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moment, that where it is wanting, all the rest of our and we, in
faculties are in a great measure useless; our thoughts, reasonings, and knowledge, could not proceed beyond present objects, were it not for the assistance of our memories, wherein there may be two defects.
First, That it loses the idea quite, and so far it produces perfect ignorance; for, since we can know nothing farther than we have the idea of it, when that is gone, we are in perfect ignorance. De
Secondly, That it moves slowly, and retrieves not the ideas that it has, and are laid up in store, quick enough to serve the mind upon occasion. This, if it be to a great degree, is stupidity; and he who, through this default in his memory, has not the ideas that are really preserved there ready at hand when need and occasion calls for them, were almost as good be without them quite, since they serve him to little purpose. The dull man, who loses the opportunity whilst he is seeking in his mind for those ideas that should serve his turn, is not much more happy in his knowledge than one that is perfectly ignorant. It is the business, therefore, of the memory to furnish to the mind those dormant ideas which it has at present occasion for; in the having them ready at hand on all occasions, consists that which we call invention, fancy, and quickness of parts.
These are defects, we may observe, in the memory of one man compared with another. There is another defect which we may conceive to be in the
memory of man in general, compared with some superior created intellectual beings, which in this faculty may so far excel man, that they may have constantly in view the whole scene of all their former actions, wherein no one of the thoughts they have ever had may slip out of their sight. The omniscience of God, who knows all things, past, present, and to come, and to whom the thoughts of men's hearts always lie open, may satisfy us of the possibility of this. For who can doubt but God may communicate to those glorious spirits, his immediate attendants, any of his perfections, in what proportions he pleases, as far as created finite beings can be capable? It is reported of that prodigy of parts, Monsieur Pascal, that till the decay of his health had impaired his memory, he forgot nothing of what he had done, read, or thought, in any part of his rational age. This is a privilege so little known to most men, that it seems almost incredible to those who, after the ordinary way, measure all others by themselves; but yet, when considered, may help us to enlarge our thoughts towards greater perfection of it in superior ranks of spirits. For this of Mr. Pascal was still with the narrowness that human minds are confined to here, of having great variety of ideas only by succession, not all at once; whereas the several degrees of angels may probably have larger views, and some of them be endowed with capacities able to retain together, and constantly set before them, as in one picture, all
their past knowledge at once. This, we› may con ceive, would be no small advantage to the knowledge of a thinking man, if all his past thoughts and reasonings could be always present to him; and there fore we may suppose it one of those ways wherein the knowledge of separate spirits may exceedingly surpass ours. LOCKE
As illustrative in some measure of the views contained in the preceding beautiful quotation, the following case animadverted upon from Coleridge's Biographia Literaria deserves attention.
-'' In that rambling, confused, and inconclusive work, Mr. Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, there is, nevertheless, to be found a vast quantity of singularly acute metaphysical disquisition; and there occur many very amusing illustrations and anecdotes. In his sixth chapter, where he treats of Hartley's system, and undertakes to shew that, as far as it differs from that of Aristotle, it is neither tenable in theory nor founded on facts, he relates the following curious instance of delirium, in which, according to his belief, the ideas, or relics of long-before-received impressions, exactly imitated the order of those im pressions, the will and reason being to all appearance wholly suspended.
"A case of this kind occurred in a Catholic town in Germany a year or two before my arrival at Gottingen, and had not then ceased to be a frequent
subject of conversation. A young woman of four or five and twenty, who could neither read nor write, was seized with a nervous fever; during which, according to the asseverations of all the priests and monks in the neighbourhood, she became possessed, and, as it appeared, by a very learned devil. She continued incessantly talking Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in very pompous tones, and with most distinct enunciation. This possession was rendered more probable by the known fact, that she was or had been an heretic. Voltaire humorously advises the devil to decline all acquaintance with medical men; and it would have been more to his reputation, if he had taken this advice in the present instance. The case had attracted the particular attent tion of a young physician, and by his statement many eminent physiologists and psychologists visited the town, and cross-examined the case on the spot. Sheets full of her ravings were taken down from her own mouth, and were found to consist of sentences, coherent and intelligible each for itself, but with little or no connexion with each other. Of the Hebrew, a small portion only could be traced to the Bible; the remainder seemed to be in the rabbinical dialect. All trick or conspiracy was out of the question. Not only had the young woman ever been an harmless, simple creature; but she was evidently labouring under a nervous fever. In the town, in which she had been resident for many years as a servant in different families, no solution presented
itself. The young physician, however, determined to trace her past life step by step; for the patient herself was incapable of returning a rational answer. He at length succeeded in discovering the place where her parents had lived: travelled thither, found them dead, but an uncle surviving; and from him learnt, that the patient had been charitably taken by an old protestant pastor at nine years old, and had remained with him some years, even till the old man's death. Of this pastor the uncle knew nothing, but that he was a very good man. With great difficulty, and after much search, our young medical philosopher discovered a niece of the pastor's, who had lived with him as his house-keeper, and had inherited his effects. She remembered the girl; related, that her venerable uncle had been too indul gent, and could not bear to hear the girl scolded ; that she was willing to have kept her, but that after her patron's death, the girl herself refused to stay. Anxious inquiries were then of course made, concerning the pastor's habits; and the solution of the phenomenon was soon obtained. For it appeared, that it had been the old man's custom, for years, to walk up and down a passage of his house into which the kitchen door opened, and to read to himself, with a loud voice, out of his favourite books. A considerable number of these were still in the niece's possession. She added, that he was a very learned man, and a great Hebraist. Among the books were found a collection of rabbinical writings, together