Page images

which respectively they have chiefest use; and certain others, from which respectively they ought to be excluded: and the rigour and curiosity in requiring the more severe proofs in some things, and chiefly the facility in contenting ourselves with the more remiss proofs in others, hath been amongst the greatest causes of detriment and hindrance to knowledge. The distributions and assignations of demonstrations, according to the analogy of sciences, I note as deficient.

The custody or retaining of knowledge is either in Writing or Memory; whereof writing hath two parts, the nature of the character, and the order of the entry; for the art of characters, or other visible notes of words or things, it hath nearest conjugation with grammar; and therefore I refer it to the due place for the disposition and collocation of that knowledge which we preserve in writing, it consisteth in a good digest of common-places; wherein I am not ignorant of the prejudice imputed to the use of common-place books, as causing a retardation of reading, and some sloth or relaxation of memory. But because it is but a counterfeit thing in knowledges to be forward and pregnant, except a man be deep and full, I hold the entry of commonplaces, to be a matter of great use and essence in studying, as that which assureth" copia" of invention, and contracteth judgment to a strength. But this is true, that of the methods of common-places that I have seen, there is none of any sufficient worth;

all of them carrying merely the face of a school, and not of a world; and referring to vulgar matters and pedantical divisions, without all life, or respect to action.

For the other principal part of the custody of knowledge, which is Memory, I find that faculty in my judgment weakly inquired of. An art there is extant of it; but it seemeth to me that there are better precepts than that art, and better practices of that art, than those received. It is certain the art, as it is, may be raised to points of ostentation prodigious but in use, as it is now managed, it is barren, (not burdensome, nor dangerous to natural memory, as is imagined, but barren,) that is, not dexterous to be applied to the serious use of business and occasions. And therefore I make no more estimation of repeating a great number of names or words upon once hearing, or the pouring forth of a number of verses or rhimes ex tempore, or the making of a satirical simile of every thing, or the turning of every thing to a jest, or the falsifying or contradicting of every thing by cavil, or the like, (whereof in the faculties of the mind there is great "copia," and such as by device and practice may be exalted to an extreme degree of wonder,) than I do of the tricks of tumblers, funambuloes, baladines ; the one being the same in the mind that the other is in the body, matters of strangeness without worthiness.

This art of Memory is but built upon two intentions; the one prenotion, the other emblem. Prenotion dischargeth the indefinite seeking of that

we would remember, and directeth us to seek in a narrow compass, that is, somewhat that hath congruity with our place of memory. Emblem reduceth conceits intellectual to images sensible, which strike the memory more; out of which axioms may be drawn much better practice than that in use; and besides which axioms, there are divers more touching help of memory, not inferior to them. But I did in the beginning distinguish, not to report those things deficient, which are but only ill managed.

There remaineth the fourth kind of rational knowledge, which is transitive, concerning the expressing or transferring our knowledge to others; which I will term by the general name of tradition or delivery. Tradition hath three parts; the first concerning the organ of tradition; the second concerning the method of tradition; and the third concerning the illustration of tradition.

For the organ of tradition, it is either speech or writing for Aristotle saith well, "Words are the


images of cogitations, and letters are the images "of words;" but yet it is not of necessity that cogitations be expressed by the medium of words. For whatsoever is capable of sufficient differences, and those perceptible by the sense, is in nature competent to express, cogitations. And therefore we see in the commerce of barbarous people, that understand not one another's language, and in the practice of divers that are dumb and deaf, that men's minds are expressed in gestures, though not exactly, yet to serve the turn. And we understand further,

that it is the use of China, and the kingdoms of the high Levant, to write in characters real, which express neither letters nor words in gross, but things or notions; insomuch as countries and provinces, which understand not one another's language, can nevertheless read one another's writings, because the characters are accepted more generally than the languages do extend; and therefore they have a vast multitude of characters, as many, I suppose, as radical words.

These notes of cogitations are of two sorts; the one when the note hath some similitude or congruity with the notion; the other " ad placitum," having force only by contract or acceptation. Of the former sort are hieroglyphics and gestures. For as to hieroglyphics, things of ancient use, and embraced chiefly by the Ægyptians, one of the most ancient nations, they are but as continued impresses and emblems. And as for gestures, they are as transitory hieroglyphics, and are to hieroglyphics as words spoken are to words written, in that they abide not; but they have evermore, as well as the other, an affinity with the things signified as Periander, being consulted with how to preserve a tyranny newly usurped, bid the messenger attend and report what he saw him do; and went into his garden and topped all the highest flowers: signifying, that it consisted in the cutting off and keeping low of the nobility and grandees. "Ad placitum," are the characters real before mentioned, and words: although some have been willing by curious inquiry,

or rather by apt feigning, to have derived imposition of names from reason and intendment; a speculation elegant, and, by reason it searcheth into antiquity, reverent; but sparingly mixed with truth, and of small fruit. This portion of knowledge, touching the notes of things, and cogitations in general, I find not inquired, but deficient. And although it may seem of no great use, considering that words and writings by letters do far excel all the other ways; yet because this part concerneth, as it were, the mint of knowledge, (for words are the tokens current and accepted for conceits, as moneys are for values, and that it is fit men be not ignorant that moneys may be of another kind than gold and silver,) I thought good to propound it to better inquiry.

Concerning speech and words, the consideration of them hath produced the science of Grammar: for man still striveth to reintegrate himself in those benedictions, from which by his fault he hath been deprived; and as he hath striven against the first general curse by the invention of all other arts, so hath he sought to come forth of the second general curse, which was the confusion of tongues, by the art of grammar: whereof the use in a mother tongue is small, in a foreign tongue more; but most in such foreign tongues as have ceased to be vulgar tongues, and are turned only to learned tongues. The duty of it is of two natures; the one popular, which is for the speedy and perfect attaining languages, as well for intercourse of speech as for understanding

« PreviousContinue »