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Banquet 18341 1er Banquet 122e Anniversaire de la naissance de lAbb de lEpe Dimanche 30 Novembre 1834 1st Banquet 122nd

d Anniversary of the birth of the Abb de lEpe Sunday 30th November 1834

p.11 Ctait chose curieuse voir que ce banquet, par lequel les sourds-muets, anciens lves de lcole de Paris, clbraient le cent vingt-deuxime anniversaire de la naissance de labb de lEpe. Pour la premire fois ils ftaient le souvenir de celui que, dans leur langue si potique, si pleine dimages, et qui semble un cho lointain des idiomes mtaphorique de lOrient, ils nappelrent jamais que leur pre intellectuel. A cinq heures, prs de soixante membres de cette nation toute part
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p.11 What a strange thing it was to see this banquet, the means by which the deaf-mutes, ex-pupils of the Paris school, celebrated the one hundred and twenty second anniversary of the birth of the abb de lEpe. For the first time they celebrated the memory of the one who, in their language so poetic, so full of images, and which seems to contain distant echoes of the metaphorical idioms of the Orient2 they always refer to as the father of their minds3.

There is evidence that, although the Socit Centrale is positioned as the author of this account having published it in 1842, it is an almost verbatim copy of articles published only a few days after the banquet itself, in a number of newspapers written by hearing people (B. Maurice, and Eugne de Monglave notably). This wouldnt detract from its position within a canon of the banquets However, it does suggest (and de Monglaves known role as a Basque nationalist agitator, and his reference to a nation apart on p.11 lends further support to the idea) that the political positioning of the banquets, and the adoption of nation as a trope for the community of sourdsmuets in the late 1830s did not immediately emerge from the Deaf community at the time but was something that emerged later as the political awareness of the community grew.
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References to the Orient are particularly interesting not only because of the way that they draw upon earlier, Enlightenment debates about sign language as a universal, but because of later more recent work on Orientalisation. The extent to which Deaf people were held up as Others, and the way that reflected back upon the hearing world at the time is something that has been explored by writers like Jonathan Re and Nick Mirzoeff.

taient runis dans les salons du restaurant de la place du Chtelet. Il y avait l des professeurs, des peintres, des graveurs, des employs de diffrentes administrations, des imprimeurs, de simples ouvriers, qui, rejets par la nature martre du sein de notre socit, ont trouv les moyens, par leur intelligence, dy rentrer de dy conqurir des positions qui les font vivre honorablement. Il y avait l des cerveaux larges, hauts et bien construits, que la Socit de phrnologie eut admirs ; les yeux qui ptil-

At five oclock, nearly sixty members of this community; a nation in its own right4, came together in the rooms of the restaurant in the Place du Chtelet. Present were teachers, painters, engravers, employees of different administrations, printers, simple labourers, those who bitterly rejected from the heart of society found the means, by their intelligence, to make their way within it and to win positions that would allow them to earn their way with honour. Present were wide heads; high and well shaped, that would have drawn the admiration of the Phrenology Society eyes that sparkled

p.12 laient de verve, des doigts actifs, rapides, qui devancent la parole, des reprsentations privilgis enfin de toute une espce exceptionelle, espce malheureusement relle et non chimrique, que lingnieux Swift ne

p. 12 with energy and enthusiasm, quick and active fingers that dance ahead of speech, the privileged representatives we might say of an entirely exceptional species, a species that is unfortunately real, and not merely imaginary (fictional/fantastic), one that the ingenious Swift did

You could also translate this, father of thought there is a strong current in the early French Deaf community that sees de lEpe as the person who, through the gift of sign language, liberated their minds and restored them to humanity.
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This is, apart from a few references to Corners of the world by Sicard the first direct reference to Deaf people as a nation. Originally penned by Eugne de Monglave, a known agitator for nationalist recognition for the Basques, and also apparently fascinated by the Deaf community and their nationhood form it is an idea that crystalised gradually within a certain strata of the Deaf community and was eventually used by key figures like Berthier until the 1850s. Later, particularly from the 1840s, it became synonymous with an approach to Deaf emancipation that required some kind of recognition of the Deaf community by the French state as a validly equal entity and had strong ties to a utopian desire that saw the oppression of the Deaf community only solved by an uneasy separation from the hearing world. Deaf nation was increasingly identified as one of the core barriers to progress by both hearing and Deaf proponents of integration and ended up being rejected (along with Berthier and his Socit Centrale allies) towards the 1850s and 60s Thats another story. At this point Deaf nation should be seen as an interesting idea and one that is largely politically neutral although it has some interesting hooks in it.

couponna pas, et que sa plume aurait si bien dcrite sil lavait connnue. Deux parlants seuls avaient obtenu le rare privilge dassister cette fte trangre ; ctaient M. Eugne de Monglave, rcemment appel faire partie de la commission consultative tablie prs linstitution royale de Paris, ami des sourds-muets, parlant leur langue, initi aux us et coutumes de la nation, et M. B. Maurice, alors rdacteur du journal le Temps, homme incomplet, du dire des ces messieurs, infortun priv de la parole mimique, paria de cette socit, oblig de recourir au crayon pour entrer en conversation avec les hros de la fte. Une expression dineffable piti se lisait dans tous les traits son approche. Le malheureux, disaient les heureux du moment, il ne pourra pas se faire comprendre. Du reste, on se tromperait fort si lon supposait que cette runion prsentt tien de pnible ou daffligeant. Jamais au contraire on ne vit banquet plus gai, plus anim par des sentiments unanimes de sympathie et de bonheur. Le prsident de la fte, M. Ferdinand Berthier, professeur sourd-muet lInstitut royal de Paris, celui qui a initi la mimique les plus sduisantes actrices de la capitale, celui qui Lhrie doit tout son rle du Sauveur (Vaudeville alors en vogue), Berthier, dont la physionomie et les doigts sont si expressifs, a fait ensuite lloge de labb de lEpe en ces termes : Frres, Cest une ide qui fait honneur vos curs reconnaissants,

not suspect but that his pen would have described so well, had he known of it. Only two speaking people were given the rare privilege of attending this foreign/strange5 feast; M. Eugne de Monglave, recently called to join the consultative commission established for the Institution Royale de Paris, a friend to sourds-muets, knowing their language, initiated to the traditions and customs of the nation6. The other was M. B. Maurice, at that time, editor of the paper le Temps; an unfinished/incomplete man as those present would describe him, impoverished and lacking in the speech of mimique, pariah of the society present, obliged to fall back on a pencil as a means of conversing with the heroes of the feast. An expression of ineffable pity could be seen on the faces of all as he approached. Poor thing, said those happiest in that moment, he cant make himself understood. As for the rest, however, it would be a grave error to imagine that such a gathering presented anything painful or distressing. On the contrary, never has there been a more festive banquet, animated by shared feelings of sympathy and happiness. The president of the feast, M. Ferdinand Berthier, a sourd-muet teacher at the Royal Parisian Institution, the same Berthier who introduced the most seductive actresses of the capital to the language of mimique, and to whom Lhrie owes his role of Saviour (Vaudeville being, at that time, in vogue), Berthier whose face and fingers are so expressive, then presented the following eulogy of the Abb de lEpe.

The ambiguity between foreign and strange (from stranger) in French is informative here. Remember, this was originally written by de Monglave himself.

Brothers: The idea of this annual feast, set aside to perpetuate the memory of the glorious anniversary of the birth of the father of our minds is one that honours your thankful hearts p.13 que celle dinstituer une fte annuelle, consacre perptuer le souvenir du glorieux anniversaire de la naissance de notre pre intellectuel. Nos vux sont accomplis ! Rjouissons-nous-en dans toute la libert de nos communs sentiments ! Une dmarche aussi solennelle ne va-t-elle pas prouver la France, toutes les nations civilises, que nous ne sommes pas indignes dapprcier luvre de cet homme de gnie, uvre de bienfaisance et dmancipation, lgue la patrie et recueillie avec vnration par le monde entier ? Charg, par votre choix, de prsider pour la premire fois cette nombreuse assembl, comment vous remercier dun honneur si nouveau, si grand, si inattendu ? Quelque fier que je sois tant de titres de la supriorit de la mimique sur la parole, je tremble que mon motion si vive, si forte, ne me p.13 Our wishes are accomplished! Let us, therefore, allow ourselves to fully rejoice in this shared celebration! Will not such a formal step prove to France, to all civilised nations, that we too are able to appreciate the work of this man of genius, a work of goodwill and emancipation, a work left to the Motherland7, a work shared then for the good of a grateful world. Charged, by your choice, with presiding over this first, numerous assembly, how can I thank you for such a great honour and unexpected honour? Im so proud of the order of superiority of mimique over speech, and I tremble with such strong and raw emotion that I am almost unable to continue. But your intelligence and wisdom will complete what might be found lacking in the expression of my thinking.

the Motherland la Patrie in French (literally, the fatherland). The concept of Patrie was a central idea of the French Revolution. It represented an almost human embodiment of rights, of citizenship in the identity of the country. As de lEpe lay dying in 1789, he was assured that la Patrie will look after your children. What this implied was not well make sure that they are OK, but We are adopting the education of Deaf children, and will use the success that youve had to glorify the French nation It was an adoption of a global idea of genius, with the aim of mediating it to the rest of the world as representative of the power of the Revolution. Hence Berthiers reference in the next phrase to the grateful world.

trouve presque en dfaut. Mais votre intelligence et votre sagacit suppleront ce quil pourra y avoir dincomplet dans lexpression de ma pense. Je comprends, du reste, tout ce que les suffrages unanimes de mes frres mimposent de dvouement, de persvrance dans laccomplissement de nouvelles obligations que je vais contracter envers vous, la face du ciel et des hommes. Ma vie tout entire vous appartient ; seuls vous avez le droit den disposer comme dun bien qui est vous. Jai droit aussi, de mon ct, de compter sur le constant appui de votre confraternit, pour seconder mes efforts et pour mlever la hauteur de la mission que vous avez bien voulu me confier. Port sur cette espce de tribune par vos acclamations (spectacle trange dont aucun sicle navait t tmoin), comment puis-je inaugurer plus dignement cette sainte institution quen vous rappelant les vertus et les travaux de labb de lEpe ? Pour en rehausser le prix, je nentreprendrai point de concentrer longtemps votre attention sur la triste image de la condition des sourds-muets aux temps de barbarie et mme de civilisation, jusquau dix-huitime sicle enfin, poque o les progrs de lesprit humain avaient dj t si rapides. Ce nest pas quavant cet immortel fondateur quelques hommes

I understand, furthermore, what the unanimous suffrage of my brothers8 imposes upon me in terms of devotion or perseverance in the accomplishment of new obligations that I now take up on your behalf, before heaven, and before men. My whole life belongs to you, and only you have the right to dispose of it as you see fit9. I too have the right to count on the constant support of you as brothers with me, to second my efforts and to support me so that I am up to the mission that you have chosen to confer upon me. Carried to this tribune by your applause (a strange spectacle that no century before has ever witnessed), how can I inaugurate this holy institution any better than to remind you of the virtues and the work of the abb de lEpe? Indeed, to raise the bar, I will not spend any time asking you to recall the sad conditions in which sourds-muets lived times of barbarity and civilisation, that even extended to the eighteenth century, a period when human progress was otherwise so rapid. Before this immortal founder, there were but a few, generous men who

Women were not admitted to the banquets until much much later. Their eventual entry was cause for a bitter argument (reported in the Journal des Sourds-Muets in the 1890s) between Berthier (who didnt want them there) and Cochefer (one of the rising leaders of the Deaf community through the 1870s).
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There is a distinctly priestly feel to the speech given by Berthier at the 1834 banquet and reference to a number of church-type symbols. This is a symbolism that grows initially through 1835, 6 and 7 until it replaced more by a Presidential feel in 1838 and subsequently.

p.14 charitables ne se fussent vous au soulagement dune si cruelle infirmit ; mais leurs efforts avaient d spuiser au milieu de lindiffrence publique. Les essais quils avaient tents pour rendre nos frres lusage de la parole, considre de tout temps comme la seule voie pour la transmission des ides, taient trop faibles pour renverser tant dobstacles. Un seul sut dcouvrir un moyen infaillible, le mettre pour ainsi dire en valeur et le fconder, au point de rparer les torts de la nature. Son heureuse sagacit sempara du langage donn tous les tres intelligents sans exception, du langage quont parl nos anctres, que parleront nos descendants, qui est galement compris par lhabitant du dsert et par celui des villes, du langage des gestes enfin. Dans ses leons, soit publiques, soit particulires, labb de lEpe faisait admirer la varit infinie et les immenses ressources que jusque-l lincrdulit stait opinitre refuser ce langage alors quil sommeillait dans les langes de lenfance, alors quil tait encore brut, grossier, informe. Vos ains, ses premiers lves, vous ont dj racont plus dune fois les prodiges de son cole naissante, chaque jour encombre de nouveaux visiteurs de tout pays, de tout rang, et o les pauvres enfants paraissaient tres plus particulirement lobjet de sa tendresse ; car, rptait-il sans cesse, cest pour eux que je me suis fait instituteur. Et ce qui couronne un si beau dvouement, cest de le voir consacrer ses enfants adoptifs tout son patrimoine, se refuser pour eux le strict ncessaire, risquer sa sant pour sauver la leur. On la vu, dans un ge avanc, au milieu de lhiver des plus rigoureux, se priver de bois pour que

p. 14 were committed to the relief of such a cruel infirmity; but their efforts were exhausted in the midst of public indifference. The attempts that they made to give our brothers the use of speech, considered from time immemorial to be the only means for the transmission of ideas, were too weak to overcome so many obstacles. Only one was able to find a way that was infallible; giving it worth and allowing it to spread, so that it would right the wrongs of nature. His happy wisdom seized upon the language that is given, without exception, to all thinking creatures, the language that our ancestors spoke, that our descendents will speak, that is understood just as well by those who live in the wilderness (desert) and those who live in the town - that is to say, the language of signs. In both his public and private lessons, the abb de lEpe allowed people to see beyond unbelief, and to admire even as it was still clothed in the swaddling of infancy, still unshaped, incomplete and unrefined the infinite variety and immense resources of that gestural language. Your elders, his first pupils, have told you many times of the marvels of his growing school, how each day brought new visitors from all over the world, and from all social standings, and where the children themselves were most specifically the object of his compassion; It was, after all, he would constantly repeat, for them that I have become a teacher. What crowned such great sacrifice was to see him give his adoptive children all of his wealth. Refusing even the most basic things for himself so that he could give it to them, risking his health to save theirs. Even in advanced old age, and in the midst of the most cruel winter, he was

ses pauvres sourds-muets ne manquassent de rien, et ne consentir enfin se chauffer que lorsque ces enfants, les larmes aux yeux, venait le conjurer de mnager son existence, pour eux tout si prcieuse. Vous savez tout lintrt que lempereur Joseph II, ce souverain si renomm pour sa popularit, portait ltablissement de labb de lEpe, quil alla visiter plusieurs fois durant son sjour Paris.

seen to deprive himself of wood so that his poor sourds-muets would not lack anything, and only agreed to come and warm himself when his children, tears in their eyes, came and pleaded with him to look after himself for their own sake. You know of the interest that the emperor, Joseph II, a sovereign well known for his popularity, had for the establishment of the abb de lEpe, and that he visited it several times during his time in Paris

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