· Biography
     · 1774 to 1798
     · 1798 to 1802
     · 1803 to 1806
      · Librarian
      · Catalogue
      · Professorship
      · of oriental
      · languages
      · Egyptian
      · obelisks
      · De Rossi
      · Felix Caronni
      · Parma
      · Pezzana
      · Bodoni
      · Persian
      · Illness
      * Invitation to
      * Paris
      · Private life
      · Correspondance
      · Translations
      · Polyglot
      · translations
     · 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
     · About the book
   · FAQ
   · Characters
   · Places
   · Highlights
   · Language table

Learn That Language Now -- Learn a New Language 3 Times Faster
Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1803 to 1806 > Invitation to Paris

Mezzofanti is invited to Paris at the court of Napoleon, where his fellow country men Volta and Galvani where already living. He turns down the invitation and stays in Italy. 

In the midst of these cares and occupations, Mezzofanti was surprised by a flattering invitation to transfer his residence to Paris, with a promise of patronage and distinction from the Emperor Napoleon, who was at this time eagerly engaged in plans for the development of the literary and artistic glories of his capital. More than one of Mezzofanti's countrymen, were already in the enjoyment of high honours at Paris. First among them may be named Volta, for many years Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Pavia. More pliant than his great fellow-discoverer, Galvani, or perhaps more favourably circumstanced as not being, like him, a member of a Papal University, he had escaped the proscription which brought Galvani to his grave— one of those victims of loyalty whom Petrarch declares

assai più belli
Con la lor poverta, che Mida o CrasSo
Con l'oro, ond' a virtu furon ribelli;—

Volta was called from Pavia to Paris, where he was rewarded with distinctions, emoluments, titles, and, more flattering than all, with the personal notice and patronage of the great conqueror himself, who was often present at his experiments, and displayed a warm interest in the results to which they led. Note 1

Such were at this period the tempting rewards of scientific or literary eminence in France. Moreover, Count Marescalchi, in whose family Mezzofanti had acted as tutor and librarian during the years of his deprivation, was now Resident Minister of the Kingdom of Italy at Paris. The Count's intercourse with Mezzofanti was but little interrupted by their separation; and, even during his residence in Paris, the latter continued to correspond with him ; chiefly on matters connected with the education of his children, or with the completion or extension of his noble library. The extent of their intimacy indeed may be inferred from one of Mezzofanti's letters to the Count dated September 16, 1806, in which we find him freely employing the services of the minister in procuring books at Paris, not only for himself but for his literary friends in Bologna. Note 2

It was through this Count Marescalchi that the invitation to Paris was conveyed to Mezzofanti, and it cannot be doubted that it was accompanied by a warm recommendation from the Count himself. No trace of this formal correspondence is now discoverable ', but probably far more interesting, as it is certainly far more characteristic, than the official letter or reply, is the following playful letter to one of Count Marescalchi's sons, Carlino (Charlie), Mezzofanti's former pupil—now the representative of the house—who had written a special letter, to add the expression of his own wishes to those of his father, that his old instructor should join them once again at Paris.

Bologna, September 16, 1806.

But three letters, dearest Charlie, in an entire year—two from Lyons, and one from Paris—to cheer my regrets in being separated from you ! If I were to take this as the measure of your love for me, I should indeed have reason to be sad. But I have abundant other proofs of your feelings in my regard; and at all events, I am not one who can afford to be too rigid in insisting upon the frequency of correspondence, unless I wish to furnish grave grounds of complaint against myself.
Few, however, as your letters have been, I am deeply grateful for their warm and affectionate sentiments which carry with them such an evidence of sincerity as to leave me, even when you do not write, no ground for doubting what your feelings still are towards me. I am not sure whether in your regard I shall be equally fortunate; for I am fully sensible that I have not the power of infusing into what I write all the warmth and sincerity that I really feel. However, you are not dependent on my words, in order to be satisfied of the truth of my affection ; and, knowing it as you do, even a lesser token of it than this will suffice to convince you.

I am still here at Bologna following the same old round of occupations. Nor am I dissatisfied with my lot, for I am quite sensible of my inability to take a loftier flight. I feel that the shade suits me best. Were I to go to Paris, I should be obliged to set myself up upon some candlestick, where I should only give out a faint and nickering gleam, which would soon die utterly away. Nevertheless £ am not the less grateful for your advice; though I perceive that you are dissatisfied with me because 1 am such a little fellow.

A thousand, thousand greetings to your dear little sisters. Renew my remembrance to your father, and when you have an occasional moment of leisure from your tasks, pray bestow it upon

   Your sincere friend,


Who was Mezzofanti ?
Table of contents  |  Next page


Note 1
It was on occasion of one of Volta's demonstrations that Napoleon made the comparison which has since become celebrated. "Here, doctor," said he, to his physician Corvisart, pointing to the Voltaic pile ; " here is the image of life! The vertebral column is the pile : the liver is the negative, the bladder, the positive pole." See Whewell's Inductive Sciences, III. 67. 12

Note 2
For instance among the books which he asks the Count in this letter to send, are the works of " I'immortale Haüy ;"—the celebrated Abbe Haiiy, who after Romè de l'Isle, is the founder of the science of Crystallography, and who at this time was at the height of his brilliant career of discovery. (Whewell's "Inductive Sciences" III. 222.) Haiiy's works were intended for his friend Ranzani.

Copyright 2009 - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.
Printed from