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Methods of improving Memory. - Attention,-Recollection,-Writing,

Converfation, &c.-Directions for committing Difcourfes to Memory.Whether Sermons should be recited from Memory, or read.


AVING touched upon the more remarkable phænomena of Memory, I fhall now propose fome rules for its improvement. This head will not take up much room, as I have anticipated fome things which I meant to referve for it.

To a well-improved Memory belong these three talents or faculties; firft, That of retaining eafily, and with little trouble of attention or repetition; fecondly, That of retaining for a long time; and thirdly, That of a ready recollection.Or, to give it in the words of Roger Afcham, "A good Memory is well known by three pro

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perties: that is, if it be quicke in receyving, "fure in keping, and redie in delivering furthe " again."*

Afcham's Scholemafter.


For improving Memory in the first particular, I can propofe nothing more effectual than frequent exercife, and a habit of ftrict Attention. He, who is ambitious to acquire this talent, will fet apart certain portions of his time, for the purpofe of exercifing his Memory, either by recollecting what was formerly imprinted on it, or by making new attainments. And, that this exer cife may be the more amufing, as well as ufeful, he will be careful not to load his Memory with frivolous things, or inelegant compofitions, or with what he does not perfectly understand. Nor is it my advice, that he fhould, on thefe occafions, confine himself to ferious matters, though they, no doubt, claim his first regard: humourous writing, and jocular converfation, when friendly to virtue and good manners, are a great relief to the mind; and I once knew a boy, who having been, by the indifcreet zeal of his mother, kept continually poring on fermons, and obliged to commit them to Memory, loft his other faculties, and became ftupid. Hiftorical narrative, and poetical defcription, are alfo very proper for exercising Remembrance, and at the fame time for amufing the fancy. I have already recommended habits of Attention; and pointed out the method of recollecting from time to time what we are reading, or have been hearing.

What we have been doing, is also a matter, on which we cannot too often exercise our Memory. Seasons of felf-examination, at which our past actions, thoughts, and purposes, pafs in review before us, to be approved if we find them right, and condemned and rectified where they appear to have been wrong, are recommended by


the divine and the philofopher, as indifpenfably requifite to moral improvement. They are not lefs fo to intellectual proficiency. They ferve to give us clear ideas of ourselves and of other men ; to methodise our experience, and fix it in the mind; to enlarge and correct our knowledge of human affairs; and fo to prepare us both for bufinefs, and for converfation. They are particularly neceffary, when we are engaged in very active fcenes; for then ideas pafs through the mind fo rapidly, that, without habitual Recollection, we muft forget a great deal of what it is our interest to remember. Some men keep a record of the more remarkable occurrences of their life. They who fill ftations of importance ought certainly to do fo; after the example of Cefar, and Cicero, and moft of the great men of antient times. And though I will not affirm that this is equally the duty of others, I beg leave to fay, that of feveral perfons in the middle and lower ranks of life, whom I have known to be punctual in this refpect, I never heard one regret the time which he had employed on his journal.

Facility of Remembrance is further promoted by a regular order and diftribution of things. A confufed difcourfe makes no impreffion: and, of a number of unconnected fentences, if we remember two or three, we generally forget all the reft. But a methodical compofition, rightly divided into its feveral heads or members, which do all naturally illuftrate each other, and whereof none can be misplaced or wanting, without injury to the whole, is readily understood, and quickly remembered; becaufe, all the topicks being connected, the idea of one fuggefts that of another.

It resembles a machine, whofe parts are put together and adjusted by the artift, and which by a perfon skilled in mechanicks is understood, and remembered, upon being once examined; while a confused difcourfe is like a parcel of wheels and pegs and fragments, lying together in a heap, which, after repeated examinations, we can make nothing of, and which leaves no diftinct impreffion in the Memory.

To talk upon a fubject, makes the mind attentive to it, and promotes facility of Remembrance. And, in this way, we may improve ourselves by inftructing the ignorant, as well as by converfing with those who are fuperiour to us in wifdom, or equal. Every man, who can fpeak, thinks in fome one language or other: but, if our words only pafs internally through the mind, we fhall not fo well remember them, as if we had given them vocal utterance. Converfation, too, makes Recollection, and fomething of arrangement, neceffary; and obliges the fpeaker to exprefs himfelf fo as to be understood by others; which is fometimes not eafily done, even by those who think they very well understand their own meaning. By all these exercises, Attention is fixed, and our thoughts are fet in a variety of lights; and, therefore, we become more thoroughly acquainted with them, and more exactly retain them. For, in filent meditation, the mind is apt to be indolent; to quit a fubject before it has obtained a clear view of it; to escape from thoughts that seem to be attended with any perplexity; and to follow every amusing idea that may prefent itself, without caring how far it may lead from the prefent purpose. Of fuch meditations the Memory retains little or nothing. VOL. I.



But when we speak aloud, or converfe, our thoughts become more ftationary, and are better connected, and more perfectly understood; and impreffions are made on the ear, as well as on

the mind.

Memory may be made both fufceptible and tenacious, and the understanding greatly improved, by writing. I do not mean, by writing out common-places from books,-of which I have spoken. in another place *; but by putting what we think upon paper, and expreffing it in our own words. Our thoughts are fleeting, and the greater part of our words are forgotten as foon as uttered: but, by writing, we may give permanency to both; and keep them in view, till by comparing one with another, we make all confiftent, and supply what is wanting, and amend what is erroneous. Thus attention is fixed; judgment is exercifed; clear ideas are conveyed to the understanding; and the Memory is prepared for receiving a deep impreffion. Let us, therefore, often write down, not only the fentiments we learn from books, and teachers, and converfation; but also those that are peculiarly our own, of which a confiderable number may arife in the minds of moft men every day. And, though many of these might, no doubt, be forgotten without lofs, yet fome may be found worthy of a lafting remembrance.

And here let me caution my young reader against the practice of writing confufedly, inaccurately, or on loofe papers. It is as eafy, and far more advantageous, to write correctly and legi

• See, On the Ufefulness of Claffical Learning, page 479, 480 third edition.


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