· 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
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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > Recapitulation > Conclusion

Accordingly, the small figure which he made as a writer, and the little trace which he has left behind him of the vast stores of languages which he had laid up during life, have led to \ an undue depreciation of his career, as objectless and unprofitable, whether to himself or to his fellow-men. Whatever be the truth of this estimate, no one was more painfully sensible of it than the Cardinal himself. Many of his expressions of regret have been already recorded ; but only those who knew him intimately, could know the depth and sincerity of his repinings. Still, although it is not possible to avoid sharing in this regret, he would be very exacting, indeed, and would set up for himself a very terrible standard whereby to judge his own conduct, who could venture to pronounce such a career as Mezzofanti's empty or unprofitable. Even if we put aside entirely the consideration of his literary life, and test him by the rules of personal duty alone, the life of Cardinal Mezzofanti was a model of every virtue of the Christian and of the priest. Devout almost to scrupulousness, sincerely humble, simple in his habits, modest and unexacting in his own person, but spending himself unhesitatingly in the service of others; courteous, amiable, affectionate, warm in his friendships, he was known only to be loved, and he never forfeited a friendship which he once had formed. His benevolence was of the true Christian stamp— not a mere unreflecting impulse, but a sustained and systematic love of his fellow creatures. Although his charity was of the tenderest and most melting kind— although in truth, like Goldsmith's Vicar,

His pity gave, ere charity began—

although his alms, limited as were his means, were so prodigal as to earn for him the sobriquet of Monsignor Limosiniere, " My Lord Almoner/'—yet it would be a great mistake to measure his benevolence by the actual extent of poverty which it relieved, or of the assistance it administered. His active spirit grasped every detail of this work of God—the care of the sick, the instruction of the young, the edification and enlightment of the stranger ;—nay, the very courtesies of social intercourse had for him all the sacred significance of a duty; and, while he never offended the sensibility of his companions by unseasonably obtruding over-serious conversation, yet he never lost sight, even in his lightest hours, of the obligation of good example and edification which his position and character imposed upon him.

And as regards the great pursuit of his literary life, which some have presumed to deny as " empty word-knowledge," and unprofitable display, it must never be forgotten—even though we should be content to judge its value by the selfish standard of mere utility—that, for himself, one of its earliest and most attractive, as well as most endearing sources of interest, lay in the opportunity which it afforded him for the exercise of his sacred ministry and the only less sacred ofiices of charity and humanity ; that many of its most precious acquisitions were gathered in these very exercises of religion and of benevolence j that his usual text books in each new language were the catechism and the Bible ; and that his favourite theatre for the display of his gifts were the sick wards of the hospitals of Bologna, the Santo Spirito or the House of Catechumens at Rome, and the halls and camerate of the great Missionary College of the Propaganda.

For myself, I cannot envy the moral and intellectual utilitarianism, which pauses to^measure by so paltry a standard a great psychological phenomenon, such as Nature, in the most prodigal exercise of her powers, has never before given to man to see. As well might we shut our eyes to the glory of those splendid meteors which at intervals illumine the sky, because we are unable to see what cold and sordid purpose of human utility they may be made to subserve.

I prefer to look to him with grateful and affectionate admiration, as a great example of the successful cultivation of one of the noblest of God's gifts to His creatures ;—as the man who has approached nearest to the withdrawal of that barrier to intercommunion of speech which, in punishment of human pride, was set up at Babel; and of whom, more literally than of any other son of Adam, it may be said, that he could

Hold converse with all forms
Of the many-sided mind.

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