Mr. Jefferson (his full name was Joseph Jefferson, 1829-1905) was a talented actor who was a friend of Helen Keller. In her book, The Story of My Life, she describes going to see him when she was studying in New York, and she felt his movements while playing Rip Van Winkle. While she had read the play, she only understood what she describes as "the charm of Rip's slow, quaint, kind ways" after she visits Mr. Jefferson and feels his movements in the play. She describes his acting as beautiful and pathetic, meaning it creates pathos or sympathetic feeling, in the audience. Helen Keller goes behind the stage and is allowed to feel Mr. Jefferson's face, hair, and costume so that she can really experience the play.
Helen Keller also visits Mr. Jefferson in Boston, where he acts out his part from The Rivals. She is allowed to feel the movements of the play, and he also asks her to guess which gestures should go along with the actions in Rip Van Winkle. Mr. Jefferson is clearly a compassionate and patient man with a great deal of sympathy and interest in helping Helen Keller and encouraging her love of the theatre.