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affected. A stroke of the palsy has been known, while it did not destroy the power of speech, to render the patient incapable of recollecting the names of the most familiar objects. What is still more remarkable, the name of an object has been known to suggest the idea of it as formerly, although the sight of the object ceased to suggest the name. Something similar to this last fact (it may not be improper here to remark) occurs in an inferior degree, in the case of most old men, even when they do not labor under any specific disease. When the faculty of Memory begins to decline, the first symptom of its failure is, in ordinary cases, a want of recollection of words ; First of proper names and dates; and afterwards of words in general. The transition from the sign to the thing signified seems, in every case, easier than from the thing signified to the sign; and hence it is, that many persons who are able to read a foreign language with ease, are perfectly unable to express themselves in that language in conversation, or even in writing. Of this fact some explanation may be given, without having recourse to any physiological consideration ; for we are accustomed to pass from the sign to the thing signified every time we read a book, or listen to the conversation of another person ; whereas we pass from the thing signified to the sign, only when we have occasion to communicate our own ideas to others: And cases of this last sort bear (it is evident) no proportion, in point of number, to the former. With respect to our peculiar tendency to forget proper names, when the memory begins to be impaired, the fact seems to be owing: 1. To the firmer hold which general words take of the mind, in consequence of their smaller number: 2. To the exercise wbich our recollection of general words is constantly receiving in the course of our solitary speculation ; for (as was formerly shown) we can carry op general reasonings by means of language only; whereas, when we speculate concerning individuals, we frequently fix our thoughts on the object itself, without thinking of the name.* this is not always the case. To some men and women, the incessant exercise of speech seems to be no less necessary than the function of respiration; and to such persons, while indulging this uncontrollable propensity, the entertainment of their hearers is not at all an object. It is sufficient if they can obtain apparent listeners, however impatient.
In this observation, it gives me great pleasure to find my own conclusion confirmed by the opinion of a late eminent and enlightened physician, Dr. Percival, of Manchester. I shall quote his words at length, as they contain (beside that coincidence of views which leads me at present to introduce them) a very curious physiological remark, which was not likely to occur to any one but to a medical observer, and which I do not recollect to have seen taken notice of by any previous writer.
Slight paralytic affections of the organs of speech sometimes occur without any correspondent disorder in other parts of the body. In such cases, the tongue appears to the patient too large for his mouth,—the saliva flows more copiously than usual,—and the vibratory power of the glottis is somewhat impaired. Hence the effort to speak succeeds the volition of the mind slowly and imperfectly, and the words are uttered with faltering and hesitation. These are facts of common notoriety; but I have never seen it remarked, that in this local palsy the pron unciation of PROPER NAMES is attended with peculiar difficulty, and that the recollec. tion of them becomes either very obscure, or entirely obliterated; whilst that of
I shall only add farther on this head, that, as far as my own personal observations have extended, the forgetfulness of proper names incident to old men, is chiefly observable in men of science, or in those who are habitually occupied with important affairs : and this, I apprehend, is what might reasonably have been expected à priori ; partly from their habits of general thought, and partly from their want of constant practice in that trivial conversation which is every moment recalling particulars to the mind.
In endeavoring thus to account, from the general laws of our constitution, for some of the phenomena which are commonly referred immediately to physical changes in the brain, I would not be understood to deny, that age often affects the memory through the medium of the body. This, indeed, is one of those melancholy truths to which every day's experience bears witness. It is beautifully and pathetically stated by Locke in the following words: “ The pictures drawn in our minds are laid in fading colors, and, if not sometimes refreshed, vanish and disappear. Thus the ideas as well as children of our youth often die before us; and our minds represent to us those tombs to which we are approaching; where, though the brass and marble remain, yet the inscription's are effaced by time, and the imagery moulders away."*-Essay, &c. Book ii. chap. 10. persons, places, things, and even of abstract ideas, remains unchanged. Such a partial defect of memory, of which experience has furnished me with several ex. amples, confirms the theory of association, and at the same time admits of an easy solution by it. For as words are arbitrary marks, and owe their connexion with what they import to established usage, the strength of this connection will be exactly proportioned to the frequency of their recurrence; and this recurrence must be much more frequent with generic than with specific terms. Now, proper names are of the latter class ; and the idea of a person or place may remain vivid in the mind, without the least signature of the appellative which distinguishes each of them. It is certain also, that we often think in words; and there is probably at such times some slight impulse on the organs of speech, analogous to what is perceived when a musical note or tune is called to mind. But a lesion of the power of utterance may break a link in the chain of association, and thus add to the partial defect of memory now under consideration.”-(Perciral's Works, Vol. II. p. 73.)
I transcribe the following very curious statement from the account of the late distinguished naturalist and agriculturist, Mr. Broussonet, (published in the Biographie Universelle, Paris, 1812.) “ La maladie de Broussonet presenta une particularité propre à éclaircir l'histoire idéologique del'homme. Broussonet dans les derniers mois de sa vie, depuis sa chûte, avait entièrement perdu la mémoire des noms propres et des substantifs ; les adjectifs, soit Français, soit Latins, se présentaient en foule, et il s'en servait pour caracteriser les objects dont il voulait parler."
The explanation of this fact turns, I apprehend, on the same principle as that of the foregoing,—that adjectives being universally and essentially general terms, they form necessary instruments of thought in all our speculations; and must, of consequence, take a much firmer hold of the memory than the names of the innumerable sensible objects with which we are surrounded, and about which we have every moment occasion to think, without taking the trouble to employ the mediation of languages.
* In ordinary cases, I confess, I strongly suspect that the physical effects of old age on this part of our constitution are not so great as is commonly imagined; and that much of what is generally imputed to advanced years, may be fairly ascribed to a disuse of the faculty, occasioned by a premature retreat from the business of the world. One thing is certain (as Cicero has remarked) that those old men who have force of mind to keep up their habits of activity to the last, are, in most cases, distinguished by a strength of memory unusual at their years; to which I may add, that this faculty, after a temporary decline, frequently recovers a great deal of its former vigor.
In so far as this decay of memory which old age brings along with it, is a necessary consequence of a physical change in the constitution, or a necessary consequence of a diminution of sensibility, it is the part of a wise man to submit cheerfully to the lot of his nature. But it is not unreasonable to think, that something may be done by our own efforts, to obviate the inconveniences which commonly.result from it. If individuals, who, in the early part of life, have weak memories, are sometimes able to remedy this defect, by a greater attention to arrangement in their transactions, and to classification among their ideas, than is necessary to the bulk of mankind, might it not be possible, in the same way, to ward off, at least to a certain degree, the encroachments which time makes on this faculty ? The few old men who continue in the active scenes of life to the last moment, it has been often remarked, complain, in general, much less of a want of recollection, than their contemporaries. This is undoubtedly owing partly to the effect which the pursuits of business must necessarily have, in keeping alive the power of attention. But it is probably owing also to new habits of arrangement, which the mind gradually and insensibly forms, frorn the experience of its growing infirmities. The apparent revival of memory in old men, after a temporary decline, which is a case that happens not unfrequently, seems to favor this supposition.
“I never yet heard of any old man,” says Cicero in the character of Cato, “whose memory was so weakened by time, as to forget where he had concealed his treasure. The aged seem, indeed, to be at no loss in remembering whatever is the principal object of their attention; and few there are at that period of life who cannot tell what recognizances they have entered into, or with whom they have had any pecuniary transactions. Innumerable instances of a strong memory in advanced years might be produced from among our celebrated lawyers, pontiffs, augurs, and philosophers; for the faculties of the mind will preserve their powers in old age unless they are suffered to lose their energy, and become languid for want of due cultivation.”
-" The mind and body equally thrive by a suitable exertion of their powers. with this difference, however, that bodily exercise ends in fatigue, whereas the mind is never wearied in its activity. When Cæcillius therefore represents cer. tain veterans as fit subjects for the Comic Muse, he alludes only to those weak and credulous dotards, whose infirmities of mind are not so much the natural effects of their years, as the consequence of suffering their faculties to lie dormant and unexerted in a slothful and spiritless inactivity.”—Melmoth's Translation of Cicero on Old Age.
Among the practices to which Cato had recourse for exercising his memory, he mentions his observance of the Pythagorean rule, in recalling every night, all that he had said, or done, or heard the preceding day :- And, perhaps, few rules could be prescribed of greater efficacy for fixing in the mind the various ideas which pass under its review, or for giving it a ready and practical command of them. Indeed, this habit of frequently reviewing the information we possess, either in our solitary meditations, or (which is still better) in our conversations with others, is the most effectual of all the helps to memory that can possibly be suggested. But these remarks properly belong to another branch of our subject.
I mentioned likewise the effects of intoxication as a proof of the dependence of memory on the state of the body. These effects too are curiously diversified in different constitutions. Some men, notwithstanding their ebriety, are able to converse with distinctness and coherence, so that their derangement of mind is not at the time observable by their companions, and yet, after a short sleep, they find all the occurrences which happened to them during intoxication completely obliterated from the memory. Others, whose intoxication is much more apparent at the moment, retain an accurate recollection of all that they see and do while in this condition. Facts of this sort are not unworthy the attention of those who study the varieties of the Intellectual Character in different individuals ; not to mention the interesting field of observation which they open to the medical inquirer.
One old man, I have, myself, had the good fortune to know, who, after a long, an active, and an honorable life, having begun to feel some of the usual effects of advanced years, has been able to find resources in his own sagacity, against most of the inconveniences with which they are commonly attended; and who, by watching his gradual decline with the cool eye of an indifferent observer, and employing his ingenuity to retard its progress, has converted even the infirmities of age into a source of philosophical amusement.
Of the Varieties of Memory in different Individuals. It is generally supposed, that, of all our faculties, memory is that which nature has bestowed in the most unequal degrees on different individuals ; and it is far from being impossible that this opinion may be well founded. If, however, we consider, that there is scarcely any man who has not memory sufficient to learn the use of language, and to learn to recognise, at the first glance, the appearances of an infinite number of familiar objects; besides acquiring such an acquaintance with the laws of nature, and the ordinary course of human affairs, as is necessary for directing his conduct in life; we shall be satisfied that the original disparities among men, in this respect, are by no means so immense as they seem to be at first view, and that much is to be ascribed to different habits of attention, and to a difference of selection among the various objects and events presented to their curiosity.
It is worthy of remark, also, that those individuals who possess unusual powers of memory with respect to any one class of objects are commonly as remarkably deficient in some of the other applications of that faculty. I knew a person who, though completely ignorant of Latin, was able to repeat over thirty or forty lines of Virgil, after having heard them once read to him,-not indeed with perfect exactness, but with such a degree of resemblance as (all circumstances considered) was truly astonishing; yet this person (who was in the condition of a servant) was singularly deficient in memory in all cases in which that faculty is of real practical utility. He was noted in every family in which he had been employed for habits of forgetfulness; and could scarcely deliver an ordinary message without committing some blunder.
A similar observation, I can almost venture to say, will be found
to apply to by far the greater number of those in whom this faculty seems to exhibit a preternatural or anomalous degree of force. The varieties of memory are indeed wonderful, but they ought not to be confounded with inequalities of memory. One man is distinguished by a power of recollecting names, and dates, and genealogies; a second, by the multiplicity of speculations, and of general conclusions treasured up in his intellect; a third by the facility with which words and coinbinations of words (the ipsissima verba of a speaker or of an author) seem to lay hold of his mind; a fourth, by the quickness with which he seizes and appropriates the sense and meaning of an author, while the phraseology and style seem altogether to escape his notice; a fifth, by his memory for poetry; a sixth, by his memory for music; a seventh by bis memory for architecture, statuary, and painting, and all the other objects of taste which are addressed to the eye. All these different powers seem miraculous to those who do not possess them; and, as they are apt to be supposed by superficial observers to be commonly united in the same individuals, they contribute much to encourage those exaggerated estimates concerning the original inequalities among men in respect to this faculty, which I am now endeavoring to reduce to their just standard.*
As the great purpose to which this faculty is subservient, is to enable us to collect, and to retain, for the future regulation of our conduct, the results of our past experience ; it is evident that the degree of perfection which it attains in the case of different persons, must vary; first, with the facility of making the original acquisition ; secondly, with the permanence of the acquisition; and thirdly, with the quickness or readiness with which the individual is able, on particular occasions, to apply it to use. The qualities therefore, of a good memory are, in the first place, to be susceptible; secondly, to be retentive; and thirdly, to be ready.
It is but rarely that these three qualities are united in the same person. We often, indeed, meet with a memory which is at once susceptible and ready; but I doubt much, if such memories be commonly very retentive. For the same set of habits which are favorable to the two first qualities are adverse to the third. Those individuals, for example, who, with a view to conversation, make a
I recollect to have heard Mr. Gibbon observe, that all the royal families in Europe were remarkable for a faculty of recognising faces, and of recalling proper names. The same thing is taken notice of by the Marquis de Bouilié, in his account of the late King of Sweden, Gustavus the Third. “ His memory was singularly retentive; a thing,” the same writer adds, “ very common in princes, and which seems almost like a sixth sense bestowed upon them by nature.” lar remark is made by the Prince de Ligne in a letter from Kiof to the Marchioness de Coigny. “ The Empress," (Catharine Second of Russia)“ received me as if I had left her six days, instead of six years ago. She recalled to my mind a thousand things which monarchs alone can remember, for their memory is always excellent.”—(Letters of the Prince de Ligne, edited by Madame de Staël.) NO fact can demonstrate more incontestibly to what a degree the apparent inequalities among individuals in the original capacities of their minds depend on the occupations and habits of their tender years.