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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1823 to 1830 > Irish Students

An adventure with Mezzofanti, quite similar to Lady Blessington's, befel a party of Irish ecclesiastical students on their way to Rome in the very same year. They arrived at Bologna late in the afternoon, and, as they purposed proceeding on their journey early on the following morning, they were unwilling to lose the opportunity of seeing and conversing with the celebrated professor. Accordingly they repaired to the university library ; but, as might be expected at so late an hour, they found the library closed and the galleries silent and deserted. After wandering about for a considerable time, in search of some one to whom to address an inquiry, they at last saw an abate of very humble and unpretending appearance approach. The spokesman of the party begged of him, in the best Latin he could summon up at the moment, to point out the way to the library.

" Do you wish to see the library ?" asked the abate without a moment's pause, in English, and with an excellent accent. The student was thunderstruck. " By Jove, boys," he exclaimed turning to his companions, " this is Mezzofanti himself!"

It was Mezzofanti; and, on learning that they were Irish, he addressed them a few words in their native language, to which they were obliged to con¬fess their inability to reply. One of the number, however, having learned the language from books, Mezzofanti entered into a conversation with him on its supposed analogies with Welsh. Of this party, five in number, four are now no more. The sole survivor, Reverend Philip Meyler of Wexford, still retains a lively recollection not only of the fluency and precision of Mezzofanti's English, but of the friendly warmth with which he receivedthem, of the interest which he manifested in the object of their journey, and of the cordiality of the " Iterbonum faustumque !" with which he took his leave.The clergyman alluded to by Lady Blessington, asthe " Abbe Scandalaria," was, in reality, Padre Scandellari, Note 1 a learned priest of the congregation of the Scuole Pie, and one of Mezzofanti's especial friends. I was assured by the late Lady Bellew, who knew Padre Scandellari at this period, that he spoke En glish quite as well as Mezzofanti. Her ladyship, (at that time Mademoiselle de Mendoza y Rios) was presented to Mezzofanti by this father, a few weeks after the visit of Lady Blessington. She was accompa nied by the late Bishop Gradwell, ex-rector of the English College at Rome, and by her governess, Madame de Chaussegros, Note 2 a native of Marseilles Mezzofanti conversed fluently with Dr. Gradwell in English, and with Mdlle. de Mendoza, who was a linguist of no common attainments, in English, French, and Span ish ; and when he learned that her companion was a Marseillaise, he at once addressed her in the Pro vençal dialect, which, as the delighted Marseillaise declared, he spoke almost with the grace and propri ety of a native of Provence.

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Note 1
Padre Scandellari died in December, 1831. He is spoken of interms of high praise in the Gazzetta di Bologna for Dec. 27.

Note 2
Madame de Chaussegros was the widow of the officer by whom Toulon was surrendered to the English, in 1793,

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