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his expressions, the vivacity of his understanding, which began to shine through the veil of childhood; ' I had still left me,' says he, 'my son Quinctilian, in whom I placed all my pleasure and all my hopes, and comfort enough I might have found in him : for, having now entered into his tenth year, he did not only produce blossoms, like his younger brother, but fruits already formed, and beyond the power of disappointment.--I have much experience; but I never saw in any child, I do not say only so many excellent dispositions for the sciences, or so much taste, as his masters know, but so much probity, sweetness, good nature, gentleness, and inclination to please and oblige, as I discerned in him.
Besides this, he had all the advantages of nature, a charming voice, a pleasing countenance, and a surprising facility in pronouncing well the two languages, as if he had been equally born for both of them.
But all this was no more than hopes. I set a greater value upon his admirable virtues, his equality of temper, his resolution, the courage with which he bore up against fear and pain; for how were his physicians astonished at his patience - under a distemper of eight months continuance, when at the point of death he comforted me himself, and bade me not to weep for him! and delirious as he sometimes was at his last moments, his tongue ran on nothing else but learning and the sciences, O vain and deceitful hopes !'
ON THE FACULTY OF THE MEMORY, AND THE
MEANS OF IMPROVING IT. MEMORY is the power, or faculty, by which the soul retains the ideas and images of the objects, which have either been conceived by the mind, or impressed upon the senses.
Of all the faculties of the soul, there is none more unaccountable than the memory. For, can we easily conceive how the objects, which present themselves to the eyes, or strike upon the ears, (and so of the other senses, and still more so of the thoughts and intellectual notions) should leave behind them such footsteps in the brain, as to imprint there an actual image of those objects, with the power of calling them to remembrance upon the first direction of the mind? What is then this storehouse, this spacious repository, in which so many and so different things are laid up? Of what extent must the large field of the memory be, to contain such an infinite number of perceptions and sensations of every kind, as have been so many years in collecting? How many little lodgments and different cells, if I may be allowed the expression, for so incredible a multitude of objects, all ranged in their respective posts, without intermixture or confusion, without disturbing, displacing, or disordering each other?
But in the midst of such admirable order, and so wonderful an economy, what inequality sometimes, and, if I may be permitted to say so, what strange extravagance? Sometimes the objects return at the first signal, and as soon as they are
at other times they require a long search
before they appear, and we must draw them out in a manner by force, from the secret corners and obscure retreats where they lie concealed. Sometimes they crowd upon us in throngs, and the mind must give a check to their approach, in order to separate from the rest such as it stands in need of. And whilst things that happened thirty or forty years before, present themselves uncalled, others which are quite recent disappear, and seem to shun our sight. An accident or a disease shall efface at once all traces impressed upon the brain ; and some years after the re-establishment of health shall make them all revive.
But if the memory is so wonderful a faculty, both in its cause and effects, we may say also that it is of infinite use on all the occasions of life, and especially in the attainment of the sciences. It is the memory which is the guardian and trustee of all we see, of all we read, of all that our masters or our own reflections teach us.
It is a domestic and natural repository, where a man securely lays up innumerable treasures of infinite yalue. Without it, the study of several years would become useless, leave no impression behind it, and be continually flowing from the mind, like the water in the fable of the Danaides. It is the memory, which after having suggested to the orator, in the warmth of composition, the matter of his discourse, preserves for him all his thoughts and expressions, with the disposition of both, for whole weeks, and, at the time he wants them, represents them to him with such fidelity and exactness, as to let nothing be lost.
The assistance of the memory is neither less admirable nor less necessary in discourses which are made extempore, where the mind, by a surprising agility, taking a view at once of the arguments that are to be alledged, the thoughts and expressions, the manner of arranging them, the ges.. ture and pronunciation, and, still preceding what is actually delivered, supplies the orator with a continual and uninterrupted fund of matter, depositing the whole in a manner with the memory, which, after having faithfully received it from the invention, and delivered it to the elocution, restores it to the orator when required, without forestalling or retarding his orders for a moment.
So wonderful and necessary a talent is at the same time a gift of nature, and the effect of labour, and is in some respects derived from both. It owes its original and birth to nature, and its perfection to art, which never produces in us the faculties which are absolutely wanting, but gives increase and strength to such as are already happily begun.
An early application to improve the memory of children is therefore a matter of great moment. They have usually a very good one, and besides, in their tender years. are scarcely capable of any other pains; and this exercise should be regularly continued as they grow up.
A happy memory must have two qualities; the one is to receive the ideas confided to it with ease and promptitude, and the other faithfully to retain them. It is a great happiness when these two qualifications are naturally joined together; but care and pains may contribute very much to bring them to perfection.
The memory of some children is so slow and unactive, that it seems at first wholly inserviceable and condemned to an entire sterility. But this should be no discouragement, nor should they yield to this firsi repugnance, which we often see conquered by patience and perseverance. Children of this disposition should have only a few lines given them at first to learn by heart, but they should be made to learn them very perfectly. We should endeavour too to take off from the disagreeableness of the task, by imposing upon them such matters only as may please them, as for instance fables, and such stories as affect them. A careful and diligent master will condescend to the capacity of his scholar, go along with him in his learning, and sometimes let him get the start of him, in order to convince him by his own experience, that he is able to do a great deal more than he thought he could. Gentleness and commendation are of more efficacy here than severity and reproof. In proportion as we discern their progress, their daily task must be increased by degrees, and in a manner insensibly. And by this discreet conduct we shall find that the sterility, or rather the natural difficulty of the memory may be surmounted; and it is surprising to see how boys, whom at first one should have almost been tempted' to despair of, will become in this point very nearly equal to one of their companions.
One general rule in the matter we are upon, is thoroughly to understand, and distinctly to comprehend, whatever we are to learn by heart. For a clear notion certainly contributes very much to assist and facilitate the memory.