|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
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Mezzofanti, working at military hospitals tending to wounded soldiers from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, picks the languages spoken by the soldiers. Hungarian, Polish, German, Czech, Gypsy, Russian, he learns them all including their dialects.
"I was at Bologna," he himself told M. Manavit, Note 1 " during the time of the war. I was then young in the sacred ministry ; it was my practice to visit the military hospitals. I constantly met there Hungarians, Slavonians, Germans, and Bohemians, who had been wounded in battle, or invalided during the campaign ; it and pained me to the heart that from want of the means of communicating with them, I was unable to confess those among them who were Catholics, or to bring back to the Church those who were separated from her communion. In such cases, accordingly, I used to apply myself, with all my energy, to the study of the language of the patients, until I knew enough of them to make myself understood ; I required no more.
With these first rudiments I presented myself among the sick wards. Such of the invalids as desired it, I managed to confess ; with others I held occasional conversations ; and thus in a short time I acquired a considerable vocabulary. At length, through the grace of God, assisted by my private studies, and by a retentive memory. I came to know, not merely the generic languages of the nations to which the several invalids belonged, but even the peculiar dialects of their various provinces."
In this way, being already well acquainted with German, he became master successively of Magyar, Bohemian, or Czechish, Polish, and even of the Gipsy dialect, which he learned from one of that strange race, who was a soldier in a Hungarian regiment quartered at Bologna during this period.Note 2 It is probable, too, that it was in the same manner he also learned Russian. It is at least certain that he was able to speak that language fluently, at the date of his acquaintance with the celebrated Suwarrow. Mezzofanti's report of the acquirements of this ": remarkable barbarian" differs widely from the notion then popularly entertained regarding him.
He described him as a most accomplished linguist, and a well-read scholar. This report, it may be added, is fully confirmed by the most recent authorities, and Alison describes him as highly educated, polished in his manners, speaking and writing seven languages with facility, and extensively read, especially upon the art of war . Note 3
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