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To alleviate the uneasy feeling and this importunate desire, the unhappy man goes again to his cups, and with a shaking hand pours down the delicious poison. What then? He has added a new link to his chain; at every repetition it grows heavier and heavier, till that, which at first he bore lightly and cheerfully, now presses him like. a coat of iron, and galls like fetters of steel. There is a great and fearful law of his nature bearing him down to destruction. Every indulgence is the addition of a new weight to what was before placed upon him, thus lessening the probability of escape, and accelerating his gloomy, fearful, and interminable sinking. We do not mean to say that he is the subject of an implacable destiny, and cannot help himself. But it would seem that he can help himself only in this way; by a prompt, absolute, and entire suspension of the practice in all its forms, which has led him into this extremity. But few, however, have the resolution to do this; the multitude make a few unwilling and feeble efforts, and resign themselves to the horrors of their fate.
$ 50. Of habit in relation to the hearing. There is undoubtedly a natural difference in the quickness and discrimination of hearing. This sense is more acute in some than in others; but in those who possess it in much natural excellence, it is susceptible of a high degree of cultivation. Musicians are a proof of this, whose sensibility to the melody and concord of sweet sounds continually increases with the practice of their art.
The increase of sensibility in the perceptions of hearing is especially marked and evident, when uncommon causes have operated to secure such practice. And this is the state of things with the Blind. The readers of Sir Walter Scott may not have forgotten the blind fiddler, who figures so conspicuously with verse and harp in Red Gauntlet; a character sufficiently extraordinary, but by no means an improbable exaggeration. The blind necessarily rely much more than others on the sense of hearing. By constant practice they increase the accuracy and power of its perceptions. Shut out from the beauties that are seen, they please themselves with what is
heard, and greedily drink in the melodies of song. Accordingly, music is made by them not only a solace, but a business and a means of support; and in the Institutions for the Blind this is considered an important department of instruction.
Many particular instances on record, and well authenticated, confirm the general statement, that the ear may be trained to habits, and that thus the sensations of sound may come to us with new power and meaning. It is related of a celebrated blind man of Puiseaux in France, that he could determine the quantity of fluid in vessels by the sound it produced while running from one vessel into another. “Dr. Rush," as the statement is given in Abercrombie's Intellectual Powers,“ relates of two blind young men, brothers, of the city of Philadelphia, that they knew when they approached a post in walking across a street by a peculiar sound which the ground under their feet emitted in the neighbourhood of the post; and that they could tell the names of a number of tame pigeons, with which they amused themselves in a little garden, by only hearing them fly over their heads.” Dr. Saunderson, who became blind so early as not to remember having seen, when happening in any new place, as a room, piazza, pavement, court,
and the like, gave it a character by means of the sound and echo from his feet; and in that way was able to identify pretty exactly the place, and assure himself of his position afterward. A writer in the First Volume of the Manchester Philosophical Memoirs, who is our authority also for the statement just made, speaks of a certain blind man in that city as follows: "I had an opportunity of repeatedly observing the peculiar manner in which he arranged his ideas and acquired his information. Whenever he was introduced into company, I remarked that he continued some time silent. The sound directed him to judge of the dimensions of the room, and the different voices of the number of persons that were present. His distinction in these respects was very accurate, and his memory so retentive that he was seldom mistaken. I have known him instantly recognise a person on first hearing him, though more than two years had elapsed since the time of their last meeting. He
determined pretty nearly the stature of those he was conversing with by the direction of their voices; and he made tolerable conjectures respecting their tempers and dispositions by the manner in which they conducted their conversation.'
$ 51. Application of habit to the touch. The sense of touch, like the others, may be exceedingly improved by habit. The more we are obliged to call it into use, the more attention we pay to its intimations. By the frequent repetition, therefore, under such circumstances, these sensations not only acquire increased intenseness in themselves, but particularly so in reference to our notice and remembrance of them. But it is desirable to confirm this, as it is all other principles from time to time laid down, by an appeal to facts, and by careful inductions from them.
Diderot relates of the blind man of Puiseaux, mentioned in a former section, that he was capable of judging of his distance from the fireplace by the degree of heat, and of his approach to any solid
bodies by the action or pulse of the air upon his face. The same thing is recorded of many other persons in a similar situation; and it may be regarded as a point well established, that blind people who are unable to see the large and heavy bodies presenting themselves in their way as they walk about, generally estimate their approach to them by the increased resistance of the atmosphere. A blind person, owing to the increased accuracy of his remaining senses, especially of the touch, would be better trusted to go through the various apartments of a house in the darkness of midnight, than one possessed of the sense of seeing without any artificial light to guide him.
In the celebrated Dr. Saunderson, who lost his sight in very early youth, and remained blind through life, although he occupied the professorship of mathematics in the English University of Cambridge, the touch acquired such acuteness that he could distinguish, by merely letting them pass through his fingers, spurious coins, which were so well executed as to deceive even skilful judges who could see.*
* Memoirs of the Manchester Philosophical Society, vol. i., p. 164.
The case of a Mr. John Metcalf, otherwise called Blind Jack, which is particularly dwelt upon by the author of the Article in the Memoirs just referred to, is a striking one. The writer states that he became blind at an early period; but, notwithstanding, followed the profession of a wagoner, and occasionally of a guide in intricate roads during the night, or when the tracks were covered with snow. At length he became a projector and surveyor of highways in difficult and mountainous districts; an employment for which one would naturally suppose a blind man to be but indifferently qualified. But he was found to answer all the expectations of his employers, and most of the roads over the Peak in Derbyshire, in England, were altered by his directions. Says the person who gives this account of Blind Jack, “I have several times met this man, with the assistance of a long staff, traversing the roads, ascending precipices, exploring valleys, and investigating their several extents, forms, and situations, so as to answer his designs in the best manner.”
In the interesting Schools for the Blind which have recently been established in various parts of the world, the pupils read by means of the fingers. They very soon learn by the touch to distinguish one letter from another, which are made separately for that purpose of wood, metals, or other hard materials. The printed sheets which they use are conformed to their method of studying them. The types are much larger than those ordinarily used in printing; the paper is very thick, and being put upon the types while wet, and powerfully pressed, the letters on it are consequently raised, and appear in relief. The pupils having before learned to distinguish one letter from another, and also to combine them into syllables and words, are able after a time to pass their fingers along the words and sentences of these printed sheets, and ascertain their meaning, with a good degree of rapidity.
$ 52. Other striking instances of habits of touch. The power of the touch will increase in proportion to the necessity of a reliance on it. The more frequent the resort to it, the stronger will be the habit; but the necessity of this frequent reference to it will be found to be peculiarly great where a person is deprived of two of his other senses. It is noticed of James Mitchell, whose case has been already referred to, that he distinguished such articles as belonged to himself from the property of others by this sense. Although the articles were of the same form and materials with those of others, it would seem that he was not at a loss in identifying what was his own. It will be recollected that he could neither see nor hear, and was, of course, speechless. He was obliged, therefore, to depend chiefly on the touch. This sense was the principal instrument he made use of in forming an acquaintance with the strangers who frequently visited him. And what is particularly remarkable, he actually explored by it, at an early period, a space round his father's residence of about two hundred yards in extent, to any part of which he was in the practice of walking fearlessly and without a guide, whenever he pleased.
It is related of the deaf and blind girl in the Hartford Asylum, that it is impossible to displace a single article in her drawers without her perceiving and knowing it; and that, when the baskets of linen are weekly brought from the laundress, she selects her own garments without hesitation, however widely they may be dispersed among the mass. This is probably owing, at least in great part, to habits of touch, by means of which the sense
is rendered exceedingly acute.—Diderot has even gone so far as to conjecture that persons deprived of both sight and hearing would so increase the sensibility of touch as to locate the seat of the soul in the tips of the fingers.
953. Habits considered in relation to the sight. The law of habit affects the sight also. By a course of training this sense seems to acquire new power. The length and acuteness of vision in the mariner who has long traversed the ocean has been frequently referred to.
-Ă writer in the North American Review (July, 1833) says, he once “knew a man, in the Greek island of Hydra, who was accustomed to take his post every day for thirty years on the summit of the island, and look out for the approach of vessels; and although there were over