Alexander Melville Bell, AM Bell book

John Hitz d. 1908, this pub’d 1905 but isn’t copyrighted due to age and not a known copyright date? internet archive:

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Alexander melville Bell 

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"Let there he truth between us."" 

The number who attain the years vouchsafed our venerated 
friend are few, but the number who, Hke him, have filled the 
measure of their days so acceptably to their fellow men, not only 
of this a^e, but for all time to come, are, and ever will be, 
far fewer. 

Alexander Melville Bell^ born in Edinburgh Scotland, March 
1st, 1819, had three distinct periods of professional life. The 
first twenty-four years, that of Student, the succeeding twenty- 
seven years, that of Teacher, and the last thirty-five years, that of 
Master. Owing to the fact at the time of birth, that his father, 
Alexander Bell, then already recognized as a leading instructor of 
elocution, had achieved notable success in the treatment of 
defective speech, the son from earliest infancy entered at home 
an environment of student life exceptionally calculated to fit him 
for the career in which he so signally distinguished himself. The 
father's inherent love of truth and frankness begat in his son like 
traits of character. This was so pronounced a feature that at the 
early age of twenty-four years upon independently entering the 
vocation of teacher, in contrast to certain widely heralded instruc- 
tors of the period like the Braidwoods and others, who sought 
by every means either to throw an air of mystery, or exclusive 
secrecy, around their methods, Mr. Bell commenced giving 
publicity in print by ''communicating unreservedly the princi- 
ples" underlying his methods. In evidence thus of his strong 
aversion to every form of sham, then so largely prevailing in his 
profession, he lost no opportunity to emphasize the position h.'i 
had taken of strict fairness towards his pupils and the public 
generally. We thus find him in the earliest edition of his well- 
known and deservedly standard Manual, "Faults of Speech,'*' 
emphatically stating in regard to stammering: 

2 Alexander Melville Bell. 

"The Stammerer's difficulty is, where to turn for effective assistance. 
Certainly not to any pretender who veils his method in convenient se- 
crecy, nor to any who profess to 'charm' away the impediment, or to 
effect a cure in a single lesson! Not to any whose 'system' involves 
drawling, singing, sniffling, whistling, stamping, beating time — all of 
which expedients have constituted the 'curative' means of various char- 
latans; nor to any who bridle the mouth with mechaniccl appliances, forks 
on the tongue, tubes between the lips, bands over the larynx, pebbles in 
the mouth, etc., etc. The habit of stammering can only be counteracted 
by the cultivation of a habit of correct speaking founded on the application 
of natural principles. Respecting these the e is no mystery except what 
arises from the little attention that has been paid to the Science of Speech." 

The perfect candor with which he habitually addressed alike 
his pupils and the public at large, nowhere appears more forcibly 
presented than in the introductory essay to his standard work 
entitled: "Principles of Elocution," where, amon^ other 
things, he says: 

"Elocution may be defined as the effective expression of thought an I 
sentiment by speech, intonation and gesture, * * * *. Elocution does not 
occupy the place it reasonably ought to fill in the curriculum of education. 
The causes of thi§ neglect will be found to consist mainly of these two; 
the subject is undervalued, because it is misunderstood, and it is mis- 
understood, because it is unworthily represented, in the great majority 
of books, which take its name on their title page; and also by the practice 
of too many of its teachers, who make an idle display in recitation, the 
chief, if not the only end of their instruction. * * * * The study of 
oratory is hindered by another prejudice, founded — too justly — on the 
ordinary methods and results of elocutionary teaching; the methcds being 
unphilosophical and trivial, and their result not an improved manner, 
but an induced mannerism. The principle of instruction to which Elocu- 
tion owes its meanness of reputation may be expressed in one word, — 

"But adherents of the imitative methods urge, they teach by Rule. 
There has been far too much teaching by 'Rules,' * * * * which are but 
logical deductions from understood principles. * * * * The rules of 
nature are few and simple, at the same time extensive and obvious in 
their application. These are Principles rather than rules, and it is the 
highest business of philosophy to find out such,* * * * Elocutionary 
exercise is popularly supposed to consist of merely Recitation, and the 
fallacy is kept up both in schools and colleges. * * * * This is a miser- 
able trifling with an art of importance, and art that embraces the whole 
Science of Speech." 

The "teacher" period of Mr. Bell's professional life, as stated 

Alexander Melville Bell. 3 

by himself in the address he delivered June 29th, 1899, before the 
National Association of Elocutionists, ''be^an in 1843, ^"^ fin- 
ished in 1870/' a period of strenuous activity and achievement, 
such as rarely falls to the lot of man. Apart from his regular 
engagements as instructor in the University of Edinburg, Lon- 
don, and other lesser institutions, the number of private pupils 
and continuous lectures and readings in public, would stagger 
any one to successfully accomplish, unless possessed of Prof. 
Bell's Scotch constitutional vigor, moral firmness, and simple 
mode of life. The fact is, were all that Alexander Melville Bell 
said and did written and fully told, it would constitute a goodly 
portion of a well-stocked private library. In 1842, already at the 
age of twenty-three years, he announced the formulation of a new 
theory of articulation and vocal expression. Altfhough his father 
did not endorse all of his conclusions, he accorded them general 
approval. The event of the inception of this new theory, which 
permeated more or less all of his succeeding professional labors 
later on, is thus graphically described by his life-long and devoted 
friend, the genial and gifted Rev. David Macrea: 

"I happened to be at his house on the memorable night when, busy- 
in his den, there flashed upon him the idea of a physiological alphabet 
which would furnish to the eye a complete guide to the production of 
any oral sound by showing in the very forms of the letter the position 
and action of the organs of speech which its production required. It was 
the end toward which years of thought and study had been bringing 
him, but all the same, it came upon him like a sudden revelation, as a 
landscape might flash upon the vision of a man emerging from a forest. 
He took me into his den to tell me about it, and all that evening I could 
detect signs in his eye and voice of the exultation he was trying to 
suppress. At times it looked as if, like Archimedes, he might give vent 
to his emotions and shout 'Eureka.' " 

After elaborating his system, he taught it to his younger 
sons, Alexander Graham and Charles Edward. His friend then 
had him give a public demonstration in the Glasgow Athenaeum, 
preceded by a private exhibition at the residence of the Reverend 
gentleman's father. Of this exhibit, Mr. Macrea states: 

"We had a few friends with us that afternoon, and when Bell's sons 
had been sent away to another part of the house out of earshot, we gave 
Bell the most peculiar and difiicult sounds we could think of, including 
words from the French and Gaelic, following these with inarticulate 

4 Alexander Melville Bell. 

sounds, as of kissing, chuckling, etc. All these Bell wrote down in his 
Visible Speech alphabet, and his sons were then called in. I well remem- 
ber our keen interest, and by and by. astonishment, as the lads — not yet 
thoroughly versed in the new alphabet — stood side by side looking 
earnestly at the paper their father had put in their hands, and slowly 
reproducing sound after sound just as we uttered them. Some of these 
sounds were quite incapable of phonetic representation with our alphabet. 
One friend in the company had given as his contribution, a long yawning 
sound, uttered as he stretched his arms and slowly twisted his body, Hke 
one in the last stage of weariness. Of course, visible speech could only 
represent the sound, not the physical movement, and I well remember 
the shouts of laughter that followed when the lads, after studying earnestly 
the symbols before them, reproduced the sound faithfully; but like the 
ghost of its former self in its detachment from the stretching and body 
twisting with which it had originally been combined." 

This discovery, that the mechanism of speech operating on 
the organs of voice, acts in a uniform manner for the production 
of the same Oral effect in different individuals or persons of dif- 
fering nationality, and his success in devising a scientifically 
correct, and physiological analogous system of graphic presenta- 
tion which he termed ''Visible Speech, the Science of Universal 
Alphabetics," indisputably ranks Professor A. M. Bell as fore- 
most master of the ''Science of Speech." No less an authority 
than Dr. Alexander John Ellis, the greatest phonetician, and 
most scholarly writer on phonetics of the last century, after 
having carefully studied and considered the achievement of Prof. 
Bell, unequivocally corroborates this by stating in concluding an 
elaborate description of the Bell system : 

"As I write, I have full and distinct recollection of the labors of 
Amman, DuKempelen, Johannes Miiller, K. M. Rapp, C. R. Lepsius 
E. Brucke, S. S. Haldeman, and Max Miiller. To those I may add my 
own works of more or less pretension and value * * * *. i feel called 
upon to declare that until Mr. Melville Bell unfolded to me his careful, 
elaborate, yet simple and complete system, I had no knowledge of alpha- 
betics as a science, * * * *, Alphabetics as a science, so far as I have 
been able to ascertain, — and I have lo'oked for it far ?nd wide,— did not 
exist, * * * *. I am afraid my language may seem exaggerated, and 
yet I have endeavored to moderate my tone, and have purposely abstained 
from giving full expression to the high satisfaction I have derived from 
my insight into the theory and practice of Mr. Melville Bell's "Visible 
Speech/' as it is rightly named.'" 

'"The Reader," London, September 3rd, 1864. 

Alexander Melville Bell. 5 

In the generosity of his nature, Mr. Bell, without recom- 
pense, ineffectually offered to the Britis'h Government, pro bono 
publico, *'all copyrig^ht in the system and its applications, in order 
that the use of the Universal Alphabet might be as free as that 
of common letters to all persons." Neither was his "request for 
an authorized investigation" given attention; eliciting from him 
in the preface of, his Inaugural Edition, "Visible Speech, the 
Science of Universal Alphabetics," issued 1867. that if "the 
subject did not lie within the province of .any existing depart- 
ment * * * * does not the fact that an offer of such a nature 
failed to obtain a hearing, indicate a national want, the want 
namely of some functionary whose business it should be to inves- 
tigate new measures of any kind which may be presented for the 
benefit of society." 

Meanwhile, in addition to his absorbing numerous engage- 
ments, he labored indefatigably with his pen, issuing during his 
career as a teacher in Englamd, no less than seventeen works 
relating to speech, vocal physiology, stenography, etc., including 
t'he existing standard Manuals: "Principles of Elocution," "Prin- 
ciples of Speech and Dictionary of Sounds," and jointly with his 
brother, David Charles Bell, the "Standard Elocutionist," of 
which upwards of two hundred editions have appeared, and the 
demand for which continues unabated. 

' He commenced his career as teacher in Edinburg by giving 
instruction to classes in connection with the university, and also 
with the New College, up to the time of the death of his father, 
(1865), who had followed his profession in London, whilst his 
eldest son, David Charles, was tutor at the university in Dublin; 
the father and his two sons thus being the leading elocutionists 
of the Capitals of- England, Ireland, and Scotland. Prof. A. Mel- 
ville Bell then removed to London, leaving his eldest son, Melville 
James Bell, to succeed him in Edinburg. In London, he received 
the appointment of lecturer on Elocution in University College. 
There he remained until 1870, when, having already lost both his 
eldest and youngest sons, he determined, on account of the threat- 
ening condition of the health of his only remaining son, 
Alexander Graham, a third time, and on this occasion perma- 
nently, to cross the Atlantic. He located at "Tutelo Heights," 

6 Alexander Melville Bell. 

near Brantford, Ontario, where, for a number of years he held 
the professorship of elocution in Queen's College, Kingston, 
and in addition delivered courses of lectures in Boston, Mass., and 
in Montreal, Toronto, London, and other Canadian cities, 
besides, jointly with his brother, Prof. David C. Bell, giving 
numerous public readings. 

Mr. Bell's career as "Master" of the Science of Speech took 
indisputable form soon after his father's death. In 1868 already 
he was called from London to give a course of lectures before 
the Lowell Institute, Boston, Mass. Two years later, 1870, on 
his permanent settlement in Canada, he was a second time invited 
to give a course of twelve lectures before the Lowell Institute, 
which he had the honor to supplement the following year, 1871, 
by a third similar course. His residence at Brantford proved 
beneficial both to himself, and to his son, Alexander Graham, who 
was engrossed there in solving the problem of the telephone, and, 
upon fully recovering his health, accepted a position in the 
Faculty of the Boston University School of Oratory, and in 1872, 
opened in Boston an "Establishment for the study of A'ocal Physi- 
ology," on the Board of Instruction of which, later on. Prof. A. 
Melville Bell's name appears first. During this latter period, 
Mr. Bell's earlier publications in England were re-issued and 
supplemented, notably so by a treatise on "Teaching Reading 
in Public Schools," and "The Faults of Speech," which latter has 
attained its fifth edition, and constitutes the only generally recog- 
nized Standard Manual upon the subject of correcting defects of 

Dr. Alexander Graham Bell had meanwhile married, per- 
fected and patented t'he telephone, and permanently located in 
Washington City. The father and the latter's brother, however, 
being loath to leave their enjoyable home in Ontario, only decided 
finally to do so early in the year 188 1, which gave occasion to a 
farewell banquet being tendered Prof. A. M. Bell by the city au- 
thorities of Brantford and his numerous friends, who desired to 
convey to him their sincere regret that circumstances rendered it 
desirable he should leave Brantford where he had resided during 
the past eleven years, loved and respected by an ever widening 
circle of friends. The occasion was heightened by the presence 

Alexander Melville Bell. 7 

of Prof. D. C. Bell and Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. In re- 
sponse to the toast, "The guest of the evening," and the unstinted 
encomiums paid both to him and to his brother by the Mayor and 
other prominent citizens, Prof. Bell responded giving in part the 
following interesting account of his coming to, and sojourn in, 
Canada, and touchingly referred to the cause of his departure: 

"When I was a very young man, and somewhat delicate after a severe 
illness, I crossed the Atlantic to take up my abode for a time with a 
friend of my family in the island of Newfoundland. I was there long 
enough to see a succession of all its seasons, and I found the bracing 
climate so beneficial, that my visit undoubtedly laid the foundation of a 
robust manhood. People talk of the fogs of Newfoundland, but these 
hung over the banks, and not — or but little — over the land. I have seen 
more fog in any one year in London, than I did during all the thirty 
months I spent in the land of 'Cod.' It was there that I commenced the 
exercise of my profession, and it is curious now to think that my desire 
to visit the United States before returning home was defeated by the 
impossibility of getting directly from one country to the other. It was then 
necessary to go to England on the way to America. History we are told 
repeats itself. I am reminded of the saying by the circumstance, that 
when I left Newfoundland, 1842, I had the honor of being the recipient 
of a similar public leave-taking to that which you are favoring me with 
tonight. In 1867 and 1870, I suffered the grievous loss of two fine young 
men, first my youngest, and next my eldest son,^ and the recollection of 
my early experience, determined me to try the effect of change of climate 
for the benefit of my only remaining son. I had received an invitation 
to deliver a course of lectures in the Lowell Institute, Boston, in the 
Autumn of 1870, and in July of that j'ear, I broke up my London home 
and brought my family to Canada. Otir plan was to give the climate a 
a two years' trial. This was eleven years ago, and my slim and delicate 
looking son of those days developed into the sturdy specimen of humanity 
with which you are all familiar. The facts are worth recording, because 
they show the invigorating influence of the Canadian climate, and may 
help other families in similar circumstances to profit by our experience. 

"I was happily led to Brantford by the accidental proximity of an 
old friend, and I have seen no place within the bounds of Ontario that 
I would prefer for a pleasant, quiet and healthful residence * * * *. How 
is it then that, notwithstanding this declaration, I am about to bid adieu 
to the land that I love so well? You all know my son; the world knows 

^Charles Edward, died in 1867, age 19 years, to whose memory the 
Inaugural Edition of "Visible Speech, the Science of Universal Alpha- 
betics," was dedicated. Melville J. Bell, the eldest son, died 1870, 
leaving a widow who accompanied the family to Canada, and there 
married Mr. George Ballachy. 

8 Alexander Melville Bell. 

his name, but only his friends know his heart is as good as his name 
is great. I can safely say that no other considei-ation that could be 
named, than to enjoy the society of our only son would have induced 
us to forsake our lovely 'Tutelo Heights/ and our kind good friends of 
Brantford. He could net come to us, so we resolved to go to him. * * * 
I now confidently feel that my sojourn in Brantford will outlive my 
existence, because under yon roof of mine the telephone was born. A ray 
of fame, reflected from the son, will linger on the parental abode, * ♦ * ♦, 

Dr. Alexander Graham Bell being called upon to respond to 
the toast, "The Telephone and the Photophone," is reported to 
have said in the course of his remarks relative to the removal of 
his father, that the ties of flesh and blood were stronger than 
any other, and therefore, he should be pardoned for causing the 
removal of his parents from Canada. He spoke of the many 
works and inventions of Prof. Melville Bell in Stenography, Vis- 
ible Speech, Elocution, etc. His stating that the 'Telephone 
is due in a great measure to him," is reported to have been a gen- 
erous admission that somewhat surprised those who heard it. 
It is furthermore reported that he gave some reminiscences of the 
early efforts that resulted in the discovery of the telephone, and 
added that many steps in its utilization were perfected at "Tutelo 

Prof. A. M. Bell and his brother, with their families, upon 
arrival in Washington, soon located in two adjoining spacious old 
residences, Nos. 15 17 and 1525 Thirty-fifth Street, N. W. There, 
with the exception of a brief, period before his demise, when he 
removed to his son's residence, 1331 Connecticut Ave., Prof. Bell 
lived dispensing his wonted hospitality, and, amidst his books, en- 
joying the intellectual atmosphere that pervaded his literary "den." 

But these Masters of Elocution by no means remained idle 
spectators: the elder brother being called upon repeatedly for his 
inimitable renditions of noted authors, to which he added in 1895, 
"The Reader's Shakespeare, in three volumes, for the use of 
schools and colleges, private and family reading, and for public 
and platform deHvery," whilst his junior brother, designated the 
"Nestor of Elocutionary Science," constantly was called upon 
either by letter or personally on the part of the more eminent 
elocutionists, philologists, and pedagogues of the age, to advise 
on matters relating to the one science of which he was the un- 

Alexander Melville Bell. 

or THE 



disputed head and master. Not only this, during his twenty-five 
years of residence at the Nation's Capital, of which, in the year 
1898^ he became a duly incorporated citizen, he personally, upon 
invitation, delivered lectures before the ''American Association 
for the Advancement of Science," /'Jo^^s Hopkins University," 
"Columbia University/' "Modern Language Association," "Na- 
tional Association of Elocutionists," "New York Teachers of 
Oratory," and the "American Association to Promote the Teach- 
ing of Speech to the Deaf," etc., etc. 

During the same period he issued a revised version of the 
"Inapgural edition of Visible Speech"; "Sounds and their Rela- 
tions." now a standard Manual in Normal Training Sc'hools for 
teachers of the Deaf; also other Manuals on "Speech Reading and 
Articulation Teaching," "English Visible Speech in Twelve Les- 
sons," "Popular Manual of Visible Speech and Vocal Physiolo- 
gy," "World English the Universal Language,'' and "Handbook 
of World English," "English Line Writing on the basis of Visible 
Speech," and, finally, "Science of Speech," together with a fifth 
edition of "Principles of Elocution." 

The time had arrived, when, despite pleadings of numerous 
applicants, the venerated master must resolutely decline to give 
verbal instruction, much as he mentally enjoyed teaching. One 
of the last privileged personal pupils, now teaching in a promi- 
nent institution for the deaf, thus speaks of her master's method: 
"Prof. Bell was a wonderful teacher, I never had his equal. His 
explanations were so clear and full that at the end of a lesson it was quite 
impossible to think of asking any further question. Every possible un- 
certainty had been anticipated." 

The autographic testimonial of ability this pupil received was 
equally unequivocal: 

"Miss was a pupil of mine in 'Visible Speech,' and dis- 
tinguished herself by aptitute in the study, and by rapid and solid progress 

in the practice. Miss has fine abilities, and she will, I have no 

doubt, do honor to any position, the duties of which she may undertake. 
"1525 35th Street, N. W., 

"Washington, D. C, July i6th, 1896. 

^JC^""- huAU/iJdj,CC. 

lo Alexander Melville Bell. 

The following tribute was paid the deceased in the Boston 
"School Document No. 9, 1905": 

"We can perhaps make no greater acknowledgment of indebtedness 
to the late Prof. Alexander Melville Bell, the distinguished philologist, 
who, in 1870, upon invitation, told the teachers how his system of phonetic 
writing, named by him Visible Speech, could be made useful in the devel- 
opment of the speech of deaf children, than to say that it continues to 
be the basis of all instruction in speech in this school.^ The result of his 
visit was the employment of the son, Alexander Graham Bell, as a special 
instructor in the school for a period of three months." 

The scene at Chautauqua, June 29th, 1899, on the occasion 
of the last meeting of the National Association of Elocutionists 
which he attended, was impressive beyond ability adequately to 
be described in words. In the commencement of the ever memor- 
able address on "Fundamentals of Elocution," delivered by Prof. 
Bell, he tersely stated: 

"Elocution is an art: hence its practice is more important than its 
theory. * * * *, The requirements of Elocution are: first, that the 
speaker should be heard without effort on the hearers' part; second, that 
the utterance of words and syllables should be distinct and unambiguous; 
and third, that vocal expression should be in sympathy with the subject. 
In common practice we find that these requirements are conspicuously 

At the close of the address, no less than a dozen members 
successively arose to pay tribute to the speaker. 

"It seems to me," said the first, "not only fitting, but a very natural 
thing for this audience to desire to express its feeling, and I rise to move 
a vote of thanks to our distinguished benefactor of past years, who has 
so honored us today, for the magnificent exemplification which he 
presents in his own person of the benefits to be derived from our work. 
When a man so glorious in years, and in work, can stand so magnificently 
before this assembly, he presents a most inspiring example for emulation. 
And it is with a feeling of deepest gratitude in my heart for what he has 
done today in thus honoring us, and what he has done for elocution in 
the past, that I move, on behalf of this audience, a vote of thanks to Prof. 
Bell for having come before us and given us this treat." 

The vote was taken by an enthusiastic rising of the entire 
assembly. Another speaker said : ^ 

*"The Horace Mann School.' 

Alexander Melville Bell. ii 

"In the presence of the true, the beautiful, and the good, there seems 
to be an atmosphere in which all personal differences sink out of sight. 
Standing as we do before one whose life has been a benediction to our 
cause, the desire for victory in any lower sense of that term, seems to 
pass entirely away. Since each one of the preceding speakers has drawn 
some moral from this present occasion, I should like to offer my contri- 
bution. We regard the speaker of today so highly because he has stood 
against clamor, against so-called public demand, against the exigencies 
of varying occasions, and has upheld the truth, simplicity, and integrity 
of purpose, * * * *. Let us then take from this inspiring hour today, 
the lesson from the life of the speaker, who, against almost insuperable 
obstacles, has stood firmly for the right, and in the end, like Dr. Russell, 
and Mr. Murdoch, is crowned a Victor." 

These, and other like remarks, were forcibly and touchingly 
supplemented by the able editor of the official organ, who wrote 
in regard to the occasion: 

" 'Consecration' and 'benediction' were words frequently heard at the 
Chautauqua convention of Elocutionists. These words were used In 
connection with the presence of Alexander Melville Bell, who, at the age 
of eighty, stood upon the platform and delivered an address with a grace 
of manner, pureness of enunciation, and distinctness of articulation, sur- 
passed by no other speaker at the convention. Bell's presence permeated 
and dominated everything, * * * *. Alexander Melville Bell is the great- 
est living elocutionist. To attend the convention, he made a special 
journey of two thousand miles, foregoing the coolness and quiet of his 
distinguished son's summer Canadian home. Well might the members 
of the National Association of Elocutionists rise to their feet wh^n he 
entered the hall, and well might they congratulate themselves on being 
privileged to attend a session that is a historical event in American elocu- 
tion. Words can only very inadequately describe the scenes at the Bell 
session. On the platform stood an elocutionary patriarch, whose dis- 
coveries, inventions, and writings have vitalized, purified, and glorified 
the English language: uttering words of counsel, and pronouncing a 
benediction. There he stood, erect, reposeful, vigorous, graceful: his 
bearing, gesture, voice, articulation — all models worthy the study of those 
that aspire to oratorical excellence. Before him sat many of the leading 
elocutionists of America, hushed, attentive, impressed — so impressed that 
men shed tears, and when a resolution of thanks was moved, voices were 
choked, and the pauses of silence were more eloquent than were the words. 
The sentiments of the entire assembly were voiced by a speaker who 
said that he consecrated himself anew to his profession, and that here- 
after he never could, or would apoligize for being an elocutionist, * * * * 
The presence of Alexander Melville Bell at the Chautauqua convention 

12 Alexander Melville Bell. 

has leavened the whole elocutionary lump, and has put a heart into the 
National Association of Elocutionists." 

Here was a spontaneous recognition of the professional life 
work of a Master truly great. Among many other tributes 
rendered, I will here add only that of two of his pupils, one of 
whom, now a leading elocutionist, thus sums up Mr. Bell's elo- 
cutionary labors: 

" 'An Uncrowned King/ the phrase sprang to my mind as Prof. Alex- 
ander Melville Bell entered his reception room one summer day. It was 
my first interview. I had cordially been invited to come to Washington 
to review 'Principles of Elocution,' and 'Visible Speech,' with the author. 
Many years before I had studied the 'Principles of Elocution,' and had 
used it with my pupils. The assent of the mind to truth is one of the 
. keenest of intellectual pleasures, and I find myself constantly, in teaching 
from his book, feeling that enthusiastic thrill. There have been many 
elocution books written since first his appeared, but where they depart 
from him, they are wrong, and where they follow, they are not original. 
He cut the way through the forest, by giving clear principles, not mere 
rules, and the keen ear that could detect the faintest departure from right 
speech, which made him the great inventor of the Visible Speech Alpha- 
bet, served him also in his analysis, and interpretation of dramatic 
emotion. His own voice was rich, melodious, and beautiful, even at 
eighty, while his enunciation of course was that of a past master of 
speech. In Prof. Bell's books the serious student finds the explanation 
of all his difficulties, and the sure guide to the eradication of his defects. 
The lawyer, the lecturer, the politician, the preacher need just the aid 
that he gives — for with him, the art of elocution is worthy of the best 
effort of all voice uses. And all such need to study its principles. * * * * 
A great and noble life has passed onward. But in his books, his spirit 
speaks to us, and many generations still." 

The other, one of Prof. Bell's most ardent and efficient 
desciples of his system of "Visible Speech," which constitutes 
the scientific basis of his success as a master of speech: 

"The invention of Visible Speech is one of the world's greatest bene- 
factions, and has given mankind the only possible Universal Alphabet. 
It has a physiological basis. Each symbol means a definite position of 
the organs of speech, which, if correctly assumed, produces a definite 
result. Every sound possible for the human voice can be represented by 
these symbols. There is, therefore, no language nor variation of language 
in dialect, or even individual idiosyncracy, which cannot be represented 
by Visible Speech and reproduced vocally by any one knowing the system. 

"In consequence of this fact, through Visible Speech one may learn 

Akxandcr Melville Bell. 13 

to speak every language as it is spoken by the Nations of all classes. 
Missionaries learn through Visible Speech to speak accurately the lan- 
guage of high caste, as well as that of the lower classes, thereby greatly 
increasing the scope of their influence. Through its perfect mastery 
impediments of speech can be successfully treated, and the hopeless 
handicap of stammering, stuttering, and like blemishes disappear as if by 
magic. A knowledge of it furnishes the very best vocal training, because 
its symbols compel perfect precision of muscular adjustment for their 
accurate reproduction in tone, and so presents a system of vocal gym- 
nastics whereby the greatest skill and flexibility of the vocal organs is 
attained. The effect produced upon the voice and speech is analogous 
to that obtained for the body by the varied exercises in use for physical 
training. It is in fact invaluable to both speakers and singers." 

The following tribute paid Prof. Bell by one of his most 
eminent professional colleagues, constitutes a recognition of his 
exceptional mastership of the Science underlying his methods of 
acquiring perfection in the art of speech, such as has come to very 
few, if any elocutionists, from well recognized authority: 

"I retain a vivid remembrance of meeting Mr. Alexander Melville 
Bell before leaving England. I was much struck with the purity and 
charm of his speech. It was a revelation to me. His utterance seemed to 
combine the easy, graceful intonation of the talk of a cultured actress, 
with the strength and resonance that should characterize the speech of a 
man, and though finely modulated, it was without a suggestion of affecta- 
tion, either as to matter or manner. I had never before, and I do not 
know that I have since, heard English spoken with the ease and delicate 
precision that so distinctly marked the speech of Mr. Bell. His clean- 
cut articulation, his flexibility of voice, and finely modulated utterance 
of English, was an exemplification of what efficient and long continued 
training of the vocal organs will do for human speech, and how charming 
the result."^ 

The scope of Prof. Bell's thoughts, however, were not wholly 
absorbed by his profession, as the list of publications here 
appended, and the honors bestowed upon him, show. He was 
also thoroughly versed in the Science of Phonetics and Stenog- 
raphy ; likewise an ardent advocate of amended Orthography, 
deeply interested in various forms of Social Science, and pos- 
sessed of considerable poetic gift. Whilst not an electrician, he 
may no doubt, however, have contributed somewhat towards 

^See "Life and Labors of Sir Isaac Pitman, as told by Benn Pitman,' 
p. 184. 

14 Alexander Melville Bell. 

stimulating his surviving son in the incipient conception of the 
Telephone by having offered a premium to whichever of his sons 
should construct the most effective articulating apparatus: one 
of which of these earlier speaking devices was recently yet in 
possession of the family. 

The amelioration of the condition of discharged convicts, and 
provisions for the care of neglected and dependent children, 
deeply interested him, and to the latter trend of his sympathies 
is due the establishment, at Colonial Beach, Virginia, of the "Beil 
Home," which has proven to be one of the most efficient bene- 
factions for poor children in the District of Columbia. 

Among the objects Mr. Bell seemed to take special interest 
in promoting, was the work of the Volta Bureau for the increase 
and diffusion of knowledge relating to the deaf, founded by his 
son. Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. Not only did he contribute 
generously towards the architectural attractiveness of the build- 
ing, but donated to the Bureau his entire stock of publications, 
including stereotype plates, and also his valuable copyrights, 
increasing thus its efficiency: this, and the service which his 
Visible Speech device rendered in acquiring speech and the art 
of speech or lip-reading, endeared him to many deaf, notably 
among them, Helen A. Keller, whose love and regard for him he 
always spoke of most appreciatingly. 

Although Mr. Bell had permanently left Ontario nearly a 
quarter of a century ago, true to his nature, he retained up to the 
last a strong affection for his many Canadian friends. And the 
citizens of Brantford showed their appreciation of this devotion 
at each recurring visit Mr. Bell paid to his former home. On the 
occasion of his presence there during the Dominion tour of the 
Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, October 14th, 1901, 
when the Royal couple stopped enroute in Brantford, Mr. Bell 
was accorded the honor of presenting, on behalf of the City, to 
His Royal Highness, the Duke, a handsomely mounted long 
distance Telephone outfit, furnished by the Bell Telephone Co. 
On being presented to His Royal Highness, the latter cordially 
shook hands with Mr. Bell, who then impressively said: 

"On behalf of the City of Brantford, I have the honor of presenting 
to your Royal Highness, this Telephone as a Souvenir of your brief, but 

Alexander Melville Bell. 15 

highly prized visit to the 'Telephone City.' May all our telephones and 
telegraphs continue to bring us only glad tidings of your happy progress 
throughout the British Dominion, where each province vies with the 
others in the warmth of its welcome to his Majesty's representatives, the 
Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. Health and long life to King 
Edward the Seventh, and to his Queen. God save the King and Queen." 

Both the Duke and t'he Duchess expressed themselves as 
highly gratified on receiving so singularly appropriate and useful 
a present. 

Nor were friends and relatives on the distant Pacific 
Coast, and in remoter Australia, forgotten. Nothing seemed to 
gratify Mr. Bell more than the repeated evidence by letter of their 
continued remembrance. 

The greatest charm, hov^ever, of Prof. Bell, was the social 
sphere of his home. To all, rich or poor, 'high or lowly, Mr. Bell 
was always courteous and kind. He proved himself a devoted 
father, a model husband, and exemplary grandfather, great 
grandfather, uncle, and cousin. Making available provision dur- 
ing his lifetime for relatives nearest and dearest to him was 
characteristic of his constant thoughtfulness. Mr. Bell twice 
married most happily; first, 1844, Eliza Grace, the refined and 
accomplished daughter of Surgeon Samuel Symonds, mother of 
his surviving son, and beside whose remains now lie those of 
her distinguished husband. His second marriage, 1898, to Mrs.. 
Harriet G. Shibley, who survives him, proved a source of rare 
connubial felicity. The filial devotion accorded Professor Bell by 
his immediate family, was simply ideal, of a nature so perfectly 
exemplary and beautiful, that any attempt to speak of his family 
relations truthfully would be invading the sanctity of a model 
home. All who have been privileged to be near him, could not 
otherwise than become deeply sensible of the ennobling and 
refining influence of his wholesome personality. To sit at his 
board, and occasionally enjoy the elocutionary "bouts" between 
him and his accomplished brother, in which, at times, they were 
joined by his equally gifted son, as they bantered each other with 
recitations from Shakespeare, or other favorite dramatists and 
authors, not infrequently dialectic and in Gaelic, was an intel- 
lectual treat few mortals can ever have enjoyed with such 


1 6 Alexander Melville Bell. 

recognized elocutionary masters as principals. The humor, 
prompt retorts, and fire that at such times would fly from one to 
another was something akin to an array of batteries emitting 
electric sparks, and would baflfle accurate portrayal. It can truth- 
fully be said of Prof. Bell, that a kindlier face than his has seldom 
been seen, especially among so-called more thoughtful scientists. 
His optimism constantly made itself manifest by the evident 
delight he showed in embracing every possible opportunity 
in giving delight to others. The rare faculty of ''making the best 
of everything," seemed spontaneous with him. While positive 
in his conceptions of the beautiful and true, uncharitable criti- 
cism seemed foreign to him. His mind seemed utterly free from 
maHce and bent on doing all the good he could. His sphere was 
one of marked content and radiant good will. Although often 
earnest in mien, no one has ever been heard to say that they saw 
Mr. Bell really angered. Rage was foreign to 'his nature. He 
could calmly look upon a furious storm, admire the force of wind 
and wave, and it seemed to harbor no terror to him. Scenes of 
unruffled wave, where steamer and sailing craft silentlv passed 
along on their errands of service to fellowmen, such as greeted 
him from his seat on the embankment in front of his residence 
at Colonial Beach, were equally if not more to his liking than the 
commotion of antagonising elements. By nature he was averse 
to the boisterous, and courted rather scenes of silence and gen- 
tleness. To see him ensconsed in his dhair on the well shaded 
vineclad veranda of his riverside home, at times reading and 
smoking, or watching the brooding, ever chattering sparrows he 
had encouraged to build their nests along the inner eaves, was to 
see incarnated content upon his countenance. Always fond of 
domestic animals, in later years he more especially liked to keep 
pets, and loved to feed his dogs, birds, and fishes himself. In his 
city den or studio, he could while away hours patiently analyzing 
the speech of his parrot, and determining the notes of his ca- 
naries and mocking birds, or marvelling at the ceaseless and 
graceful evolutions of the fishes in his aquarium. These pets, to- 
gether with flowers of all kinds, not only afforded him congenial 
companionship and diversion, but also a constant, delightfully 
interesting study. 

Alexander Melville Bell. 17 

Prof. Bell was honored with the fellowship of the Educational 
Institute of Scotland, and with that of the Royal Scottish Society 
of Arts, the latter of which, in special recognition of the system of 
phonetic shorthand he devised, awarded him in addition its Silver 
Medal. In 1885 he was likewise elected a fellow of the American 
Association for the Advancement of Science; he was an active 
member of the Modern Language Association of America, An-, 
thropological Society of Washington, and the National Geo- 
graphic Society, a Hfe member of the American Association to 
Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, an honorary mem- 
ber of the National Association of Elocutionists, etc., etc. 

Despite his advanced years. Prof. Bell retained his mental 
vigor and general good health to a remarkable degree. In order 
to enjoy each other's society as much as possible, the father, to- 
wards the last, assented to take up his abode with the son, 1331 
Connecticut Avenue, N. W., where, surrounded by every possible 
comfort, Mr. Bell received the tireless attention of a devoted 
wife, loving son, daughter-in-law, and faithful attendants. As 
the last summer approached, Mr. Bell longed to go to his favorite 
riverside homestead, but it could only be for a brief period when 
his enfeebled condition made it desirable he should return to his 
son's residence in Washington, where, August 7th, 1905, sur- 
rounded by his immediate family and a few close friends, he 
gently passed away. Truly, like Gladstone will Alexander Mel- 
ville Bell also long be remembered as "The Grand Old Man." 

The interment took place at Rock Creek cemetery, the Rev. 
Dr. Teunis S. Hamlin officiating, and the following distinguished 
associates serving as honorary pallbearers: Hon. James Wil- 
son, Secretary of Agriculture; Dr. William T. Harris, United 
States Commissioner of Education; Hon. H. B. F. MacFarland, 
Commissioner of the District of Columbia; Prof. William H. Dall, 
of the Smithsonian Institution; Mr. Ainsworth R. Spoflord, first 
Assistant Librarian of Congress; and Dr. A. L. E. Crouter, Presi- 
dent of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of 
Speech to the Deaf. 

1 8 Alexander Melville Bell. 



P. E. I. S., F. R. S. S. A., A. S., Etc. 



1845. Treatise on the Art of Reading. 

1849. A new elucidation of the Principles of Speech and Elocution. 

1852. Principles of Elocution: "The Elocutionary Manual." 

1852. The Language of Passions. 

1852. Expressive Reading and Gesture. 

1853. Observations on the Cure of Stammering. 

1854. Lecture on the Art of Delivery. 

1858. Letters and Sounds. A Nursery and School book. 

i860. The Standard Elocutionist. (210th thousand issued 1899.) 

1863. Principles of Speech and Dictionary of Sounds. 

1863. On Sermon Reading and Memoriter Delivery. 

1866. The Emphasized Liturgy. 

1879. On Teaching Reading in Public Schools. 

1880. The Faults of Speech. 

1886. Essays and Postscripts on Elocution. 

1890. Speech Reading and Articulation Teaching. 

1893. Speech Tones. 

1894. Note on Syllabic Consonants. 

1895. Address to the National Association of Elocutionists. 

1896. The Sounds of R. 

1896. Phonetic Syllabication. 

1897. The Science of Speech." 

1899. Notations in Elocutionary Teaching. 

1899. The Fundamentals of Elocution. , 


1866. Visible Speech: A New Fact Demonstrated. 

1867. Visible Speech: The Science of Universal Alphabetics, (Inau- 

gural Ed.) 

1868. English Visible Speech for the Million. 

1868. Class Primer of English Visible Speech. 

1869. Universal Steno-Phonography on the basis of Visible Speech. 

1870. Explanatory Lecture on Visible Speech. 

1881. Sounds and their Relations: Revised version of Visible Speech. 

1882. Lectures upon Letters and Sounds, and Visible Speech, before 

A. A. A. S. 

Alexander Melville Bell. 19 

1883. Visible Speech Reader. 

1885. University Lectures on Phonetics. 

1886. Enghsh Line Writing on the basis of Visible Speech. 
1889. Popular Manual of Visible Speech and Vocal Physiology. 
1893. English Visible Speech in Twelve Lessons. 

1903. Lecture on Visible Speech, in New York. 

1888. World English: The Universal Language. 
1888. Hand-Book of World English. 

1852. Steno-Phonography, (Silver Medal Awarded to Author for this bv 
R. S. S. A.) 

1854. Shorthand Master book. 

1855. Popular Stenography: Curt Style. 

1857. Reporter's Manual and Vocabulary of Logograms. 
1892. Popular Shorthand. 

185 1. What is to become of our Convicts? 

1857. Common sense in its relation to Homeopathy and Allopathy. 
1869. Colour: The Island of Humanity. A drama. 
1891. Address to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.