Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit etc. by by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

sensuality; lust of power, PLUS personal will = ambition, and so on,
equally as in the SYNTHESIS on which the conscience is grounded. Not
this, therefore, but the other SYNTHESIS, must supply the specific
character of the conscience, and we must enter into an analysis of
reason. Such as the nature and objects of the reason are, such must
be the functions and objects of the conscience. And the former we
shall best learn by recapitulating those constituents of the total
man which are either contrary to or disparate from the reason.

I. Reason, and the proper objects of reason, are wholly alien from
sensation. Reason is supersensual, and its antagonist is appetite,
and the objects of appetite the lust of the flesh.

II. Reason and its objects do not appertain to the world of the
senses, inward or outward; that is, they partake not of sense or
fancy. Reason is supersensuous, and here its antagonist is the lust
of the eye.

III. Reason and its objects are not things of reflection,
association, discursion, discourse in the old sense of the word as
opposed to intuition; "discursive or intuitive," as Milton has it.
Reason does not indeed necessarily exclude the finite, either in time
or in space, but it includes them eminenter. Thus the prime mover of
the material universe is affirmed to contain all motion as its cause,
but not to be, or to suffer, motion in itself.

Reason is not the faculty of the finite. But here I must premise the
following. The faculty of the finite is that which reduces the
confused impressions of sense to their essential forms--quantity,
quality, relation, and in these action and reaction, cause and
effect, and the like; thus raises the materials furnished by the
senses and sensations into objects of reflection, and so makes
experience possible. Without it, man's representative powers would
be a delirium, a chaos, a scudding cloudage of shapes; and it is
therefore most appropriately called the understanding, or
substantiative faculty. Our elder metaphysicians, down to Hobbes
inclusively, called this likewise discourse, discuvsus discursio,
from its mode of action as not staying at any one object, but
running, as it were, to and fro to abstract, generalise, and
classify. Now when this faculty is employed in the service of the
pure reason, it brings out the necessary and universal truths
contained in the infinite into distinct contemplation by the pure act
of the sensuous imagination--that is, in the production of the forms
of space and time abstracted from all corporeity, and likewise of the
inherent forms of the understanding itself abstractedly from the
consideration of particulars, as in the case of geometry, numeral
mathematics, universal logic, and pure metaphysics. The discursive
faculty then becomes what our Shakespeare, with happy precision,
calls "discourse of reason."

We will now take up our reasoning again from the words "motion in

It is evident, then, that the reason as the irradiative power, and
the representative of the infinite, judges the understanding as the
faculty of the finite, and cannot without error be judged by it.
When this is attempted, or when the understanding in its SYNTHESIS
with the personal will, usurps the supremacy of the reason, or
affects to supersede the reason, it is then what St. Paul calls the
mind of the flesh ([Greek text]), or the wisdom of this world. The
result is, that the reason is superfinite; and in this relation, its
antagonist is the insubordinate understanding, or mind of the flesh.

IV. Reason, as one with the absolute will (IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE
therefore for man the certain representative of the will of God, is
above the will of man as an individual will. We have seen in III.
that it stands in antagonism to all mere particulars; but here it
stands in antagonism to all mere individual interests as so many
selves, to the personal will as seeking its objects in the
manifestation of itself for itself--sit pro ratione voluntas;--
whether this be realised with adjuncts, as in the lust of the flesh,
and in the lust of the eye; or without adjuncts, as in the thirst and
pride of power, despotism, egoistic ambition. The fourth antagonist,
then, of reason, is the lust of the will.

Corollary. Unlike a million of tigers, a million of men is very
different from a million times one man. Each man in a numerous
society is not only coexistent with, but virtually organised into,
the multitude of which he is an integral part. His idem is modified
by the alter. And there arise impulses and objects from this
SYNTHESIS of the alter et idem, myself and my neighbour. This,
again, is strictly analogous to what takes place in the vital
organisation of the individual man. The cerebral system of the
nerves has its correspondent ANTITHESIS in the abdominal system: but
hence arises a SYNTHESIS of the two in the pectoral system as the
intermediate, and, like a drawbridge, at once conductor and boundary.
In the latter, as objectised by the former, arise the emotions, the
affections, and, in one word, the passions, as distinguished from the
cognitions and appetites. Now, the reason has been shown to be
superindividual, generally, and therefore not less so when the form
of an individualisation subsists in the alter than when it is
confined to the idem; not less when the emotions have their conscious
or believed object in another, than when their subject is the
individual personal self. For though these emotions, affections,
attachments, and the like, are the prepared ladder by which the lower
nature is taken up into, and made to partake of, the highest room--as
we are taught to give a feeling of reality to the higher per medium
commune with the lower, and thus gradually to see the reality of the
higher (namely, the objects of reason), and finally to know that the
latter are indeed, and pre-eminently real, as if you love your
earthly parents whom you see, by these means you will learn to love
your Heavenly Father who is invisible;--yet this holds good only so
far as the reason is the president, and its objects the ultimate aim;
and cases may arise in which the Christ as the Logos, or Redemptive
NOT WORTHY OF ME; nay, he that can permit his emotions to rise to an
equality with the universal reason, is in enmity with that reason.
Here, then, reason appears as the love of God; and its antagonist is
the attachment to individuals wherever it exists in diminution of, or
in competition with, the love which is reason.

In these five paragraphs I have enumerated and explained the several
powers or forces belonging or incidental to human nature, which in
all matters of reason the man is bound either to subjugate or
subordinate to reason. The application to faith follows of its own
accord. The first or most indefinite sense of faith is fidelity:
then fidelity under previous contract or particular moral obligation.
In this sense faith is fealty to a rightful superior: faith is the
duty of a faithful subject to a rightful governor. Then it is
allegiance in active service; fidelity to the liege lord under
circumstances, and amid the temptations of usurpation, rebellion, and
intestine discord. Next we seek for that rightful superior on our
duties to whom all our duties to all other superiors, on our
faithfulness to whom all our bounden relations to all other objects
of fidelity, are founded. We must inquire after that duty in which
all others find their several degrees and dignities, and from which
they derive their obligative force. We are to find a superior, whose
rights, including our duties, are presented to the mind in the very
idea of that Supreme Being, whose sovereign prerogatives are
predicates implied in the subjects, as the essential properties of a
circle are co-assumed in the first assumption of a circle,
consequently underived, unconditional, and as rationally
unsusceptible, so probably prohibitive, of all further question. In
this sense, then, faith is fidelity, fealty, allegiance of the moral
nature to God, in opposition to all usurpation, and in resistance to
all temptation to the placing any other claim above or equal with our
fidelity to God.

The will of God is the last ground and final aim of all our duties,
and to that the whole man is to be harmonised by subordination,
subjugation, or suppression alike in commission and omission. But
the will of God, which is one with the supreme intelligence, is
revealed to man through the conscience. But the conscience, which
consists in an inappellable bearing-witness to the truth and reality
of our reason, may legitimately be construed with the term reason, so
far as the conscience is prescriptive; while as approving or
condemning, it is the consciousness of the subordination or
insubordination, the harmony or discord, of the personal will of man
to and with the representative of the will of God. This brings me to
the last and fullest sense of faith, that is, the obedience of the
individual will to the reason, in the lust of the flesh as opposed to
the supersensual; in the lust of the eye as opposed to the
supersensuous; in the pride of the understanding as opposed to the
infinite; in the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] in
contrariety to the spiritual truth; in the lust of the personal will
as opposed to the absolute and universal; and in the love of the
creature, as far as it is opposed to the love which is one with the
reason, namely, the love of God.

Thus, then, to conclude. Faith subsists in the SYNTHESIS of the
Reason and the individual Will. By virtue of the latter therefore,
it must be an energy, and, inasmuch as it relates to the whole moral
man, it must be exerted in each and all of his constituents or
incidents, faculties and tendencies;--it must be a total, not a
partial--a continuous, not a desultory or occasional--energy. And by
virtue of the former, that is Reason, Faith must be a Light, a form
of knowing, a beholding of truth. In the incomparable words of the
Now, as LIFE is here the sum or collective of all moral and spiritual
acts, in suffering, doing, and being, so is Faith the source and the
sum, the energy and the principle of the fidelity of man to God, by
the subordination of his human Will, in all provinces of his nature,
to his Reason, as the sum of spiritual Truth, representing and
manifesting the Will Divine.



A man may pray night and day, and yet deceive himself; but no man can
be assured of his sincerity who does not pray. Prayer is faith
passing into act; a union of the will and the intellect realising in
an intellectual act. It is the whole man that prays. Less than this
is wishing, or lip-work; a charm or a mummery. PRAY ALWAYS, says the
apostle: that is, have the habit of prayer, turning your thoughts
into acts by connecting them with the idea of the redeeming God, and
even so reconverting your actions into thoughts.


The best preparation for taking this sacrament, better than any or
all of the books or tracts composed for this end, is to read over and
over again, and often on your knees--at all events with a kneeling
and praying heart--the Gospel according to St. John, till your mind
is familiarised to the contemplation of Christ, the Redeemer and
Mediator of mankind, yea, of every creature, as the living and self-
subsisting Word, the very truth of all true being, and the very being
of all enduring truth; the reality, which is the substance and unity
of all reality; THE LIGHT WHICH LIGHTETH EVERY MAN, so that what we
call reason is itself a light from that light, lumen a luce, as the
Latin more distinctly expresses this fact. But it is not merely
light, but therein is life; and it is the life of Christ, the co-
eternal Son of God, that is the only true life-giving light of men.
We are assured, and we believe, that Christ is God; God manifested in
the flesh. As God, he must be present entire in every creature;--
(for how can God, or indeed any spirit, exist in parts?)--but he is
said to dwell in the regenerate, to come to them who receive him by
faith in his name, that is, in his power and influence; for this is
the meaning of the word "name" in Scripture when applied to God or
his Christ. Where true belief exists, Christ is not only present
with or among us;--for so he is in every man, even the most wicked;--
and as really as your soul resides constitutively in your living
body, personally and substantially does Christ dwell in every
regenerate man.

After this course of study, you may then take up and peruse sentence
by sentence the communion service, the best of all comments on the
Scriptures appertaining to this mystery. And this is the preparation
which will prove, with God's grace, the surest preventive of, or
antidote against, the freezing poison, the lethargising hemlock, of
the doctrine of the Sacramentaries, according to whom the Eucharist
is a mere practical metaphor, in which things are employed instead of
articulated sounds for the exclusive purpose of recalling to our
minds the historical fact of our Lord's crucifixion; in short--(the
profaneness is with them, not with me)--just the same as when
Protestants drink a glass of wine to the glorious memory of William
III.! True it is that the remembrance is one end of the sacrament;
but it is, DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME,--of all that Christ was and
is, hath done and is still doing for fallen mankind, and, of course,
of his crucifixion inclusively, but not of his crucifixion alone. 14
December, 1827.


First, then, that we may come to this heavenly feast holy, and
adorned with the wedding garment, Matt. xxii. ii, we must search our
hearts, and examine our consciences, not only till we see our sins,
but until we hate them.

But what if a man, seeing his sin, earnestly desire to hate it?
Shall he not at the altar offer up at once his desire, and the yet
lingering sin, and seek for strength? Is not this sacrament medicine
as well as food? Is it an end only, and not likewise the means? Is
it merely the triumphal feast; or is it not even more truly a blessed
refreshment for and during the conflict?

This confession of sins must not be in general terms only, that we
are sinners with the rest of mankind, but it must be a special
declaration to God of all our most heinous sins in thought, word, and

Luther was of a different judgment. He would have us feel and groan
under our sinfulness and utter incapability of redeeming ourselves
from the bondage, rather than hazard the pollution of our
imaginations by a recapitulation and renewing of sins and their
images in detail. Do not, he says, stand picking the flaws out one
by one, but plunge into the river and drown them!--I venture to be of
Luther's doctrine.


In the first Exhortation, before the words "meritorious Cross and
Passion," I should propose to insert "his assumption of humanity, his
incarnation, and." Likewise, a little lower down, after the word
"sustenance," I would insert "as." For not in that sacrament
exclusively, but in all the acts of assimilative faith, of which the
Eucharist is a solemn, eminent, and representative instance, an
instance and the symbol, Christ is our spiritual food and sustenance.


Marriage, simply as marriage, is not the means "for the procreation
of children," but for the humanisation of the offspring procreated.
Therefore, in the Declaration at the beginning, after the words
"procreation of children," I would insert, "and as the means of
securing to the children procreated enduring care, and that they may
be," &c.


Third rubric at the end.

But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, &c.

I think this rubric, in what I conceive to be its true meaning, a
precious doctrine, as fully acquitting our Church of all Romish
superstition, respecting the nature of the Eucharist, in relation to
the whole scheme of man's redemption. But the latter part of it--"he
doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ
profitably to his soul's health, although he do not receive the
sacrament with his mouth"--seems to me very incautiously expressed,
and scarcely to be reconciled with the Church's own definition of a
sacrament in general. For in such a case, where is "the outward and
visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace given?"


Epistle.--l Cor. xv. 1.

Brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you.

Why should the obsolete, though faithful, Saxon translation of [Greek
text which cannot be reproduced] be retained? Why not "good
tidings?" Why thus change a most appropriate and intelligible
designation of the matter into a mere conventional name of a
particular book?


- how that Christ died for our sins.

But the meaning of [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] is, that
Christ died through the sins, and for the sinners. He died through
our sins, and we live through his righteousness.

Gospel--Luke xviii. 14.

This man went down to his house justified rather than the other.

Not simply justified, observe; but justified rather than the other,
[Greek text which cannot be reproduced],--that is, less remote from



- that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may
of thee be plenteously rewarded.

Rather--"that with that enlarged capacity, which without thee we
cannot acquire, there may likewise be an increase of the gift, which
from thee alone we can wholly receive."


V. 2. Out of the mouth of very babes and sucklings hast thou
ordained strength, because of thine enemies; that thou mightest still
the enemy and the avenger.

To the dispensations of the twilight dawn, to the first messengers of
the redeeming word, the yet lisping utterers of light and life, a
strength and power were given BECAUSE OF THE ENEMIES, greater and of
more immediate influence, than to the seers and proclaimers of a
clearer day: even as the first reappearing crescent of the eclipsed
moon shines for men with a keener brilliance than the following
larger segments, previously to its total emersion.

Ib. v. 5.

Thou madest him lower than the angels, to crown him with glory and

Power + idea = angel.
Idea--power = man, or Prometheus.


V. 34. Ascribe ye the power to God over Israel: his worship and
strength is in the clouds.

The "clouds," in the symbolical language of the Scriptures, mean the
events and course of things, seemingly effects of human will or
chance, but overruled by Providence.


This psalm admits no other interpretation but of Christ, as the
Jehovah incarnate. In any other sense it would be a specimen of more
than Persian or Moghul hyperbole, and bombast, of which there is no
other instance in Scripture, and which no Christian would dare to
attribute to an inspired writer. We know, too, that the elder Jewish
Church ranked it among the Messianic Psalms.--N.B. The word in St.
John and the Name of the Most High in the Psalms are equivalent

V. 1. Give the king thy judgments, O God; and thy righteousness unto
the king's son.

God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, the only begotten,
the Son of God and God, King of Kings, and the Son of the King of


V. 2. O think upon thy congregation, whom thou hast purchased and
redeemed of old.

The Lamb sacrificed from the beginning of the world, the God-Man, the
Judge, the self-promised Redeemer to Adam in the garden!

V. 15. Thou smotest the heads of the Leviathan in pieces; and gavest
him to be meat for the people in the wilderness.

Does this allude to any real tradition? The Psalms appears to have
been composed shortly before the captivity of Judah.

Ps. LXXXII. vv. 6-7.

The reference which our Lord made to these mysterious verses gives
them an especial interest. The first apostasy, the fall of the
angels, is, perhaps, intimated.


I would fain understand this Psalm; but first I must collate it word
by word with the original Hebrew. It seems clearly Messianic.


Vv. 10-12. Dost thou show wonders among the dead, or shall the dead
rise up again and praise thee? &c.

Compare Ezekiel xxxvii.

Ps. CIV.

I think the Bible version might with advantage be substituted for
this, which in some parts is scarcely intelligible.

V. 6.--the waters stand in the hills.

No; STOOD ABOVE THE MOUNTAINS. The reference is to the Deluge.

Ps. CV.


If even to seek the Lord be joy, what will it be to find him? Seek
me, O Lord, that I may be found by thee!

Ps. CX.

RULE, &c.

V. 3. Understand--"Thy people shall offer themselves willingly in
the day of conflict in holy clothing, in their best array, in their
best arms and accoutrements. As the dew from the womb of the
morning, in number and brightness like dew-drops, so shall be thy
youth, or the youth of thee, the young volunteer warriors."

V. 5. "He shall shake," concuss, concutiet reges die irae suae.

V. 6. For "smite in sunder, or wound the heads;" some word answering
to the Latin conquassare.

V. 7. For "therefore," translate "then shall he lift up his head
again;" that is, as a man languid and sinking from thirst and fatigue
after refreshment.

N.B.--I see no poetic discrepancy between vv. 1 and 5.


To be interpreted of Christ's Church.


V. 5. As the rivers in the south.

Does this allude to the periodical rains?

As a transparency on some night of public rejoicing, seen by common
day, with the lamps from within removed--even such would the Psalms
be to me uninterpreted by the Gospel. O honoured Mr. Hurwitz! Could
I but make you feel what grandeur, what magnificence, what an
everlasting significance and import Christianity gives to every fact
of your national history--to every page of your sacred records!


XX. It is mournful to think how many recent writers have criminated
our Church in consequence of their ignorance and inadvertence in not
knowing, or not noticing, the contradistinction here meant between
power and authority. Rites and ceremonies the Church may ordain jure
proprio: on matters of faith her judgment is to be received with
reverence, and not gainsayed but after repeated inquiries, and on
weighty grounds.

XXXVII. It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the
magistrate, to wear weapons, and to serve in wars.

This is a very good instance of an unseemly matter neatly wrapped up.
The good men recoiled from the plain words--"It is lawful for
Christian men at the Command of a king to slaughter as many
Christians as they can!"

Well! I could most sincerely subscribe to all these articles.
September, 1831.


Almighty God, by thy eternal Word my Creator Redeemer and Preserver!
who hast in thy free communicative goodness glorified me with the
capability of knowing thee, the one only absolute Good, the eternal I
Am, as the author of my being, and of desiring and seeking thee as
its ultimate end;--who, when I fell from thee into the mystery of the
false and evil will, didst not abandon me, poor self-lost creature,
but in thy condescending mercy didst provide an access and a return
to thyself, even to thee the Holy One, in thine only begotten Son,
the way and the truth from everlasting, and who took on himself
humanity, yea, became flesh, even the man Christ Jesus, that for man
he might be the life and the resurrection!--O Giver of all good
gifts, who art thyself the one only absolute Good, from whom I have
received whatever good I have, whatever capability of good there is
in me, and from thee good alone,--from myself and my own corrupted
will all evil and the consequents of evil,--with inward prostration
of will, mind, and affections I adore thy infinite majesty; I aspire
to love thy transcendent goodness!--In a deep sense of my
unworthiness, and my unfitness to present myself before thee, of eyes
too pure to behold iniquity, and whose light, the beautitude of
spirits conformed to thy will, is a consuming fire to all vanity and
corruption;--but in the name of the Lord Jesus, of the dear Son of
thy love, in whose perfect obedience thou deignest to behold as many
as have received the seed of Christ into the body of this death;--I
offer this, my bounden nightly sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,
in humble trust that the fragrance of my Saviour's righteousness may
remove from it the taint of my mortal corruption. Thy mercies have
followed me through all the hours and moments of my life; and now I
lift up my heart in awe and thankfulness for the preservation of my
life through the past day, for the alleviation of my bodily
sufferings and languors, for the manifold comforts which thou hast
reserved for me, yea, in thy fatherly compassion hast rescued from
the wreck of my own sins or sinful infirmities;--for the kind and
affectionate friends thou hast raised up for me, especially for those
of this household, for the mother and mistress of this family, whose
love to me hath been great and faithful, and for the dear friend, the
supporter and sharer of my studies and researches; but, above all,
for the heavenly Friend, the crucified Saviour, the glorified
Mediator, Christ Jesus, and for the heavenly Comforter, source of all
abiding comforts, thy Holy Spirit! O grant me the aid of thy Spirit,
that I may with a deeper faith, a more enkindled love, bless thee,
who through thy Son hast privileged me to call thee Abba, Father! O,
thou, who hast revealed thyself in thy holy word as a God that
hearest prayer; before whose infinitude all differences cease of
great and small; who like a tender parent foreknowest all our wants,
yet listenest well-pleased to the humble petitions of thy children;
who hast not alone permitted, but taught us; to call on thee in all
our needs,--earnestly I implore the continuance of thy free mercy, of
thy protecting providence, through the coming night. Thou hearest
every prayer offered to thee believingly with a penitent and sincere
heart. For thou in withholding grantest, healest in inflicting the
wound, yea, turnest all to good for as many as truly seek thee
through Christ, the Mediator! Thy will be done! But if it be
according to thy wise and righteous ordinances, O shield me this
night from the assaults of disease, grant me refreshment of sleep
unvexed by evil and distempered dreams; and if the purpose and
aspiration of my heart be upright before thee, who alone knowest the
heart of man, O in thy mercy vouchsafe me yet in this my decay of
life an interval of ease and strength; if so (thy grace disposing and
assisting) I may make compensation to thy Church for the unused
talents thou hast entrusted to me, for the neglected opportunities
which thy loving-kindness had provided. O let me be found a labourer
in the vineyard, though of the late hour, when the Lord and Heir of
the vintage, Christ Jesus, calleth for his servant.

Our Father, &c.

To thee, great omnipresent Spirit, whose mercy is over all thy works,
who now beholdest me, who hearest me, who hast framed my heart to
seek and to trust in thee, in the name of my Lord and Saviour Christ
Jesus, I humbly commit and commend my body, soul, and spirit.

Glory be to thee, O God!



Fortuna plerumque est veluti
Galaxia quarundam obscurarum
Virtutum sine nomine.

(Translation)--Fortune is for the most part but a galaxy or milky
way, as it were, of certain obscure virtues without a name.

"Does Fortune favour fools? Or how do you explain the origin of the
proverb, which, differently worded, is to be found in all the
languages of Europe?"

This proverb admits of various explanations, according to the mood of
mind in which it is used. It may arise from pity, and the soothing
persuasion that Providence is eminently watchful over the helpless,
and extends an especial care to those who are not capable of caring
for themselves. So used, it breathes the same feeling as "God
tempers the wind to the shorn lamb"--or the more sportive adage, that
"the fairies take care of children and tipsy folk." The persuasion
itself, in addition to the general religious feeling of mankind, and
the scarcely less general love of the marvellous, may be accounted
for from our tendency to exaggerate all effects that seem
disproportionate to their visible cause, and all circumstances that
are in any way strongly contrasted with our notions of the persons
under them. Secondly, it arises from the safety and success which an
ignorance of danger and difficulty sometimes actually assists in
procuring; inasmuch as it precludes the despondence, which might have
kept the more foresighted from undertaking the enterprise, the
depression which would retard its progress, and those overwhelming
influences of terror in cases where the vivid perception of the
danger constitutes the greater part of the danger itself. Thus men
are said to have swooned and even died at the sight of a narrow
bridge, over which they had ridden, the night before, in perfect
safety; or at tracing the footmarks along the edge of a precipice
which the darkness had concealed from them. A more obscure cause,
yet not wholly to be omitted, is afforded by the undoubted fact that
the exertion of the reasoning faculties tends to extinguish or bedim
those mysterious instincts of skill, which, though for the most part
latent, we nevertheless possess in common with other animals.

Or the proverb may be used invidiously; and folly in the vocabulary
of envy or baseness may signify courage and magnanimity. Hardihood
and fool-hardiness are indeed as different as green and yellow, yet
will appear the same to the jaundiced eye. Courage multiplies the
chances of success by sometimes making opportunities, and always
availing itself of them: and in this sense Fortune may be said to
favour fools by those who, however prudent in their own opinion, are
deficient in valour and enterprise. Again: an emiently good and
wise man, for whom the praises of the judicious have procured a high
reputation even with the world at large, proposes to himself certain
objects, and adapting the right means to the right end attains them;
but his objects not being what the world calls fortune, neither money
nor artificial rank, his admitted inferiors in moral and intellectual
worth, but more prosperous in their worldly concerns, are said to
have been favoured by Fortune and be slighted; although the fools did
the same in their line as the wise man in his; they adapted the
appropriate means to the desired end, and so succeeded. In this
sense the proverb is current by a misuse, or a catachresis at least,
of both the words, fortune and fools.

How seldom, friend, a good great man inherits
Honour or wealth with all his worth and pains!
It sounds like stories from the land of spirits,
If any man obtain that which he merits,
Or any merit that which he obtains.


For shame! dear friend, renounce this canting strain;
What would'st thou have a good great man obtain?
Place? titles? salary? a gilded chain?
Or throne of corses which his sword hath slain?
Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!
Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
The good great man? Three treasures, love, and light,
And calm thoughts regular as infant's breath:
And three firm friends, more sure than day and night,
Himself, his Maker, and the angel Death.
S. T. C.

But, lastly, there is, doubtless, a true meaning attached to fortune,
distinct both from prudence and from courage; and distinct too from
that absence of depressing or bewildering passions, which (according
to my favourite proverb, "extremes meet,") the fool not seldom
obtains in as great perfection by his ignorance as the wise man by
the highest energies of thought and self-discipline. Luck has a real
existence in human affairs, from the infinite number of powers that
are in action at the same time, and from the co-existence of things
contingent and accidental (such as to US at least are accidental)
with the regular appearances and general laws of nature. A familiar
instance will make these words intelligible. The moon waxes and
wanes according to a necessary law. The clouds likewise, and all the
manifold appearances connected with them, are governed by certain
laws no less than the phases of the moon. But the laws which
determine the latter are known and calculable, while those of the
former are hidden from us. At all events, the number and variety of
their effects baffle our powers of calculation; and that the sky is
clear or obscured at any particular time, we speak of, in common
language, as a matter of accident. Well! at the time of the full
moon, but when the sky is completely covered with black clouds, I am
walking on in the dark, aware of no particular danger: a sudden gust
of wind rends the cloud for a moment, and the moon emerging discloses
to me a chasm or precipice, to the very brink of which I had advanced
my foot. This is what is meant by luck, and according to the more or
less serious mood or habit of our mind we exclaim, how lucky! or, how
providential! The co-presence of numberless phaenomena, which from
the complexity or subtlety of their determining causes are called
contingencies, and the co-existence of these with any regular or
necessary phaenomenon (as the clouds with the moon for instance),
occasion coincidences, which, when they are attended by any advantage
or injury, and are at the same time incapable of being calculated or
foreseen by human prudence, form good or ill luck. On a hot sunshiny
afternoon came on a sudden storm and spoilt the farmer's hay; and
this is called ill luck. We will suppose the same event to take
place, when meteorology shall have been perfected into a science,
provided with unerring instruments; but which the farmer had
neglected to examine. This is no longer ill luck, but imprudence.
Now apply this to our proverb. Unforeseen coincidences may have
greatly helped a man, yet if they have done for him only what
possibly from his own abilities he might have effected for himself,
his good luck will excite less attention and the instances be less
remembered. That clever men should attain their objects seems
natural, and we neglect the circumstances that perhaps produced that
success of themselves without the intervention of skill or foresight;
but we dwell on the fact and remember it, as something strange, when
the same happens to a weak or ignorant man. So, too, though the
latter should fail in his undertakings from concurrences that might
have happened to the wisest man, yet his failure being no more than
might have been expected and accounted for from his folly, it lays no
hold on our attention, but fleets away among the other
undistinguished waves, in which the stream of ordinary life murmurs
by us, and is forgotten. Had it been as true as it was notoriously
false, that those all-embracing discoveries, which have shed a dawn
of science on the art of chemistry, and give no obscure promise of
some one great constitutive law, in the light of which dwell dominion
and the power of prophecy; if these discoveries, instead of having
been as they really were, preconcerted by meditation, and evolved out
of his own intellect, had occurred by a set of lucky accidents to the
illustrious father and founder of philosophic alchemy; if they
presented themselves to Sir Humphry Davy exclusively in consequence
of his luck in possessing a particular galvanic battery; if this
battery, as far as Davy was concerned, had itself been an accident,
and not (as in point of fact it was) desired and obtained by him for
the purpose of insuring the testimony of experience to his
principles, and in order to bind down material nature under the
inquisition of reason, and force from her, as by torture, unequivocal
answers to prepared and preconceived questions--yet still they would
not have been talked of or described, as instances of LUCK, but as
the natural results of his admitted genius and known skill. But
should an accident have disclosed similar discoveries to a mechanic
at Birmingham or Sheffield, and if the man should grow rich in
consequence, and partly by the envy of his neighbours, and partly
with good reason, be considered by them as a man below par in the
general powers of his understanding; then, "Oh, what a lucky fellow!
Well, Fortune does favour fools--that's certain! It is always so!"--
and forthwith the exclaimer relates half a dozen similar instances.
Thus accumulating the one sort of facts and never collecting the
other, we do, as poets in their diction, and quacks of all
denominations do in their reasoning, put a part for the whole, and at
once soothe our envy and gratify our love of the marvellous, by the
sweeping proverb, "Fortune favours fools."


Quod me non movet aestimatione:
Verum est [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] mei sodalis.
CATULL. xii.

(Translation.)--It interests not by any conceit of its value; but it
is a remembrance of my honoured friend.

The philosophic ruler, who secured the favours of fortune by seeking
wisdom and knowledge in preference to them, has pathetically
observed--"The heart knoweth its own bitterness; and there is a joy
in which the stranger intermeddleth not." A simple question founded
on a trite proverb, with a discursive answer to it, would scarcely
suggest to an indifferent person any other notion than that of a mind
at ease, amusing itself with its own activity. Once before (I
believe about this time last year), I had taken up the old memorandum
book, from which I transcribed the preceding essay, and they had then
attracted my notice by the name of the illustrious chemist mentioned
in the last illustration. Exasperated by the base and cowardly
attempt that had been made to detract from the honours due to his
astonishing genius, I had slightly altered the concluding sentences,
substituting the more recent for his earlier discoveries; and without
the most distant intention of publishing what I then wrote, I had
expressed my own convictions for the gratification of my own
feelings, and finished by tranquilly paraphrasing into a chemical
allegory the Homeric adventure of Menelaus with Proteus. Oh! with
what different feelings, with what a sharp and sudden emotion did I
re-peruse the same question yester-morning, having by accident opened
the book at the page upon which it was written. I was moved; for it
was Admiral Sir Alexander Ball who first proposed the question to me,
and the particular satisfaction which he expressed had occasioned me
to note down the substance of my reply. I was moved; because to this
conversation I was indebted for the friendship and confidence with
which he afterwards honoured me, and because it recalled the memory
of one of the most delightful mornings I ever passed; when, as we
were riding together, the same person related to me the principal
events of his own life, and introduced them by adverting to this
conversation. It recalled too the deep impression left on my mind by
that narrative--the impression that I had never known any analogous
instance, in which a man so successful had been so little indebted to
fortune, or lucky accidents, or so exclusively both the architect and
builder of his own success. The sum of his history may be comprised
in this one sentence--Haec, sab numine, nobismet fecimas, sapientia
duce, fortune permittente. (i.e. These things under God, we have
done for ourselves, through the guidance of wisdom, and with the
permission of fortune.) Luck gave him nothing: in her most generous
moods, she only worked with him as with a friend, not for him as for
a fondling; but more often she simply stood neuter, and suffered him
to work for himself. Ah! how could I be otherwise than affected by
whatever reminded me of that daily and familiar intercourse with him,
which made the fifteen months from May, 1804, to October, 1805, in
many respects the most memorable and instructive period of my life?
Ah! how could I be otherwise than most deeply affected, when there
was still lying on my table the paper which the day before had
conveyed to me the unexpected and most awful tidings of this man's
death? his death in the fulness of all his powers, in the rich autumn
of ripe yet undecaying manhood! I once knew a lady who, after the
loss of a lovely child, continued for several days in a state of
seeming indifference, the weather at the same time, as if in unison
with her, being calm, though gloomy; till one morning a burst of
sunshine breaking in upon her, and suddenly lighting up the room
where she was sitting, she dissolved at once into tears, and wept
passionately. In no very dissimilar manner did the sudden gleam of
recollection at the sight of this memorandum act on myself. I had
been stunned by the intelligence, as by an outward blow, till this
trifling incident startled and disentranced me; the sudden pang
shivered through my whole frame; and if I repressed the outward shows
of sorrow, it was by force that I repressed them, and because it is
not by tears that I ought to mourn for the loss of Sir Alexander

He was a man above his age; but for that very reason the age has the
more need to have the master-features of his character portrayed and
preserved. This I feel it my duty to attempt, and this alone; for
having received neither instructions nor permission from the family
of the deceased, I cannot think myself allowed to enter into the
particulars of his private history, strikingly as many of them would
illustrate the elements and composition of his mind. For he was
indeed a living confutation of the assertion attributed to the Prince
of Conde, that no man appeared great to his valet de chambre--a
saying which, I suspect, owes its currency less to its truth than to
the envy of mankind, and the misapplication of the word great, to
actions unconnected with reason and free will. It will be sufficient
for my purpose to observe that the purity and strict propriety of his
conduct, which precluded rather than silenced calumny, the evenness
of his temper, and his attentive and affectionate manners in private
life, greatly aided and increased his public utility; and, if it
should please Providence that a portion of his spirit should descend
with his mantle, the virtues of Sir Alexander Ball, as a master, a
husband, and a parent, will form a no less remarkable epoch in the
moral history of the Maltese than his wisdom, as a governor, has made
in that of their outward circumstances. That the private and
personal qualities of a first magistrate should have political
effects will appear strange to no reflecting Englishman, who has
attended to the workings of men's minds during the first ferment of
revolutionary principles, and must therefore have witnessed the
influence of our own sovereign's domestic character in counteracting
them. But in Malta there were circumstances which rendered such an
example peculiarly requisite and beneficent. The very existence for
so many generations of an order of lay celibates in that island, who
abandoned even the outward shows of an adherence to their vow of
chastity, must have had pernicious effects on the morals of the
inhabitants. But when it is considered too that the Knights of Malta
had been for the last fifty years or more a set of useless idlers,
generally illiterate, for they thought literature no part of a
soldier's excellence; and yet effeminate, for they were soldiers in
name only; when it is considered that they were, moreover, all of
them aliens, who looked upon themselves not merely as of a superior
rank to the native nobles, but as beings of a different race (I had
almost said species) from the Maltese collectively; and finally, that
these men possessed exclusively the government of the island; it may
be safely concluded that they were little better than a perpetual
influenza, relaxing and diseasing the hearts of all the families
within their sphere of influence. Hence the peasantry, who
fortunately were below their reach, notwithstanding the more than
childish ignorance in which they were kept by their priests, yet
compared with the middle and higher classes, were both in mind and
body as ordinary men compared with dwarfs. Every respectable family
had some one knight for their patron, as a matter of course; and to
him the honour of a sister or a daughter was sacrificed, equally as a
matter of course. But why should I thus disguise the truth? Alas!
in nine instances out of ten, this patron was the common paramour of
every female in the family. Were I composing a state memorial I
should abstain from all allusion to moral good or evil, as not having
now first to learn, that with diplomatists and with practical
statesmen of every denomination, it would preclude all attention to
its other contents, and have no result but that of securing for its
author's name the official private mark of exclusion or dismission,
as a weak or suspicions person. But among those for whom I am now
writing, there are, I trust, many who will think it not the feeblest
reason for rejoicing in our possession of Malta, and not the least
worthy motive for wishing its retention, that one source of human
misery and corruption has been dried up. Such persons will hear the
name of Sir Alexander Ball with additional reverence, as of one who
has made the protection of Great Britain a double blessing to the
Maltese, and broken "THE BONDS OF INIQUITY" as well as unlocked the
fetters of political oppression.

When we are praising the departed by our own firesides, we dwell most
fondly on those qualities which had won our personal affection, and
which sharpen our individual regrets. But when impelled by a loftier
and more meditative sorrow, we would raise a public monument to their
memory, we praise them appropriately when we relate their actions
faithfully; and thus preserving their example for the imitation of
the living alleviate the loss, while we demonstrate its magnitude.
My funeral eulogy of Sir Alexander Ball must therefore he a narrative
of his life; and this friend of mankind will be defrauded of honour
in proportion as that narrative is deficient and fragmentary. It
shall, however, be as complete as my information enables, and as
prudence and a proper respect for the feelings of the living permit
me to render it. His fame (I adopt the words of our elder writers)
is so great throughout the world that he stands in no need of an
encomium; and yet his worth is much greater these his fame. It is
impossible not to speak great things of him, and yet it will be very
difficult to speak what he deserves. But custom requires that
something should be said; it is a duty and a debt which we owe to
ourselves and to mankind, not less than to his memory; and I hope his
great soul, if it hath any knowledge of what is done here below, will
not be offended at the smallness even of my offering.

Ah, how little, when among the subjects of The Friend I promised
"Characters met with in Real Life," did I anticipate the sad event,
which compels one to weave on a cypress branch those sprays of laurel
which I had destined for his bust, not his monument! He lived as we
should all live; and, I doubt not, left the world as we should all
wish to leave it. Such is the power of dispensing blessings, which
Providence has attached to the truly great and good, that they cannot
even die without advantage to their fellow-creatures; for death
consecrates their example, and the wisdom, which might have been
slighted at the council-table, becomes oracular from the shrine.
Those rare excellences, which make our grief poignant, make it
likewise profitable; and the tears which wise men shed for the
departure of the wise, are among those that are preserved in heaven.
It is the fervent aspiration of my spirit, that I may so perform the
task which private gratitude and public duty impose on me, that "as
God hath cut this tree of paradise down from its seat of earth, the
dead trunk may yet support a part of the declining temple, or at
least serve to kindle the fire on the altar."


Si partem tacuisse velim, quodeumque relinquam,
Majus erit. Veteres actus, primamque juventam
Prosequar? Ad sese mentem praesentia ducunt.
Narrem justitiam? Resplendet gloria Martis.
Armati referam vires? Plus egit inermis.

(Translations.)--If I desire to pass over a part in silence, whatever
I omit will seem the most worthy to have been recorded. Shall I
pursue his old exploits and early youth? His recent merits recall
the mind to themselves. Shall I dwelt on his justice? The glory of
the warrior rises before me resplendent. Shall I relate his strength
in arms? He performed yet greater things unarmed.

"There is something," says Harrington, in the Preliminaries to the
Oceana, "first in the making of a commonwealth, then in the governing
of it, and last of all in the leading of its armies, which though
there be great divines, great lawyers, great men in all ranks of
life, seems to be peculiar only to the genius of a gentleman. For so
it is in the universal series of history, that if any man has founded
a commonwealth, he was first a gentleman." Such also, he adds, as
have got any fame as civil governors, have been gentlemen, or persons
of known descents. Sir Alexander Ball was a gentleman by birth; a
younger brother of an old and respectable family in Gloucestershire.
He went into the navy at an early age from his own choice, and, as he
himself told me, in consequence of the deep impression and vivid
images left on his mind by the perusal of "Robinson Crusoe." It is
not my intention to detail the steps of his promotion, or the
services in which he was engaged as a subaltern. I recollect many
particulars indeed, but not the dates, with such distinctness as
would enable me to state them (as it would be necessary to do if I
stated them at all) in the order of time. These dates might perhaps
have been procured from the metropolis; but incidents that are
neither characteristic nor instructive, even such as would be
expected with reason in a regular life, are no part of my plan; while
those which are both interesting and illustrative I have been
precluded from mentioning, some from motives which have been already
explained, and others from still higher considerations. The most
important of these may be deduced from a reflection with which he
himself once concluded a long and affecting narration: namely, that
no body of men can for any length of time be safely treated otherwise
than as rational beings; and that, therefore, the education of the
lower classes was of the utmost consequence to the permanent security
of the empire, even for the sake of our navy. The dangers,
apprehended from the education of the lower classes, arose (he said)
entirely from its not being universal, and from the unusualness in
the lowest classes of those accomplishments which he, like Dr. Bell,
regarded as one of the means of education, and not as education
itself. If, he observed, the lower classes in general possessed but
one eye or one arm, the few who were so fortunate as to possess two
would naturally become vain and restless, and consider themselves as
entitled to a higher situation. He illustrated this by the faults
attributed to learned women, and that the same objections were
formerly made to educating women at all; namely, that their knowledge
made them vain, affected, and neglectful of their proper duties. Now
that all women of condition are well educated, we hear no more of
these apprehensions, or observe any instances to justify them. Yet
if a lady understood the Greek one-tenth part as well as the whole
circle of her acquaintances understood the French language, it would
not surprise us to find her less pleasing from the consciousness of
her superiority in the possession of an unusual advantage. Sir
Alexander Ball quoted the speech of an old admiral, one of whose two
great wishes was to have a ship's crew composed altogether of serious
Scotchmen. He spoke with great reprobation of the vulgar notion, the
worse man the better sailor. Courage, he said, was the natural
product of familiarity with danger, which thoughtlessness would
oftentimes turn into fool-hardiness; and that he always found the
most usefully brave sailors the gravest and most rational of his
crew. The best sailor he had ever had, first attracted his notice by
the anxiety which he expressed concerning the means of remitting some
money, which he had received in the West Indies, to his sister in
England; and this man, without any tinge of Methodism, was never
heard to swear an oath, and was remarkable for the firmness with
which he devoted a part of every Sunday to the reading of his Bible.
I record this with satisfaction as a testimony of great weight, and
in all respects unexceptionable; for Sir Alexander Ball's opinions
throughout life remained unwarped by zealotry, and were those of a
mind seeking after truth, in calmness and complete self-possession.
He was much pleased with an unsuspicious testimony furnished by
Dampier (vol. ii. part 2, page 89): "I have particularly observed,"
writes this famous old navigator, "there and in other places, that
such as had been well-bred were generally most careful to improve
their time, and would be very industrious and frugal where there was
any probability of considerable gain; but on the contrary, such as
had been bred up in ignorance and hard labour, when they came to have
plenty would extravagantly squander away their time and money in
drinking and making a bluster." Indeed it is a melancholy proof how
strangely power warps the minds of ordinary men, that there can be a
doubt on this subject among persons who have been themselves
educated. It tempts a suspicion that, unknown to themselves, they
find a comfort in the thought, that their inferiors are something
less than men; or that they have an uneasy half-consciousness that,
if this were not the case, they would themselves have no claim to be
their superiors. For a sober education naturally inspires self-
respect. But he who respects himself will respect others; and he who
respects both himself and others, must of necessity be a brave man.
The great importance of this subject, and the increasing interest
which good men of all denominations feel in the bringing about of a
national education, must be my excuse for having entered so minutely
into Sir Alexander Ball's opinions on this head, in which, however, I
am the more excusable, being now on that part of his life which I am
obliged to leave almost a blank.

During his lieutenancy, and after he had perfected himself in the
knowledge and duties of a practical sailor, he was compelled by the
state of his health to remain in England for a considerable length of
time. Of this he industriously availed himself to the acquirement of
substantial knowledge from books; and during his whole life
afterwards, he considered those as his happiest hours, which, without
any neglect of official or professional duty, he could devote to
reading. He preferred, indeed he almost confined himself to,
history, political economy, voyages and travels, natural history, and
latterly agricultural works; in short, to such books as contain
specific facts or practical principles capable of specific
application. His active life, and the particular objects of
immediate utility, some one of which he had always in his view,
precluded a taste for works of pure speculation and abstract science,
though he highly honoured those who were eminent in these respects,
and considered them as the benefactors of mankind, no less than those
who afterwards discovered the mode of applying their principles, or
who realised them in practice. Works of amusement, as novels, plays,
etc., did not appear even to amuse him; and the only poetical
composition of which I have ever heard him speak, was a manuscript
poem written by one of my friends, which I read to his lady in his
presence. To my surprise he afterwards spoke of this with warm
interest; but it was evident to me that it was not so much the poetic
merit of the composition that had interested him, as the truth and
psychological insight with which it represented the practicability of
reforming the most hardened minds, and the various accidents which
may awaken the most brutalised person to a recognition of his nobler
being. I will add one remark of his own knowledge acquired from
books, which appears to me both just and valuable. The prejudice
against such knowledge, he said, and the custom of opposing it to
that which is learnt by practice, originated in those times when
books were almost confined to theology, and to logical and
metaphysical subtleties; but that at present there is scarcely any
practical knowledge which is not to be found in books. The press is
the means by which intelligent men now converse with each other, and
persons of all classes and all pursuits convey each the contribution
of his individual experience. It was, therefore, he said, as absurd
to hold book-knowledge at present in contempt, as it would be for a
man to avail himself only of his own eyes and ears, and to aim at
nothing which could not be performed exclusively by his own arms.
The use and necessity of personal experience consisted in the power
of choosing and applying what had been read, and of discriminating by
the light of analogy the practicable from the impracticable, and
probability from mere plausibility. Without a judgment matured and
steadied by actual experience, a man would read to little or perhaps
to bad purpose; but yet that experience, which in exclusion of all
other knowledge has been derived from one man's life, is in the
present day scarcely worthy of the name--at least for those who are
to act in the higher and wider spheres of duty. An ignorant general,
he said, inspired him with terror; for if he were too proud to take
advice he would ruin himself by his own blunders, and if he--were
not, by adopting the worst that was offered. A great genius may
indeed form an exception, but we do not lay down rules in expectation
of wonders. A similar remark I remember to have heard from a gallant
officer, who to eminence in professional science and the gallantry of
a tried soldier, adds all the accomplishments of a sound scholar and
the powers of a man of genius.

One incident, which happened at this period of Sir Alexander's life,
is so illustrative of his character, and furnishes so strong a
presumption, that the thoughtful humanity by which he was
distinguished was not wholly the growth of his latter years, that,
though it may appear to some trifling in itself, I will insert it in
this place with the occasion on which it was communicated to me. In
a large party at the Grand Master's palace, I had observed a naval
officer of distinguished merit listening to Sir Alexander Ball,
whenever he joined in the conversation, with so marked a pleasure
that it seemed as if his very voice, independent of what he said, had
been delightful to him; and once, as he fixed his eyes on Sir
Alexander Ball, I could not but notice the mixed expressions of awe
and affection, which gave a more than common interest to so manly a
countenance. During his stay in the island, this officer honoured me
not unfrequently with his visits; and at the conclusion of my last
conversation with him, in which I had dwelt on the wisdom of the
Governor's conduct in a recent and difficult emergency, he told me
that he considered himself as indebted to the same excellent person
for that which was dearer to him than his life. "Sir Alexander
Ball," said he, "has, I dare say, forgotten the circumstance; but
when he was Lieutenant Ball, he was the officer whom I accompanied in
my first boat expedition, being then a midshipman and only in my
fourteenth year. As we were rowing up to the vessel which we were to
attack, amid a discharge of musketry, I was overpowered by fear, my
knees trembled under me, and I seemed on the point of fainting away.
Lieutenant Ball, who saw the condition I was in, placed himself close
beside me, and still keeping his countenance directed toward the
enemy, took hold of my hand, and pressing it in the most friendly
manner, said in a low voice, 'Courage, my dear boy! don't be afraid
of yourself! you will recover in a minute or so. I was just the same
when I first went out in this way.' Sir," added the officer to me,
"it was as if an angel had put a new soul into me. With the feeling
that I was not yet dishonoured, the whole burden of agony was
removed, and from that moment I was as fearless and forward as the
oldest of the boat's crew, and on our return the lieutenant spoke
highly of me to our captain. I am scarcely less convinced of my own
being than that I should have been what I tremble to think of, if,
instead of his humane encouragement, he had at that moment scoffed,
threatened, or reviled me. And this was the more kind in him,
because, as I afterwards understood, his own conduct in his first
trial had evinced to all appearances the greatest fearlessness, and
that he said this, therefore, only to give me heart and restore me to
my own good opinion."

This anecdote, I trust, will have some weight with those who may have
lent an ear to any of those vague calumnies from which no naval
commander can secure his good name, who knowing the paramount
necessity of regularity and strict discipline in a ship of war,
adopts an appropriate plan for the attainment of these objects, and
remains constant and immutable in the execution. To an Athenian,
who, in praising a public functionary, had said, that every one
either applauded him or left him without censure, a philosopher
replied, "How seldom then must he have done his duty!"

Of Sir Alexander Ball's character, as Captain Ball, of his measures
as a disciplinarian, and of the wise and dignified principle on which
he grounded those measures, I have already spoken in a former part of
this work, and must content myself therefore with entreating the
reader to re-peruse that passage as belonging to this place, and as a
part of the present narration. Ah! little did I expect at the time I
wrote that account, that the motives of delicacy, which then impelled
me to withhold the name, would so soon be exchanged for the higher
duty which now justifies me in adding it! At the thought of such
events the language of a tender superstition is the voice of nature
itself, and those facts alone presenting themselves to our memory
which had left an impression on our hearts, we assent to, and adopt
the poet's pathetic complaint:-

O sir! the good die first,
And those whose hearts are dry as summer dust
Burn to the socket.

Thus the humane plan described in the pages now referred to, that a
system in pursuance of which the captain of a man-of-war uniformly
regarded his sentences not as dependent on his own will, or to be
affected by the state of his feelings at the moment, but as the pre-
established determinations of known laws, and himself as the voice of
the law in pronouncing the sentence, and its delegate in enforcing
the execution, could not but furnish occasional food to the spirit of
detraction, must be evident to every reflecting mind. It is indeed
little less than impossible, that he, who in order to be effectively
humane determines to be inflexibly just, and who is inexorable to his
own feelings when they would interrupt the course of justice; who
looks at each particular act by the light of all its consequences,
and as the representative of ultimate good or evil; should not
sometimes be charged with tyranny by weak minds. And it is too
certain that the calumny will be willingly believed and eagerly
propagated by all those who would shun the presence of an eye keen in
the detection of imposture, incapacity, and misconduct, and of a
resolution as steady in their exposure. We soon hate the man whose
qualities we dread, and thus have a double interest, an interest of
passion as well as of policy, in decrying and defaming him. But good
men will rest satisfied with the promise made to them by the Divine
Comforter, that by her children shall Wisdom be justified.


- the generous spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, doom'd to go in company with pain,
And fear and bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate.

At the close of the American war, Captain Ball was entrusted with the
protection and convoying of an immense mercantile fleet to America,
and by his great prudence and unexampled attention to the interests
of all and each, endeared his name to the American merchants, and
laid the foundation of that high respect and predilection which both
the Americans and their government ever afterwards entertained for
him. My recollection does not enable me to attempt any accuracy in
the date or circumstances, or to add the particulars of his services
in the West Indies and on the coast of America, I now therefore
merely allude to the fact with a prospective reference to opinions
and circumstances, which I shall have to mention hereafter. Shortly
after the general peace was established, Captain Ball, who was now a
married man, passed some time with his lady in France, and, if I
mistake not, at Nantes. At the same time, and in the same town,
among the other English visitors, Lord (then Captain) Nelson happened
to be one. In consequence of some punctilio, as to whose business it
was to pay the compliment of the first call, they never met, and this
trifling affair occasioned a coldness between the two naval
commanders, or in truth a mutual prejudice against each other. Some
years after, both their ships being together close off Minorca and
near Port Mahon, a violent storm nearly disabled Lord Nelson's
vessel, and in addition to the fury of the wind, it was night time
and the thickest darkness. Captain Ball, however, brought his vessel
at length to Nelson's assistance, took his ship in tow, and used his
best endeavours to bring her and his own vessel into Port Mahon. The
difficulties and the dangers increased. Nelson considered the case
of his own ship as desperate, and that unless she was immediately
left to her own fate, both vessels would inevitably be lost. He,
therefore, with the generosity natural to him, repeatedly requested
Captain Ball to let him loose; and on Captain Ball's refusal, he
became impetuous, and enforced his demand with passionate threats.
Captain Ball then himself took the speaking-trumpet, which the fury
of the wind and waves rendered necessary, and with great solemnity
and without the least disturbance of temper, called out in reply, "I
feel confident that I can bring you in safe; I therefore must not,
and, by the help of Almighty God, I will not leave you!" What he
promised he performed; and after they were safely anchored, Nelson
came on board of Ball's ship, and embracing him with all the ardour
of acknowledgment, exclaimed, "A friend in need is a friend indeed!"
At this time and on this occasion commenced that firm and perfect
friendship between these two great men, which was interrupted only by
the death of the former. The pleasing task of dwelling on this
mutual attachment I defer to that part of the present sketch which
will relate to Sir Alexander Ball's opinions of men and things. It
will be sufficient for the present to say, that the two men whom Lord
Nelson especially honoured, were Sir Thomas Troubridge and Sir
Alexander Ball; and once, when they were both present, on some
allusion made to the loss of his arm, he replied, "Who shall dare
tell me that I want an arm, when I have three right arms--this
(putting forward his own) and Ball and Troubridge?"

In the plan of the battle of the Nile it was Lord Nelson's design,
that Captains Troubridge and Ball should have led up the attack. The
former was stranded; and the latter, by accident of the wind, could
not bring his ship into the line of battle till some time after the
engagement had become general. With his characteristic forecast and
activity of (which may not improperly be called) practical
imagination, he had made arrangements to meet every probable
contingency. All the shrouds and sails of the ship not absolutely
necessary for its immediate management, were thoroughly wetted, and
so rolled up that they were as hard and as little inflammable as so
many solid cylinders of wood; every sailor had his appropriate place
and function, and a certain number were appointed as the fire-men,
whose sole duty it was to be on the watch if any part of the vessel
should take fire; and to these men exclusively the charge of
extinguishing it was committed. It was already dark when he brought
his ship into action, and laid her alongside L'Orient. One
particular only I shall add to the known account of the memorable
engagement between these ships, and this I received from Sir
Alexander Ball himself. He had previously made a combustible
preparation, but which, from the nature of the engagement to be
expected, he had purposed to reserve for the last emergency. But
just at the time when, from several symptoms, he had every reason to
believe that the enemy would soon strike to him, one of the
lieutenants, without his knowledge, threw in the combustible matter:
and this it was that occasioned the tremendous explosion of that
vessel, which, with the deep silence and interruption of the
engagement which succeeded to it, has been justly deemed the
sublimest war incident recorded in history. Yet the incident which
followed, and which has not, I believe, been publicly made known, is
scarcely less impressive, though its sublimity is of a different
character. At the renewal of the battle, Captain Ball, though his
ship was then on fire in three different parts, laid her alongside a
French eighty-four; and a second longer obstinate contest began. The
firing on the part of the French ship having at length for some time
slackened, and then altogether ceased, and yet no sign given of
surrender, the senior lieutenant came to Captain Ball and informed
him, that the hearts of his men were as good as ever, but that they
were so completely exhausted that they were scarcely capable of
lifting an arm. He asked, therefore, whether, as the enemy had now
ceased firing, the men might be permitted to lie down by their guns
for a short time. After some reflection, Sir Alexander acceded to
the proposal, taking of course the proper precautions to rouse them
again at the moment he thought requisite. Accordingly, with the
exception of himself, his officers, and the appointed watch, the
ship's crew lay down, each in the place to which he was stationed,
and slept for twenty minutes. They were then roused; and started up,
as Sir Alexander expressed it, more like men out of an ambush than
from sleep, so co-instantaneously did they all obey the summons!
They recommenced their fire, and in a few minutes the enemy
surrendered; and it was soon after discovered that during that
interval, and almost immediately after the French ship had first
ceased firing, the crew had sunk down by their guns, and there slept,
almost by the side, as it were, of their sleeping enemy.


- Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
But who, if he be call'd upon to face
Same awful moment, to which Heaven has join'd
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a lover, is attired
With sudden brightness like a man inspired;
And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.

An accessibility to the sentiments of others on subjects of
importance often accompanies feeble minds, yet it is not the less a
true and constituent part of practical greatness, when it exists
wholly free from that passiveness to impression which renders counsel
itself injurious to certain characters, and from that weakness of
heart which, in the literal sense of the word, is always craving
advice. Exempt from all such imperfections, say rather in perfect
harmony with the excellences that preclude them, this openness to the
influxes of good sense and information, from whatever quarter they
might come, equally characterised both Lord Nelson and Sir Alexander
Ball, though each displayed it in the way best suited to his natural
temper. The former with easy hand collected, as it passed by him,
whatever could add to his own stores, appropriated what he could
assimilate, and levied subsidies of knowledge from all the accidents
of social life and familiar intercourse. Even at the jovial board,
and in the height of unrestrained merriment, a casual suggestion,
that flashed a new light on his mind, changed the boon companion into
the hero and the man of genius; and with the most graceful transition
he would make his company as serious as himself. When the taper of
his genius seemed extinguished, it was still surrounded by an
inflammable atmosphere of its own, and rekindled at the first
approach of light, and not seldom at a distance which made it seem to
flame up self-revived. In Sir Alexander Ball, the same excellence
was more an affair of system; and he would listen, even to weak men,
with a patience, which, in so careful an economist of time, always
demanded my admiration, and not seldom excited my wonder. It was one
of his maxims, that a man may suggest what he cannot give; adding,
that a wild or silly plan had more than once, from the vivid sense or
distinct perception of its folly, occasioned him to see what ought to
be done in a new light, or with a clearer insight. There is, indeed,
a hopeless sterility, a mere negation of sense and thought, which,
suggesting neither difference nor contrast, cannot even furnish hints
for recollection. But on the other hand, there are minds so
whimsically constituted, that they may sometimes be profitably
interpreted by contraries, a process of which the great Tycho Brahe
is said to have availed himself in the case of the little Lackwit,
who used to sit and mutter at his feet while he was studying. A mind
of this sort we may compare to a magnetic needle, the poles of which
have been suddenly reversed by a flash of lightning, or other more
obscure accident of nature. It may be safely concluded, that to
those whose judgment or information he respected, Sir Alexander Ball
did not content himself with giving access and attention. No! he
seldom failed of consulting them whenever the subject permitted any
disclosure; and where secrecy was necessary, he well knew how to
acquire their opinion without exciting even a conjecture concerning
his immediate object.

Yet, with all this readiness of attention, and with all this zeal in
collecting the sentiments of the well informed, never was a man more
completely uninfluenced by authority than Sir Alexander Ball, never
one who sought less to tranquillise his own doubts by the mere
suffrage and coincidence of others. The ablest suggestions had no
conclusive weight with him, till he had abstracted the opinion from
its author, till he had reduced it into a part of his own mind. The
thoughts of others were always acceptable, as affording him at least
a chance of adding to his materials for reflection; but they never
directed his judgment, much less superseded it. He even made a point
of guarding against additional confidence in the suggestions of his
own mind, from finding that a person of talents had formed the same
conviction; unless the person, at the same time, furnished some new
argument, or had arrived at the same conclusion by a different road.
On the latter circumstance he set an especial value, and, I may
almost say, courted the company and conversation of those whose
pursuits had least resembled his own, if he thought them men of clear
and comprehensive faculties. During the period of our intimacy,
scarcely a week passed in which he did not desire me to think on some
particular subject, and to give him the result in writing. Most
frequently, by the time I had fulfilled his request he would have
written down his own thoughts; and then, with the true simplicity of
a great mind, as free from ostentation as it was above jealousy, he
would collate the two papers in my presence, and never expressed more
pleasure than in the few instances in which I had happened to light
on all the arguments and points of view which had occurred to
himself, with some additional reasons which had escaped him. A
single new argument delighted him more than the most perfect
coincidence, unless, as before stated, the train of thought had been
very different from his own, and yet just and logical. He had one
quality of mind, which I have heard attributed to the late Mr. Fox,
that of deriving a keen pleasure from clear and powerful reasoning
for its own sake--a quality in the intellect which is nearly
connected with veracity and a love of justice in the moral character.

Valuing in others merits which he himself possessed, Sir Alexander
Ball felt no jealous apprehension of great talent. Unlike those
vulgar functionaries, whose place is too big for them, a truth which
they attempt to disguise from themselves, and yet feel, he was under
no necessity of arming himself against the natural superiority of
genius by factitious contempt and an industrious association of
extravagance and impracticability, with every deviation from the
ordinary routine; as the geographers in the middle ages used to
designate on their meagre maps the greater part of the world as
deserts or wildernesses, inhabited by griffins and chimaeras.
Competent to weigh each system or project by its own arguments, he
did not need these preventive charms and cautionary amulets against
delusion. He endeavoured to make talent instrumental to his purposes
in whatever shape it appeared, and with whatever imperfections it
might be accompanied; but wherever talent was blended with moral
worth, he sought it out, loved and cherished it. If it had pleased
Providence to preserve his life, and to place him on the same course
on which Nelson ran his race of glory, there are two points in which
Sir Alexander Ball would most closely have resembled his illustrious
friend. The first is, that in his enterprises and engagements he
would have thought nothing done, till all had been done that was

Nil actum reputans, si quid superesset agendum.

The second, that he would have called forth all the talent and virtue
that existed within his sphere of influence, and created a band of
heroes, a gradation of officers, strong in head and strong in heart,
worthy to have been his companions and his successors in fame and
public usefulness.

Never was greater discernment shown in the selection of a fit agent,
than when Sir Alexander Ball was stationed off the coast of Malta to
intercept the supplies destined for the French garrison, and to watch
the movements of the French commanders, and those of the inhabitants
who had been so basely betrayed into their power. Encouraged by the
well-timed promises of the English captain, the Maltese rose through
all their casals (or country towns) and themselves commenced the work
of their emancipation, by storming the citadel at Civita Vecchia, the
ancient metropolis of Malta, and the central height of the island.
Without discipline, without a military leader, and almost without
arms, these brave peasants succeeded, and destroyed the French
garrison by throwing them over the battlements into the trench of the
citadel. In the course of this blockade, and of the tedious siege of
Valetta, Sir Alexander Ball displayed all that strength of character,
that variety and versatility of talent, and that sagacity, derived in
part from habitual circumspection, but which, when the occasion
demanded it, appeared intuitive and like an instinct; at the union of
which, in the same man, one of our oldest naval commanders once told
me, "he could never exhaust his wonder." The citizens of Valetta
were fond of relating their astonishment, and that of the French, at
Captain Ball's ship wintering at anchor out of the reach of the guns,
in a depth of fathom unexampled, on the assured impracticability of
which the garrison had rested their main hope of regular supplies.
Nor can I forget, or remember without some portion of my original
feeling, the solemn enthusiasm with which a venerable old man,
belonging to one of the distant casals, showed me the sea coombe,
where their father Ball (for so they commonly called him) first
landed, and afterwards pointed out the very place on which he first
stepped on their island; while the countenances of his townsmen, who
accompanied him, gave lively proofs that the old man's enthusiasm was
the representative of the common feeling.

There is no reason to suppose that Sir Alexander Ball was at any time
chargeable with that weakness so frequent in Englishmen, and so
injurious to our interests abroad, of despising the inhabitants of
other countries, of losing all their good qualities in their vices,
of making no allowance for those vices, from their religious or
political impediments, and still more of mistaking for vices a mere
difference of manners and customs. But if ever he had any of this
erroneous feeling, he completely freed himself from it by living
among the Maltese during their arduous trials, as long as the French
continued masters of their capital. He witnessed their virtues, and
learnt to understand in what various shapes and even disguises the
valuable parts of human nature may exist. In many individuals, whose
littleness and meanness in the common intercourse of life would have
stamped them at once as contemptible and worthless, with ordinary
Englishmen, he had found such virtues of disinterested patriotism,
fortitude, and self-denial, as would have done honour to an ancient

There exists in England a gentlemanly character, a gentlemanly
feeling, very different even from that which is the most like it, the
character of a well-born Spaniard, and unexampled in the rest of
Europe. This feeling probably originated in the fortunate
circumstance, that the titles of our English nobility follow the law
of their property, and are inherited by the eldest sons only. From
this source under the influences of our constitution, and of our
astonishing trade, it has diffused itself in different modifications
through the whole country. The uniformity of our dress among all
classes above that of the day labourer, while it has authorised all
classes to assume the appearance of gentlemen, has at the same time
inspired the wish to conform their manners, and still more their
ordinary actions in social intercourse, to their notions of the
gentlemanly, the most commonly received attribute of which character
is a certain generosity in trifles. On the other hand, the
encroachments of the lower classes on the higher, occasioned, and
favoured by this resemblance in exteriors, by this absence of any
cognisable marks of distinction, have rendered each class more
reserved and jealous in their general communion, and far more than
our climate, or natural temper, have caused that haughtiness and
reserve in our outward demeanour, which is so generally complained of
among foreigners. Far be it from me to depreciate the value of this
gentlemanly feeling: I respect it under all its forms and varieties,
from the House of Commons to the gentleman in the shilling gallery.
It is always the ornament of virtue, and oftentimes a support; but it
is a wretched substitute for it. Its worth, as a moral good, is by
no means in proportion to its value, as a social advantage. These
observations are not irrelevant; for to the want of reflection, that
this diffusion of gentlemanly feeling among us is not the growth of
our moral excellence, but the effect of various accidental advantages
peculiar to England; to our not considering that it is unreasonable
and uncharitable to expect the same consequences, where the same
causes have not existed to produce them; and, lastly, to our
proneness to regard the absence of this character (which, as I have
before said, does, for the greater part, and, in the common
apprehension, consist in a certain frankness and generosity in the
detail of action) as decisive against the sum total of personal or
national worth; we must, I am convinced, attribute a large portion of
that conduct, which in many instances has left the inhabitants of
countries conquered or appropriated by Great Britain, doubtful
whether the various solid advantages which they derived from our
protection and just government, were not bought dearly by the wounds
inflicted on their feelings and prejudices by the contemptuous and
insolent demeanour of the English as individuals. The reader who
bears this remark in mind, will meet, in the course of this
narration, more than one passage that will serve as its comment and

It was, I know, a general opinion among the English in the
Mediterranean, that Sir Alexander Ball thought too well of the
Maltese, and did not share in the enthusiasm of Britons concerning
their own superiority. To the former part of the charge I shall only
reply at present, that a more venial, and almost desirable fault, can
scarcely be attributed to a governor, than that of a strong
attachment to the people whom he was sent to govern. The latter part
of the charge is false, if we are to understand by it, that he did
not think his countrymen superior on the whole to the other nations
of Europe; but it is true, as far as relates to his belief, that the
English thought themselves still better than they are; that they
dwelt on and exaggerated their national virtues, and weighed them by
the opposite vices of foreigners, instead of the virtues which those
foreigners possessed and they themselves wanted. Above all, as
statesmen, we must consider qualities by their practical uses. Thus,
he entertained no doubt that the English were superior to all others
in the kind and the degree of their courage, which is marked by far
greater enthusiasm than the courage of the Germans and northern
nations, and by a far greater steadiness and self-subsistency than
that of the French. It is more closely connected with the character
of the individual. The courage of an English army (he used to say)
is the sum total of the courage which the individual soldiers bring
with them to it, rather than of that which they derive from it. This
remark of Sir Alexander's was forcibly recalled to my mind when I was
at Naples. A Russian and an English regiment were drawn up together
in the same square: "See," said a Neapolitan to me, who had mistaken
me for one of his countrymen, "there is but one face in that whole
regiment, while in that" (pointing to the English) "every soldier has
a face of his own." On the other hand, there are qualities scarcely
less requisite to the completion of the military character, in which
Sir A. did not hesitate to think the English inferior to the
continental nations; as for instance, both in the power and the
disposition to endure privations; in the friendly temper necessary,
when troops of different nations are to act in concert; in their
obedience to the regulations of their commanding officers, respecting
their treatment of the inhabitants of the countries through which
they are marching, as well as in many other points, not immediately
connected with their conduct in the field: and, above all, in
sobriety and temperance. During the siege of Valetta, especially
during the sore distress to which the besiegers were for some time
exposed from the failure of provision, Sir Alexander Ball had an
ample opportunity of observing and weighing the separate merits and
demerits of the native and of the English troops; and surely since
the publication of Sir John Moore's campaign, there can be no just
offence taken, though I should say, that before the walls of Valetta,
as well as in the plains of Galicia, an indignant commander might,
with too great propriety, have addressed the English soldiery in the
words of an old dramatist -

Will you still owe your virtues to your bellies?
And only then think nobly when y'are full?
Doth fodder keep you honest? Are you bad
When out of flesh? And think you't an excuse
Of vile and ignominious actions, that
Y' are lean and out of liking?
CARTWRIGHT'S Love's Convert.

From the first insurrectionary movement to the final departure of the
French from the island, though the civil and military powers and the
whole of the island, save Valetta, were in the hands of the
peasantry, not a single act of excess can be charged against the
Maltese, if we except the razing of one house at Civita Vecchia
belonging to a notorious and abandoned traitor, the creature and
hireling of the French. In no instance did they injure, insult, or
plunder, any one of the native nobility, or employ even the
appearance of force toward them, except in the collection of the lead
and iron from their houses and gardens, in order to supply themselves
with bullets; and this very appearance was assumed from the generous
wish to shelter the nobles from the resentment of the French, should
the patriotic efforts of the peasantry prove unsuccessful. At the
dire command of famine the Maltese troops did indeed once force their
way to the ovens in which the bread for the British soldiery was
baked, and were clamorous that an equal division should be made. I
mention this unpleasant circumstance, because it brought into proof
the firmness of Sir Alexander Ball's character, his presence of mind,
and generous disregard of danger and personal responsibility, where
the slavery or emancipation, the misery or the happiness, of an
innocent and patriotic people were involved; and because his conduct
in this exigency evinced that his general habits of circumspection
and deliberation were the results of wisdom and complete self-
possession, and not the easy virtues of a spirit constitutionally
timorous and hesitating. He was sitting at table with the principal
British officers, when a certain general addressed him in strong and
violent terms concerning this outrage of the Maltese, reminding him
of the necessity of exerting his commanding influence in the present
case, or the consequences must be taken. "What," replied Sir
Alexander Ball, "would you have us do? Would you have us threaten
death to men dying with famine? Can you suppose that the hazard of
being shot will weigh with whole regiments acting under a common
necessity? Does not the extremity of hunger take away all difference
between men and animals? and is it not as absurd to appeal to the
prudence of a body of men starving, as to a herd of famished wolves?
No, general, I will not degrade myself or outrage humanity by
menacing famine with massacre! More effectual means must be taken."
With these words he rose and left the room, and having first
consulted with Sir Thomas Troubridge, he determined at his own risk
on a step, which the extreme necessity warranted, and which the
conduct of the Neapolitan court amply justified. For this court,
though terror-stricken by the French, was still actuated by hatred to
the English, and a jealousy of their power in the Mediterranean; and
in this so strange and senseless a manner, that we must join the
extremes of imbecility and treachery in the same cabinet, in order to
find it comprehensible. Though the very existence of Naples and
Sicily, as a nation, depended wholly and exclusively on British
support; though the royal family owed their personal safety to the
British fleet; though not only their dominions and their rank, but
the liberty and even the lives of Ferdinand and his family, were
interwoven with our success; yet with an infatuation scarcely
credible, the most affecting representations of the distress of the
besiegers, and of the utter insecurity of Sicily if the French
remained possessors of Malta, were treated with neglect; and the
urgent remonstrances for the permission of importing corn from
Messina, were answered only by sanguinary edicts precluding all
supply. Sir Alexander Ball sent for his senior lieutenant, and gave
him orders to proceed immediately to the port of Messina, and there
to seize and bring with him to Malta the ships laden with corn, of
the number of which Sir Alexander had received accurate information.
These orders were executed without delay, to the great delight and
profit of the shipowners and proprietors; the necessity of raising
the siege was removed; and the author of the measure waited in
calmness for the consequences that might result to himself
personally. But not a complaint, not a murmur, proceeded from the
court of Naples. The sole result was, that the governor of Malta
became an especial object of its hatred, its fear, and its respect.

The whole of this tedious siege, from its commencement to the signing
of the capitulation, called forth into constant activity the rarest
and most difficult virtues of a commanding mind; virtues of no show
or splendour in the vulgar apprehension, yet more infallible
characteristics of true greatness than the most unequivocal displays
of enterprise and active daring. Scarcely a day passed in which Sir
Alexander Ball's patience, forbearance, and inflexible constancy were
not put to the severest trial. He had not only to remove the
misunderstandings that arose between the Maltese and their allies, to
settle the differences among the Maltese themselves, and to organise
their efforts; he was likewise engaged in the more difficult and
unthankful task of counteracting the weariness, discontent, and
despondency of his own countrymen--a task, however, which he
accomplished by management and address, and an alternation of real
firmness with apparent yielding. During many months he remained the
only Englishman who did not think the siege hopeless, and the object
worthless. He often spoke of the time in which he resided at the
country seat of the grand master at St. Antonio, four miles from
Valetta, as perhaps the most trying period of his life. For some
weeks Captain Vivian was his sole English companion, of whom, as his
partner in anxiety, he always expressed himself with affectionate
esteem. Sir Alexander Ball's presence was absolutely necessary to
the Maltese, who, accustomed to be governed by him, became incapable
of acting in concert without his immediate influence. In the
outburst of popular emotion, the impulse which produces an
insurrection, is for a brief while its sufficient pilot: the
attraction constitutes the cohesion, and the common provocation,
supplying an immediate object, not only unites, but directs the
multitude. But this first impulse had passed away, and Sir Alexander
Ball was the one individual who possessed the general confidence. On
him they relied with implicit faith; and even after they had long
enjoyed the blessings of British government and protection, it was
still remarkable with what child-like helplessness they were in the
habit of applying to him, even in their private concerns. It seemed
as if they thought him made on purpose to think for them all. Yet
his situation at St. Antonio was one of great peril; and he
attributed his preservation to the dejection which had now begun to
prey on the spirits of the French garrison, and which rendered them
unenterprising and almost passive, aided by the dread which the
nature of the country inspired. For subdivided as it was into small
fields, scarcely larger than a cottage garden, and each of these
little squares of land inclosed with substantial stone walls; these
too from the necessity of having the fields perfectly level, rising
in tiers above each other; the whole of the inhabited part of the
island was an effective fortification for all the purposes of
annoyance and offensive warfare. Sir Alexander Ball exerted himself
successfully in procuring information respecting the state and temper
of the garrison, and, by the assistance of the clergy and the almost
universal fidelity of the Maltese, contrived that the spies in the
pay of the French should be in truth his own confidential agents. He
had already given splendid proofs that he could outfight them; but
here, and in his after diplomatic intercourse previous to the
recommencement of the war, he likewise outwitted them. He once told
me with a smile, as we were conversing on the practice of laying
wagers, that he was sometimes inclined to think that the final
perseverance in the siege was not a little indebted to several
valuable bets of his own, he well knowing at the time, and from
information which himself alone possessed, that he should certainly
lose them. Yet this artifice had a considerable effect in suspending
the impatience of the officers, and in supplying topics for dispute
and conversation. At length, however, the two French frigates, the
sailing of which had been the subject of these wagers, left the great
harbour on the 24th of August, 1800, with a part of the garrison:
and one of them soon became a prize to the English. Sir Alexander
Ball related to me the circumstances which occasioned the escape of
the other; but I do not recollect them with sufficient accuracy to
dare repeat them in this place. On the 15th of September following,
the capitulation was signed, and after a blockade of two years the
English obtained possession of Valetta, and remained masters of the
whole island and its dependencies.

Anxious not to give offence, but more anxious to communicate the
truth, it is not without pain that I find myself under the moral
obligation of remonstrating against the silence concerning Sir
Alexander Ball's services or the transfer of them to others. More
than once has the latter aroused my indignation in the reported
speeches of the House of Commons: and as to the former, I need only
state that in Rees's Encyclopaedia there is an historical article of
considerable length under the word Malta, in which Sir Alexander's
name does not once occur! During a residence of eighteen months in
that island, I possessed and availed myself of the best possible
means of information, not only from eye-witnesses, but likewise from
the principal agents themselves. And I now thus publicly and
unequivocally assert, that to Sir A. Ball pre-eminently--and if I had
said, to Sir A. Ball alone, the ordinary use of the word under such
circumstances would bear me out--the capture and the preservation of
Malta were owing, with every blessing that a powerful mind and a wise
heart could confer on its docile and grateful inhabitants. With a
similar pain I proceed to avow my sentiments on this capitulation, by
which Malta was delivered up to his Britannic Majesty and his allies,
without the least mention made of the Maltese. With a warmth
honourable both to his head and his heart, Sir Alexander Ball
pleaded, as not less a point of sound policy than of plain justice,
that the Maltese, by some representative, should be made a party in
the capitulation, and a joint subscriber in the signature. They had
never been the slaves or the property of the Knights of St. John, but
freemen and the true landed proprietors of the country, the civil and
military government of which, under certain restrictions, had been
vested in that Order; yet checked by the rights and influences of the
clergy and the native nobility, and by the customs and ancient laws
of the island. This trust the Knights had, with the blackest treason
and the most profligate perjury, betrayed and abandoned. The right
of government of course reverted to the landed proprietors and the
clergy. Animated by a just sense of this right, the Maltese had
risen of their own accord, had contended for it in defiance of death
and danger, had fought bravely, and endured patiently. Without
undervaluing the military assistance afterwards furnished by Great
Britain (though how scanty this was before the arrival of General
Pigot is well known), it remains undeniable, that the Maltese had
taken the greatest share both in the fatigues and in the privations
consequent on the siege; and that had not the greatest virtues and
the most exemplary fidelity been uniformly displayed by them, the
English troops (they not being more numerous than they had been for
the greater part of the two years) could not possibly have remained
before the fortifications of Valetta, defended as that city was by a
French garrison that greatly outnumbered the British besiegers.
Still less could there have been the least hope of ultimate success;
as if any part of the Maltese peasantry had been friendly to the
French, or even indifferent, if they had not all indeed been most
zealous and persevering in their hostility towards them, it would
have been impracticable so to blockade that island as to have
precluded the arrival of supplies. If the siege had proved
unsuccessful, the Maltese were well aware that they should be exposed
to all the horrors which revenge and wounded pride could dictate to
an unprincipled, rapacious, and sanguinary soldiery; and now that
success has crowned their efforts, is this to be their reward, that
their own allies are to bargain for them with the French as for a
herd of slaves, whom the French had before purchased from a former
proprietor? If it be urged, that there is no established government
in Malta, is it not equally true that through the whole population of
the island there is not a single dissentient? and thus that the chief
inconvenience which an established authority is to obviate is
virtually removed by the admitted fact of their unanimity? And have
they not a bishop, and a dignified clergy, their judges and municipal
magistrates, who were at all times sharers in the power of the
government, and now, supported by the unanimous suffrage of the
inhabitants, have a rightful claim to be considered as its
representatives? Will it not be oftener said than answered, that the
main difference between French and English injustice rests in this
point alone, that the French seized on the Maltese without any
previous pretences of friendship, while the English procured
possession of the island by means of their friendly promises, and by
the co-operation of the natives afforded in confident reliance on
these promises? The impolicy of refusing the signature on the part
of the Maltese was equally evident; since such refusal could answer
no one purpose but that of alienating their affections by a wanton
insult to their feelings. For the Maltese were not only ready but
desirous and eager to place themselves at the same time under British
protection, to take the oaths of loyalty as subjects of the British
Crown, and to acknowledge their island to belong to it. These
representations, however, were overruled; and I dare affirm from my
own experience in the Mediterranean, that our conduct in this
instance, added to the impression which had been made at Corsica,
Minorca, and elsewhere, and was often referred to by men of
reflection in Sicily, who have more than once said to me, "A
connection with Great Britain, with the consequent extension and
security of our commerce, are indeed great blessings: but who can
rely on their permanence? or that we shall not be made to pay
bitterly for our zeal as partisans of England, whenever it shall suit
its plans to deliver us back to our old oppressors?"


"The way of ancient ordinance, though it winds,
Is yet no devious way. Straight forward goes
The lightning's path; and straight the fearful path
Of the cannon-ball. Direct it flies and rapid,
Shattering that it may reach, and shattering what it reaches.
My son! the road the human being travels,
That, on which blessing comes and goes, doth follow
The river's course, the valley's playful windings,
Curves round the corn-field and the hill of vines,
Honouring the holy bounds of property!
There exists
A higher than the warrior's excellence."

Captain Ball's services in Malta were honoured with his sovereign's
approbation, transmitted in a letter from the Secretary Dundas, and
with a baronetcy. A thousand pounds were at the same time directed
to be paid him from the Maltese treasury. The best and most
appropriate addition to the applause of his king and his country, Sir
Alexander Ball found in the feelings and faithful affection of the
Maltese. The enthusiasm manifested in reverential gestures and
shouts of triumph whenever their friend and deliverer appeared in
public, was the utterance of a deep feeling, and in nowise the mere
ebullition of animal sensibility; which is not indeed a part of the
Maltese character. The truth of this observation will not be doubted
by any person who has witnessed the religious processions in honour
of the favourite saints, both at Valetta and at Messina or Palermo,
and who must have been struck with the contrast between the apparent
apathy, or at least the perfect sobriety of the Maltese, and the
fanatical agitations of the Sicilian populace. Among the latter each
man's soul seems hardly containable in his body, like a prisoner
whose gaol is on fire, flying madly from one barred outlet to
another; while the former might suggest the suspicion that their
bodies were on the point of sinking into the same slumber with their
understandings. But their political deliverance was a thing that
came home to their hearts, and intertwined with their most
impassioned recollections, personal and patriotic. To Sir Alexander
Ball exclusively the Maltese themselves attributed their
emancipation; on him too they rested their hopes of the future.
Whenever he appeared in Valetta, the passengers on each side, through
the whole length of the street, stopped, and remained uncovered till
he had passed; the very clamours of the market-place were hushed at
his entrance, and then exchanged for shouts of joy and welcome. Even
after the lapse of years he never appeared in any one of their
casals, which did not lie in the direct road between Valetta and St.
Antonio, his summer residence, but the women and children, with such
of the men who were not at labour in their fields, fell into ranks
and followed or preceded him, singing the Maltese song which had been
made in his honour, and which was scarcely less familiar to the
inhabitants of Malta and Gozo than "God save the King" to Britons.
When he went to the gate through the city, the young men refrained
talking, and the aged arose and stood up. When the ear heard then it
blessed him, and when the eye saw him it gave witness to him, because
he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and those that
had none to help them. The blessing of them that were ready to
perish came upon him, and he caused the widow's heart to sing for

These feelings were afterwards amply justified by his administration
of the government; and the very excesses of their gratitude on their
first deliverance proved, in the end, only to be acknowledgments
antedated. For some time after the departure of the French, the
distress was so general and so severe, that a large proportion of the
lower classes became mendicants, and one of the greatest
thoroughfares of Valetta still retains the name of the "Nix mangiare
stairs," from the crowd who used there to assail the ears of the
passengers with cries of "nix mangiare," or "nothing to eat," the
former word nix being the low German pronunciation of nichts,
nothing. By what means it was introduced into Malta, I know not; but
it became the common vehicle both of solicitation and refusal, the
Maltese thinking it an English word, and the English supposing it to
be Maltese. I often felt it as a pleasing remembrancer of the evil
day gone by, when a tribe of little children, quite naked, as is the
custom of that climate, and each with a pair of gold earrings in its
ears, and all fat and beautifully proportioned, would suddenly leave
their play, and, looking round to see that their parents were not in
sight, change their shouts of merriment for "nix mangiare," awkwardly
imitating the plaintive tones of mendicancy; while the white teeth in
their little swarthy faces gave a splendour to the happy and
confessing laugh with which they received the good-humoured rebuke or
refusal, and ran back to their former sport.

In the interim between the capitulation of the French garrison and
Sir Alexander Ball's appointment as His Majesty's civil commissioner
for Malta, his zeal for the Maltese was neither suspended nor
unproductive of important benefits. He was enabled to remove many
prejudices and misunderstandings, and to persons of no inconsiderable
influence gave juster notions of the true importance of the island to
Great Britain. He displayed the magnitude of the trade of the
Mediterranean in its existing state; showed the immense extent to
which it might be carried, and the hollowness of the opinion that
this trade was attached to the south of France by any natural or
indissoluble bond of connection. I have some reason for likewise
believing that his wise and patriotic representations prevented Malta
from being made the seat of and pretext for a numerous civil
establishment, in hapless imitation of Corsica, Ceylon, and the Cape
of Good Hope. It was at least generally rumoured that it had been in
the contemplation of the Ministry to appoint Sir Ralph Abercrombie as
governor, with a salary of 10,000 pounds a year, and to reside in
England, while one of his countrymen was to be the lieutenant-
governor at 5,000 pounds a year, to which were to be added a long
etcetera of other offices and places of proportional emolument. This
threatened appendix to the State Calendar may have existed only in
the imaginations of the reporters, yet inspired some uneasy
apprehensions in the minds of many well-wishers to the Maltese, who
knew that--for a foreign settlement at least, and one, too,
possessing in all the ranks and functions of society an ample
population of its own--such a stately and wide-branching tree of
patronage, though delightful to the individuals who are to pluck its
golden apples, sheds, like the manchineel, unwholesome and corrosive
dews on the multitude who are to rest beneath its shade. It need
not, however, be doubted, that Sir Alexander Ball would exert himself
to preclude any such intention, by stating and evincing the extreme
impolicy and injustice of the plan, as well as its utter inutility in
the case of Malta. With the exception of the governor and of the
public secretary, both of whom undoubtedly should be natives of Great
Britain and appointed by the British Government, there was no civil
office that could be of the remotest advantage to the island which
was not already filled by the natives, and the functions of which
none could perform so well as they. The number of inhabitants (he
would state) was prodigious compared with the extent of the island,
though from the fear of the Moors one-fourth of its surface remained
unpeopled and uncultivated. To deprive, therefore, the middle and
lower classes of such places as they had been accustomed to hold,
would be cruel; while the places held by the nobility were, for the
greater part such as none but natives could perform the duties of.
By any innovation we should affront the higher classes and alienate
the affections of all, not only without any imaginable advantage but
with the certainty of great loss. Were Englishmen to be employed,
the salaries must be increased fourfold, and would yet be scarcely
worth acceptance; and in higher offices, such as those of the civil
and criminal judges, the salaries must be augmented more than
tenfold. For, greatly to the credit of their patriotism and moral
character, the Maltese gentry sought these places as honourable
distinctions, which endeared them to their fellow-countrymen, and at
the same time rendered the yoke of the Order somewhat less grievous
and galling. With the exception of the Maltese secretary, whose
situation was one of incessant labour, and who at the same time
performed the duties of law counsellor to the Government, the highest
salaries scarcely exceeded 100 pounds a year, and were barely
sufficient to defray the increased expenses of the functionaries for
an additional equipage, or one of more imposing appearance. Besides,
it was of importance that the person placed at the head of that

Book of the day: