Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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  • Tags: life writing

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The story of Joseph Carey Merrick began in 1862, when he was born to Mary Jane and Joseph Merrick of Leicester, but the story of the Elephant Man did not start until several years later. It was when he was a toddler that tumours first appeared on…

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When Dinah Mulock Craik, the author of John Halifax, Gentleman and The Little Lame Prince, wrote her essay, ‘Blind’, about the Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind, in 1861, she was engaging in an active discussion…

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“Blind Guy Fawkes” is noteworthy for how it both participates in and diverges from a representational pattern.  The introduction into Britain of raised-print books in the first decades of the nineteenth century and the proliferation of finger…

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John Kitto (1804-1854) was a British missionary and writer of religious books who was deafened at the age of 12 by a fall. In his youth, Kitto, who typically worked with his father, a mason, rather than attend school, was also forced to spend time in…

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Journalist Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) began publishing his vast collection of interviews and observations on London street life in the mid-century, in the newspaper the Morning Chronicle in 1849. When the newspaper collapsed in 1850, Mayhew continued…

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Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a writer and intellectual of the Victorian period. She was best known for her work on political economy, but she was also deaf from childhood and an invalid for six years. She wrote about both of these experiences in…

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This article, which appeared in Charles Dickens's publication All The Year Round in 1864, describes a journalist's visit to the Earlswood Asylum, the first institution for the care of the cognitively disabled in England. It was founded by J Langdon…

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In January of 1842, Charles Dickens paid a visit to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, just outside of Boston, MA, as part of his American tour. There he met Laura Bridgman, whom the director of the institute, Samuel Gridley Howe, touted as the…
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