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in general such as had, at first, an aversion to the study. The reason probably is, that to a mind fond of general principles, every study must be at first disgusting, which presents to it a chaos of facts apparently unconnected with each other. But this love of arrangement, if united with persevering industry, will at last conquer every difficulty; will introduce order into what seemed on a superficial view a mass of confusion, and reduce the dry and uninteresting detail of positive statutes into a system comparatively luminous and beautiful.
The observation, I believe, may be made more general, and may be applied to every science in which there is a great multiplicity of facts to be remembered. A man destitute of genius may, with little effort, treasure up in his memory a number of particulars in chemistry or natural history, which he refers to no principle, and from which he deduces no conclufion; and from his facility in acquiring this stock of information, may flatter himself with the belief that he possesses a natural taste for these branches of knowledge. But they who are really destined to extend the boundaries of science, when they first enter on new pursuits, feel their attention distracted, and their memory overloaded with facts among which they can trace no relation, and are fome. times apt to despair entirely of their future progress. In due time, however, their superiority appears, and arises in part from that very dissatisfaction which they at first experienced, and which does not cease to stimulate their inquiries, till they are enabled to trace, amidst a chaos of apparently unconnected materials, that simplicity and beauty which always characterise the operations of nature.
There are, besides, other circumstances which retard the progress of a man of genius, when he enters on a new pursuit, and which sometimes render him apparently inferior to those who are pofseffed of ordinary capacity. A want of curiosity *, and of invention, facilitates greatly the acquisition of knowledge. It renders the mind passive, in receiving the ideas of others, and faves all the time which might be employed in examining their foundation, or in tracing their consequences. They who are possessed of much acuteness and originality, enter with difficulty into the views of others; not from any defect in their power of apprehension, but because they cannot adopt opinions which they have not examined; and because their attention is often seduced by their own speculations.
It is not merely in the acquisition of knowledge that a man of genius is likely to find himself surpassed by others : he has commonly his information much less at command, than those who are possessed of an inferior degree of originality; and, what is somewhat remarkable, he has it least of all at command on those subjects on which he has found his invention most fertile. Sir Isaac Newton, as we are told by Dr. Pemberton, was often at a loss, when the conversation turned on his own discoveries t. It is probable that they made but a flight impression on his mind, and that a consciousness of his inventive powers prevented him from
I mean a want of curiosity about truth. " There are many men,” says Dr. Butler, “ who have a strong curiosity to know “ what is said, who have little or no curiosity to know what is 66 true." + See Note (T).
taking ing much pains to treasure them up in his memory. Men of little ingenuity seldom forget the ideas they acquire; because they know that when an occasion occurs for applying their knowledge to use, they must trust to memory and not to invention. Explain an arithmetical rule to a person of common understanding, who is unacquainted with the principles of the science; he will soon get the rule by heart, and become dexte. rous in the application of it. Another, of more ingenuity, will examine the principle of the rule before he applies it to use, and will scarcely take the trouble to commit to memory a process which he knows he can; at any time, with a little reflexion, recover. The consequence will be, that, in the practice of calculation, he will appear more slow and hesitating, than if he followed the received rules of arithmetic without reflexion or reasoning
Something of the same kind happens every day in conversation. By far the greater part of the opinions we announce in it, are not the immediate result of rea. soning on the spot, but have been previously formed in the closet, or perhaps have been adopted implicitly on the authority of others. The promptitude, therefore, with which a man decides in ordinary discourse, is not a certain test of the quickness of his apprehension *; as it may perhaps arise from those uncommon efforts to furnish the memory with acquired knowledge, by which men of slow parts endeavour to compensate for their want of invention; while, on the other hand, it is possible that a consciousness of originality may give rise to a manner apparently embarrassed, by leading the person who feels it, to trust too much to extempore exertions *.
* Memoria facit prompti ingenii famam, ut illa quæ dicimus, con domo attulisse, fed ibi protinus fumpfisse videamur. Quinctil. Inf. Orat. lib. xi. cap. 2. prompt.
In general, I believe, it may be laid down as a rule, that those who carry about with them a great degree of acquired information, which they have always at command, or who have rendered their own discoveries so familiar to them, as always to be in a condition to ex. plain them, without recollection, are very seldom possessed of much invention, or even of much quickness of apprehension. A man of original genius, who is fond of exercising his reasoning powers anew on every point as it occurs to him, and who cannot submit to rehearse the ideas of others, or to repeat by rote the conclusions which he has deduced from previous reflexion, often appears, to superficial observers, to fall below the level of ordinary understandings; while another, destitute both of quickness and invention, is admired for that
* In the foregoing observations it is not meant to be implied, that originality of genius is incompatible with a ready recollection of acquired knowledge; but only that it has a tendency unfavourable to it, and that more time and practice will commonly be necessary to familiarize the mind of a man of invention to the ideas of others, or even to the conclusions of his own understanding, than are requisite in ordinary cases. Habits of literary conversation, and, ftill more, habits of extempore discussion in a popular assembly, are peculiarly useful in giving us a ready and practical command of our knowledge. There is much good sense in the following aphorism of Bacon: “ Reading makes a full man, writing a correct man, and “ speaking a ready man.” See a commentary on this aphorism in one of the Numbers of the Adventurer.
promptitude in his decisions, which arises from the inferiority of his intellectual abilities.
It must indeed be acknowledged in favour of the last description of men, that in ordinary conversation they form the most agreeable, and perhaps the most instruc• tive, companions. How inexhaustible soever the invention of an individual may be, the variety of his own peculiar ideas can bear no proportion to the whole mass of useful and curious information of which the world is already possessed. The conversation, accordingly, of men of genius, is sometimes extremely limited; and is interesting to the few alone, who know the value, and who can distinguish the marks of originality. In consequence too of that partiality which every man feels for his own speculations, they are more in danger of being dogmatical and disputatious, than those who have no system which they are interested to defend.
The same observations may be applied to authors. A book which contains the discoveries of one individual only, may be admired by a few, who are intimately acquainted with the history of the science to which it relates, but it has little chance for popularity with the multitude. An author who possesses induftry fufficient to collect the ideas of others, and judgment sufficient to arrange them skilfully, is the most likely person to acquire a high degree of literary fame: and although, in the opinion of enlightened judges, invention forms the chief characteristic of genius, yet it commonly happens that the objects of public admiration are men who are much less distin. guished by this quality, than by extensive learning and cultivated taste. Perhaps too, for the multi