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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1841 to 1843 > Character

My brief and casual intercourse with the Cardinal would not entitle me to speak of his character and disposition, were it not that my impressions are but an echo of all that has been said and written before me, of his cheerful courtesy, his open-hearted frankness, and his unaffected good nature. To all his visitors of whatever degree, he was the same— gay, amiable, and unreserved. With him humility was an instinct. It seemed as though he never thought of himself, or of any claim of his to consideration. He would hardly permit the simple mark of respect— the kissing of the ring which ordinarily accompanies the salutation of one of high ecclesiastical dignity in Italy ; and his demeanour was so entirely devoid of assumption of superiority that the humblest visitor was at once made to feel at home in his company.

His conversation was uniformly gay and cheerful, and no man entered more heartily into the spirit of any little pleasantry which might arise. On one occasion, upon a melting summer day, as he was shewing the magnificent Giulio Clovio Dante, in the Vatican library, to a well-known London clergyman, the latter, in his delight at one of the beautiful miniatures by which it is illustrated—a moonlight scene—was in the act of pointing out with his moist finger some particular beauty which struck him, when Mezzofanti, horror-struck at the danger, caught his arm.

" Softly, my dear Doctor," he playfully interposed : " these things may be looked at with the eyes, but not with the fingers."

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