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Monthly Political and Literary Censor
yam . 1
WITH AN APPENDIX,
AN AMPLE REVIEW OF FOREIGN LITERATURE.
« Be it known to all who are under the dominion of bereticks that they are set free from
DECRET. GREG. lib. 5. tit. 7.
No. 22, Old Boswell-court, Strand,
BY J. WHITTLE ; AND SOLD BY ALL THE BOOKSELLERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Review and Magazine,
&c. &c. &c.
For JANUARY, 1805:
Carum esse civem, bene de republicâ mereri, laudari, coli, diligi, gloriofum eft; metui vero, et in odio elle, invidiofum, detestabile, imbecillum, caducum.
Ancient and Modern Malta : containing a Description of the Ports and
Cities of the Iflands of Malta and Goza, together with the Monuments of Antiquity ftill remaining, the different Governments to which they have been subjected, their Trade and Finances : as also the History of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, from their firsi Establishment in Malta till the Beginning of the 19th Century; with a particular iccount of the Events which preceded and attended its Capture by the French and Conquest by the English. By Louis de Boisgėlin, Knight of Malta : With an Appendix, containing a Number of authentic State-Papers and other Documents, a Chart of the Islands, Viewss Portraits, Antiques, &c. 3 Vol. 4to. Pp. 1008. 41. 4s. Robin
fons. 1804. TN this work the Chevalier de Boisgelin has e: deavoured to bring,
into a comparatively small compars, the fubitance of all that has been written on the Island of Malta, its sovereigns and inhabitants ;. and the very long list of books which is prefixed to his first volume fufficiently thews that nothing which labour and perseverance could effect has been neglected by him. Happy should we be, could we, conscientiously declare, that he has so far succeeded in this arduous attempt, as to render this condensed mass of information interesting or instructive. But the delectando pariterque monendo is an art which this worthy Knight does not appear to have studied; and, in truth, it is evident, from the production before us, that he has been much less familiar with the pen than with the sword. NO, LXXIX. VOL. XX.
The first volume is divided into two books, the first of which contains the civil, political, and natural history of Malta ; and the fecond is occupied by an ample account of the Constitution and Finances of the Order. As a specimen of the work we shall extract from the former some parts of the chapter which exhibits a description of the Maltese, their manners, customs, ceremonies, and diversions.
- The Maltese, though continually subject to different nations, have always preserved their original character; which sufficiently proves their descent, and, at the same time, thews that they have mixed very little with any of the people who have by turns governed their country.
“ Their countenances announce an African origin. They are short, strong, plump, with curled hair, flat noses, turned up lips, and the colour of their skins is the same as that of the inhabitants of the states of Barbary: their language is allo so nearly the same, that they perfectly understand each other.
“ It is, perhaps, as much owing to the situation of Malta, as to the different strangers who have visited and conquered the islaud, that the Maltele have become very indulirious, active, faithful, economical, courageous, and the best failors in the Mediterranean. But, notwithstanding these good qualities, they still retain some of the defects generally attributed to the Africans; and are mercenary, passionate, jealous, vindi&tive, and addicted to thieving. They have likewise sometimes recalled the idea of the Punica Fides. They are fantastical and superstitious in the highest degree, but their ignorance does not unfit them for the cultivation of the arts.
“ The only custom peculiar to Malta still subsisting, and which indeed is retained among none but people of fortune, is the cucciha, that is to say, an assembly given by parents on their children's first birth-day. The company being met in the great hall, which is always much more ornamented than any other part of the house, the child is brought in; and if it be a boy, he is presented with two baskets, the one containing corn and sweetmeals, and the other trinkets, coins, an ink-ıtand, a Tword, &c. The choice he makes on this occafion, will, according to their notions, give a just idea of his future disposition, and the mode of life he will embrace. Should he chuse the corn, it is a sign of a liberal character; if he prefers the ink-stand, he is to be brought up either to trade or the bar; and if he takes the sword, the greatest hopes are entertained of his courage. Achilles thus, by a choice of the same nature, discovered to the court of Lycomedes, that his female habidiments served only to conceal a hero. If the child be a girl, needles, filks, and ribbands, fupply the place of the sword and ink-stand.
“ An entertainment was formerly given on Shrove-Tuesday, by the grandmaster to the people, in the great square of the city Valetta. Long beams were fixed against the guard-house oppolite to the palace, and between each were fastened rope-ladders, the whole covered over by branches of trees in leaf: to which were tied, from top to bottom, live animals, baskets of eggs, hams, sausages, wreaths of oranges; in short, all kinds of provisions. This edilice was called Cocagna, and was crowned by a globe composed of linen cloth, on which stood the figure of Fame in relievo, holding a flag with the grand-master's arms. The people were assembled in the great square, and were prevented by one man, with a wand in his hand, from attacking the Cocagna, till the grand-master gave the lignal. The man with the wand is entitled the Gran Visconti, and the adminitration of the police is committed
to his care. Tlie Maltese people were so obedient, and stood in such complete awe of this officer of justice, that one day, on a false signal being given, they had already begun to attack the Cocagna, but on being called back, the crowd, though half way up the ladders, immediately defçended in silence:
"The Maltese never allowed either foreigners or soldiers to share the profits of this festival, but resented very seriously any attempt at participation. The provisions of the Cocagna became the property of those who, having seized them, were able to carry them off in fafety through the crowd. This caused furious battles, the combatants assailing each other, attacking and defending with great violence. To the first who reached the figure of Fame was allotted some pecuniary remuneration, and on the standard's being taken to be returned to the grand-master, the cloth globe, composed of two parts, burst open, and out came a flight of pigeons.
Happily the repeated shouts of the populace prevented the cries of he miserable animals hung to the Cocagna being heard, though these victims were pulled to pieces from the branches and eat up, whilt still alive. The people were particularly delighted with this entertaininent, which had been suppressed for some time, but was re-established once more during the reign of the grand-master Rohan. All
young women residing in the country insisted, before they were married, on its being particularly stipulated in the contract, that their husbands should take them every year to the city La Valetta on St. John's day, to the Old City on St. Peter's, and to the casal Zeitun on St. Gregory's. This plainly thewed they had no great idea of the complaisance of their intended bridegrooms; and as they were very anxious to exhibit their persons, and at the same time possessed no inconsiderable share of curiosity, they had recourse to this method, to prevent the pollibility of a refusal.'
If a regular and rapid increase of population be, as no doubt it is, one characteristic of the happiness and prosperity of a people, and of the mildness of a government, it will not be denied, by any one who reads the following itatement, that the Maltese were a happy people, or that the governmebt of the Knights was a mild government.
“ But notwithstanding all that has been said, and the extreme fertility of some parts of the island, Malta is still very far from being able to furnish its inhabitants with the necessaries of life without foreiga allistance. This is principally owing to the encrease of population, which is augmented to a degree scarcely ever before known in history, and which is a stronger proof of the goodness of the government than any arguments ever advanced to the contrary.
"The Maltese were not men who inhabited a fruitful land, promising a plentiful harvelt for the support of their numerous families, together with a fuperabundance of provisions enabling them to live with ease and comfort; but a people living on a naturally barren soil, which scarcely afforded them bread for three months in the year; and yet this people, as has been already observed, encreased and multiplied in a proportion unknown in all other countries. Malta in 1530 did not contain quite fifteen thousand inhabitants, and these were reduced to ten thousand at the raising of the fiege in the grand-mastership of La Valette; during that of Omedes, Goza was entirely depopulated ; and the plague in 1592 müde terrible ravages on the island'; Hotwithstanding which, by the cenfus taken in 1632 the population of the tipo islands amounted to fifty-one thousand seven hundred and fifty. Since B 2