|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
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The reader's recollection of the attainments of the most remarkable linguists enumerated in the memoir prefixed to this biography will enable him, therefore, to see how immeasurably Cardinal Mezzofanti transcends them all. Taking the very highest estimate which has been offered of their attainments, the list of those reputed to have possessed more than ten languages is a very short one. Only four—Mithridates, Pico of Mirandola, Jonadab Alhanar,and Sir William Jones— are said, in the loosest sense, to have passed the limit of twenty. To the first two fame ascribes twenty-two, to the last two twenty-eight languages. Müller, Niebuhr, Fulgence Fresnel, and perhaps Sir John Bowring, are usually set down as knowing twenty languages. For Elihu Burritt, Csoma de Koros, their admirers claim eighteen. Renaudot, the controversialist, is said to have known seventeen, Professor Lee sixteen, and the attainments of the older linguists, as Arias Montamus, Martin del Rio, the converted Rabbi Libertas Cominetus, the Admirable Crichton—-. are said to have ranged from this down to ten or twelve—most of them the ordinary languages of learned and of polite society. It is further to be observed that in no one of those cases has the evidence been examined, the trustworthiness of the witnesses considered, or the degrees of knowledge of the various languages ascertained. Whatever of doubt rests even upon the vaguest statements regarding Mezzofanti, applies with double force in every one of the above instances.
But even putting these considerations aside, and accepting the estimates upon the showing of the parties themselves or their admirers,, how far does the very highest of them fall short of what has been demonstrated of Cardinal Mezzofanti!
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