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and this is one great advantage of retirement; that a man may choose what com pany he pleases from within himself.
As in the world we more frequently meet with bad company than good, fo 'in solitude we are oftener troubled with impertinent and unprofitable thoughts, than entertained with those which are agreeable and useful. And a man that hath fo far lost the command of himself, as to lie at the
foolish or vexatious thought, is much in the same situation as a host, whose house is open to all comers; whom, tho' ever so noify, rude and troublesome, he cannot get rid of; yet with this difference, that the latter hath fome recompence for his trouble, the former not the least; but is robbed of his peace and quiet for nothing.'
A due regulation of the thoughts, being of great importance to the tranquility and improvement of the mind, I hope to be excused for dwelling so long on this branch of the fubject; which shall be concluded with one observation more ; that it is very dangerous to judge, as too many are apt to do, that it is a matter of indifference what thoughts they entertain in their hearts; since the reason of things concurs, with the
testimony of the Holy Scriptures, to assure us, that the allowed thought of foolishness is fir * (*).
Concerning the Memory. XIV. MAN that knows himself will
have a regard not only to the management of his thoughts, but to the improvea ment of his memory.
The memory is that faculty of the Soul, which was 'defigned for the store-house or repository of its most useful notions; where they may be laid up in safety, to be produced upon proper occasions.
Now a thorough self-acquaintance cannot be had without a proper regard to this in two respects. (1.) Its furniture, (2.) Its improvement.
(1.) A man that knows himself will have à regard to the furniture of his memory: not to load it with trash and lumber, a set of useless notions or low conceits, which
he 2orin * Prov. xxiv.g... (a) Nam scelus inter se tàcitum qui cogitat ul
Ium facti crimen habet. Juv. Sat. 13. Guard well thy thoughts; our thoughts are heard in Heav'n,
he will be ashamed to produce before
perfons of taste and judgment.
If the retention be bad, do not crowd it; it is of as ill-consequence to overload a weak memory, as a weak ftomach. And that it may not be cumbered with trash, take heed what company you keep, what books you read, and what thoughts you favour; otherwise much insignificant rubbish may fix there before you are aware, and take up the room which ought to be posfessed with better notions. But let not a valuable thought slip from you, tho' you pursue it with much time and pains before you overtake it ; the regaining and refixing it may be of more advantage to you than many hours reading.
What pity it is that men should take such immense pains, as some, do, to learn those things which, as soon as they become wise, they must take as much pains to unlearn! - A thought that should make us very cautious about the proper furniture of our minds.
(2.) Self-Knowledge will acquaint a man with the extent and capacity of his memory, and the right way to improve it (y).
There (y) Tribus rebus potissimum constat optima m moria, intelluctu, ordine, cura, fiquidem bonæ me
There is no small art in improving a weak memory, to turn it to as great advantage as many do their's which are much stronger. A few short rules to this purpose may be no unprofitable digression.
(1.) Beware of every fort of intemperance in the indulgence of the appetites and pasfions : exceffes of all kinds do a great injury to the memory.
(2.) If it be weak, do not overload it; charge it only with the most useful and folid notions : a small vefsel should not be stuffed with lumber. But if its freight be precious, and judiciously stowed, it may be more valuable than a ship of twice its burden.
(3.) Recur to the help of a CommonPlace-Book, according to Mr. Locke's method; and review it once a year. But take care that by confiding to your minutes or memorial aids, you do not excuse the labour of the memory; which is one disadvantage attending this method.
(4.) Take every opportunity of uttering your best thoughts in conversation, when the
moriæ pars eft rem penitus intellexiffe; tum orde facit, ut quæ femel exciderent, quasi poftliminio in animuni revocamus; porro curā omnibus in rebus, non hic tantum plurimum valet. Erafm. de rat. ftud, ad calc. Ringelbergii. p. 168.
subject will admit it, and that will deeply imprint them.
Hence the tales, which common story-tellers relate, they never forget, tho' ever so silly (2).
(5.) Join to the idea you would remember some other that is more familiar to you, which bears some fimilitude to it, either in its nature, or in the sound of the word by which it is expressed; or that hath some relation to it either in time or place : and then, by, recalling this, which is easily remembered, you will (by that concatenation, or connexion of ideas which Mr. Locke takes notice of). draw in that which is thus linked with it; which otherwise you might seek in vain. This rule is of great use in helping you to remember names.
(6.) What you are determined to remember think of before you go to sleep at night, and the first thing in the morning, when the faculties are fresh : and recollect at even
(2) Quicquid didiceris id confeftim doceas ; fic et tuz fermare, et prodeffe aliis potes. Ringelbergius de ratione ftudii, p. 28.
Poftremo illud non ad unum aliquid, fed ad omnia fimul plurimum conducet, fi frequenter alios quoque
doceas. Nusquam enim melius deprehenderis quid intelliges, quid non. Atque interim nova quæque occurrunt, commentanti, differentique, nihil non altius, inhgitur animo, Erasm, Rot. de rat, ftud. p. 170.