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his attempt to rescue the Knights of the 18th century from the imputation of degeneracy; at least we may venture to say, that, with all his ingenuity, he would not have been more successful. But a description of the fiege of St Elmo is an excellent item in the composition of a book; and the chevalier will pardon us for suspecting, that some motive, lefs disinterested than his concern for the glory of the Order, may have induced him to extend a work to three quarto volumes, the whole information of which might have been comprised in a moderate octavo. To such of our readers as have not had occasion to consider the constitution of the Order of Malta, the following summary abstract may not be unacceptable.
This Order was instituted about the end of the eleventh cen. tury, and was originally composed of a few charitable individuals, who established a house at Jerusalem for the reception of the fick and wounded crusaders. · This society having expressed a desire to adopt a regular habit, the Pope invested them with that of St Augustin ; and from that time their succeffors have been required to take the vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty. At this period the members of the society were styled • Hofpitallers Brothers of St John the Baptist of Jerusalem.' Extending their cares beyond the mere recovery of their distressed guests, they soon obtained permission to take up arms, in order to defend them from the infidels, in their journey to the nearest port, whence they might embark for Europe. Upon this occasion they took an oath before the Patriarch of Conftantinople, « to defend the holy se. pulchre to the last drop of their blood, and to combat the infidels wherever they should meet them.' The Order having thus become military, increased both in mumbers and importance ; and received large donations and bequests from almost every country in Christendom. In process of time, the Knights agreed to die vide themselves into seven different languages, of which the three first were French, viz. thofe of Provence, Auvergne, and France ; the four others were those of Italy, Arragon, England, and Germany. The language of Caftile was afterwards added ; and that of England, abolished at the Reformation, was afterwards replaced by the Anglo-Bavarian.
The Order was divided into three classes. The first confifted folely of such persons as could bring indubitable proofs of their descent from noble ancestors. The Knights of this clafs, called • Chevaliers de Justice,' enjoyed the rich commanderies, and other valuable pieces of preferment: from amongst their number the Grand Masters were neceffarily elected ; and in them, indeed, was vested the whole authority of the Order.-The second class comprehended the Prielts of the Order, some of whom were required to officiate in the conventual church, whilst others were called upon to attend as chaplains in the galleys, or to reside on the benefices in the different priories scattered over the Continent. From this class were elected the Bishop of Malta and the Prior of the Conventual Church of St John, who were next in rank to the Grand Master or his Vicegerent. The members of the third class were styled :« Servans d'armes,' and seem to have come under the defcription of Squires.' They were required to attend the Knights both in the hospital and in their caravans, or expedition against the infidels. The two laft-mentioned classes, though not required to be noble, were obliged to prove that they were born of refpectable parents, who had never been in fervitude, or followed any low art or trade. They enjoyed certain commanderies of smaller value, and had equally the privilege of voting at the election of a Grand Master with the Knights of the first class.
For some time after the institution of the Order, no formal. proof was required to establish the pretensions of candidates to the claim of nobility: nothing further was, in general, deemed necessary than the names of their father and mother, the purity of whole blood was seldom called in question. But when the intermarriages of nobles with plebeians became more frequent, the Knights of St John, jealous of the purity of their Order, instituted certain forms to ascertain the legitimacy and descent of their candidates. These conlisted of oral teftimony, the examination of charters and title-deeds, and other modes of investigation.
Different degrees of proof were required by the leveral languages, as well as different degrees of antiquity. For example,
Knight of the Italian language was required to establish the nobility of his father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, or, (to use the technical phrase), to prove four quarters; but for each of these quarters two hundred years of nobility were neceffary. The candidate for admission to the language of Germany was required to prove fixteen quarters! When the different proofs of nobility were established, the candidate might be admitted at different ages. His residence at Malta was seldom required before the age of twenty, and was frequently di pented with for a year or two more. During his novitiate, the candidate was required to serve in the galleys during four expeditions or caravans against the infidels; and at the expiry of that term of probation his profession took place ; a ceremony which was attended with great parade and folemnity. The form of admission is detailed with great precision at p. 222. of the second volume.
The author concludes his work with an account of the manner in which the ifand was delivered up to the French army in 1798;
examines the causes which occafioned the revolt of the Maltese ; and details the particulars of the blockade and surrender of Malta to Great Britain.
It is fingular enough, that whilst he enumerates the excesses committed by the French army, such as the plunder of their
churches, the impressing and carrying off to Egypt numbers of the ! inhabitants to serve in the army and navy, &c. he enters (p. 82.)
into a formal vindication of their Commander in Chief ;-this is the only part of the work where we have met with the name of Bonaparte, and it is mentioned with respect.-Does this proceed from the excess of the chevalier's charity and forgiveness? or does he look for the restoration of his Order to the person who overthrew it?
Such are the outlines of M. de Boifgelin's book. If, from the nature of the work, we did not expect much originality, we at least hoped for a perspicuous arrangement of facts; but even as a compilation this book is deftitute of merit; and throughout we meet with numberless passages of considerable length, which are literally transcribed from the authorities. The little work, entitled, Malte, par un Voyageur François,' is completely incorporated in the first part of the work: and Malta illuftrata and Vertot have afforded the chevalier many paffages.
We have already said, that the effential information contained in the work might have been comprised in one octavo volume; but we may fafely add, that the work as it now stands, when stripped of its appendix, its pompous catalogue of authorities, and other useless et ceteras, would not have exceeded the bounds of one moderate quarto. The chart of the islands is absurdly large. Had it been executed on a scale of one tenth of its present size, it would have answered the purpose equally well, without unnecessarily swelling the first volume to an inconvenient bulk. The subjects of the plates are in general ill chofen, and very badly executed. The costumes of the inhabitants, and views of the island, would have been more interesting to the reader than portraits of the Grand Masters. The only original thing in the book, and al. most the only amusing one, is the author's zeal for his Order, and his anxiety that the island should be restored to it. Is it poffible that any man of common sense should fail to fee, that the institution has already outlived its utility, and is daily becoming ridiculous? It would not be more absurd, to give an illand to a lodge of Free Masons, than to such a corporation as the Knights of Malta.
ART. XVII. The History of France, from the time of its Conquest
by Clovis, A. D. 486. By the Rev. Alexander Ranken, D. Ď. one of the Ministers of Glasgow. Vols 1. 2. & 3. London. Cadell & Davies, 1801, 1802, and 1804.
Though the records of every man's own country are those which he reads with most curiosity and delight; yet, considering the matter as citizens of the world, and divesting ourselves of local partialities, we cannot conceive that the history of any European nation can enter into competition, in point of interest and importance, with that of France. If we look at the other states of the continent, some of them have come into the vineyard as it were at the eleventh hour, and were barbarians but the other day; some again have long ago run out their race of fame, and protracted from age to age an existence of gradual decay; some have never cultivated letters, and others never been great in arms; some have been too miserable to produce legislators, and others too happy to breed heroes; some have had meagre annalists to chronicle great exploits, and others great historians to record their petty transactions. But, as the duration of the French empire for thirteen centuries far transcends the credible history of any other ftate; so the events by which that period is filled up, are more various and important, have been related by more numerous and agreeable writers, and given scope to the talents and virtues of more distinguished men, than any other; while the subject presents a still more interesting spectacle to the British philosopher, as the source from which much of our polity and jurisprudence, much of our literature, and almost the whole of our syitem of manners, has been derived. No man can set up a claim to the title of a literary or philosophical antiquarian, who has not drank pretty largely from the copious stream of French history; a stream lo copious indeed, that the most diligent among the learned natives themselves have never been able, even in its partial branches, to exhaust it; and it is certainly an undertaking of no ordinary boldness in the author of the work before us, to promise the public a history of France, comprehending not civil and military tranfactions alone, but the religion, jurisprudence, learning, arts, commerce, language, and customs of every age, from the invasion of Clovis. It will be readily seen, that the plan of this work corresponds with that of Dr Henry in his History of Britain. Dr Ranken shall speak for himself.
“ Many years have elapfed fince I began my enquiries into French hiltory, and to write essays upon that subject. The plan which I preVOL. VI. No. 11.
ferred when I resolved to publish, required both that these efTays should be considerably altered in their form, and that others more recently composed should be added: this will account for that variety which may appear in the style. The plan was not fuggested by Dr Henry's History of Great Britain ; but in attempting to arrange the several esfays afterwards, a similarity was observed ; and on farther deliberation, I resolved to adopt his plan, and proceed in compofing what was then wanting to complete it. I admire his work, and will be content if I shall be thought to have successfully imitated it.'
There are three methods which an historian may pursue with Tespect to those great subje&s, of laws, manners, and the rest, which are fo much more interesting, for the moft part, than a mere narrative of tranfactions, and for the sake of which alone, in many periods, civil transactions are worth knowing. He may interweave them with the body of his narration, either incidentally, as Herodotus, Froiffart, and most writers of contemporary history have done, or by way of illustration, like the greater part of modern writers ; or fecondly, he may station them in preliminary books, or reserve them for appendixes, wherever they bear only a general connexion with the main body of the work, still pursuing the former method, where it is effential to discuss the causes, or elucidate the circumstances of particular events. Such is the plan of Robertfon in his Charles V. and of Hume, in his History of England. The arrangement of Gibbon is compounded of these two kinds, but partakes much more of the former. The third scheme of difpofition is that of Henry and Dr Ranken; in which every distinct subject forms a distinct chapter, and the corresponding chapters in each successive volume may be read as a continued independent account of the matters to which they relate.
Of these, the first is beyond comparison the moft pleasing to - those who read history as a source of amusement. The fatiguing monotony of battles and fieges in war, cabals and negotiations in peace, so palls upon the mind in almost every hittorical work, that intermingled paflages, which illustrate laws, literature, or manners, fhew like Oases in the great desert, and afford restingplaces to the weary reader, from which he may launch out again Tefrethed into the tedious wilderneis which he is traverfing. These pafTages are in many of the best authors the more precious, that they are very rare. Man, so Itudious to record his crimes and his miseries, cafts a careless eye, it would feem, upon the laws which protect, the arts which adorn, and the commerce which enriches him. It was not indeed till lately, that the great and leading uses of historical knowledge seem to have been well understood, or that philosophy, with Montesquieu as her high priest
, taught us to consider the progress of the species, as of more im