“… we can easily mop the orifice …” – Macnaughton Jones and Tinnitus

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 12 February 2016

jones 1The Irish otologist, gynaecologist and ophthalmologist Henry Macnaughton Jones was the son of Thomas Jones, a doctor from Cork (see obituary for what follows).  He spent most of his early career locally, founding the Cork Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, which was later known as the Victoria Hospital.  Moving to London in 1883, he concentrated on obstetrics and gynaecology.  He married when he was only twenty-two, and in the 1911 census we can see that there were three surviving children.  His obituary tells us that “His Handbook on Diseases of the Ear and Naso-pharynx passed through six editions”.

jones 6 titleThe book we are interested in today,Subjective Noises in the Head and Ears: Their Etiology, Diagnosis and Treatment was published in 1891.  He dedicated the book to the pioneer ‘Father of Modern Scientific Otology’, Dr. Adam Politzer , who perused the text and “did not consider it necessary to add any notes to the work.”  (Weir and Mudry, p.104, Macnaughton Jones, p.iv).  Jonathan Hazell surveys this book, one of the few that cover tinnitus at that period.  Macnaughton Jones follows on from Jean Marie Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), famous for  his work with the ‘wild Boy of Aveyron’, as a pioneer of tinnitus research.

One method that Macnaughton Jones tried to treat tinnitus, was with a galvanic battery, though he was not convinced of its use.  “It is uncertain in its effects, frequently causing grave aggravation of the subjective noises […] The dosage of it is difficult to measure.  In the hands of those not accustomed to electrical manipulation it is a mosyt haphazard treatment in that form of nerve disturbance that requires technical skill in manipulation, and fineness of adjustment in appliance. (p.128-9)

Our copy is signed ‘with the author’s compliments’.  The book is illustrated throughout with pictures of instruments that are laible to induce a shudder in those of a nervous disposition, such as Turnbull’s Eustacian Forceps, Eustachian Tube Electrode, Knife for Paracentesis Tympani, Mr Adam’s Septum Punch, a Nasal Saw and ‘The Author’s Nasal Shears’!  In his chapter, Treatment – the Middle Ear, he discusses tympanic catheters –

If the surgeon is determine to try to inject the tympanum through the Eustachian tube, it is as well to use one of Weber-Liel’s tympanic catheters, with a Pravaz syringe.  With this appliance, if the Eustachian tube be papent, we can safely inject the tympanum with the desired solution (vide “Handbook,” Fig. 46).  With such forceps as that of Turnbull (Fig.50), we can easily mop the orifice of the Eustachian tube and the posterior nares with any solution we desire.  I must confess that I do not of late resort to the use of chloride of ammonia vapour as frequently as I used to.  Still, it is a remedy worth trying in those cases of tinnitus in which we have general naso-pharyngeal relaxation and accumulation of mucus in the naso-pharynx and the Eustachian tubes.  It matters little which inhaler we use, provided we get the neutral fumes for imnhalation.  Kerr’s inhaler was one of the first used, and it is a very simple one.  […] If we desire to pump some of this vapour or that of iodiner into the tympanum through the Eustachian tube, we can easily do so by means of my autoinsufflating bag.

Some years since I had cigarettes made containing iodoform and eucaluptus for smikong purposes.  I found that the iodoform was in great measure disguised by the eucalyptus, and more so, by vanillin or coumarin

I have had them made with a little crowsfoot leaf.  These can be smoked through the nose, and some of the vapour may be passed behind the naso-pharynx, or by Valsalva’s method, into the tympanum.*

*Messrs. Corbyn, Stacey and Co.

We also see illustrated below, massage techniques, and he says that while “I do not pretend to explain how it acts, but it has in some cases decidedly beneficial effect”.

Macnaughton Jones died in Hampstead, in 1918.

jones 5 koniontronjones 4 menthol inhalerjones 3 terapeutical

HENRY MACNAUGHTON-JONES, M.D., M.Ch., M.A.O., F.R.C.S.I. and Edin, Br Med J 1918;1:521 B doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.2992.521-a (Published 04 May 1918)

Hazell, Jonathan, Tinnitus, (1987)

Weir, Neil, and Mudry, Albert, Otorhinolaryngology : an illustrated history (2nd ed., 2013)

Census 1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 601

What is the “Deaf Grapevine”?

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 9 February 2016

The “Deaf Grapevine” is a term that is moderately popular but was new to me, and seems to have come from America, so this is an attempt to explain it.  In fact, on closer  inspection, it seems that the the term “grapevine” is from the U.S. as the Oxford English Dictionary (on line version) says, in its definition,

2.a Originally a canard, current during the American Civil War, and shortened from: ‘a despatch by grape-vine telegraph’ (Funk’s Stand. Dict.). Now in general use to indicate the route by which a rumour or a piece of information (often of a secret or private nature) is passed.

The ‘deaf grapevine’ in this context is a network of D/deaf people passing information or rumours from one to the other, through friends and family.  The idea is that deaf people have historically been more reliant on personal contact for information, as they were not able to pick up news or information (or misinformation) from sources open to hearing people, like the radio or (before recent advances in subtitling) television.  Additionally, they would know all the other members of their deaf community pretty well, and by extention have links with a much wider deaf community.

The earliest reference to the phrase I have found, is in an article from American Motorcyclist for March 1958, p.28.  The writer used the term in explaining the origins of a group of deaf motorcyclists  – “By his enthusiasm and persistant entreaties, word spread among the “deaf-grapevine”, that a rendezvous, especially for motorcycle enthusiasts, was planned at his home in Torrance, on February 27, 1957.”  In 1975 we find this from the Indiana State Board of Health Bulletin, Volume 75 p.89 – “The other day, I got a message, via the deaf grapevine, that the John Tracy Clinic is seriously considering total communication.”  By the 1980s the phrase seems fully established, as we see from this article by Stephen K. Chough –

Finally, the area of confidentiality needs to be emphasized more than ever when working professionally with members of the deaf community. The so-called, “deaf grapevine” is a powerful phenomenon. The deaf community is small in number, and most deaf people know each other very well.  Professional persons, whether hearing or deaf, need to remain acutely aware of this undercurrent of thought when working with a deaf person.  That is to say, the deaf client may feel constantly threatened by the possibility that the professional, whether hearing or deaf, may reveal information from therapy sessions to members of the community at large. (Chough, p.18-19)

In 1988 we have this from the Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association, Volume 21, p.91, “Finally, peer counseling services are usually provided through a grassroots agency which has been well established in the community as safe and accessible. Clients often hear about the services through the “deaf grapevine” […]”. 

Finally let us take this quotation from Deaf Sport (1991) by David Alan Stewart –

Because the number of Deaf people is small, each individual is able to to maintain contact with a relatively large percentage of a Deaf community. In a smaller Deaf community (less than 1,000) it is not unusual that some Deaf persons know at least by face if not by name nearly all the members of that community.  The efficiency of the Deaf grapevine is also aided by the fact that a high proportion of deaf persons marry other deaf persons; the rate has been estimated to be 90 percent for adults deafened early in life (Schein 1987) or as high as 95 percent For Deaf people in general (Jacobs 1980). Communication about Deaf sport events relies heavily on this grapevine. (p.71)

Schein J. (1987). “The demography of deafness”. In P.C. Higgins and J.E. Nash, Understanding Deafness Socially. Springfield, IL. [RNID YBX G]
Jacobs, Leo M. A Deaf adult speaks out. Washington, D.C : Gallaudet College Press 2nd ed. [RNID Y] (a 3rd edition is available but this is the one Stewart uses above)
Chough, Stephen K., The trust vs. mistrust phenomenon among deaf persons, p.17-19, in Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Deafness, ed. by Douglas Watson et al., Silver Spring, Md. 1983 [RNID Conference Collection, 1981]
OED http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/80817?redirectedFrom=grapevine#eid [accessed 9/2/2015]

UCL Students, and others at a higher education institution, will have access to some of these books now via ‘Project Muse’.  If your college or university subscribes you will find links via your catalogue or electronic content pages.  Ask your home librarian!

“the process of their education is naturally tedious” – An Illustrated Vocabulary for the use of the Deaf and Dumb, 1857

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 5 February 2016

examplesAn Illustrated Vocabulary for the use of the Deaf and Dumb (1857), was written by Thomas James Watson, head of the Old Kent Road Asylum (and great nephew of Thomas Braidwood), and produced by the SPCK.  That same year, Richard Elliott, who was later to became the headmaster, started to work as Watson’s assistant in the school.  The engravings were “by Mr J.W. Whymper, from drawings by John and Frederick Gilbert, H. Weir, and others”.  Watson says in his introduction that it was intended to cover words most common in usage, in Natural History, and in ‘Holy Scripture’.  “Words which could not be thus illustrated are left for the teacher to explain by signs – the pantomimic language which must be adopted in the earlier stages of mute instruction.” (p.iii) He continues,

To those who are unacquainted with the peculiarity of the uneducated Deaf and Dumb, it may be right to state, that the Deaf can acquire a knowledge of language through the combined faculties of hearing and sight. This is a much slower process than learning a language through the combined faculties of hearing and sight. It should be borne in mind, that the Deaf can have no conception of the nature or use of words; whereas persons who hear commence to perceive the application of words long before they can use them or know their meaning. The Deaf must have the meaning of the word given to them at the time they learn it, or they will not be able to apply it: so that, in fact, they learn what they acquire of a language more completely than ordinary children. But, in consequence of their natural defect, the process of their education is naturally tedious, and a much longer time is required to enable them to use words as the expressions of their thoughts, and as the means of communication with their fellow-beings. (ibid, p. iii-iv)

The end of the book has a section devoted to trades, many now rare or dead, like a needlemaker, a gun manufacturer, and a coach-body maker.  These were trades a boywho was deaf might hope to get an apprenticeship in.  PsIf not they might end up in the ‘p’s on page 219 – as a pauper.

Interestingly, while we have three copies, none of them look to have been well-thumbed.  I wonder if, when Watson retired, the book quickly dropped out of use.Qs

I love the Quagga here – Equus quagga quagga – now known to be a subspecies of the plains zebra, which was extinct within a generation.  Rs


“My advice to the young men is, ‘study your trade and learn to do well.'” – Augustus W. Argent, Deaf Printer

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 January 2016

There is nothing spectacular or unusual to say about today’s subject.  He seems to have lived a particularly ordinary life.  Augustus William Argent was born on the 19th of December 1846 in Fetter Lane, Fleet Street.  He became deaf aged two, through scarlet fever (Ephphatha 1898 and 1911 census).  Aged nine (1856) Augustus went to the Old Kent Road School (Ephphatha 1898).  His father Isaac was a printer compositor, and Augustus followed him into that trade when he left the Old Kent Road Asylum, being apprenticed to Messrs. Graham and Lowe.  That firm went bankrupt so he finished the last four years of his apprenticeship at Spottiswoode and Co. printers, remaining there for a total of 53 years (Ephphatha 1917 p.496, Ephphatha 1898)During the latter part of his apprenticeship we are told that he found his English deficient,

so he resolved to devote his spare time to mastering the language with the aid of a dictionary.  He often sat up half the night reading and studying the meaning of every word.” (Ephphatha 1898).

In his memoir Gilby says of him “Language excellent but no speech.” (p.146)

When he retired, he said, “My advice to the young men is, ‘study your trade and learn to do well.'”  (Ephphathat 1917, p.497). 

In 1871 he married a deaf lady, Catherine Oliva Broughton (1849-1922), and they had a large family (eight children according to the 1911 census), including two sons who became compositors, one of them serving in the Boer War and one wounded in the First World War (ibid p.497).  In 1881 they were living at 4 Waite Street, Camberwell, and according to the 1911 census, when they were living at 26 Constance Road, East Dulwich, she had lost her hearing aged 3 (circa 1852/3).

Augustus died in 1917.  In his obituary, Willian Raper said of him, “His influence for good was very great, and he will be much missed in London.” (p.497)

He was an ernest temperance worker, and was to be seen sometimes in connection theewith at the late Mr.J.P. Gloyn’s centres in North London. In former days he was a prominent figure at the debates and lectures at St. Saviour’s, Oxford Street, W., and the Rev.W. Raper has quite a collection of old syllabuses containing Mr. Argent’s name and subjects. He worked under the the Revs. S. smith, C. Rhind, and W. Raper, with latterly the Rev. F.W.G. Gilby as superintendent-chaplain.

ArgentRaper, William, The Late Mr. A.W. Argent, Ephphatha 1917 p.496-7

Ephphatha (First Series) 1898, vol.3 p.


1851 Class: HO107; Piece: 1527; Folio: 203; Page: 41; GSU roll: 174757

1861 Class: RG 9; Piece: 220; Folio: 8; Page: 13; GSU roll: 542594

1871 Class: RG10; Piece: 426; Folio: 8; Page: 10; GSU roll: 824633

1881 Class: RG11; Piece: 698; Folio: 50; Page: 15; GSU roll: 1341163

1891 Class: RG12; Piece: 485; Folio: 45; Page: 27; GSU roll: 6095595

1901 Class: RG13; Piece: 517; Folio: 78; Page: 35

1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 2472

“The pony was buried by the gardener” – Charles Baker and his ‘Graduated Lessons’ book, 1841

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 January 2016

Charles Baker,  (1803-74) was a teacher of the deaf, headmaster of the Yorkshire Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Doncaster.  The biographical sketch in A Magazine intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, ran into three sections, which shows how highly he was regarded at the time (pp.8-11, 24-8, 38-9).  The article tells us that Charles, born in Birmingham on the 31st of July, 1803, was the second of thirteen children.

He was but a youth when his attention was first attracted to the deaf and dumb. His father, while walking with him one day, directed his attention to a gentleman, and informed him that he had just come to Birmingham to establish a school for the deaf and dumb. This excited his curiousity, and his father promised to take him to an examination of the deaf and dumb children. He went to the examination, and was much pleased with the intelligence and acquirements of the children. they were under the care of Mr. Braidwood, a grandson of the Braidwood who was the first teacher of that name in Great Britain. (ibid, p.8)

BakerHe taught at the Deritend and Bordesley (now suburbs of Birmingham) Sunday School when only fourteen.   In this way he became known to “most of the leading men of the neighbourhood” (p.8).  In 1818 he took charge of the School when Braidwood had to go away, but Baker said,

not a book used in their instruction was to be fround.  all had been carefully locked up, as though the craft would have been in danger if a boy of fifteen had been allowed to penetrate into its mysteries.  However, there were copy-books, drawing-books, pictures, and writing and drawing mmaterials.  Some hours were spent each day in improving work, and the rest in play, and long walks about the beautiful neighbourhood.

Graduated lessons 1Graduated lessons 2Some of the “gentlemen connected with the Institution  wished to engage him permanently as an assistant, but Mr. Braidwood’s consent could not be obtained” (ibid).  Aged seventeen Baker went to teach at Wednesbury, in the school established by the Quaker businessman Mr. Samuel Lloyd (of the banking family) remaining there for two years (ibid p.9).  At that time he made the acquaintance of the Rev. William Jackson who had married the widow of a Captain White Benson of York.  It was there that he met Edward White Beson, who became Charles’s friend and married his sister, Harriet Baker.  Their son Edward became Archbishop of Canterbury.  When Charles was twenty, he moved to Wales, running a school at the Vartag Iron Company’s Works in Pontypool, stay there until 1826 (ibid p.9).

Back in Birmingham he was asked back to the Birmingham School.  After Braidwood died, Louis du Puget, a pupil of the Italian teacher Pestalozzi became the headmaster.  Unfortunately he struggled to control the pupils.

Mr. Du Puget was an intelligent man and a good teacher, but not specially qualified for the teaching of the deaf and dumb.  I was called upon, and most urgently requested by Dr. De Leys and Dr. Alexander Blair, to go again and assist in the management of the institution; they represented the place as being in a state of utter disorganization and confusion, the lads running away at the rate of three or four a day, and the girls in rebellion, the matron disaffected like the children towards the master, and the assistant master, who had resided there for several years, had gone away.  At first I positively and firmly declined any such engagement, but the picture they drew of the position of affairs, threatening the very existence of the institution, induced me at last to promise to pay a visit to the institution the next day.

In the course of the first day I was among them, the children all became calm.  They had literally been prisoners for weeks. I obtained their coonfidence at once and without any imputation on the master.  […]  I saw I was weaving a net round myself, for I was necessary to the continued harmony of the place.  The solicitations of the committee and the children and others at length prevailed so far that I became permanently attached to that institution, and to the deaf and dumb for life.

While with Mr. Du Puget I became well acquainted with Pestalozzi’s views, which were undoubted ly applicable to a great extent to the work in hand.  Here, however, we had a field equally new to both of us.  There were no printed books to guide us.  We read the theories of some oof our predecessors of ancient days and foreign countries, but not a scrap of practical information as to modes of procedure had been left behind by those who had previously occupied our position.  Night after night we worked almost in the dark at courses of instruction in language, and day after day we taught during school-hours and discussed at other times differesnt modes of conveying the knowledge of the English language to our pupils.  I had now made up my mind that it was no ignoble office to walk in the steps of Dalgarno, Wallis, Braidwood, De l’Epee, Sicard, and others who had devoted their thoughts and their lives to raising the condition of those who, deprived of hearing, have never attained, or if once attained have lost, the power of speech. (ibid, p.9-10)

Our copy of the book he co-wrote with Duncan Anderson of the Glasgow Institution, published in 1841, was acquired by Charles Rhind in 1842, when he was teaching in Belfast.  Rhind seems then to have made a practice of obtaining books on various educational methods.  Above in the introduction we see that this book came with the offer of notes for teachers.  The examples of sentences in the following picture are intriguing.  Click the images for a larger size.

  • “Ann will not be bled tomorrow.”
  • “The pony was buried by the gardener.”
  • “A tiger wounded Mr. Carter.”
  • “A woman’s head was crushed last week.”

Indicative moodBaker resigned from his Birmingham post in 1829, moving to Doncaster to open the new school there.  When the school was established, he turned his mind to producing educational material, and in 1831 published his first educational book, with many more to follow.  He was a pioneer in producing this type.  A list of his works can be seen here.

The private library of Charles Baker, is now in the archives of the Edward Miner Gallaudet Memorial Library, Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.

Baker, Charles and Anderson, Duncan, A series of graduated lessons in language and grammar, for the instruction of the deaf and dumb. Doncaster, 1841.

Biography. Magazine intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, 1876, 4, 8-11, 24-28, 38-39.

BOYCE, A.J. The Baker Collection. Deaf History Journal, 2000, 4 (2), 22-34.

Picture lessons for boys and girls translated from the French of Valade-Gabel by Charles Baker. No date. Historical Collection.

C. W. Sutton, ‘Baker, Charles (1803–1874)’, rev. M. C. Curthoys, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/1109, accessed 22 Jan 2016]

We have more of Baker’s books.

The Origins of the Ulster Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind, established in 1831

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 15 January 2016

Ulster 1Formed from a society founded in April 1831 after a public lecture, the Ulster school began the following year in the retiring-room of an Independent Chapel in Donegall Street (Some information etc, p.9).  It was initially a day school only.  When the school moved to King Street in 1833, there were only eight pupils in attendance.  A new teacher, Mr. Collier, was appointed in October 1834, and shortly after the first blind pupil was taken on.  More money was required for a proper institution building, so in April 1835 a further public meeting resolved to raise the necessary funds, and as soon as February 1836 the new building, in College Street, was completed (ibid p.10).  Within five years they had outgrown this building, and the foundation stone for a much grander establishment was laid on 31st August, 1843.  Shortly after, an agreement was arrived at with the Claremont School in Dublin, that they would withdraw from Ulster (ibid, p.11).

Below we have a picture of the Institution, a manual alphabet illustration, type used by the blind pupils, and the ground plan, all taken from Some information […] published in 1846.

Ulster 2manual ulsterBlind ulsterUlster planThe Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind.  Some information respecting the origin, constitution, object & operations of the Ulster Society for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind; especially designed for the use of the Society’s auxiliaries. Belfast, the Society, 1846.  (Our copy was owned by Charles Rhind).

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1891, 2, 262-69, 289-95.

“Some men drink so much beer that …… …… ……” – Mid 19th c. Lesson Books for Deaf Pupils

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 8 January 2016

Charles Rhind is a name that may be familiar to regular readers of these pages.  He was a teacher of the Deaf who became a deacon and then vicar at St. Saviour’s church for the Deaf  in Oxford Street.  You can read the previous entry on Rhind here.  Rhind moved about quite a lot and as usual the census returns can help us flesh out informaion from obituaries and brief biographical mentions.  In the 1861 census, Rhind was living in 23 Windsor Road, Islington, which is just off Holloway Road.  With him was his wife Sophia, his daughter Sophia (born in Belfast ca. 1844), and his sons William (born in London ca. 1848), Charles (born in Wales ca. 1850), then Henry, Edward and Frederick all born in Scotland from ca. 1855 to 1859.  He moved back to London in 1860.  By the time of the 1871 census he was living in Brixton,

We have two books by Charles Rhind, and one at least owned by him and possibly written by him.  His Vocabulary of Verbs with their Meanings and a List of Irregular Verbs, was published in Edinburgh in 1854.  Our copy was owned by Alexander Pender.  A second book that may be by Rhind is rather peculiar.  It is bound with card covered in blue textured cloth, with no publisher or title page, except having “Lessons for the Deaf and Dumb” inscribed on the outer & inner covers.  Indeed the pages in both copies we have are empty of print up until page 25, which is a part of Section 15.  It has sentences with blank spaces as exercises, e.g.

  • “John is …… passionate …… sullen” (p.107)
  • “The man …… God struck dead for telling a lie was ……” (p.47)
  • “Some men drink so much beer that …… …… ……” (p.62)

Pages 1 to 14 of one copy, owned by Charles Rhind himself when he lived in Brixton, are ciovered in beautifully hand written writing with exercises for sections 1 to 12.  It could be written by Rhind himself, or perhaps his daughter Sophia.  To show how sophisticated the pupils were supposed to be in learning vocabulary compared with modern pupils, we note that in section 6, the aresentences that are supposed to be filled in with “Quadruped, Biped, Domestic, Wild” –

  • “The cow is ……”
  • “The hen is a ……”
  • “The fox is not …… ……”
  • “Man is a ……” etc.

On page 113, “Of Future Time”, there is a sentence “1860 will be ……” which suggests that it must have been published in the late 1850s.

Lessons for the deaf rhindThe third book is exceedingly rare, possibly unique.  It is Illustrated Lessons for the Deaf and Dumb.  The book is full of small charming pictures.  It must date from shortly after 1852 as it shows the launch of HMS Wellington, a new screw-propelled battleship that served in the Crimean War. Wellington Click onto the image to the left.

There are so many great pictures in this book that it is hard to know what to include.  WonderingNote the man who is ‘wondering’, Maimed veterans‘shooting a frog’, the ‘maimed veterans’, the ‘oyster-woman’, ‘oppressed by the heat of the sun’, and the ‘Book read by a Dog’!

Passive ParticiplesCensus 1861 Class: RG 9; Piece: 151; Folio: 77; Page: 36; GSU roll: 542582h

Census 1871 Class: RG10; Piece: 687; Folio: 45; Page: 12; GSU roll: 823334

Census 1881 Class: RG11; Piece: 617; Folio: 109; Page: 15; GSU roll: 1341142

Merry Yule!

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 December 2015

Dear All, Compliments of the season as they say…

We are closed until the 4th of January but continue to email any enquires abut Deafness, Deaf History, Hearing Loss, Audiology, ENT etc etc and we will do our best to answer them next year.

The address is rnidlib@ucl.ac.uk

This is from Caroline Sweet’s First Lessons in English, for the Use of the Deaf (1887) published by the American Asylum in Hartford Conneticutt.  I trust you will be gratified to hear that Mabel  dreamed about Santa Claus and reindeer.

at Christmas

A Silent Woman – a Farce in One Act by Thomas Hailes Lacy

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 17 December 2015

We have a few plays in our historical books.  Having a deaf or ‘pretend deaf’ or ‘mute’ character was presumably a simple if clichéd dramatic device.

In 1835 the playwright Thomas Hailes Lacy wrote this short one act farce, A Silent WomanThe first page says it was “adaptated from a recollection of Mr. Bayle Bernard’s comedy of “The Dumb Belle”.”  It is only seven pages long.  Here, the clichés involve women and deafness.  The playlet involves a young lady, Marianne Sandford, engaged to Arthur Merton, who  is ‘fond of talking’.  Merton, back from a tour of Europe, writes a letter to her father saying, ‘If I have a predeliction in the world, it is for a Silent Woman, and to find Marianne the ultra reverse of that, is an affliction that I do not know how I shall get over.’   Marianne, of course, discovers the letter and decides to teach him a lesson.  I think you can see where this is going…

a silent womanThe father has to pretend that his daughter has lost her speech after a boating accident.  The fiancé‘s line and stage direction at this point is “Tol, lol, &c., &c., (sings and dances)” (p.7).  The father says he is mad, but Merton, apparently delighted, says he will marry “This day – this hour – this minute.”  He says he will be able to talk to her but not she to him.  At this point the father says that would be of no avail as Marianne is now deaf.

MERTON.  That’s very awkward. Dumb-dumb-dumb! – that’s all very well, but deaf-deaf-deaf! can she not hear at all?
SAND.  Yes, if you speak very loud she can make out a portion of what you say.


MERTON.  I shall be the envy of the world, in having a wife who won’t contradict me.  Ha, ha, ha!  Because she can’t!


MERTON. (brings chairs, they sit*) Now, then, for a desperate effort. (very loud) How do you do, Marianne? (she gets up, goes to table, brings handkerchief with ear trumpet, sits and puts it to her ear very deliberately) Hang it, this is too bad! to make love through that Infernal Machine is utterly impossible!  but as it is the forlorn hope, here goes—how do you do ? (very loud) Do you hear that, Marianne ? (she nods) Ay, now we shall get on. (shouting) My dear Marianne, I am delighted— (coughs)—that is, I am sorry to see you under such a misfortune —(coughs)—but I am sorry—that is, I am glad to have an opportunity of consoling (coughs)—I can’t stand it, it’s impossible.  I’m as hoarse as a raven already.

Modern playwrights we think, need not fret – the Oxford Ditionary of National Biography say of Lacy that “His pieces are unremarkable”.

He seems to have been a bit of a rogue with an eye for making money at the expense of others.  The OED also says,

Lacy specialized in buying up copyrights at knock-down prices from impecunious dramatists; but on occasions he assumed copyright without authority. F. C. Burnand, who as an inexperienced playwright in the early 1860s had reason to mistrust him on both accounts, portrayed him as a rather roguish figure in ‘dirty shirt sleeves’, ‘muddling about with books and papers in a very ill-lighted and grimy shop’ (Burnand, 1.368). For his cavalier attitude to copyright Lacy was successfully brought to court for unauthorized dramatizations of copyright novels in Reade v. Lacy (1862) and Tinsley v. Lacy (1863). At his decease the Dramatic Authors’ Society claimed from his estate in unpaid or misappropriated copyright fees the sum of £700, which after negotiation with the executor was reduced to £250. (OED entry)

Our copy was from an 1885 version, and was owned by one Annie Rowlatt or Rowlett, who highlighted the part of Marianne in blue so presumably took that role.

This type of characterisation or use of deafness as a device is the sort of area that we might expect someone to be doing research on.  If you know of any relevant articles please share them by using the comments box.

John Russell Stephens, ‘Lacy, Thomas Hailes (1809–1873)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15862, accessed 17 Dec 2015]

Panara, R.F. (1972) Deaf Characters in Fiction and Drama, The Deaf American, 24

‘she had “very little ear” for speech’ – ardent oralist Miss Susanna E. Hull,

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 December 2015

Susanna Elizabeth Hull, (1843-1922) was born with her twin Agnes in Camberwell, daughter to George Hull a Scottish Doctor and his wife Susanna.  He was a member of the Royal College of Sugeons, Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.  In 1851 the family were living in Tonbridge, Kent, but her father clearly prospered in his medical practice as by 1861 they were living in Kensington.  Susanna is hardly remembered today, but she was one of the British representatives at the Milan Conference, and knew Alexander Graham Bell well.  She was first attracted to work with deaf children on reading about Laura Bridgeman, the American deaf-blind lady according to British Deaf Monthly, and was told by her father of the case of two deaf children.  Hodgson has a slightly different story (Hodgson 1953, p.207-8).  He says, without quoting any source unfortunately, that she became interested in a small girl who was left deaf, blind, and paralysed by scarlet fever.  She was, we are told, encouraged by Dickens’s account of the deaf-blind lady, Laura Bridgman, which he wrote in American Notes.  Accordingly she opened a small home school in 1862, in her father’s house at 1, St. Mary Abbott’s Terrace, Kensington, moving to Warwick Gardens with her family after six years, the better to accommodate her expanding school.

The BDM says she taught at first with the manual alphabet and writing.  In his biography of Alexander Graham Bell, Bruce says

Since 1864 the idea of teaching speech to deaf-mutes had grown in Melville Bell’s mind from an incidental possibility to “one of the prominent utilities of the system,” as he put it.  This claim caught the eye of Bell’s former pupil Susanna E. Hull, who now ran a private school for deaf children at South Kensington.  In the spring of 1868 Miss Hull asked Melville Bell for help following up on the idea.  Thus, on May 21, 1868, Alexander Graham Bell first tried his skill at teaching the deaf, his pupils being two “remarkably intelligent happy-looking little girls” named Lotty and Minna.  (Bruce, p.56)

The BDM article differs slightly – it says

on hearing of Prof. Bell’s “Visible Speech,” by which the deaf could be taught to speak, she went over to America, in one of her vacations, and studied this method, and for some years taught her children to speak in this way.  When however, the late Mr. Arthur Kinsey was appointed Principal of the Ealing College, Miss Hull went to him, and studied the Oral system, and from that time – 1878, has been a strong advocate of the Pure Oral method; not only teaching her own pupils to speak but leacturing on behalf of the children of the poor all over the country, and always pleading for speech for the deaf. (ibid.)

Miss HullBruce says that she went to the U.S.A. and spent a month with Alexander Bell in Boston – this would have been in 1872 (Bruce, p.90). “During the school year a dozen or so pupils came to him, among them Theresa Dudley for two or three months, Susanna Hull from London for a month (somewhat to Bell’s regret, since she had “very little ear” for speech) […]” (ibid).  Farrar says, “Another pioneer of the oral teaching in this country is Miss Susanna E. Hull, who had begun the private education of the deaf in 1862, but her method was more a combined than oral one, in which lip-reading was hardly recognised, and it was not until 1873 that she adopted the oral system in its entirety.” (Farrar, 1923, p.75)

Susanna Hull attended the Milan Conference, and in the address or paper which she read there, she said that when she began her work “in 1863”,

I was ignorant that so vast a number of our fellow beings were deprived of the sense of hearing, and I had no idea that so many institutions existed for the amelioration of their condition. All I then knew had been gathered from a short account of Laura Bridgman and James Mitchell, in Chambers’ Magazine.  […] Then I heard through my father, a London Physician, of the miserable condition of a young lady, who by a succession of fevers had been left lame, maimed, deaf, and almot blind.  No one could be found to educate this unhappy child, and my father was appealed to for advice and assistance.  The slumbering desire of my heart awoke, and I gained permission to attempt the task. (p.69-70)

Told that she could “do nothing for those born deaf without signs”, and that she would have to enter an institution to gain that knowledge, she continued, “Nothing then remained but to teach without signs, or form them for myself.”  She continues,

I enter thus minutely into my first steps to show how utterly unprejudiced I was to any system, how ready to adopt anything that could be to the advantage of my pupils.

With regard to signs, I must add, that, on looking back, I date a decline in my success in teaching language, from the time of the introduction of those signs. (p.71)

She explains more of the history of her methods, complains the the “Combined” system “injures the tone of voice”,

Hull was a founder of the Ealing Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf, and taught at the college’s school.  She was one of the many who gave evidence to the Royal Commission on the blind, the deaf and dumb, &c., of the United Kingdom in 1886.  In her testimony, on pages 255-9,  she says (§ 7815) that she visited American Institutions in 1872 and 1873, and many German Institutions in 1883.  Among other interesting things, she also says (§ 7884-5) that they had trouble at the college in recruiting men.

Susanna Hull wrote several pamphlets, some are listed below.  She died on November the 24th in Sidcup, Kent, well regarded by her teaching friends, if the obituary in Teacher of the Deaf (thin as it is on biographical detail) is to be believed, but no doubt she was a disappointment to those who favoured manual education.

Clearly there are interesting avenues for research here, such as the teaching methods of early oralists as opposed to manualists (the Royal Commission report is useful here), a better understanding of the chronology of oralism and manualism, and following up on individuals from oralist and manualist backgrounds to examine as far as possible their stories after leaving education.

[Note: There should be no ‘h’ Susanna, despite the BDM article below]

Bruce, Robert V. Bell : Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude., 1973

Farrar, A., Arnold on the Education of the Deaf. 2nd edition, 1923.

Hodgson, K. The deaf and their problems. 1953

McLoughlin, M.G., A History of the Education of the Deaf in England,

Miss Hull’s Life Work, British Deaf Monthly, 1899, Vol.8, no.90, p.113

New Institute for the Deaf at Rochdale, opened by Miss Hull, Oldham Deaf-Mute Gazette, November 1907, p.45-53

Obituary. Teacher of the Deaf, 1922, 20, 161-64.

Our teachers: Miss Susannah E. Hull. British Deaf Monthly, 1900, 9, 84, 103, 121. (photo)

Susanna E Hull, works in the Historical Collection:
Lessons in intuitive language, from the pictures published by the Educational Supply Association…No.1, Industrious children moral series. London, Educational Supply Association, 18–?

My experience of various methods of educating the deaf-born: a paper written for the International Congress at Milan, September, 1880, p.69-84.

Teaching the dumb to speak: a health question for the working classes, a question for the rich. London, Witherby, 1884.

Letter to Miss Rogers on the International Congress held at Milan, Italy, September 6-11, 1880. Dated November 10, 1880 [Northampton, Mass: Clarke Institution, 1880]. Published as pp. 35-43 of the Appendix to the 13th Annual Report of the Clarke Institution.

A few words on the extension of our work. 18–?

I thought it might be of interest to add a list of her pupils from the 1881 census, the only one where she is listed with her students.  I was unable to track her in the 1871 census and I suspect that she was travelling, though a careful search with variants of her name might find her, as transcribers often make errors.  Most of these pupils will have been in the school when Hull attended the Milan Congress in September 1880.

Address Surname Relationship to Head Age Estimated birth year Gender Occupation Place of birth Country of birth
Holland Rd 89 Susanna Hull Head 38 1843 Female Instructor Of The Deaf By Vocal Speech Peckham Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Clementina M. Hull Sister 37 1844 Female Artist Oil Watercolor Peckham Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Jessie M. Warden Pupil 11 1870 Female Scholar (Brit Sub) India
Holland Rd 89 Phoebe G. Sandbach Pupil 9 1872 Female Scholar Manchester
Holland Rd 89 Laura E.J. Gofton Pupil 8 1873 Female Scholar Yorkshire England
Holland Rd 89 Beatrice M. Isleton Pupil 9 1872 Female Scholar Camberwell
Holland Rd 89 Lilian M. Isleton Pupil 7 1874 Female Scholar Caterham Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Margaret O. Allan Pupil 8 1873 Female Scholar (Brit Sub) India
Holland Rd 89 Chas.F. Coyney Pupil 9 1872 Male Scholar Derbyshire England
Holland Rd 89 Cecil H.R. Jones Pupil 7 1874 Male Scholar (Brit Sub) Venezuela
Holland Rd 89 Philip H. Francis Pupil 8 1873 Male Scholar Addlestone Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Henry Francis Pupil 6 1875 Male Scholar Addlestone Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Harry Hedgland Pupil 8 1873 Male Scholar
Holland Rd 89 Mary Van 42 1839 Female Governess Assistant (S M) London, London Middlesex England
Holland Rd 89 Lititia Amies Servant 54 1827 Female Hsekeeper Domestic Norwich Norfolk England


1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 3721; Schedule Number: 15

1881 Class: RG11; Piece: 28; Folio: 15; Page: 15; GSU roll: 1341006

1851 Class: HO107; Piece: 1614; Folio: 142; Page: 20; GSU roll: 193515