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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Memory and Design            63

Mistaken memory may be as potent as genuine recollection,
so far as its effects go, unless it happens to come more into
collision with other and not mistaken memories than it is able
to contend against.

Mistakes or delusions occur mainly in two ways.

First, when the circumstances have changed a little but
not enough to make us recognise the fact: this may happen
either because of want of attention on our part or because
of the hidden nature of the alteration, or because of its
slightness in itself, the importance depending upon its relations
to something else which make a very small change have an
importance it would not otherwise have : in these cases the
memory reverts to the old circumstances unmodified, a
sufficient number of the associated ideas having been repro-
duced to make us assume the remainder without further
inspection, and hence follows a want of harmony between
action and circumstances which results in trouble somewhere.

Secondly, through the memory not reverting in full per-
fection, though the circumstances are reproduced fully and


When asked to remember " something " indefinitely you
cannot: you look round at once for something to suggest
what you shall try and remember. For thought must be
always about some " thing " which thing must either be a
thing by courtes}*, as an air oi Handel's, or else a solid,
tangible object, as a piano or an organ, but always the thing
must be linked on to matter by a longer or shorter chain as
the case may be. I was thinking of this once while walking
by the side of the Serpentine and, looking round, saw some
ducks alighting on the water ; their feet reminded me of the
way the sea-birds used to alight when I was going to New
Zealand and I set to work recalling attendant tacts. Without
help from outside I should have remembered nothing.

A Torn Finger-Nail

Henry Hoare [a college friend], when a young man of
about five-and-twenty, one day tore the quick of his finger-
nail—I mean he separated the fleshy part of the finger from