Lewis Carroll’s Memory Techniques

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) practiced memory techniques. His memory system has some similarities with the Major System but seems more complicated in its letter choices:

1. “b” and “c,” the first two consonants in the alphabet.
2. “d” from “duo,” “w” from “two.”
3. “t” from “tres,” the other may wait awhile.
4. “f” from “four,” “q” from “quattuor.”
5. “l” and “v,” because “l” and “v” are the Roman symbols for “fifty” and “five.”
6. “s” and “x” from “six.”
7. “p” and “m” from “septem.”
8. “h” from “huit,” and “k” from the Greek “okto.”
9. “n” from “nine”; and “g” because it is so like a “9.”
0. “z” and “r” from “zero.”

Dodgson wrote:

My “Memoria Technica” is a modification of Gray’s; but, whereas he used both consonants and vowels to represent digits, and had to content himself with a syllable of gibberish to represent the date or whatever other number was required, I use only consonants, and fill in with vowels ad libitum, and thus can always manage to make a real word of whatever has to be represented.

Dodgson is referring to Richard Grey who wrote Memoria Technica, which I previously posted a copy of online.

The most interesting aspect is that it includes rhyming. To remember the date that Columbus reached America, he would remember the rhyme:

“Columbus sailed the world around,
Until America was F O U N D.”

F-N-D is the number 492, referring to the year 1492.

A complete description of the system is here. There is more about Dodgson’s memory system in this article: Memoria Technica Japonica: A Study of Mnemonics.

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