Elizabeth Gilbert and Her Work for the Blind

Elizabeth Gilbert and Her Work for the Blind

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Elizabeth Gilbert and Her Work for the Blind, by Frances Martin This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Elizabeth Gilbert and Her Work for the Blind Author: Frances Martin Release Date: March 21, 2010 [EBook #31721] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ELIZABETH GILBERT *** Produced by Audrey Longhurst, Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This book was produced from scanned images of public domain material from the Google Print project.) [Pg i] ELIZABETH GILBERT [Pg ii] [Pg iv] ELIZABETH GILBERT AND [Pg v] HER WORK FOR THE BLIND BY FRANCES MARTIN AUTHOR OF 'ANGÉLIQUE ARNAULD,' ETC. ETC. London MACMILLAN AND CO. AND NEW YORK 1887 All rights reserved INTRODUCTION There is a sacred privacy in the life of a blind person. It is led apart from much of the ordinary work of the world, and is unaffected by many external incidents which help to make up the important events of other lives. It is passed in the shade and not in the open sunlight of eager activity. At first we should be disposed to say that such a life, with its inevitable restrictions and compulsory isolation, could offer little of public interest, and might well remain unchronicled. But in the rare cases where blindness, feeble health, and suffering form scarcely any bar to activity; where they are not only borne with patience, but by heroic effort are compelled to minister to great aims, we are eager to learn the secret of such a life. No details connected with it are devoid of interest; and we are stimulated, encouraged, and strengthened by seeing obstacles overcome which appeared insurmountable, and watching triumph where we dreaded defeat. [Pg vii] Elizabeth Gilbert was born at a time when kindly and intelligent men and women could gravely implore "the [Pg viii] Almighty" to "take away" a child merely because it was blind; when they could argue that to teach the blind to read, or to attempt to teach them to work, was to fly in the face of Providence. And her whole life was given to the endeavour to overcome prejudice and superstition; to show that blindness, though a great privation, is not a disqualification. Blind men and women can learn, labour, and fulfil all the duties of life if their fellow-men are merciful and helpful, and God is on the side of all those who work honestly for themselves and others. The life of Elizabeth Gilbert and her work for the blind are so inextricably interwoven, that it is impossible to tell one without constant reference to the other. A small cellar in Holborn at a rent of eighteen-pence a week was enough for a beginning. But before her death she could point to large and well-appointed workshops in almost every city of England, where blind men and women are employed, where tools have been invented by or modified for them, where agencies have been established for the sale of their work. Her example has encouraged, her influence has promoted the work which she never relinquished throughout [Pg ix] life. Nothing was too great for her to attempt on behalf of the blind, nothing seemed impossible of achievement. One success suggested a new endeavour, one achievement opened a door for fresh effort. Free from any taint of selfishness or self-seeking, all her thought was for others, for the helpless, the poor, the friendless. Her pity was boundless. There was nothing she could not forgive the blind, no error, no ignorance, no crime. She knew the desolation of their lives, their friendless condition, and understood how they might sink down and down in the darkness because no friendly hand was held out to them. And yet she was unsparing to herself, and a rigid censor of her own motive and conduct. This she could not fail to be, because she believed in her vocation as from God. She never doubted that her work had been appointed for her; she never wavered in her belief that strength given by God, supported her. She knew that she was the servant of God, sent by Him to minister to others. This knowledge was joy; but it made her inexorable and inflexible towards herself. There are but few incidents in her peaceful life. It was torn by no doubt, distracted by no apprehensions, it [Pg x] reached none of the heights of human happiness, and sounded none of the depths of despair. If there were unfulfilled hopes, aspirations, affections, they left no bitterness, no sense of disappointment. A beautiful life and helpful; for who need despair where she overcame and gained so great a victory? The materials for recording the history of Elizabeth Gilbert are scanty, but all that were possessed by her sisters and friends have been placed at my disposal. My love for her, and our long friendship, have enabled me, I hope, to interpret them aright. FRANCES MARTIN. October 1887. CONTENTS CHAPTER I PAGE [Pg xi] CHILDHOOD 1 CHAPTER II IN THE DARK 14 CHAPTER III LITTLE BLOSSOM 27 CHAPTER IV WHAT THE PROPHETESS FORESAW 39 CHAPTER V THE PALACE GARDEN 51 [Pg xii] CHAPTER VI A SENSE OF LOSS 70 CHAPTER VII THE BLIND MANAGER 82 CHAPTER VIII ROYAL BOUNTY 94 CHAPTER IX REMOVING STUMBLING-BLOCKS 110 CHAPTER X TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS 129 CHAPTER XI REFLECTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS 142 CHAPTER XII HER DIARY 150 CHAPTER XIII THE FEAR OF GOD AND NO OTHER 158 [Pg xiii] CHAPTER XIV EVERYDAY LIFE 175 CHAPTER XV TIME OF TROUBLE 192 CHAPTER XVI THE FIRST LOSS 212 CHAPTER XVII HOW THE WORK WENT ON 221 CHAPTER XVIII BLIND CHILDREN OF THE POOR 238 CHAPTER XIX IN TIME OF NEED 249 CHAPTER XX THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW 259 CHAPTER XXI LIFE IN THE SICK-ROOM 279 [Pg xiv] CHAPTER XXII TWILIGHT 293 CHAPTER XXIII THE END 304 CHAPTER I CHILDHOOD "Moving about in worlds not realised."—WORDSWORTH. Elizabeth Margaretta Maria, born on the 7th of August 1826, was the second daughter and third of the eleven children of Ashhurst Turner Gilbert, Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, and of Mary Ann his wife, only surviving child of the Rev. Robert Wintle, Vicar of Culham, near Abingdon. The little girl, Bessie, as she was always called, was christened at St. Mary's Church, which is close to the old-fashioned house in High Street known as the Principal's Lodgings, in which Dr. Gilbert lived. [Pg 1] "A fine handsome child, with flashing black eyes," she is said to have been; and then for three years we hear nothing more. There was a nest of little children in the nursery, and in the spring of 1829 a fifth baby was to be [Pg 2] added to them. In the diary of the grandfather, Mr. Wintle, we