W. Cope Devereux's unhappy description of the Maltese Nobility in 1884
Extract from the Book: “FAIR ITALY, THE RIVIERA AND MONTE CARLO COMPRISING A TOUR THROUGH NORTH AND SOUTH ITALY AND SICILY WITH A SHORT ACCOUNT OF MALTA” BY W. COPE DEVEREUX, R.N., F.R.G.S. AUTHOR OF "A CRUISE IN THE 'GORGON' IN THE SUPPRESSION OF THE SLAVE TRADE" LONDON KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH & CO., 1, PATERNOSTER SQUARE, 1884:-
“The nobility, so-called, are seemingly content to live almost to themselves, as it were in the past, amongst their ancient ancestry (putting one in mind of Mr. and Mrs. German Reed's entertainment of "Ages Ago") rather than in the present and with the people surrounding them. They are reputed to be excessively mean and close, but perhaps they have but a scanty allowance to support their nobility, and therefore, by necessity, it is half starved.
A friend who has resided at Malta many years, related to me a little incident of his own experience. For once breaking through their usual reserve, an Englishman was invited to the funeral of one of the Maltese nobility; when, in accordance with the usual rites, a candle or taper is provided by the mourners, which is generally carried home by each as a memento, and perhaps as possessing some virtue from the priestly blessing. But the day after the funeral, much to his surprise and disgust, having simply taken it as a mark of respect to the family, he was requested to return the said candle, "which had only been lent to him."
There is, however, apart from the Maltese element, plenty of society at Malta, amongst the English community, governor, and Naval and Military officers. Indeed, in the season it is rather a gay place. There is, or used to be, a very good little opera-house, where some of the most eminent prima donnas (Spamezi and Pareppa, etc.) made their debût; for the society at Malta is supposed to constitute rather a critical audience; and if an artiste once succeeds in winning its approval, she may go to England without fear and trembling.”
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