Every family has its stories. Passed down through the generations as tales told at family gatherings or by grandparents to their grandchildren, they detail who we are and how we came to be. However, how many of us can tell our stories through the exact words of the people that lived them?
Alexander Graham Bell and his descendants could easily answer this question. Born in an age when letter writing was commonplace with most people, Aleck and his family were copious writers who held that their epistles to each other should not be discarded. As a result, their story can be told, today, through thousands of letters dating as early as 1862, when the inventor was only fifteen years old.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell lived a unique life. Influenced by his father, Melville, a professor of elocution, and his deaf mother, Eliza; the loss of his brothers, Melville and Edward, to Consumption; and marriage to his deaf pupil, Mabel Hubbard, Bell left a legacy to the world that few could imagine living without. How this came to pass can best be seen through the letters that passed between these individuals. These letters we present to you here.
Written to Mabel, Alec revealed the reason for the return of his sick headaches. Overworking himself had once again brought on his “dreaded enemy.” His father had certainly created quite a stir with his lecture in Boston. With his father’s return to Brantford, Alec felt the loss of having Melville nearby.
No. 5 Exeter Place,
Boston, April 13th, 1876
My dear May
I hope you had a pleasant evening yesterday at Prof. Horsford’s. I wish I could have been there too.
As it was I had such a bad headache that I was unable to work at the Examination Papers or anything else and so retired to bed at seven o’clock — fell asleep almost immediately — and did not waken till eight o’clock this morning. I have made such good progress today that I have at last finished all the Examination Papers — and now sit down to say goodnight to you — before retiring to rest. It has been such a lovely afternoon that I could not resist the temptation of a walk in the open air for about half-an-hour — and the result is I have a few telegraphic thoughts to send to my Secretary in-chief.
Quite a number of visitors came to see me yesterday at my rooms. One or two ladies wishing to join my new class. Two deaf ladies desiring to have instruction in Lip-reading — and a lady who wanted a teacher for her deaf daughter. Miss Rogers also made her appearance en route for her home in Billerica.
I enclose a gratifying little note just received from Dr. Blake.
Mr. Baldwin — of the Y. M. C. U. told me yesterday how much astonished he had been at the immense audience that had assembled to hear my father’s lecture. The frequent applause of the audience so excited the curiosity of the President and officers — that at last the Directors decided to break up their meeting — and they adjourned in a body to the hall to hear the lecture. A gentleman in Dedham who saw a notice of the lecture in the morning Post wrote yesterday to the Y. M. C. U. saying, “Will someone be kind enough to send me the address of A. Melville Bell at once.” My rooms seem quite desolate and empty since my father went away. Had I not determined to go nowhere until my Examination Papers were finished I could not have resisted the temptation of Cambridgezing this evening.
The Bell Letters are annotated by Brian Wood, curator, Bell Homestead National Historic Site.