December 29, 1883
Vol. XXVIII, No. 26
In an interview recently published Dr. Zukertort, the great chess player, gives some account of the mental training by which he has acquired the power to play sixteen games of chess at one time without seeing the boards. He says: "I have a way of photographing a board in my mind, and, the boards being numbered when one board is called the photograph of the positions of the men on that board comes instantly before my mind, while the last board disappears. I never see two boards before me for a single instant." This power of abstraction and memory has been cultivated to a wonderful pitch of perfection by other chess players, and though perhaps none of them have rivalled Dr. Zukertort, we are inclined to think that the faculty in itself is not a rare one. It is the same faculty which enables the accomplished military commander to keep in mind the position of troops and relative importance of movements, or the manager of railroad systems of great commercial enterprises to see clearly through the complications of business, keeping order and method throughout the whole line of battle against competition. Few men develop the power to the limit of their capacity, but few of average intelligence are without it in a considerable degree. Dr. Zukertort says he had a peculiar training. He never learned the moves on a chess board till he was eighteen years old. His godfather was a professor of mathematics, who had theories on training the memory. Under his teaching the future chess expert, while yet a small child, could demonstaate [sic] such a geometrical problem as the square of the hypothenuse entirely from memory. That is to say, he would draw the figure on paper, or on the black-board, place the letters at the various angles, and then, turning his back to the board, give the demonstration correctly. To many who have puzzled over the same theorem with the figure before them, this will seem like a pretty clever feat, yet there are few schoolboys who can demonstrate the theorem at all, who cannot easily learn to do it mentally. In the public schools in some parts of the country, where mental mathematics is something of a hobby, it is customary for classes to go through four books of geometry mentally; and in a class of twenty, not more than two or three will generally fail to keep along. Some will have much more difficulty than others, but it is found that the exercise becomes a kind of pastime to the majority. They become interested in seeing what they can do. They begin with the simplest figures, involving few positions to fix in memory, and by daily practice, go on easily to more complicated demonstrations. That the demonstration is not a mere learning by rote from the book, is shown at once by requiring the pupil to change the lettering on the figure or letting some one else place the letters. When intelligently taught, very few pupils are unable to master this exercise, and girls do it just as readily as boys. Of course the power to retain in memory the moves of a game of chess is carrying the same faculty to a far higher degree of excellence. In the one case the positions to be kept in mind remain fixed, and in the other they are constantly changing, but it is the same faculty in both cases. It is one which almost any one can develop to a very considerable degree.
Dr. de la Pommerais, says the Paris Figaro, was executed in June, 1864, for a murder of the Palmer type. On the night before his execution he was visited by Surgeon Velpeau, who, after a few preliminary remarks, informed him that he came in the interest of science, and that he hoped for Dr. de la Pommerais' co-operation. "You know," he said, "that one of the most interesting questions of physiology is as to whether any ray of memory, reflection, or real sensibility survives in the brain of a man after the fall of the head." At this point the condemned man looked somewhat startled, but the professional instincts at once resumed their sway, and the two physicians calmly discussed and arranged the details of an experiment for the next morning. "When the knife falls," said Velpeau, "I shall be standing at your side, and your head will at once pass from the executioner's hands into mine. I will then cry distinctly into your ear: "Couty de la Pommerais, can you at this moment thrice lower the lid of your right eye, while the left remains open?" The next day when the great surgeon reached the condemned cell, he found the condemned man practicing the sign agreed upon. A few minutes later the guillotine had done its work, the head was in Velpeau's hands, and the question put. Familiar as he was with the most shocking and ghastly scenes, he was almost frozen with terror as he saw the right lid fall, while the other eye looked fixedly at him. "Again!" he cried, frantically. The lids moved, but they did not part. It was all over.
The female orang-outang, whose lady-like behavior and fascinating smiles have for some time past been artractive [sic] features at the Dime Museum, has fallen captive to the wiles of Cupid and become the devoted sweetheart of a small but lively specimen of the canine race, known to the Museum attaches as "Nig." Nig's mashing propensities having been noticed in connection with several of the innocent young female monkeys connected with the museum's zoological department and with the office cat, it was resolved to test his lady-killing powers by introducing him to the haughty and aristrocratic Mrs. Orang-Outang, relict of the late Mr. Orang-Outang, of the Javanese Jungles. Accordingly, one afternoon, when the fair dame was dining off a bunch of bananas, Nig was put into her cage, and at once striking one of his most captivating attitudes gave his little tail a knowing wag, and barked out a complimentary remark in his gentlest and most seductive tones. Mrs. O. was at first apparently astonished, and then looked annoyed at the puppy's presumption in daring to woo one so much his superior, as she evidently considered herself. Unabashed, however, again he barked gently, and again he gave his coquettish little tail a flip or two. The effect was visibly in his favor, and five minutes later he had completely fascinated the gentle stranger from the tropical forests. Since that time the two have been inseparable, and Mrs. O. not only shares her meals with her devoted swain, but refuses to permit any one to remove him from her cage. Seeing the affectionate nature of the lady, the museum managers tried the experiment of providing a sweetheart for her son, the lively Master Orang-Outang, who occupies a separate cage, a gentle young cat being chosen as his mate. Instead of cooing soft nothings in Miss Tabby's ear, Master O. proceeded to use her as an Indian club to hammer down the walls of his box, and to save her nine lives she had to be rescued from his inhospitable grasp.
Barnum has offered George Francis Train fifty thousand dollars to lecture one year in this country and Great Britain. The offer was declined. Train's mind may now be a little unbalanced, but he used to talk to the public in a very interesting way, and his lectures on the stage at one time created a sensation and were pecuniarily successful. We believe Train long ago made up what he is pleased to call his mind never more to speak to an adult. In pleasant weather he spends his days in Madison Park, playing with children in an affectionate but very innocent way. He daily carries candies, jumping-ropes and toys to the park, and amuses the children to their heart's content and his. Train lives at the Ashland House in Fourth Avenue, and spends much of his time in reading the newspapers and in scribbling. He sits in the southernmost corner window with his back to the street, and the left lappel [sic] of his coat always bears an immense bouquet of gorgeous fresh flowers. His hair is iron gray; his complexion dark brown, from exposure to the sun. His physique is finely formed, and he looks the very picture of health. Train takes no notice whatever of the passers-by, and seems to be very well satisfied with himself. We believe he has large means.
Victor Hugo is in excellent health, but suffers from ennui. His deafness, which he does not like to show or to confess isolates him. The receptions now last twenty minutes, and are still held after dinner. Strangers are not welcome visitors, though courteously received. It is necessary to say something to them, and so to betray the single infirmity from which the poet suffers. What he appears to enjoy most is seeing his friends at dinner. At the head of his table he can talk for himself and for those around him. He retires to his bedroom at nine o'clock, and walks up and down until about midnight, thinking about what he is to write next morning. In the afternoon he is taken out to drive in the Bois by a Russian princess, who is a poetess herself and one of his most enthusiastic votaries. She was brought up on the Steppes in the wildest way, and is the daughter of one of the richest subjects of the Czar. For the exclusive use of the venerable bard she has a lightly hung brougham drawn by a pair of Orloff horses. They are, when his end has come, to be kept in a stable and paddocks apart from all other animals of their race, and the carriage is to be placed in a private museum. The princess, though reared like Baby Blake, is one of the most accomplished woman that we know. She is married, and as she wants her daughters to treasure up the sayings of her illustrious friend, they nearly always in her drives occupy the front seat of the brougham.
The Boston Advertiser informs the world concerning the leaders of the late Southern rebellion. Of those who escaped death by sword or ball and afterward yielded to the great reaper, are Lee, Bragg, Pickett, Hardee and Taylor. The survivors are scattered over the land and are variously employed. Beauregard and Jubal Early are managers of a lottery in Louisiana. The names of these generals are most valuable to the lottery company, and costs it for each one $10,000 a year. Longstreet is United States marshal in Georgia. McLaws is postmaster at Savannah. Both are Republican in politics. Butler and Hampton represent South Carolina in the Senate. Major-Generals Cockrell, Maxey and Ransom are in the Senate. Cadmus Williams, who was a major-general of Lee's Second Corps, is a doorkeeper of the Senate. William H. Lee succeeded his father as President of Washington and Lee University. Fitzhugh Lee is a rich and comfortable farmer, owning one of the finest estates in Virginia. Buckner is in Kentucky, and came near being nominated for Governor over Proctor Knott. Johnston is an old man now, but is doing active service in the insurance business.
Mr. Fitz-Augustus Somerset-Ashburton, Boston's champion exquisite, has been missing from his accustomed haunts for some months, but turned up recently, and was at his usual post of duty in the lobby of one of our leading theatres in the afternoon. There he was met by an associate of the gilded fraternity that he adorns, who hailed him with enthusiasm and agitated with vigor the two languid digits which Mr. Somerset-Ashburton extended to him.
"Well, Fitz, old boy," exclaimed his friend; "glad to see you back again. All ready for the winter campaign, eh? And where have you been keeping yourself all summer?"
"Aw, so glad you're glad," responded the noble Somerset-Ashburton. "I've been staying abroad this summer, studying, and deucedly hard, too, I assure you."
"Studying!" exclaimed his friend, who had never heard of anybody in his distinguished coterie who thus employed himself. "And pray what have you been studying?"
"Art, me deah boy," returned Mr. Somerset-Ashburton. "I have visited all the famous galleries of Europe, making particular observations in the department of sculpture. Improving me attitudes, don't you know. I've long felt that the boys didn't give a proper amount of attention to such matters. Nothing like the antique for affairs of that sort, my boy."
And yawning profoundly in a way which at once suggested the pose of the Laocoon, he leaned up against the wall in the attitude of the Piping faun, and regarded the ladies as they passed in to the entertainment.
THE PARISIANS still insist that the Prince of Wales will pay them a visit ere long. Many look forward to the presence of his Royal Highness in Paris as an agreeable social event. The possibility is that it will not be till spring time, and on his Royal Highness' way south.
BOUCICAULT'S youngest daughter, Miss Nina, made her first appearance on the stage recently, at Louisville, Ky., playing Moya in "The Shaughraun." Miss Nina, who is only sixteen, is said to strongly resemble her mother in face and figure, while her acting is so natural and unaffected as to merit warm applause. She is very pretty and bids fair to score a success.
THE new Church of the Oratory, at South Kensington, London, which promises to be one of the most splendid of the kind in England, fast approaches completion. The confessional has arrived from Belgium. It is finely sculptured in oak, having a figure of the pelican over the centre and two life-sized figures of angels on either side, one bearing the keys and another blotting out the penitents' sins, while on the panel of the door are carved the implements of the passion.
SAN MARINO, the oldest government in Europe and the oldest and smallest Republic in the world, is about to reply to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Great Britain. There are no personal or pecuniary interests to consider on either side, and should such relations ensue they can only be valuable in view of future contingencies. Situated in the midst of the Papal States, this little territory of but thirty miles in circumference has been recognized as an independent State since its refusal in the thirteenth century to pay certain taxes imposed by the Pope. The sovereignty up to the fourteenth century was originally exercised by the whole community.
The sun, fast sinking behind the hill-tops,
Touches the clouds with a purple sheen,
The leaves in glory of gold and crimson
Sift down where the gnarled bows lean.
Bare lie the wheat-fields, where late the reaper
Garnered, rejoicing, the ripened grain;
Now, labor ended, with lagging footsteps
He follows behind the deep-laden wain.
The soft air chills and the twilight deepens,
In distant windows the home-lights glow,
The reaper urges with cheery whistle
His plodding cattle, patient and slow.
The piled up sheaves grow dim in the darkness,
The stars come out in the dusky sky,
The lumb'ring wagon, its wheels complaining,
Rolls heavily in at the barn-door high.
From chimney corner the ruddy firelight
Flashes a welcome and gay good cheer;
Clustered around it, familiar faces
Expectant smiles as a step draws near;
The great logs snap and the lights grow brighter,
The house rejoices from door-stone to eaves,
When in the cool, crisp breath of the gloaming
The reaper goes home with his heavy sheaves.
Slowly around me life's shadows lengthen,
My sun slips fast down the fading sky,
One by one in the gathering darkness,
Ghost-like the days of my years go by;
Stripped are the fields that were white for harvest,
Round me are falling the dying leaves;
I, too, go home with the weary reapers,
Rejoicing to lay down my gathered sheaves.
Alice Cora Hammond.
WONDERFUL accounts are given of the linguistic aptitude and achievements of the Crown Prince of Portugal, who is only a few weeks over twenty years of age. He has already acquired a private library of some forty thousand volumes, containing many rare and precious editions of the leading authors of the world. But he promises, in addition, to develop into the Mezzofanti of his age, for he not only speaks English with competent facility after no more two years' study, but converses in no fewer than fourteen languages, so that he is the master approximately of all the languages of Europe.
IF the Jersey Lily has knocked Freddie silly, the American people are not without their revenge. A young Englishman of fortune — a masher, a poet, and an athlete — is gone on Mary Anderson. Every night he dresses himself as a bard, and with his little flute plays a melancholy, cow-choked-with-a-cob kind of air as the divine Kentuckienne passes from the stage-door to her carriage, he kneeling the while. He is compelled to thus silently pay his adorations to the beauty who has so charmed his soul, because she declined to receive either him or a valuable bouquet from him. Mary is not so kind as Lily.
THE historical church doors upon which Luther nailed his famous ninety-five theses at Wittenberg, in 1517 are now to be seen at the chief entrance to the Church of St. Bartholomew at Berlin. Wittenberg was bombarded during the Seven Years' War, and the church being almost levelled with the ground, the doors were badly damaged. They were, however, repaired and restored to their places when the church was rebuilt; but as they suffered a good deal from the effects of the weather, they were in time removed for safety to the Berlin Museum, where they remained until King Frederick William V. presented them to the Church of St. Bartholomew upon its completion. For the original doors, which are popularly known in Germany as the "Gates of the Reformation," new ones of bronze engraved with Luther's theses have been substituted at Wittenberg. These were given to the castle church in 1858 by King Frederick William IV., and are the finest things of their kind in Europe.
DON'T LEND YOUR CIGAR. — The Pittsburg Dispatch says that a man of letters was smoking and chatting with a physician on a Hudson River ferryboat when a stranger stopped up and asked for a light. "Let me give you a match," replied the man of letters, adding, after his petitioner had withdrawn: "I don't know how you feel about it, doctor, but for my part I very much dislike to put the end of my cigar back into my mouth after it has been fingered by Tom, Dick and Harry. I always carry matches with me, and make it a point to offer one of them instead." "And quite right you are," said the doctor. "I believe that some of the worst diseases can be conveyed by one man to another through the contact of his fingers with a borrowed cigar. I personally know of a case where varioloid was transmitted by means of a two dollar bill, and I firmly believe that varioloid and things much worse can pass from a man's fingers into a cigar and thence into the smoker of it."