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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1807 to 1814 > Deprivation of professorship

A great and lasting mortification nevertheless soon afterwards befel Mezzofanti, in the unexpected deprivation of his beloved professorship. The circumstances which accompanied his removal have not been fully de tailed, but there is enough in the history of the period to supply an intelligible explanation. The conflict of Napoleon with the Holy See was just then approaching its crisis. From the beginning of this year the French troops had occupied Rome. Two cardinal secretaries of state had been forcibly ejected from office. The Pope was a prisoner in his own palace and his authority was completely superseded. Now upon these and the many similar outrages to which the venerable Pontiff was daily subjected, the opinions of Mezzofanti were no secret; and there can be no doubt that the determination of the Government to remove him from the university was mainly influenced by this knowledge; although in deference to public opinion, and to the universal feeling of respect with which he was regarded, they abstained from formally depriving him of his professorship. His removal was effected indirectly by a decree, dated November 15, 1808, by which the Oriental professorship itself was suppressed.

Although a pension, and as it would seem, not a very illiberal one, was assigned to him, he felt very deeply this exclusion from a career so congenial to his tastes. He continued nevertheless, as before, to instruct pupils privately in these and other languages; and although, as to details, the history of his own studies at this time is a complete blank, yet from his known habits it may reasonably be presumed that when the first feeling of mortification had subsided, the ultimate result of his release from the duties of his chair, was to direct his untiring energies into new fields of research ; and it seems to have been during this interval that he first gave his attention to the Sanscrit and other Indian languages ;—a family which had till then been but little cultivated except in England, but to whose vast importance, as well as widely extended philological relations, Frederic Schlegel Note 1 had just awakened the attention of the learned throughout continental Europe.

From, the date of this second deprivation, till the year 1812, his quiet and uniform course of life presents hardly a single interesting incident.

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Note 1
By his celebrated Essay " Ueber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier," 1808.

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