· Biography
     · 1774 to 1798
     · 1798 to 1802
     · 1803 to 1806
     · 1807 to 1814
     · 1814 to 1817
     · 1817 to 1820
     · 1820 to 1823
     · 1823 to 1830
     · 1831
     · 1831 to 1833
     · 1834
     · 1834 to 1836
     · 1836 to 1838
     · 1838 to 1841
     · 1841 to 1843
     · 1843-1849
     · Recapitulation
      · Introduction
      · Definition
      · Stages
      · Table
      · Languages
      · Analysis
      · Reader's
      · recollection
      · System to study
      · Natural gift
      · Mental process
      * Literary
      * circles
      · Regrets
      · Criticisims
      · Writers
      · Conclusion
     · About the book
   · FAQ
   · Characters
   · Places
   · Highlights
   · Language table

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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > Recapitulation > Literary circles

It was not to be expected that a man so eminent in one absorbing pursuit should have made a very distinguished figure in general literature or science. Among the many, laudatory reports of him which are contained in this volume, a few will be found which hardly concede to him even a second-rate place as a scholar, still less as a philologer. In some of the literary circles of Rome, Mezzofanti was not popular. M. Libri alludes to one source of unfriendly feeling in his regard. There is another which may perhaps have already struck the reader. From some of the facts noticed in the Introductory Memoir of German linguists and from other incidental allusions, the reader will have observed a certain tendency on the part of philologers to depreciate the pursuit of linguists, and to undervalue its usefulness ; and it is precisely from the philologers that this low estimate of Mezzofanti proceeds. It is only just, however, to Baron Bunsen, who is pre-eminently the head of the German school of that science, to admit that he carefully draws the distinction between the two branches of the study of language—that of the linguist, and that of the philologer. And although the natural preference which a student unconsciously gives to his own favourite pursuit, no doubt leads him to attach little value to what Mezzofanti knew, and to dwell more on what in his opinion he did not know, yet it must be said that he gives him full credit for his unexampled power as a linguist.

The Baron's recollections, nevertheless, contain a summary of the strictures upon the literary character of Mezzofanti, which were current during his lifetime—that his learning was merely superficial—that in the phrase of the late Mr. Francis Hare, " with the keys of the knowledge of every nation in his band, he never unlocked their real treasures j" that in all the countless languages which he spoke he " never said anything;" that he left no work or none of any value behind him ; that he was utterly ignorant of philology; that his theology was mere scholasticism ; that he had no idea of Biblical criticism, and that even as a critical Greek scholar, he was very deficient.

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