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The following Memoir had its origin in an article

on Cardinal Mezzofanti, contributed to the Edin-

burgh Review in the year 1855.

The subject ap-

peared at that time to excite considerable interest. The article was translated into French, and, in an

abridged form, into Italian ; and I received through the editor, from persons entirely unknown to me,

more than one suggestion that I should complete

the biography, accompanied by offers of additional

information for the purpose.

Nevertheless, the notices

of the Cardinal on

which that article was founded, and which at that

time comprised all the existing materials for a bio-

graphy, appeared to me, with aU their interest, to

want the precision and the completeness which are

essential to a just estimate of his attainments.


felt that to judge satisfactorily his acquaintance

with a ran^e



lanofuao-es so vast as that which fame



ascribed to him, neither sweeping statements founded

on popular reports, however confident, nor general

assertions from individuals, however distinguished

and trustworthy, could safely be regarded as suffi-


The proof of his familiarity with any par-

ticular language, in order to be satisfactory, ought

to be specific, and ought to rest on the testimony




either of a native, or at least of one whose skill in the language was beyond suspicion.

At the same time the interest with which the

subject seemed to be generally regarded, led me to

hope that, by collecting, while they were yet recent,

the reminiscences of persons of various countries

and tongues, who had known and spoken with the

Cardinal, it might be possible to lay the foundation

of a much more exact judgment regarding him

than had hitherto been attainable.

A short inquiry satisfied me that, although scat-

tered over every part of the globe, there were still to be found living representatives of most of the languages ascribed to the Cardinal, who would be

able, from their own personal knowledge, to declare whether, and in what degree, he was acquainted

with each ; and I resolved to try whether it might

not be possible to collect their opinions.

The experiment has involved an extensive and tedious correspondence ; many of the persons whom

I have had to consult being ex-pupils of the Pro- paganda, residing in very distant countries ; more

than one beyond the range of regular postal com-

munication, and only accessible by a chance mes-

sage transmitted through a consul, or through the

friendly offices of a brother missionary.

For the spirit in Avhich

my inquiries have been

met, I am deeply grateful. I have recorded in the course of the narrative the names of many to whom

I am indebted for valuable assistance and informa-

tion. Other valued friends whom I have not named,

will kindly accept this general acknowledgment.



There is one, however, to whom I

owe a most

special and grateful expression of thankshis Emi- nence the Cardinal Archbishop of TVestminster. From him, at the very outset of my task, I received

a mass of anecdotes, recollections, and suggestions,

which, besides their great intrinsic interest, most

materially assisted me in my further inquiries ; and

the grace



of the contribution was enhanced by the

it was generously withdrawn from that

delightful store of Personal Recollections which his Eminence has since given to the public ; and in which

his brilliant pen would have made it one of the most

attractive episodes.




of the autographs, also, which appear in

of fac-similes, I


to his Eminence.

Others I have received from friends who are


in the Memoir.



pp. v-vii.


Ancient period :.~

History of Linguists little knownLegendary Linguiststhe JewsThe AsiaticsThe GreeksMithridatesCleopatraThe

RomansPrevalence of Greek under the EmpireThe Early Chris-

tiansDecline of the StudySeparation of the two EmpiresThe

CrusadersFrederic IIThe Moorish Schools in SpainCouncil

of VienneRoderigo XimenesVenetian travellersFall of Con-

stantinople-.-Greeks in ItalyComplutensian Polyglot,

Modern period :

pp. 3-18.

I. Linguists of the East. DragomansGenus BeyJonadab AlhanarInterpreters in the LevantCiceroni at MeccaSyrian

LinguistsThe AssemaniGreeksArmeniansThe Mechitar-





II. Italian Linguists.

Pico della MirandolaTeseo Ambrosio

PigafettaLinguistic Missionary CollegesThe







MaracciPodestaPiromalliGiorgiDe MagistrisFinetti

Valperga de GalusoThe De Rossis,



pp. 25-34.

III. Spanish and Portuguese Linguists. Fernando di Cprdova

CovilhamLibertas CominetusArias MantanusDel RioLope

de Vega MissionariesAntonio FernandezCarabantesPedro





pp. 34-41.

IV. French Linguists. PostelPolyglot-Pater-NostersSca-

ligerLe ClusePeirescChasteuilDuretBochartPuguet Le JayDe la CrozeRenaudotFourmontDeshauterayesDe Guignes Diplomatic affairs in the LevantDe Paradis, Langles Abel RemusatModern School, Julien, Bournouf, Renan, Fresnel,

the d'Abbadies,






pp. 41-58.

V. German, Dutch, Flemish, and Hungarian Linguists. Miiller

(Regiomantanus)— Bibliander GesnerChristmann Drusius

Schultens— MaesHaecxGramayeErpenThe GoliusesHot-

tinger—Kircher—Ludolf—RothenackerAndrew MiillerWitzen



WilkinsLeibnitz Gerard MuUer—Schlotzer—Buttner—Michae-


Missionaries—Richter, Fritz, Widmann, Grebmer,

Dobritzhofer, Werdin— Berchtold, Adelung, Vater, Pallas, Klap-

roth, Niebuhr, Humboldt and his School—Castren, Rask, Bunsen,

Biblical Linguists Hungarian




pp. 39.81.

VI. British and Irish Linguists. Crichton—Andrews—Gregory

Castell, Walton, Pocock,


Sale, Clarke, Wilkins,


" Orator" Henley, Carteret, Jones, Marsden, Colebrooke, Craufurd, Lumsden, Leyden, Vans Kennedy, Adam Clarke, Roberts Jones,

Young, Pritchard, Cardinal Wiseman, Browning, Lee, Burritt,

VII. Slavoniaii Linguists.

pp. 81-99.

RussiansScantiness of Materials

Early PeriodJaroslav, BorisThe RomanoffsBerunda Pameva, Peter the Great, Catherine I., Mentschikoff, Timkoffsky, Bitchou-

sin, Igumnoff, Giganoff, Schubinoff, Goulianoif, Senkowsky, Gretsch,

Kazem-Beg Po/esMeninski, Groddek, Bobrowski, Albertrandy,

Rzewuski, Italinski BohemiansKomnensky, Dobrowsky, Hanka,


pp. 99-110.

Miraculous gift of tonguesRoyal Linguists— Lady-Linguists—

Infant Phenomena -Uneducated Linguists,


pp. 110-121.


CHAPTER I. (1774-98.)


Birthand family historyLegendary talesEarly educationFirst

mastersSchool friendsEcclesiastical studiesIllness and interrup-

tion of studiesStudy of languagesAnecdoteOrdinationAp-

pointmeftt as Professor of ArabicDeprivation of professorship, pp. 125-147.

CHAPTER II. (1798-1802.J Straitened circumstances Private tuition The Marescalchi

familyThe military hospitalsManner of studythe Magyar,

Czchish, Polish, Russian, and Flemish languagesForeignersThe

ConfessionalIntense applicationExamples of literary labour, pp. 148-161.

CHAPTER III. (1803-1806.)

Appointed as Asssistant Librarian of the Istituto di Bologna

Catalogue RaisonneProfessorship of Oriental LanguagesPaper

on Egyptian obelisksDe Rossi correspondence with himPolyglot

translationsCaronni's account of himVisit to Pai'raa, Pezzana,



Bodoni PersianIllnessInvitation to settle at Paris Domestic relationsCorrespondenceTranslations, - pp. 162-190.

CHAPTER IV. (1807-14.) Labour of compiling Catalogue His skill as linguist tested by the Russian EmbassyDeprivation of Professorship Death of his

motherVisit to Modena and ParmaLiterary friends Giordani's

accountGreek scholarship Bucheron's trial of his Latinity

Deputy Librarianship of University Visitors Lord Guildford

Learned societiesAcademy of Institute Paper on Mexican sym-

bolic Paintings,






pp. 191-204.

CHAPTER V. (1814-17.) Restoration of the Papal Government Pius "VT^I. at Bologna

Invites Mezzofanti to RomeRe-appointment as Professor of Oriental

languages Death of his fatherNotices of Mezzofanti by Tour-

ists Kephalides Appointed head librarianPupils Angelelli

Papers read at Academy, -




pp. 205-18.

CHAPTER VI. (1817-20.)

Tourists' Notices of Mezzofanti Society In Bologna

Mr. Har-

fordStewart RoseByronThe Opuscoli Letterarj di Bologna

Panegyric of F. Apoute Emperor Francis I. at Bologna


TambroniLady Morgan's account of Mezzofanti Inaccuracies

The Bologna dialectM. Molbech,



pp. 219-40.

CHAPTER VII. (1820-28.)

Illness Visit to IMantua, Modena, Pisa, and Leghorn Solar

EclipseBaron Von ZachBohemianAdmiral SmythThe Gipsy



edoai,Veggetti,RoselliniForeignersDaily dutiesCorrespondence

Death of Plus VII.Appointment as member of Colleglo del Con-

sultori Jacobs' account of him Personal appearance


Mezzofanti's disinter-

Cappellarl Translation of Oriental Liturgy estednessBirmese,





pp. 241-70.

CHAPTER VIIL (1828-30.) Visit of Crown Prince of Prussia Trial of skill in languages

Crown Prince of Sweden M. Braunerhjelm

Countess of Bles-

sington Irish Students Lady Bellew Dr. Tholuck


couplet SwedishCornish DialectFrisianAbate FabianiLet-

ters Academy of the Fllopieri,




pp. 271-8G.



CHAPTER IX. (1831.)


Political parties at Bologna M. Librl's account of Mezzofanti


Hindoo Algebra—Indian literature and history—Indian languages Manner of study Revolution of Bologna Delegates to Rome

Mezzofanti at Rome Reception by Gregory XVI. Visit to the

Propaganda Dr. CuUen Polyglot conversation Renewed Invi- tation to settle at RomeConsentsCalumnies of revolutionary par-

ty Dr. WordsworthMr. MilnesRemoval to Rome, pp. 287-300.

CHAPTER X. (1831-33.) Rome a centre of many languages Mezzofanti's pretensions fully tested Appointments at Rome Visit to the Chinese College at Naples History of the College Study of Chinese Its difficul- ties Illness Return to Rome Polyglot society of RomeThe

Propaganda Amusing trials of skill Gregory XVI. Library of Propaganda rich in rare books on languages Appointed First-

keeper of the Vatican Library Letters,-


CHAPTER XL (1834.)

pp. 301-17.

The Welsh languageDr. ForsterDr. BainesDr. EdwardsMr.

l^hys PowellFlemish Mgr. Malou—Mgr. Wilde—Canon Aerts

Pere van Calven Pere Legrelle DutchM. LeonDr. Wap Mezzofanti's extempore Dutch verses—BohemianThe poet Frankl

Conversations on German and Magyar PoetryMaltesePadre Schem- bri Canonico FalzouPortugueseCount de Lavradio, pp. 318-37.

CHAPTER XIL (1834-36.) The Vatican Library Mezzofanti's colleagues College of St.

Peter's Mezzofanti made RectorHis literary friends in Rome

Angelo Mai Accademia della Cattolica Religione He reads pa- pers in this Academy Gregory XVI.'s kindnessCardinal Giusti-

nianiAlbani Pacca ZurlaPolyglot party at Cardinal


in his honour Opinions regarding him Number of his languages

Mr. MazzinghiDr. CoxDr. Wiseman Herr Fleck Greek

EpigramHerr Fleck's criticismsMezzofanti's LatinityHis En-

glish Dr. Baines Cardinal Wiseman Mr. Monckton Milnes

Mezzofanti's style formed on books Lady Morgan's opinion of his English Swedish Literature Professor Carlson Count Oxen-

stjernaArmenian Literature Mgr, HurmuzPadre Angiarakian

Arabic of SyriaGreek LiteratureMgr. Missir —RomaicAbate MatrangaPolish LiteratureSicilianThe poet Meli, pp. 338-54.



CHAPTER XIII (-1836-38.)

Californian students in PropagandaCalifornian languageMez-

zofanti's success in itNigger Dutch of Cura9oaAmerican Indians

in PropagandaAugustine Hamelin

" The Blackbird"Mezzo-

fanti's knowledge of Indian languagesDr. KipAlgonquinChip- pewa DelawareFather ThavenetHis studies in the Propaganda-

ArabicAlbaneseMr. Fernando's notice of himCingalese

East Indian languagesHindostaniMahrattaGuzaratteeDr. M'AuliffeCount LackersteenM. EyoobChinese, diflSculty of

Chinese studentsTestimony of Abate UmpierresCardinal Wise,

manWest African languagesFather BrunnerAngoleseOri-

ental languagesPaul Alkushi

" Shalom"Letter,

pp. 353.72.

CHAPTER XIV, 0838-41.)

Created CardinalThe CardinalateIts history, duties, emolu-

ments, congregations, oflBcesMezzofanti's povertyKindness of

Gregory XVICongratulations of his Bolognese friendsThe

FilopieriPolyglot congratulations of the PropagandaFriends

among the CardinalsHis life as CardinalStill continues to ac- quire new languages —AbyssinianM. d'AbbadieHis visit to


failureStudies AmarinnaAbyssinian Embassy to RomeTheir

account of the CardinalThe Basque languageM. d'Abbadie Prince L.L. Bonaparte— M. DassanceStrictures on Mezzofanti Mrs. PagetBaron Glucky de StenitzerGuido GorresModesty

of MezzofantiMr. Kip— GorresCardinal WisemanMezzofanti

among the pupils of the Propaganda,



pp. 373-97.

CHAPTER XV. (1841-43.)

Author's recollections of Mezzofanti in 1841His personal appear-

ance and manner ; his attractive simplicityLanguages in which the

author heard him speakHis English conversationVarious opinions regarding itImpressions of the authorAnecdotesCardinal

WisemanRev. John SmythFather KelleherHis knowledge of English literatureMr. HarfordDr. CoxCardinal Wiseman



_^BadeleyHudibrasAuthor's own conversation

with the CardinalThe Tractarian movementMr. Grattan—. Baron BunsenAuthor's second visit to RomeThe Polyglot Aca-

demy of the PropagandaPlayful trial of Mezzofanti's powers by

the studentsHis wonderful versatility of languageAnalogous examples of this facultyDescription of it by visitorsHis own il-

lustrationThe Irish language Mezzofanti's admission regarding

it—The Etruria Celtica—The Eugubian Tables—Amusing experi.



ment suggested by Mezzofanti Dr. MurphyThe Gaelic language

Mezzofanti's extempore Metrical compositions—SpecimensRa-

pidity with which he wrote them Power of accommodating his pro-

nunciation of Latin to that of the various countriesNational inter-

jectional sounds—PlayfulnessPuns, -


pp. 398-431.

CHAPTER XVI. (1843-49.) Death of his nephew Mgr. MinarelliHis sister TeresaLetter

VisitorsRev. Ingrahara KipEnglish conversation—English lite-

rature American literatureThe American Indian languages Scottish dialect—Burns and "Walter ScottRev. John GrayMez- zofanti as a philologerBaron BunsenThe Abbe GraumeFrench

patoisSpanishFather BurruecoMexicanPeruvianNew Zea-

land languageArmenian and TurkishFather TrenzRussian

M. MouravieffThe Emperor NicholasPolishKlementyna z Tanskish HoflfmanowaMakrena, Abbess of MinskHer history Her account of MezzofantiHis occupationsHouse of Catechu-

mens First communion FervoriniThe confessionalDeath of

Gregory XVI.Election of Pius IX.Mezzofanti's epigrams on the

occasionHis relations with the new PopeFather Bresciani's ac-

count of himThe revolution of 1848Its effect on Cardinal Mez.

zofantiHis illnessDeath and funeral,



pp. 432-56.

CHAPTER XVIL (Recapitulation.)

Plan pursued in preparing this BiographyPoints of inquiry

Number of languages known

to MezzofantiWhat is meant by

knowledge of a languagePopular notion of itMezzofanti's num- ber of languages progressiveDr. Minarelli's list of languages known

by himClassification of languages according to the deg-rees of his

knowledgeLanguages spoken by him with great perfectionLan-

guages spoken less perfectlylanguages in which he could initiate

a conversationLanguages known from booksDialectsSouthern

and central American languagesTotal number known to him in various degreesHis speaking of languages not literally faultless,

but perfect to a degree rare in foreigners— Comparison with other

linguistsHis plan of studying languagesVarious systems of study Mezzofanti's method involved much labourHabit of thinking in foreign languages His success a special gift of nature In what this consisted Quickness of perceptionAnalysisMemoryPeculi-

(irity of his memoryHis enthusiasm and simplicityMezzofanti as

a philologer, as a critic, a historian, a man of sciencePiety and

charity, liberal and tolerant spiritSocial virtues.


pp. 457-493. pp. 495 502.



35, Line 6, for " yards '" read "








last, after " (1704)," supply " who."

21, for " Bourmouf," read " Boumouf."

8, for " John and," read " and John." 2nd last, for " Boehthingk," read " Boehtllngk." 4th last, (and three other places,) for "marvelous," read " marvellous.'

2nd last, for " months," read " years."






2nd last, for " Hall,'" read " Hill."

22, for "GrUner," read " GrUder."

17, for " Eabinical," read " Rahbinical." 10, for " unable," read " able." 4th last, for "seneeta," read " senecta;" also interchange ; and !

J^ff^-semi^' m Sit^e^^J^ana'aaa^es.














In the Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti I have attempted


ascertain, by direct evidence, the exact number of languages with whicli that great linguist was acquainted, and the degree

of his familiarity with each.

Eminence in any pursuit, however, is necessarily relative.

We are easily deceived about a man's stature until

we have

seen hira by the side of other men ; nor

shall we

be able to

form a just notion of the linguistic accomplishments of Cardinal

Mezzofanti, or at least to bring them before our minds as a

practical reality, until we shall have first considered what had

been effected before him by other men who attained to distinction

in the same department.

I have thought it desirable, therefore, to prefix to his


a summary history of the most eminent linguists of ancient

and modern times. There is no branch of scholarship which

has left fewer traces in literature, or has received a more scanty

measure of justice from history.

Viewed in the Hght of a

curious but unpractical pursuit, skill in languages is admired

for a time, perhaps indeed enjoys an exaggerated popularity

but it passes away hke a nine days' wonder, and seldom finds

an exact or 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.

In all the ordinary repositories of curious learningPliny,

Aulus Gellius, and Atheuaeus, among the ancients ; Bayle, Gibbon, Feyjoo, Disraeli, and Vulpius, among the moderns this interesting chapter is entirely overlooked ; nor does it

appear to

have engaged the attention even of linguists or

philologers themselves.


The following Memoir, therefore, must claim the indulgeiice

due to a first

essay in

a new and difficult subject.

No one

can be more sensible than the writer of its many imperfections

of the probable omission of names which sliould have been recorded ;of the undue prominence of others with inferior

pretensions; and perhaps of still more serious inaccuracies

of a

different kind.

It is

something better and more

only ofl'ered

in the absence of

complete ; and with the hoj)e of

directing to what is certainly a curious and interesting subject, the attention of others who enjoy more leisure and opportunity for its investigation.

The diversity of languages which prevails among the various

branches of the human family, has proved, almost equally witli

their local dispersion, a barrier to that free intercommunion

which is one of the main instruments of



confusion of tongues, the first great judgment of God upon

the ambition of man," says Bacon, in the Introductory Book

of his " Advancement of Learning,'^ " hath

chiefly imbarred

the open trade and intercourse of learning and knowledge."*

Perhaps it would be more correct to say that these two


impediments to intercourse have mutually assisted each other.

The divergency of languages seems to keep pace with the dis-

l)ersion of the population. Adelung lays it down as the result of the most careful philological investigations, that where the

difnculties of intercourse are such as existed among the ancients

and as still


among the less civilized populations, no

language can maintain itself unchanged over a space of more

than one hundred and fifty thousand square miles.f

It might naturally be expected, therefore, that one of the

earliest t^fforts of the human intellect would have been directed

towards the removal of this barrier, and that one of the first

sciences to invite the attention of men would have

been the

knowledge of languages.

Yew sciences, nevertheless, were

more neglected by the ancients.

It is true that the early literatures of many of the


nations contain legends on this head which might almost throw the shade the greatest marvels related of Mezzofanti. In

one of the Chinese stories regarding the youth of Buddha,

Works I., p. 42.

t Mithridates, Vol. II.

Einleitung, p. 7.

translated by Klaproth, it is related

that, when he was ten

years old, he asked his preceptor, Babourenou, to teach him

all the languages of the earth, seeing that he was to be an

apostle to all men; and that when Babourenou confessed his

ignorance of all except the Indian dialects, the child himself taught his master " fifty foreign tongues with their respective


A still more marvellous tale is told by one of

the Rabbinical

historians, Rabbi Eliezer, who

relates that

Mordechai, (one of the great heroes of Talmudic legend), was

acquainted with seventy languages ; and that it was by means

of this gift he understood the conversation of