|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1820 to 1823 > Appearance
We may also add Professor Jacobs' description of the personal appearance of the great linguist at this period of his life.
" Mezzofanti," he says, " is of the middle size, or rather below it ; he is thin and pale, and his whole appearance indicates delicacy. He appears to be between fifty and sixty years old he was really, in 1825, fifty-one ; his movements are easy and unembarrassed ; his whole bearing is that of a man who has mixed much in society. He is active and zealous in the discharge of his duties, and never fails to celebrate mass every day."Note 1
I have thought it necessary to draw the reader's attention to these points, in reference to Mezzofanti's German, in order that he may compare them with the observations of Dr. Tholuck, Chevalier Bunssn, Guido Gorres, and other distinguished Germans, who visited him at a later period.
All his later letters to the Abate Cavedoni, which are filled with apologies for his tardiness as a correspondent, tell the same story of ceaseless occupation,
" A Franciscian friar of the Bosnian province," he writes, November 23rd, 1825, " who has been learning Turkish with me for the purposes of his mission in Bosnia, being on his way to Modena, has called to inquire whether I have any occasion to write to that city. The remorse which I feel at not having written to you for so long a time, makes it impossible for me to give a denial; and I write this letter, into which I wish I could crowd all the expressions of gratitude which I owe to you for your constant and faithful remembrance of one, who, although he certainly never forgets you, yet rarely gives you, at least in writing, the smallest evidence of his remembrance.
The truth is that I should only be too happy to do so, and that it would seem to me but a renewal of the pleasant literary discussions which we used to hold with one another here. But unfor tunately, I am too much occupied to indulge myself with this relaxation. I say this, however, only to excuse myself; for I assure you that I look eagerly for letters from you, and that it is a great comfort to me to receive one.
As regards those words terminating in he which are now commonly used by medical writers, although their formation is not grammatically exact, and although they do not precisely correspond with those which were employed by the ancients, yet as they have now obtained general currency, it would be hyper-critical and useless to seek to reform them. You may satisfy grammarians by a brief annotation to show that you do not. overlook what is due to their art I mean of course Greek grammarians; for I suppose our own grammarians will perhaps prefer the termination which has been, sanctioned by use, and which may possibly appear to them less' disagreeable. Yon see that I am but repeating your own opinion, and if I did not write sooner to you on the subject, it was because my own judgment fully agreed with what you had expressed in your letter. I congratulate you on the success of your brother's studies. I have been much gratified by the learning, the industry, and the zeal for religion, which he has displayed. Offer him my best ! thanks.
Remember me in your prayers : write to me, and believe me unchangingly yours."
The same regrets are still more strikingly expressed in the following letter.
"I have been wishing, for several days past, to write and thank you heartily for your kindness towards me, but it is only this day that I have been able to steal a moment for the purpose. Be assured that I do not forget how patiently you bore with me, while, in the midst of the thousand distractions to which I was liable, we were reading together the Greek and Oriental languages. If I recal to your recollection the manner of my life at that time, and the ever recurring interruptions of any studies, it is only for the purpose of letting you see that, as the same state of things still continues, or rather has been changed for the worse, I have not time to show my gratitude for your constant remembrance of me. Still 1 thank you from my heart for it.
I have not been able to read much of your Tasso, but I have observed some readings which appear to me very happy. I told Count Valdrighi, that I intended to write to you about the volume which Monsignor Mai has just published, to request that you, or some others of your friends in Modena, would take copies of it, as I have some to dispose of. I have since learned that you are already supplied. I beg, nevertheless, that you will take some public occasion to recommend it. I would do so willingly myself, but I cannot find a single free moment. The library, my professorship, my private lectures, the examination of books, the visits of strangers, the attendance on sick or dying foreigners, do not leave me time to breathe. In all this I possess one singular advantagethe excellent health with which I am blessed. But on the other hand, I am losing, or indeed I have already lost, my habit of application ; and now, if I am called from time to time to do anything, I find myself reduced to the necessity of improvising. Forgive me, my dear Don Celestino, for entering thus minutely into my own affairs. Set it down to the account of our friendship, in the name of which I beg of you to remember me ; in your prayers. Continue to write to me as of old; for, in the midst of my heaviest occupations, I receive your letters with the greatest pleasure, and find a real enjoyment in them, and in the reminiscences which they bring with them of the happiness that I formerly enjoyed in your dear society. My sister and my nephews present their most cordial greetings.
Bologna, March, 27, 1826."
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