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his fa&ts, in whatever order he judges to be the most proper to mislead the judgment, and to perplex the memory, of those whom he addresses. And such, it is manifeft, is the effect, not only of the topical memory of the antients, but of all other contrivances which aid the recollection, upon any principle different from the natural and logical arrangement of our ideas.
To those, on the other hand, who speak with a view to convince or to inform others, it is of consequence that the topics which they mean to illustrate, should be arranged in an order equally favourable to their own recollection and to that of their hearers. For this purpose, nothing is effectual, but that method which is fuggested by the order of their own investigations; a method which leads the mind from one idea to another, either by means of obvious and striking associations, or by those relations which connect the different steps of a clear and accurate process of reasoning. It is thus only that the attention of an audience can be completely and incessantly engaged, and that the substance of a long discourse can be remembered without effort. And it is thus only that a speaker, after a mature consideration of his subject, can possess a just confidence in his own powers of recollection, in stating all the different premises which lead to the conclusion he wishes to establish.
In modern times, such contrivances have been very little, if at all, made use of by public speakers ; but various ingenious attempts have been made, to assist the
memory, in acquiring and retaining those branches of knowledge which it has been supposed necessary for a scholar to carry always about with him ; and which,
at the same time, from the number of particular details which they involve, are not calculated, of themselves, to make a very lasting impression on the mind. Of this sort is the Memoria Technica of Mr. Grey, in which a great deal of historical, chronological, and geographical knowledge is comprised in a set of verses, which the student is supposed to make as familiar to himself as school-boys do the rules of grammar. These verses are, in general, a mere assemblage of proper names, disposed in a rude sort of measure; some slight alterations being occasionally made on the final syllables of the words, so as to be fignificant (according to certain principles laid down in the beginning of the work) of important dates, or of other particulars which it appeared to the author useful to associate with the names.
I have heard very opposite opinions with respect to the utility of this ingenious system. The prevailing opinion is, I believe, against it ; although it has been mentioned in terms of high approbation by some writers of eminence. Dr. Priestley, whose judgment, in matters of this fort, is certainly entitled to respect, has said, that " it is a method so easily learned, and “ which may be of so much use in recollecting dates, “ when other methods are not at hand, that he thinks “ all persons of a liberal education, inexcusable, who “ will not take the small degree of pains that is neces" sary to make themselves masters of it; or who “ think any thing mean, or unworthy of their notice, 16 which is so useful and convenient *.”
In judging of the utility of this, or of any other contrivance of the fame kind, to a particular person, a : * Leatures on History, p. 157.
great deal must depend on the species of memory which he has received from nature, or has acquired in the course of his early education. Some men, as I already remarked, (especially among those who have been habitually exercised in childhood in getting by heart grammar rules,) have an extraordinary facility in ac. quiring and retaining the most barbarous and the most insignificant verses ; which another person would find as difficult to remember, as the geographical and chronological details of which it is the object of this art to relieve the memory. Allowing, therefore, the general utility of the art, no one method, perhaps, is entitled to an exclusive preference; as one contrivance may be best suited to the faculties of one person, and a very different one to those of another.
One important objection applies to all of them, that they accustom the mind to associate ideas by acci. dental and arbitrary connexions; and, therefore, how much soever they may contribute, in the course of conversation, to an oftentatious display of acquired knowledge, they are, perhaps, of little real service to us, when we are seriously engaged in the pursuit of truth. I own, too, I am very doubtful with respect to the utility of a great part of that information which they are commonly employed to impress on the memory, and on which the generality of learned men are disposed to value themselves. It certainly is of no use, but in so far as it is subservient to the gratification of their vanity; and the acquisition of it consumes a great deal of time and attention, which might have been employed in extending the boundaries of human knowledge. To those, however, who are of a different opinion, such contri
vances as Mr. Grey's may be extremely useful: and to all men they may be of service, in fixing in the memory those insulated and uninteresting particulars, which it is either necessary for them to be acquainted with, from their situation; or which custom has rendered, in the common opinion, essential branches of a liberal educa. tion. I would, in particular, recommend this author's method of recollecting dates, by subfituting letters for the numeral cyphers ; and forming these letters into words, and the words into verses. I have found it, at least in my own case, the most effectual of all such con. trivances of which I have had experience.
Continuation of the same Subject.— Importance of making a proper
Sele&tion among the Objects of our Knowledge, in order to derive Advantage from the Acquisitions of Memory.
THE che cultivation of Memory, with all the helps that
we can derive to it from art, will be of little use to us, unless we make a proper selection of the particu. lars to be remembered. Such a selection is necessary to enable us to profit by reading; and still more so, to enable us to profit by observation, to which every man is indebted for by far the most valuable part of his knowledge.
When we first enter on any new literary pursuit, we commonly find our efforts of attention painful and unsatisfactory. We have no discrimination in our curiosity; and by grasping at every thing, we fail in making those moderate acquisitions which are suited to our limited faculties. As our knowledge extends, we learn to know what particulars are likely to be of use to us; and acquire a habit of directing our examination to these, without distracting the attention with others. It is partly owing to a similar circumstance, that most readers complain of a defect of memory, when they first enter on the study of history. They cannot separate important from trifling facts, and find themselves unable to retain any thing, from their anxiety to secure the whole.
In order to give a proper direction to our atten. tion in the course of our studies, it is useful, before engaging in particular pursuits, to acquire as familiar an acquaintance as possible with the great outlines of the different branches of science; with the most important conclusions which have hitherto been formed in them, and with the most important desiderata which remain to be supplied. In the case too of those parts of knowledge, which are not yet ripe for the formation of philosophical systems, it may be of use to study the various hypothetical theories which have been proposed for connecting together and arranging the phenomena. By such general views alone we can prevent ourselves from being loft, amidst a labyrinth of particulars, or can engage in a course of extensive and various reading, with an enlightened and discriminating attention. While they withdraw our notice from barren and insulated facts, they direct it to such as tend to illustrate principles which have either been already established, or which, from having that degree of connexion ainong themselves, which is ne.