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time, I am fully satisfied that these differences are greatly overrated. Even in those cases where memory seems to be the weakest and most incapable of culture, there is commonly sufficient capacity to enable the individual to acquire a competent knowledge of his mother-tongue, and to learn to recognise, at the first glance, an immense multitude of particular objects belonging to all the different departments of nature; beside that general acquaintance with the laws of the material world, and the properties of material substances, which is necessary for the preservation of our animal existence; and that no less indispensable acquaintance with many maxims of common sense, relative to life and conduct, without a knowledge of which a man approaches to the condition of an idiot or changeling. If we were to analyse carefully this stock of information, it would be found to comprehend a far greater number of particulars than we might be disposed at first to suspect.
I shall avail myself of the title which I have prefixed to this section, to introduce here a few detached passages from different authors, which appear to me worthy of the attention of those who take an interest in the study of the mind. Some of them are from books not likely to excite the curiosity of the generality of readers : and all of them may be more or less useful in illustrating the foregoing conclusions. With these extracts I shall intersperse slight comments of my own.
I begin with a passage from Leibnitz, one of the few philosophers who have favored the world with any reflections on the peculiarities of his own intellectual character. “Duplex est inventio seu ingeniositas, quamadmodom et memoriæ. Alia prompta et ab ingenio dependens, alia solida et a judicio orta. Illam habent eloquentes, hanc tardi, sed ad negotia tamen non inepti. Quidam singulari sunt varietate, ut certo tempore, certo loco sint mire prompti, alio extremè tardi ; in quibus me numero, qui et hoc sentio, paucos esse mei characteris, et omnia facilia mihi difficilia, omnia contra difficilia mihi facilia esse.”
Upon this very remarkable expression with respect to himself it were to be wished that Leibnitz had enlarged a little more fully. The only interpretation I can put upon it is, that he felt a certain degree of dificulty necessary to rouse his intellectual faculties to action; and that, in consequence of this circumstance (combined probably with a consciousness of his own powers) he was inferior to the common run of mankind in some of those easy acquisitions which are within the reach of all. The case, I apprehend, is not a singular one, as we often meet with men of the most splendid talents who are deficient, to a ludicrous degree, in some of the most simple and mechanical branches of school education. I shall only mention, as examples, the art of penmanship, and the still more important one, of arithmetical computation; in both of which
+ Leibnitz, Op. Tom. VI. p. 302.
(though from different causes) the progress of the student is retarded rather than aided by an extraordinary degree of quickness and of intellectual capacity; and in which, accordingly, men of genius may be expected to fall below the general standard, unless in those cases where they have had the good fortune to be carefully trained to the practice of them in their childhood, or very early youth. All such acquisitions (it may be here observed by the way,) should on this account be rendered by habit a second nature, before the powers of reason and reflection have attained such a degree of strength as to render the task of the learner irksome to himself, by presenting more interesting objects to his curiosity. The art of reading, in particular, may be taught to infants by any person of common sense, by a process almost as insensible as the use of speech.
The foregoing quotation from Leibnitz brings to my recollection, a fragment of Montesquieu, which affords a memorable proof of the difficulty which men of superior minds frequently experience in acquiring a ready and practical knowledge of those trifling and uninteresting details which are treasured up without any effort by those to whose understandings they are more congenial. “With respect to my employment as president, I have an upright heartI comprehend with ease the nature of the business; but of the forms of the court I understand nothing, though I took pains to acquire that knowledge : and what dispirits me most at it is, that I observe in some blockheads the very talent I seem unable to attain.”
I should perhaps have taken an earlier opportunity of remarking, that in contrasting, as I have occasionally done in this section, the species of memory possessed by philosophers with that possessed by the vulgar and illiterate, I evidently have in view those effects only which their respective pursuits have a tendency to produce on the intellectual character. Many exceptions to our general conclusions may be expected in particular instances; nor does there seem to be any impossibility in the nature of things to unite, by a proper education, the advantages of both kinds of memory. That incapacity, for example, of attending to trifling details, of which Montesquieu complains in the above quotation, and which is one great source of what is generally called a bad memory, is undoubtedly a most serious inconvenience to all who have to mingle in the business of the world; and although it is justly overlooked in those whose talents and acquirements raise them much above the common level, yet it can scarcely be guarded against enough by all those who have any concern in the education of youth. To enable a person to command his attention at all times to whatever object is before him, whether trifling or important, so that “whatsoever his hand findeth to do he may do it with all his might," is one of the most important habits that can be communicated to his mind. And it would form a most valuable article in a systematical treatise on education to point out the means by which this habit may be cultivat
ed, or the contrary habits of inattention corrected where they have unfortunately been contracted.
The following judicious remark of Mr. Knox, (in his Treatise on Education, while it throws some additional light on these varieties of memory which have been now under our consideration, suggests a practical lesson which cannot be too steadily kept in view by all who devote themselves to the study of literature and of the scienc
In point of value it seems to me to rise considerably above the ordinary level of this author's philosophy.
“Some persons seem to think that a good memory consists in retaining dates and minute particulars, but I believe, that, though a reader remember but few dates and few minute particulars, he may yet retain all the necessary general ideas and valuable conclusions. He will see a wide and beautiful arrangement of important objects, while another, who stoops to pick up and preserve every trifle, will have his eyes fixed on the ground. It is not enough that the mind can reproduce just what it has received from reading, and no more; it must reproduce it digested, altered, improved, and refined. Reading, like food, must show its effects in promoting growth; according to a striking remark of Epictetus, the application of which is sufficiently obvious without any comment; 'Sheep do not show the shepherd how much they have eaten by producing the grass itself; but by producing outwardly wool and milk after their pasture is inwardly digested.” ” Τα πρόβατα ου τον χόρτον φέροντα
@ τους ποιμιέσιν επιδεικνύει πόσον έφαγεν αλλά την νομήν έσω πέψαντα, έριον έξω φέρει και γάλα.*
We are informed by Dr. Priestley in the Memoirs of his life, of some intellectual peculiarities of his character, which he very judiciously connects with certain defects in his faculty of memory. “As I have not failed," he observes, to attend to the phenomena of my own mind, as well as to those of other parts of nature, I have not been insensible of some great defects, as well as some advantages, attending its constitution ; having from an early period, been subject to a most humbling failure of recollection, so that I have sometimes lost all ideas of both persons and things that I have been conversant with, I have so completely forgotten what I have myself published, that in reading my own writings, what I find in them often appears perfectly new to me, and I have more than once made experiments, the results of which had been published by me.
“I shall particularly mention one fact of this kind, as it alarmed me much at the time as a symptom of all my mental powers totally failing me, until I was relieved by the recollection of things of a similar nature having happened to me before. When I was composing the Dissertations which are prefixed to my Harmony of the Gospels, I had to ascertain something, which had been the subject
Epicteti Enchiridion, Cap. xlvi.—Mr. Knox might also have quoted the 8th Epistle of Seneca, which contains nearly the same train of thinking, accompanied too by illusirations strikingly similar.
of much discussion, relating to the Jewish Passover, (I have now forgotten what it was,) and for that purpose had to consult and compare several writers. This I accordingly did, and digested the result in the compass of a few paragraphs, which I wrote in short hand. But having mislaid the paper, and my attention having been drawn off to other things, in the space of a fortnight I did the same thing over again, and should never have discovered ibat I had done it twice, if, after the second paper was transcribed for the press, I had not accidentally found the former, which I viewed with a degree of terror.
· Apprised of this defect, I never fail to note down as soon as possible everything that I wish not to forget. The same failing has led me to devise, and have recourse to, a variety of mechanical expedients to secure and arrange my thoughts, which have been of the greatest use to me in the composition of large and complex works; and what has excited the wonder of some of my
readers, would only have made them smile if they had seen me at work. But by simple and mechanical methods one man shall do that in a month which shall cost another, of equal ability, whole years to execute. The methodical arrangement of a large work is greatly facilitated by mechanical methods, and nothing contributes more to the perspicuity of a large work than a good arrangement of its
“ As great excellencies are often balanced by great, though not apparent, defects, so great and apparent defects are often accompanied by great, though not apparent, excellencies. Thus my defect, in point of recollection, which may be owing to a want of sufficient coherence in the association of ideas formerly impressed, may arise from a mental constitution more favorable to new associations ; so that what I have lost with respect to memory may have been compensated by what is called invention, or new and original combinations of ideas. This is a subject that deserves attention, as well as every thing else that relates to the affections of the mind.”—Priestley's Memoirs of his own Life, pp. 105, 106, 107, 108.
The foregoing statement, considering the very high authority upon which it rests, forms a most valuable accession to our stock of facts with respect to memory; and it has the additional merit of being given in plain and precise language, without being at all adulterated by any mixture of the author's physiological theories. In the concluding paragraph, too, where he indulges himself in a
This remark of Priestley's reminds me of a MS. which was shown to me (among other curious papers) by the late Abbé Morellet in the year 1806. It was entitled “ Moyens de fuciliter les traraur des hommes littéraires I had not an opportunity of reading it; but from what he told me of its contents, I am persuaded that it would be a most valuable present to the republic of letters. As the MS. appeared to be fairly written out for the press, I trust that in due time it will be given to the world.
short speculation concerning this peculiarity in his own intellectual characier, he has followed, so far as he goes, that mode of reasoning which seems to me the only legitimate one in examining any of the phenomena of mind. How satisfactory are such modest and cautious conclusions when compared with the vibrations and vibratiuncles of his favorite school !
Of the Improvement of Memory.—Analysis of the Principles on
which the Culture of Memory depends.
The improvement of which the mind is susceptible by culture, is more remarkable, perhaps, in the case of Menory, than in that of any other of our faculties. The fact has been often taken notice of in general terms; but I am doubtful if the particular mode in which culture operates on this part of our constitution, has been yet examined by philosophers with the attention which it deserves.
of one sort of culture, indeed, of which Memory is susceptible in a very striking degree, no explanation can be given ; I mean the improvement which the original faculty acquires by mere exercise ; or, in other words, the tendency which practice has to increase our natural facility of association. This effect of practice upon the memory, seems to be an ultimate law of our nature ; or rather, to be a particular instance of that general law, that all our powers, both of body and mind, may be strengthened, by applying them to their proper purposes.
Besides, however, the improvement which Memory admits of, in consequence of the effects of exercise on the original faculty, it may be greatly aided in its operations, by those expedients which reason and experience suggest for employing it to the best advantage. These expedients furnish a curious subject of philosophical examination : perhaps, too, the inquiry may not be altogether without use ; for, although our principal resources for assisting the memory be su gested by nature, yet it is reasonable to think, that in this, as in sinilar cases, by following out systematically the hints which she suggests to us, a farther preparation may be inade for our intellectual improvement. | Every person must have remarked, in entering upon any new species of study, the difficulty of treasuring up in the memory its elementary principles; and the growing facility which he acquires in this respect, as his knowledge becomes more extensive. By analysing the different causes which concur in producing this facility, we may, perhaps, be led to some conclusions which may admit of a practical application.
1. In every science, the ideas about which it is peculiarly con