This book is in three parts. The first two, Miss Keller’s story and the extracts from her letters, form a complete account of her life as far as she can give it. Much of her education she cannot explain herself, and since a knowledge of that is necessary to an understanding of what she has written, it was thought best to supplement her autobiography with the reports and letters of her teacher, Miss Anne Mansfield Sullivan. The addition of a further account of Miss Keller’s personality and achievements may be unnecessary; yet it will help to make clear some of the traits of her character and the nature of the work which she and her teacher have done.
For the third part of the book the Editor is responsible, though all that is valid in it he owes to authentic records and to the advice of Miss Sullivan.
The Editor desires to express his gratitude and the gratitude of Miss Keller and Miss Sullivan to The Ladies’ Home Journal and to its editors, Mr. Edward Bok and Mr. William V. Alexander, who have been unfailingly kind and have given for use in this book all the photographs which were taken expressly for the Journal; and the Editor thanks Miss Keller’s many friends who have lent him her letters to them and given him valuable information; especially Mrs. Laurence Hutton, who supplied him with her large collection of notes and anecdotes; Mr. John Hitz, Superintendent of the Volta Bureau for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge relating to the Deaf; and Mrs. Sophia C. Hopkins, to whom Miss Sullivan wrote those illuminating letters, the extracts from which give a better idea of her methods with her pupil than anything heretofore published.
Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin and Company have courteously permitted the reprinting of Miss Keller’s letter to Dr. Holmes, which appeared in “Over the Teacups,” and one of Whittier’s letters to Miss Keller. Mr. S. T. Pickard, Whittier’s literary executor, kindly sent the original of another letter from Miss Keller to Whittier.
John Albert Macy.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 1, 1903.
C.M. Bell, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, 1891–1894
It is with a kind of fear that I begin to write the history of my life. I have, as it were, a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist. The task of writing an autobiography is a difficult one. When I try to classify my earliest impressions, I find that fact and fancy look alike across the years that link the past with the present. The woman paints the child’s experiences in her own fantasy. A few impressions stand out vividly from the first years of my life; but “the shadows of the prison-house are on the rest.” Besides, many of the joys and sorrows of childhood have lost their poignancy; and many incidents of vital importance in my early education have been forgotten in the excitement of great discoveries. In order, therefore, not to be tedious I shall try to present in a series of sketches only the episodes that seem to me to be the most interesting and important.
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