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      · Jacob's account
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      * Cardinal
      * Cappellari
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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1820 to 1823 > Cardinal Cappellari

It is about this time that we may date the commencement of that intimacy between Mezzofanti and Cardinal Cappellari, afterwards Pope Gregory XVI., which eventually led to Mezzofanti's removal from Bologna to Rome. Cappellari, a distinguished monk of the Camaldolese order, was named to the cardi-nalate early in 1826 ; and soon afterwards was placed at the head of the congregation of the Propaganda. Being himself an orientalist of considerable eminence, he had long admired the wonderful gifts of Mezzofanti, and a circumstance occurred soon after his nomination as prefect of the Propaganda, which led to a correspondence between them, in reference to an oriental liturgical manuscript on which the opinion of the great linguist was desired. Cardinal Cappellari forwarded the MS. to Mezzofanti, who in a short time returned it, not merely with an explanation, but with a complete Latin translation. The Cardinal was so grateful for this service, that he wrote to thank the translator, accompanying his letter with a draft for a hundred doubloons. Mezzofanti, with a disinterestedness which his notoriously straitened means made still more honourable, at once wrote to return the draft, with a request that it should be applied to the purposes of the missions of the Propaganda. Note 1

This appeal from Cardinal Cappellari was not a solitary one. Mezzofanti was not unfrequently consulted in the same way, sometimes on critical or bibliographical questions, sometimes as to the character or contents of a book or MS. in some unknown language. One of his letters to the abate Cavedoni is a long account of an early Latin version of two of St. Gregory Nazianzen's minor spiritual poems, the " Tetrasticha" and the '' Monosticha." As this letter (although not without interest as being the only specimen of his critical writings which I have been able to obtain) would have little attraction for the general reader, and throws but little light upon the narrative, it is unnecessary to translate it. Note 2

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Note 1
Stolz. Biografia, p. 10. For the details, however, I am indebted to an interesting communication from the abate Mazza, Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Seminary at Bologna.

Note 2
The anthor of this version, Ercole Paello, is not mentioned by Tiraboschi, nor can I find any other notice of him. His version has no value, except perhaps as a bibliographical curiosity ; and Mezzofanti's criticism of it in his letter to Cavedoni, is the most judicious that could be offered the simple recital of a few sentences as a specimen of its obscure and involved style. The Tetrasticha, especially, deserves a better rendering. It consists of fifty-nine iambic tetras-tichs, many of which, besides the solid instruction which they embody, are full of simple beauty. The Monosticha is chiefly notable as an ancient example of an acrostic poem on a spiritual subject. It consists of twenty-four iambic verses, commencing in succession with the successive letters of the alphabet, thus :
'Archn apantwn kai telos poig Qeon
Big to ekbign kaq hmeran k.t.l

Faello's version appears not to have been known to the Benedictine editors.

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