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FEBRUARY 1, 1810.
[1 of VOL. 29.
As long as those who write are ambitious of making Converrs, and of giving their Opinions a Maximum o "Influence and Celebrity, the most extenfively circulated Mifcellany will repay with the greatest Effect the "Curiosity of those who read either for Amusement or Inftru&ion.”—JOHNSON,
For the Monthly Magazine.
EMORY, or the power of retaining
on the mind, is a faculty, whose fullness of vigour is rarely coeval with the formation of the human intellect. Man has therefore recourse to art, for supplying those resources, which are denied to him by nature. As to the readiest means of effecting this end, so indispensably requisite to the acquisition and retention of knowledge, the philosophers and rhetoricians of every age are found at variance: nor do they differ less widely, in pointing out the fittest mode of cultivating and improving the memory, than agriculturists differ as to the mode of cultivating and improving the same soil. Some contend for the natural aids of a well-directed practice and constant exercise: others scruple not to call in me dicine to the assistance of the retentive faculty; and many insist upon the agency of impressions, derived from external objects, with which a certain association of ideas is connected. In respect to the first of these methods, we find Quinctilian among its warmest supporters: "If, (says he,) I should be asked in what consists the real and greatest art for improving the memory, I would say, in labour and exercise; and that nothing is so efficacious as learning much by heart, thinking much, and this daily, if possible." These maximis are strongly enforced by various modern writers; and amongst those of our own country, by Beattie and Knox, who may be consuited with advantage, by such as feel an interest in this subject. The second method I have mentioned, as being founded
Si quis tamen unam maximamque a me artem Memoriæ quærat, exercitatio est et labor; multa ediscère, multa cogitare, et si fieri potest, quotidiè, potentissimum est. Int. Orat. lib. xi. c. 2.
MONTHLY MAG. No. 194.
on medicinal aids, I shall leave Horstius, Marsilius, Johnston, and their disciples, to explain for themselves.
We now come to a consideration of the third method, which forms indeed the chief object of my present communica
Ancients, known by the name of Mnemonics, and a-kin to the Ars Memorativa or Artificial Memory of the Moderns. The principles on which this art is grounded will be adverted to hereafter;. and its practice, at least in the present day, I shall abstain from enlarg ing upon, as that has been so ably developed on a former occasion.* I shall content myself, therefore, with a summary notice of the origin and progress of this art among the ancients, previously to entering upon a wider field; the quackeries of its professors, and the patronage conferred on them in the sixteenth century.
The most important of human discoveries owe their birth to accidental causes; and I know not, therefore, why chance should not be deemed as fruitful a mother of invention, as necessity. Simonides, the Cean, was indebted for the invention of Mnemonics to a casu. alty. We are told, that this mercenary poett being hired at a supper to eulogize the prowess of his patron, Scopas, vietor in wrestling at the Olympic Games, he was suddenly called away from table, on being informed, that two youths on white horses were waiting for him at
Vide, vol. xxiv. p. 105; et seq. Monthly Magazine, signed COMMON SENSE.
So Anacreon, Callimachus, and others, designate him, from the ardour with which he prostituted the Muses for lucre: nor could the Romans brand the works of a fellow-poet with a more opprobrious epithet, than Simonidis Cantilene. To this charge, alleged against Sinonides even in his own times, Simonides more artfully than wittily pleaded: "I had sather leave wherewithal for my enemies to prey upon when I am dead, than become a burden to my friends in my life-time." the