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It has been asserted that signs do not admit of description, and that those employed by Sicard cannot be gathered from his works. His Théorie des Signes, it is true, is far from being a dictionary of such as deserve to be called methodical ; or such as were used by him to abbreviate the indication of words in practice. But this reasoning, as applied to the New York Institution in its infancy, rests upon a false basis. The pupil is the book in which the teacher must read. He brings with him all the signs which are available to him, in the commencement of his education. The number of these may be increased as the circle of his ideas expands; but their particular form is far from being essential to the purposes which they are to fulfil. The Abbé Jamet, at Caen, has instituted his own system of methodical signs, rejecting those of Sicard. In like manner, the instructers at New York had theirs, many of which are still held in recollection among the pupils, and are still intelligible.
But the real evils under which the New York Institution labored, the real points of difference between it and the institution at Hartford, were the incompetency of its teachers, in the artificial nature of the instrument on which they chiefly relied, or their neglect to avail themselves of any thing like logical method in the teaching of language. They erred, in encumbering the memory of the pupil with isolated words, designated, each by its methodical sign, while the proper use of those words, in connected discourse, was yet but imperfectly understood. We have had visible evidence, in a multitude of instances, that their pupils were accustomed to regard written language, not as a practical instrument of communication, available under all circumstances, but as a possible means of exhibiting particular propositions.
We must admit, therefore, that the New York Institution did not early fulfil the purposes of its charitable founders. The year 1830 was, however, the era of a radical reformation. It was during this year that Mr. Vaysse, from the Institution of Paris, entered upon his duties at New York ; and that Mr. Peet, the principal, previously for nine years an instructer in the American Asylum, concluded to accept the situation, which he has since continued to fill.
Mr. Vaysse and Mr. Peet brought with them the methods and the signs, in use at Paris and at Hartford. As a natural consequence, the institution at once assumed a character, which it had never before possessed ; and which immediately won for it anew the confidence, which had before been partially withdrawn. Uniformity, too, in the sign language, if that be considered an advantage worth mentioning, was, by means of this revolution, rendered universal among American institutions. There now exists but a single sign dialect, in the schools for the deaf and dumb on this continent.
The system of methodical signs, early, as we have seen, in use at New York, was, after the arrival of Mr. Vaysse, gradually abandoned. The advantages, consequent upon thus shaking off the yoke of an artificial system, have been strikingly perceptible. Thus France, at whose hands our country first received the art, has furnished us with its most decided improvement here, in the correction of her own great original error.
The New York Institution, on its new basis, is now proceeding with remarkable success. In addition to the methods already employed, it is seriously considering the expediency of introducing articulation; the number of its pupils, capable of acquiring such a means of communication in some degree through the ear, being sufficient to warrant the attempt.
Beside the establishments already noticed as existing in America, there is a school for the deaf and dumb in Kentucky, another in Ohio, a third at Canajoharie, New York, and a fourth in Quebec. All these have derived their methods from the American Asylum. That at Canajoharie, having been established merely for temporary purposes, by the Legislature of the State of New York, will probably be discontinued in 1836.
In reviewing the labors of American teachers, we cannot but be surprised that so little has been done by them towards the preparation of books. It is an admitted fact, that the deaf and dumb need exercises, written expressly for their use. Yet, among us, nothing has been done, worthy of note. Seixas and Gallaudet published, indeed, some disjointed exercises, but upon these, we presume, they did not desire to stake their reputation. In the year 1821, there appeared, at New York, a course of lessons by Dr. Samuel Akerly, which from its extent might seem to challenge criticism. Had the doctor, in preparing his work, fully understood the nature of his undertaking, we should have been disposed to meet the challenge. To do so under existing circumstances, however, since his book has neither been found practically useful in the New
York Institution, for which it was originally designed, nor any where else, would be a mere waste of words.
The want of printed lessons is the disadvantage under which, at present, American institutions chiefly labor. To remedy this deficiency, along with that of a systematic series of designs, is the point, toward which the labors of instructers should, for the time, be principally directed. Cannot a congress of teachers be established? Cannot an union of effort be attempted ? Cannot a division of labor be determined, which shall cause its advantages to be felt by the deaf and dumb now existing? We have, hitherto, had too little concert. We have been employed rather in creating, than in perfecting institutions. We have been struggling, as we still are, against pecuniary embarrassments. We have been laboring that the patronage of the Federal Government, already extended to two seminaries, might foster also our undertakings. We have toiled, not so much for celebrity, as for existence. Confident in the belief, that the claims of the deaf and dumb would ultimately be acknowledged in their fullest extent, we have sought to establish points, around which the public charity might rally, and pour out, upon its objects, its blessings in their most efficacious form. For the Northern United States, these points are determined. For the Southern, they remain to be designated. Virginia owes it to her character, and to the numerous deaf and dumb persons within her limits, speedily to create one.* Another, or it may be two, will be requisite for the South-western states. Regarding the promptitude of our countrymen to meet the calls of justice or of charity, in whatever form presented, we cannot doubt that the wants of the deaf and dumb will soon be supplied ; and that the public beneficence, already extended to a portion, will, before the lapse of many years, be accorded to the whole.
* By an act of the Legislature of Virginia, passed during the session of 1832-3, a charter was granted for an Institution to be situated at Staunton, a position nearly central in the State. This place was selected in compliance with the conditions of a very liberal donation, said to have been made by one of its inhabitants for the purposes contemplated by the law. It is not known that any measures have yet been taken to carry the provisions of the act into effect. VOL. XXXVIII.--NO, 83.
ART. III.-Early Literature of France.
The Provençal school, to which we briefly adverted in a preceding article, may be viewed with propriety as the earliest development of French poetry, although the dialect of the Northern provinces had obtained a complete ascendency over that of the Southern before the period of good taste arrived. It is true, that while the Troubadours were flourishing at their best estate, there also existed in the North a race of bards and minstrels called Trouvères, who used the dialect of the Northem provinces, or the Langue d'Oui, and whose general style of poetry resembled precisely that of their brethren of the gaie science. They may, therefore, be considered as forming a branch of the same general school ; but as they were less distinguished at the time than the Troubadours, it is of course the latter who must be regarded as at the head of it. Neither branch has left any works of real value except as antiquarian curiosities. Among those of the Northern poets or Trouvères, an allegorical poem, called the Romaunt of the Rose, and a collection of poetical tales under the title of Fabliaux are considered as the best. It does not come within the scope of the present article to examine in detail the merit of these productions. The language in which they are written is now obsolete, and they constitute no part of what is properly denominated French literature.
In passing from this antiquated form into its present one, the French language assumed and retained for a long time an intermediate shape, much more nearly resembling the latter than the former, but strongly marked with some peculiar characteristics, and possessing beauties which are now lost. It was also during the prevalence of this form that the first works of real merit made their appearance, and it is therefore on all accounts entitled to some degree of attention. It is exhibited in its rudest shape in the Chronicles of Froissart, the History of Philippe de Comines, and Rabelais. It is seen again in a somewhat purer taste in Montaigne's Essays. In Amyot and Brantôme it approaches still nearer to the modern style, but yet possesses a distinctly perceptible character. The works of Clement Marot, the best poet who preceded the era of good taste, are generally considered the most favorable specimens of this intermediate or transition dialect. It is sometimes called the naif, or simple style, but as this term indicates simplicity of thought and not of language, it seems to be in this instance improperly applied. Some of the principal writers who employ this peculiar dialect, as for instance Clement Marot and Montaigne, are remarkable for a frank and open expression of their personal feelings, and this intellectual quality of the writers may have connected itself in the imagination of the public with the form of the language in which they wrote. The principal peculiarities that distinguish this variety of the French from the modern form, are the occasional omission of the article before the noun, and of the personal pronoun before the verb; the more frequent use of inverted phrases, and the employment of a number of adjectives of diminution, and various other words that are now obsolete. None of these points appear to have any necessary connexion with the supposed moral expression of this dialect, but they all indicate a nearer approach to the Latin, and its immediate offspring the Spanish and Italian, than we see in the modern French. Hence it is natural to conclude, that of the two great ingredients which unite in the composition of the French, as of all the modern languages, the Teutonic was constantly gaining on the Latin until the form of the language was fixed. The difference between the French of Montaigne and Marot, and that of Pascal and Malherbe, the first classical writers in prose and verse, marks one stage in this progress, and has litile or nothing to do with any supposed difference of moral expression. The naiveté of this style is therefore probably in a great measure an imaginary thing, but the association is now so completely established, that the employment of any of its peculiar forms, at the present day, immediately conveys to the mind of the reader the impressions that naturally correspond with this quality; and it is uniformly resorted to by modern writers for this purpose.