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that this is a matter utterly beyond the reach of our limited faculties; and that to propose to ascertain what degree of attention must be paid to any of our thoughts and perceptions, before they are ripened and prepared to be deposited in the storehouse of the memory, and from thence to be drawn out by the faculty of recollection, would resemble very much an attempt to decide what degree of velleity, or smallest tendency in the will, amounts to an act of volition, what degree of attachment in the heart is equivalent to the passion of love, or to express the matter in still more intelligible phrase, what degree of bodily appetite for an apple will induce us to devour it. Nevertheless, notwithstanding our philosophical scruples and prepossessions against the very subject of inquiry, we put our understandings under the guidance of the professor, and although inclined to believe that our research must be fruitless, are willing to give credit to any discoveries which he may be so fortunate as to make. pared to expect some new disclosure of the secret structure and operations of nature. In this matter, however, we soon find ourselves greatly disappointed. It is a custom of this writer, as I doubt not has been often remarked by his intelligent readers, always to have on hand a world of things to be done, but never to accomplish any thing. When he takes up any subject, he goes about it, and about it, in many a graceful circle, but scarcely every reaches it. After our expectation has been excited of witnessing a display of ingenuity and profound disquisition, by which it is to be ascertained that act or effort of attention, which is absolutely essential to the lowest degree of memory, in the very next paragraph we are informed, “ that with respect to this effort, it is perhaps impossible to obtain much satisfaction, and that for his part, he is inclined to suppose (though he would by no means be understood to speak with confidence,) that it is essential to memory, that the perception or the idea that we would wish to remember, should remain in the mind for a certain space of time, and should be contemplated by it exclusively of
every thing else.” Thus we have arrived at our conclusion, and have stumbled upon the grand and unexpected discovery, that in order that we should be able to remember any idea it is necessary, it should have remained in the mind for a certain space of time!! Could we conceive it possible that any persons can be found, who mistake this for profound metaphysical disquisition?
But we have much greater discoveries than this to relate for the instruction of the republic of letters, in the professor's remarks upon attention. We proceed to the second. “ When we are deeply engaged in conversation,” says the professor," or occupied with any speculation that is interesting to the mind, the surrounding objects either do not produce in us the perceptions they are fitted to excite, or those perceptions are instantly forgotten. A clock, for example, may strike in the same room with us without our being able, the next moment, to recollect whether we heard it or not. In these and similar cases, I believe, it is commonly taken for granted, that we really do not perceive the external object. From some analogous facts, however, I am inclined to suspect that this opinion is not well founded, A person who falls asleep at church, and is suddenly awaked, is unable to recollect the last words spoken by the preacher, or even to recollect that he was speaking at all. And yet that sleep does not suspend entirely the powers of perception, may be inferred from this, that if the preacher were to make a sudden pause in his discourse every person in the congregation, who was asleep, would instantly awake. In this case, therefore, it appears, that a person may be conscious of a perception, without being able afterwards to recollect it.”
In this and some of the following paragraphs, all the facts adduced by the professor, are intended to prove these two propositions. First, that a person may be conscious of a perception, without being able afterwards to recollect it; or in other words, may forget many things of which at one time he was conscious. Secondly, that a perception, or an idea, which passes through the mind, without leaving any trace in the memory, may yet serve to introduce other ideas connected with it by the laws of association, or to express the maxim in vulgar phrase, we may by association have one train of ideas introduced into the mind, by another train which has escaped our memory. Would it have required a Solomon to be sent into the world, to give us this information? Is there any one disposed to doubt that he forgets some things with which he was once acquainted? Is there any one who would put the professor to the trouble of proving, that a large proportion of those ideas which are perpetually floating in his mind, during his waking hours, are entirely effaced from his memory? But it is really somewhat singular, that while the professor is maintaining with great display of learning and decoration of imagery, what no one in his senses would dispute with him, he should have supported his propositions by false arguments. In endeavouring to sustain the assertion that a person may be conscious of a perception, without being able afterwards to recollect it, he says, “A person who falls asleep at church, and is suddenly awakened, is unable to recollect the last words spoken by the preacher; or even to recollect that he was speaking at all. And yet that sleep does not suspend entirely the powers of perception, may be inferred from this, that if the preacher were to make a sudden pause in his discourse, every person in the congregation who was asleep, would instantly awake.” This inference is what might be called in the language of the law, a non sequitur. Mr. Stewart here supposes that a person who has fallen asleep at church, has all the time a perception of the preacher's voice. Now we presume that it would be as difficult to detect a perception of a preacher's voice, in a man asleep at church, as it was in Martin, and Jack, to discover beef, mutton, veal, venison, partridge, plum-pudding, and custard, in Lord Peter's brown loaf. We suspect that these church-sleepers are engaged in no such godly occupation as listening to their pastor's voice. But we are provided with a proof, which is unanswerable! If the preacher, who by a dull sermon, has lulled his audience asleep, should make a sudden pause in his discourse they would instantly awake! This is proof demonstrative that their powers of perception were not suspended in sleep! Now, with all due submission, we should be inclined to think, that it is only conclusive proof that they were not so soundly asleep, as to be incapable of being awaked. If the sleeping part of the audience were all awakened by a pause made in preaching, which it is very probable they would be, unless they happened to be so soundly napping as to begin to snore themselves, and drown the voice of their pastor, as once took place, we are informed, in the presence of Dr. South, when the King of England and lord Lauderdale, being both in church, fell suddenly asleep, and the latter beginning to snore, Dr. South called out to him not to snore so loudly, lest he should wake his majesty. I say unless under circumstances of this kind, I entertain no doubt that should a preacher who has lulled his audience to sleep, make a sudden pause in his discourse, they would instantly awake. But I should be very far from ascribing this result, to the circumstance, that all this time, their perceptive powers had not been suspended. They would be awakened by that new action produced in the organs of hearing by a suspension of the speaker's voice, together with the ceasing of the former action upon them. The professor himself, in some parts of his works, has remarked, if I mistake not, the effect which the same sound continued has in lulling us asleep. This fact is well known, and is familiar to all per
Now, if we suppose the hearer, in one of our churches, to be put to sleep by a discourse monotonously delivered, if the speaker should suddenly make a pause in his discourse, not only this monotonous sound, which induces sleep, would be removed, and, of course, the effect be likely to cease with its cause, but an entirely new affection of the auditory nerves would take place; and any new affection or change taking place in the organs of the body, we know, has the effect of resuscitating us from sleep. The sudden impulse of the body, or a loud call, will arouse those who are in the deepest sleep, while even ordinary conversation will awake persons from their usual slumbers. How is this effected, but by a sudden change produced in the organs of sensation? Privative causes, in this respect, are found to produce upon the mind and body, precisely the same results as positive. Pain produces one sensation in the mind, its removal an entirely distinct one; the application of ice or fire to the body one perception, their removal another; and in both cases, the mind is alike awakened from its dormant state. Those who have been accustomed to sleep in situations, in which they were subjected to the inconvenience of loud and continued noises, not only become accustomed to the annoyance, but if they be suddenly transferred to silent retreats, find it difficult to obtain their usual repose. How can this last circumstance, not a little singular, be accounted for, but from the consideration, that at the time, in which they retire to repose, from the absence of the sounds which usually assailed their ears, a new effect is produced upon them, which excites the mind, and disinclines the person to rest? This view of the matter, we doubt not, will with every intelligent reader serve to account for the fact, that he who has fallen asleep at church during the delivery of a discourse, will awake if the preacher make a sudden pause; without resorting to the improbable supposition, that the mind during sleep has not its powers of perception suspended, or, in other words, still hears the speaker's voice.