“Let there be truth
The number who attain
the years vouchsafed our venerated friend are few, but the number
who, like him, have filled the measure of their days so acceptably
to their fellow men, not only of this age, but for all time to come,
are, and ever will be, far fewer.
Alexander Melville Bell, born in Edinburg, Scotland, March ist,
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
instructors 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 principles” 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 he 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
“The Stammerer’s difficulty is, where to turn for effective
assistance. Certainly not to any pretender who veils his method in
convenient secrecy, 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 charlatans; 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, among other things, he
“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 misunderstood, 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 methods being
unphilosophical and trivial, and their result not an improved
manner, but an induced mannerism. The principle of instruction to
which Elocution owes its meanness of reputation may be expressed in
one word,— Imitation.
“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 miserable 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 by
himself in the address he delivered June 29th, 1899, before the
National Association of Elocutionists, “began in 1843, and finished
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, London, 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. Although 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
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 difficult sounds we could think of,
including words from the French and Gaelic, following these with
inarticulate 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 remember 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, like
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
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 differing
nationality, and his success in devising a scientifically correct,
and physiological analogous system of graphic presentation which he
termed “Visible Speech, the Science of Universal Alphabetics,”
indisputably ranks Professor A. M. Bell as foremost 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
“As I write, I have full and distinct recollection of the labors of
Amman, DuKempelen, Johannes Muller, K. M'. Rapp, C. R. Lepsius E.
Brucke, S. S. Haldeman, and Max Muller. 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 alphabetics 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
^‘The Reader,” London, September 3rd, 1864.
In the generosity of his nature, Mr. Bell, without recompense,
ineffectually offered to the British Government, pro bono publico,
“all. copyright 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 department * * * * 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 investigate new measures of any kind which may be
presented for the benefit of society.”
Meanwhile, in addition to his absorbing numerous engagements, he
labored indefatigably with his pen, issuing during his career as a
teacher in England, no less than seventeen works relating to speech,
vocal physiology, stenography, etc., including the existing standard
Manuals: “Principles of Elocution,” “Principles 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. Melville 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 threatening condition of the health
of his only remaining son, Alexander Graham, a third time, and on
this occasion permanently, to cross the Atlantic. He located at
“Tutelo Heights,” 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 Vocal Physiology,” 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 recognized Standard Manual upon the
subject of correcting defects of speech.
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell had meanwhile married, perfected and
patented the 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 1881, which gave occasion to a farewell banquet being
tendered Prof. A. M. Bell by the city authorities 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 of Prof. D. C. Bell and Dr. Alexander
Graham Bell. In response 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
“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,1 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 year, I broke up my London home and
brought my family to Canada. Our 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 his name, but only his friends know his heart
is as good as his name is great. I can safely say that no other
consideration 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 not 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, Visible Speech, Elocution, etc.
His stating that the “Telephone is due in a great measure to him,”
is reported to have been a generous 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 Heights.”
Prof. A. M. Bell and his brother, with their families, upon arrival
in Washington, soon located in two adjoining spacious old
residences, Nos. 1517 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,
enjoying the intellectual atmosphere that pervaded his literary
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
delivery,” 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 undisputed 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,” “Johns Hopkins University,” “Columbia University,” “Modern
Language Association,” “National Association of Elocutionists,” “New
York Teachers of Oratory,” and the “American Association to Promote
the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf,” etc., etc.
During the same period he issued a revised version of the
“Inaugural-edition of Visible Speech”; “Sounds and their Relations.”
now a standard Manual in Normal Training Schools for teachers of the
Deaf; also other Manuals on “Speech Reading and Articulation
Teaching,” “English Visible Speech in Twelve Lessons,” “Popular
Manual of Visible Speech and Vocal Physiology,” “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 prominent
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 uncertainty had been anticipated.”
The autographic testimonial of ability this pupil received was
“Miss - was a pupil of mine in ‘Visible Speech,’ and distinguished
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
“1525 35th Street, N. W.,
“Washington, D. C., July 16th, 1896.
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 development of the speech of deaf children,
than to say that it continues to be the basis of all instruction in
speech in this school.1 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 memorable address on
“Fundamentals of Elocution/’ delivered by Prof. Bell, he tersely
“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 wanting.”
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.”
“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 contribution. 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, surpassed by no other speaker at the convention.
Bell’s presence permeated and dominated everything, * * * *.
Alexander Melville Bell is the greatest 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 when he entered the
hall, and well might they congratulate themselves on being
privileged to attend a session that is a historical event in
American elocution. Words can only very inadequately describe the
scenes at the Bell session. On the platform stood an elocutionary
patriarch, whose discoveries, 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 hereafter he never could, or would apoligize
for being an elocutionist, * * * * The presence of Alexander
Melville Bell at the Chautauqua convention has leavened the whole
elocutionary lump, and has put a heart into the National Association
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 elocutionary labors:
“‘An Uncrowned King,’ the phrase sprang to my mind as Prof.
Alexander 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 Alphabet, 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
benefactions, 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
to speak every language as it is spoken by the Nations of all
classes. Missionaries learn through Visible Speech to speak
accurately the language 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 gymnastics
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
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 affectation, 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
The scope of Prof. Bell’s thoughts, however, were not wholly
absorbed by his profession, as t'he list of publications here
appended, and the honors bestowed upon him, show. He was also
thoroughly versed in the Science of Phonetics and Stenography;
likewise an ardent advocate of amended Orthography, deeply
interested in various forms of Social Science, and possessed of
considerable poetic gift. Whilst not an electrician, he may no
doubt, however, have contributed somewhat towards 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 benefactions 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 building, 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 ifnpressively
“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,
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 the Duchess expressed themselves as highly
gratified 011 receiving so singularly appropriate and useful a
Nor were friends and relatives 011 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
The greatest charm, however, 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
intellectual treat few mortals can ever have enjoyed with such
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 baffle accurate portrayal. It can truthfully 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 criticism seemed foreign to him.
His mind seemed utterly free from malice 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 silently 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 gentleness. To
see him ensconsed in his chair 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 canaries and mocking birds, or marvelling at the
ceaseless and graceful evolutions of the fishes in his aquarium.
These pets, together with flowers of all kinds, not onl^afforded him
congenial companionship and diversion, but also a constant,
delightfully interesting study.
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, Anthropological
Society of Washington, and the National Geographic Society, a life
member of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech
to the Deaf, an honorary member 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, towards 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, surrounded by his
immediate family and a few close friends, he gently passed away.
Truly, like Gladstone will Alexander Melville 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 Wilson, 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. Dali, of the Smithsonian Institution; Mr.
Ainsworth R. Spofford, first Assistant Librarian of Congress; and
Dr. A. L. E. Crouter, President of the American Association to
Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PROFESSOR ALEXANDER MELVILLE BELL, P. E. I. S., F.
R. S. S. A., A. S., Etc.
*ELOCUTION, VOCAL PHYSIOLOGY, AND DEFECTS OF SPEECH.
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.
1860. 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. ,
VISIBLE SPEECH AND PHONETICS.
1866. Visible Speech: A New Fact Demonstrated.
1867. Visible Speech: The Science of Universal Alphabetics,
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.
1883. Visible Speech Reader.
1885. University Lectures on Phonetics.
1886. English 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.
NEW ORTHOGRAPHY OF ENGLISH.
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.
1851. 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.
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