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Three or four of the best arithmeticians one day calculated mentally, and pronounced correct answers, in twenty minutes, to 147 questions, put to them out of a ready reckoner!'—p. 83.
This is, indeed, a startling paragraph. Mr. Smith does not profess to have been present at the miraculous performance; but he sets it down, without advancing anything against its probability. We hope that it is a misprint. Credulity itself must hesitate to admit so astounding a fact. We should regret any circumstance that would prevent our willing credence of the other statements given concerning this school.
A short sketch of a system of mnemonics concludes the volume. In this part the author does not profess to advance anything original, but his ideas on the subject are rational and judicious,—perhaps the execution does not merit equal praise.
The ordinary method of taxing the memory, in learning what is called tasks or rules by rote, deservedly receives Mr. Smith's strong reprobation; and were his usefulness limited to only this one particular, it would entitle him sufficiently to be placed among the zealous and enlightened who are at work in the great cause of education. In his lectures,
'He lays it down as a principle, that tasks ought never to be imposed, when the matter intended to be impresed on the memory, can be so impressed by ordinary instruction, or by reasoning on general principles. Mere tasks learnt by rote attach only to the memory, and by such tasks the memory would indeed be overburdened, if it did not relieve itself by suffering its stores to escape; that is, by forgetting the unintelligible, and, therefore, unwelcome lumber which oppressed it. Ask any well-educated person how many of those things his memory retains which were only committed to it by means of tasks; and then contrast the scantiness of his recollections of those things with the abundance and freshness of his impressions of principles and facts, in the reception of which his judgment or fancy has been engaged.'
'If persons took one-tenth of the pains in attending to general principles, which they employ in committing to memory, not only would their knowledge be more extensive, but their minds more active and efficient for all the various purposes of our nature.'pp. 87, 88.
The memory must, however, be sometimes called in requisition, in cases which appear to lie within its province alone. It is useful to recollect facts chronologically, and to arrange them in due order, within the store-house of our mind; by this means clear ideas are always retained of the course of leading events-of the progress of society—and of
the contemporaneous periods of the different nations of the world. There can be little doubt that much assistance may be given to memory, even in its peculiar department, by associating with it, as an auxiliary, some other power of the mind; thus, an acquaintance with dates may be acquired with facility, and obtain a permanent place in the mind. To devise some means of affording this assistance is the business of mnemonics. It is evident then, that in arranging a system for this purpose, an association with the reason or the imagination should be obtained in the most simple and natural manner. Many words should not be crowded on the memory for the better recollection of one, and whatever words are to be remembered, in order to recall the date, should certainly comprise good sense and good English. These desiderata have rarely been found in any systems of mnemonics. The machinery has in general been too complicated and uninteresting, burdening the memory with an overpowering quantity of extraneous nonsense, which, one would imagine, required a greater effort of the memory for its retention, than the recollection of a few dates.
For these reasons, Grey's Memoria Technica,' however ingenious, presents insuperable objections to the general adoption of his method; and we believe there are comparatively few, who have ever, to any useful extent, availed themselves of the numerous tables found in his elaborate work.
Feinagle's System of Associations, by which, a few years back, so many fancied that they were becoming miraculously wise, is now entirely sunk into oblivion; and perhaps there is not one person among all that composed his numerous classes, who retains one distinct idea, obtained in consequence of attendance upon his lectures. In general, the artifices employed for impressing numeral facts on the mind, have not been sufficiently attractive to invite to their extensive adoption. We do not think that the sketch before us is at all calculated to obtain greater favour.
In all the systems of mnemonics, wherein words are employed, the fundamental principle is, that of making a certain number of letters symbolic of the respective figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0. Dr. Grey assigned this office to the vowels, as well as the consonants; hence his choice of words was limited, and, in consequence, those combinations were formed of uncouth sounds, which deterred the student from attempting to make himself familiar with them.
Consonants alone are used in the system under examination; by which plan correct words may be formed. But we think that there is here a needless complication, and that the memory is called upon to make a greater effort than is ne
cessary, for merely giving to each figure its peculiar representatives. Ten unconnected incongruous words, such as 'magi,'' raze,'' cook,' &c., must each, in its proper place, be associated with the different digits.
The arrangement of letters being made, it remains to combine them together in words for the formation of certain numbers to be remembered, as naturally, in as few words, and in as good language as possible, consistent with producing an association in the mind. The examples in the present work are lamentably deficient in all these particulars. For the purpose of remembering the dates of accession of each of the kings of England, two lines of-we cannot call them poetry, nor scarcely do they deserve the name of rhyme -but two lines of wretched doggrel are recommended to be committed to memory, in order to recollect the concluding word in which the date is conveyed. Better would it be never to have the mind stored with these useful dates, than to have so much accompanying useless absurdity, and thus run the risk of spoiling the pupil's taste for the beauties of poetry, in endeavouring to learn and retain such an insufferable jingle. Two specimens of these couplets will perhaps be quite sufficient to prevent the rest from being perused :For no man did Henry the Eighth care a wisp, And so fat he became that he scarcely could lisp.'
'Elizabeth, ev'n when in years rather mellow,
There is a fault in the arrangement, as well as in the execution of this system. The letters representing the figures are contained in one word, whereby the power of introducing it with propriety is very circumscribed. By causing only the initial letter of each word to form the date, a much wider scope is at once given to ingenuity in constructing an appropriate sentence.
In a small unpretending little book published a few ago, and entitled A System of Chronology,' by Mrs. John Slater, this plan is practised with great advantage; while the letters are so simply associated with the numbers, that the preliminary step of learning these may, without difficulty, be acquired in five minutes. By the above method sentences are constructed, having some marked reference to the circumstance, the date of which is to be remembered. For example, the date of the death of Socrates is known by recollecting the sentence-Rest, sage Socrates.' The period of the death of Newton is shown by the following :—
The great Newton buried.' Every useful date is, through
this contrivance, readily acquired by children, without being made an irksome task; indeed, it is rather a matter of amusement to them, to exercise their ingenuity in forming sentences for themselves.
We cannot close this article without expressing a sincere hope that Mr. Smith will continue to give his valuable assistance towards demolishing the pernicious systems by which education has heretofore been enslaved, and replacing them by rational and enlightened methods of expanding the youthful mind, and leading it on to the love of knowledge and virtue.
THE JESUIT COLLEGE AT FREIBURG-A DIOCESAN VISITATION.
'I made an excursion to Freiburg, in the month of June last, at the invitation of a friend here, who was going to place one of his sons in the Jesuit Seminary; and I took some pains to became acquainted with it in all its parts. Conceive a spacious edifice, forming an oblong square, with four stories above ground, and four hundred and ninety-eight windows; and, conceiving this, how is it possible further to conceive that it should labour under a deficiency of light? This stately mansion lies, like a citadel, on the highest ground in the town. On our entrance we were received by a servitor in the sable livery of his order; there was much of courtesy in his address. As soon as we had crossed the threshold, the double iron wicket behind us was instantly closed, and our cicerone delivered himself of a loud rap or two against the knocker of the door. Forthwith it was answered by two young "Jesuit Fathers," whose office it was to show strangers round the establishment. Away, then, we were hurried with almost breathless velocity through a host of broad, well-lighted, cleanly corridors; ever and anon stopping a second to recover our wind and take an admiring glance at the order and comfort which pervaded the kitchens, dining-halls, and larders; for there is not a nail or peg but what is kept as clean and perfect as in a palace. The interior is arranged with so much tact that nothing which passes can escape the observant eye. Our next visit was to the playgrounds and gardens, where the pupils were enjoying themselves right lustily: had the weather been bad they would have taken refuge in the apartments allotted for their recreation; and what, think ye, these contain? Billiard-tables, a pretty theatre, a bazaar stocked with every sort of toy and plaything; in short, nothing was wanting which youthful thirst for amusement can put in requisition. A tone of gentleness and benevolence seemed, even when the classes were under tuition, the universal order of the day; nor would it be easy for a superficial observer to detect the keen and unintermitting vigilance with which the teachers watch their pupils; not one word, or motion, or change of feature passes unheeded; the most trivial occurrence is entered into a book with scrupulous accuracy; and, with this book at his elbow, the scholar is summoned every evening to render an account of the day's occupation. Woe betide the hapless urchin who shall treat a fault with slight, or show himself ashamed to bring it out. This wakefulness is carried with so high a hand, that the very words which a boy utters in the unconsciousness of slumber are carried to book! In spite of sweet looks and honeyed words, nothing can exceed the harsh and inexorable