|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
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HITHERTO the Abate Mezzofanti has appeared chiefly, if not exclusively, as a linguist; and the estimate of his attainments which has long been current, assumes him to have cultivated that single accomplishment to the exclusion of all other branches of. study. The report, however, of a visitor, who saw him about the time at which we have now arrived, will be found to present him in a new character.
In introducing this notice of him, a brief preliminary explanation will be necessary perhaps, indeed, this explanation is indispensable even in itself; for, although the political history of the period does not properly fall within the scope of this biography, yet, as the most important event in the life of Mezzofanti the transfer of his residence to Rome arose directly out of his mission to that capital at the termination of the Revolution of 1831, it is necessary to revert, at least in outline, to the most notable occurrences of the preceding years.
The discontent and turbulence which marked the closing years of the reign of Pius VII. had in great measure subsided under the impartial but vigorous administration of Leo XII; nor was the short pontificate of his successor, Pius VIII. who succeeded on the 31st of March, 1829, interrupted by any overt expression of popular discontent. It was well known, nevertheless, throughout this whole period, that an active secret organization was in existence, not alone in the Papal States, but in Naples, in the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom, in the minor principalities of Parma, Piacenza, and Modena, and indeed throughout the entire of Italy. Everywhere throughout Italy, too, in addition to these secret associations, still subsisted a remnant of the old French or Franco-Italian party, who, while they submitted to the existing state of things, and offered no resistance to the established regime, concealing their discontent, and cautiously repressing their aspirations after the cherished vision of a "united and independent Italy," yet were notoriously dissatisfied with the domestic governments, and lost no opportunity of embarrassing their administration. Of this, in the Papal States, Bologna had long been the center.
The Abate Mezzofanti had never taken any part in political affairs ; but his principles were well known, and his antecedents had long marked him out as an ardent and devoted adherent of the Papal rule. Personally inoffensive and amiable as he was, therefore, he was, on these grounds, distasteful to certain members of the anti-papal party. But by the great body of his fellow-citizens he was regarded as a man of thoroughly honorable principles ; and we shall see that in a "crisis of great delicacy and importance he was selected as one of their delegates to the court of Gregory XVI.
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