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The Poet Ennius, if we believe the ac- most part mere sketches, vague, declamatory, count of Aulus Gellius, was no little vain of and often of very doubtful authenticity. M. his attainments as a linguist, and used to Manavit's essay, the most recent and most boast that “ he had three hearts, because he ambitious of them all, is extremely meagre was able to speak in three tongues, the and barren of details ; nor does it even atGreek, the Latin, and the Oscan." What tempt any thing like a philosophical analywould the good old “Father" have said, if sis of the nature or the extent of the Cardi. he had had Cardinal Mezzofanti for his nal's acquirements, considered ethnologically. therne? It would be a curious physiologi. Mr. Watts' short but able and scholarlike cal problem to determine what degree of paper read before the Philological society, physical development in the comparative although it is far more valuable in this respect, scale suggested by his quaint illustration, and is exceedingly interesting as a collection should be taken to represent the faculty of of the fragmentary notices of Mezzofanti language as it existed in this most wonderful published by tourists and others during the linguist.

several stages of his career, yet could not, Unfortunately, the materials for a com- from its very form, be expected to contain plete and satisfactory estimate of his charac full particulars of his personal history. And, ter and altainments are scanty and difficult strange as it may seem, nothing deserving of access. The printed materials are for the the name of a memoir, much less of a regu* 1. Esquisse Historique sur le Cardinal Mezzofan. It was understood for some time after the

lar biography, has as yet appeared in Italy. ti. Par A. Manavit. Paris : 1853. 2. On the extraordinary Powers of Cardinal Mez

Cardinal's death, that his friend and successzofanti as a Linguist. By Thomas WATTS, Esq. or in the charge of the Vatican Library, [Proceedings of the Philological Society. Jau- M. Laureani, was engaged in the preparation

uary 23, 1852.) London: 1852. 3. Catalogo della Libreria dell' Eminentissimo that this expectation (which has unhappily

of an authentic memoir ; and it is probable Cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti. Compilato per ordine di lingue, da Filippo Bonifazi, Librajo been frustrated by M. Laureani's death) may Romano. Roma: 1851.

have deterred others from undertaking the VOL. XXXIV.--NO. IV.


task. Probably, too, the unsettled condition | of affairs in Rome at the time of Mezzofanti's death, which occurred during the residence of the Papal Court at Gaeta, may have withdrawn public attention from what, in ordinary times, would have been a most memorable event. But, whatever may have been the occasion of this seemingly unaccountable neglect, we regret to say, that, with the exception of two or three slight and unsatisfactory notices, in the newspapers and critical journals of the time, the literature of his native country,-of Bologna, the place of his birth; of Modena, Florence, and Naples, with all which he had long maintained the closest scientific, literary, and friendly relations; above all of Rome, where, for the last twenty years of his life, he was one of the most prominent notabilities,-has not as yet produced a single record in any degree worthy of so distinguished a name.

periods, to arrange and classify the various grades of animal life which prevailed in each, and even to describe the structure and the habits by which they were respectively distinguished. It is true that in many cases the estimate of a man's attainments derived from a consideration of the books which he has collected, would be fallacious in the last degree. There are but too many who collect books for the mere collection sake, and with no higher or more practical object than that of placing them upon their shelves. But every one who knew Cardinal Mezzofanti, knows well that it was not so with him. The library which he hoarded his modest means to accumulate, was no idle show-room. It was the bonâ fide workshop in which he pursued his extraordinary vocation; and it may safely be taken as some gauge or measure of his linguistic attainments;-imperfect and inadequate it is true, because some of the languages or dialects with which he was familiar possess no printed literature at all, but, at least as far as it goes, perfectly trust

The interest, however, which attaches to such a career as that of Cardinal Mezzofanti is a thing entirely apart from the associations of friendship or of country. In one depart-worthy and reliable. ment of liberal study it is entirely without a parallel, and may well be regarded as among the most curious chapters in the annals of the human mind. It is impossible not to feel, that, independently of the interest which must attach to the personal history of any man rising to literary eminence in the face of great difficulties, there is something in the very notion of Mezzofanti's peculiar accomplishment so completely without example, as not only to deserve a permanent record, but even to invite a minute and careful philosophical investigation. It will be easily understood, therefore, that we take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the publication of the Esquisse of M. Manavit, less for its own intrinsic value, than as a means of bringing the whole subject under the notice of our readers; availing ourselves not only of the materials collected by him and by Mr. Watts, but also of much additional information, partly gleaned from the Italian and German critical journals, partly derived from personal knowledge, and from other private, but perfectly credible sources. We have in cluded among our materials the catalogue of his limited, but exceedingly curious library. In itself it is a singularly inaccurate and unskilful compilation, and abounds with the strangest and most amusing blunders. But it is sufficiently correct to be employed as we propose ;-on a principle similar to that on which geologists undertake, from the vegetable remains of the several geological

There is no branch of scholarship which has left fewer traces in literature, or has received a more scanty measure of justice from history, than the faculty of language. Viewed in the light of a curious but unpractical pursuit, it is admired for a time, and, perhaps, enjoys an exaggerated popularity; but it passes away like a nine days' wonder, and seldom finds a permanent record. Hence, while the literature of every country abounds with memoirs of distinguished poets, philosophers, and historians, few, even among professed antiquarians, have directed their attention to the history of eminent linguists, whether in ancient or in modern times. We had hoped that the case of Cardinal Mezzofanti, by suggesting the necessity of a comparison with other distinguished linguists, would have furnished to some of his biographers an occasion for the compilation of some such memoir; but it would seem as if the Cardinal's attainments have been considered by them all as completely beyond all idea of competition, and as if, in the eyes of his admirers, his fame had effectually eclipsed that of all his predecessors in the same department of study.

GIUSEPPE GASPARDO MEZZOFANTI was the son of an humble carpenter, and was born at Bologna, September 17, 1764. He was sent to one of the charity schools of his native city, and was destined by his father to follow his own trade, at which it is said that he actually worked in his early boyhood. Accord

ing to one account, which, although not contained in any of the published memoirs, is derived from a distinguished Anglican dignitary, once a pupil of Mezzofanti, it was while he was thus employed that he attracted the notice of the good old Oratorian, Father Respighi, to whom he was indebted for his release from the uncongenial lot for which his father had designed him. The place where his work-bench was fixed was, as is usual in Italy, in the open air, and under the window of this old clergyman, who privately instructed a number of pupils in Greek and Latin. Young Mezzofanti, overhearing the lessons, caught up the instruction with that marvellous facility which distinguished his after life; and one day surprised his unconscious teacher with the discovery that, without even having seen a Greek book, and without knowing a single letter of the alphabet, he had acquired an extensive and very accurate knowledge of the great body of the words contained in the books which he had heard explained in these stolen lectures! Respighi, who was a most kind-hearted and enlightened man, at once resolved to save for literature a youth of such promise; himself undertook the task of instructing him in Greek and Latin; and on his declaring his preference for the ecclesiastical profession, placed him at the episcopal seminary of Bologna. The meagre notices of his early career which have been preserved, contain hardly any thing of interest for our present purpose. He learned in college Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic, His first lessons in German were derived from a Bolognese ecclesiastic, the Abbate Thiuli. He picked up French from an old priest of Blois; Swedish, from a Swedish physician who had settled at Bologna; and Coptic from a learned clergyman, the Canonico Mingarelli. And it is plain from what is told of him that then, as later, the faculty of memory was that through which he mainly worked in the acquirement of his linguistic stores. One of his recorded schoolboy feats was to repeat, after a single reading, a folio page of St. John Chrysostome, which he had never before seen; and other exercises of memory equally ready and equally remarkable are mentioned among the recollections of his youth.

He was admitted to priest's orders in 1797, and in the end of that year was appointed professor of Arabic in the University. In the following year, however, he was deprived, on his refusing to take the oaths required by the new Cisalpine Republic; and, until the year 1804, when he was again restored, he eked

out a scanty income by private tuition, especially in the Marescalchi family, where he had the advantage of an extensive and curious library, particularly rich in the department of languages. His fidelity to the papal cause, in the contests between Pius VII. and Napoleon, led to his being, a second time, deprived of his professorship, in 1808, though he was invited by the Emperor to Paris, with most brilliant prospects; but in 1812 he obtained the place of assistant librarian; and on the return of Pius VII. from his exile, in 1814, his fidelity, as well as his other distinguished merits, received a more fitting reward, in the appointment of principal librarian and regent of studies in the University.

To the duties of these offices he devoted himself assiduously, and he refused every solicitation by which it was sought to withdraw him from his native city. Murat endeavored to lure him to Naples; the Grand Duke of Tuscany invited him to Florence; the Emperor Francis held out tempting offers in Vienna; Pius VII. employed every instance to obtain his services at Rome. But he was proof against them all, and continued, with the exception of a few brief excursions to Modena, to Mantua, to Leghorn, Pisa, and Rome, to reside in Bologna, until the accession of Gregory XVI. in 1831.

It was during these years that he acquired the largest proportion of his knowledge of languages. Very few particulars, however, of the marvellous history are preserved, beyond the names of a few individuals, (none of them possessing any particular interest,) from whom he is said to have received information or instruction in some of the many languages which he contrived to master.. His position was not so unfavorable for these studies as might at first sight be supposed. In those days Bologna was the high road to Rome, and few visitors to that capital failed to tarry for a short time at Bologna, to examine the many objects of interest which it contains. To all of these Mezzofanti found a ready and welcome access. There were few with whom his fertile vocabulary did not supply some medium of communication; but, even when the stranger could not speak any except the unknown tongue, Mezzofanti's ready ingenuity soon enabled him to establish a system for the interchange of thought. A very small number of leading words.sufficed as a foundation; and the almost instinctive facility with which, by a single effort, he grasped all the principal peculiarities of the structure of each new language, speedily enabled him to acquire enough of the essen

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