin and German....

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 writing 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

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 also was a stranger, and did
not attempt to communicate 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 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 interpreted to me
as well as she could what the teacher said.

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....

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, 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
interesting! 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

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 crimson 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!"...

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

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 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 circumscribed and
narrow and crowds out almost everything that is not in books....

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 information as to the possibility of my
taking the regular courses in Radcliffe 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 Criticism, and English composition.

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 battle.

38 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 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 examinations for Radcliffe

In the fall Miss Keller entered Radcliffe College.

14 Coolidge Ave., Cambridge,
Nov. 26, 1900.
...-- has already communicated with you in regard to her and my
plan of establishing an institution 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 advantages 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 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 arguments, 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
opportunities 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 help it. However Mr. Bell
suggested that -- 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 suggestion. 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 which
never got on paper, and I am delighted to get your good letter,
yes, I 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 Mathematics 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....

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 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."...

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 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 unpleasant thoughts. I am not discouraged,
nor am I afraid. I am confident that I could go on writing 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 peoples 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...

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 in the United States alone [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.]; 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 unfortunate children could be

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

This letter was written in response to a tentative offer from the
editor of The Great Round World to have the magazine published in
raised type for the blind, if enough were willing to subscribe.
It is evident that the blind should have a good magazine, not a
special magazine for the blind, but one of our best monthlies,
printed in embossed letters. The blind alone could not support
it, but it would not take very much money to make up the
additional expense.

Cambridge, Feb. 16, 1901.
The Great Round World,
New York City.
Gentlemen: I have only to-day found time to reply to your
interesting letter. A little bird had already sung the good news
in my ear; but it was doubly pleasant to have it straight from

It would be splendid to have The Great Round World printed in
"language that can be felt." I doubt if any one who enjoys the
wondrous privilege of seeing can have any conception of the boon
such a publication as you contemplate would be to the sightless.
To be able to read for one's self what is being willed, thought
and done in the world--the world in whose joys and sorrows,
failures and successes one feels the keenest interest--that would
indeed be a happiness too deep for words. I trust that the effort
of The Great Round World to bring light to those who sit in
darkness will receive the encouragement and support it so richly

I doubt, however, if the number of subscribers to an embossed
edition of The Great Round World would ever be large; for I am
told that the blind as a class are poor. But why should not the
friends of the blind assist The Great Round World, if necessary?
Surely there are hearts and hands ever ready to make it possible
for generous intentions to be wrought into noble deeds.

Wishing you godspeed in an undertaking that is very dear to my
heart, I am, etc.

Cambridge, Sept. 25, 1901.
...We remained in Halifax until about the middle of August....
Day after day the Harbor, the warships, and the park kept us busy
thinking and feeling and enjoying.... When the Indiana visited
Halifax, we were invited to go on board, and she sent her own
launch for us. I touched the immense cannon, read with my fingers
several of the names of the Spanish ships that were captured at
Santiago, and felt the places where she had been pierced with
shells. The Indiana was the largest and finest ship in the
Harbor, and we felt very proud of her.

After we left Halifax, we visited Dr. Bell at Cape Breton. He has
a charming, romantic house on a mountain called Beinn Bhreagh,
which overlooks the Bras d'Or Lake....

Dr. Bell told me many interesting things about his work. He had
just constructed a boat that could be propelled by a kite with
the wind in its favor, and one day he tried experiments to see if
he could steer the kite against the wind. I was there and really
helped him fly the kites. On one of them I noticed that the
strings were of wire, and having had some experience in bead
work, I said I thought they would break. Dr. Bell said "No!" with
great confidence, and the kite was sent up. It began to pull and
tug, and lo, the wires broke, and off went the great red dragon,
and poor Dr. Bell stood looking forlornly after it. After that he
asked me if the strings were all right and changed them at once
when I answered in the negative. Altogether we had great fun....

TO DR. EDWARD EVERETT HALE [Read by Dr. Hale at the celebration
of the centenary of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, at Tremont Temple,
Boston, Nov. 11, 1901.]
Cambridge, Nov. 10, 1901.
My teacher and I expect to be present at the meeting tomorrow in
commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of Dr. Howe's
birth; but I very much doubt if we shall have an opportunity to
speak with you; so I am writing now to tell you how delighted I
am that you are to speak at the meeting, because I feel that you,
better than any one I know will express the heartfelt gratitude
of those who owe their education, their opportunities, their
happiness to him who opened the eyes of the blind and gave the
dumb lip language.

Sitting here in my study, surrounded by my books, enjoying the
sweet and intimate companionship of the great and the wise, I am
trying to realize what my life might have been, if Dr. Howe had
failed in the great task God gave him to perform. If he had not
taken upon himself the responsibility of Laura Bridgman's
education and led her out of the pit of Acheron back to her human
inheritance, should I be a sophomore at Radcliffe College
to-day--who can say? But it is idle to speculate about what might
have been in connection with Dr. Howe's great achievement.

I think only those who have escaped that death-in-life existence,
from which Laura Bridgman was rescued, can realize how isolated,
how shrouded in darkness, how cramped by its own impotence is a
soul without thought or faith or hope. Words are powerless to
describe the desolation of that prison-house, or the joy of the
soul that is delivered out of its captivity. When we compare the
needs and helplessness of the blind before Dr. Howe began his
work, with their present usefulness and independence, we realize
that great things have been done in our midst. What if physical
conditions have built up high walls about us? Thanks to our
friend and helper, our world lies upward; the length and breadth
and sweep of the heavens are ours!

It is pleasant to think that Dr. Howe's noble deeds will receive
their due tribute of affection and gratitude, in the city, which
was the scene of his great labors and splendid victories for

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

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....

Part III: A Supplementary Account of Helen Keller's Life and

CHAPTER I. The Writing of the Book

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 editorial 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
presuming to say what her subject matter is worth, but one more
explanation is necessary. In her account of her early education
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 constructing 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 paragraphs 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 separate
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 characters 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 communication 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 communicate 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 also
of Miss Sullivan) is humour. Skill in the use of words and her
habit of playing with them make her ready with mots and epigrams.

Some one asked her if she liked to study.

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

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 perseverance
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
unreasonable, 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 triumphantly, she is
likely to answer, "Thank you. I am glad you know. Why did you ask

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 worth while to
sit up and watch, such matters were of so little consequence.

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 responding 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 for 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
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
clearness 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

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 spared.

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 conventional 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 manuscripts 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 finger on the outer edge of the board.

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 separate 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 facsimile
on page xv [omitted from etext] gives an idea of how the raised
dots look. Each character (either a letter or a special braille
contraction) is a combination made by varying in place and number
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
combinations 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 kindness
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 needed.

Miss Keller does not as a rule read very fast, but she reads
deliberately, not so much because she feels the words less
quickly than we see then, 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. When 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 have 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 of 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 conception 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 needs 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 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.'

"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 1891:

"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

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

"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 fear of the plain truth; yet no one is more tactful and
adroit than she in turning an unpleasant truth so that it will do
the least possible hurt to the feelings 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 never the
least false sententiousness 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, fortunately, she has
found so often in other people. And her sympathies 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, penetrating 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 reasoning; 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 misunderstandings, 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 everybody
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,

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 experimental 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 standpoint 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 and Helen Keller. Laura
always remained an object of curious study. 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
successful 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
experiment 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
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.
Howes 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 screaming, 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 preparation 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 demonstrating 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

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

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 controversial 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 1894 for the meeting at
Chautauqua 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 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
published 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
publication 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,
Massachusetts. 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 partially

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. Anagnos
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, 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 intelligence, 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 continuously
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. I 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
keyhole. Finding that there was, she turned to me, making the
sign of turning a key and pointing to the bag. Her mother
interfered 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 her 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 eating, and
nodded again. She understood in a flash and ran downstairs 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 something. Her mouth
is large and finely shaped. You see at a glance that she is
blind. One eye is larger than the other, and 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 things.

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-l-l"
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-l"' and I made the other
"l" 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 Fridays
"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-l-l" 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-l-l" 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

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 friends.

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 them.

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 screaming 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 11, 1887.

Since I wrote you, Helen and I have gone to live all by ourselves
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 buttoning her boots, it
was necessary to use force, and, of course, a distressing 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 certain I 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 the child's heart. She accepted
everything I did for her as a matter of course, and refused to be
caressed, and there was no way of appealing to her affection or
sympathy or childish love of approbation. 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 sister.

This morning Nancy, her favourite doll, seemed to have some
difficulty about swallowing the milk that was being administered
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

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

We had a good frolic this morning out in the garden. Helen
evidently knew where she was as soon as she touched the boxwood
hedges, and made many signs which I did not understand. No doubt
they were signs for the different members of the family at Ivy

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
achievement. 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
obedience, 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

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 manipulate her claws. We couldn't think for a second
what she was doing; but when we saw her make the letters
"d-o-l-l" on her own fingers, we knew that she was trying to
teach Belle to spell.

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 interfere 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't 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. I 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 could do it. But
I am always glad when this work is over for 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-bells. 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
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

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,
(X), CAKE, BABY, MOTHER, SIT, STAND, WALK. On April 1st she
learned the nouns KNIFE, 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

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 whenever 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
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 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 learned 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

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
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 commands 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
hundreds 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.I
assume that she has the normal child's capacity of assimilation
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, "Were 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,

We play a little game which I find most useful in developing the
intellect, and which incidentally answers the purpose of a
language lesson. It is an adaptation of hide-the-thimble. I 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

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 supposition 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 himself,
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

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 fingers
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
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. Afterwards, 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 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
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 moreover, 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 conquest of a sentence as a general who
has captured the enemy's stronghold.

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 knocking
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

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

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 understood 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 perplexed or doubtful. I know how to
meet them; I seem to divine Helen's peculiar needs. It is

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

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 astonishment,
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
suggest 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 everything
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 engineers, 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 line 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. In one lesson I taught her
SPREAD, PILLOW. The next day I found that she remembered all but
spread. The same day she had learned, at different times, the
MAPLE-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 I 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 imagined 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 gentlemen,
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 her 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
attention. 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 I 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?"
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 questions 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: "My, 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 people 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 anything else, except the
wonderful poodle. She remembers all that I told her about it, and
USED IN DESCRIBING IT TO HER. In conclusion she asked her mother
if she should like to see "very high mountain and beautiful
cloudcaps." 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 association.

August 28, 1887.

I 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
circumstances 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 falsehoods and
nonsense, when their growing powers of observation and
discrimination excite in them a desire to know about things. From
and at the same time truthfully. "Why should I treat these
questions 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 this
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
plantlife. 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 watermelon 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 birdlings 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
difficulty 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
physical 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
negatives, until language develops them and brings out the

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 sentences 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 her by the neck and forced her to
lie down again. In the meantime 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 listening with her feet for Mildred's
"thump, thump." When she had located the sound, she went quickly
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
hesitated 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 reply.

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 a 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 strait-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 correctly. 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 meaning.

Lately she has been much interested in colour. She found the word
"brown" in her primer and wanted to know its meaning. 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 letter 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 difficulties 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, 1887.

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 advancement
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 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 thinking 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 work.

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
exercising, 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 written.

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 everything
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 nice 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
FAILS TO GET THE THOUGHT AS A WHOLE. I do not think anyone 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 embarrassment.

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 them, 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 permitted 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

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. I
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,"
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 along finely.
The child's eagerness and interest carry her over many obstacles
that would be our undoing if we stopped to define and explain
everything. What would happen, do you think, 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

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 happened.
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 us; but I never realized until this morning what a
blessing you have been to us." Captain Keller 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 I could answer, she spelled
quickly, "No, no, photographer made me in Sheffield."

One of the greatest 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 9, 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! I came here simply because circumstances made it
necessary for 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 population of Memphis
called on us. Helen was petted and caressed enough to spoil an
angel; but I do not think it is possible to spoil her, she is too
unconscious of herself, and too loving.

The stores in Memphis are very good, and I managed to spend all
the money that I had with me. One day Helen said, "I 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 reply.

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
publication 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.[Most of this journal was
lost. Fortunately, however, Helen Keller wrote so many letters
and exercises that there is no lack of records of that sort.] 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 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 I 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 laugh. 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.

April 16, 1888.

We are just back from church. Captain Keller said at breakfast
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 to 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-tail she touched must needs turn round and give an account
of the children he 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
pantomime, 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
circumstances. 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 teach 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
arbitrary 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 construction, 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

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
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
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
1st, 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 and 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 creatures.
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 variations 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 out walking 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 agitation
which I felt evidently produced a perceptible physical change;
for Helen asked, excitedly, "What do you see?"

A striking illustration 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. 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 hand.

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 I 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 intentionally shot did not make much impression upon her;
but I 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, "Were 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 was 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 true, although we were at a loss to
understand how she guessed it. A letter written to her mother in
the course of the following week gave an account of her
impression in her own words:

"I put my little babies to sleep in Florence's little bed, and I
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 pantomime
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 forth 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
companionship 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

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 movements are free and

She is very fond of all the living things at home, 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 place.

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 intellectual
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 and of the great forces which are operating
everywhere. 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 she 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

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 always made it a practice to use the words descriptive 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

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

After the words have become familiar to her, she uses them in

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 mother."

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

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
selection 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
work-basket. 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 climbed 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 you, 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 the noise quite

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. I 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 a 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 compositions. 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 does not appear elsewhere in the
present volume.

These extracts Mr. Anagnos took from Miss Sullivan's notes and

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 handsomely 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 a
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

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 comprehend. 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

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 have 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. Therefore
it has always seemed best to me to teach anything whenever my
pupil needed to know it, whether it had any bearing on the
projected lesson or not, her inquiries have often led us far 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
operations. She has nearly finished Colburn's mental arithmetic,
her last work being in improper fractions. She has also done some
good work in written arithmetic. Her mind works so 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 suggested that we take a
walk and then perhaps she would understand 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 command 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
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 meaning 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 my 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 necessary 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 impossible 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
countenance 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 I 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 guessing 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 I asked the cause. "I am thinking how much wiser we
always are when we leave here than we are when we come," was her

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 overcome 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's practice.

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 conversation. I 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 exhaustively
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 depriving 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

"Were did I come from?" and "Where shall I go when I die?" were
questions Helen asked 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 to 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 of others, she became acquainted with
the limit of human creative power, and perceived 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 goddesses, 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 something 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 hard, 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
ascribing 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 what 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

"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 daisies 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 understanding
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 more than a
continual advance in the comprehension of the meaning and scope
of such ideas.

Throughout Helen's education I have invariably assumed 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 necessity 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

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 independent
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

She was very still for a few minutes, evidently thinking
earnestly. She then asked, "Who made God?" I was compelled 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 Him.

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
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 fulfilment 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 gradually 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?" 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 Association
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 the 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

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
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 others.

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 something 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

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 allowance 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 importance 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 understand 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 understand
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 conversation 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 reproductions 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 unconscious 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 fundamentally 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 mechanical 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 separately 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 thousands 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 child.

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 context, in their position
with reference to words known, added 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 remembering 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 in
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
lines 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 whole 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 mental
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 discovering 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 vigorous, 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 goodness," if she has a love "of all things good
and beautiful," this implies something about the teacher who has
lived with her for 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, unseparated 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

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

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' experience 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

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 loudness,
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 who is telling a solemn

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 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 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 DICTIONARY
without her erring either toward DICTIONAYRY or DICTION'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 in 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
deliberate measured speech is like theirs, before they come to
the adult trick of running all the words of a phrase into one
movement 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 Sullivan'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 fact.


It was three years from the time when Helen began to communicate
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 proficient 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 speak, 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 necessity of correct instruction, since her heart was set
upon learning to talk; and, feeling my own incompetence to teach
her, never 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

I knew that Laura Bridgman had shown the same intuitive desire to
produce sounds, and had even learned to pronounce 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 monotonous 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, articulation 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 articulation. 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 articulate 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 elements 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 including
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 knew 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. 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 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
distinctly the following sounds: a, a", a^, e, i, o, c soft like
s and hard like k, g hard, b, l, 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 l 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 clearly. [The
difficulties which Miss Sullivan found in 1891 are, in a measure,
the difficulties which show in Miss Keller's speech today.]

When she had been talking for less than a week, she met her
friend, Mr. Rodocanachi, and immediately began to struggle 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 all 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 Sullivan
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 tell
her everything without the manual alphabet. The ability to 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 to 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 fifth meeting of the American
Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, at Mt.
Airy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 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
learn 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
education 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 perplexing 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; indeed, 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 I 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-days 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 is ever
lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we shall find that which we
seek. We shall speak, yes, and sing, too, as God 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. It is
just this accuracy which Miss Keller's early education fixes as
the point to which any healthy child can be brought, and 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

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 children; 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 together.

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:


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 allusion
is made 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 expression 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 of
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 this paper Miss Sullivan 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 of 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 poems, 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 application."                                       

In the hope that I may be pardoned if I appear to overestimate
the remarkable mental capacity and power of comprehension 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 imagination 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

The following extracts from a few of her published letters give
evidence of how valuable this power of retaining the memory 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 of 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 she 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 Report
of the Perkins Institution for 1891]

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 song.


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 autumnal brown;
The oriole, drifting like a flake of fire
Rent by a whirlwind from a blazing spire;
The robin, jerking his spasmodic throat,
Repeats imperious, his staccato 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 adaptation than a reproduction:
"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! His love and care are written all over the walls of

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 wonderful
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 hillsides,
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 eyelids 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 comment 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 story 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 suggested
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 and,
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 instituted 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

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 page 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 she 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 wintertime 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 closely 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.


(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
lovingly 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 rosebushes 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 dewdrops; I bent down one of 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,

"The Frost Fairies" and "The Frost Kings" are given in full, as
the differences are as important as the resemblances:

The Frost Fairies [From "Birdie and his Fairy Friends"] by
Margaret T. Canby

King Frost, or Jack Frost as he is sometimes called, lives in a
cold country far to the North; but every year he takes a journey
over the world in a 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 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; and 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 them
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

The fairies promised obedience and soon started on their journey,
dragging the great glass jars and vases along, as well as they
could, and now 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 wander 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 loitered in the
forest until noon, they found the reason why they were told to
hasten; for although they had, as they 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 to undo
his 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 contained 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 treasure was a long time
in reaching 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 listened they plainly heard the tinkling of
many drops falling through the forest, and sliding from leaf to
leaf until they reached the bramble-bushes beside them, when, to
their 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 beautiful; 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 them.

Their fears were well founded, 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 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 called the golden leaves "buttercups," and the red ones
"roses," and were very happy as they went singing through the

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
their fault, and asked his pardon. 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?

The Frost King by Helen A. Keller

King Frost lives in a beautiful palace far to the North, in the
land of perpetual snow. The palace, which is magnificent 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 architecture 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-looking 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.

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 wonderful works; he builds bridges
over every stream, as transparent 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 beautiful
enough to comfort us for the flight of summer. I will tell you
how King Frost happened to think of painting the leaves, for it
is a strange story.

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. "I will send my
treasures to Santa Claus," said the King to himself. "He is the
very man to dispose of them satisfactorily, 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 containing his treasures, he bade them carry them
to the palace of Santa Claus as quickly as they could. The
fairies promised obedience, and were off in a twinkling, dragging
the heavy jars and vases along after them as well as they could,
now and then grumbling 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 journey. But thinking their treasure
might be stolen from them, they hid the jars among the thick
green leaves of the various trees until they were sure that no
one could find them. Then they began to wander merrily about
searching for nuts, climbing trees, peeping curiously into the
empty birds' nests, and playing 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
dismay why they had been bidden 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 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 discovered
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
bushes and waited silently for something 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
brightness 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 to 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 the painted trees. He said to himself, "My
treasures are not wasted if they make little children happy. My
idle fairies and my fiery enemy have taught me a new way of doing

When the fairies heard this, they were greatly relieved and came
forth from their hiding-places, confessed their fault, and asked
their master's forgiveness.

Ever since that time it has been King Frost's great delight 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 imagine 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,

Can it be that the language of the story had remained dormant 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 a dream "WHICH I HAD A
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.


(The following entry made by Helen in her diary speaks for

'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.

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 extraordinary 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
reproduction 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. [This note is a statement of the bare facts
and an apology, which Mr. Anagnos inserted in his report of the
Perkins Institute.]

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 impression 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 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 surprised 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
truthfulness. 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

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 her 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,
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 of imitation,
which has in truth made Miss Keller a writer, to 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 cultivated, 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 folktale; whereas Miss Canby's story is evidently 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 sometimes 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
all 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 thoughts.

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 language must be one
used by a nation, not an artificial thing. Volapuk 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 tenacious 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 train.

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

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

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 light."

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, and in
this way I learned a great many things.

When I was a little older I felt the need of some means of
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

Teacher had been trying all the morning to make me understand
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 remember 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 I awoke with joy in my heart. Everything 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. Everything was budding and blossoming.
The honeysuckle hung in long garlands, deliciously fragrant, and
the roses had never been so beautiful before. Teacher and I lived
out-of-doors from 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 beautiful, 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, I shouted for joy, and plunged fearlessly 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 had 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

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 Keller was prematurely conscious
of style, but the art of the later narrative, as in the passage
about the sea, or the passage on the medallion of Homer, is
surely a 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 its early simplicity and became stiff and, as she says,
"periwigged." In these years the fear came many times to Miss
Sullivan lest the success of the child was to cease with
childhood. At times Miss Keller seemed to lack flexibility, her
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
vocabulary 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 deny to the autobiographer. It should be explained, too, that
LOOK and SEE are used by the blind, and HEAR by the 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 men the meaning of
intellectual recognition as well as recognition 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, however, 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 the flow of sentences." The extracts

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 forgetfulness. 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 it 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 "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 discourses 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 professors say or how they
mark our themes.

To-day I 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

Sainte-Beuve says, "Il vient un age peut-etre 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
unthought of before, and seek a definite answer in the depths of
human knowledge.

In the second place, if it is true that as many 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
development, 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 of
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

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 doff 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
lurked 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 possibilities better even than my hopes.


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 all 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 happiest days, far from the noise
and strife of the world.

O, 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 your 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

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 their 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 of 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.

From the top of the hill where I stood I saw my army surging over
a 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 cupboard, all peeled and
deliciously 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 woodfire. 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 confused 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


End of the Project Gutenberg etext of The Story of My Life by
Helen Keller.


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