One of the best educated and most distinguished deaf mutes was Massieu,
who gave the following remarkable replies to questions put to him by
"What is hearing?" "Hearing," said he, "is auricular sight." Another
party asked him whether he made any distinction between a conqueror and
a hero? "Arms and soldiers made a conqueror; courage of heart a hero.
Julius Caesar was the hero of the Rom
ns; Napoleon the hero of Europe,"
was the answer he wrote on the blackboard, without hesitation.
In reply to the following questions, he instantly wrote answers. "What
is hope?" "Hope is the blossom of happiness." "What is happiness?"
"Happiness is pleasure that ceaseth not; and misfortune is grief that
endeth not." "What is the difference between hope and desire?" "Desire
is a tree in leaf; hope is a tree in flower; and enjoyment is a tree in
fruit." Another pupil standing by wrote, in reply to the same question,
"Desire is the inclination of the heart; hope is a confidence of the
mind." A stranger asked Massieu, "What difference do you think there is
between God and nature?" His reply was "God is the first maker, the
Creator of all things. The first beings all came out of His divine
breast; He has said to the first beings, ye shall make the second; to
the second ye shall make the third beings; His wills are laws; His laws
"What is time?" "A line that has two ends, a path that begins in the
cradle and ends in the tomb." "What is eternity?" "A day without
yesterday or to-morrow, a line that has no end." "What is God?" "The
necessary being, the sun of eternity, the mechanist of nature, the eye
of justice, the watch-maker of the universe, the soul of the world." The
deceptive and acute question, "Does God reason?" was put to him, it is
said, by Sir James Macintosh, Massieu at once wrote, "Man reasons
because he doubts; he deliberates, he decides; God is omniscient; He
knows all things; He never doubts; He therefore never reasons."
Lucien Buonaparte once asked Massieu, "What is laziness or idleness?"
"It is a disgust from useful occupation; a disinclination to do
anything; from which result indigence, want of cleanliness and misery,
disease of body and the contempt of others." In writing this answer the
gestures and looks of Massieu were in perfect accordance with the ideas
that might be supposed to exist with him and the words he was writing.
When he had finished the last word he turned round, and then his whole
person, with his countenance and his eyes, exhibited one of the justest
pantomimic representations of laziness which it is possible to conceive.
After he had a moment dwelt upon this personification, which his fancy
suggested to him, he made an expressive transition to the looks and
manners of a person filled with that dread and abhorrence which the idea
of laziness should ever inspire.