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62

FORGETFULNESS.

offices and shipowners, and a well-known refuge for masters desirous of getting rid of their vessels in a comfortable manner. No vessel once on the neighboring reefs, or on the main island, was ever allowed to depart, while those wrecked in the Elbe or the neighboring rivers were simply plundered by the Heliogoland fishermen and pilots under the plea of salvage. The renumeration for discharging or pilfering a cargo used to be settled in full assembly of the Vorsteherschaft, whose members, being principally pilot officers and wreckers themselves, were naturally interested in the amount of the reward received for salvage.

No debts could be recovered in the island, no legal decrees enforced, and a creditor had to wait for the death of an obstinate debtor, on the chance of his property coming before the court. The credit of the island, until lately, was at a very low ebb indeed, and, in order to increase its funds, contracts for public gambling were entered into between the Vorsteherschaft and some German lessees, which had the desired effect for the moment. It is difficult to imagine that so small a place could, in the few years between 1815 and 1868, have involved itself in a public debt to the extent of 7,000l. At present, in spite of the abolition of the gaming-tables and a great outlay on public works, this sum has been reduced to somewhere about 3,000l. To the wise and prudent administration of the present governor, this, as well as every other improvement, is due. Under his beneficent rule, Heliogoland has changed so much that the visitor of even fifteen years ago would not recognize, in the orderly, neat, thriving little settlement, the ruinous, lawless, bankrupt island of those comparatively recent days. Annie Brassey.




From The Spectator.

FORGETFULNESS.

In the October number of Mind, — which keeps up its high standard of scholarly thoroughness in all its papers, though it might, we think, give at times rather more space than it does to subjects of general interest, without sacrificing anything in that direction, — there is a thoughtful paper on "Forgetfulness," by Mr. Verdon, in which the writer argues with a good deal of force against the now rather prevalent notion that there is no such thing as total forgetfulness, that under adequate conditions every modification the mind has passed through may be restored, and recognized as the representative in memory of what had once before been presented in direct experience. Sometimes people will tell you that in the process of losing consciousness by drowning, they have, in a moment or two, passed through, in vision, the whole of the experience of their previous lives, including incidents which, so far as they knew, they had completely and absolutely forgotten. Now, of course, statements of this kind are necessarily very vague, and hardly capable of verification. Those who give such evidence, if cross-examined, would not probably maintain that they really passed through in vision the long line of all the purely mechanical actions of their lives, all the times they had yawned, or coughed, or sneezed, or bummed a tune, every crossing of a t and dotting of an i in every line written by them from childhood to the date of the drowning, — that all the motes that they had once seen in a sunbeam had been seen again in the same order as before; they can hardly mean all this. What they do probably mean is simply that all the more stirring incidents of their life which had become deeply engraved on their memory before by their association with some grave action or strong passion, some deep emotion, or some serious pang of remorse, recur at such a time in due order. If they mean more than this, there is this great difficulty about the statement, — that we are all of us absolutely incompetent to say of the greater part of our least interesting experiences, whether they are faithfully represented in memory or not. Let any man walk down two or three yards of a busy street. Of course a vast number of impressions are made on his retina and on his ears; probably a good many associated ideas pass rapidly through his mind; one or two odors will be perceived; he will feel the pavement with his feet and his stick in two or three different places; and he will have some sort of notion of the warmth or coldness of the air through which he passes or, at least, of the changes of temperature. Now, within (say) three minutes, let him repeat the very same walk, and take all the pains in the world to note the similarities and differences in what he experiences. We are very certain that even though the person in question were a Charles Dickens himself, he will simply not be able to assure himself whether or not he saw before man things that he sees now, and heard before many things