It was a tessaraglot grammar; a strange old book, printed somewhere in Holland, which pretended to be an easy guide to the acquirement of the French, Italian, Low Dutch, and English tongues, by means of which any one conversant in any one of these languages could make himself master of the other three. I turned my attention to the French and Italian. The old book was not of much value; I derived some benefit from it, however, and, conning it intensely, at the end of a few weeks obtained some insight into the structure of these two languages. At length I had learnt all that the book was capable of informing me, yet was still far from the goal to which it had promised to conduct me. ’I wish I had a master!’ I exclaimed; and the master was at hand. In an old court of the old town lived a certain elderly personage, perhaps sixty, or thereabouts; he was rather tall, and something of a robust make, with a countenance in which bluffness was singularly blended with vivacity and grimace; and with a complexion which would have been ruddy, but for a yellow hue which rather predominated. His dress consisted of a snuff-coloured coat and drab pantaloons, the former evidently seldom subjected to the annoyance of a brush, and the latter exhibiting here and there spots of something which, if not grease, bore a strong resemblance to it; add to these articles an immense frill, seldom of the purest white, but invariably of the finest French cambric, and you have some idea of his dress. He had rather a remarkable stoop, but his step was rapid and vigorous, and as he hurried along the streets, he would glance to the right and left with a pair of big eyes like plums, and on recognising any one would exalt a pair of grizzled eyebrows, and slightly kiss a tawny and ungloved hand. At certain hours of the day be might be seen entering the doors of female boarding-schools, generally with a book in his hand, and perhaps another just peering from the orifice of a capacious back pocket; and at a certain season of the year he might be seen, dressed in white, before the altar of a certain small popish chapel, chanting from the breviary in very intelligible Latin, or perhaps reading from the desk in utterly unintelligible English. Such was my preceptor in the French and Italian tongues. ’Exul sacerdos; vone banished priest. I came into England twenty-five year ago, “my dear."’
Monsieur Dante—Condemned musket—Sporting—Sweet rivulet—The Earl’s Home—The pool—The sonorous voice—What dost thou read?—Man of peace—Zohar and Mishna—Money-changers.
So I studied French and Italian under the tuition of the banished priest, to whose house I went regularly every evening to receive instruction. I made considerable progress in the acquisition of the two languages. I found the French by far the most difficult, chiefly on account of the accent, which my master himself possessed in no great purity, being a Norman by birth. The Italian was my favourite.