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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1838 to 1841 > Abyssinian

In the close of July, 1841, when I first had the honour of seeing him, he was surrounded by a group of Aibyssinians, who had just come to Rome under the escort of Monsignor de Jacobis, the apostolic Prefect of the Abyssinian mission. These Abyssinians were all reputed to be persons of distinction among their countrymen, and several of the number were understood to be professors and men of letters. The Cardinal was speaking to them freely and without embarrassment; and his whole manner, as well as theirs, appeared to me (so far as one entirely unacquainted with the language could judge) to indicate that he spoke with ease, and was understood by them without an effort. Thinking it probable, however, that M. d'Abbadie during his second sojourn in Abyssinia, must have known something of this mission, I thought it well to write to him on the subject. He informed me, in reply, that the Abyssinians whom I had thus seen were a deputation of the schismatical Christians of that country, who had been sent by the native chieftains to Alexandria, to obtain from the Patriarch (to whom they so far recognise their subjection) the consecration of the Abun, or Primate, of their national church. Father de Jacobis, who was their fellow-traveller as far as Alexandria, induced them to accompany him to Rome, where they were so much struck with all that they saw and heard, that " two out of the three professors of Gondar, who were the leaders of the deputation, have, since their return, freely and knowingly entered the one true Church— Amari, Kanfu, and the one-eyed professor, Gab'ra Mikael." One of these told M. d'Abbadie that " Cardinal Mezzofanti conversed very well with him in Amarirma, and that he also knew the Gi-iz language,'' He had thus learned the Amarinna between 1839 and 1841.

I am indebted to M. d'Abbadie for an account of another still later acquisition of the Cardinal's de¬clining years. Before the summer of 1841, he had acquired the Amarinna language. Now at that time he was actually engaged, with all the energy of his early years, in the study of the proverbially "impossible" Basque, in which, as we have seen, M. d'Abbadie found him a novice in 1839.

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