|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
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A very interesting instance has been communicated to me by M. Antoine d'Abbadie,* who visited the Cardinal in 1839, at Rome. M. d'Abbadie had been a traveller from early manhood. Setting out in the year 1837, in company with his brother Arnauld, to explore the sources of the White Nile, he traversed the greater part of north eastern Africa. Their wanderings, however, proved a mission of religion and charity, no less than of science. During their long and varied intercourse with the several tribes of Abyssinia, they observed with painful interest that strange admixture of primitive Catholic truth with gross and revolting superstition by which all travellers have been struck ; and their first care was to study carefully the condition of the country and the character of the people, with a view to the organization of a judicious and effective missionary expedition by which their many capabilities for good might be developed. Hence, it is that, while their letters, reports, and essays, communicated to the various scientific journals and societies of France and England,* have added largely to our knowledge of the languages, the geigraohy, and the natural history of these imperfectly explored provinces, their services to the Church by the introduction of missionaries, by the advice and information which they have uniformly afforded them, and even by their own personal cooperation in the great work, have entitled them to the gratitude of all to whom the interests of truth and civilization are dear.
M. Antoine d'Abbadie, after two years spent in such labours, returned to Europe in 1839, for the purpose of preparing himself for a further and more systematic exploration. On arriving in Rome, he took an early opportunity of waiting upon the Cardinal, accompanied by two Abyssinians, who spoke only the Amarinna language, and by a Galla servant, whose native (and only) language was the Ilmorma, a tongue almost entirely unknown, even to the learned in this branch of philology. M. d'Abbadie himself spoke Basque, a language which was still new to Mezzofanti ; and he was thus witness of what was certainly a very unwonted scene—the great Polyglottist completely at fault.
A failure so unusual for Mezzofanti, and in so many languages, could not but prove a stimulus to the industry of this indefatigable student. He was at the moment busily engaged in the revision of the Maronite and Armenian liturgies ;—a circumstance, by the way, which perhaps may account for his passing over without notice, M. d'Abbadie's proposal about the Galla language ;—but, a few months later, he addressed himself to the Arnarinna with all the energy of his most youthful days. How it ended, we shall see.
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