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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/79

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MENTAL IMAGERY.

made by travelers in past years, when the scientific exploration of the world was much less advanced than it is now, and I can confidently say that I have never known of any traveler, white, brown, or black, civilized or uncivilized, in Africa, Asia, or Australia, who, being unprovided with surveying instruments, and trusting to his memory alone, has produced a chart comparable in extent and accuracy to that of this barbarous Esquimau. Their powers of accurate drawing are abundantly testified by the numerous illustrations in Rink's work, all of which were made by self-taught men, and are thoroughly realistic.

So much for the wild races of the present day; but even the Esquimaux are equaled in their power of drawing by the men of old times. In ages so far gone by that the interval that separates them from our own may be measured in perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, when Europe was mostly ice-bound, a race, which in the opinion of all anthropologists was closely allied to the modern Esquimaux lived in caves in the more habitable places. Many broken relics of that race have been found; some few of these are of bone, engraved with flints or carved into figures, and among these are representations of the mammoth, elk, and reindeer, which, if made by an English laborer with the much better implements at his command, would certainly attract local attention and lead to his being properly educated, and in much likelihood to his becoming a considerable artist.

It is not at all improbable that these prehistoric men had the same geographical instincts as the modern Esquimaux, whom they closely resemble in every known respect. If so, it is perfectly possible that scraps of charts scratched on bone or stone, of prehistoric Europe, when the distribution of land, sea, and ice was very different from what it is now, may still exist, buried underground, and may reward the zeal of some future cave explorer.

I now return to my principal topic, the mental imagery of the English race, and I will mention some of the chief peculiarities I have noted in it. When the faculty is strong it is apt to run riot. There are a few persons, including men and women of no mean capacity, who can not disentangle even the letters of the alphabet from the oddest associations with colors, formed in some half-forgotten period of childhood. To some of these persons it may be that an a will always convey the sense of blackness, an e that of greenness, an i will be blue, an o white, and a u red. The consonants will also for the most part have their separate tints, so that every word seems parti-colored to their fancy; and a description of scenery in a book produces an effect upon their imagination very different from what the author could have foreseen. The same is true in respect to numerals, days of the week, and months of the year. I have collected perhaps twenty good accounts of these bizarre tendencies from independent sources, and find them to run strongly in families. They are not communicated by teaching or imitation, because those who have these peculiarities are usually