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" cause it is too obvious to be mentioned how much " that religious and sacred attention which is due to “ truth, and to the important question, what is the “ rule of life, is lost out of the world.
“ For the sake of this whole class of readers, for " they are of different capacities, different kinds, and “ get into this way from different occafions, I have “ often wished that it had been the custom to lay be. “ fore people nothing in matters of argument but “ premises, and leave them to draw conclufions them“ selves; which, although it could not be done in all " cases, might in many.
“ The great number of books and papers of amuse
ment, which, of one kind or another, daily come in " one's way, have in part occafioned, and most per
fectly fall in with and humour this idle way of
reading and considering things. By this means, “ tine, even in solitude, is happily got rid of without “ the pain of attention ; neither is any part of it more
put to the account of idleness; one can scarce for“ bear saying, is spent with less thought, than great
part of that which is spent in reading."
If the plan of study which I formerly described were adopted, it would undoubtedly diminish very much the number of books which it would be possible to turn over ; but I am convinced that it would add greatly to the stock of useful and folid knowledge ; and by rendering our acquired ideas in some measure our own, would give us a more ready and practical command of them : not to mention, that if we are possessed of any inventive powers,
powers, such exercises would continually fur. nish them with an opportunity of displaying themselves Gg3
upon all the different subjects which may pass under our review.
Nothing, in truth, has such a tendency to weaken, not only the powers of invention, but the intellectual powers in general, as a habit of extensive and various reading, without reflexion. The activity and force of the mind are gradually impaired, in consequence of disuse; and not unfrequently all our principles and opinions come to be lost, in the infinite multiplicity and discordancy of our acquired ideas.
By confining our ambition to pursue the truth with modesty and candour, and learning to value our acquisitions only as far as they contribute to make us wiser and happier, we may perhaps be obliged to sacrifice the temporary admiration of the common difpenfers of literary fame; but we may rest assured, that it is in this way only we can hope to make real progress in knowledge, or to enrich the world with useful inventions.
“ It requires courage, indeed,” (as Helvetius has remarked,) “to remain ignorant of those useless sub“ jects which are generally valued ;” but it is a courage necessary to men who either love the truth, or who aspire to establish a permanent reputation.
Continuation of the fame Subjea.-Of Artificial Memory.
necting in the mind, things difficult to be remembered, with things easily remembered; so as to enable it to retain, and to recollect the former, by means of the latter. For this purpose, various contrivances have been proposed, but I think the foregoing definition applies to all of them.
Some sorts of artificial memory are intended to assist the natural powers of the human mind on particular occasions, which require a more than ordinary effort of recollection ; for example, to aslist a public speaker to recollect the arrangement of a long discourse. Others have been devised with a view to enable us to extend the circle of our acquired knowledge, and to give us a more ready command of all the various par. ticulars of our information.
The topical Memory, so much celebrated among the antient rhetoricians, comes under the former description.
I already remarked, the effect of sensible objects in recalling to the mind the ideas with which it happened to be occupied, at the time when these objects were formerly perceived. In travelling along a road, the sight of the more remarkable scenes we meet with, frequently puts us in mind of the subjects we were thinking or talking of when we last saw them. Such facts, which are perfectly familiar even to the vulgar,
might very naturally suggest the possibility of assisting the memory, by establishing a connexion between the ideas we wish to remember, and certain sensible objects, which have been found from experience to make a permanent impression on the mind *. I have been told of a young woman, in a very low rank of life, who contrived a method of committing to memory the sermons which she was accustomed to hear, by fix. ing her attention, during the different heads of the difcourse, on different compartments of the roof of the church; in such a manner, as that when she afterwards saw the roof, or recollected the order in which its compartments were disposed, she recollected the method which the preacher had observed in treating his subject. This contrivance was perfectly analogous to the topical memory of the antients; an art which, whatever be the opinion we entertain of its use, is certainly entitled, in a high degree, to the praise of ingenuity.
Suppose that I were to fix in my memory the dif. ferent apartments in some very large building, and that I had accustomed myself to think of these apartments always in the fame invariable order. Suppose farther, that, in preparing myself for a public discourse, in which I had occasion to treat of a great variety of particulars, I was anxious to fix in my memory the order I proposed to oblerve in the communication of
*“ Cum in loca aliqua poit tempus reverfi fumus, non ipsa ag“ noscimus tantum, fed etiam, quæ in his fecerimus, reminiscimur, “ perfonæque subeunt, nonunquam tacitæ quoque cogitationes in “ mentem revertuntur. Nata eft igitur, ut in plerisque, ars ab experimento.” Quinct. Inft. Orat. lib. xi. cap. 2.
my ideas. It is evident, that by a proper division of my subject into heads, and by connecting each head with a particular apartment, (which I could easily do, by conceiving myself to be fitting in the apartment while I was studying the part of my discourse I meant to connect with it,) the habitual order in which these apartments occurred to my thoughts, would present to me, in their proper arrangement, and without any effort on my part, the ideas of which I was to treat. It is also obvious, that a very little practice would enable me to avail myself of this contrivance, without any embarrassment or distraction of my attention *.
As to the utility of this art, it appears to me to de. pend entirely on the particular object which we suppose the speaker to have in view; whether, as was too often the case with the antient rhetoricians, to bewilder a judge, and to silence an adversary; or fairly and candidly to lead an audience to the truth. On the former supposition, nothing can possibly give an orator a greater superiority, than the possession of a secret, which, while it enables him to express himself with facility and the appearance of method, puts it in his power, at the same time, to dispose his arguments and
* In so far as it was the object of this species of arti'cial memory to aflict an orator in recollecting the plan and arrangement of his discourse, the accounts of it which are given by the ancient rhetoricians are abundantly fatisfactory. It appears, however, that its use was more extensive ; and that it was so contrived, as to facilitate the recollection of a premeditated composition. In what manner this was done, it is not easy to conjecture from the imperfect explanations of the art, which have been transmitted to modern times. The reader may consult Cicero de Orat. lib. ii. cap. 87, 88.-Rhetor. ad Herennium, lib. iii. cap. 16. et feq.-QUINCTIL. Inft. Orat. lib. xi. cap. 2.