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for the Blind

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Letter to Miss Keller from S.L. Clemens (December 23, 1906)

Transcription of Letter

21 Fifth Avenue
December 23, 1906

Dear Helen Keller:

Oh, thank you for those lovely words!

Now as to your January visit: we must certainly meet then and have a talk.

Another thing. You say, "As a reformer, you know that ideas must be driven home again and again."

Yes, I know it; and by old experience I know that speeches and documents, public meetings are a pretty poor and lame way of accomplishing it. Last year I proposed a sane way--one which I had practised (sic) with success for a quarter of a century--but I wasn't expecting it to get any attention, and it didn't.

Give me a battalion of 200 winsome young girls and matrons, and let me tell them what to do and how to do it, and I will be responsible for showing results. If I could mass them on the stage in front of the audience, and instruct them there, I could make a public meeting take hold of itself, and do something really valuable for once. Not that the real instructing would be done there, for it wouldn't; it would be previously done privately, and merely repeated there.

But it isn't going to happen--the good old way will be stuck to; there'll be a public meeting: with music and prayer, and a wearying report, and a verbal description of the marvels the blind do, and seventeen speeches--then the call, upon all present who are still alive, to contribute. This hoary program was invented in the idiot asylum, and will never be changed. Its function is to breed hostility to good causes.

Some day somebody will recruit my 200--my dear beguile--some Knights of the Golden Fleece--and you will see them make good their ominous name.

Mind, we must meet! Not in the grim and ghastly air of the platform, may-hap, but by the friendly fire--here at 21.

Affectionately your friend,

S.L. Clemens

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