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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1820 to 1823 > Daily Duties

Indeed, the ordinary routine of his day, as detailed by one of his surviving friends in Bologna and confirmed by his own letters to Cavedoni, may well excite a feeling of won der at the extraordinary energy, which enabled him, from the midst of occupations so continuous and so varied, to steal time for the purpose of increasing, or even of maintaining, the stores which he had already acquired. Pie rose soon after four o'clock, both in winter and in summer ; and, after his morning prayer and meditation, celebrated mass—in winter at the earliest light; after which he took a cup of chocolate or coffee. At eight o'clock he gave his daily lecture in the university; thence he passed to the library, where, as is plain from many circumstances, he was generally actively engaged in the duties of his office, although constantly interrupted by the visits of strangers. As his apartments were in the library building, his occupations can hardly be said to have been suspended by his frugal dinner, which, according to the national usage, was at twelve o'clock, and from which he returned to the library. The afternoon was occupied with his private pupils. As his habits of eating and drinking were temperate in the extreme, his supper, (sometimesin his own apartments,sometimes at the house of his sister or of some other friend,) was of the very simplest kind. He continued his studies to a late hour ; and, even after retiring to bed, he in variably read for a short time, till the symptoms of approaching sleep satisfied him that, without fear of loss of time, he might abandon all further thought of study.

Such were his ordinary every day occupations ; and, amply as they may seem to fill up the circle of twenty four hours, he contrived, amidst them all, to find time for many offices of voluntary charity. He was assiduous in the confessional, and especially in receiving the confessions of foreigners of every degree; For the spiritual care of all Catholic foreigners, indeed, he seems to have been regarded as invested with a par ticular commission. In cases of sickness, especially, he was a constant and most cheerful visitor; and there are not a few still living, of those that visited Bologna du ring these years, who retain a lively and grateful recollection of the kindly attentions, and the still more consolatory ministrations, for which they were indebted to his ready charity.

Another extra-official occupation which absorbed a considerable portion of his time, was the examination of books submitted to him for revision, particularly of those connected with his favourite studies. It some times happened that he received such commissions from Rome. "I cannot reckon," he writes, apologe tically, to his friend the abate Cavedoni, " upon a single free moment. The library, my professorship, my private lectures, the revision of books, foreigners, well, sick, or dying, do not leave me time to breathe. I am fast losing, nay I have already lost, the habit of applying myself to study ; and when, from time to time, I am called on to do anything, I find myself reduced to the necessity of improvising."

The most interesting record of this portion. of his life will be the series of his letters to his friend and pupil Cavedoni, already alluded to. Unfortunately they are not numerous, and they occur at rather distant intervals ; but they are at least valuable as being perfectly simple and unstudied, and free, to an extent very unusual in Italian correspondence, from that artificial and ceremonious character which so often destroys in our eyes the charm of the cleverest foreign correspondence. Cavedoni, during his studies at Bologna, had lived on terms of the most cordial intimacy with his professor and with his family. Mezzofanti's nephews, especially the young abate Joseph Mezzofanti, (whom we shall find commemo rated in some of these letters under the pet name Giuseppino, Joe,) had been his constant companion and friend.

The first of these letters was written in reply to one of the ordinary new-year's complimentary letters, which the abate Cavedoni, soon after his return to Modena, had addressed to his old professor.

Bologna, January 18, 1822. My most esteemed Don Celestino,

I did not fail, on the first day of the new year, to pray with all my heart that God may ever bestow abundantly upon you His best and sweetest graces. May He deign to hear a prayer, which I shall never cease to offer! I commend myself in turn to your fervent prayers.

I am delighted to hear that the abate Baraldi is about to em ploy his various learning and his great zeal so worthily in the cause of our holy religion I shall be most happy to take a copy of the "Memorie" which, as I am informed, are about to appear under his editorship. May I beg of you to arrange that the numbers shall reach me as early as possible after publication ? They may be sent through the post; but it will be necessary to fold the packet in such a way as to let it be seen that it is a periodical, in order that it may not be charged the full postage. My great object is to receive the numbers at the earliest moment, in order that'a work which is intended to counteract the irreligious principles now unhappily so current, may be read as extensively as possible.

I shall examine your medal tomorrow, and, should I succeed in making anything out of it, I will write to you. Let me know how I shall send it back to you Recollect that we are looking forward here to a visit from you with the utmost anxiety. It was a great surprise and disap pointment to us, not to see you during the late holy festivals. Do not forget me, and believe me,

Ever your most affectionate servant,

D. Joseph Mezzofanti.

The journal referred to in this letter is the now voluminous periodical, " Memorie di Religione, di Morale, e di Letteratura" founded at Modena in 1822, and continued, with one or two short interrup tions, up to the present time. The "Abate Baraldi" was a learned ecclesiastic, afterwards arch-priest of Modena.

Cavedoni, since his return to Modena, had been chiefly engaged in archaeological studies, and especially in that of numismatics. He often consulted Mez zofanti on these subjects, to which, without being a professed antiquarian, the latter had given some atten tion. In acknowledgment of this obligation, Cavedoni, several years afterwards, dedicated to him his Spieci-legio Numismatico. Note 1

The following letter throws some light on the time and the manner in which his attention was first turned to the Georgian language. The youth to whom it refers was in Bologna in the year 1820 or 1821.

Cavedoni had apologised for occupying his time by his letters.

Bologna, April 5, 1823. My Dear Don Celestino,

It will always be a most grateful and pleasing distraction for me in the midst of my endless occupations, to receive even a line from you. It is true that occasionally I may not be able to enjoy this gratification without the drawback arising from regret at not having it in my power to reply to you immediately; but I trust that you will be able to make allowance for me, and that such delays on my part will never cause you to suspect that I have ceased to remember you with special affection.

Of the two works which you mention, that of Father Giorgi still maintains the reputation which its author commanded during life by his prodigious learning. Will you let me know whether the little work in Georgian that you refer to is printed or manu script ? You are quite right in supposing that I have not thought of that language since the departure of the young physician of Teflis, who took his medical degree in our university. Alas! what a large proportion of my life is spent in teaching! If I but did that well, I might be content; but when one does too much, he does nothing as it ought to be done.

I had not heard a word of Signor Baraldi's affliction, for which I am much concerned. I trust that, when you write again, you will have better news for me. Pray present my special compli ments to the Librarian.

Do not forget me; and, in order that I may know you do not, write often to assure me that it is so. Don Giuseppino sends you a thousand greetings, and I myself more that a thousand. Ever your most devoted servant and friend,

D. Joseph Mezzofanti

In this year, Mezzofanti made the acquaintance of the celebrated Duchess of Devonshire, during one of her visits to the north of Italy. The success of her magnificent edition of Horace's Fifth Satire—his jour ney to Brundusium—had suggested to her the idea of a similar edition of the Eneid. The first volume, with a series of illustrations, scenical, as well as his torical, (of Troy, Ithaca, Gaeta, Gabii, &c.,) had appeared in Rome in 1819 ;Note 2 and the object of the duchess in this visit, was to procure sketches in the locality of Mantua, and especially a sketch of Pietole, the supposed site of the ancient Andes, the place of the poet's birth, upon that plain,

tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat

One of Mezzofanti's letters, addressed to his friend Pezzana, shews the lengths to which this eccentric lady carried her zeal for the illustration of this really magnificent work. Although the second volume had been already published, and many of the copies had been distributed, she continued to add to the number of the illustrations.

" Her Grace, the duchess of Devonshire," he writes, July 6th, 1823, " on leaving Bologna, commissioned me to forward to you the second volume of the Eneid, translated by Caro. In order to secure its safe and punctual delivery, I begged the good offices of the Abate Crescini, who had just then arrived; and he at once undertook it with his usual courtesy. This edition has won the admiration of all our artists; and the duchess, not content with its present illustrations, has gone to Mantua, taking with her another excellent landscape-painter, our fellow-citizen, Signor Fantuzzi, to make a sketch of Pietole, to be added to the other plates, which already adorn this splendid work of art."

In August, 1823, died the venerable Pope Pius VII. The desire, which, on his return from capti vity, he expressed to secure Mezzofanti's services in his own capital, had been repeated subsequently on more than one occasion. The new Pope, Leo XII., regarded him with equal favour ; but his attachment to home still remained unchanged; and the Pope named him, in 1824, a member of the Collegio dei con-sultori at Bologna.

Of his correspondence during this year no portion has come into my hands ; but there is one of his letters of 1825, (dated April 8th,) which, although it is but an answer to a commonplace letter written to him by Cavedoni, with the catalogue of an expected sale of books, seems worthy to be preserved, at least as an indication of the direction and progress of his studies

" It is always difficult," he writes, "to fix the fair price of a class of books which either are not in the market at all, or which appear but seldom for sale, chiefly because there are but few who seek for such publications. In my case, it becomes almost impossible to determine it, as I have no opportunity of seeing the books, and very little leisure even to examine the catalogue, being obliged to return it in so short a time.

" I only venture, therefore, to select a few, which I should be disposed to take, provided the price of all together shall not exceed forty Roman crowns. Try to make a bargain for me, or at all events, endeavour to prevent the books from being either scat tered or buried in some inaccessible corner.

" I should wish then to take the following:—

The ' nine MSS., either extracted from printed books, or of uncertain value.'

The ' Grarmnatica Japonica,' Romae No. 22, in the Catalogue.

The ' Grammatica Marasta,' Note 3 number 32.

The ' Grammatica Linguae Amharicae.' Note 4 number 43.

The ' Osservazioni sulla Lingua albanese ;' number 44.

The ' Grammatica Damulica.' Note 5 number 46.

Benjamin Schulz's, ' Grammatica Hindostanica,' number 50.

'Chilidugu; sive ses Chilenses,' Note 6 number 67.

And the ' Catecismo en Lengua Espaņola y Moxa,' Note 7 No. 71.

I shall await your reply."

Only one of these works, the ''Observations on the Albanese Language," (by Francis Maria da Lecce,) appears in the catalogue of Mezzofanti's Library. Benjamin Schulz's Tamul Bible and New Testament, are both in that catalogue, but not his Hindostani Grammar. Probably the price of the books exceeded the very modest limit which Mezzofanti's humble means compelled him to fix.

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Note 1
I may preserve here an impromptu Greek distich of Mezzofanti's, addressed to Cavedoni on the publication of his " Memoir on the antiquities of the Museum of Modena," which, although commonplace enough in sentiment, at least illustrates his curious facility of versification.

²Eis Kailestinon Kauedinion.
Mnhmata twn palai anqrwpwn sofos oss anafaineis,
Ek cronos g perqen sou de kleos qaleqei.

It was an impromptu in the literal sense of the word, being thrown off without a moment's thought, and in the midst of a group of friends. His friend Ferrucci rendered it into the following Latin distich.

Celestino Cavedonio.
Omnia que prudens aperis monumenta priorum AEVO intacta manent: hinc tibi fama viget.

Note 2
" L'Eneide di Virgilio,recata in versi Italiani,da AnnibaleCaro," 2vols. folio. It was printed by DeRomanis. The duchess was theLady Elizabeth Hervey, daughter of the episcopal Earl of Bristol; and after the death of her first husband, Mr. Forster, had married the Duke of Devonshire. She is the true heroine of Gibbon's ludicrous love-scene at Lausanne, described by Lord Brougham, but by him relat ed of Mademoiselle Susan Curchod, afterwards Madame Necker. See an article in the Biographie Universelle, (lxii, p. 452,) by the Chevalier Artand de Montor ; also " Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, (vol. i, p. 64,) by an Octogenarian," (the late Mr. James Roche, of Cork, the J. R. of the Gentleman's Magazine, and a frequent contributor to the Dublin Review, and other periodicals) a repertory of curious literary and personal anecdotes, as well of solid and valuable information.

Note 3
This is probably the Grammar of the Mahratta language, pub lished by the Propaganda, in 1778. The name is sometimes latinized in this form. Adelung, I., 220.

Note 4
Most likely Ludolf's, Francfort, 1698.

Note 5
ByBarth. Ziegenbolg, Halle, 1716.

Note 6
Bernard Havestadt, "Descriptio Status turn Naturalis, turn civilis, turn Moralis, Regni Populique Chilonsis," Minister, 1777- It contains a Chilian Grain mar and Vocabulary, together with a Cate chism in prose, and also in verse.

Note 7
Probably the Catechism in the Moxa (South American) language, mentioned by Hervas. See Adelung, III, 564.

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