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PHRENO-MNEMOTECHNY, OR THE ART OF MEMORY: The Lectures delivered in New York and
Philadelphia, in the end of 1844. By FR. FAUVEL GOURAUD. New-York: WILEY AND PUTNAM.
This work, so long expected, is at last upon our table. It is not, as many may perhaps have anticipated, a dry book of statistics; a condensed scientific treatise, abstract, mono. tonous, and unrelieved. It is, on the contrary, a very interesting volume, full of wit, eloquence, talent, and instruction. Phreno-mnemotechny has established itself in the opinions of many
of the first men in this country both as a science and an art; and, if we are not greatly mistaken, the · Lectures' before us will render its popularity general, wherever they are studied. If haply the reader had not the good fortune to be present at the Professor's capital entertainments, his . Noctes Ambrosianæ,' last winter, what will he think of a system by which thousands of valuable facts may be permanently impressed upon the memory with little labor, nay even ' by a slight effort of attention ? To those who know by experience that “ facts are stubborn things,' this may seem paradoxical; but to those who have availed themselves of the Phreno-mnemotechnic fulcrum, and who have thus discovered what immense leverage the memory may obtain over a world of difficul. ties, this statement will appear just, and, in its widest sense, within the limits of verity. *Oh! inexorabilia fata " why did ye not permit our natal star to shine upon our cradle in a more auspicious era! Why was not our native parish gladdened by our advent when Mnemotechny was in the ascendant, and science had been converted from a toil into a luxury? Heu! me miserum ?' - why? oh, why! The doleful reminiscences of school. boy grievances crowd upon the memory like the ghosts of Ossian that 'sighed with the night-wind on the heights of Cromla.' The iron visage of our august pedagogue looms up before us, and the budding birch extends over our trembling flesh,' in striking allo-relievo against the well-scribbled, white-washed wall. Rollin is before us, the secret of our misery. His most memorable dates are immemorable to us. Now, what a change! Seriously, though not more sincerely: the importance of cultivating the memory is so obvious, that argument to prove it would be superfluous. Among students, clergymen, physicians, lawyers, and men in every walk in life, the great advantages of a retentive memory are constantly to be seen. There is scarcely a man of genius, who has distinguished him. self in any department, whose eminence has not been owing in a large degree to the possession of a powerful recollective faculty. The correctness of our inferences, in matters of business or taste, depends much upon our ability to array before the mind, in a single group, all the necessary premises. Logic, or the art of reasoning, is at the foundation of all intellectual excellence and all worldly success. In all logic, comparison is necessary, either between the qualities of ideas or the qualities of things; and extended comparison is impracticable without a powerful memory, natural or artificial. The object of Phreno
mnemotechny is, to assist the natural faculty by artificial means; means which high authorities have declared to be of immense assistance in every department of literature and science.
In the general introduction, our author gives a most interesting historical sketch of the origin and progress of Mnemonics, showing the gradual development of the science, and preparing the reader for appreciating its triumphs under the new name of Phreno-mnemo. techny. Then follow the Lectures; and we are surprised to find that in a printed form they lose so little of the brilliance which characterized them during their oral delivery. In their preparation for the press all of them have received many valuable additions, especially the last. The introduction to the sixth lecture, which relates to the astronomical applications of the system, contains some remarkable specimens of English composition; and, when we remember that four years ago Professor Gouraud was a total stranger to our perplexing vernacular, we cannot help expressing our astonishment, that in so short a period he should bave attained so complete a mastery over its idioms. We might quote many paragraphs in illustration of this remark; but our limits confine us to the following passage from his description of the setting sun. The theme is a trite one, an a thousand writers have attempted it; but the truthfulness of nature has seldom been more closely adhered to than in this brief segregated sketch:
"The sun now rapidly advances toward the bordering line of the horizon. His pencil-rays, flashing above and beneath ihe mountainous clouds, appear like sheaves of multi-colored flame springing up in awful majesty from the bosom of a Titanic volcano. The heavens appear to glitter with the bright blaze of a devouring conflagration. Presently the sun, becoming visible through a vast opening, burns before the beholder like au incandescent sphere of molten metal; bis bulk, immensely magnified, pours forth a flood of intense scarlet light, which for a while fills the whole concave of the sky. At this moment, his lower edge dips into the liquid surface of the lake. He seems to hesitate and pause a while, as if to take a last view of the gorgeous and indescribable scene produced by his parting presence, before bidding a last farewell to the day which he has so gloriously ended, which he shall see no more, and which now belongs to Time ! Hall his disc has already disappeared ; and as he descends, he seems to magnily his orb, and swell his bulk, as is to prolong his presence beyond his allotted hour in the magic scene, which soon must vanish with himself. Myriads of ephen insects, whose existence begins and ends between the roses of two Auroras, couscious, it would seem, that they shall no more feel the vivifying rays of the day-king, assemble every where in long and innumerable columns, as if resolved to pass away together; they cover the fields with their fitting shadows, performing a thousand evolutions in their death-dance; stretching upward and downward, hither and thither, scattering, combining, and scattering again; destined in a few moments to vanish, never more lo sport in the sunlight. As if to hasten their ephemeral destiny, numbers of darting swallows, whistling in their joyous flight, pass through the mobile crowds, seizing the victims in their path, with which to feed their little ones. Emblem of the indifference of the living to the fate of the dead! No sooner has the messenger of death thinned their dancing liosts, than the survivors unite again, once more to dance on lighter wings.
Already the eastern side of the heavenly vault presents a few silvery stars upon its dark-blue concave. The sun hides himself below the horizon. The brilliant colors which painted the clouds sade away gradually; they change, chameleon-like, from tint to tint, to fainter and fainter hues, presenting successively all the irises of a thousand cliromatic prisms. By-and-by, only their loftier summits and westward edges reflect for a little longer the evanescing hues of the evanescent sun; while the gray mantle of night, growing darker and darker, gradually folds around their bases, soon to wrap them in its drapery of darkness. Now the scene changes. The heavens assume a new and slill more variegated appearance. The clouds, breaking gradually into fragments of every variety of form and size, offer in turus pictures of the most fantastic character. Here are seen monsters of the most formidable and massive structures springing up into a sort of existence, again to pass into new shapes and revive under new developments. There, slowly arise threatening towers, impenetrable walls, dungeons, bastions, and lofty ramparts, in gigantic proportions. Again, ruins of the most stupendous aspect rear their broken columns, and moss-grown porticoes, and deserted fanes. These vanish in their turn. Insect forms, covering whole acres of the sky, as they are magnified on colossal scale, are ready to be crushed beneath the impending weight of Ossaic mountains. Pigmy chariots are drawn by maininoth monsters; aquatic leviathans fly with the wings of birds, and birds are seen diving into transparent ocean-lakes; while farther on, like the phantom of another Babylon, springs forth a mighty city, crowned with hundreds of steeples, battlemented walls, and embastioned towers, A few moments, and all these gorgeous structures dwiudle into other and equally fantastic forms, gradually to vanish, as those that went before them:
• Briant emblems of the names renowned in story!
These passages' speak for themselves,' and render editorial comment upon the merely literary merits of the work from which they are taken, quite unnecessary. The volume has the external recommendation of being exceedingly well executed.
THE DUTY OF THE AMERICAN TEACHER: a Lecture delivered before the American Institute of In
struction at Providence, Rhode Island. By JOHN N. BELLOWS. Providence: THE INSTITUTE.
We have perused this admirable lecture with a consciousness, we think, of the evils which it deplores, and the wants which it portrays. And certain we are, that if the republic had more of such teachers as our author, school instruction would soon cease to be the bugbear it now is, to thousands of children. Mr. Bellows desires no mock respect to be paid to his vocation on the part of his pupils. “A happy day it will be,' he tells us,
both for teacher and pupil, when the former shall be regarded as not infallible, and when deference shall be shown to the man, the friend, the guide and counsellor, and fellowlearner, and not to the ghost of an authority, which has crushed many a tender spirit, and exalted many a learned blockhead into an importance he was by no means fitted to wield.' The following passage contains truths which should be brought home to the school. committees of every common-school district in the union : “Who is the American teacher now? Who is it that is leading the youthful mind among the hills of New-England, in the valleys of the west, and along the plains of the south? Who is the man now forming our future voters and governors and judges; those who are to decide the destiny of our dear country? Is he a man trained to his profession by study or even practice? Is he an intellectual man, with refined tastes of any kind and degree? He is probably a young man of indifferent health, who is anxious to escape the stigma, as he considers it, of being a mechanic or farmer. Heaven belp bim! he wants a profession. He keeps school for his own improvement. This scheme of schoolmastership is a kind of first step in his own education. By and by, he will begin the study of law, or medicine, or divinity; and this may be very well for him, but the parents who employ him ought to know better.' The teacher should be a man capable of making his pupil realize that whatever subject he is taught has an existence independent of books: By addressing a young, clear mind in common language, not giving him to understand that you are doing a very difficult thing, whether upon language, mathematics, or the natural sciences, you may teach him a great deal almost before he feels aware of it. But give him a large hard-looking book, full of technical expressions, and he will be thinking of the difficulties in his way, finding expedients to get off, until his mind is confused ; and, whenever the subject is mentioned, there comes over him a current of misty associations, that perplex and disgust him with all study.' Is not this undeniable ? Books, adds Mr. Bellows, “ are useful only in a certain way, after much has been learned, to refresh the mind — a kind of review. Who learns poetry from books? True, there it is read, but first it is learned from nature; from mountain, sea, and wood; from the tempests without and the struggles within our own hearts; from the calm of evening, and the quiet of domestic peace. The book but tells us what we know already.' The following passage should commend itself to the reason, to the common sense, of every influential well-wisher of his country and its rising generations :
Go to a manufacturing town, and you see wealth in its great factories ; you hear the sound of dollars in its noisy water-wheels; and, as the bales of rich goods pass by you, you are struck with astopishment at the contrivances of human ingenuity and industry. Pass into these same factories, and you will find men engaged in apparently dull aud tedious processes, which to your eye, bear no relation whatever to the results you have just seen with so much astonishment. The results and effects of the teacher's labors are never, or rarely, seen in connection with himself. By the tiine the mind he has helped to form has got into busy life, and is taking an active part in the operations of the world, his share of the credit is quite forgotten, or the voice that would speak it is unheeded, amid the brazen-throated trumpets and the noise of indiscriminate praise. But however the world may regard him, not unsupported is he by a sense of the importance of his vocation. The neat, small school-house cannot compare with the large, noisy factory, in size and bustle; the tender, delicate mechanism of the human soul cannot be seen so obviously as the pouderous wheels and hammers of the mill; but while the latter turns out cloths and products which at best answer but a temporary use, and finally perish and are forgotten, the little modest school-house turns out minds which move the great machinery of society; produce or quell revolutions; free or enslave a country; commit great crimes, or deeds of heroic virtue. Here are formed the poet, the sage, the orator; one to charm the world with his numbers, another to enlighten it with his wisdom, and the last to move multitudes, as the winds bend with resistless force the stately trees of the forest. • • . The education of circum
stances, the teachings of nature, often produce men of noble character, whom some great crisis summons out from their seclusion to surprise and delight the world ; and because they have not gone through the usual routine of school and college, they are objects of wonder, and are said to have no education. As this good, accideutal education is rare, so these men are rare. But education they have had.'
Our author remarks that it has always struck him (and the same thought has often occurred to us,) as a gross inconsistency to suppose that those persons are best qualified to direct and plan schemes of education who know nothing of it practically; and who, it is taken for granted, must know best what is for the good of the young and the good of the teacher, because they excel in some branch of art, or are elevated to some particular station. We may as well undertake to learn agriculture from sailors, and navigation from farmers, as to hope for much light upon this subject from those who consider children as so many little figures, to be moved about at will by the arbitrary machinery they contrive, like the parts in Maelzel's celebrated exhibition of the burning of Moscow.' We want facts upon the subject of education. "The practical teacher, the man or woman who has been in the toil and sweat of the day, the sailor himself who has coasted about this comparatively unknown region of the young mind; who has found shallows where he looked for deep water and deep water where he looked for rocks ; who has found no hold for his anchors when the tempest caught him on a lee-shore; and again has been saved from shipwreck often when ready to despair, by the springing up of favorable winds, or the gleaming of a light just seen on the verge of the horizon; he alone can furnish these facts, and from him alone must come the foundation of all schemes of education. We think no one can rise from the perusal of this earnest, well-reasoned and well-written treatise, without comprehending the importance of having humane, educated, practised instructors for our children and youth; without, in short, agreeing fully with the writer, that “if uneducated men must teach, let them take the advanced, the sturdy, the already well-disciplined; but suffer not such to tamper with the ardent curiosity of a young mind; which, like the tender shoot of the vine, yields to the breathing of the lightest zephyr; but which, like the same vine, after it has become the stock of new shoots, is able to withstand the tempest and the storm.'
THE LIBRARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. Conducted by JARED SPARKS. Second Series. Vol
umes Three and Four. pp. 884. Boston: CHARLES C. LITTLE AND JAMES Brown.
We have on more than one occasion commended this well-edited and well-executed series to the attention of our readers; but each succeeding issue renews a fervent wish that the volumes which they embrace might find their way to the fire-sides of every American who loves and would cherish the names which his country should not willingly let die.' The first of the two volumes named at the head of this notice contains the lives of Gen. John SULLIVAN, (who took an active part in the affairs of our country, and who has hitherto scarcely had justice done him,) by Rev. W. B. O. PEABODY; of Jacob LEISLER, admirably written by C. F. HOFFMAN, Esq., and in the spirit, we are glad to perceive, of a genuine KNICKERBOCKER; of NATHANIEL Bacon, ihe · founder of 'Bacon's Rebellion' in Virginia, by our correspondent, the author of 'The Palmyra Letters,' Rev. WILLIAM WARE; and of John Mason, of Connecticut, (a man made famous in the exterminating war waged against the Pequot Indians,) by Rev. Geo. E. Ellis; a very spirited sketch. The second-named volume contains the Lives of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,' a biography abounding in interest, and extremely well written by Mr. William GAMMELL; of Timothy Dwight, President of Yale College, by William B. SPRAGUE, D. D.; and of Count Pulaski, by the Editor, JARED SPARKS, Esq. The volumes of the “ American Biography' are admirably printed, upon fine white paper, and the engravings with which they are occasionally illustrated are in the first style of the art. We cannot doubt that the series receives a wide diffusion. VOL. XXV.
INDA: A LEGEND OF THE LAKES : WITH OTHER POEMs. By LEWIS F. THOMAS. In one volume.
pp. 132. Saint Louis: V. ELL 18.
This we learn is the first volume of poetry that ever emanated from the press west of the Mississippi. The principal poem, and the one which gives the title to the work, was delivered some years since before a literary society at Cincinnati, Ohio, and subsequently before a kindred body at Saint Louis. The minor poems, it is candidly avowed, were put in to eke out a book.' The author, with the same frankness, adds: “ Most writers put forth their first efforts at the earnest solicitations of numerous friends ;' I publish mine against the advice of friends, merely to gratify my own whim. Whether my little work succeeds or not, is a matter of but slight consideration, except to myself; and I am free to confess that its publication is prompted as much by my own vanity as by any other feeling.' He was quite right in inferring that a volume of poems from the west of the Mississippi, with the theme of its principal poem entirely western, would at least prove a novelty; he may well assume too that it is something to be the pioneer of poesy' on the other side of the Great Valley. In this spirit, he casts his wild prairie floweret to the Father of Waters, trusting only that it may be deemed' worthy to blossom in the bright bouquet which the Genius of the Great West is gathering, to bloom on her bosoin.' We do not greatly affect Indian poems, having in our boyhood dwelt near, almost among, one of the tribes of the · Six Nations, whose chief men we always found any thing but poetical. We cannot refuse our verdict, however, in favor of such graphic limning as is contained in the annexed sketch of a native chief:
* His forehead open, wide and high,
* The deer supplied him moccasins,
Or listening to the council-talk,
The other grasped a tomahawk:
The picture of Waynim, and the trophies which adorned his wigwam, is sufficiently vivid, but like Byron's ' bit of the terrible’ in bis • Siege of Corinth,' is equally disgusting. Far better, and in better taste, is the admirable picture of the heroine. The lines we have italicised would do credit to Moore himself:
"SCARCE had the fifteenth summer's sun
• The sandals on her feet she wore,
So sofily did she tread the plain,
Soon as she passed, rose up again,
pay her homage as she went: