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arbitrary, in which there is no special appropriateness in the connexion formed. Such are the associations between names and persons, between dates and facts, between words and ideas, between weights or measures and the figures representing their ratios, between contemporaneous events in different countries. Now in all these cases no judgment or reflection will help me to strengthen the association. If the link between the things thus related exists at all it must be forged by some mechanical process. I am told that Columbus discovered America in 1492, but there is no reason in the world which my understanding can recognize why the date should not have been 1452.
The books tell me that there are 5) yds. in a pole, and I think of the word pole and these figur together, but I do not establish this association by any rational process. It is established, if at all, by some other means. The suggestion is one of words rather than of thoughts.
Now, if we will consider it, the main differences in the mental calibre and character of men depend largely upon the sort of ideas which habitually or most readily coalesce in their minds. To a man of strong or lofty imagination a very common incident may suggest some hidden moral analogies, or far-reaching truth :
Different forms of associations.
“ To him the meanest flower that blows doth give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
And such a man we call a poet. In the case of another man, every striking scene in the phantasmagoria of life sets him reflecting on its antecedents and consequences ; and such a man has the philosophic temper, he is the reasoner, the moralist, the sage. To a third the sound of a word suggests only some grotesque simile, some remote allusion, some idea, which though essentially
different, has a superficial resemblance. And such a person is the man of fancy or of wit. But when on hearing a word, or being reminded of a scene, the mind at once passes to the other words or actions which were linked with it when we recognized it at first; when it simply recalls a certain group of words or thoughts in the same sequence as that in which they were before presented; then we say the man has a good memory. He can in fact reproduce readily former associations, whether logical or not.
Consider for a moment the process which goes on The prowhen we try to remember a fact. You ask me the name
cess of re
memberof the statesman who tried so hard to set poor Louis ing. XVI.'s finances in order, and I cannot remember it. Of course, if I knew the first letter of the name, that would give me a clue, and I should wait till that initial suggested to me a number of names, should fasten with special attention on likely names, and dismiss as fast as I could other names, which, though beginning with the same letter, were not, I know, what were wanted. But I do not remember the initial. So I let my mind dwell for a moment on Louis XVI. As I do so," the names of Calonne, of La Fayette, even of Burke and Pitt occur to me. They are not what I want, and I refuse to let my mind dwell on them. I think of Madame de Stael. Stop, she was the daughter of the statesman whose name I seek. Of Gibbon: that reminds me that he had sought the same lady in marriage. Then Geneva and Lausanne and Ferney and Voltaire, all names which are connected come rapidly through my mind, and in the midst of them Necker's name is suggested, and I fasten on it at
It is what I wanted. Now you will observe here that it is not by any conscious act that I have remembered this name. I
cannot be said to have found it, or dug it up from the stores of my memory. These metaphors are very misleading. What I have done is simply this, I have waited for the laws of association to operate, and for the wonderful spontaneous power of mental suggestion to help me. An effort of will served to bring my attention to bear on those suggestions which, as they emerged, seemed most hopeful; I withdrew my attention from all unpromising trains of association, and in due time the particular name of which I was in search came back. If I had had a better memory it would have come back sooner, or with less effort.
Now this faculty of remembering is one which we constantly want to use in our teaching. What would be the worth of any teaching without it? We desire of course to stimulate the power of fresh thought, to make children observers, reasoners, thinkers. But the first thing we demand of them is that they should recollect what we teach: If we have been at the pains to link together two things, say a word and its meaning, a fact and a date, or two thoughts by way of comparison or contrast, we want the process of linking them to be so effective, that whenever afterwards, the one is presented to the mind, the other shall come with it. Unless the associations of thought and words which we seek to establish are permanent, there is imperfect memory;
and if the memory is imperfect, our labour is lost. Modes of
So it is obvious that we ought to enquire into the establish
conditions which give permanence to associations once ing permanent as- brought before the mind. How are we to fix them? sociations. There are two obvious ways: (1) Fre
The first of them is that of frequent repetition. We quent repetition.
learn to fix many pairs of associated words or ideas together, not because we try to do so; but simply because How associations are fixed.
circumstances bring them constantly before us in juxtaposition'. Thus we learn the names of the people about us, the sequence of words in familiar texts and verses, the collocation of objects in the houses and streets we see every day. Suggest any one of these to the mind, and instantly, those which are related to it by mere contiguity come up before us in connexion whether we care to recall them or not. I might to-day by simply reiterating the same sentence fifty times make such an impression on your
mind that you would never forget it. The effect of mere frequency of repetition, in fastening together even the most incongruous associations, is so familiar to you that it needs no further illustration.
The second condition of remembering is the interest or (2) Interest sympathy with which we regard the things associated. I
in the thing
learned. go to hear a lecture on English Literature, and incidentally there are mentioned in the course of it two facts, the one
1 “That which has existed with any completeness in consciousness leaves behind it, after its disappearance therefrom, in the mind or brain, a functional disposition to its reproduction or reappearance in consciousness at some future time. Of no mental act can we say that it is 'writ in water.' Something remains from it whereby its recurrence is facilitated. Every impression of sense upon the brain, every current of molecular activity from one to another part of the brain, every cerebral reaction which passes into movement, leaves behind it some modification of the nerve-elements concerned in its function, some after-effect, or, so to speak, memory of itself in them, which renders its reproduction an easier matter, the more easy the more often it has been repeated, and makes it impossible to say that, however trivial, it shall not in some circumstances recur. Let the excitation take place in one of two nerve-cells lying side by side, and between which there was not originally any specific difference, there will be ever afterwards a difference between them. This physiological process, whatever be its nature, is the physical basis of memory, and it is the foundation of our mental functions."-Dr MAUDSLEY.
that Phineas Fletcher wrote the Purple Island, the other that James Thomson wrote Rule Britannia in a masque of his called Alfred. Well it probably happens that the one fact interests me and the other does not. I never heard of Fletcher before, and have not cared to enquire what the Purple Island meant. But I have often heard Rule Britannia sung and perhaps it never occurred to me to enquire who wrote it. That a rather vain-glorious, noisy, patriotic song, should have been written by James Thomson, whose name I have been accustomed to associate with pastoral musings, and sweet luxurious fancies about the Castle of Indolence, comes to me as a surprise. A month later, it is found that I have forgotten all about the Purple Island, but I remember vividly the origin of Rule Britannia. And the reason is plain. It is true, I heard both facts once only. But then the one fact excited
attention and interest and the other did not; and this accounts for the difference.
Now the obvious conclusion from this is, that if you want to have a thing remembered you may do it in either of two ways. You may fasten it by dint of frequent repetition into the memory of one who does not care to retain it; or you may get the thing remembered simply by exciting in your pupil a strong wish to remember it. And the labour involved in the two processes may be stated in inverse proportion ; the more you use the one expedient the less you want of the other. The act of remembering may be a mechanical—almost an automatic process, or it may be an intelligent process. But in just the proportion in which you make it intelligent, it ceases to be mechanical, and conversely. Every emotion of sympathy and interest you can awaken will render less necessary the wearisome joyless process of learning a task by hcart. Let it be kept in your own view, and in that