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In my remarks on the secondary laws of suggestion, I considered, very fully, those circumstances, which diversify the general power of suggestion, in different individuals, and which thus give occasion to all the varieties of conception or remembrance, in individuals, to whom the mere primary laws of suggestion may be supposed to have been nearly equal. It will not be necessary for me, therefore, to revert to these at present, as explanatory of the varieties of memory; since the same secondary laws, which diversify our suggestions, as mere conceptions, without any notion of priority combined with them, diversify them, in like manner, when the notion of this relation is combined with them.
In estimating the power of memory, however, in those striking diversities of it which appear in different individuals, I must warn you against an error into which you may naturally fall, if you pay attention chiefly to the more obvious suggestions, which arise and display themselves in the common intercourse of life. It is in this way, that a good memory, which is, in itself, so essential an accompaniment of profound and accurate judgment, has fallen into a sort of proverbial disrepute, as if unfriendly to judgment, or indicative of a defect in this nobler part of our intellectual constitution. In the cases, however, which have led to this very erroneous remark, it is not the quantity, if I may so express it, of the power of memory, but the peculiar species of it, that, by the sort of connexions which it involves, presents itself to us more readily, and seems more absurd, merely by coming thus more frequently before our view.
What we are too ready to consider, exclusively as memory, is the suggestion which takes place, according to the mere relations of contiguity in time and place, of the very objects themselves, without regard to the conceptions, which arise, in our trains of thought, by the same power of spontaneous suggestion, but which arise according to other relations, and which, therefore, we think of ascribing to the same simple power. It is not a good memory, in its best sense, as a rich and retentive store of conceptions, that is unfriendly to intellectual excellence, poetic or philosophic, but a memory of which the predominant tendency is to suggest objects or images which existed before, in this very order, in which, as objects or images, they existed before, according to the merely imitative relations of contiguity. The richer the memory, and con
REDUCTION OF CERTAIN SUPPOSED FACULTIES,
sequently the greater the number of images, that may arise to the poet, and of powers and effects, that may arise to the philosopher, the more copious, in both cases, will be the suggestions of analogy, which constitute poetic invention or philosophic discovery,—and the more copious the suggestions of analogy may be, the richer and more diversified, it is evident, must be the inventive power of the mind. It is the quality of memory, then, as suggesting objects in their old and familiar sequences of contiguity,--not the quantity of the store of suggestions, that is unfriendly to genius, though, as I before remarked, this very difference of quality may, to superficial observers, seem like a difference of the quantity of the actual power.
It is in common conversation chiefly, that we judge of the excellence of the memory of others, and that we feel our own defects of it,--and the species of relation which forms by far the most important tie of things, in ordinary discourse, is that of previous contiguity. We talk of things which happened at certain times, and in certain places; and he who remembers these best, seems to us to have the best memory, though the other more important species of suggestion, according to analogy, may, in his mind, be wholly unproductive, and though no greater number of images, therefore, may be stored in it, and no greater number of spontaneous suggestions arise; but, on the contrary, perhaps, far fewer than in the more philosophic minds, whose admirable inventions and discoveries, as we term them, we admire, but whose supposed bad memories, which are in truth only different modifications of the same principle of suggestion, we lament.
The most ignorant of the vulgar, in describing a single event, pour out a number of suggestions of contiguity, which may astonish us indeed, though they are a proof, not that they remember more, but only that their prevailing suggestions take place, according to one almost exclusive relation. It is impossible to listen to a narrative of the most simple event, by one of the common people, who are unaccustomed to pay much attention to events, but as they occur together, without being struck with a readiness of suggestion of innumerable petty circumstances, which might seem like superiority of memory, if we did not take into account the comparatively small number of their suggestions of a different class. They do not truly remember more than others, but
their memory is different in quality from the memory of others. Suggestions arise in their minds, which do not arise in other minds; but there is at least an equal number of suggestions that arise in the minds of others, of which their minds, in the same circumstances, would be wholly unsusceptible. Yet still, as I have said, to common observers, their memory will appear quick and retentive, in a peculiar and far surpassing degree. How many trifling facts, for example, does Mrs Quickly heap together, to force upon Sir John Falstaff's remembrance, his promise of marriage. The passage is quoted by Lord Kames, as a very lively illustration of the species of recollections of a vulgar mind.
" In the minds of some persons, thoughts and circumstances crowd upon each other by the slightest connexions. I ascribe this to a bluntness in the discerning faculty; for a person who cannot accurately distinguish between a slight connexion and one that is more intimate, is equally affected by each ; such a person must necessarily have a great flow of ideas, because they are introduced by any relation indifferently; and the slighter relations, being without number, furnish ideas without end. This doctrine is, in a lively manner, illustrated by Shakspeare :
* Falstaff. What is the gross sum that I owe thee?
' Hostess. Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself, and thy money too. Thou didst swear to me on a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in my Dolphin-chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, on Wednesday in Whitsun-week, when the Prince broke thy head for likening him to a singing man of Windsor, thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me, and make me my lady thy wife. Canst thou deny it? Did not Goodwife Keech, the butcher's wife, come in then, and call me Gossip Quickly? coming in to borrow a mess of vinegar; telling us she had a good dish of prawns; whereby thou didst desire to eat some; whereby I told thee they were ill for a.green wound. And didst not thou, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to be no more so familiarity with such poor people, saying, that ere long they should call me madam ? And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy book oath, deny it, if thou canst.--Second Part, Henry IV. Act. 2. scene2.'
- On the other hand, a man of accurate judgment cannot have a great flow of ideas; because the slighter relations, making no
REDUCTION OF CERTAIN SUPPOSED FACULTIES, ETC.
figure in his mind, have no power to introduce ideas. And hence it is, that accurate judgment is not friendly to declamation or copious eloquence. This reasoning is confirmed by experience ; for it is a noted observation, That a great or comprehensive memory is seldom connected with a good judgment."*
It is not from any defect of memory, as Lord Kames thinks, that fewer of the ideas, which prevail in common conversation, arise to a mind of accurate judgment; but, because the prevailing tendencies to suggestion, in such a mind, are of a species that have little relation to the dates, &c. of the occurrences that are the ordinary topics of familiar discourse. The memory differs in quality, not in quantity; or, at least, the defect of these ordinary topics is not itself a proof, that the general power of suggestion is less vigorous.
In the case of extemporary eloquence, indeed, the flow of mere words, may be more copious, in him, who is not accustomed to dwell on the permanent relations of objects, but on the slighter circumstances of perception and local connexion. Yet this is far from proving that the memory of such a person, which implies much more than the recurrence of verbal signs, is less coinprehensive ; on the contrary, there is every reason to suppose, that, unless probably in a few very extraordinary cases, which are as lit. tle to be taken into account, in a general estimate of this kind, as the form and functions of monsters in a physiological inquiry, the whole series of suggestions, of which a profound and discriminating mind is capable, is greater, upon the whole, than the number of those, which rise, so readily, to the mind of a superficial thinker. The great difference is, that the wealth of the one is composed merely of those smaller pieces, which are in continual re. quest, and, therefore, brought more frequently to view,-while the abundance of the other consists chiefly in those more precious coins, which are rather deposited than carried about for current use, but which, when brought forward, exhibit a magnificence of wealth, to which the petty counters of the multitude are comparatively insignificant.
Elements of Criticism, Chap. I.
REDUCTION OF CERTAIN SUPPOSED MENTAL FACULTIES TO SIM
PLE SUGGESTION,—III. IMAGINATION.
GENTLEMEN, the inquiries which have occupied us with respect to the phenomena of the principle of suggestion, have, I trust, shewn you what that principle is, as distinguished from the other principles of our mental constitution. It becomes necessary, however, in justification of that simple arrangement which I ven. tured to propose to you, to consider this principle not merely in relation to the phenomena which I have included under it, but also in relation to other arrangements, and to shew, that this one general tendency of the mind is sufficient to account for a variety of phenomena which have been referred to peculiar powers of the understanding. This I endeavoured to prove in my last Lecture, with respect to two of these supposed intellectual powers, the powers, as they have been termed, of Conception and Memory.
In the first place, I shewed, of conception, that, far from being distinguishable from suggestion, it is only a particular instance, or operation, of that very principle ; what are called the laws of suggestion or association, in relation to our mere ideas, being nothing more than the general circumstances, according to which conceptions follow conceptions, in our trains of thought. A particular conception, indeed, as one state of mind, differs from that general tendency of suggestion, in consequence of which it arises; but it differs from it only in the same way as any other particular feeling differs from that general mental susceptibility to which we trace it; as our sensation of a particular sound, or odour, for example, differs from the senses of smell and hearing, by which we are capable of perceiving all the varieties of sounds and odours. The power of suggestion is that capacity of the mind, by which