Epee, Charles Michel De L'

, a very ingenious and benevolent French abbé, and the extensive promoter, if not the inventor, of a method of relieving the deaf and dumb, and rendering them useful members of society, was the son of an architect, who educated him for the church. Having obtained a canonry of Troyes, by the presentation of the bishop of that diocese, he soon became intimate with the prelate Soanen, famous for his attachment to | Quesnel, and his opposition to the bull Unigenitus, and coinciding in his religious opinions, shared in the persecution of which Soanen was the object, and was laid under an interdict. He was first induced to turn his thoughts towards the unhappy case of the deaf and dumb, from observing two young girls in that situation, and although some not altogether unsuccessful attempts had been made before his time, in individual cases, the abbé L’Epee soon outdid the most skilful of his predecessors, by reducing his means to a sort of system. Under his care numerous pupils acquired useful knowledge, and were enabled to hold a communication with their friends. Some of them were enabled to learn several languages; others became profound mathematicians, and others obtained academical prizes by poetical and literary works. Without other means than a moderate personal fortune, for he held no place or preferment, he defrayed the whole expences of his establishment, and always deprived himself of luxuries, and often of necessaries, that his poor pupils might not want. When the emperor Joseph II. came to Paris, he admired the institution and its founder, and asked permission to place under his care an intelligent man, who might diffuse through Germany the blessings of his labours; and he sent him a magnificent gold box with his picture. In 1780 the Russian ambassador came to offer him the compliments of his sovereign, and a considerable present. “Tell Catherine,” said L’Epee, “that I never receive gold; but that if my labours have any claim to her esteem, all I ask of her is to send me from her vast dominions one born deaf and dumb to educate.” This amiable man died in February 1790, justly regretted by his country, and was succeeded in his school by the abbe Sicard. L’Epee wrote, 1. “An Account of the Complaint and Cure of Marianne Pigalle,1759, 12mo. 2. “Institution des Sourds et Muets, par la voie des signes methodiques,1776, 12mo, reprinted in 1784, under the title “La veritable maniere d’instruire les Sourds et Muets, confirmee par une longue experience.” A translation of this was published in London, 1801, 8vo. We cannot conclude this article without adverting to the success of the methods of teaching the deaf and dumb as now practised in this country, and eminently promoted by the “Society for the Deaf and Dumb,” in their Asylum, Kent Road: few charitable foundations have been more | wisely laid, more judiciously conducted, or more liberally supported. 1


Dict. Hist.—Biog. Moderne.—See some remarks on the abbé L’Epee’s system in Dr. Watson’s Instructions for the Deaf and Dumb, 1809, 2 vols. 8vo.