Deaf geographies, and other worlds.
Having let the blog grow cold at the end of 2012 for a number of reasons… I’ve started overhauling it, and will be posting to it again.
The first thing to dust off are the ongoing translations of the banquets, which have so far reached this stage:
Working from the 1836 French transcription, thus far, I’m about three pages (in the original) into the translation.
You can either view a pdf of the English translation so far or read down.
It’s unpolished, but comments or questions are welcome.
Sunday, 4th December 1836
Many deaf-mutes assumed that their annual gatherings would remain as little known as their lives. But they now appear to some of them to be a movement of great influence and future worth. There are even some who see them as the source of their future emancipation. Even considering them in a more modest light, should not meetings like this – that have already produced so much unexpected fruit – merit at least some interest.
We should remember here how the foundation stone of this holy institution was first laid. The idea of an annual celebration arose within the Comité des Sourds-Muets [the Deaf-Mute committee]. The establishment of this committee, itself only two years old, was driven by the critical circumstances into which deaf-mutes found themselves constantly thrown, by plots actively formulated against them, and by the need to gather forces to repel the attacks by some of those who took advantage of their disability to harvest for themselves, the fruit of their labours.
It is hard to understand the extent of the hostility ranged against deaf-mutes when the playing field is not at all level. However, hostility continued and so, deaf-mutes, in response, came together in defence, federated themselves, coming together and forming a formal defensive structure.
The committee meets once a month, more often if there is need, to discuss matters of general interest to deaf-mutes, and to share hopes and grievances. It is their elected chamber and their assembly of peers, their state council. As with those institutions, it has a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer; but these functionaries are only concerned with affairs affecting deaf-mutes and have no time to worry about the business of the hearing world.
A very small number of hearing people had been admitted to their first annual celebration – those to whom the sanctuary doors were opened were only those who had demonstrated a proven commitment to the deaf-mute cause. But, what would be served by limiting the meeting to deaf-mutes alone? What good could come from it to their brothers, scattered across the globe, of whom at least nine tenths have no knowledge of the calling of humanity, of the cost of social intercourse, or the rights and responsibilities of the citizen. Given the isolation of so many, how could even one member of that sad family, anywhere in the kingdom – or in the world – become familiar with our institutions, our customs, with the benefits of our civilisation?
This was the committee’s sentiment, and many more invitations were sent out for later celebrations. It is unnecessary to describe the touching haste with which they were accepted.
On Sunday, December 4th 1836, a great number of deaf-mutes arrived, in good time, at the arranged meeting place, in the waiting room of the large restaurant in the Place du Châtelet. Present were deaf-mutes from many different countries: English, German, Italians – united by a universal language that was vainly sought after for centuries – the language of signs – into a single people whose members understand each other as if they had been born in the same country. Present were teachers, academics, painters, makers of statues, engravers, typographers: a crowd of hearty and plain artisans whose different social standings had evaporated in the face of a common tie; that they were all deaf-mutes.
Finally, the doors of the sanctuary were opened to the speaking. The first to arrive? M. Eugène Garay de Monglave, only recently up and about from a long illness, and still unsteady. A constant friend who misses none of our celebrations; he is – as he himself says – a friend of the family. All those there hasten to give him their best wishes for his recovery. Then comes Mr. B. Maurice, editor of the ‘Droit’, one of our most committed advocates, accompanied by M. Ledru-Rollin and the Doctor Gaubert. M. Maurice’s entrance is greeted by repeated expressions of gratitude.
But what really excites the mood of the gathering is the sight of the slow advance of a venerable and elderly man whose youthful heart shines even through the wrinkles on his face, giving him a rare air of sensitivity: It is M. Bouilly, the author of the theatrical piece on the Abbé de l’Epée.
And in this rapid review of all of these strangers, it would be hard to ignore another new face upon which
are written both shyness and surprise.