|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1836 to 1838 > Cingalese
Without wearying the reader, however, with further details, I shall transcribe (although it regards a later period,) an interesting letter received from the Rev. Charles Fernando, the missionary apostolic at the Point of Galle in Ceylon, which enters briefly, but yet very fully and distinctly, into the particulars of the languages which Mezzofanti used to speak in the Propaganda, during the writer's residence there as a student. M. Fernando is a native of Colombo in the Island of Ceylon. He came to Rome early in the year 1843, and remained until after the death of Cardinal Mezzofanti.
The caution with which M. Fernando speaks on the subject of Cingalese, as well as of the rest of the Indian languages, makes his testimony in other respects more valuable, inasmuch as I had frequently heard it said in Rome that the Cardinal spoke "Hindostani and all the dialects of India." It needed, however, but a moment's recollection of the number and variety of these dialects, (several of which till very recently were almost unknown even by name to Europeans,) to assure me that this was a great exaggeration. I am inclined to think that his knowledge of Indian languages lay entirely among those which are derived from the Sanscrit. The notion of Colebrook and the philologers of his time, that all the languages of India are of Sanscrit origin, is now commonly abandoned. It is found that the languages of the Deccan have but little of the Sanscrit element; and Mr. Caldwell, in his recent com the Holy Land, and afterwards, in 1851, in an expedition to the interior of Africa, which forms the subject of Signor Churi's volume. I have been assured by M. Bauer, a student of the Propaganda in 1855, that he often conversed with the Cardinal in Hungarian, during the years 1847 and 1848. parative grammar of the South-Indian Languages,* has enumerated under the general designation of Dravidian, nine un Sanscritic languages of this region of India, among which the best known are the Tamil, Telugu, Canarese, and Malajalim. There seems no reason to believe that Mezzofanti was familiarly acquainted with any one of these four, or indeed with any member of Dravidian family, unless the Guzarattee can be included therein.
M. Fernando's hesitation regarding his knowledge of Tamil, induced me to inquire of Rev. Dr. Mac Auliffe, lately a Missionary at Madras, who, after spending several years in that Presidency, had entered the Propaganda, and who knew the Cardinal at the same time with M. Fernando. Dr. Mac Auliffe informs me, that his eminence did not know Tamil. The Indian languages which he knew, according to Dr. MacAuliffe, were Hindostani and Mahratta; that he was acquainted with at least the first of these there seems no possible doubt, both from M. Fernando's testimony, and from that of Count Lackersteen of Calcutta, a native East Indian gentleman, who assures mef that he conversed with him in Hindostani, in 1843-4. As to the Mahratta dialect, I have not (beyond Dr. MacAuliffe's assurance) been able to obtain any direct information ; but Mr. Eyoob, an Armenian
merchant of Calcutta, testifies to the Cardinal's acquaintance with another Indian language the G-uzarattee. Mr.Eyoob saw the Cardinal in the same year with Count Lackersteen, and writes* that, when he was introduced to his eminence as a native of Bombay, the Cardinal at once addressed him in Guzarattee. Mr. Eyoob adds, that the Cardinal also spoke with him in Armenian and in Portuguese, in both of which languages his accent, vocabulary, and grammatical accuracy, were beyond all exception. Count Lacker-steen's letter fully confirms so much of this statement as regards Portuguese. The Count also spoke with Mezzofanti in Persian : but, as he does not profess to be a profound Persian scholar, his testimony on this head is not of so much value.
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