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|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
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Besides the unaffected modesty and the distrust of his own fitness for a prominent position (even with such advantages as those offered to him at Paris,) which are expressed in this letter, the Abate Mezzofanti was also moved to decline the invitation, both by affection for his native city and love of its university life (to which we shall find him looking back with fondness even after his elevation to the cardinalate,) and by unwillingness to part from his family, to whom he was tenderly attached. To the latter he had always felt himself bound by duty as well as by affection. The expense of the education of his sister's children, who at this time, (as appears from a little Memoir in the archives of the University drawn up in 1815,) were seven in number, amounted to a considerable sum. They, as well as their parents, still continued to reside in his house ; and the same Memoir alludes to another near relative who was at least partially dependent upon him for support.
To these children, indeed, he was as a father. Cavaliere Minarelli, in the interesting note already cited, describes him as " most affectionately devoted to them, and uniting in his manners the loving familiarity of a friend with the graver authority of an instructor." In his brief intervals of leisure from business or study, he often joined them in their little amusements. Without the slightest trace of austerity, he generally managed to give their amusements, as far as possible, a religious character. He usually made the festivals memorable to them by some extra indulgence or entertainment. He encouraged and directed their childish tastes in the embellishment of their little oratories, or in those well-known Christmas devices of Catholic children, the preparation of the " Crib of the Infant Jesus," or the decoration of the "Christmas Tree." He hoarded his little resources in order to procure for them improving and instructive books. He composed simple odes and sonnets for the several festivals, which it was his greatest enjoyment to hear them recite. The simplicity of his disposition, and a natural fondness for children which was one of the characteristics even of his later life, made all this easy to him. He was always ready, if not to take a part, at least to manifest an interest, in the pleasures of his young friends, In the carnival especially, when amusement seems, for a time, to form the serious business of every Italian household, he was never wanting ; and, on one memorable occasion, he actually composed a little comedy, to be acted by his nephews and nieces for the humble family circle.
During the whole winter of 1806-7 his time was still occupied in the uncongenial labour of compiling the Catalogue.
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