During my stay in Rome (1831-35),I conversed several times in Flemish with Cardinal Mezzofanti, and I was thus enabled to ascertain that he understood our language thoroughly. He spoke to me of the works of Cats and Vondel, two distinguished Flemish poets, which he had read. Nevertheless, I fancied that I perceived his vocabulary to be rather limited. He often repeated the same words and phrases. He spoke with a Brabant accent, for he had learned Flemish from some young men of Brussels, who studied at the University of Bologna, in which his Eminence was at that time Librarian. Monsignor Mezzofanti, after I had spoken, remarked of himself, that I, being a Fleming, did not speak as they do in Brabant; and hence he had a difficulty in catching some of my expressions, which he requested me to repeat. It is, therefore, not quite correct to say, that he knew our different dialects; but, if he had had occasion to learn them, he could, without doubt, have done so with great ease.
Some days before my departure from Rome, in May, 1835, I met this learned dignitary in the sacristy of S. Peter's. He at
once accosted me in Flemish; and, when I had replied, he upbraided me with having forgotten my mother tongue, for I mixed up with it, he said, some German words. The reproach was well founded: for I had passed about three years in the German College, where I had learned a little German, and had had meanwhile no occasion to speak Flemish. Such a reproof from an Italian, who thus gave lessons in Flemish to a Fleming, struck me as exceeding droll, and amused me not a little. This anecdote shows what minute attention the learned Cardinal paid to the boundary lines of kindred tongues.
I have heard Mezzofanti, in the course of one evening, speaking Italian, English, German, Flemish, Russian, French, and the Sicilian and Neapolitan dialects of