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To distinguish man from the lower animals he has sometimes been denominated the tool-using animal. By this is meant, that instead of following the instincts of his nature, he is governed by a higher law of necessity, and he is not only an intellectual, but an inventive creature. Indeed, method is the grand lever of the human mind. It is emphatically the tool of thought. Put diligence at the long arm, and let genius direct her labors, and there are but few obstacles, even in the blind man's path, that may not be thrown aside. Another example of mental triumph over physical condition, or in other words, of natural defects overcome by perseverance and proper discipline, may be seen in the life and successes of Lemuel Rockwell, an American musician.
His birth was hail'd by those spirits of song,
Or glide with soft music the streamlets along,
As from harps with moonbeams strung,
In compliance with our request, Mr. Rockwell has kindly furnished us with a brief sketch of his life,
comprising some of the most important and interesting events of his early history, and clearly demonstrating a fact which we have all along sought to establish, viz: that helplessness and inactivity is not a necessary sequence of blindness-that the lack of sight is only a physical defect, and does not presuppose mental deficiency, or a want of capacity for knowledge-and that there are but few of the active pursuits of life, in which this class of persons may not engage with a confident hope of success. It seems to have been Mr. Rockwell's maxim, never to hang up the fiddle while a string remains unbroken. Never abandon a favorite project while hope sheds a ray into the future, or at least until defeat is inevitable; never desert hope until she has first deserted you, has been the theme of his life's song. May it find an echo in every aspiring heart.
In Mr. Rockwell we recognize the true American hero. Entirely independent of the special provision made by this and several other of the sister states, for the education of the blind, he has raised himself by his own industry and perseverance, from a very humble station in life, to one of honor and usefulness. The complete victory he has achieved over the difficulties consequent on blindness-his proficiency in thorough bass, and success as a teacher of vocal and instrumental music-it is hoped may serve as an incentive to greater exertions on the part of the blind, generally, and to convince those who still entertain doubts whether the blind can or cannot teach music,
that what has been realized in Mr. Rockwell's experience, might be true in almost every other instance, were it not for public prejudice. Why refuse this class of musicians what you do not deny to others, whom nature has more highly favored, at least the benefit of an experiment? We speak with candor and earnestness, because it has been our misfortune to experience some strong opposition in this particular branch. It seems most astonishing that, notwithstanding the ability of the blind as teachers of music has been proved in so many instances, and acknowledged by so many eminent masters of the art; that, regardless of all that has been done by philanthropists in instituting schools for the education of this class, in order to fit them for a high and useful station in life; that, notwithstanding all this, there are some who still persist in thinking that the lack of sight totally incapacitates a man for any branch of business. To aspire to any of the professions, or even to the art of piano forte tuning, is in their opinion an unpardonable presumption. They cannot, it seems, understand how it is, that one who is unable to distinguish by actual contrast of color the form of the characters which represent sounds, should have any knowledge of the nature or properties of sounds themselves, or the relation they sustain to each other, in pitch, power, or duration. We are pleased with the manner in which Mr. Rockwell has presented this subject, and we trust our readers will find it equally interesting and instructive.
"I have not the vanity," says Mr. Rockwell, "to suppose that a life spent like mine, in poverty and comparative obscurity, a life whose details comprise little of thrilling adventures or remarkable achievement, can furnish any considerable amount of material that will be of much interest to the general reader; nevertheless, in compliance with your request, I submit the following statements, as comprising in the main an account of the leading circumstances and influences to which I am indebted for the little I have achieved, or hereafter may accomplish.
"I was born October 9th, 1817, in the town of Simsbury, Hartford county, Connecticut. Very early in my infancy my parents became apprehensive, from indications that could not elude parental vigilance, that I was laboring under some marked peculiarity or infirmity, either mental or physical, and they were not long in identifying it as total blindness. Those who have watched over the cradle of a new-born in
fant, observing, with that tender interest which parental affection only can inspire, every indication having the slightest bearing upon the question of its present development or future prospects, will imagine the feeling of my parents on being forced to this most unwelcome conclusion-the more unwelcome, from their present and prospective poverty. I must, in all probability, be dependent for a subsistence, either on my own exertions, or on public or private N
charity. As for the former, it was difficult for them to conceive how any one enveloped in total darkness should be able to grope his way to any department of useful enterprise; and, as for the latter, everybody feels the truth, as well as the poetry, of Thomas Hood's exclamation
'Alas for the rarity
"The key to the little I have attained in the way of general knowledge, will, I apprehend, be found in the fact that my father was an ardent lover of scientific and literary pursuits, and devoted to them more time and attention than the generality of men in his circumstances would have thought it prudent to spare from their ordinary vocations. He delighted in reading to his family, and especially to me, knowing, as he did, that all my knowledge of books must be acquired by hearing them read by others. Not being able to join, to any considerable extent, in the industrial or recreative employments of other children, I had time to hear, and to digest what I heard, so that what I lost in not being able to read for myself in a measure, made up to me in the fact that I had leisure to hear and to think.
"When I was in my sixth year, I was sent, or rather permitted, to go to school with my elder brother, and from that time onward, I continued to go to school about as regularly as children in general do,