« 前へ次へ »
equal and encouraging conduct, and thence would result the most beneficial effects on the temper and intellectual progress of the pupil. If one child has a more accurate or quicker eye or ear than another, or shows more natural vivacity or strength, or if, in consequence of this superiority of organization, he early exhibits greater powers of attention, memory, or imagination, let this be fairly acknowledged to him and to his competitors, but without making use of the mysterious and delusive term genius, to denote the difference of capacity. The human mind, even in childhood, submits to necessity; therefore it is much less dangerous to state explicitly the natural advantages, which one child possesses over another, than to hint that any of his companions are superior to him in an indefinable, indescribable something, which he can neither see, feel, nor comprehend. But when a child hears the mortifying fact, that any of his senses are defective, that he wants natural vivacity or sensibility, and that consequently he shows less attention, memory, or imagination than his competitors, he should at least have the consolation of hearing the whole truth, and his parents should encourage him by the assurance, that these deficiencies may be amply compensated by patient perseverance, and by careful and judicious education. This plain truth strongly reiterated cannot fail to make a salutary impression, both on the quick and vivacious, and on the dull and slow: it will prevent these from becoming idle, those from remaining inactive. The sophistical mathematician proves, that with but twenty paces advantage of the swift-footed Achilles, the tortoise can never be overtaken, even by twenty times his own speed. But without recurring to paradoxical ingenuity in support of this argument, plain
common sense and observation will show, that whoever goes on uniformly improving, even at the slowest rate, must in time excel those who remain stationary, let their positive ac-" quirements be what they may. This first lesson, preparatory to all professional education, may be best given by mothers ; for they know how to seize the happy moments for inculcating these salutary truths. Parnel beautifully introduces the reverend character of age instructing youth in similar doctrine:
This tale a Sybil nurse ared:
Next to the complaints of want of genius, complaints of the want of memory are most frequently heard. Many, both parents and children, are discouraged by the belief, that they have incurably bad memories. But natural deficiency of memory is not so common as impatient preceptors, and indolent and despondent pupils, imagine. There may be persons like M. de Morien, who had read over the same volume seven times without remembering that he had read it before: we may further believe, that this M. de Morien could not recollect, whether at a particular siege he had been the besieger or the besieged. Such absolute, deplorable want of memory may be believed to exist, and so does that total deficiency of all the intellectual powers called idiocy. These are uncommon cases in nature, where art can be of no avail, and where instruction can be of no service; but many complain of their memory, when they should blame their education, and ascribe to want of natural powers defects arising from negligence and bad habit, and, above all, from ill-directed efforts of painful application. These are egotists, who, as Rochefoucauld observes, complain of their memory, but never of their judgment; these men would rather find fault with themselves than not talk at all; they are contented to have it believed that they have some diseased idiosyncrasy, mental or bodily, rather than that they are just like vulgar mortals. Montaigne exclaims, Il “ n'est homme à qui il siese si mal de mesler de parler de mé“ moire. Car je n'en recognoy quasi trace en moi; et ne pense “ qu'il n'y en ait au monde un autré si marveilleuse en defail“ lance.” “ There is not a man breathing whom it so ill becomes “ to talk of memory as myself; for I can scarcely perceive a trace “ of memory in myself. and I do not think there is another in “ the world of so marvellously weak a memory.” He would have his readers believe, that he could not remember the names of his own servants, or of the coins in common use: and yet, as Professor Stewart observes, Montaigne's writings prove, that he could remember the names of Plato and Epicurus, Thales and Musæus, with all their different opinions and theories; and he indirectly acknowledges, that he has considerable powers of memory, when he is afterwards complaining of his want of presence of mind : “ When I am to speak an oration of any “ great length, I am reduced to the miserable necessity of “ getting it word for word by heart.” The degree of memory which was sufficient to retain a long harangue, might, by proper cultivation, have been made sufficient for all the purposes of science and literature, and can scarcely be deemed incapable of retaining the names of a few domestics or common coins. Amongst modern instances, Marmontel is another celebrated person, whose complaints against his own memory are upon record. He says, that he became delirious from the violent efforts it cost him to learn by rote the Latin Grammar; that he was found sitting up in his bed, with his eyes fixed, repeating the conjugations of the Latin verbs. It is remarkable, that the greatest misfortune of his life afterwards arose from his having too good a memory! He was put into the Bastille on the charge of having written certain satirical verses, of which he was not the author; but after having heard them once or twice from the real author, he repeated them so accurately, that they were imputed to him. In this case, as in many others, his acquired powers or habits more than supplied the natural defects of his memory, if any such existed. It is also mentioned by M. Prevost in his excellent Life of le Sage, of Geneva, that this philosopher had naturally an uncommonly weak memory; and that, to supply the defect, when he was a boy, he delighted in connecting his ideas by general principles, instead of following the example of his father, whose knowledge consisted chiefly of facts, and who was little disposed to reason or generalize. In young le Sage the weakness of his memory proved advantageous to his understanding; for it induced him continually to establish the most just and permanent connexions between his thoughts, to prevent both words and ideas from escaping his recollection. When he was thirteen, his father, to store his mind with a knowledge of antiquities, put into his hands Les Antiquitès
Expliquées de Montfaucon. The boy, instead of attempting to load his weak memory with all the particulars in this work, began to generalize, abstract, and reason ; he perceived the fallacy of many of Montfaucon’s conjectures, about the use of the instruments he describes, and endeavoured to establish some universal and certain rules for discovering, from the inspection of a work, the object and intentions of the workman. Some years afterwards he enlarged this idea, and wrote an ingenious treatise on Theology, or the Theory of Final Causes.
If le Sage had actually remembered every line and word of Montfaucon's book, would it have been of as much advantage to himself, or to the world, as he derived from it by classing his ideas, so as to deduce from them general rules of antiquarian criticism?
His philosophical biographer assures us, that he saw le Sage in his maturer years, and afterwards in his old age, continue to regulate his mind, avoiding with the greatest care whatever could disturb the order of his thoughts, and substituting, with much art, a logical series of mental operations to the effort, which the recollection of a single unconnected fact would have cost him. And what was the consequence of this education, which he began in childhood, and continued to old age? That he distinguished himself as a man of science, both by his learning and his invention; and, from his conversation, we are told, that no one could have perceived any deficiency in his memory. His name is celebrated, while his