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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tion of the several confessions—Mohammedans, Jews, and Christians. All the prisoners assured us that they had no complaints to make. The few political prisoners confirmed these statements, so that their condition, too, must certainly have been endurable; for it is well known that the political prisoners are the most discontented. A school is connected with the prison, in which a young priest was serving as teacher; the only text-book was a Russian catechism, which was used by Mohammedans and Jews as well as by Christians. The great point was that all learned to read and write. The priest received no pay, but was performing a work of mercy. In the same place are a hospital for the sick and an orphan-house for the children of those convicts whose imprisonment is prolonged. The foundation of this institution was the work of a lady who gave her whole fortune to it, and then devoted herself to the solicitation of means for its support.

When one has studied these conditions on the spot, and has satisfied himself that while the situation of the prisoner condemned to death and pardoned to the mines is hard, it nevertheless depends upon himself whether he shall improve it and make his children free, independent, and prosperous citizens; when one sees how the opportunity is given to all convicts, without distinction as to what their crime may have been, to found by their own exertions a new and honorable career, and that the Government aids the earnest efforts of such persons with counsel and act; when one, finally, contrasts the magnanimity, fidelity, and touching sympathy, existing among private persons, with the sad lot of convicts in Europe and America, he will have to admit that there may be worse countries than Siberia.

 

HOW SPELLING DAMAGES THE MIND.
By FREDERIK A. FERNALD.

LEARNING to read the English language is one of the worst mind-stunting processes that has formed a part of the general education of any people. Its evil influence arises from the partly phonetic, partly lawless character of English spelling. Although each letter represents some sound oftener than any other, there is hardly a letter in the alphabet that does not represent more than one sound, and hardly a sound in the language that is not represented in several ways, while many words are written with as many silent letters as significant ones. There is nothing in any word to indicate in which of these ways its component sounds are represented, nothing in the written group of letters to show which sounds they stand for, and which of them, if any, are silent, so that a learner