· Biography
     · 1774 to 1798
     · 1798 to 1802
     · 1803 to 1806
     · 1807 to 1814
     · 1814 to 1817
     · 1817 to 1820
     · 1820 to 1823
      · Illness
      · Solar Eclipse
      · Baron von Zach
      · Bohemian
      · Admiral Smyth
      · Gipsy
      · Blume
      · Armenian -
      · Georgian
      · Pupils
      · Daily Duties
      * Jacob's account
      · Appearance
      · Cardinal
      · Cappellari
      · Birmese
     · 1823 to 1830
     · 1831
     · 1831 to 1833
     · 1834
     · 1834 to 1836
     · 1836 to 1838
     · 1838 to 1841
     · 1841 to 1843
     · 1843-1849
     · Recapitulation
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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1820 to 1823 > Jacob's account

Iu the August of 1825, he had a visit from the veteran philologist and literateur, Frederic Jacobs, of Gotha. The report of Jacobs may be considered of special importance, as he had been prepared, by the doubts expressed as to the credibility of Baron Von Zach's report, to scrutinize with some jealousy the real extent of the attainments thus glowingly described. It is important, therefore, to note that after quoting all the most material portions of Von Zach's narrative, he fully confirms it from his own observations

" I was most kindly received by him," says Dr. Jacobs : " we spoke in German for above an hour, so that I had full opportunity for observing the facility with which he spoke ; his conversation was animated, his vocabulary select and appropriate, his pronun ciation by no means foreign, and I could detect nothing but here and there a little of the North German accent. He was not un acquainted with German literature, spoke among other things of Voss's services in the theory of metre, and made some obser vations on the imitation of the metrical system of the ancients. His opinions were precise and expressed without dogmatism. This fault, so common among persons of talent, appears quite foreign to him, and there is not a trace of charlatanism about him."

As a somewhat different opinion has been expressed by others, the reader will observe the testimony' borne by Jacobs, not only to Mezzofanti's scholarship and philological attainments in a department but little cultivated, but also to the "selectness and appropriateness" of his German vocabulary, the "facility with which he spoke," and the general purity and correctness of his conversational style.

He proceeds to describe another peculiarity of Mezzofanti's extraordinary faculty which is equally deserving of notice, but which no other visitor whom we have hitherto seen, has brought out so strongly.

" Not less remarkable are the ease and readiness with which he passes in conversation from one language to another, from the north to the south, from the east to the west, and the dexterity with which he speaks several of the most difficult together, with out the least seeming effort; and whereas, in cognate languages, the slightest difference creates confusion;—so that, for instance the German in Holland or the Dutchman in Germany, often mixes the sister and mother tongues so as to become unintelligible ;— Mezzofanti ever draws the line most sharply, and his path in each realm of languages is uniformly firm and secure."

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