Page images
PDF
EPUB

are sir guards, or wards, upon this horse, besides the vaulter, who are all scrambling for a piece of a (lark.)"

The kings of England, we may just observe, are all comprised in one room; but should some zealous Roman Catholic wish to have at his fingers' ends the whole series of popes-how many rooms full of symbols must the poor man burden bis memory with ?

The next chapter is on geography; we shall not trouble our readers with the method of dividing the sphere into compartments, and transferring these compartments to the above-mentioned rooms; because it is only the general principles of the system that we are considering. Some curious observations, however, we cannot help transcribing.

“ What we have learned in the common way on globes is soon forgotten, there being no connecting media to bring the different countries to our recollection. Suppose we are looking at a globe, and we fix our eyes upon England, we cannot see its antipodes; places can be seen only in oue direction. The Chinese, when shown a map of the world, said, why put us up in a corner? we are in the centre. In fact, everywhere is the centre, and the centre is everywhere. The whole circumference is equally distant from us wherever we may be. The four quarters of the northern hemisphere being arranged on the four walls, when we are in the room, we can, in an insiazt, see every part of the hemisphere." P. 278, 279.

As if the whole circumference" were not "equally distant from us wheresoever we may be" on the artificial globe, and as if it were in M. Feinaigle's geographical room. Truly, we think the Chinese might start some very shrewd objections to the professor's ingenious plan.

“ On the seventh step is Iceland. The symbol for 17 is Archimedes, or the carpenter; he is breaking up the ice, and that we may remember the name of the celebrated mountain, Hecla, we will say

that he acquits himself with very great eclat.P. 282.

We are quite tired of this now: if the reader wish for any more he must be content to buy the book, and he may then get a view of particular geography, statistics, history, language, poetry, and prose. We have one or two observations to make before we finish.

In the first place, the professor does not seem to have a very definite notion of the points where the memory stands in need of assistance. History is, of all other things, that which we are the least likely to forget. A train of events, connected together,

either as cause or effect, or as cotemporaneous, is surely more easily kept in mind than one of these absurd sentences. These things are associated already in the memory; it is for what is insulated and unconnected that we want some artificial association. Surely the fact, that “a convention was entered into in Egypt, between General Kleber, on the part of the French, and the Grand Vizier, on the part of the Sublime Porte, which was approved by the cabinet of London," is as easily remembered as M. Feinaigle's symbol and the interpretation thereof. In the same manner the connected train of sentiment or narrative in poetry requires only attention to fix it in the memory.

66 Turn gentle hermit of the dale,

Apd guide my lonely way
To where yon taper cheers the vale

With hospitable ray.'

We must here reflect, and imagine that we see a hermit standing on the Tower of Babel, and turning round with inconceivable rapidity; a very large taper is placed upon his head. Angelina is walking by the tower and calling out loudly to the hermit to guide her lonely way; the taper cannot fail to suggest the remainder of the stanza." P. 374.

Now we appeal to any one of common sense whether the leading thought of the stanza is not as easily remembered as this ridiculous symbol, if a person does but think as he reads. The picture, then, only gives the supernumerary trouble of applying its hieroglyphics to the sense of the poet.

But further, is there no injury likely to accrue to the taste by using symbols like these? Is it to be borne, that instead of the grandeur and elegance of our poets, our children's aitention is to be employed upon hermits whirling round with lighted candles on their heads, and men putting hens in their ears? This injury is not confined to the use of this system of mnemonics in poetry; it extends itself everywhere. A disciple of the professor's must always be looking out for these childish pictures--and the more ridiculous they are, we are told, the better. We had ten thousand times rather live with a professed punster, and that is bad enough.

But facts are against us, it will be said. Let them have their weight. Here they are.

“ Miss P. K. (11 years of age) repeated fifty stanzas of four lines cach, from the second part of Mrs. More's "Sir Eldred of the Bower.' These she repeated consecutively, and in any order desired. On any remarkable word being mentioned, she determined the stanza, the line, and the place of the line, in which it was to be found; and also how many times the same word occurred in the poem. P. 231,

This young lady had received five lessons only, of one hour each.

“ Master S. H. explained the physical, mathematical, and chymical characters of minerals, after Hauy's system, assigning the systematical order of any character whatever proposed to him, and knowing in what manner any mineral ought to be examined and tried, to ascertain its nature. This pupil received only two hours' instruction fron, M. Feinaigle.

6 Master S. H. afterwards requested the audience to give twenty words or names, without any order or connexion whatever. These words were written on a board, and numbered from one to twenty, as follows:

1. Tower. 11, Syracuse.
2. Gate.

J2. Wellington,
3. Steeple. 13. Graham.
4. Church. 14. Ten.
5. Chapel. 15. Hill.
6. Institution. 16. Nelsou.
7. Crotch. 17. Archimedes,
8. Grey.

18. Palestine.
9. Regent. 19. Button.

10. Feinaigle: 20. Reform. “ After inspecting the numbers and words for a space of time, not exceeding three minutes, the pupil named every word in the series, both forwards and backwards; to any number that was proposed to him, he assigned the proper word, and vice versa.

“ A series of twenty-eight figures, named promiscuously by the audience, was then written down, as 8. 5. 1. 0. 5. 0 2. 9. 6. &c. &c. &c. These the pupil surveyed attentively, for about five minutes, and then repeated them forwards and backwards. He afterwards declared how many 8's. 2’s. 9's. &c. occurred in the ies, and the relative situation of each figure.

“ Master S. H. after one hour's application, repeated a Greek word from Aristophanes, consisting of seventy-six syllables and 165 letters, both forwards aud backwards; he also pamed any syllable in any order desired, determining its numerical situation."

Now, it is but fair to ask, what is meant by these pupils having received only five lessons," and "only two hours' instruction ? whether that this was the only time bestowed upon the particular lesson? or upon the whole system? Is it meant that, after having studied the symbols for a fortnight, perhaps, or three weeks, Miss P. K. then gave five hours to getting off her “fifty stanzas

of four lines eacb," &c.? or, that in five hours she mastered both the system and the verses? If the first, the representation is very unfair; in either case there is nothing very wonderful in the matter. The twenty unconnected words most persons could repeat in their given order, after having read them over once; and we think that any lad of good memory (and we suppose Master S. H. was a picked boy) might, without any assistance from these mnemonics, be crammed, (as a Cambridge man would say,) in five hours, with fifty latitudes and longitudes, so as to be able to give them all the night after his lesson. But what would be the use of this? The question is, how much would he know of them in a year, in a month ? And the answer is, nothing. And we very much question whether Master S. H. will know more. He will begin to forget the position of his symbols, and the words of his sentences; one hieroglyphic will confuse another; he will not remember which word in the sentence contained the magical letters; he will begin to inquire whether “Æsculapius” be “annoyed by six” or seven “hens," and whether “four soldiers" or five, " take away poor Ceres;" he will

-But enough of this book; we hope that our readers are as much tired of it as we are ourselves.

VOL. IV. Nen Series.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

JOEL BARLOW was the youngest of ten children of a respectable farmer, in independent but moderate circumstances. He was born at Reading, a village of Fairfield county, Connecticut, in or about the year 1755. His father died while he was yet a lad at school, and his portion of the patrimonial property was little more than sufficient to defray the expenses of a liberal education, even if conducted upon the most economical plan. In 1774 he was placed by his guardian at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, an inL'ution, at that time, in its infancy, and struggling with many diffieulties and embarrassments. After a very short residence there, he removed to Yale College, New Haven.

The class into which he entered at Yale College was remarkable for the high promise of talent displayed by many of its members, several of whom have since been eminently distinguished in various pursuits of active life. Among these Barlow always ranked as one of the first.

About this period a taste for the cultivation of polite literature had sprung up in Connecticut, and, especially, at the college of New Haven, which had formerly been chiefly devoted to the sererer sciences, and to those studies which are more immediately subsidiary to theological learning. The desire of imitation is the natural consequence of admiration of any species of excellence; and this revolution in taste soon manifested itself in many poetical attempts, attended, of course, by various degrees of success. The state of society in this country, which presents a much greater demand for every species of active talent, than for any of the mere elegances of literature, did not allow even the most success. ful of the Connecticut bards to devote themselves long to the ser.

« PreviousContinue »