MEMORY

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MEMORY ; that faculty of the mind which receives ideas presented to the understanding, retains them, and exhibits them again. Its power of recalling ideas is sometimes exercised with, sometimes without, an act of volition. Its strength may be greatly increased by judicious culture. Memory is so prominent a (acuity of the human mind, so necessary, both in the most common transactions and the highest pursuits of life, so curious in its phenomena, and, at times, so capricious, that it formed, even at a very early period, a subject of philosophical research ; and, to a certain degree, more is known about it than about any other faculty ; but, beyond this point, it is as incomprehensible as the other powers. It is easy to talk of me memory in metaphors, to speak of impressions on the mind, storehouse of ideas, recalling ideas, &c.; but what is this impression? where is it made? and what does the word signify, as applied to the mind ? It is only a metaphor, taken from ihe physical world, to illustrate an act of the mind, which we can only represent figuratively, and reasoning on this assumption is but a petitio principii. Without memory, the whole animal world would be reduced to a kind of vegetative life, such as we observe in the lowest classes of animals, because any variety of action presupposes memory.* Memory embraces* It often seems necessary to refer to the memory ":ertaiii acts of animals, which most people sweepmgly refer to that unsatisfactory principle termed instinct. Even those actions of animals which would seem most naturally to emanate from instinct,as the fleeing of feeble beasts at the approach of stronger ones;appear not to be instinctive. Cap o tain Clapperton found the cranes in the interior of Africa so tame that they showed not the slightest fear. Mr. de Bougainville found the hares and foxes devoid of all fear when he discovered the Falkland Isiands, and the birds allowed themselves to be taken by hand. Similar facts are reported by lieutenant Paulding (in his Cruise of the Dolphin, New York, 1831), and many other travellers. It would appear, then, that the fear apparently natural to many animals is not so, but that, finding themselves attacked, they have remembered the fact at the next approach of their enemy, and, by degrees, contracted their timorous habits, which their young being accustomed to observe, also contracted. Indeed, observation would seem to warrant us in attributing to them, not merely this power of association, but even the power of combining ideas to produce results. If, for instance, my dog sees, from my motions, that I am about to take a walk, and, having been often prohibited to accompany me, steals quietly all ideas received from the senses, a? well as those of an abstract character; all feelings and emotions. The power of memory, in regard to ideas received from the senses, appears to be strongest in regard to the sense of sight. We are able to remember a temple, a picture, a landscape, a face, with great clearness and truth. The ideas of sounds are, also, very strongly retained, the memory of them being more perfect in proportion as the sense of hearing is more nice. Music may be remembered veiy distinctly. It is not so with the three other senses, smell, feeling, and taste. The ideas received through these senses, it would appear, cannot be remembered with the same liveliness. It is difficult to recall, with much distinctness, the pain of a wound; we usually retain little more than the general idea of suffering.* So particular tastes are not easily recalled. Exercise, indeed, may give the memory considerable power even over these ideas. The taste of his favorite dishes dwells in the mind of the gourmand, and, without making pretensions to gourmanderie, a man may remember, with some distinctness, the flavor of a canvassback duck. The impressions of smell are still more difficult to be recalled. Still, however, though the unaided memory does not easily recall ideas received from the senses, yet when external means of comparison are presented, they are immediately revived. If we smell a flower in this spring, we recollect, at once distinctly, the smell of the same in the last spring, and are in no danger of confounding flowers of different kinds. So with taste. These phenomena are easily explainable, from the fact that the ideas presented by sight and hearing, the two nobler senses, admit most readily of abstraction, and are, therefore, most easily reproduced in the mind, without the physical aid of comparison. Ideas received from objects of sense are sometimes curiously associated with others, so that the recurrence of the first immediately suggests the second. The cases are more striking, of course, in proportion as the organs are more acute. If, for instance, out of the room, and awaits me at a certain corner which I generally pass on my walks, who can deny this animal, not only memory, but also the power of drawing conclusions from what he recollects 1* Pain, indeed, when associated with the nobler senses, may be retained with considerable distinctness, as the discords which offend a musical ear, or the sharp grating of a hardpointed slate pencil on a slate, which offends every ear. hearing a peculiar sound, or eating something of a peculiar taste, the recurrence of this sound, or taste, involuntarily awakens, in some organizations, an agreeable or disagreeable feeling. The writer can testify from experience, that the effect is sometimes so instantaneous as to prevent the cause from being recognised till after considerable reflection. Considering how many ideas, or notions, we receive through the senses, and how necessary it is that we should readily remember them, to avoid the necessity of moving constantly in the same circle, it is of the greatest importance that our senses should be active, nice, and discriminating, which, undoubtedly, depends, in a great measure, upon their original organization ;* but they are susceptible of great improvement by exercise ; and it is to be lamented that this point is so much neglected in the case of most children educated in populous cities. How dull are their senses allowed to grow, and how dull are the impressions they give! The importance of strengthening the memory, by direct exercise of its powers, is undoubtedly great, and we may be allowed to say a few words respecting what we conceive to be a popular error at the present time. It is constantly repeated that the highest aim of education is the developement of the intellect, and that mere learning by heart tends to benumb the active powers; the consequence of which has been that the strengthening of memory is, generally speaking, much neglected. The suggestion is undoubtedly true, to a certain extent, and it would be well if it were acted on, in some particulars, more consistently than it is. The system of recitation, for instance, whereby the repetition of the words of an author is substituted for an understanding.of his meaning, is carried to an injurious extent here and in England. In all branches of study where the great object is that the pupil should form clear conceptions for himself, as in history, geography, natural philosophy, &c, the mere committing and reciting of stated lessons cannot fail to be injurious ; but, on the other hand, memory* This diversity is obvious to all, in the different sensibility of different persons to the pleasures of music and the beauties of nature. The same diversity undoubtedly exists in the senses of smell, taste, &c.; and perhaps it is not uncharitable to surmise that the indulgences of the table are, in some instances; despised less from philosophical moderation, than from an obtuseness of the organ of taste. ment; and, certainly, it is one of the chief objects of education to perfect an instrument which is capable of being strengthened by exercise almost beyond conception. Such exercise, however, is greatly neglected, in the present systems of education. The books of reference which now abound make strong powers of memory apparently less necessary than formerly, but it should be remembered that the cir cle of knowledge is expanding every day, that the connexion of the various branches of science becomes more intimate every day, and that every day more knowledge is required for a given standing in society. Classification is the great basis of memory. From early childhood, we involuntarily classify; but effort is required to give the memory the full advantage which it may derive from this process. It would be impossible for a shepherd to remember every one of his sheep, as is so commonly the case, had not his mind separated the generic marks from the special, and, by similarities and differences (classification), obtained the means of giving each animal a particular character. A similar process takes place in the mind of the learned historian. How could such a man remember, without classification, the wide range of facts which he must embrace ? He has acquired the habit of giving to every remarkable fact its proper place in the series of his knowledge, where it is firmly retained by the relations in which it stands to others, as affirming or contradicting them. This process of classification takes place, in different degrees, in every step of the intellectual scale, from the deepest philosopher to the lowest laborer; and the memory of every one, in any branch, is the better the more he classifies. A sailor, who cares not for politics, and hears of a change of ministry, has forgotten it, perhaps, the next day, because it was a mere isolated fact, totally unconnected with the general train of his ideas; whilst the same sailor, perhaps, would recollect, with the greatest distinctness, how one of his brother sailors off such an island, made himself the laughingstock of his comrades by his clumsy way of handling a rope. A courtier will remember for life a smile from his monarch, or an unfortunate sneeze which befell him at court when taking a glass of wine. It is allimportant, then, that instructers should habitually accustom then pupils to this process of classification; but, at the same time, the process of committing to memory is also one which should be steadily pursued. The poets and orators afford the pupil abundant materials for such an exercise. The caprices of memory are often curious. How strange are the associations of fdeas which often take place in spite of us! Every one must have experienced such. The writer recollects a melancholy instance, in the case of an insane boy in an hospital, whose derangement was referred to an irreverent association with the name of God, which occurred to him while singing a hymn in church, and of which he could not divest himself, the painfulness of the impression making it occur to him more forcibly every time he sung in church, till his reason became unsettled. We might observe, in this connexion, that, though man can recall past impressions by a voluntary act of recollection, yet he has not the same power to divest himself of the impressions which the memory presents, by a voluntary forget/ulness. This effect he can produce only by .fixing the attention on some other subjects, which may withdraw the attention from thG disagreeable idea. Another caprice of the memory is, that we often try to think of a tfame, or fact, for days and weeks, without .success, and, after the lapse of some time, when we have given up the attempt, it all $t once suggests itself, when we are occupied with something totally different. To say that the mind continued its action unconsciously suggests no idea. We cannot compare the process to that of a dog separating itself from the chase in which the rest of the pack are engaged. We have no conception of such divided action of the intellect. Any metaphorical explanation of this sort conveys no more idea than Plato's explanation of weak and strong memories, comparing them to wax tablets, the one harder, the other softer. The progress of philosophy has been much hindered by mistaking illustrations for arguments* Another circumstance worthy of remark is, that old people lose their memory for recent events, but retain a lively impression of the events of their earlier, years, which shows how much remembrance is influenced by the liveliness of the original impression.;; It is remarkable, also, how some people, in consequence of diseases, mostly nervous, fevers and apoplexies, lose the memory of every thing: which happened before their sickness, as if it were erased from the Platonic tablet. The , editor found his memory seriously impaired after a wound which had severed several nerves in the neck, but by degrees, though slowly, he recovered it. Instances have been recorded in which some sudden and violent derangement of the system has produced a state in which a person would remember every thing which happened the day before yesterday, &c, but nothing which happened yesterday, &c. The next day, the relative periods of memory and forgetfulness continuing the same, he would remember what, the day before, he had forgotten. We might add to those views of the importance of memory which naturally suggest themselves to every one, that nations, as well as individuals, often suffer from a deficiency of recollection. How often must the historian exclaim, Oh, if they would but remember!(For the various modes of considering this faculty, see the popular treatises on intellectual philosophy. Locke's chapter on Retention is not very satisfactory ; Dugald Stewart's treatise is principally valuable as a practical elucidation of its operations. For instances of persons distinguished for memory, see Mnemonics.) MEMPHIS ; an ancient city of Egypt, whose very situation has been a subject of learned dispute. According to Herodotus, its foundation was ascribed to Menes, the first king of Egypt. 3t was a large, rich and splendid city, and the second capital of Egypt. Among its buildings, several temples (for instance, those of Phtha, Osiris, Serapis, &c.) and palaces were remarkable. In Strabo's time (A. D. 20) it was, in population and size, next to Alexandria. Edrisi, in the twelfth century, describes its remains as extant in his time. "Notwithstanding the vast extent of this city," says he, " the remote period at which it was built, the attempts made by various nations to destroy it, and to obliterate every trace of it, by removing the materials of which it was built, combined with the decay of 4000 years,there are yet found in it works so wonderful as to confound the reflecting, and such as the most eloquent could not describe." Among the works specified by him, are a monolithic temple of granite 13i feet high, 12 long, and 7 broad, entirely covered within and without with inscriptions, and statues of great beauty and dimensions, one of which was 45 feet high, of a single block of red granite. These ruins then extended about nine miles in every direction, but the destruction has since been so great, that, although Pococke and Bruce fixed upon the village of Metrahenny (MonietRahinet) as the site, it was not accurately ascertained until the French expedition to Egypt, when the discoveries of numerous heaps of rubbish, of blocks of granite covered with hieroglyphics and sculpture, and of colossal fragments scattered over a space three leagues in circumference, seem to have decided the point. (See Jacotin's account of these ruins in the Description de VEgypte.)