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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1807 to 1814 > Giordani's account

The letters of Pietro Giordani, Note 1 however, recently published, may, in some measure, fill up the blank; not, it is true, as to the details of his biography, but at least in so far as regards the opinion entertained in Bologna of his character and acquirements. Indeed the testimony of Giordani is less open to exception than any which could have emanated from the personal friends of Mezzofanti. Giordani had entered the Benedictine congregation, and had even received the order of sub-deaconship ; but on the outbreak of the Revolution, he had renounced the monastic life, cast aside the Benedictine habit, and thrown himself into the arms of the revolutionary party in Italy. Under the French rule at Bologna, he obtained as the reward of his principles, the place of Assistant Librarian, and also that of Deputy Professor of Latin and Italian Eloquence. Hence it will easily be believed that his relations with the Papal party in the Uni¬versity were by no means friendly; and, as he had had with the Abate Mezzofanti himself (as I learn from an interesting letter of M. Libri which shall be inserted hereafter,) some personal misunderstandings, he may be presumed to have been but little disposed to over-rate the qualifications of an antagonist. It is no mean evidence of Mezzofanti's merit, therefore, that Griordani has specially excepted him from the very disparaging estimate which he expresses regarding the literary men of Italy at this time. " I have held but little intercourse with literary men," he writes to his friend Lazzaro Papi, "finding them commonly possessed of but little learning and a great deal of passion. Here, however, I have met an exception to the rule— the Abate Mezzofanti—a man not only of the utmost piety, but of attainments truly wonderful and all but beyond belief. You must, of course, have heard of him ; but indeed he well deserves a wider fame than he enjoys, for the number of languages which he knows most perfectly, although this is the least part of his learning. Nevertheless, such is his excessive modesty, that he lives here in obscurity, and I must add, to the disgrace of the age, in poverty." Note 2

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Note 1
Opere di Pietro Giordani, Vols. I.-VI. Milano, 1845. Giordani is mentioned by Byron, (Life and Journals, VI., 262,) as one of the few " foreign literary men whom he ever could abide." It is curious that the only other name which he adds is that of Mezzofanti.

Note 2
Opere di Pietro Giordani; Edited (with a biography) by Antonio Gussalli. Gussalli is also the translator of F. Cordara's " Expedition of Charles Edward," Milan: 1845. See Quarterly Review, Ixxix , pp. Hl-68.

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