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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/71

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According to Galton, the memory was so notable a faculty in the family of the celebrated English Hellenist, Porson, as to have passed into a by-word, the Porson memory. Lady Hester Stanhope, she whose life was so full of adventure, gives, as one among many points of resemblance between herself and her grandfather, her retentive memory. "I have my grandfather's gray eyes," said she, "and his memory of places. If he saw a stone on the road, he remembered it: it is the same with myself. His eye, which was ordinarily dull and lustreless, was lighted up, like my own, with a wild gleam whenever he was seized with passion." The imaginative and creative faculties, those which play the chief part in art and in poetry, are sometimes transmitted from father to son. Galton, in the work he published four years ago ("Hereditary Genius"), and Ribot, in his recent book, give long lists of painters, poets, and musicians, in order to show the part played by heredity in the genesis of these artists' talents. There are in these lists many instances in which this influence of heredity is indubitable, but there are far more in which it is very questionable indeed. Thus, these authors see the influence of heredity in the poetic genius of Byron, Goethe, and Schiller, because they find in the ancestors of these poets certain passions, vices, or qualities—just as though these peculiarities of character could determine poetic genius. The fact is, these lists do not show us any great poet who received his faculties from his ancestors. We do there find that a great poet is sometimes the father of mediocre poets—which is a different thing. The heredity of aptitudes for painting is better established: in a list of 42 celebrated painters, Italians, Spaniards, and Flemings, Galton shows that 21 had illustrious ancestors. The names of Bellini, Caracci, Teniers, Van Ostade, Mieris, Vandervelde, and Vernet, will suffice to prove that there are families of painters. In the family of Titian we find nine painters of merit. The history of music presents instances still more striking. The Bach family took its rise in 1550, and became extinct in 1800. Its head was Veit Bach, a baker at Presburg, who used to seek for relaxation from labor in music and song. He had two sons, who commenced that unbroken series of musicians of the same name, who, for nearly two centuries, overran Thuringia, Saxony, and Franconia. They were all organists, church singers, or what is called in Germany city musicians. When they became too numerous to live all together, and the members of this family were scattered abroad, they resolved to meet once a year, on a stated day, with a view to keep up a sort of patriarchal bond of union. This custom was kept up until nearly the middle of the eighteenth century, and oftentimes more than 100 persons bearing the name of Bach, men, women, and children, were to be seen assembled. In this family are reckoned 29 eminent musicians, and 28 of a lower grade. Mozart's father was second capellmeister to the prince-bishop of Salzburg. Beethoven's father was tenor in the chapel of the Elector of Cologne: his grandfather had