|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
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Not content, however, with personal solicitations, the Pope employed Cardinal Consalvi to use his influence with Mezzofanti. But it was to no purpose. The humble Abate could not be induced to leave his native city. The only mark of favour, therefore, which remained at the disposal of the pontiff, was one which Mezzofanti prized infinitely beyond the more solid, as well as more brilliant, offer which awaited him at Rome,— his re-establishment in the Professorship of Oriental Languages. He was formally restored on the 28th of April, 1814, Note 1a few days after the departure of the Pope from Bologna.
There is no doubt that on this occasion, as on that of his declining the invitation to Paris several years earlier, he was much influenced by those considerations, arising from his relations to the children of his sister, to which I already alluded, his presence in Bologna being now more than ever necessary for the completion of their education. Indeed this was now the chief family duty which bound him to Bologna; for his father, who had survived his mother by several years, died, at the advanced age of eighty-one, in April, 1814, during the visit of Pius VII. to that city.
The few notices of the Abate Mezzofanti which we have met up to this period, are derived almost exclusively from Bolognese, or at least Italian sources. During the long continental war, the ordinary intercourse with Italy was, in great part, suspended, and few tourists, especially of the literary class, visited the north of Italy. But the cessation of hostilities in the spring of 1814, re-opened the long interrupted communication, and the annual stream of visitors to Rome and Naples again began to flow, with its wonted regularity, through the cities of the north. Few of the tourists who published an account of their travels at this date failed to devote some of their pages to one who had now become one of the chief " sights " of his native city. It is hardly necessary to say, that, in some instances, these accounts are but the echoes of popular fame, and exhibit the usual amount of ignorance, credulity, and superficial information, which characterise "travellers' tales." But very many, also, will be found to contain the judgment of acute,lear-ned, and impartial observers ; many of them are the re. suit of a careful and jealous scrutiny of Mezzofanti's attainments, made by critics of indisputable capacity; most of them will be admitted to be of unquestionable value, as to one point at least—Mezzofanti's familiarity with the native language of each particular traveller; and all, even the least solid among them, are interesting, as presenting to us, with the freshness of contemporary narrative, the actual impressions received by the writer from his opportunities of personal intercourse with the great linguist.
I have collected from many sources, published Note 2 and unpublished, a variety of these travellers' notices, which I shall use freely in illustrating the narrative Many of these will be found in Mr. Watts's interesting paper read before the Philological Society, January 23, 1852: " On the Extraordinary Powers of Cardinal Mezzofanti as a Linguist." Some other notices, not contained in that Paper, have since been kindly pointed out to me by the same gentleman. I have been enabled to add several, hitherto unpublished, certainly not inferior in authority and interest to any of the published testimonies.
of the remaining years of the life of Mezzofanti. I shall be careful, however, in all that regards the critical portion of the biography, and especially in estimating the actual extent of Mezzofanti's linguistic attainments, only to rely, for each language, on the authority of one who, either as a native, or at least an unquestioned proficient in that particular language, will be admitted to be a perfectly competent judge in its regard. The autumn of the year 1814 supplies one such notice, which is remarkable, as the first direct testimony to Mezzofanti's proficiency in speaking German. He had learned this language in boyhood ; and it is clear from his letters to De Rossi, and from the books to which he freely refers in that correspondence, that he was intimately acquainted with it as a language of books. But in this year we are able for the first time to test his power of speaking German by the judgment of a native.
The writer in question is a German tourist, named Kephalides, professor in the University of Breslau, Note 3who (as may be. inferred from his alluding to the Congress of Vienna, as just opened) visited Bologna in the October or November of 1814. " The Professor Abate Mezzofanti," writes this traveller, who met him in the Library, " speaks German with extraordinary fluency, although he has never been out of Bologna. He is a warm admirer, too, of the literature of Germany, especially its poetry ; and he has stirred up the same enthusiasm among the educated classes in Bologna, both gentlemen and ladies." Note 4 We learn incidentally. too, frora this writer's narrative, that German was among the languages which Mezzofanti taught to his private pupils. In a rather interesting account of an interview which he had with old Father Emmanuel Aponte, (one of Mezzofanti's first instructors,) and with the celebrated lady-professor of Greek, so often referred to, Clotilda Tambroni, Kephalides mentions that the youth whom Mezzofanti sent to conduct him to Aponte was one of his own pupils, who had just begun to " lisp German." Strangely enough, nevertheless, Kephalides does not allude to any other of Mezzofanti's languages, nor even to his general reputation as a linguist of more than ordinary attainments.
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