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may be expected from foreign travel. The objects which we meet with excite our surprise by their novelty; and in this manner we not only gradually acquire the power of observing and examining them with attention, but, from the effects of contrast, the curiosity comes to be roused with respect to the corresponding objects in our own country, which, from our early familiarity with them, we had formerly been accustomed to overlook. In this respect the effect of foreign travel, in directing the attention to familiar objects and occurrences, is somewhat analogous to that which the study of a dead or of a foreign language produces, in leading the curiosity to examine the grammatical structure of our own.

Considerable advantage may also be derived, in overcoming the habits of inattention which we may have contracted to particular subjects, from studying the systems, true or false, which philosophers have proposed for explaining or for arranging the facts connected with them. By means of these systems, not only is the curiosity circumscribed and directed, instead of being allowed to wander at random, but, in consequence of our being enabled to connect facts with general principles, it becomes interested in the examination of those particulars which would otherwise have escaped our notice.



It is commonly supposed that genius is seldom united with a very tenacious memory. So far, however, as my own observation has reached, I can scarcely recollect one person who possesses the former of these qualities, without a more than ordinary share of the latter.

On a superficial view of the subject, indeed, the common opinion has some appearance of truth ; for we are naturally led, in consequence of the topics about which conversation is usually employed, to estimate the extent of memory by the impression whịch trivial occurrences make upon it: and these in general escape the recollection of a man of ability, not because he is unable to retain them, but because he does not attend to them. It is probable, likewise, that accidental associations, founded on contiguity in time and place, may make but a slight impression on his mind. But it does not, therefore, follow that his stock of facts is small. They are connected together in his memory by principles of association different from those which prevail in ordinary minds, and they are on that very account the more useful; for as the associations are founded upon real connexions among the ideas, (although they may be less conducive to the fluency, and perhaps to the wit of conversation,) they are of incomparably greater use in suggesting facts which are to serve as a foundation for reasoning or for invention.

It frequently happens, too, that a man of genius, in consequence of a peculiarly strong attachment to a particular subject, may first feel a want of inclination, and may afterwards acquire a want of capacity of attending to common occurrences. But it is probable that the whole stock of ideas in his mind is not inferior to that of other men; and that, however unprofitably he may have directed his curiosity, the ignorance which he discovers on ordinary subjects does not arise from a want of memory, but from a peculiarity in the selection which he has made of the objects of his study.

Montaigne' frequently complains, in his writings, of his want of memory; and he indeed gives many very extraordinary instances of his ignorance on some of the most ordinary topics of information. But it is obvious to any person who reads his works with attention, that this ignorance did not proceed from an original defect of memory, but from the singular and whimsical direction which his curiosity had taken at an early period of life. “I can do nothing,” says he, “without my memorandum-book; and so great is my difficulty in remembering proper names, that I am forced to call my domestic servants by their offices. I am ignorant of the greater part of our coins in use ; of the difference of one grain from another, both in the earth and in the granary; what use leaven is of in making bread, and why wine must stand some time in the vat before it ferments." Yet the same author appears evidently, from his writings, to have had his memory stored with an infinite variety of apothegms and of historical passages which had struck his imagination; and to have been familiarly acquainted, not only with the names, but with the absurd and exploded opinions of the ancient philosophers; with the ideas of Plato, the atoms of Epicurus, the plenum and vacuum of Leucippus and Democritus, the water of Thales, the numbers of Pythagoras, the infinite of Parmenides, and the unity of Musæus. In complaining, too, of his want of presence of mind, he indirectly acknowledges a degree of memory which, if it had been judiciously employed, would have been more than sufficient for the acquisition of all those common branches of knowledge in which he appears to have been deficient. “When I have an oration to speak," says he, “ of any considerable length, I am reduced to the miserable necessity of getting it, word for word, by

1 "Il n'est homme à qui il siese si mal de se mesler de parler de mémoire. Car je n'en recognoy qnasi trace en

moy; et ne pense qu'il y en ayt au monde une autre si merveilleuse en defaillance." - Essais de Montaigne, liv. i. ch. ix.


The strange and apparently inconsistent combination of knowledge and ignorance which the writings of Montaigne exhibit, led Malebranche (who seems to have formed too low an opinion both of his genius and character) to tax him with affectation, and even to call in question the credibility of some of his assertions. But no one who is well acquainted with this most amusing author, can reasonably suspect his veracity; and in the present instance I can give him complete credit, not only from my general opinion of his sincerity, but from having observed, in the course of my own experience, more than one example of the same sort of combination, not indeed carried to such a length as Montaigne describes, but bearing a striking resemblance to it.

The observations which have already been made, account in part for the origin of the coinmon opinion, that genius and memory are seldom united in great degrees in the same perwhich that opinion is founded do not justify such a conclusion. Besides these, however, there are other circumstances, which at first view seem rather to indicate an inconsistency between extensive memory and original genius.

and at the same time shew, that some of the facts on # So Malebranche. See his Recherche, L. II. P. iii. c. 5.- Ed.

son ;

The species of memory which excites the greatest degree of admiration in the ordinary intercourse of society, is a memory for detached and insulated facts; and it is certain that those men who are possessed of it, are very seldom distinguished by the higher gifts of the mind. Such a species of memory is unfavourable to philosophical arrangement, because it in part supplies the place of arrangement. One great use of philosophy, as I already shewed, is to give us an extensive command of particular truths, by furnishing us with general principles, under which a number of such truths is comprehended. A person in whose mind casual associations of time and place make a lasting impression, has not the same inducements to philosophize with others who connect facts together, chiefly by the relations of cause and effect, or of premises and conclusion. I have heard it observed, that those men who have risen to the greatest eminence in the profession of law, have been 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.

1 [The sanie remark occurs in a letter from Mr. Grey to his friend Mr. West.

In the study of law the labour is long, and the elements dry and uninteresting; nor was ever anybody (especially those that afterwards made a figure in it) amused, or even not disgusted at the beginning."

“ The famous antiquary, Spelınan, (says Mr. Burke) though no man was

better formed for the most laborious pursuits, in the beginning deserted the study of the laws in despair, though he returned to it again, when a more confirmed age, and a strong desire of knorrledge, enabled him to wrestle with every difficulty.”-Fragment on the History of the Laws of England. Burke's Forks, vol. v. p. 77.]

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 conclusion; 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 sometimes 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 characterize 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 possessed 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 saves 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


"I mean a want of curiosity about truth. “There are many men," says Dr. Butler, “who have a strong curi.

osity to know what is said, who have little or no curiosity to know what is true."


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