Adventures of a Deaf-Mute and Other Short Pieces

By William B. Swett
Introduction by Kristen C. Harmon

Categories: Literature / Poetry / Literary Studies, Deaf Studies
Series: Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781563686832, 128 pages, February 2017
Ebook : 9781563686849, 128 pages, February 2017
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This collection of works by noted Deaf New Englander William B. Swett, which originally appeared in the late nineteenth century, includes his accounts of adventures in the rugged White Mountains of New Hampshire.



In Adventures of a Deaf-Mute, Deaf New Englander William B. Swett recounts his adventures in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the late 1860s. Given to us in short, energetic episodes, Swett tells daring stories of narrow escapes from death and other perilous experiences during his time as a handyman and guide at the Profile House, a hotel named for the nearby Old Man of the Mountain rock formation. A popular destination, the hotel attracted myriad guests, and Swett’s tales of rugged endurance are accompanied by keen observations of the people he meets.
       Confident in his identity as a Deaf “mute,” he notes with wry humor the varied perceptions of deafness that he encounters. As a signing Deaf person from a prominent multigenerational Deaf family, he counters negative stereotypes with generosity and a smart wit. He takes pride in his physical abilities, which he showcases through various stunts and arduous treks in the wilderness. However, Swett’s writing also reveals a deep awareness of the fragility and precariousness of life. This is a portrait of a man testing his physical and emotional limits, written from the vantage point of someone who is no longer a young man but is still very much in the prime of his life.
       This collection also includes “Mr. Swett and His Diorama,” an article from 1859 in which Swett describes his miniature recreation of the Battle of Lexington, as well as Manual Alphabets, a pamphlet published in 1875 on the history of manual alphabets that includes short biographies of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, two pioneers of Deaf education in the United States. The work is accompanied by a new introduction that offers a reflection on Swett’s life and the time in which he lived.


William B. Swett was born in 1824 in Henniker, New Hampshire. He was a carpenter and joiner and an active member of the Boston Deaf-Mutes' Library Association, the Boston Deaf-Mutes’ Mission, and the New England Gallaudet Association of Deaf Mutes.



"Swett's stories promote triumph in the face of adversity, showcasing that he refused to be restricted by artificial boundaries...Swett used his essays to portray himself as a man with agency over his own aspirations for independence." 

— H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences