X Close

UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries

Home

Information on the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries

Menu

Archive for the 'Deaf History' Category

The Rev. Canon Vernon Jones, “Godfather of the Deaf and Dumb”

Hugh Dominic WStiles22 March 2019

Vernon Herbert Jones was born in Islington on the 20th of October, 1882, son of a principal clerk with Thames Conservancy, Herbert Jones, and his wife Hellen Jones.  In 1891 the family was living in Highbury Road,  and in 1901 in Baalbec Road, which is by Highbury Fields.  He went to Highbury College in London, then on to University College, Durham, where he became interested in work with the deaf community, under the influence of Canon Adamson, who had founded the Northumberland and Durham Deaf Mission.  perhaps he was also influenced by his own increasing hearing loss.  There were other churchmen in his family, the  two brothers, Canon Rich Jones who ‘discovered’ the Saxon church at Bradford-on-Avon, and the Rev. Flood Jones, Precentor at Westminster Abbey.

Finishing his degree in 1907, he went to train at the Margate School, was ordained, and in 1910 appointed as Chaplain with the Royal Association in aid of the Deaf and Dumb, a position he held for the next 27 years, at St. Bede’s Clapham and then St. John of Beverley, Finsbury Park.  It was his work there getting the building work done that earnt him the name “Godfather of the Deaf and Dumb.”  He also edited the Deaf Church periodical, Ephphatha.  He was made a Canon of Salisbury in 1945.  He was involved in the work of both the B.D.D.A. and the N.I.D., and was a Freemason from 1912.

In 1920 he married Violet Watson (1893-1964) a deaf lady from Stoke Newington, who was according to the 1911 Census, ‘Deaf from birth.’  I do not know where she went to school or if she was privately educated.  Vernon Jones collapsed and died in Highgate High Road on Saturday, June the 21st, 1947.

He wrote many articles over the years, including this pamphlet, The Challenge of the Sentry, which highlighted the additional risks that Deaf people were under during wartime, for example in the blackout being unable to hear traffic, and the risk of being shot by a sentry – something that did happen.

A friend of his told a newspaper reporter, “He was one of the country’s greatest experts on the sign language of the deaf.  To see him ‘sign’ the Lord’s prayer was a wonderful experience – both for deaf people and for others.”  Selwyn Oxley wrote his obituary in The British Deaf Times,

as a preacher we yield to none that he was one of the very best in the Anglican Church, whether in the spoken word or in Deaf Manual signs.  he was simple, thoughtful, original, practical, suggestive, and always effective and one never heard him without learning something new and practical.

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 177; Folio: 142; Page: 41

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 201; Folio: 12; Page: 15

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 2243

Violet Watson – 1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 1045

Obituary – The British Deaf Times, 1947, p.82-3

Obituary – Deaf Quarterly News, 1947, p.7

Obituary – Silent World, 1947, August, p.78

“How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour” – Mary Ann Frances Burnell – A Sampler, 1870

Hugh Dominic WStiles15 March 2019

Mary Ann Frances Burnell was born in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, in 1857, daughter of a labourer, William Burnell (aslo Burnal) and his wife, Elizabeth.  She was not described as deaf in the 1861 census when she was three, but a later census says she was ‘deaf from birth’ (1891).  She had at least one hearing brother and sister surviving, but many more that died very young.

This beautifully done sampler was made by her when she was a pupil at Edgbaston School, which she entered aged 9 in 1867, and left in 1873.  It says,

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower
Mary Ann Frances Burnell
Aged 14 years 1870
Deaf and Dumb School
Edgbaston

It may not surprise you to know that she became a lace-maker – Northamptonshire being famous for its lace at that time.  In the 1881 census she was living with her parents in Cosgrove.  By the late 19th century however, modern materials and methods of mass manufacture had ruined the old lace-making trade, and she and her mother were working as laundresses, a very tough job.  Mary died in Oxfordshire, in 1947, never having married. 

I wonder if the sampler came to us via Selwyn Oxley.  He went on several mission trips to Oxfordshire and worked there in some capacity for a while on a voluntary basis.

On the left is a list of some of the pupils in the school in 1872.  Click onto the image for a larger size.  It is possible that we could find her in some of the mission news, but it seems likely that as an adult she was the only Deaf person in her immediate area, and she lived in a village rather than a town where she might have had the company of other Deaf people as she had at school.

The Embroidery & Seamstress pictures come from the 1857 book, An Illustrated Vocabulary Prepared for the use of the Deaf and Dumb.


1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 927; Folio: 29; Page: 16; GSU roll: 542722

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1537; Folio: 28; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341370

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1189; Folio: 20; Page: 7

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1413; Folio: 25; Page: 13

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 8351; Schedule Number: 79

Free BMD Deaths Mar 1947 Burnell, Mary A F aged 89 Oxford 6b 1242

Arthur MacDonald Cuttell -“He hoped that the day would come when the Union Jack… would fly over an open college door, where the deaf could secure higher education, which was their unquestionable right”

Hugh Dominic WStiles8 February 2019

Arthur MacDonald Cuttell, (1869-1904), was an editor of Ephphatha and then later of the British Deaf Mute.   Born in Cornwall, son of the Rev. A.W. Cuttell of Margate, he became deaf through scarlet fever when he was nine.   He was educated at Helston Grammar School, then later in Matlock, Derbyshire.  He was apprenticed at the Crown Derby Works, where he became an artist decorating ceramics.

It was whilst at Derby Mr. Cuttell’s attention seems to have been drawn to work upon behalf of the deaf and dumb, and, leaving an artistic career, he entered the Derby Institution for the Deaf, and for a time worked as a teacher under Dr. Roe. He also undertook mission work amongst the adult deaf of Derby. Leaving Derby, he went to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and, during the illness of the Rev. W. W. Adamson, acted as missioner to the deaf of that city and district. In 1897 he was appointed missioner to the deaf of Leicester and county, and upon their behalf he laboured until his death. (Obituary)

In Gilby’s unpublished memoir, Cuttell gets two brief mentions.  One might have expected more as they worked together as editors.

on July 9th, 1902, the Bishop of Barrow in Furness was with us at St. Saviour[‘]s Parsonage.  “Us,” I imagine as being Rev. W.W. Adamson and the late A.M. Cuttell.  We three were Editors of the Church Messenger and we being all in sympathy with the progress and proper carrying on our work on Church lines, took counsel together.  The title of the “Council of Church Missioners” appears as such on that date. (Gilby, 172/15)

He married in September 1901, a hearing lady, Edith Violet Vaille, who was a Ripon born governess.  She re-married in 1908, a few years after his death.

He was, his obituary says, “A man of many talents, and possessed of a bright and ready wit, he will be sorely missed by a very large circle of friends and acquaintances; especially severe is his loss to the deaf of Leicester and county, whose friend and missioner he had been for the past seven years.”

In the 1899 National association of Teachers of the Deaf Conference at Derby, Cuttell expressed his hope for future higher education for the deaf –

Mr. CUTTELL, whose remarks were read by Mr. Townsend, said that as he was not aware how far his voice would reach, he would borrow that of a friend. He appealed to the members of the Conference to do all that they could to secure the privileges of Higher Education for the Deaf. Those pupils who showed marked ability had, certainly, as much right to it as they had to their primary education. He hoped that the day would come when the Union Jack, as well as the Stars and Stripes, would fly over an open college door, where the deaf could secure higher education, which was their unquestionable right. (p.162, with adjacent photo)

The Late Arthur Macdonald Cuttell, BDT 1905 p.41-2

1899 National Association of Teachers of the Deaf, Proceedings of the Biennial Conference

Proposed Council of Ministers, BDT 1905 p.219

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 3004; Folio: 113; Page: 16

From Oralism to Sign Language – Missioner J.B. Foster -“deaf due to a severe shock to his nervous system”

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 February 2019

Joseph Bradley Foster (1863-1940) was born in Edinburgh, son of Joseph Foster, a ‘commercial agent,’ and Emily Ann Foster.  There were at least eight children.  When he was about eighteen months old, “he became deaf due to a severe shock to his nervous system” (quoted in Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, 1894 p.109-10, which I follow closely, along with the BDT article).  Note how the author says ‘became deaf,’ rather than ‘lost his hearing,’ which is a subtle but interesting difference.

When he was five, his family moved to Glasgow.  We are told that from there he was sent to New Barnet and London, to be educated by Mr. Van Asch, the teacher who was the first to introduce the German or Oral system of education (ibid, & British Deaf Times 1934, p.29).  He remained with Van Asch for about six years or four years, depending on the two articles and presumably his memory when interviewed, and then attended an academy for hearing pupils in Glasgow.  He was considered one of Van Asch’s best pupils (British Deaf Times).

He became apprenticed aged 16 (1879/80) to a Glasgow printer or ‘Lithographic Artist,’ as it says on the 1881 census. At that time (and in 1891) the family lived in No 32 Queen Square, Kinning Park, which looks to be a pretty row of stone houses in the Govan area.  Attending local Deaf social gatherings it seems that Joseph then came across sign language for the first time.  He joined eagerly in with the mission as an assistant to James Muir, and learnt sign language.  Gradually the mission work became more important to him, and he was appointed missioner in North and East Lancashire in 1892, before moving on to Carlisle.

The article tells us that he could

articulate very plainly, and is a skilful lipreader. Through Mr. Henderson, of Glasgow, his views on the utility of the Oral system were laid before the Royal Commission, and, from his own perspective, Mr. Foster showed very clearly that, although it was in many cases a most useful accomplishment, it was of comparatively little value to the deaf in general.

On the 6th of September, 1899, Foster married a Deaf lady, Bessie Wolfenden (1873-1904), daughter of a brewer/’hotel proprietor’ (publican), Robert Wolfenden. Bessie was being boarded out when she was seven, with her brother and two sisters.  At the time of her marriage she was living in Dale Street, Lancaster, while Joseph’s address was in Carlisle.  Perhaps they had met some years before, when he was the local missioner?  In 1901, when they were in Rickergate, Carlisle, they had a daughter, Gertrude B. Foster, two months old at the time of the census.  Joseph and Bessie are both described as ‘Deaf’ but they had servants, including one who was ‘Deaf and Dumb,’ Mary Ostell, born in Whitehaven in 1879.  Mary’s mother Annie Ostell (b.ca 1854) was also ‘Deaf and Dumb’ according to the 1881 census. The 1911 census does not say Annie Ostell was Deaf, but does say her eighteen year old lodger, Thomas Cunnings, was. ‘Deaf and Dumb.’  Was the 1881 record meant to say deaf after Mary’s name?  There is clearing an interesting web of connections for someone to explore.

Sadly, Bessie died only a few years later, in 1904.

Foster later worked as a missioner in Leicester (1905-12/13), Oxford (1912/13-18), where he gave Selwyn Oxley ‘some insight into mission work,’ Gloucester (1918-23) and Exeter, where his assistant Mr. Dodds was headmaster at the Deaf School.  In the 1939 Register he was living in retirement in with his sister Lilian and daughter Gertrude.  He died in 1940 it seems, in Honiton.*

*unless I have the wrong J.B. Foster

Our Monthly Church Messenger to the Deaf, 1894 p.109-10

Retirement of Mr J.B. Foster. British Deaf Times, 1934, Mar-Apr, 29-30

Census 1881 Scotland – Parish: Glasgow Kinning Park; ED: 35; Page: 11; Line: 3; Roll: cssct1881_251

Census 1891 Scotland – Parish: Glasgow Govan; ED: 35; Page: 10; Line: 8; Roll: CSSCT1891_298

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 4867; Folio: 165; Page: 34

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 19314

Bessie Wolfenden

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 4270; Folio: 64; Page: 10; GSU roll: 1342021

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3466; Folio: 42A; Page: 31

Mary and Annie Ostell

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 5160; Folio: 35; Page: 6; GSU roll: 1342245

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 31307

ANDOR – Algemeen Nederlands Doofstommen ORgan – the Dutch Deafness Organisation periodical, 1934

Hugh Dominic WStiles18 January 2019

We have a pretty good collection of international journals, now of historical interest, from the 19th and 20th centuries.  One of them is the Dutch periodical, ANDORAlgemeen Nederlands Doofstommen ORgan.  We have bound copies of the first two years, 1933-4, then copies from 1948 on into the 1970s, with some gaps.

It appears that the earliest formal education for deaf people in the Netherlands, was in 1790, when the Wallonian Calvinist preacher, Henri Daniel Guyot (1753-1828) started a school at Groeningen with Willem Hora Siccama, Gerrit van Olst and Hendrik van Calcar.  Guyot had it seems met de l’Épée in Paris, and this inspired him to work with two deaf children, one Christian and one Jewish.  He ran the school until his death, and after him his two sons became heads of the school, Dr. C. Guyot to 1854, and then R.T. Guyot with a Dr. Alings.  they were followed by Dr. Roodha, Dr. Woltjer, and then Brunkner.  Selwyn Oxley visited the school in 1923.  We have a photo of an engraving of Guyot.

In January 1884 the Guyot deaf organisation was begun, founded by M.J. van Ijzer.  Unfortunately we have missed the 135th year celebration!

Dovenschap (formerly Dovenraad), founded in 1955, is ‘the Dutch association for, among others, prelingual deaf people who have Dutch Sign Language as their mother tongue.’  According to their Wikipedia page, there are about 15,000 prelingually Deaf in the Netherlands.

In the first copy of ANDOR, here with an article by Jaap van Praag, we see some of the organisers of the Dutch Deaf in the 1930s.  Was  he related to the van Praag who introduced oralism to England?  Probably not – it is not an uncommon name, usually I suppose suggesting someone of Jewish origin.  Here is the ANDOR board in 1934.

Here is a cover of an early issue, followed by the Guyot founding members, from a photograph that appears in the November 1934 copy of ANDOR, when the Guyot club was celebrating its Jubilee.  I have not had time to give more than a glimpse into the history of the Netherlands Deaf.  Please feel free to comment below if you can add any interesting information.  

See also https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/64bf/b288b7e6d6af8dde7638dc20a3a91b3ad511.pdf

Click onto photos for a larger scale view.

Merry Yule to all – from Finlands Dövstum-förbund 1918

Hugh Dominic WStiles21 December 2018

In 1909 the Finlands Dövstum-förbund produced the first of their special ‘Jul’ – ‘Yule’ – editions.  This was a Swedish language journal.  Finland has a large Swedish population, having been a part of Sweden for hundreds of years. Below is the cover from 1918, & below that an article on the sign counting system used, from the 1909 issue.  It was developed partly from foreign example, by the first teacher of the Deaf in Finland, himself deaf, Carl Oscar Malm (1826-63).

I hope to write about him at greater length next year.  If the fates allow!
Dövstummas Jul 1909-29

Mary Hickman, a Deaf schoolgirl of Manchester (1890-1978)

Hugh Dominic WStiles14 December 2018

In 1905 the King and Queen went to Salford to open the New Dock.  They also stopped at Henshaw’s Blind Asylum, and The Royal Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, where the pupils did what children do when they meet royalty – they gave them bouquets.*  The girl here from the Deaf School, whose photograph first appeared in the Penny Illusatrated Paper, is Mary Hickman (1890-1978), who was Head Girl at the school.

When told that she was to present the Queen with a boquet, Miss Hickman was naturally both proud and elated, and it goes without saying that her mind was fully occupied until the very auspicious Thursday dawned.  According to the newspaper reporters, she played her part in the little ceremony very neatly; and to our representative she naively confessed that sh “did not feel a bit nervous.  The Queen was very lovely and the Kinglooked very jolly.” (British Deaf Times)

Born on the 17th of November, 1890, Mary Hickman lost her hearing aged five and a half according to the 1911 census and the school annual report (1903), from meningitis.  When she was seven she entered the Manchester school, on the 28th of January, 1898.  She was due to leave on the 17th of November, 1906 when she was sixteen.  When she was at the school her father, salford born Walter, was a clerk.  He later became a newsagent and tobacconist according to the 1911 census, when they lived in 224 Ashton Old Road, Openshaw.  They were presumably in long gone terraced housing, as the two daughters and son shared a four room house with their parents.  Mary had studied for certificates with the College of Preceptors, the oldest professional body for teachers, but we find that in 1911 she was working as a ‘tracer’ for engineers – presumably in a drawing office.

I found that her sister married in 1915, but she seems to have stayed at home, and in the 1939 register she was in Station Road, living with her father.  It seems a pity that she never got to teach, but we cannot be sure that she did not – we really have too little information.  Perhaps schools would not contemplate taking on a Deaf teacher in the first decades of the 20th century.

Mary died in Manchester in 1978.

If you know anything of her life, please comment below.

*I think someone could probably write an interesting study on the history and sociology of children giving royalty bouquets!

NB I thought this is funny – on the 1911 census her father filled in the nationality – not required unless foreign –

Deaf Girl’s Unique Experience, British Deaf Times 1905, vol 2 (22) p.217

Census 1891 – Class: RG13; Piece: 3938; Folio: 95; Page: 35

Census 1901- Class: RG13; Piece: 3667; Folio: 208; Page: 8

Census 1911 – Class: RG14; Piece: 23729

1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/4546A

Penny Illustrated PaperSaturday 22 July 1905

Robert Smithdas, American deaf-blind poet -“Blindness takes you away from scenes. But deafness takes you away from people.”

Hugh Dominic WStiles7 December 2018

Robert J. Smithdas was the first deaf-blind person to gain a master’s degree when he graduated from New York’s St. John’s University in 1953.  Born in 1925, Smithdas caught cerebro-spinal meningitis aged four and a half, and lost hearing and sight as a result.   He became director of Services for the Deaf-Blind at the “Industrial Home for the Blind,” and at the Helen Keller National Center.

We have a signed copy of his poetry book, City of the Heart (1966).  In the preface he says,

I composed these poems because my heart sang them to me over the years – because poignant moods, or powerful emotions, made me crystallize my thoughts and feelings into verbal expressions.  Sometimes inspiration was so spontaneous that the words came flooding into my consciousness and shaped themselves into song; but far more frequently I found myself searching through the labyrinthine meanings of language to find the most convincing words , and the most plausible rhythms, to serve as crucibles for my themes.  Yet I always knew the intrinsic essence of the thing I wanted to express in a sonnet, or a lyric, or the nobler passion of blank verse.

This is a clip from an interview theat Barbara Walters did with Bob Smithdas.

Barbara Walters: The lives of the deaf-blind have changed remarkably since the era of Helen Keller. She was never able to live by herself without sighted help, never able to be independent.

Bob: And today, it’s a tremendous difference, we can communicate, we can cook, we can go out and it is a wonderful type of progress

Barbara Walters: In spite of the good things Bob, what is the hardest part of be being deaf and blind?  What is the most frustrating?

Bob: At this stage of life, I am very used to being deaf blind, but I will admit that I miss not being able to see my friends’ faces or hearing their voices. Remember deafness takes you away from sound, from music. Blindness takes you away from scenes. But deafness takes you away from people.

Robert Smithdas died in 2014.

His poetry book, Christmas Blessing and Other Poems, (1959) is available on Archive.org

“Gently the snowflakes fall

Fragile and thin and light…”

https://nationaldb.org/pages/show/in-memoriam-robert-j-smithdas-advocate-for-the-deaf-blind

The photo of him above is the same as that at the back of the poetry book.  Unfortunately, when an external contractor tagged all of our books, the #### people doing the task were so slap-dash that they place the tag neatly over the photograph.

Please note, the chief U.K. deaf-blind charity is Sense.

Deaf Chess Player, Missioner, & Teacher, Leigh Hossell (1867-1907) -“to get the best out of, and make the most of, life notwithstanding affliction”

Hugh Dominic WStiles30 November 2018

Leigh Hossell (1867-1907) was one of at least ten children born to John Hossell and his wife Ann.  His father was a fellmonger, a dealer in hides, particularly sheepskin.  This illustration of a Fellmonger is from T. J. Watson’s 1857 book, An Illustrated Vocabulary for the use of the Deaf and Dumb, published by the S.P.C.K.

He told friends that while his parents thought he had lost his hearing at the age of four by an ‘attack of sunstroke,’ he thought that he was born deaf (BDM, 1894).  He did “not remember ever having been able to hear and speak, and his friends appear to have no recollection of having heard him speak at any time” (ibid). However, in his obituary it was said that later “he recovered the power of speech to some extent” (BDT, 1907).  We may well wonder if his parents were correct, but perhaps this speech was as a result of his education.  When he was seven (around 1874) Leigh became a private pupil of Mr. Hopper, at the Edgbaston School, Birmingham.

Up to the age of fifteen he received his education by the silent system. It was whilst at the Birmingham school that Mr. Hossell first took a liking to the fascinating game of chess, to which he has devoted much time and attention ever since. (BDM)

When Hopper died, his parents placed him as a private pupil with Mr. Bessant at Manchester, who taught him using the oral system.

On the completion of his education he was appointed pupil teacher at the Old Trafford Schools for the Deaf, Manchester, and is at the present time a teacher at these schools.
As Mr. Hossell owes his education to both systems, we thought his opinion as to which he considered the best would prove of interest to our readers. In answer to our questions, Mr. Hossell said :— “Until I obtained a knowledge of the oral system I naturally thought the silent one the best possible means of instructing the deaf, but since then I have come to feel that all the deaf who can be taught to speak and lip-read should have that great advantage. At home I am able to make myself entirely intelligible by speech, and can follow very well all that is said to me by my friends and relations by lip-reading. When travelling and shopping, too, I find my speech of real assistance. I should indeed be sorry not to be able to speak and lip-read now. At the same time I feel that the silent system must be retained for some of the deaf, but I should like to see them use spelling more freely than they do, in place of signs.” (BDM)

Hossell represented the Droitwich Workman’s Club at chess, and was good enough to play Joseph Blackburne, “the Black Death”, and English champion, “whom he won a game from, about two years ago” which would mean around 1904/5 (BDM).  He was a keen sportsman, particularly with lawn tennis and croquet (BDT).

Hossell was a lay helper at the Grosvenor Street Institute for the Deaf, Manchester, and for a while was Missioner to the Deaf in Oxford, before he left to go into business (BDT).  Quite what the business was his obituary fails to tell us, but one brother was a solicitor so the family was not poor.

His funeral was held on October the 29th, 1907 at Handsworth Parish Church, in the town where he was born, by the Rev. R. R. Needham.

His obituary says, he “was in some respects a remarkable young man, considering his limitations.”  I suppose he means his deafness, but who can say.  He was

widely known and unversally esteemed, he endeared himself to all who knew him by his gracious manner and amiable disposition.  His private character was exemplary, and his personality was a most inyteresting one; in fact his career was a notable example of what can be done by the Deaf and Dumb in order to get the best out of, and make the most of, life notwithstanding affliction. […]  He could ill be spared and will be sadly missed.

Mr L. Hossell, (our Chess Editor), British Deaf Mute, 1894, Vol. 4, November, p.3

Obituary: Mr. Leigh Hossell, British Deaf Times, 1907, vol. 4 p.280

Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales AdvertiserSaturday 12 December 1896 – (chess problem set by Leigh Hossell)

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 2972; Folio: 27; Page: 47; GSU roll: 838862

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 2835; Folio: 125; Page: 16; GSU roll: 1341679

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3160; Folio: 168; Page: 4

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 2796; Folio: 24; Page: 40

I have had for the first time the courage to say, “Monsieur, I am growing deaf” – Marie Bashkirtseff, Artist

Hugh Dominic WStiles16 November 2018

Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva or Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884), was a Ukrainian Russian born artist and diarist.  She led a fascinating if brief life, and kept a regular diary from the age of twelve, where she put everything of herself, her hopes, fears, sorrows and joys.  Gladstone famously called it “a book without a parallell.”

The diaries were originally published by her family in an expurgated version in 1888, which was translated into English by the German born English poet, Mathilde Blind.  Marie describes her life, struggles to be accepted in art, and her illness, of which her hearing loss and deafness was a side effect.  More details of her life are to be found on the web (see links below) and her portrait paintings are very fine, well worth seeking out.  She attended the same Art School in Paris as the British Deaf art student George Annand Mackenzie did some years later, the Académie Julian.

Her experience of losing her hearing will, I believe, be recognized by many in a similar situation.  The follow entries date from 1880.  At first there is the mishearing –

Saturday, May 8th. — When people talk in a low voice I do not near. This morning when Tony asked me whether I had seen any of Pemgino’s work, I said “No,” without understanding.

And when I was told of it afterwards, I got out of it, but very badly, by saying that indeed I had not seen any of it, and that, on the whole, it was better to admit one’s ignorance. (p.406)

Then she has tinnitus, and has to endure the ignorant behaviour of others –

Thursday, May 13th. — I have such a singing in my ears that I am obliged to make great efforts in order that it may not be noticed.

Oh ! it is horrible. With S___ it is not so bad because I am sitting near him ; and besides, whenever I like, I can tell him that he bores me.  The G___s talk loud. At the studio they laugh and tell me that I have become deaf; I look pensive, and I laugh at myself: but it’s horrible. (p.407)

There are times when it improves –

Wednesday, July 21st. — I have commenced my treatment. You are fetched in a closed Sedan chair. A costume of white flannel — drawers and stockings in one — and a hood and cloak ! Then follow a bath, a douche, drinking the waters, and inhaling in succession. I accept everything. This is the last time that I mean to take care of myself, and I shouldn’t do it now but for the fear of becoming deaf. My deafness is much better — nearly gone. (p.416)

Then she is told how serious her condition is –

Friday, September 10th. — … Doctor Fauvel, who sounded me a week ago and found nothing the matter, has sounded me to-day and found that my bronchial tubes are attacked ; his look became . . .  grave, affected, and a little confused at not having foreseen the seriousness of the evil ; then followed some of the prescriptions for consumptive persons, cod-liver oil, painting with iodine, hot milk, flannel, &c. &c, and at last he advises going to see Dr. Sée or Dr. Potain, or else to bring them to his house for a consultation. You may imagine what my aunt’s face was like ! I am simply amused ! I have suspected something for a long time ; I have been coughing all the winter, and I cough and choke still.

Besides, the wonder would be if I had nothing the matter ; I should be satisfied to have something serious and be done with it

My aunt is dismayed, and I am triumphant Death does not frighten me; I should not dare to kill myself but I should like to be done with it . . . If you only knew ! . . . . I will not wear flannel nor stain myself with iodine; I am not anxious to get better. I shall have, without that, quite enough health and life for all I shall be able to do in it.

Friday, September 17th. — Yesterday I went again to the doctor to whom I went about my ears, and he admitted that he did not expect to see matters so serious, and that I should never hear so well as formerly. I felt as if struck dead. It is horrible! I am not deaf certainly, but I hear as one sees through a thin veil. For instance, I cannot hear the tick of my alarm-clock, and I may perhaps never hear it again without going close up to it. It is indeed a misfortune. Sometimes in conversation many things escape my hearing. . . . Well, let us thank heaven for not being blind or dumb as yet. (p.422-3)

This was two years before Robert Koch, the founder of modern microbiology, identified the causative agent of ‘consumption’ – Tuberculosis, as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  It seems likely that the this was the cause of her deafness, but we cannot be sure.  In that year, 1882, she was confronted by the news that her hearing was gone and would not return –

Thursday, November 16th. — I have been to a great doctor — a hospital surgeon — incognito and quietly dressed, so that he might not deceive me.

Oh! he is not an amiable man. He has told me very simply I shall never be cured. But my condition may improve in a satisfactory manner, so that it will be a bearable deafness ; it is so already ; it will be more so according to all appearances. But if I do not rigorously follow the treatment he prescribes it will increase. He also directs me to a little doctor who will watch over me for two months, for he has not the time himself to see me twice a week as is necessary.

I have had for the first time the courage to say, “Monsieur, I am growing deaf.” Hitherto I have made use of, ” I do not hear well, my ears are stopped, &c.” This time I dared to say that dreadful thing, and the doctor answered me with the brutality of a surgeon.

I hope that the misfortunes announced by my dreams may be that But let us not busy ourselves in advance with the troubles which God holds in reserve for his humble servant. Just at present I am only half deaf.

However, he says that it will certainly get better. As long as I have my family to watch round me and to come to my assistance with the readiness of affection all goes well, yet …. but alone, in the midst of strangers !

And supposing I have a wicked or indelicate husband ! … If again it had been compensated by some great happiness with which I should have been crowned without deserving it ! But . . . why, then, is it said that God is good, that God is just ?

Why does God cause suffering? If it is He who has created the world, why has He created evil, suffering, and wickedness ?

So then I shall never be cured. It will be bearable ; but there will be a veil betwixt me and the rest of the world. The wind in the branches, the murmur of the water, the rain which falls on the windows . . . words uttered in a low tone … I shall hear nothing of all that ! With the K____ s I did not find myself at fault once ; nor at dinner either ; directly the conversation is just a little animated I have no reason to complain. But at the theatre I do not hear the actors completely ; and with models, in the deep silence, one does not speak loud . . . However . . . without doubt, it had been to a certain decree foreseen. I ought to have become accustomed to it during the last year … I am accustomed to it, but it is terrible all the same.

I am struck in what was the most necessary to me and the most precious. (p.565-6)

She died on October the 31st, 1884, and was buried in the Cimetiere de Passy in Paris, a few weeks before her twenty-sixth birthday.

It is certainly wrong to portray her by her illness alone.  She was a dynamic and interesting person, and the tragedy is she did not have the opportunity to show what she might have achieved.  I hope some of you will be interested to read her diaries and see her paintings.

Marie_Bashkirtseff1878Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, Translated by Mathilde Blind, London 1890

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marie-Bashkirtseff

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13916/13916-h/13916-h.htm

Marie Bashkirtseff. Part 2 her later life and diaries

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Bashkirtseff

Marie Bashkirtseff. Part 1 The portraitist and feminist

Gladstone, W. E. (1889). JOURNAL DE MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review, Mar.1877-Dec.1900, 26(152), 602-607. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2630378?accountid=14511

Her paintings:

https://www.wikiart.org/en/marie-bashkirtseff/all-works#!#filterName:all-paintings-chronologically,resultType:masonry

https://www.ecosia.org/images?q=marie+bashkirtseff

The following looks interesting but I have not seen the article:

VALLERY-RADOT P 1955 Nov 26;63(79):1659-60. Une curieuse malade (1860-1884); Marie Bashkirtseff peinte par elle-même d’après son journal. [A strange patient (1860-1884); Marie Bashkirtseff who, according to her diary, she portrayed herself]. [Article in French]