Page images

and Mr. C. Harcourt does his best with the part of Hawkshaw, but he wants the repose and coolness which Mr. Horace Wigan made such an essential feature of the detective's manner. Judging from the enthusiastic way in which the play is received, it may fairly be expected to keep the stage for some time to come, if it will be consistent with managerial arrangements.

At the Globe a short season has been commenced by Madlle. Beatrice and her comedy company.

Their pièce de résistance is Mr. Campbell Clarke's clever adaptation of the “Monsieur Alphonse" of the younger Dumas, entitled “Love and Honour." The fair manageress, of course, plays the heroine, and she is efficiently supported.

At the other houses, such of them that is to say as

are open, the bills are much the same as they have been for some time past.

“ Nemesis appears to have taken a new lease of life at the Strand. And at the Vaudeville - Our Boys" preserve their juvenility as fresh as ever.

The Alexandra Palace at Muswell Hill is continuing its prosperous career. Every promenade concert has proved very attractive, and the afternoon performances of standard comedies by such admirable artists as Mrs. Hermann Vezin, Mr. and Mrs. Chippendale, and Mr. Compton, thoroughly well supported, have drawn large and appreciative audiences to the splendid palace on Muswell Hill.

At the Crystal Palace there has been no lack of enterprise, and the beautiful grounds are now in capital condition.


subjects, though upon such subjects its powers are more striking and marvellous. Memory of this sort is said to be combined with very little judgment. This is undoubtedly frequently the case, but not necessarily so, The poet's assertion

So on the mind, where memory prevails, The solid power of understanding fails,"

WHAT a wonderful faculty is memory, and how

inestimable a blessing is what is usually understood to be a good memory. How greatly are the comforts and advantages of life dependent upon it! In most cases a good or bad memory is the measure of the difference between success and failure. The student in any branch of art and science is painfully aware how much his memory is taxed for his advancement; and in a degree, more or less urgent, the same must be felt in every employment and engagement in every department of this world's business, even the most humble. A bad memory is a drawback, a good memory a blessing.

All persons, it must be admitted, are not in this respect gifted alike. There is as much difference in the original constitution of the mental 'faculties in the case of different individuals as there is in the physical powers and formation. Still the mental faculties are susceptible of just the same improvement, under proper treatment and exercise, as the bodily powers. The two chief means by which memory may be improved, are the cultivation of habits of attention, and the exercise of the power of association. Of course, all education all mental culture tends to the development of this faculty, and no one can say to what extent it is capable of development. Examine it how we will, it is a mysterious and wonderful treasury which appears to have no limits of capacity ; but the more it is made to store, the more it seems capable of storing. This is true of memory in its ordinary connection with the cultivation of the mental powers; for there is a kind of memory which seems limited to particular


unless it be taken in a qualified sense, is certainly not borne out by fact; for men of the highest mental endowments have been remarkable for the strength of their memory upon particular points. Towards the middle of the sixteenth century, in the city of Agen, in the lovely valley of the Garonne, was born Joseph Scaliger, of whom Sir William Hamilton says that, “ Taking him all in all, he was the most learned man the world has ever

Now Scaliger's memory was prodigious, he learned all Homer by heart in twenty-one days; all the other Greek poets in four months, and all the Greek prose writers in two years. Casaubom writes of him, " There was no subject in which any one could desire instruction which he was not capable of giving. He had read nothing (and what had he not read ?) what he did not forth with remember ; there was nothing so obscure or obsolete in any ancient author, Greek, Latin, or Hebrew, with regard to which, when interrogated, he could not at once give a reply. He was at home in the history of all nations and all ages, the successions of government, the affairs of the ancient church; the properties, differences, and names, whether ancient or modern, of animals, plants, metals, and all natural objects,

[merged small][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

he knew accurately; with the situation of places, the an interesting anecdote which came within his own boundaries of provinces, and their division at different experience. He had been preaching a sermon to a large times, he was perfectly familiar. He had left untouched number of African savages. The sermon was a long one, none of the severer studies in science. So extensive and and when he had finished, his hearers divided into groups, accurate was his acquaintance with languages that if, during as he imagined, to discuss the subject of it among themhis lifetime, he had made but this single acquirement, it selves. “While they were thus engaged,” says Mr. would have appeared miraculous."

Moffat, “my attention was arrested by a simple-looking Leibnitz, the great metaphysician, also possessed a young man at a short distance. The person referred to most singular memory. His biographer, Bailley, says, was holding forth with great animation to a number of “ He made extracts from every book he read, and added people, who were all attention. On approaching, I found to them whatever reflections they suggested, after which to my surprise that he was preaching my sermon over he laid his manuscript aside, and never thought of it again, with uncommon precision, and with great solemmore. His memory, which was astonishing in its powers, nity; imitating, as nearly as he could, the gestures of the did not, as in most men, feel itself disburthened of the original. A greater contrast could scarcely be conceived knowledge which he had committed to writing ; but on than the fantastic figure and the solemnity of his lanthe contrary, the exertion of writing seemed to be all that guage, his subject being eternity, while he evidently felt was requisite to imprint it on his memory for ever.” The what he spoke. Not wishing to disturb him, I allowed historian Niebuhr, another great man, was gifted in a him to finish the recital; and seeing him soon after, I similar way. It is related of him that in his youth he told him he could do what I was sure I could not, that was employed in keeping accounts in one of the public was, preach again the same sermon verbatim. He did offices of Denmark; and that, on one occasion, when not appear vain of his superior memory.

His only part of a book of accounts was accidentally destroyed, he reply was, at the same time touching his forehead with undertook to replace it from memory. Dr. Wallis, the his finger, When I hear anything great, it remains mathematician, could perform in the dark arithmetical there.' operations, such as multiplication and division, to almost It is reported of Seneca, the father of that Seneca any extent, and extract the roots of numbers to forty who was the tutor of the notorious Roman Emperor, decimal places. The anecdote is told of him, that in Nero, that he could repeat in order any two thousand February, 1671, at the request of some foreigner, he pro- names or words that might be read to him, and that on posed to himself one night in bed, a number of fifty-three one occasion he repeated in reverse order two hundred places, and found its square root to twenty-seven places; unconnected verses that some of his fellow-pupils had and without even writing down the numbers, he dic- recited in the presence of their own preceptors. The tated the result from memory twenty days afterwards. celebrated Marc Antoine Muret, professor of philosophy Dr. Leyden possessed the faculty of memory also in a ' and civil law at Rome, towards the end of the sixteenth singular degree. Abercrombie says of him, “I am in. century, says that he always discredited this story until formed, through a gentleman who was intimately ac- he had an opportunity of testing its accuracy in the case quainted with him, that he could repeat correctly a long of a young Corsican student in civil law residing at Act of Parliament, or any similar document, after having Padua. This young student, whose name was Molino, once read it. In his case there was a singular peculiarity laid claim to the same power as the ancient rhetorician, which rendered the gift somewhat troublesome; so that, and one evening in a public saloon at Padua, and in preto a friend who was congratulating him on his talent, he sence of a considerable number of distinguished persons, replied, that instead of an advantage, his memory was it was agreed that Muret should put him to the test. At often a source of great inconvenience; and he explained the time and in the place appointed, Muret began with the this by saying, that, when he wished to recollect a par- aid of an assistant who wrote them down, to dictate ticular point in anything that he had read, he could do it words, Latin, Greek, barbarous, significant and non-signionly by repeating to himself the whole from the com- ficant, disjointed as well as connected, until he wearied mer.cement until he reached the point which he wished to himself, his assistant, and the whole company-all were ecall. Now, all these we have mentioned were great tired except Molino, who appeared as alert as ever, and men-men of genius, independent of this particular demanded more. Muret, however, and the company prefaculty ; but there can be no doubt that their powers of sent declared that they should be perfectly satisfied if only memory contributed very mainly to their greatness. he could repeat one half of what had been written down,

Special gifts of memory have not unfrequently been After a brief pause, Molino began, and not only repeated possessed without apparently conferring upon their the words in their exact order without the slightest hesipossessors any other distinction. In all such cases we tation, but he afterwards repeated them backwards. He cannot help thinking that a great talent has been wasted, then began again by giving every word at the odd numthrough indolence or ignorance of the advantages to which bers, that is the first, third, fifth, and so on. He declared it might be turned. The gift is often found where one that he could repeat them in any order asked, and to the would least expect it. Mr. Moffat, the missionary, relates extent, of thirty-six thousand words. Marvellous as it

may seem, there is no reason to doubt the account, for it is both well attested and confirmed by more modern experience; only recently a similar case though illustrating the power

of memory, and a somewhat different way has reached us from America. It is reported by Mr. W. D. Henkle, State Commission of the Public Schools in Ohio, who put the claimant to a long examination, and satisfied himself as to the correctness of his statement. At the time of his examination, Daniel McCartney was about 53 years old, having been born in Pennsylvania in 1817, and his first interview with Mr. Henkle took place at Salem Columbiana county, Ohio, in June in 1870. His health had always been good, except that his sight was exceeding defective, and this appears to have interfered with his general education. In 1830 his eyes were operated upon by Dr. Brooks, but with no beneficial result. However, in 1862 he discovered that he could see large print, which he was enabled to read by holding a book about two inches from his eyes. McCartney's claim was that he could remember the day of the week for any given date since the first of January, 1827, a period of over 42 years, and that he can remember what kind of weather it was, and where he was each day during that long period of upwards of 15,000 days. McCartney was employed in turning the wheel of the press in the printing office of the “Salem Republican," and Mr. Henkle tells us that when he examined him, he used for his own guidance the “ Ohio House Journal,” which gives at the head of each page the day the week, as well as the day of the month. swers," he says,

were prompt and correct, in one case

correcting an error of the printer.” At subsequent interviews Mr. Henkle tested the accuracy of his memory as to McCartney's own employment, and the chief events that occurred on different days from the year 1827 to the close of the year 1867, and with the same satisfactory result. We could illustrate this subject by numerous other striking and well authenticated instances; but these are ample both to indicate the capacity and the versatility of memory. It is impossible not to recognize in such cases the natural gifts, and at the same time it is impossible to say how much is due to acquirement: that something is due to art is quite certain, for there is a mental process hard to be explained, but generally admitted by all persons who have ever laid claim to extraordinary memory. The faculty of association, no doubt, has much to do with it, for it is certain that with the exercise of the faculty all the different systems of “ Memoria technica,” or " Mnemonics," as they are termed, are connected; the principle upon which they are founded is the selection of a number of objects, which, whether of themselves or by reason of their order of selection, are more easily remembered than those which it is our wish to remember. Those who wish to improve their memory should cultivate habit of association--they should study facts in relation to each other, and connect times and places with facts. They should learn by heart long pieces of poetry and prose also. It is far too much the fashion in the present day to ridicule learning by heart, and in the so-called cultivation of the intellect to leave the memory to take care of itself.

" His an

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »