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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1834 > Dr.Edwards

Another of his visitors, while at Bologna, has put on record a testimony to the same effect, which, although it does not expressly allude to Mezzofanti's speaking the language, yet evidently supposes his acquaintance with it, and which moreover is interesting for its own sake. I allude to Dr. "W". JF. Edwards, of Paris, author of an able and curious essay addressed to the historian, Amedee Thierry, " On the Physiological Characters of the .Races of Man, in their Relation to History." In this essay, while combating the popular notion, that in England the ancient British race has been completely displaced by the various northern conquerors who have overrun the countey, Dr. Edwards alleges in support of his own work, which he heard expressed by Mezzofanti, and which, although founded on purely philological principles,* he regards as a singular confirmation of his own physiological deductions.

"I owe," he says, " to the celebrated Mezzofanti. whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Bologna, an example of what. I have been urging ; and I am glad to repeat it here for more reasons than one. You will see in it a further confirmation of the conclusion regarding the Britons of England, which I have deduced from sources of a very different kind. If there is any characteristic which distinguishes English from the other modern languages of Europe, it is the extreme irregularity of its pronunciation. In other languages, when you have once mastered the fundamental sounds, you are enabled, by the aid of certain general rules, to pronounce the words with a tolerable approach to accuracy, even without understanding the meaning. In English you can never pronounce until you have actually learned the language. Mezzofanti, in speaking to me of Welsh, traced to that language the origin of this peculiarity of the English. I had no necessity to ask him through what channel. I knew, as well as he, that the English could not have borrowed from the Welsh ; and that, before the Saxon invasion, the Britons had spoken the same language which afterwards became peculiar to Wales. Thus of his own accord and without my seeking for it, he gave me a new proof, entirely independent of the reasons which had already led me to the conviction that, despite the Saxon conquest, the Britons had never ceased to exist in England. They had for centuries been deemed extinct; and yet he recognises their descendants, so to speak, by the sound of their voice, as I have recognised them by their features ! What more is needed to establish the identity ?"

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