Gibraltar as seen by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century celebrity writers
Daniel Defoe, An Impartial Account of the Late Famous Siege of Gibraltar (1728)
Daniel Defoe was the son of a struggling London butcher by the name of James Foe. At an early age he decided to change his surname to Defoe, possibly in an attempt to disassociate himself from his humble origins. Soldier, traveller, merchant and secret agent, Defoe combined an eventful life with the writing of over 560 books and pamphlets (including two tracts related to Britian’s newly-acquired possession in the Western Mediterranean — An Impartial Account of the Late Famous Siege of Gibraltar in 1728 and An Inquiry into the Pretensions of Spain to Gibraltar a year later). Among his most famous works are Robinson Crusoe (1719), Moll Flanders (1722) and Roxana (1724). He is considered by many to be the father of the modern English novel.
A comparison between the Spanish and English troops
As none can pretend to be better furnished with proper materials for it than myself (having been a witness to the following transactions) I am willing to oblige my country with a faithful account of the Siege of Gibraltar — a siege in which the honour and interest of the nation were greatly concerned, but have been justly adhered to. So that by the wisdom and bravery of the British officers and soldiers, the glory of English arms has been advanced as much as an affair of so confined a nature could possibly admit of, and the Spaniards will undoubtedly remember with some dread their attack and our defence of that valuable fortress for many years to come. The work was hot on both sides, much hotter than it seems in the general to be thought in this part of the world. And, to give the enemy their due, they understood their business too well and seemed as equal to the undertaking as any men that could have undertook it. They were bold and daring to the last degree, and at the same time acted with prudence and caution, which were an undeniable evidence of their being under the direction of able and experienced officers. They behaved with the utmost intrepidity and resolution and their bravery was their support in the greatest extremities. There was nothing wanting that men could effect; and had any other but British forces opposed their arms, their valour might perhaps have surmounted all difficulties and accomplished the enterprise (though an enterprise so desperate, as is not impossible to be exceeded by any thing but their renewing the attack, Gibraltar being much more impregnable than it was before.) To the effecting of this, the Jews were not a little serviceable, they wrought in the most indefatigable manner and spared no pains when they could be of any advantage, either in the siege or after it. The British troops earned with them a love for their country more invincible than the fort itself, and every soldier in the garrison showed the resolution natural to Englishmen when the honour of their prince and nation are so deeply engaged. Their bravery rendered them superior to all difficulties within (which were not a few); and the furious incessant attempts of their enemies without (which were abortive and in vain).
On death and burials during the siege
The dead men were expeditiously and regularly buried to prevent their being offensive and infectious — which otherwise they might soon have been in our warm situation. Those that died in the morning were buried in the evening, those that died in the evening were buried in the morning; and the same proportion of time was generally observed for the rest. But we had like to have been a little too hasty with a private man of Colonel Clayton’s regiment — who, going off duty, fell down in the way to his quarters and seemed to all appearances dead; in a few hours after which we wrapped him up in a cloth or blanket or what first came to hand, as the custom was, and had him away to the sands, that warm repository of all his fellows. We had dug the hole and was just tumbling him in, when, not liking his usage, he fell a grumbling; upon which we immediately opened the wrapper and, giving him air, he revived; upon this, he was lugged back to the hospital and he lived four and twenty hours after, when being sure of him we reconveyed him to the former apartment and heard no more of him.
One of our private men had been so frugal as to muster twenty shillings, and he was the only one of the deceased, of that degree, who had the favour of a coffin allowed him. He begged hard for it with his dying breath and, the will of the defunct being fulfilled for seventeen and six pence, his brother executor generously spent the remaining half crown among his comrades in honour of the testator. He had prayers said over him, and by a parson too, being a man of substance. Had he being a poor rogue, he might have been flipped in without, or, at most, been obliged to an amen‑man for it, as was often the case.
Many of our cannon proved bad, and some burst. By the last several of our people were wounded, and one killed on the spot. But none of these accidents, nor sickness, nor the fire of the enemy, would prove so kind to one gentleman among us as to give him that release he owed afterwards to his own hand. This was one Renault, a volunteer. He had, to his great misfortune, escaped death from his country’s enemies only to meet it himself. His money being all gone, and every application for relief proving ineffectual to answer his expense, he went from the company he had spent the last shilling in, though in so merry a disposition that ‘twas impossible they could suspect any thing of his design, and retiring to his chamber shot himself. He had done his work too well to admit of relief, and was dead before any body could enter his room.
On the question of Moors on the Rock
But to return to the siege — what the Spaniards found they could not do by force they endeavoured to have effected by fraud; and, feeling their batteries ineffectual, they had recourse to engines of a more silent nature — to artifice, treachery and the Moors. They managed this affair by way of Tetouan; and having got several into their interest within the fort to carry the matter so far, it is said, that not only the measures taken by the garrison for their defence were discovered to the enemy, but that a project was formed of giving them possession of the gate and betraying the town into their hands. Several were thought to be guilty, both among the Moors and the Jews; but it was not in the interest of the garrison to lay charges against all concerned; so ‘twas looked upon sufficient, since they had prevented its taking effect, only to make such public examples as might deter others from the like detestable design for the future.
Two Moors were to have been principal in executing this piece of treachery — and were proved to have been chief agents for the Spanish in promoting it. They alone therefore received the deserved reward of their villainy, and were put to death; after which they were displayed; and, to let the people within what was expected by those that should venture to engage in the like undertaking, their skins were nailed to the gates of the town, where they appeared in the same proportion as when alive; and being large gigantic fellows, as the Moors in general are, they were horrid ghastly spectacles. Nature had sent them into the world with their hides tanned so that the heat of the sun, which is very intense at Gibraltar, could add but little to their original dusk, but it had so hardened them, that they soon seemed equally solid with the gates themselves. After the siege they were much lessened by the curiosity of the people, who cut a great many pieces of them to bring to England, one of which, to gratify our readers, may be seen at Mr Warner’s, the publisher of this treatise.
On food and drink within the garrison
The inconveniences we laboured under by the dearness of fresh provisions were neither few nor inconsiderable. We had salt food in plenty, but the men not being used to such diet, it proved fatal to many, and threw them into distempers that destroyed a multitude. We had mutton from the Barbary Coast, but not under eight pence a pound, though ‘twas poor thin stuff without any fat; a goose, though lean, would fetch thirteen and sixpence, or fourteen shillings; and a chicken in the same condition, ten shillings; peas were five and eight pence a peck; and beans eight pence a pound, with the shells; small beer eight pence a quart; the strong beer of Bristol, sixteen pence a bottle, holding about a pint and a half. Fuel was excessively costly; charcoal, with which the men dressed their victuals, being sold at first for two pence halfpenny a pound; but one Randmore being imprisoned for extortion upon that account, it fell very considerably; but everything else kept up to an excessive price to the last. The wine was thought cheap, because (it was) five pence a pint, but was at the same time so miserably bad, that in England we should have thought it dear at two pence a quart.
It must not be forgot that the Duke of Wharton distinguished himself at this siege in a manner that was but little expected from a person of his known resolution. Being come to the camp, they persuaded him to go into the trenches, which one day he ventured to do, having first prepared himself by something more than his usual quantity of liquor; and he met with an accident that determined him not to run a second risk of that nature. A piece of a shell took him upon his instep, and laid his foot open to the very heel. This was a desperate wound and ‘twas once thought would have cost him his foot, but falling into good hands prevented an amputation, though it has entailed a lameness upon him which he’ll undoubtedly carry to his grave.
Francis Carter, A Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga, with a view of that Garrison and its environs (1777)
Francis Carter was one of history’s first known hispanophiles. An assiduous traveller and collector of Spanish books, he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in May, 1777 and went on to distinguish himself as an expert on all things Iberian. Contemporaries record that his private library contained almost every book printed in Spanish, while his collection of medallions, purchased from the Spanish antiquarian and businessman De Flores, was well known among the London intelligentsia. His only notable literary work was published in 1777 under the title of A Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga, with a view of that Garrison and its environs. It is generally believed that he was preparing a history of Spanish literature when he died in 1783.
Gibraltar is joined to the Continent by a neck of low and deep sand, of the same breadth as itself, but which widens considerably towards the Spanish lines: this isthmus is near a league long, and, with the opposite coast of Spain, forms a noble and safe bay eight miles over, in which ride vast fleets of merchant-men, who repair from all parts of the Mediterranean, and are here obliged to wait for an eastern wind, without which no ship can sail out of the straits. The hill is of such an irregular form, that, when you are near, you can never see it all from any one part: its head clearly faces the East; thence to the castle, and beyond Crouchet’s garden it fronts the North; forward is as far as the Signal-house to the North-West, where it takes a sharp turn, and continues to Europa Point due South: by reason of which oblique situation, when you approach the town from the inundation, you can see no farther of the rock than the castle, and even in the town your sight is bounded by Charles V’s wall; again, after you have passed the South gate and got upon the red sands, the town vanishes from you, and all the hill with it to the North of the Signal-house. The back of the rock is scalped and inaccessible, and it is this peculiar circumstance that forms its chief strength. The head of the rock of Gibraltar is almost perpendicular, and composed of a white stone which they burn for lime. The batteries facing Spain appear next: the Spaniards call this part of the hill, Una Boca de fuego. The remains of the Moorish Castle are close to them; directly under is Crouchet’s house and garden, where I resided fifteen months; lower down, and level with the water, is the grand battery, under which is the land gate: above the town appears the hospital for the army, and in it Bethlehem barracks, formerly a convent of Nuns; the admiralty‑house, in the time of the Spaniards a monastery of White Friars; and further on that of St. Francis, where resides the governor, the Spanish church is between them: lastly, under Charles the Vth’s wall, is the armory and new mole, of use in time of war; the red sands are very conspicuous. Mrs Webber’s pleasant house lies next on an eminence near the new barracks; between which and the naval hospital is the vineyard; the windmills and Europa Point finish the landscape.
This place having never been inhabited before the Mahometan era, no Roman Antiquities in Gibraltar can be expected in it: however, when we cross the river Guadiaro, I shall have occasion to take notice of two inscriptions brought thence, and employed somewhere by the Spaniards in the walls of the town. There are those who affirm they are placed in the fountain on the Grand Parade with the letters inwards: but this I know not how to credit, as the fountain has been frequently taken down and repaired since the residence of the English; and surely our military gentry, though seldom men of letters, could not have been so totally illiterate, as to follow the barbarous custom of the Moors by inverting these inscriptions, the sole monuments existing of an ancient town, and burying them in mortar and oblivion on a rock abounding with plenty of stones, that cost only the explosion of a little gunpowder.
Of the Arabs, the building most deserving our attention, and which indeed first presents itself to our view, is the Castle, situated pretty eminent on the north side of the hill. It consisted formerly, after the manner of the Moors, of a triple wall, descending down to the water side, the lowest of which has been long since entirely taken away, and the grand battery and water-port built on its site. Of the second wall only the foundations are to be traced; on them were erected Crouchet’s house and garden, and a line of private storehouses: the higher walls would have long since shared the same fate had they not been found by experience of infinite service in covering the town at the time of a siege, the marks of balls being visible in numberless places upon those facing the Spanish lines; two other walls form an oblong square, ascending up the hill, and terminating in an angle at the Torre del Hominage: within them nothing is to be seen but heaps of levelled ruins on which are now barracks for two companies of soldiers. The Torre del Hominage, in all Moorish castles, is the highest and most elevated tower, so called because therein the Alcalde used at the entrance into his government to take the oaths of fealty in the hands of the king or somebody appointed to represent him. That of this castle is entire, but has been long since shut up and made use of as a magazine for powder; under it is a parapet defended by a semicircular tower. The few other remaining buildings are quite in ruins: among those to be traced and worth our curiosity, is a little square building to the eastward, formerly a Mosque, which would have never been known for a place of devotion, were it not for an Arabick dedication on the wall, which imports in English: “To the God that pacifies, and the Peace-maker, to the God eternal, and that lasts for ever,/ To the God that lasts for ever, to the God that pacifies, and the Peace-maker.”
James Solas Dodd, The Ancient and Modern History of Gibraltar (1781)
James Solas Dodd was the son of Jago Mendozo Vasconcellos de Solis, a Spanish merchantman who was forced to flee his native Barcelona after killing the son of a high-ranking official in a duel, and Rebecca Dodd, the daughter of the English Captain who had helped Don Jago escape. At the age of twenty-four he entered the navy as surgeon’s mate of the hospital ship Blenheim and saw active service in the Devonshire and the St Albans. Returning to England at the end of the war, he practised as a surgeon in Gough Square, Fleet Street, and then in Suffolk Street, Haymarket. Never wholly at ease with civilian life, Dodd re-enlisted in the Navy in 1759 and, during the next four years, fulfilled the duties of master surgeon aboard the Hawke. He then took up residence in London and devoted himself to matters ‘chiefly in the literary line.’ A disastrous business trip to Riga in 1781 left him on the verge of bankruptcy and he was forced to work in Edinburgh for a while as an actor, lecturer and translator. He is mainly remembered as the author of the series of lectures delivered in 1766 in the Great Room of the Exeter Exchange and published under the title A Satyrical Lecture on Hearts (1767). He also wrote poems, plays and occasional pieces of journalism, as well as The Ancient and Modern History of Gibraltar in 1781. He died in Mecklenburgh Street, Dublin, aged eighty-four.
Gibraltar, strictly speaking, means only the town so named; but in the common acceptation of the word, the whole mountain is included. In that sense Gibraltar is a large promontory, in the province of Andalusia in Spain, joined by a narrow neck of land, only three thousand ninety feet broad in its narrowest, and four thousand five hundred fifty feet in its widest part; and four thousand four hundred feet long, from the northern foot of the mountain, to where the neck widens to the continent of Spain. The extreme length of this peninsula, from the northern plain to the southernmost point, is two miles two thousand nine hundred forty feet; the extreme breadth of its base line is four thousand two hundred ninety-six feet; but from the new mole it narrows considerably, and is but twelve hundred eighty-four feet broad at Europa Point, the most southern extremity of Europe.
The town is on the west side of the mountain, at the northern extremity, occupying a small inclined plain of five thousand eight hundred twenty eight feet long; and cannot possibly increase in size, as it is bounded on the west and north by the bay, and on the south and east by the rising of the mountain.
The mountain is of a stupendous height, not with a sudden elevation, but by hill placed upon hill. The first rises more than five hundred feet above the town, and is intended so as to form no less than fifteen eminencies, with steep declivities between them. Above them rises another ridge, about eight hundred twenty feet higher than the former; above this the mountain still advances in the air, so as to form, from its water level to its extreme summit, a perpendicular of near one mile. This is the state of the mountain on the west, towards the bay, of which it forms one side; but on the east, which is washed by the sea, its steep is so great, the mountains so craggy, and the pieces of rock so pendulous, as to be totally inaccessible, there not being the least shelter for the smallest vessel, nor a space of ground sufficient to contain three men. This account may be sufficient, to give an idea of this mountain in its original state; what improvements have since been made, and its present state, will come more regularly in the order of time. The first name by which this mountain was known, was that of Mons Calpe; and it continued to be so called till the incursions of the Arabs, in the year 713. As this mountain was part of Iberia (the ancient name of Spain) it was possessed by the Scythians at the first settlement of that country after the dispersion at Babel. In the infancy of shipping, and before a necessity of strong holds occurred, Calpe was of little or no value; there were no fertile plains thereon to invite the herdsmen, nor did it afford pasturage to any animals but the ibex, or rock-goat. At length, when the all-conquering Romans waved the banners of victory over Iberia, this mountain afforded a temporary asylum to some of the Boeticans, who for a while opposed the Roman arms: but they opposed in vain, famine forced them to surrender, and a Roman settlement was made to the west of Calpe without the bay, which settlement bore the name of Julia Traducta.
John Drinkwater, A History of the Siege of
John Drinkwater was born at Warrington in 1762. The son of an ex-navy surgeon, he joined the Royal Manchester volunteers at the age of fifteen and was almost immediately posted to Gibraltar. A scrupulous observer of the events unfolding around him, Drinkwater kept a detailed journal of the Franco-Spanish siege of the Rock (1779-1783) that was published upon his return to England in 1785. The book went through four editions in as many years and earned its author widespread admiration and a small fortune. In 1787 Drinkwater travelled to Gibraltar a second time with the second battalion of the Royal Regiment of foot. He was publicly thanked by General Eliott, now Lord Heathfield, for his book and was given sufficient funds to establish a Garrison Library. He subsequently accompanied his regiment to Toulon (where he acted as military secretary during the city’s English occupation) and then to Corsica (where he served as deputy-judge-advocate to the English forces stationed there). On his way back to England, he witnessed the Battle of Saint Vincent, which he later went on to describe in the anonymously-published A Narrative of the Battle of Saint Vincent. Now firmly settled in England, Drinkwater began a steady rise through the ranks of the military establishment that reached its peak when he was offered the under-secretaryship of state for war in 1807. He changed his surname to Bethune upon inheriting his brother-in-law’s estate, and was said to be preparing an enlarged edition of A History of the Siege of Gibraltar when he died, aged eighty-one, in January, 1844.
On the military situation halfway during the siege
The situation of the Garrison by this time was again become very interesting. The blockade was, if possible, more strict and vigilant than before. Chains of small cruisers were stationed across the Straits, at the entrance of the Bay, and on every side of the Rock; and the late disagreeable intelligence from Tangier seemed now confirmed, by our never having heard from that quarter during the month. What little assistance we therefore received came from Minorca; but the supplies from that place were so trifling and sold at such enormous prices that few were able to purchase them. We had not been favoured with a cargo of cattle for a long period: and the scurvy began to gain considerable ascendancy over the efforts of our surgeons. Our distresses, in short, promised to be more acute and fatal than those we had already experienced.
The enemy’s operations on the landside had been for many months so unimportant as scarcely to merit our attention. However, on the morning of the 1st of October we observed they had raised an epaulement, about 6 or 700 yards advanced from their lines. The preceding night our out-guards had been alarmed with an unusual noise on the neutral ground, like that of men at work: several large fires also appeared, and some attempts were made to bum our advanced barriers with devils, and other combustibles, which were soon thrown off without taking effect; and notice was given to the Lines, Landport, and other guards. This alarm, however, was not general in the Garrison. As the morning advanced, the noise ceased; and we discovered that they had set fire to the fishermen’s huts in the gardens; but when the day permitted us to examine further, we observed the above-mentioned work.
The epaulement was about thirty yards in extent, of a simple construction, composed of chandeliers, fascines, and a few sand-bags; and was erected near the windmill or tower on the neutral ground, distant about 1100 yards from our grand battery. The enemy’s guns were elevated and batteries manned; which, with other preparations in the lines, seemed to argue that they expected we should fire and were determined to oppose it. These appearances, probably, induced the Governor not to take any particular notice of their work in the day; but at night orders were sent to throw a few light balls to discover if they were making any addition. The inhabitants immediately took the alarm, upon being told that the enemy had thrown up an advanced work, and that their batteries were manned; and at night very few remained at the north end of the town.
It now seemed evident the enemy had determined on a more ferocious attack, in case the second blockade was unsuccessful: but we were at a loss to imagine what motives could influence them to act the opposite to the established mode of approaching a besieged garrison by erecting a work so distant and which had no connection with their established lines.
On the arrival of a ship laden with fresh fruit
Few articles ever arrived more seasonably than this cargo of fruit. The scurvy had made dreadful ravages in our hospitals, and more were daily confined: many however, unwilling to yield to the first attacks, persevered in their duty to its more advanced stages. It was therefore not uncommon, at this period, to see men who some months before were hale, and equal to any fatigue supporting themselves to their posts upon crutches, and with that assistance scarcely able to move along. The most fatal consequences, in short, to the Garrison, were to be apprehended from this terrible disorder, when this Dane was happily directed to our relief. The lemons were immediately administered to the sick, who devoured them with the greatest avidity. The salutary effects were almost instantaneous: in a few days men who had been considered as irrecoverable left their beds to congratulate their comrades on the prospect of once more becoming useful to their country.
Mr Caincross, a surgeon of great eminence, who was present at this time and the remaining part of the siege, has favoured me with the following information relative to the scurvy, and the mode of using this vegetable acid; which, with his permission, I insert for the benefit of those who may hereafter be under similar circumstances.
“The scurvy which attacked the Garrison of Gibraltar differed in no respect from that disease usually contracted by sailors in long voyages; and of which the immediate cause seemed to be the subsisting for a length of time upon salted provisions only, without a sufficient quantity of vegetables, or other fresh foods. The circumstance related in the Voyage of that celebrated circum-navigator, the late Lord Anson, of consolidated fractures disuniting and the callosity of the bone being perfectly dissolved, occurred frequently in our hospitals: and old sores and wounds opened anew from the nature of the disorder.
“Various antiscorbtitics were used without success, such as acid of vitriol, sour crout, extract of malt, essence of spruce, etc., but the only specific was fresh lemons and oranges, given liberally or, when they could not be procured, the preserved juice in such quantities, from one to four ounces per diem, as the patient could bear. Whilst the lemons were found, from one to three were administered each day as circumstances directed. The juice given to those in the most malignant state was sometimes diluted with sugar, wine, or spirits, but the convalescents took it without dilution. Women and children were equally affected, nor were the officers exempted from this alarming distemper. It became almost general at the commencement of the winter season, owing to the cold and moisture; and in the beginning of spring, when vegetables were scarce.
The juice was preserved by adding to sixty gallons of expressed liquor about five or ten gallons of brandy, which kept it in so wholesome a state that several casks were opened in good condition in the close of the siege. The old juice was not however so speedily efficious as the fruit, though, by preserving longer in its use, it seldom failed.”
On shortages during the siege
Though it was generally imagined in England, that the Garrison had been amply provided with every article and necessary of life when Sir George Rodney arrived with the transport and relief from England, our wants, in reality, were far from being supplied. In the articles of ammunition and salt provisions, the Garrison had probably as much as they could dispense with; but of fresh provisions, wine, fruits, sugar, etc., we began to find a great scarcity; and the price of what remained was consequently much enhanced. The assistance we received formerly from Barbary had now been suspended for several months; the Enemy seemed determined to prevent our deriving support from the element that almost surrounded us; and their cruisers were too numerous and vigilant to expect anything from the west. Thus situated, the Garrison turned their eyes on the island of Minorca, whence we had already received some very acceptable supplies, and whose situation, from the great scope of sea-room, offered a flattering probability of the boats being oftener able to escape the Enemy’s cruisers.
The productions of that island are various; and those articles which it did not afford, could be purchased from the prizes that were daily carried thither by the privateers. Several garrison-boats were therefore sent to Minorca, some of which returned, in the course of October, laden with the wine of that island, sugar (an article become exceedingly scarce), and cheese; with sometimes a few live stock. These articles were all sold by auction, according to a regulation established by the Governor, and, though they seldom were purchased by the lower ranks, yet afforded upon the whole a partial relief to the Garrison.
On the military Garrison
The present military establishment of Gibraltar consists of six companies of artillery, nine regiments of the line, and a company of artificers commanded by engineers; composing an army of upwards of 4000 men, officers included. Before the late bombardment the troops were quartered in the barracks at the Southward, and in quarters fitted up out of the old Spanish buildings in town. The officers were distributed in the same manner; but in case of reinforcements, and since government quarters were not sufficient for their accommodation, billet-money was allowed in proportion to rank, and the officers hired lodgings from the inhabitants.
The regiments, on their arrival in the garrison, are entitled to salt provisions from the stores in the following proportion. One ration for each sergeant, corporal, drummer, and private, consisting of 7 1b. of bread, delivered twice a week, beef 2 1b. 8oz, pork 1b, butter 10oz, peas half a gallon and groats 3 pints: every commissioned and warrant officer under Captain receives two rations, a Captain three, a Major and Lieutenant-Colonel four, a Colonel six. In times of profound peace, officers generally receive compensation in money for their provisions, or dispose of them to the Jews, of whom there are great numbers in the garrison and who are always ready to purchase, or take them in barter. The troops are paid in currency, which let the exchange of the garrison be above or below par, never varies to the non-commissioned and privates. A sergeant receives weekly, as full garrison-pay, one dollar, six reals, equal to nine-pence sterling, per diem; a corporal, and drummer, one dollar, one real, and five quartils, in sterling about six pence, per diem; and a private, seven reals, or four-pence half-penny sterling, per diem. Offices receive their subsistence according to the currency: thirty six pence per dollar is par. During the late bombardment, the exchange for a considerable time, was as high as forty-two pence, by which those gentlemen who were under the necessity of drawing for their pay, lost six-pence in ever; three shillings; and it seldom was lower than forty pence whilst the siege continued. The coins current in Gibraltar are those used in Spain. All accounts are kept in dollars, reals, and quartils: the two former, like the pound sterling, are imaginary, the latter is a copper coin.
On Gibraltarian curiosities
Amongst the natural curiosities of Gibraltar, the petrified bones found in the cavities of the rocks have greatly attracted attention of the curious. These bones are not found in one particular part, but have been discovered in various places at a considerable distance from each other. From the rocks, near Rosia Bay (without the lime-wall) great quantities of this curious petrification have been collected, and sent home for the inspection of naturalists. Some of the bones are of large diameter; and, being broken with the rock, the marrow is easily to be distinguished. Colonel James, in his description of Gibraltar, mentions an entire human skeleton being discovered in the solid rock, at the Prince’s Lines; which the miner blew to pieces: and in the mining of the late blockade, a party of miners, forming a cave at Upper All’s-well, in the lines, produced several bones that were petrified to the rock, and appeared to have belonged to a large bird: being present at the time, I procured several fragments, but in the bombardment of 1781 they were destroyed with other similar curiosities.
The hill is remarkable for the number of apes about its summit, which are said not to be found in any other part of Spain. They breed in inaccessible places, and frequently appear in large droves with their young on their backs, on the western face of the hill. It is imagined they were originally brought from Barbary by the Moors, as a similar species inhabit Mons Abyla, which, on that account, is generally called Ape’s-hill. Red-legged partridges are often found in coveys; woodcocks and teal are sometimes seen; and wild rabbits are caught about Europa and Windmill-hill. The garrison-orders forbid officers to shoot on the western side of the rock; parties, however, often go in boats round Europa Point to kill wild pigeons, which are numerous in the caves.
Eagles and vultures annually visit Gibraltar from Barbary, on their way to the interior parts of Spain. The former breed in the craggy parts of the rock, and, with the hawk, are often seen towering round its summit. Moschetoes are exceedingly troublesome towards the close of Summer, and locusts are sometimes found. The scorpion, centipes, and other venomous reptiles abound among the rocks and old buildings; and the harmless green lizard and snake are frequently caught by the soldiers who, after drawing their teeth, treat them with every mark of fondness.
With regard to the climate of Gibraltar, the inhabitants breathe a temperate and wholesome air for most part of the year. The Summer months of June, July and August, are exceedingly warm, with a perpetual serene and clear sky: the heat is however allayed, in a great measure, by a constant refreshing breeze from the sea, which usually sets in about ten in the forenoon, continuing till almost sunset; due to its invigorating and agreeable coolness, it is emphatically called the Doctor. The cold in winter is not so excessive as in the neighbouring parts of the country. Snow falls but seldom, and ice is a rarity: yet the Grenadian mountains in Spain, and the lofty mountains in Africa, have snow lying on them for several months. Heavy rains, high winds, and most tremendous thunder, with dreadfully-vivid lightning, are the attendants on December and January. The rain then pours down in torrents from the hill, and descending with great rapidity, often chokes up the drains with large stones and rubbish, and sometimes does great injury to the works; but these storms never are of long duration; the sky soon clears up; the heavy clouds disperse; the cheering sun appears, and sufficiently compensates for the horrors of the preceding night. It is during this season that the water that serves the garrison for the ensuing summer is collected. The aqueduct, which conducts it to the Fountain in the centre of the town, is extremely well executed; and was constructed by a Jesuit, when the Spaniards were in possession of Gibraltar. It is erected against the bank of sand, without South port beginning to the southward of the eight-gun bastion, and, collecting the rain-water that filters through the sand, conducts it to the South port, and thence to the Fountain. The water, thus strained and purified, is remarkably clear and wholesome.
On the end of the hostilities
The duke, on the 5th, informed the governor that the blockade by sea was discontinued; in consequence of which, a placard was published in the garrison, signifying that the port of Gibraltar was again open. About noon, an elevated gun was wantonly fired over their works, which was the last shot fired in this siege.
This return of tranquillity, this prospect of plenty, and relief from the daily vexations of so tedious a siege, could not fail to diffuse a general joy throughout the garrison. Indeed, such feelings are seldom experienced; they baffle all attempts to describe them: far beyond the pleasure resulting from private instances of success or good fortune, ours was a social happiness; and the benevolent sentiments acted upon the heart with additional energy, on the prospect of meeting those as friends with whom we had been so long engaged in a succession of hostilities.
The duke, on the 6th, informed the governor that the preliminaries had been signed on the 20th of January at Paris, and that Gibraltar was to remain in the possession of Great Britain. From this period, operations on both sides were suspended; each party anxiously awaiting official accounts from England of the peace. Toward the close of the month, the duke began to withdraw some of the ordnance from the advanced batteries, and to remove materials from the parallel to the camp. The garrison, on the other hand, were employed in making repairs, and in arranging various matters, which could not before be attended to. Several ships, and a number of boats, arrived from England and Portugal; so that provisions became every day more abundant, and consequently the prices of articles more moderate.
In the beginning of March, a schooner arrived from Barbary, with a letter accompanying a present of bullocks for the governor. We were ignorant of the contents of the letter: but, it was imagined, the subject was to request a renewal of our friendship. Two officers and 24 Corsicans, who in their passage to Gibraltar had been chased ashore on the coast of Barbary by the Spaniards, arrived also in this boat. The former informed us, that, upon the commencement of the attack of the battering-ships on the preceding 13th of September, the Moors at Tangier repaired to their mosques, imploring Heaven on behalf of their old allies; and that, on receiving accounts of the defeat of the enemy, they made public rejoicing, and gave every demonstration of their affection for the English nation.
When the cessation of hostilities took place, parleys were almost daily passing between the governor and the duke; and the Spanish aides-de-camp never omitted expressing their surprise that the governor had not yet heard from England. Their patience as well as ours was nearly exhausted, when the long-expected frigate arrived on the 10th of March: but, for some time, even when she had got into the bay, she kept us in suspense, by steering close along the Spanish shore, and showing no colours. At length, however, the British ensign was displayed, and the anxious garrison saluted her with a general huzza. She was the Thetis frigate, Captain Blankett; and, soon after she anchored, Sir Roger Curtis (who had been knighted for his conduct on the 14th of September) landed with dispatches for the governor. The Duke de Crillon sent a parley to the garrison in the evening, which was answered the succeeding day. The subject of this correspondence probably was to appoint an interview between the generals, as, on the 12th, his Grace, attended by his suite, came down to the extremity of the western boyau, and sent an aide-de-camp to inform the governor he was arrived. General Eliott, attended by Lieutenant Koehler, his aide‑de‑camp, soon afterwards rode out by Lower Forbes’s, and was met by the Duke on the beach, half-way between the works and Bayside barrier. Both generals instantly dismounted and embraced. When the common salutations were over, they conversed about half an hour, and then returned to their respective commands. The cannon in the Spanish batteries were now all dismounted; and large parties were daily removing them, with ammunition, also various materials, from their post at the Devil’s Tower to the lines and camp. As their guards were now considerably diminished, numbers of deserters were daily coming over to the garrison. They were principally foreigners; and the reason they gave was a dislike to the Spanish service.
The duke, on the 18th, sent the governor a present of a grey Andalusian horse. The 22nd, the St. Michael man-of-war sailed for England, where she happily arrived safe. The day following, the governor, accompanied by General Green, the chief engineer, with their aides-de-camp, met the duke in the Spanish works: they were conducted by his Grace through the whole, and afterwards to the cave at the Devil’s Tower. The governor dined with the duke at San Roque, and returned in the evening. The 31st, the Duke de Crillon, accompanied by the Marquis de Saya, Prince de Mazarano, Counts de Jamaique and de Serano, Don ——, the intendant, and Captain Tendon, returned the visit. The governor received his Grace near Forbes’s; and on entering the garrison, a salute was fired of 17 pieces of cannon from the Grand battery. When the duke appeared within the walls, the soldiers saluted him with a general huzza; which being unexpected by his Grace, it was said greatly confused him. The reason, however, being explained, he seemed highly pleased with the old English custom, and, as he passed up the main street, where the ruinous and desolate appearance of the town attracted a good deal of his observation, his Grace behaved with great affability.
The officers of the garrison were introduced by corps to the duke, at the convent. When the artillery were mentioned, he received them in the most flattering manner: “Gentlemen,” said his Grace, addressing himself to them, “I would rather see you here as friends, than on your batteries as enemies, where,” added he, “you never spared me.” The duke afterwards visited the batteries on the heights. At Willis’s he made some remarks on the formidable appearance of the lower defences; observing, whilst he pointed towards the Old Mole battery, that, “had not his opinion been overruled, he should have directed all his efforts against that part of the garrison.” The good state of our batteries in so short a period produced some compliments to the chief engineer; and, when conducted into the gallery above Farringdon’s battery, his Grace was particularly astonished, especially when he was informed of its extent, which at that time was between 500 and 600 feet. Turning to his suite, after exploring the extremity, “These works,” he exclaimed, “are worthy of the Romans.” After dinner (at which were present the generals and brigadiers in the garrison, with their suites), he passed through the camp to Europa, each regiment turning out without arms, and giving three cheers. The youth and good appearance of the troops much engaged his attention. When his curiosity was gratified in that quarter, he returned, and was conducted about 8 o’clock without Land Port, being saluted with 17 cannon on his departure. His horse started at the flash of the guns, and almost, if not entirely, unhorsed him; but he escaped without being hurt. The duke, in the course of the conversation at dinner, paid many handsome compliments to the governor and garrison for their noble defence. “He had exerted himself (he said) to the utmost of his abilities; and, though he had not been successful, yet he was happy in having his sovereign’s approbation of his conduct.”
Before the Duke de Crillon entered the garrison, the Comte de Rufigniac, colonel in the French service (who, the reader may remember, was very pressing for admittance into the garrison some few days after the defeat of the battering-ships, and who, for the sole purpose of seeing the place, had remained behind his brigade), was admitted into the garrison without the duke’s knowledge; and, being in the Fleche at Land Port when the duke was approaching from Forbes’s, his Grace could not avoid seeing him. As he had entered without the duke’s permission, his Grace requested he might not see him at the convent; and the count, being informed of this, withdrew into the garrison, apparently much chagrined at the duke’s particularity. When his Grace returned, it was said, orders were given not to permit the count to go back by way of the lines. The following evening, however, after satisfying his curiosity in the garrison, he returned.
The 2nd of April the Duke de Crillon quitted the camp to repair to Madrid. He was succeeded in command by Lieutenant-General the Marquis de Saya, or Zaya, who had accompanied his Grace into the garrison, and (what was very singular) had served as an officer at the preceding siege of Gibraltar in 1727. Deserters still continued coming over to us, and the Spaniards were employed in removing materials from the neutral ground to the lines. Letters often passed between the marquis and General Eliott; but, though the latter requested to pay his compliments at San Roque, the etiquette observed by the former (orders having been received from Madrid to prevent all intercourse) would not for some time permit him to receive the governor. The 15th of April Sir Roger Curtis sailed in the Brilliant frigate on an embassy to the Emperor of Morocco: he took with him, as a present, four brass 26-pounders (which had been weighed from the wreck of the battering-ships), with proportional ammunition.
His Majesty having been pleased to confer upon the governor the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, as a mark of his royal approbation for the defence of Gibraltar; and having signified his pleasure by Sir Roger Curtis, that Lieutenant-General Boyd should act as his Majesty’s representative in investing General Eliott with the insignia of the order, which ceremony was to be performed in as splendid and magnificent a manner as the state of the garrison would permit; the engineers, soon after the arrival of the Thetis, began to erect a colonnade upon the rampart of the King’s bastion, that the honours might be conferred where the victory was gained. By the 23 rd of April (St. George’s Day) the colonnade was finished; and, every preparation for the ceremony being completed, the governor commenced by communicating to the troops the thanks of their king and country for their defence of Gibraltar. Detachments from all the regiments and corps, with all the officers not on duty, were assembled in three lines on the Red Sands at eight o’clock in the morning; and the governor taking post in the centre of the second line, and the usual compliments being paid, his Excellency addressed himself to the garrison as follows:
“Gentlemen — I have assembled you this day, in order that the officers and soldiers may receive, in the most public manner, an authentic declaration transmitted to me by the Secretary of State, expressing the high sense his Majesty entertains of your meritorious conduct in defence of this garrison. The King’s satisfaction upon this event was soon divulged to all the world, by his most gracious speech to both Houses of Parliament. The House of Lords and the House of Commons, not only made the suitable professions in their addresses to the throne, but have severally enjoined me to communicate their unanimous thanks by the following resolutions:
‘Resolved, nemine dissentientc, by the Lords spiritual and temporal, in Parliament assembled, that this House doth highly approve and acknowledge the services of the officers, soldiers, and sailors, lately employed in the defence of Gibraltar; and that General Eliott do signify the same to them.
Resolved, nemine contradicente, that the thanks of this House [Commons] be given to Lieutenant-General Boyd, Major-General de la Motte, Major-General Green, chief engineer; to Sir Roger Curtis, Knt., and to the officers, soldiers, and sailors, lately employed in the defence of Gibraltar.’
The governor then proceeded: “No army has ever been rewarded by higher national honours: and it is well known how great, universal, and spontaneous were the rejoicings throughout the kingdom upon the news of your success. These must not only give you inexpressible pleasure, but afford matter of triumph to your dearest friends and latest posterity. As a further proof how just your title is to such flattering distinctions at home, rest assured, from undoubted authority, that the nations in Europe and other parts are struck with admiration of your gallant behaviour: even our late resolute and determined antagonists do not scruple to bestow the commendations due to such valour and perseverance.
“I now most warmly congratulate you on these united and brilliant testimonies of approbation, amidst such numerous, such exalted tokens of applause: and forgive me, faithful companions, if I humbly crave your acceptance of my grateful acknowledgments. I only presume to ask this favour, as having been a constant witness of your cheerful submission to the greatest hardships, your matchless spirit and exertions, and on all occasions your heroic contempt of every danger.”
A grand feu-de-joie was then fired by the line, each discharge commencing with a royal salute of 21 guns. Three cheers closed the ceremony. The commander-in-chief, general and field officers afterwards withdrew; and the detachments (formed two deep) marched into town, and lined the streets leading from the convent, by the Spanish church and Grand Parade, to the King’s bastion.
Rudolf Erich Raspe, The surprising adventures of Baron Munchausen (1785)
Rudolf Erich Raspe was born at Hanover to Christian Theophilus Raspe, a government official with artistic pretences, and Luisa Catherina von Einem, the daughter of an aristocratic Prussian family. He graduated from the University of Göttingen in 1760 and soon afterwards obtained employment in the manuscript department of the Royal Library at Hanover. In 1767 he took over the curatorship of the 15,000 coins, medals and other curiosities in the collection of Frederick, the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. Increasing debt, brought about by Raspe’s extravagant lifestyle, led him to steal some of the landgrave’s antiquities and sell them on the black market. He was subsequently forced to abandon his native land and lead a peripatetic lifestyle that took him, among other places, to Holland, Italy and England. Although Raspe published a variety of scientific and learned tracts during his time — including articles on fossil elephants (1769), German marble quarries (1770), and the origin of basalt (1771) — he is best remembered for a slim forty-two page volume entitled The surprising adventures, miraculous escapes, and wonderful travels, of the renowned Baron Munchausen, who was carried on the back of an eagle over France to Gibraltar. Published anonymously in the mid-1780s, the work was not identified as Raspe’s until almost thirty years later, by which time it had become one of the nineteenth century’s foremost bestsellers. He died in 1794, of scarlet fever, and was buried at Killeaghy Chapel, near Killarney in Ireland.
During the late siege of Gibraltar I went with a provision fleet, under Lord Rodney’s command, to see my old friend General Eliott, who has, by his distinguished defence of that place, acquired laurels that can never fade. After the usual joy which generally attends the meeting of old friends had subsided, I went to examine the state of the garrison, and view the operations of the enemy, for which purpose the General accompanied me. I had brought a most excellent refracting telescope with me from London, purchased of Dollond, by the help of which I found the enemy were going to discharge a thirty-six pounder at the spot where we stood. I told the General what they were about; he looked through the glass also, and found my conjectures right. I immediately, by his permission, ordered a forty-eight pounder to be brought from a neighbouring battery, which I placed with so much exactness (having long studied the art of gunnery) that I was sure of my mark.
I continued watching the enemy till I saw the match placed at the touch-hole of their piece; at that very instant I gave the signal for our gun to be fired also.
About midway, between the two pieces of cannon, the balls struck each other with amazing force, and the effect was astonishing! The enemy’s ball recoiled back with such violence as to kill the man who had discharged it, by carrying his head fairly off, with sixteen others which it met with in its progress to the Barbary coast, where its force, after passing through three masts of vessels that then lay in a line behind each other in the harbour, was so much spent, that it only broke its way through the roof of a poor labourer’s hut, about two hundred yards inland, and destroyed a few teeth an old woman had left, who lay asleep upon her back with her mouth open. The ball lodged in her throat. Her husband soon after came home, and endeavoured to extract it; but finding that impracticable, by the assistance of a rammer he forced it into her stomach. Our ball did excellent service; for it not only repelled the other in the manner just described, but, proceeding as I intended it should, it dismounted the very piece of cannon that had just been employed against us, and forced it into the hold of the ship, where it fell with so much force as to break its way through the bottom. The ship immediately filled and sank, with above a thousand Spanish sailors on board, besides a considerable number of soldiers. This, to be sure, was a most extraordinary exploit; I will not, however, take the whole merit to myself; my judgment was the principal engine, but chance assisted me a little; for I afterwards found, that the man who charged our forty-eight pounder put in, by mistake, a double quantity of powder, else we could never have succeeded so much beyond all expectation, especially in repelling the enemy’s ball.
General Eliott would have given me a commission for this singular piece of service; but I declined everything, except his thanks, which I received at a crowded table of officers at supper on the evening of that very day.
As I am very partial to the English, who are beyond all doubt a brave people, I determined not to take my leave of the garrison till I had rendered them another piece of service, and in about three weeks an opportunity presented itself. I dressed myself in the habit of a Popish priest, and at about one o’clock in the morning stole out of the garrison, passed the enemy’s lines, and arrived in the middle of their camp, where I entered the tent in which the Prince d’Artois was, with the commander-in-chief, and several other officers, in deep council, concerting a plan to storm the garrison next morning. My disguise was my protection; they suffered me to continue there, hearing everything that passed, till they went to their several beds. When I found the whole camp, and even the sentinels, were wrapped up in the arms of Morpheus, I began my work, which was that of dismounting all their cannon (above three hundred pieces), from forty-eight to twenty-four pounders, and throwing them three leagues into the sea. Having no assistance, I found this the hardest task I ever undertook, except swimming to the opposite shore with the famous Turkish piece of ordnance, described by Baron de Tott in his Memoirs, which I shall hereafter mention. I then piled all the carriages together in the centre of the camp, which, to prevent the noise of the wheels being heard, I carried in pairs under my arms; and a noble appearance they made, as high at least as the rock of Gibraltar. I then lighted a match by striking a flint stone, situated twenty feet from the ground (in an old wall built by the Moors when they invaded Spain), with the breech of an iron eight-and-forty pounder, and so set fire to the whole pile. I forgot to inform you that I threw all their ammunition-waggons upon the top.
Before I applied the lighted match I had laid the combustibles at the bottom so judiciously, that the whole was in a blaze in a second. To prevent suspicion I was one of the first to express my surprise. The whole camp was, as you may imagine, petrified with astonishment: the general conclusion was that their sentinels had been bribed, and that seven or eight regiments of the garrison had been employed in this horrid destruction of their artillery. Mr. Drinkwater, in his account of this famous siege, mentions the enemy sustaining a great loss by a fire which happened in their camp, but never knew the cause. How should he? as I never divulged it before (though I alone saved Gibraltar by this night’s business), not even to General Eliott. The Count d’Artois and all his attendants ran away in their fright, and never stopped on the road till they reached Paris, which they did in about a fortnight; this dreadful conflagration had such an effect upon them that they were incapable of taking the least refreshment for three months after, but, chameleon-like, lived upon the air.
If any gentleman will say he doubts the truth of this story, I will find him a gallon of brandy and make him drink it at one draught.
About two months after I had done the besieged this service, one morning, as I sat at breakfast with General Eliott, a shell (for I had not time to destroy their mortars as well as their cannon) entered the apartment we were sitting in; it lodged upon our table: the General, as most men would do, quitted the room directly; but I took it up before it burst, and carried it to the top of the rock, when, looking over the enemy’s camp, on an eminence near the sea-coast I observed a considerable number of people, but could not, with my naked eye, discover how they were employed. I had recourse again to my telescope, when I found that two of our officers, one a general, the other a colonel, with whom I spent the preceding evening, and who went out into the enemy’s camp about midnight as spies, were taken, and then were actually going to be executed on a gibbet. I found the distance too great to throw the shell with my hand, but most fortunately recollecting that I had the very sling in my pocket which assisted David in slaying Goliath, I placed the shell in it, and immediately threw it in the midst of them: it burst as it fell, and destroyed all present, except the two culprits, who were saved by being suspended so high, for they were just turned off: however, one of the pieces of the shell fled with such force against the foot of the gibbet, that it immediately brought it down. Our two friends no sooner felt terra firma than they looked about for the cause; and finding their guards, executioner, and all, had taken it in their heads to die first, they directly extricated each other from their disgraceful cords, and then ran down to the sea-shore, seized a Spanish boat with two men in it, and made them row to one of our ships, which they did with great safety, and in a few minutes after, when I was relating to General Eliott how I had acted, they both took us by the hand, and after mutual congratulations we retired to spend the day with festivity.
John Galt, The Life of Lord Byron (1830)
John Galt was the son of a prosperous Scottish merchant. As a young man, he dabbled in business and law, but soon abandoned these pursuits in favour of a lengthy Mediterranean journey. He returned to England in 1811 and went on to publish a series of moderately successful novels, plays and history books. From 1827 to 1829 he was in Canada trying to develop a stretch of land between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario, but was forced to return to England when he run out of money. He arrived at Liverpool on 20 May, 1829, and was promptly arrested for bankruptcy. After his release three months later, he resumed writing and went on to publish the novels Lawrie Todd (1830) and Bogle Corbet (1831), as well as his famous Life of Lord Byron (1830). Towards the end of 1832 Galt suffered a stroke that left him unable to hold a pen, but he still carried working on his literary projects (including his much‑praised Autobiography) by dictating to his wife. He died on 15 April, 1839 in Greenock.
It was at Gibraltar that I first fell in with Lord Byron. I had arrived there in the packet from England, in indifferent health, on my way to Sicily. I had then no intention of travelling. I only went intending to return home after spending a few weeks in Malta, Sicily, and Sardinia; having, before my departure, entered into the Society of Lincoln’s Inn, with the design of studying the law.
At this time, my friend, the late Colonel Wright, of the artillery, was secretary to the Governor; and during the short stay of the packet at the Rock, he invited me to the hospitalities of his house, and among other civilities gave me admission to the garrison library.
The day, I well remember, was exceedingly sultry. The air was sickly; and if the wind was not a sirocco, it was a withering levanter — oppressive to the functions of life, and to an invalid denying all exercise. Instead of rambling over the fortifications, I was, in consequence, constrained to spend the hottest part of the day in the library; and, while sitting there, a young man came in and seated himself opposite to me at the table where I was reading. Something in his appearance attracted my attention. His dress indicated a Londoner of some fashion, partly by its neatness and simplicity, with just so much of a peculiarity of style as served to show that, although he belonged to the order of metropolitan beaux, he was not altogether a common one.
I thought his face not unknown to me; I began to conjecture where I could have seen him; and, after an unobserved scrutiny, to speculate both as to his character and vocation. His physiognomy was prepossessing and intelligent, but ever and anon his brows lowered and gathered; a habit, as I then thought, with a degree of affectation in it, probably first assumed for picturesque effect and energetic expression; but which I afterwards discovered was undoubtedly the occasional scowl of some unpleasant reminiscence: it was certainly disagreeable – forbidding, almost — but still the general cast of his features was impressed with elegance and character.
At dinner, a large party assembled at Colonel Wright’s; among others the Countess of Westmorland, with Tom Sheridan and his beautiful wife; and it happened that Sheridan, in relating the local news of the morning, mentioned that Lord Byron and Mr Hobhouse had come in from Spain, and were to proceed up the Mediterranean in the packet. He was not acquainted with either.
Hobhouse had, a short time before I left London, published certain translations and poems rather respectable in their way, and I had seen the work, so that his name was not altogether strange to me. Byron’s was familiar — the Edinburgh Review had made it so, and still more the satire of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, but I was not conscious of having seen the persons of either. On the following evening I embarked early, and soon after the two travellers came on board; in one of whom I recognised the visitor to the library, and he proved to be Lord Byron. In the little bustle and process of embarking their luggage, his Lordship affected, as it seemed to me, more aristocracy than befitted his years, or the occasion; and I then thought of his singular scowl, and suspected him of pride and irascibility. The impression that evening was not agreeable, but it was interesting; and that forehead mark, the frown, was calculated to awaken curiosity, and beget conjectures.
Hobhouse, with more of the commoner, made himself one of the passengers at once; but Byron held himself aloof, and sat on the rail, leaning on the mizzen shrouds, inhaling, as it were, poetical sympathy, from the gloomy Rock, then dark and stern in the twilight. There was in all about him that evening much waywardness; he spoke petulantly to Fletcher, his valet; and was evidently ill at ease with himself, and fretful towards others. I thought he would turn out an unsatisfactory shipmate; yet there was something redeeming in the tones of his voice, when, some time after he had indulged his sullen meditation, he again addressed Fletcher; so that, instead of finding him ill‑natured, I was soon convinced he was only capricious.
Washington Irving, Legends of the Conquest
of Spain (1835)
Washington Irving, the father of the American short story, was born at New York in 1783. He lived in Dresden (1822-23), London (1824) and Paris (1825) before settling in Spain, where he worked for the U.S. Embassy in Madrid (1826-29) and came to write Columbus (1828) and The Conquest of Granada (1829). His masterpiece, The Alhambra, was written during his second term of residence in London (1829-1832). A complex and highly passionate man, Irving had a brief affair with Mary Shelley before he returned to his homeland to continue his literary endeavours. Among his most memorable texts are the five-volume Life of George Washington and the short story ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ He died in Tarrytown on November 28, 1859 and his last words were reputed to have been, ‘Well, I must arrange my pillows for another weary night! If this could only end!’
Be this as it may, the veteran Taric took advantage of the excitement of his soldiery, and led them forward to gain possession of a strong hold, which was, in a manner, the key to all the adjacent country. This was a lofty mountain or promontory almost surrounded by the sea, and connected with the main land by a narrow isthmus. It was called the rock of Calpe, and, like the opposite rock of Ceuta, commanded the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Here in old times, Hercules had set up one of his pillars, and the city of Heraclea had been built.
As Taric advanced against this promontory, he was opposed by a hasty levy of the christians, who had assembled under the banner of a Gothic noble of great power and importance, whose domains lay along the mountainous coast of the Mediterranean. The name of this christian cavalier was Theodomir, but he has universally been called Tadmir by the Arabian historians, and is renowned as being the first commander that made any stand against the inroad of the moslems. He was about forty years of age; hardy, prompt, and sagacious; and had all the Gothic nobles been equally vigilant and shrewd in their defence, the banner of Islam would never have triumphed over the land.
Theodomir had but seventeen hundred men under his command, and these but rudely armed; yet he made a resolute stand against the army of Taric, and defended the pass to the promontory with great valour. He was, at length, obliged to retreat, and Taric advanced and planted his standard on the rock of Calpe, and fortified it as his stronghold, and as the means of securing an entrance into the land. To commemorate his first victory, he changed the name of the promontory, and called it Gibel Taric, or the mountain of Taric, but in process of time the name has gradually been altered to Gibraltar.
In the meantime, the patriotic chieftain Theodomir having collected his routed forces, encamped with them on the skirts of the mountains, and summoned the country round to join his standard. He sent off missives in all speed to the king, imparting in brief and blunt terms the news of the invasion, and craving assistance with equal frankness. “Señor,” said he, in his letter, “the legions of Africa are upon us, but whether they come from heaven or earth I know not. They seem to have fallen from the clouds, for they have no ships. We have been taken by surprise, overpowered by numbers, and obliged to retreat; and they have fortified themselves in our territory. Send us aid, señor, with instant speed, or rather, come yourself to our assistance.”
When Don Roderick heard that legions of turbaned troops had poured into the land from Africa, he called to mind the visions and predictions of the necromantic tower, and great fear came upon him. But, though sunk from his former hardihood and virtue, though enervated by indulgence, and degraded in spirit by a consciousness of crime, he was resolute of soul, and roused himself to meet the coming danger. He summoned a hasty levy of horse and foot, amounting to forty thousand; but now were felt the effects of the crafty council of Count Julian, for the best of the horses and armour intended for the public service, had been sent into Africa, and were really in possession of the traitors. Many nobles, it is true, took the field with the sumptuous array with which they had been accustomed to appear at tournaments and jousts, but most of their vassals were destitute of weapons, and cased in cuirasses of leather, or suits of armour almost consumed by rust. They were without discipline or animation; and their horses, like themselves, pampered by slothful peace, were little fitted to bear the heat, the dust, and toil, of long campaigns.
This army Don Roderick put under the command of his kinsman Ataulpho, a prince of the royal blood of the Goths, and of a noble and generous nature; and he ordered him to march with all speed to meet the foe, and to recruit his forces on the way with the troops of Theodomir.
In the meantime, Taric el Tuerto had received large reinforcements from Africa, and the adherents of Count Julian, and all those discontented with the sway of Don Roderick, had flocked to his standard; for many were deceived by the representations of Count Julian, and thought that the Arabs had come to aid him in placing the sons of Witiza upon the throne. Guided by the count, the troops of Taric penetrated into various parts of the country, and laid waste the land; bringing back loads of spoil to their strong hold at the rock of Calpe.
The prince Ataulpho marched with his army through Andalusia, and was joined by Theodomir with his troops; he met with various detachments of the enemy foraging the country, and had several bloody skirmishes; but he succeeded in driving them before him, and they retreated to the rock of Calpe, where Taric lay gathered up with the main body of his army.
The prince encamped not far from the bay which spreads itself out before the promontory. In the evening he despatched the veteran Theodomir, with a trumpet, to demand a parley of the Arab chieftain, who received the envoy in his tent, surrounded by his captains. Theodomir was frank and abrupt in speech, for the most of his life had been passed far from courts. He delivered, in round terms, the message of the Prince Ataulpho; upbraiding the Arab general with his wanton invasion of the land, and summoning him to surrender his army or to expect no mercy.
The single eye of Taric el Tuerto glowed like a coal of fire at this message. “Tell your commander,” replied he, “that I have crossed the strait to conquer Spain, nor will I return until I have accomplished my purpose. Tell him I have men skilled in war, and armed in proof, with whose aid I trust soon to give a good account of his rabble host.”
A murmur of applause passed through the assemblage of moslem captains. Theodomir glanced on them a look of defiance, but his eye rested on a renegado christian, one of his own ancient comrades, and a relation of Count Julian. “As to you, Don Greybeard,” said he, “you who turn apostate in your declining age, I here pronounce you a traitor to your God, your king, and country; and stand ready to prove it this instant upon your body, if field be granted me.”
The traitor knight was stung with rage at these words, for truth rendered them piercing to the heart. He would have immediately answered to the challenge, but Taric forbade it, and ordered that the christian envoy should be conducted from the camp. “ ‘Tis well,” replied Theodomir, “God will give me the field which you deny. Let yon hoary apostate look to himself tomorrow in the battle, for I pledge myself to use my lance upon no other foe until it has shed his blood upon the native soil he has betrayed.” So saying, he left the camp, nor could the moslem chieftains help admiring the honest indignation of this patriot knight, while they secretly despised his renegado adversary.
The ancient moorish chroniclers relate many awful portents, and strange and mysterious visions, which appeared to the commanders of either army during this anxious night. Certainly it was a night of fearful suspense, and moslem and christian looked forward with doubt to the fortune of the coming day. The Spanish sentinel walked his pensive round, listening occasionally to the vague sounds from the distant rock of Calpe, and eyeing it as the mariner eyes the thunder cloud, pregnant with terror and destruction. The Arabs, too, from their lofty cliffs beheld the numerous camp-fires of the christians gradually lighted up, and saw that they were a powerful host; at the same time the night breeze brought to their ears the sullen roar of the sea which separated them from Africa. When they considered their perilous situation, an army on one side, with a whole nation aroused to reinforce it, and on the other an impassable sea, the spirits of many of the warriors were cast down, and they repented the day when they had ventured into this hostile land.
Taric marked their despondency, but said nothing. Scarce had the first streak of morning light trembled along the sea, however, when he summoned his principal warriors to his tent. “Be of good cheer,” said he, “Allah is with us, and has sent his prophet to give assurance of his aid. Scarce had I retired to my tent last night, when a man of a majestic and venerable presence stood before me. He was taller by a palm than the ordinary race of men, his flowing beard was of a golden hue, and his eyes were so bright that they seemed to send forth flashes of fire. I have heard the Emir Bahamet, and other ancient men, describe the prophet, whom they had seen many times while on earth, and such was his form and lineament. ‘Fear nothing, O Taric, from the morrow,’ said he, ‘I will be with thee in the fight. Strike boldly, then, and conquer. Those of thy followers who survive the battle will have this land for an inheritance; for those who fall a mansion in paradise is prepared, and immortal houries await their coming.’ He spake and vanished; I heard a strain of celestial melody, and my tent was filled with the odours of Arabia the happy.”
“Such,” says the Spanish chroniclers, “was another of the arts by which this arch son of Ishmael sought to animate the hearts of his followers; and the pretended vision has been recorded by the Arabian writers as a veritable occurrence. Marvellous, indeed, was the effect produced by it upon the infidel soldiery, who now cried out with eagerness to be led against the foe.”
The gray summits of the rock of Calpe brightened with the first rays of morning, as the christian army issued forth from its encampment. The Prince Ataulpho rode from squadron to squadron, animating his soldiers for the battle. “Never should we sheath our swords,” said he, “while these infidels have a footing in the land. They are pent up within yon rocky mountain, we must assail them in their rugged hold. We have a long day before us; let not the setting sun shine upon one of their host who is not a fugitive, a captive, or a corpse.”
The words of the prince were received with shouts, and the army moved towards the promontory. As they advanced, they heard the clash of cymbals and the bray of trumpets, and the rocky bosom of the mountain glittered with helms and spears and scimitars; for the Arabs, inspired with fresh confidence by the words of Taric, were sallying forth, with flaunting banners, to the combat.
The gaunt Arab chieftain stood upon a rock as his troops marched by; his buckler was at his back, and he brandished in his hand a double-pointed spear. Calling upon the several leaders by their names, he exhorted them to direct their attacks against the christian captains, and especially against Ataulpho, “for the chiefs being slain,” said he, “their followers will vanish from before us like the morning mist.”
The Gothic nobles were easily to be distinguished by the splendour of their arms, but the Prince Ataulpho was conspicuous above all the rest for the youthful grace and majesty of his appearance, and the bravery of his array. He was mounted on a superb Andalusian charger, richly caparisoned with crimson velvet, embroidered with gold. His surcoat was of like colour and adornment, and the plumes that waved above his burnished helmet, were of the purest white. Ten mounted pages, magnificently attired, followed him to the field, but their duty was not so much to fight as to attend upon their lord, and to furnish him with steed or weapon.
The christian troops, though irregular and undisciplined, were full of native courage; for the old warrior spirit of their Gothic sires still glowed in their bosoms. There were two battalions of infantry, but Ataulpho stationed them in the rear, “for God forbid,” said he, “that foot soldiers should have the place of honour in the battle, when I have so many valiant cavaliers.” As the armies drew nigh to each other, however, it was discovered that the advance of the Arabs was composed of infantry. Upon this the cavaliers checked their steeds, and requested that the foot soldiery might advance and disperse this losel crew, holding it beneath their dignity to contend with pedestrian foes. The prince, however, commanded them to charge; upon which, putting spurs to their steeds, they rushed upon the foe.
The Arabs stood the shock manfully, receiving the horses upon the points of their lances; many of the riders were shot down with bolts from cross-bows, or stabbed with the poniards of the moslems. The cavaliers succeeded, however, in breaking into the midst of the battalion and throwing it into confusion, cutting down some with their swords, transpiercing others with their spears, and trampling many under the hoofs of their horses. At this moment, they were attacked by a band of Spanish horsemen, the recreant partisans of Count Julian. Their assault bore hard upon their countrymen, who were disordered by the contest with the foot soldiers, and many a loyal christian knight fell beneath the sword of an unnatural foe.
The foremost among these recreant warriors was the renegado cavalier whom Theodomir had challenged in the tent of Taric. He dealt his blows about him with a powerful arm and with malignant fury, for nothing is more deadly than the hatred of an apostate. In the midst of his career he was espied by the hardy Theodomir, who came spurring to the encounter: “Traitor,” cried he, “I have kept my vow. This lance has been held sacred from all other foes to make a passage for thy perjured soul.” The renegado had been renowned for prowess before he became a traitor to his country, but guilt will sap the courage of the stoutest heart. When he beheld Theodomir rushing upon him, he would have turned and fled; pride alone withheld him; and, though an admirable master of defence, he lost all skill to ward the attack of his adversary. At the first assault the lance of Theodomir pierced him through and through; he fell to the earth, gnashed his teeth as he rolled in the dust, but yielded his breath without uttering a word.
The battle now became general, and lasted throughout the morning with varying success. The stratagem of Taric, however, began to produce its effect. The christian leaders and most conspicuous cavaliers were singled out and severally assailed by overpowering numbers. They fought desperately, and performed miracles of prowess, but fell, one by one, beneath a thousand wounds. Still the battle lingered on throughout a great part of the day, and as the declining sun shone through the clouds of dust, it seemed as if the conflicting hosts were wrapped in smoke and fire.
The Prince Ataulpho saw that the fortune of battle was against him. He rode about the field calling out the names of the bravest of his knights, but few answered to his call, the rest lay mangled on the field. With this handful of warriors he endeavoured to retrieve the day, when he was assailed by Tenderos, a partisan of Count Julian, at the head of a body of recreant christians. At sight of this new adversary, fire flashed from the eyes of the prince, for Tenderos had been brought up in his father’s palace. “Well dost thou, traitor!” cried he, “to attack the son of thy lord, who gave thee bread; thou, who hast betrayed thy country and thy God!”
So saying, he seized a lance from one of his pages, and charged furiously upon the apostate; but Tenderos met him in mid career, and the lance of the prince was shivered upon his shield. Ataulpho then grasped his mace, which hung at his saddle bow, and a doubtful fight ensued. Tenderos was powerful of frame and superior in the use of his weapons, but the curse of treason seemed to paralyse his arm. He wounded Ataulpho slightly between the greaves of his armour, but the prince dealt a blow with his mace that crushed through helm and scull and reached the brains; and Tenderos fell dead to earth, his armour rattling as he fell.
At the same moment, a javelin hurled by an Arab transpierced the horse of Ataulpho, which sunk beneath him. The prince seized the reins of the steed of Tenderos, but the faithful animal, as though he knew him to be the foe of his late lord, reared and plunged and refused to let him mount. The prince, however, used him as a shield to ward off the press of foes, while with his sword he defended himself against those in front of him. Taric ben Zeyad arrived at the scene of conflict, and paused for a moment in admiration of the surpassing prowess of the prince; recollecting, however, that his fall would be a death blow to his army, he spurred upon him, and wounded him severely with his scimitar. Before he could repeat his blow, Theodomir led up a body of christian cavaliers to the rescue, and Taric was parted from his prey by the tumult of the fight. The prince sank to the earth, covered with wounds and exhausted by the loss of blood. A faithful page drew him from under the hoofs of the horses, and, aided by a veteran soldier, an ancient vassal of Ataulpho, conveyed him to a short distance from the scene of battle, by the side of a small stream that gushed out from among rocks. They stanched the blood that flowed from his wounds, and washed the dust from his face, and lay him beside the fountain. The page sat at his head, and supported it on his knees, and the veteran stood at his feet, with his brow bent and his eyes full of sorrow. The prince gradually revived, and opened his eyes. “How fares the battle?” said he. “The struggle is hard,” replied the soldier, “but the day may yet be ours.”
The prince felt that the hour of his death was at hand, and ordered that they should aid him to rise upon his knees. They supported him between them, and he prayed fervently for a short time, when, finding his strength declining, he beckoned the veteran to sit down beside him on the rock. Continuing to kneel, he confessed himself to that ancient soldier, having no priest or friar to perform that office in this hour of extremity. When he had so done, he sunk again upon the earth and pressed it with his lips, as if he would take a fond farewell of his beloved country. The page would then have raised his head, but found that his lord had yielded up the ghost.
A number of Arab warriors, who came to the fountain to slake their thirst, cut off the head of the prince and bore it in triumph to Taric, crying, “Behold the head of the christian leader.” Taric immediately ordered that the head should be put upon the end of a lance, together with the surcoat of the prince, and borne about the field of battle, with the sound of trumpets, atabals, and cymbals.
When the christians beheld the surcoat, and knew the features of the prince, they were struck with horror, and heart and hand failed them. Theodomir endeavoured in vain to rally them, but they threw their weapons and fled; and they continued to fly, and the enemy to pursue and slay them, until the darkness of the night. The moslems then returned and plundered the christian camp, where they found abundant spoil.
George Henry Borrow, The Bible in Spain (1841)
George Henry Borrow was a man dominated by contradictory impulses. A graduate of the Norwich Law school, he quickly became disenchanted with the legal profession and turned to literature instead. Garrulous and nonconformist, with a passionate love of boxing, Borrow spent the next few years writing mediocre verse and editing the nineteenth-century bestseller Remarkable Cases of Criminal Jurisprudence. In 1824 he embarked on a seven-year odyssey across Europe, visiting Spain, France, Germany and France among other countries. Upon his return to England in 1831, Borrow appears to have undergone something of a religious conversion – marrying a pious Suffolk widow and becoming a prominent member of the British Bible Society. During the next two decades he published a number of partly autobiographical works, including The Zincali; or An account of the Gypsies in Spain (1841), The Bible in Spain (1841) and Lavengro (1855). Although most of his books are essentially Christian in outlook, there is a vibrant, picaresque quality to them that often subverts the narrator’s high-minded Protestant principles. Borrow died in 1881 at the age of seventy-eight.
Sunday morning came, and I was on board the steamer by six o’clock. As I ascended the side, the harsh sound of the Catalan dialect assailed my ears. In fact, the vessel was Catalan built, and the captain and crew were of that nation; the greater part of the passengers already on board, or who subsequently arrived, appeared to be Catalans, and seemed to vie with each other in producing disagreeable sounds. A burly merchant, however, with a red face, peaked chin, sharp eyes, and hooked nose, clearly bore off the palm; he conversed with astonishing eagerness on seemingly the most indifferent subjects, or rather on no subject at all; his voice would have sounded exactly like a coffee-mill but for a vile nasal twang: he poured forth his Catalan incessantly till we arrived at Gibraltar. Such people are never sea-sick, though they frequently produce or aggravate the malady in others. We did not get under way until past eight o’clock, for we waited for the Governor of Algeciras, and started instantly on his coming on board. He was a tall, thin, rigid figure of about seventy, with a long, grave, wrinkled countenance; in a word, the very image of an old Spanish grandee. We stood out of the bay, rounding the lofty lighthouse, which stands on a ledge of rocks, and then bent our course to the south, in the direction of the straits. It was a glorious morning, a blue sunny sky and blue sunny ocean; or, rather, as my friend Oehlenschlaeger has observed on a similar occasion, there appeared two skies and two suns, one above and one below.
Our progress was rather slow, notwithstanding the fineness of the weather, probably owing to the tide being against us. In about two hours we passed the Castle of Santa Petra, and at noon were in sight of Trafalgar. The wind now freshened and was dead ahead; on which account we hugged closely to the coast, in order to avoid as much as possible the strong heavy sea which was pouring down from the Straits. We passed within a very short distance of the Cape, a bold bluff foreland, but not of any considerable height.
It is impossible for an Englishman to pass by this place — the scene of the most celebrated naval action on record — without emotion. Here it was that the united navies of France and Spain were annihilated by a far inferior force; but that force was British, and was directed by one of the most remarkable men of the age, and perhaps the greatest hero of any time. Huge fragments of wreck still frequently emerge from the watery gulf whose billows chafe the rocky sides of Trafalgar: they are relics of the enormous ships which were burnt and sunk on that terrible day, when the heroic champion of Britain concluded his work and died. I never heard but one individual venture to say a word in disparagement of Nelson’s glory: it was a pert American, who observed, that the British admiral was much overrated. “Can that individual be overrated,” replied a stranger, “whose every thought was bent on his country’s honour, who scarcely ever fought without leaving a piece of his body in the fray, and who, not to speak of minor triumphs, was victorious in two such actions as Aboukir and Trafalgar?”
We were now soon in sight of the Moorish coast, Cape Spartel appearing dimly through mist and vapour on our right. A regular Levanter had now come on, and the vessel pitched and tossed to a very considerable degree. Most of the passengers were sea-sick; the governor, however, and myself held out manfully: we sat on a bench together, and entered into conversation respecting the Moors and their country. Torquemada himself could not have spoken of both with more abhorrence. He informed me that he had been frequently in several of the principal Moorish towns of the coast, which he described as heaps of ruins: the Moors themselves he called Caffres and wild beasts. He observed that he had never been even at Tangier, where the people were most civilised, without experiencing some insult, so great was the abhorrence of the Moors to anything in the shape of a Christian. He added, however, that they treated the English with comparative civility, and that they had a saying among them to the effect that Englishman and Mahometan were one and the same; he then looked particularly grave for a moment, and, crossing himself, was silent. I guessed what was passing in his mind:
From heretic boors,
And Turkish Moors,
Star of the sea,
At about three we were passing Tarifa, so frequently mentioned in the history of the Moors and Christians. Who has not heard of Alonzo Guzman the faithful, who allowed his only son to be crucified before the walls of the town rather than submit to the ignominy of delivering up the keys to the Moorish monarch, who, with a host which is said to have amounted to nearly half a million of men, had landed on the shores of Andalusia, and threatened to bring all Spain once more beneath the Moslem yoke? Certainly if there be a land and a spot where the name of that good patriot is not sometimes mentioned and sung, that land, that spot is modern Spain and modern Tarifa. I have heard the ballad of Alonzo Guzman chanted in Danish, by a hind in the wilds of Jutland; but once speaking of “the Faithful” to some inhabitants of Tarifa, they replied that they had never heard of Guzman the faithful of Tarifa, but were acquainted with Alonzo Guzman, “the one-eyed” (el tuerto), and that he was one of the most villainous arrieros on the Cadiz road.
The voyage of these narrow seas can scarcely fail to be interesting to the most apathetic individual, from the nature of the scenery which presents itself to the eye on either side. The coasts are exceedingly high and bold, especially that of Spain, which seems to overthrow the Moorish; but opposite to Tarifa, the African continent, rounding towards the south-west, assumes an air of sublimity and grandeur. A hoary mountain is seen uplifting its summits above the clouds: it is Mount Abyla, or as it is called in the Moorish tongue, Gibil Muza, or the hill of Muza, from the circumstance of its containing the sepulchre of a prophet of that name. This is one of the two excrescences of nature on which the Old World bestowed the title of the Pillars of Hercules. Its skirts and sides occupy the Moorish coast for many leagues in more than one direction, but the broad aspect of its steep and stupendous front is turned full towards that part of the European continent where Gibraltar lies like a huge monster stretching far into the brine. Of the two hills or pillars, the most remarkable, when viewed from afar, is the African one, Gibil Muza. It is the tallest and bulkiest, and is visible at a greater distance; but scan them both from near, and you feel that all your wonder is engrossed by the European column. Gibil Muza is an immense shapeless mass, a wilderness of rocks, with here and there a few trees and shrubs nodding from the clefts of its precipices; it is uninhabited, save by wolves, wild swine, and chattering monkeys, on which last account it is called by the Spaniards, Montaña de las Monas (the hill of the baboons); whilst, on the contrary, Gibraltar, not to speak of the strange city which covers part of it, a city inhabited by men of all nations and tongues, its batteries and excavations, all of them miracles of art, is the most singular-looking mountain in the world — a mountain which can neither be described by pen nor pencil, and at which the eye is never satiated with gazing.
It was near sunset, and we were crossing the bay of Gibraltar. We had stopped at Algeciras, on the Spanish side, for the purpose of landing the old governor and his suite, and delivering and receiving letters.
Algeciras is an ancient Moorish town, as the name denotes, which is an Arabic word, and signifies “the place of the islands.” It is situated at the water’s edge, with a lofty range of mountains in the rear. It seemed a sad deserted place, as far as I could judge at the distance of half a mile. In the harbour, however, lay a Spanish frigate and French war brig. As we passed the former, some of the Spaniards on board our steamer became boastful at the expense of the English. It appeared that, a few weeks before, an English vessel, suspected to be a contraband trader, was seen by this frigate hovering about a bay on the Andalusian coast, in company with an English frigate, the Orestes. The Spaniard dogged them for some time, till one morning observing that the Orestes had disappeared, he hoisted English colours, and made a signal to the trader to bear down; the latter, deceived by the British ensign, and supposing that the Spaniard was the friendly Orestes, instantly drew near, was fired at and boarded, and proving in effect to be a contraband trader, she was carried into port and delivered over to the Spanish authorities. In a few days the captain of the Orestes hearing of this, and incensed at the unwarrantable use made of the British flag, sent a boat on board the frigate demanding that the vessel should be instantly restored, as, if she was not, he would retake her by force; adding that he had forty cannons on board. The captain of the Spanish frigate returned for answer, that the trader was in the hands of the officers of the customs, and was no longer at his disposal; that the captain of the Orestes however, could do what he pleased, and that if he had forty guns, he himself had forty-four; whereupon the Orestes thought proper to bear away. Such at least was the Spanish account as related by the journals. Observing the Spaniards to be in great glee at the idea of one of their nation having frightened away the Englishman, I exclaimed, “Gentlemen, all of you who suppose that an English sea captain has been deterred from attacking a Spaniard, from an apprehension of a superior force of four guns, remember, if you please, the fate of the Santissima Trinidad, and be pleased also not to forget that we are almost within cannon’s sound of Trafalgar.”
It was near sunset, I repeat, and we were crossing the bay of Gibraltar. I stood on the prow of the vessel, with my eyes intently fixed on the mountain fortress, which, though I had seen it several times before, filled my mind with admiration and interest. Viewed from this situation, it certainly, if it resembles any animate object in nature, has something of the appearance of a terrible couchant lion, whose stupendous head menaces Spain. Had I been dreaming, I should almost have concluded it to be the genius of Africa, in the shape of its most puissant monster, who had bounded over the sea from the clime of sand and sun, bent on the destruction of the rival continent, more especially as the hue of its stony sides, its crest and chine, is tawny even as that of the hide of the desert king. A hostile lion has it almost invariably proved to Spain, at least since it first began to play a part in history, which was at the time when Tarik seized and fortified it. It has for the most part been in the hands of foreigners: first the swarthy and turbaned Moor possessed it, and it is now tenanted by a fair-haired race from a distant isle. Though a part of Spain, it seems to disavow the connexion, and at the end of a long narrow sandy isthmus, almost level with the sea, raising its blasted and perpendicular brow to denounce the crimes which deform the history of that fair and majestic land.
It was near sunset, I say it for the third time, and we were crossing the bay of Gibraltar. Bay! it seemed no bay, but an inland sea, surrounded on all sides by enchanted barriers, so strange, so wonderful was the aspect of its coasts. Before us lay the impregnable hill; on our right the African continent, with its grey Gibil Muza, and the crag of Ceuta, to which last a solitary bark seemed steering its way; behind us the town we had just quitted, with its mountain wall; on our left the coast of Spain. The surface of the water was unruffled by a wave, and as we rapidly glided on, the strange object which we were approaching became momentarily more distinct and visible. There, at the base of the mountain, and covering a small portion of its side, lay the city, with its ramparts garnished with black guns pointing significantly at its moles and harbours; above, seemingly on every crag which could be made available for the purpose of defence or destruction, peered batteries, pale and sepulchral-looking, as if ominous of the fate which awaited any intrusive foe; whilst east and west towards Africa and Spain, on the extreme points, rose castles, towers, or atalayas which overcrowded the whole, and all the circumjacent region, whether land or sea. Mighty and threatening appeared the fortifications, and doubtless, viewed in any other situation, would have alone occupied the mind and engrossed its wonder; but the hill, the wondrous hill, was everywhere about them, beneath them, or above them, overpowering their effect as a spectacle. Who, when he beholds the enormous elephant, with his brandished trunk, dashing impetuously to the war, sees the castle which he bears, or fears the javelins of those whom he carries, however skilful and warlike they may be? Never does God appear so great and powerful as when the works of his hands stand in contrast with the labours of man. Survey the Escurial, it is a proud work, but wonder if you can when you see the mountain mocking it behind; survey that boast of Moorish kings, survey Granada from its plain, and wonder if you can, for you see the Alpujarra mocking it from behind. O what are the works of man compared with those of the Lord? Even as man is compared with his creator. Man builds pyramids, and God builds pyramids: the pyramids of man are heaps of shingles, tiny hillocks on a sandy plain; the pyramids of the Lord are Andes and Indian hills. Man builds walls and so does his Master; but the walls of God are the black precipices of Gibraltar and Horneel, eternal, indestructible, and not to be scaled; whilst those of man can be climbed, can be broken by the wave or shattered by the lightning or the powder blast. Would man display his power and grandeur to advantage, let him flee far from the hills; for the broad pennants of God, even his clouds, float upon the tops of the hills, and the majesty of God is most manifest among the hills. Call Gibraltar the hill of Tarik or Hercules if you will, but gaze upon it for a moment and you will call it the hill of God. Tarik and the old giant may have built upon it; but not all the dark race of whom Tarik was one, nor all the giants of old renown of whom the other was one, could have built up its crags or chiseled the enormous mass to its present shape.
We dropped anchor not far from the mole. As we expected every moment to hear the evening gun, after which no person is permitted to enter the town, I was in trepidation lest I should be obliged to pass the night on board the dirty Catalan steamer, which, as I had no occasion to proceed farther in her, I was in great haste to quit. A boat now drew nigh, with two individuals at the stern, one of whom, standing up, demanded, in an authoritative voice, the name of the vessel, her destination and cargo. Upon being answered, they came on board. After some conversation with the captain, they were about to depart, when I inquired whether I could accompany them on shore. The person I addressed was a tall young man, with a fustian frock coat. He had a long face, long nose, and wide mouth, with large restless eyes. There was a grin on his countenance which seemed permanent, and had it not been for his bronzed complexion, I should have declared him to be a cockney, and nothing else. He was, however, no such thing, but what is called a rock lizard, that is, a person born at Gibraltar of English parents. Upon hearing my question, which was in Spanish, he grinned more than ever, and inquired, in a strange accent, whether I was a son of Gibraltar. I replied that I had not that honour, but that I was a British subject. Whereupon he said that he should make no difficulty in taking me ashore. We entered the boat, which was rapidly rowed towards the land by four Genoese sailors. My two companions chattered in their strange Spanish, he of the fustian occasionally turning his countenance full upon me, the last grin appearing ever more hideous than the preceding ones. We soon reached the quay, where my name was noted down by a person who demanded my passport, and I was then permitted to advance.
It was now dusk, and I lost no time in crossing the drawbridge and entering the long low archway which, passing under the rampart, communicates with the town. Beneath this archway paced with measured tread, tall red-coated sentinels with shouldered guns. There was no stopping, no sauntering in these men. There was no laughter, no exchange of light conversation with the passers by, but their bearing was that of British soldiers, conscious of the duties of their station. What a difference between them and the listless loiterers who stand at guard at the gate of a Spanish garrisoned town.
I now proceeded up the principal street, which runs with a gentle ascent along the base of the hill. Accustomed for some months past to the melancholy silence of Seville, I was almost deafened by the noise and bustle which reigned around. It was Sunday night, and of course no business was going on, but there were throngs of people passing up and down. Here was a military guard proceeding along; here walked a group of officers, there a knot of soldiers stood talking and laughing. The greater part of the civilians appeared to be Spaniards, but there was a large sprinkling of Jews in the dress of those of Barbary, and here and there a turbaned Moor. There were gangs of sailors likewise, Genoese, judging from the patois which they were speaking, though I occasionally distinguished the sound of “tou logou sas,” by which I knew there were Greeks at hand, and twice or thrice caught a glimpse of the red cap and blue silken petticoats of the mariner from the Romaic isles. On still I hurried, till I arrived at a well known hostelry, close by a kind of square, in which stands the little exchange of Gibraltar. Into this I ran and demanded lodging, receiving a cheerful welcome from the genius of the place, who stood behind the bar, and whom I shall perhaps have occasion subsequently to describe. All the lower rooms were filled with men of the rock, burly men in general, with swarthy complexions and English features, with white hats, white jean jerkins, and white jean pantaloons. They were smoking pipes and cigars, and drinking porter, wine and various other fluids, and conversing in the rock Spanish, or rock English as the fit took them. Dense was the smoke of tobacco, and great the din of voices, and I was glad to hasten up stairs to an unoccupied apartment, where I was served with some refreshment, of which I stood much in need.
I was soon disturbed by the sound of martial music close below my windows. I went down and stood at the door. A military band was marshalled upon the little square before the exchange. It was preparing to beat the retreat. After the prelude, which was admirably executed, the tall leader gave a flourish with his stick, and strode forward up the street, followed by the whole company of noble looking fellows and a crowd of admiring listeners. The cymbals clashed, the horns screamed, and the kettle-drum emitted its deep awful note, till the old rock echoed again, and the hanging terraces of the town rang with the stirring noise:
“Dub-a-dub, dub-a-dub — thus go the drums, Tantara, tantara, the Englishman comes.”
O England! long, long may it be ere the sun of thy glory sink beneath the wave of darkness! Though gloomy and portentous clouds are now gathering rapidly around thee, still, still may it please the Almighty to disperse them, and to grant thee a futurity longer in duration and still brighter in renown than thy past! Or if thy doom be at hand, may that doom be a noble one, and worthy of her who has been styled the Old Queen of the waters! May thou sink, if thou dost sink, amidst blood and flame, with a mighty noise, causing more than one nation to participate in thy downfall! Of all fates, may it please the Lord to preserve thee from a disgraceful and a slow decay; becoming, ere extinct, a scorn and a mockery for those selfsame foes who now, though they envy and abhor thee, still fear thee, nay, even against their will, honour and respect thee.
Arouse thee, whilst yet there is time, and prepare thee for the combat of life and death! Cast from thee the foul scurf which now encrusts thy robust limbs, which deadens their force, and makes them heavy and powerless! Cast from thee thy false philosophers, who would fain decry what, next to the love of God, has hitherto been deemed most sacred, the love of the mother land! Cast from thee thy false patriots, who, under the pretext of redressing the wrongs of the poor and weak, seek to promote internal discord, so that thou mayest become only terrible to thyself! And remove from thee the false prophets, who have seen vanity and divined lies; who have daubed thy wall with untempered mortar, that it may fall; who see visions of peace where there is no peace; who have strengthened the hands of the wicked, and made the heart of the righteous sad. O, do this, and fear not the result, for either shall thy end be a majestic and an enviable one, or God shall perpetuate thy reign upon the waters, thou old Queen!
The above was part of a broken prayer for my native land, which, after my usual thanksgiving, I breathed to the Almighty ere retiring to rest that Sunday night at Gibraltar.
Perhaps it would have been impossible to have chosen a situation more adapted for studying at my ease Gibraltar and its inhabitants, than that which I found myself occupying about ten o’clock on the following morning. Seated on a small bench just opposite the bar, close by the door, in the passage of the hostelry at which I had taken up my temporary abode, I enjoyed a view of the square of the exchange and all that was going on there, and by merely raising my eyes, could gaze at my leisure on the stupendous hill which towers above the town to an altitude of some thousand feet. I could likewise observe every person who entered or left the house, which is one of great resort, being situated in the most-frequented place of the principal thoroughfare of the town. My eyes were busy and so were my ears. Close beside me stood my excellent friend Griffiths, the jolly hosteler, of whom I take the present opportunity of saying a few words, though I dare say he has been frequently described before, and by far better pens. Let those who know him not figure to themselves a man of about fifty, at least six feet in height, and weighing some eighteen stone, an exceedingly florid countenance and good features, eyes full of quickness and shrewdness, but at the same time beaming with good nature. He wears white pantaloons, white frock, and white hat, and is, indeed, all white, with the exception of his polished Wellingtons and rubicund face. He carries a whip beneath his arm, which adds wonderfully to the knowingness of his appearance, which is rather more that of a gentleman who keeps an inn on the Newmarket road, purely for the love of travellers, and the money which they carry about them, than of a native of the rock. Nevertheless, he will tell you himself that he is a rock lizard; and you will scarcely doubt it when, besides his English, which is broad and vernacular, you hear him speak Spanish, ay, and Genoese too, when necessary, and it is no child’s play to speak the latter, which I myself could never master. He is a good judge of horse-flesh, and occasionally sells a “bit of a blood,” or a Barbary steed to a young hand, though he has no objection to do business with an old one; for there is not a thin, crouching, liver-faced lynx-eyed Jew of Fez capable of outwitting him in a bargain: or cheating him out of one single pound of the fifty thousand sterling which he possesses; and yet ever bear in mind that he is a good-natured fellow to those who are disposed to behave honourably to him, and know likewise that he will lend you money, if you are a gentleman, and are in need of it; but depend upon it, if he refuse you, there is something not altogether right about you, for Griffiths knows HIS WORLD, and is not to be made a fool of.
There was a prodigious quantity of porter consumed in my presence during the short hour that I sat on the bench of that hostelry of the rock. The passage before the bar was frequently filled with officers, who lounged in for a refreshment which the sultry heat of the weather rendered necessary, or at least inviting; whilst not a few came galloping up to the door on small Barbary horses, which are to be found in great abundance at Gibraltar. All seemed to be on the best terms with the host, with whom they occasionally discussed the merits of particular steeds, and whose jokes they invariably received with unbounded approbation. There was much in the demeanour and appearance of these young men, for the greater part were quite young, which was highly interesting and agreeable. Indeed, I believe it may be said of English officers in general, that in personal appearance, and in polished manners, they bear the palm from those of the same class over the world. True it is, that the officers of the royal guard of Russia, especially of the three noble regiments styled the Priberjensky, Simeonsky, and Finlansky polks might fearlessly enter into competition in almost all points with the flower of the British army; but it must be remembered, that those regiments are officered by the choicest specimens of the Sclavonian nobility, young men selected expressly for the splendour of their persons, and for the superiority of their mental endowments; whilst, probably, amongst all the fair-haired Angle-Saxons youths whom I now saw gathered near me, there was not a single one of noble ancestry, nor of proud and haughty name; and certainly, so far from having been selected to flatter the pride and add to the pomp of a despot, they had been taken indiscriminately from a mass of ardent aspirants for military glory, and sent on their country’s service to a remote and unhealthy colony. Nevertheless, they were such as their country might be proud of, for gallant boys they looked, with courage on their brows, beauty and health on their cheeks, and intelligence in their hazel eyes.
Who is he who now stops before the door without entering, and addresses a question to my host, who advances with a respectful salute? He is no common man, or his appearance belies him strangely. His dress is simple enough; a Spanish hat, with a peaked crown and broad shadowy brim — the veritable sombrero — jean pantaloons and blue hussar jacket; — but how well that dress becomes one of the most noble-looking figures I ever beheld. I gazed upon him with strange respect and admiration as he stood benignantly smiling and joking in good Spanish with an impudent rock rascal, who held in his hand a huge bogamante, or coarse carrion lobster, which he would fain have persuaded him to purchase. He was almost gigantically tall, towering nearly three inches above the burly host himself, yet athletically symmetrical, and straight as the pine tree of Dovrefeld. He must have counted eleven lustres, which cast an air of mature dignity over a countenance which seemed to have been chiseled by some Grecian sculptor, and yet his hair was black as the plume of the Norwegian raven, and so was the moustache which curled above his well-formed lip. In the garb of Greece, and in the camp before Troy, I should have taken him for Agamemnon. “Is that man a general?” said I to a short queer-looking personage, who sat by my side, intently studying a newspaper. “That gentleman,” he whispered in a lisping accent, “is, sir, the Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar.”
On either side outside the door, squatting on the ground, or leaning indolently against the walls, were some half dozen men of very singular appearance. Their principal garment was a kind of blue gown, something resembling the blouse worn by the peasants of the north of France, but not so long; it was compressed around their waists by a leathern girdle, and depended about half way down their thighs. Their legs were bare, so that I had an opportunity of observing the calves, which appeared unnaturally large. Upon the head they wore small skull-caps of black wool. I asked the most athletic of these men, a dark-visaged fellow of forty, who they were. He answered, “hamalos.” This word I knew to be Arabic, in which tongue it signifies a porter; and, indeed, the next moment, I saw a similar fellow staggering across the square under an immense burden, almost sufficient to have broken the back of a camel. On again addressing my swarthy friend, and enquiring whence he came, he replied, that he was born at Mogadore, in Barbary, but had passed the greatest part of his life at Gibraltar. He added, that he was the “capataz,” or headman of the “hamalos” near the door. I now addressed him in the Arabic of the East, though with scarcely the hope of being understood, more especially as he had been so long from his own country. He however answered very pertinently, his lips quivering with eagerness, and his eyes sparkling with joy, though it was easy to perceive that the Arabic, or rather the Moorish, was not the language in which he was accustomed either to think or speak. His companions all gathered round and listened with avidity, occasionally exclaiming, when anything was said which they approved of: “Wakhud rajil shereef hada, min beled bel scharki.” (‘A holy man this from the kingdoms of the East’) At last I produced the shekel, which I invariably carry about me as a pocket-piece, and asked the capitaz whether he had ever seen that money before. He surveyed the censer and olive-branch for a considerable time, and evidently knew not what to make of it. At length he fell to inspecting the characters round about it on both sides, and giving a cry, exclaimed to the other hamalos: “Brothers, brothers, these are the letters of Solomon. This silver is blessed. We must kiss this money.” He then put it upon his head, pressed it to his eyes, and finally kissed it with enthusiasm as did successively all his brethren. Then regaining it, he returned it to me, with a low reverence. Griffiths subsequently informed me, that the fellow refused to work during all the rest of the day, and did nothing but smile, laugh, and talk to himself.
“Allow me to offer you a glass of bitters, sir,” said the queer-looking personage before mentioned; he was a corpulent man, very short, and his legs particularly so. His dress consisted of a greasy snuff-coloured coat, dirty white trousers, and dirtier stockings. On his head he wore a rusty silk hat, the eaves of which had a tendency to turn up before and behind. I had observed that, during my conversation with the hamalos, he had several times uplifted his eyes from the newspaper, and on the production of the shekel had grinned very significantly, and had inspected it when in the hand of the capitaz. “Allow me to offer you a glass of bitters,” said he; “I guessed you was one of our people before you spoke to the hamalos. Sir, it does my heart good to see a gentleman of your appearance not above speaking to his poor brethren. It is what I do myself not unfrequently, and I hope God will blot out my name, and that is Solomons, when I despise them. I do not pretend to much Arabic myself, yet I understood you tolerably well, and I liked your discourse much. You must have a great deal of shillam eidri, nevertheless you startled me when you asked the hamalo if he ever read the Torah; of course you meant with the meforshim; poor as he is, I do not believe him becoresh enough to read the Torah without the commentators. So help me, sir, I believe you to be a Salamancan Jew; I am told there are still some of the old families to be found there. Ever at Tudela, sir? not very far from Salamanca, I believe; one of my own kindred once lived there: a great traveller, sir, like yourself; went over all the world to look for the Jews, — went to the top of Sinai. Anything that I can do for you at Gibraltar, sir? Any commission; will execute it as reasonably, and more expeditiously than any one else. My name is Solomons. I am tolerably well known at Gibraltar; yes, sir, and in the Crooked Friars, and, for that matter, in the Neuen Stein Steg, at Hamburg; so help me, sir, I think I once saw your face at the fair at Bremen. Speak German, sir? though of course you do. Allow me, sir, to offer you a glass of bitters. I wish, sir, they were mayim, hayim for your sake, I do indeed, sir, I wish they were living waters. Now, sir, do give me your opinion as to this matter (lowering his voice and striking the newspaper). Do you not think it is very hard that one Yudken should betray the other? When I put my little secret beyad peluni, — you understand me, sir? — when I entrust my poor secret to the custody of an individual, and that individual a Jew, a Yudken, sir, I do not wish to be blown, indeed, I do not expect it. In a word, what do you think of the GOLD DUST ROBBERY, and what will be done to those unfortunate people, who I see are convicted?”
That same day I made enquiry respecting the means of transferring myself to Tangier, having no wish to prolong my stay at Gibraltar, where, though it is an exceedingly interesting place to an observant traveller, I had no particular business to detain me. In the evening I was visited by a Jew, a native of Barbary, who informed me that he was secretary to the master of a small Genoese bark which plied between Tangier and Gibraltar. Upon his assuring me that the vessel would infallibly start for the former place on the following evening, I agreed with him for my passage. He said that as the wind was blowing from the Levant quarter, the voyage would be a speedy one. Being desirous now of disposing to the most advantage of the short time which I expected to remain at Gibraltar, I determined upon visiting the excavations, which I had as yet never seen, on the following morning, and accordingly sent for and easily obtained the necessary permission.
About six on Tuesday morning, I started on this expedition, attended by a very intelligent good-looking lad of the Jewish persuasion, one of two brothers who officiated at the inn in the capacity of valets de place.
The morning was dim and hazy, yet sultry to a degree. We ascended a precipitous street, and proceeding in an easterly direction, soon arrived in the vicinity of what is generally known by the name of the Moorish Castle, a large tower, but so battered by the cannon balls discharged against it in the famous siege, that it is at present little better than a ruin; hundreds of round holes are to be seen in its sides, in which, as it is said, the shot are still imbedded; here, at a species of hut, we were joined by an artillery sergeant, who was to be our guide. After saluting us, he led the way to a huge rock, where he unlocked a gate at the entrance of a dark vaulted passage which passed under it, emerging from which passage we found ourselves in a steep path, or rather staircase, with walls on either side.
We proceeded very leisurely, for hurry in such a situation would have been of little avail, as we should have lost our breath in a minute’s time. The soldier, perfectly well acquainted with the locality, stalked along with measured steps, his eyes turned to the ground.
I looked fully as much at that man as at the strange place where we now were, and which was every moment becoming stranger. He was a fine specimen of the yeoman turned soldier; indeed, the corps to which he belonged consists almost entirely of that class. There he paces along, tall, strong, ruddy, and chestnut-haired, an Englishman every inch; behold him pacing along, sober, silent, and civil, a genuine English soldier. I prize the sturdy Scot, I love the daring and impetuous Irishman; I admire all the various races which constitute the population of the British isles; yet I must say that, upon the whole, none are so well adapted to ply the soldier’s hardy trade as the rural sons of old England, so strong, so cool, yet, at the same time, animated with so much hidden fire. Turn to the history of England and you will at once perceive of what such men are capable; even at Hastings, in the grey old time, under almost every disadvantage, weakened by a recent and terrible conflict, without discipline, comparatively speaking, and uncouthly armed, they all but vanquished the Norman chivalry. Trace their deeds in France, which they twice subdued; and even follow them to Spain, where they twanged the yew and raised the battle-axe, and left behind them a name of glory at Inglis Mendi, a name that shall last till fire consumes the Cantabrian hills. And, oh, in modern times, trace the deeds of these gallant men all over the world, and especially in France and Spain, and admire them, even as I did that sober, silent, soldier-like man who was showing me the wonders of a foreign mountain fortress, wrested by his countrymen from a powerful and proud nation more than a century before, and of which he was now a trusty and efficient guardian.
We arrived close to the stupendous precipice, which rises abruptly above the isthmus called the neutral ground, staring gauntly and horridly at Spain, and immediately entered the excavations. They consist of galleries scooped in the living rock at the distance of some twelve feet from the outside, behind which they run the whole breadth of the hill in this direction. In these galleries, at short distances, are ragged yawning apertures, all formed by the hand of man, where stand the cannon upon neat slightly-raised pavements of small flint stones, each with its pyramid of bullets on one side, and on the other a box, in which is stowed the gear which the gunner requires in the exercise of his craft. Everything was in its place, everything in the nicest English order, everything ready to scathe and overwhelm in a few moments the proudest and most numerous host which might appear marching in hostile array against this singular fortress on the land side.
There is not much variety in these places, one cavern and one gun resembling the other. As for the guns, they are not of large calibre, indeed, such are not needed here, where a pebble discharged from so great an altitude would be fraught with death. On descending a shaft, however, I observed, in one cave of special importance, two enormous carronades looking with peculiar wickedness and malignity down a shelving rock, which perhaps, although not without tremendous difficulty, might be scaled. The mere wind of one of these huge guns would be sufficient to topple over a thousand men. What sensations of dread and horror must be awakened in the breast of a foe when this hollow rock, in the day of siege, emits its flame, smoke, and thundering wind from a thousand yawning holes; horror not inferior to that felt by the peasant of the neighbourhood when Mongibello belches forth from all its orifices its sulphureous fires.
Emerging from the excavations, we proceeded to view various batteries. I asked the sergeant whether his companions and himself were dexterous at the use of the guns. He replied that these cannons were to them what the fowling-piece is to the fowler, that they handled them as easily, and, he believed, pointed them with more precision, as they seldom or never missed an object within range of the shot. This man never spoke until he was addressed, and then the answers which he gave were replete with good sense, and in general well worded. After our excursion, which lasted at least two hours, I made him a small present, and took leave with a hearty shake of the hand.
In the evening I prepared to go on board the vessel bound for Tangier, trusting in what the Jewish secretary had told me as to its sailing. Meeting him, however, accidentally in the street, he informed me that it would not start until the following morning, advising me at the same time to be on board at an early hour. I now roamed about the streets until night was beginning to set in, and becoming weary, I was just about to direct my steps to the inn, when I felt myself gently pulled by the skirt. I was amidst a concourse of people who were gathered around some Irish soldiers who were disputing, and I paid no attention; but I was pulled again more forcibly than before, and I heard myself addressed in a language which I had half forgotten, and which I scarcely expected ever to hear again. I looked round, and lo! a tall figure stood close to me and gazed in my face with anxious inquiring eyes. On its head was the kauk or furred cap of Jerusalem; depending from its shoulders, and almost trailing on the ground, was a broad blue mantle, whilst kandrisa or Turkish trousers enveloped its nether limbs. I gazed on the figure as wistfully as it gazed upon me. At first the features appeared perfectly strange, and I was about to exclaim, I know you not, when one or two lineaments struck me, and I cried, though somewhat hesitatingly, “Surely this is Judah Lib.”
I was in a steamer in the Baltic in the year ‘34, if I mistake not. There was a drizzling rain and a high sea, when I observed a young man of about two and twenty leaning in a melancholy attitude against the side of the vessel. By his countenance I knew him to be one of the Hebrew race, nevertheless there was something very singular in his appearance, something which is rarely found amongst that people, a certain air of nobleness which highly interested me. I approached him, and in a few minutes we were in earnest conversation. He spoke Polish and Jewish German indiscriminately. The story which he related to me was highly extraordinary, yet I yielded implicit credit to all his words, which came from his mouth with an air of sincerity which precluded doubt; and, moreover, he could have no motive for deceiving me. One idea, one object, engrossed him entirely: “My father,” said he, in language which strongly marked his race, “was a native of Galatia, a Jew of high caste, a learned man, for he knew Zohar, and he was likewise skilled in medicine. When I was a child of some eight years, he left Galatia, and taking his wife, who was my mother, and myself with him, he bent his way unto the East, even to Jerusalem; there he established himself as a merchant, for he was acquainted with trade and the arts of getting money. He was much respected by the Rabbins of Jerusalem, for he was a Polish man, and he knew more Zohar and more secrets than the wisest of them. He made frequent journeys, and was absent for weeks and for months, but he never exceeded six moons. My father loved me, and he taught me part of what he knew in the moments of his leisure. I assisted him in his trade, but he took me not with him in his journeys. We had a shop at Jerusalem, even a shop of commerce, where we sold the goods of the Nazarene, and my mother and myself, and even a little sister who was born shortly after our arrival at Jerusalem, all assisted my father in his commerce. At length it came to pass, that on a particular time he told us that he was going on a journey, and he embraced us and bade us farewell, and he departed, whilst we continued at Jerusalem attending to the business. We awaited his return, but months passed, even six months, and he came not, and we wondered; and months passed, even other six passed, but still he came not, nor did we hear any tidings of him, and our hearts were filled with heaviness and sorrow. But when years, even two years, were expired, I said to my mother, ‘I will go and seek my father’; and she said, ‘Do so,’ and she gave me her blessing, and I kissed my little sister, and I went forth as far as Egypt, and there I heard tidings of my father, for people told me he had been there, and they named the time, and they said that he had passed from thence to the land of the Turk; so I myself followed to the land of the Turk, even unto Constantinople. And when I arrived there I again heard of my father, for he was well known amongst the Jews, and they told me the time of his being there, and they added that he had speculated and prospered, and departed from Constantinople, but whither he went they knew not. So I reasoned within myself and said, perhaps he may have gone to the land of his fathers, even unto Galatia, to visit his kindred; so I determined to go there myself, and I went, and I found our kindred, and I made myself known to them, and they rejoiced to see me; but when I asked them for my father, they shook their heads and could give me no intelligence; and they would fain have had me tarry with them, but I would not, for the thought of my father was working strong within me, and I could not rest. So I departed and went to another country, even unto Russia, and I went deep into that country, even as far as Kazan, and of all I met, whether Jew, or Russ, or Tartar, I inquired for my father; but no one knew him, nor had heard of him. So I turned back and here thou seest me; and I now purpose going through all Germany and France, nay, through all the world, until I have received intelligence of my father, for I cannot rest until I know what is become of my father, for the thought of him burneth in my brain like fire, even like the fire of Jehinnim.”
Such was the individual whom I now saw again, after a lapse of five years, in the streets of Gibraltar, in the dusk of the evening. “Yes,” he replied, “I am Judah, surnamed the Lib. Thou didst not recognise me, but I knew thee at once. I should have known thee amongst a million, and not a day has passed since I last saw thee, but I have thought on thee.” I was about to reply, but he pulled me out of the crowd and led me into a shop where, squatted on the floor, sat six or seven Jews cutting leather; he said something to them which I did not understand, whereupon they bowed their heads and followed their occupation, without taking any notice of us. A singular figure had followed us to the door; it was a man dressed in exceedingly shabby European garments, which exhibited nevertheless the cut of a fashionable tailor. He seemed about fifty; his face, which was very broad, was of a deep bronze colour; the features were rugged, but exceedingly manly, and, notwithstanding they were those of a Jew, exhibited no marks of cunning, but, on the contrary, much simplicity and good nature. His form was about the middle height, and tremendously athletic, the arms and back were literally those of a Hercules squeezed into a modern surtout; the lower part of his face was covered with a bushy beard, which depended half way down his breast. This figure remained at the door, his eyes fixed upon myself and Judah. The first inquiry which I now addressed was “Have you heard of your father?”
“I have,” he replied. “When we parted, I proceeded through many lands, and wherever I went I inquired of the people respecting my father, but still they shook their heads, until I arrived at the land of Tunis; and there I went to the head rabbi, and he told me that he knew my father well, and that he had been there, even at Tunis, and he named the time, and he said that from thence he departed for the land of Fez; and he spoke much of my father and of his learning, and he mentioned the Zohar, even that dark book which my father loved so well; and he spoke yet more of my father’s wealth and his speculations, in all of which it seems he had thriven. So I departed and I mounted a ship, and I went into the land of Barbary, even unto Fez, and when I arrived there I heard much intelligence of my father, but it was intelligence which perhaps was worse than ignorance. For the Jews told me that my father had been there, and had speculated and had thriven, and that from thence he departed for Tafilaltz, which is the country of which the Emperor, even Muley Abderrahman, is a native; and there he was still prosperous, and his wealth in gold and silver was very great; and he wished to go to a not far distant town, and he engaged certain Moors, two in number, to accompany him and defend him and his treasures: and the Moors were strong men, even makhasniah or soldiers; and they made a covenant with my father, and they gave him their right hands, and they swore to spill their blood rather than his should be shed. And my father was encouraged and he waxed bold, and he departed with them, even with the two false Moors. And when they arrived in the uninhabited place, they smote my father, and they prevailed against him, and they poured out his blood in the way, and they robbed him of all he had, of his silks and his merchandise, and of the gold and silver which he had made in his speculations, and they went to their own villages, and there they sat themselves down and bought lands and houses, and they rejoiced and they triumphed, and they made a merit of their deed, saying, ‘We have killed an infidel, even an accursed Jew’; and these things were notorious in Fez. And when I heard these tidings my heart was sad, and I became like a child, and I wept; but the fire of Jehinnim burned no longer in my brain, for I now knew what was become of my father. At last I took comfort and I reasoned with myself, saying, ‘Would it not be wise to go unto the Moorish king and demand of him vengeance for my father’s death, and that the spoilers be despoiled, and the treasure, even my father’s treasure, be wrested from their hands and delivered up to me who am his son?’ And the king of the Moors was not at that time in Fez, but was absent in his wars; and I arose and followed him, even unto Arbat, which is a seaport, and when I arrived there, lo! I found him not, but his son was there, and men said unto me that to speak unto the son was to speak unto the king, even Muley Abderrahman; so I went in unto the king’s son, and I kneeled before him, and I lifted up my voice and I said unto him what I had to say, and he looked courteously upon me and said, ‘Truly thy tale is a sorrowful one, and it maketh me sad; and what thou asketh, that will I grant, and thy father’s death shall be avenged and the spoilers shall be despoiled; and I will write thee a letter with my own hand unto the Pasha, even the Pasha of Tafilaltz, and I will enjoin him to make inquiry into thy matter, and that letter thou shalt thyself carry and deliver unto him.’ And when I heard these words, my heart died within my bosom for very fear, and I replied, ‘Not so, my lord; it is good that thou write a letter unto the Pasha, even unto the Pasha of Tafilaltz, but that letter will I not take, neither will I go to Tafilaltz, for no sooner should I arrive there, and my errand be known, than the Moors would arise and put me to death, either privily or publicly, for are not the murderers of my father Moors; and am I aught but a Jew, though I be a Polish man?’ And he looked benignantly, and he said, ‘Truly, thou speakest wisely; I will write the letter, but thou shalt not take it, for I will send it by other hands; therefore set thy heart at rest, and doubt not that, if thy tale be true, thy father’s death shall be avenged, and the treasure, or the value thereof, be recovered and given up to thee; tell me, therefore, where wilt thou abide till then?’ And I said unto him, ‘My lord, I will go into the land of Suz and will tarry there.’ And he replied: ‘Do so, and thou shalt hear speedily from me.’ So I arose and departed and went into the land of Suz, even unto Sweerah, which the Nazarenes call Mogadore; and waited with a troubled heart for intelligence from the son of the Moorish king, but no intelligence came, and never since that day have I heard from him, and it is now three years since I was in his presence. And I sat me down at Mogadore, and I married a wife, a daughter of our nation, and I wrote to my mother, even to Jerusalem, and she sent me money, and with that I entered into commerce, even as my father had done, and I speculated, and I was not successful in my speculations, and I speedily lost all I had. And now I am come to Gibraltar to speculate on the account of another, a merchant of Mogadore, but I like not my occupation, he has deceived me; I am going back, when I shall again seek the presence of the Moorish king and demand that the treasure of my father be taken from the spoilers and delivered up to me, even to me his son.”
I listened with mute attention to the singular tale of this singular man, and when he had concluded I remained a considerable time without saying a word; at last he inquired what had brought me to Gibraltar. I told him that I was merely a passer through on my way to Tangier, for which place I expected to sail the following morning. Whereupon he observed, that in the course of a week or two he expected to be there also, when he hoped that we should meet, as he had much more to tell me. “And peradventure,” he added, “you can afford me counsel which will be profitable, for you are a person of experience, versed in the ways of many nations; and when I look in your countenance, heaven seems to open to me, for I think I see the countenance of a friend, even of a brother.” He then bade me farewell, and departed; the strange bearded man, who during our conversation had remained patiently waiting at the door, following him. I remarked that there was less wildness in his look than on the former occasion, but at the same time, more melancholy, and his features were wrinkled like those of an aged man, though he had not yet passed the prime of youth.
Throughout the whole of that night it blew very hard, but as the wind was in the Levant quarter, I had no apprehension of being detained longer at Gibraltar on that account. I went on board the vessel at an early hour, when I found the crew engaged in hauling the anchor close, and making other preparations for sailing. They informed me that we should probably start in an hour. That time however passed, and we still remained where we were, and the captain continued on shore. We formed one of a small flotilla of Genoese barks, the crews of which seemed in their leisure moments to have no better means of amusing themselves than the exchange of abusive language; a furious fusillade of this kind presently commenced, in which the mate of our vessel particularly distinguished himself; he was a grey-haired Genoese of sixty. Though not able to speak their patois, I understood much of what was said; it was truly shocking, and as they shouted it forth, judging from their violent gestures and distorted features, you would have concluded them to be bitter enemies; they were, however, nothing of the kind, but excellent friends all the time, and indeed very good-humoured fellows at bottom. Oh, the infirmities of human nature! When will man learn to become truly Christian?
I am upon the whole very fond of the Genoese; they have, it is true, much ribaldry and many vices, but they are a brave and chivalrous people, and have ever been so, and from them I have never experienced aught but kindness and hospitality.
After the lapse of another two hours, the Jew secretary arrived and said something to the old mate, who grumbled much; then coming up to me, he took off his hat and informed me that we were not to start that day, saying at the same time that it was a shame to lose such a noble wind, which would carry us to Tangier in three hours. “Patience,” said I, and went on shore.
I now strolled towards Saint Michael’s cave, in company with the Jewish lad whom I have before mentioned.
The way thither does not lie in the same direction as that which leads to the excavations; these confront Spain, whilst the cave yawns in the face of Africa. It lies nearly at the top of the mountain, several hundred yards above the sea. We passed by the public walks, where there are noble trees, and also by many small houses, situated delightfully in gardens, and occupied by the officers of the garrison. It is wrong to suppose Gibraltar a mere naked barren rock; it is not without its beautiful spots — spots such as these, looking cool and refreshing, with bright green foliage. The path soon became very steep, and we left behind us the dwellings of man. The gale of the preceding night had entirely ceased, and not a breath of air was stirring; the midday sun shone in all its fierce glory, and the crags up which we clambered were not unfrequently watered with the perspiration drops which rained from our temples. At length we arrived at the cavern.
The mouth is a yawning cleft in the side of the mountain, about twelve feet high and as many wide; within there is a very rapid precipitous descent for some fifty yards, where the cavern terminates in an abyss which leads to unknown depths. The most remarkable object is a natural column, which rises up something like the trunk of an enormous oak, as if for the purpose of supporting the roof; it stands at a short distance from the entrance, and gives a certain air of wildness and singularity to that part of the cavern which is visible, which it would otherwise not possess. The floor is exceedingly slippery, consisting of soil which the continual drippings from the roof have saturated, so that no slight precaution is necessary for him who treads it. It is very dangerous to enter this place without a guide well acquainted with it, as, besides the black pit at the extremity, holes which have never been fathomed present themselves here and there, falling into which the adventurer would be dashed to pieces. Whatever men may please to say of this cave, one thing it seems to tell to all who approach it, namely, that the hand of man has never been busy about it; there is many a cave of nature’s forming, old as the earth on which we exist, which nevertheless exhibits indications that man has turned it to some account, and that it has been subjected more or less to his modifying power; not so this cave of Gibraltar, for, judging from its appearance, there is not the slightest reason for supposing that it ever served for aught else than a den for foul night birds, reptiles, and beasts of prey. It has been stated by some to have been used in the days of paganism as a temple to the god Hercules, who, according to the ancient tradition, raised the singular mass of crags now called Gibraltar, and the mountain which confronts it on the African shores, as columns which should say to all succeeding times that he had been there, and had advanced no farther. Sufficient to observe, that there is nothing within the cave which would authorize the adoption of such an opinion, not even a platform on which an altar could have stood, whilst a narrow path passes before it, leading to the summit of the mountain. As I have myself never penetrated into its depths, I can of course not pretend to describe them. Numerous have been the individuals who, instigated by curiosity, have ventured down to immense depths, hoping to discover an end, and indeed scarcely a week passes without similar attempts being made either by the officers or soldiers of the garrison, all of which have proved perfectly abortive. No termination has ever been reached, nor any discoveries made to repay the labour and frightful danger incurred; precipice succeeds precipice, and abyss succeeds abyss, in apparently endless succession, with ledges at intervals, which afford the adventurers opportunities for resting themselves and affixing their rope-ladders for the purpose of descending yet farther. What is, however, most mortifying and perplexing is to observe that these abysses are not only before, but behind you, and on every side; indeed, close within the entrance of the cave, on the right, there is a gulf almost equally dark and full as threatening as that which exists at the nether end, and perhaps contains within itself as many gulfs and horrid caverns branching off in all directions. Indeed, from what I have heard, I have come to the opinion, that the whole hill of Gibraltar is honeycombed, and I have little doubt that, were it cleft asunder, its interior would be found full of such abysses of Erebus as those to which Saint Michael’s cave conducts. Many valuable lives are lost every year in these horrible places; and only a few weeks before my visit, two sergeants, brothers, had perished in the gulf on the right hand side of the cave, having, when at a great depth, slipped down a precipice. The body of one of these adventurous men is even now rotting in the bowels of the mountain, preyed upon by its blind and noisome worms; that of his brother was extricated. Immediately after this horrible accident, a gate was placed before the mouth of the cave, to prevent individuals, and especially the reckless soldiers, from indulging in their extravagant curiosity. The lock, however, was speedily forced, and at the period of my arrival the gate swung idly upon its hinges.
As I left the place, I thought that perhaps similar to this was the cave of Horeb, where dwelt Elijah, when he heard the still small voice, after the great and strong wind which rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; the cave to the entrance of which he went out and stood with his face wrapped in his mantle, when he heard the voice say unto him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings xix. 11-13.)
And what am I doing here, I inquired of myself as, vexed at my detention, I descended into the town.
That afternoon I dined in the company of a young American, a native of South Carolina. I had frequently seen him before, as he had been staying for some time at the inn previous to my arrival at Gibraltar. His appearance was remarkable: he was low of stature, and exceedingly slightly made; his features were pale but very well formed; he had a magnificent head of crispy black hair, and as superb a pair of whiskers of the same colour as I ever beheld. He wore a white hat, with broad brim and particularly shallow crown, and was dressed in a light yellow gingham frock striped with black, and ample trousers of calico, in a word, his appearance was altogether queer and singular. On my return from my ramble to the cave, I found that he had himself just descended from the mountain, having since a very early hour been absent exploring its wonders.
A man of the rock asked him how he liked the excavations. “Liked them,” said he; “you might just as well ask a person who has just seen the Niagara Falls how he liked them — like is not the word, mister.” The heat was suffocating, as it almost invariably is in the town of Gibraltar, where rarely a breath of air is to be felt, as it is sheltered from all winds. This led another individual to inquire of him whether he did not think it exceedingly hot? “Hot, sir,” he replied, “not at all: fine cotton gathering weather as a man could wish for. We couldn’t beat it in South Carolina, sir.” “You live in South Carolina, sir — I hope, sir, you are not a slave proprietor,” said the short fat Jewish personage in the snuff-coloured coat, who had offered me the bitters on a previous occasion; “it is a terrible thing to make slaves of poor people, simply because they happen to be black; don’t you think so, sir?” “Think so, sir — no, sir, I don’t think so — I glory in being a slave proprietor; have four hundred black niggers on my estate — own estate, sir, near Charleston — flog half a dozen of them before breakfast, merely for exercise. Niggers only made to be flogged, sir: try to escape sometimes; set the bloodhounds in their trail, catch them in a twinkling; used to hang themselves formerly: the niggers thought that a sure way to return to their own country and get clear of me: soon put a stop to that: told them that if any more hanged themselves I’d hang myself too, follow close behind them, and flog them in their own country ten times worse than in mine. What do you think of that, friend?” It was easy to perceive that there was more of fun than malice in this eccentric little fellow, for his large grey eyes were sparkling with good humour whilst he poured out these wild things. He was exceedingly free of his money; and a dirty Irish woman, a soldier’s wife, having entered with a basketful of small boxes and trinkets, made of portions of the rock of Gibraltar, he purchased the greatest part of her ware, giving her for every article the price (by no means inconsiderable) which she demanded. He had glanced at me several times, and at last I saw him stoop down and whisper something to the Jew, who replied in an undertone, though with considerable earnestness “O dear no, sir; perfectly mistaken, sir: is no American, sir:— from Salamanca, sir; the gentleman is a Salamancan Spaniard.” The waiter at length informed us that he had laid the table, and that perhaps it would be agreeable to us to dine together: we instantly assented. I found my new acquaintance in many respects a most agreeable companion: he soon told me his history. He was a planter, and, from what he hinted, just come to his property. He was part owner of a large vessel which traded between Charleston and Gibraltar, and the yellow fever having just broken out at the former place, he had determined to take a trip (his first) to Europe in this ship; having, as he said, already visited every state in the Union, and seen all that was to be seen there. He described to me, in a very naive and original manner, his sensations on passing by Tarifa, which was the first walled town he had ever seen. I related to him the history of that place, to which he listened with great attention. He made divers attempts to learn from me who I was; all of which I evaded, though he seemed fully convinced that I was an American; and amongst other things asked me whether my father had not been American consul at Seville. What, however, most perplexed him was my understanding Moorish and Gaelic, which he had heard me speak respectively to the hamalos and the Irish woman, the latter of whom, as he said, had told him that I was a fairy man. At last he introduced the subject of religion, and spoke with much contempt of revelation, avowing himself a deist; he was evidently very anxious to hear my opinion, but here again I evaded him, and contented myself with asking him, whether he had ever read the Bible. He said he had not; but that he was well acquainted with the writings of Volney and Mirabeau. I made no answer; whereupon he added, that it was by no means his habit to introduce such subjects, and that there were very few persons to whom he would speak so unreservedly, but that I had very much interested him, though our acquaintance had been short. I replied, that he would scarcely have spoken at Boston in the manner that I had just heard him, and that it was easy to perceive that he was not a New Englander. “I assure you,” said he, “I should as little have thought of speaking so at Charleston, for if I held such conversation there, I should soon have had to speak to myself.”
Had I known less of deists than it has been my fortune to know, I should perhaps have endeavoured to convince this young man of the erroneousness of the ideas which he had adopted; but I was aware of all that he would have urged in reply, and as the believer has no carnal arguments to address to carnal reason upon this subject, I thought it best to avoid disputation, which I felt sure would lead to no profitable result. Faith is the free gift of God, and I do not believe that ever yet was an infidel converted by means of after-dinner polemics. This was the last evening of my sojourn in Gibraltar.
James Fenimore Cooper, Ned Myers; or, A Life before the Mast (1843)
James Fenimore Cooper was born at Burlington, New Jersey on 15 September 1789. He joined the United States Navy at the age of seventeen, but resigned his commission shortly after reaching the rank of Lieutenant in 1811. Over the next few years Cooper came to write a series of moderately successful potboilers, including Precaution (1820), The Spy (1821), The Pioneers (1823), The Pilot (1824) and Lionel Lincoln (1825). His fame was assured in 1826 with the publication of Last of the Mohicans, a work that was commended by none other than Victor Hugo. From then onwards, Cooper led a controversial and somewhat unsettled existence, alternating between Europe and America and irritating many of his readers with his penchant for self‑publicity. Although much of his later oeuvre is of questionable quality, he did produce an outstanding travel narrative when he came to rework the experiences of an illiterate sailor into the book entitled Ned Myers; or, A Life before the Mast (1843). He died of dropsy on 14 September, 1851 at Cooperstown, New York.
The ‘Coromandel’ was bound to Cadiz, and thence round the Horn. The outward bound cargo was flour, but to which ports we were going in South America, I was ignorant. Our crew were all blacks, the officers excepted. We had a fine passage, until we got off Cape Trafalgar, when it came on to blow heavily, directly on end. We lay‑to off the Cape two days, and then ran into Gibraltar, and anchored. Here we lay about a fortnight, when there came on a gale from the south-west, which sent a tremendous sea in from the Atlantic. This gale commenced in the afternoon, and blew very heavily all that night. The force of the wind increased, little by little, until it began to tell seriously among the shipping, of which a great number were lying in front of the Rock. The second day of the gale, our ship was pitching bows under, sending the water aft to the taffrail, while many other craft struck adrift, or foundered at their anchors. The ‘Coromandel’ had one chain cable, and this was out. It was the only cable we used for the first twenty-four hours. As the gale increased, however, it was thought necessary to let go the sheet-anchor, which had a hempen cable bent to it. Our chain, indeed, was said to be the first that was ever used out of Philadelphia, though it had then been in the ship for sometime, and had proved itself a faithful servant the voyage before. Unfortunately, most of the chain was out before we let go the sheet-anchor, and there was no possibility of getting out a scope of the hempen cable. Dragging on shore, where we lay, was pretty much out of the question, as the bottom shelved inward, and the anchor, to come home, must have gone up hill.
In this manner the ‘Coromandel’ rode for two nights and two days, the sea getting worse and worse, and the wind, if anything, rather increasing. We took the weight of the last in squalls, some of which were terrific. By this time the bay was well cleared of craft, nearly everything having sunk, or gone ashore. An English packet lay directly ahead of us, rather more than a cable’s length distant, and she held on like ourselves. The ‘Governor Brooks’, of Boston, lay over nearer to Algeciras, where the sea and wind were a little broken, and, of course, she made better weather than ourselves.
About eight o’clock, the third night, I was in the cabin, when the men on deck sung out that the chain had gone. At this time the ship had been pitching her spritsail-yard under water, and it blew a little hurricane. We were on deck in a moment, all hands paying out sheet. We brought the ship up with this cable, but not until she got it nearly to the better end. Unfortunately, we had got into shoal water, or what became shoal water by the depth of the troughs. It was said, afterwards, we were in five fathoms water at this time, but for this I will not vouch. It seems too much water for what happened. Our anchor, however, did actually lie in sixteen fathoms.
We had hardly paid out the cable, before the ship came down upon the bottom, on an even keel, apparently, with a force that almost threw those on deck off their feet. These blows were repeated, from time to time, at intervals of several minutes, some of the thumps being much heavier than others. The English packet must have struck adrift at the same time with ourselves, for she came down upon us, letting go an anchor in a way to overlay our cable. I suppose the rocks and this sawing together, parted our hempen cable, and away we went towards the shore, broadside-to. As the ship drifted in, she continued to thump; but, luckily for us, the sea made no breaches over her. The old ‘Coromandel’ was a very strong ship, and she continued working her way in shore, until she lay in a good substantial berth, without any motion. We manned the pumps, and kept the ship tolerably free of water, though she lay over considerably. The English packet followed us in, going ashore more towards the Spanish lines. This vessel bilged, and lost some of her crew. As for ourselves, we had a comfortable berth, considering the manner in which we had got into it. No apprehension was felt for our personal safety, and perfect order was observed on board. The men worked as usual, nor was there any extra liquor drunk.
That night the gale broke, and before morning it had materially moderated. Lighters were brought alongside, and we began to discharge our flour into them. The cargo was all discharged, and all in good order, so far as the water was concerned; though several of the keelson bolts were driven into the ground tier of barrels. I am almost afraid to tell this story, but I know it to be true, as I released the barrels with my own hands. As soon as clear, the ship was hove off into deep water, on the top of a high tide, and was found to leak so much as to need a shore-gang at the pumps to keep her afloat. She was accordingly sold for the benefit of the underwriters. She was subsequently docked and sent to sea.
Of course, this broke up our voyage. The captain advised me to take a second-mate’s berth in the ‘Governor Brooks’, the only American that escaped the gale, and I did so. This vessel was a brig, bound round the Horn, also, and a large, new craft. I know of no other vessel, that lay in front of the Rock that rode out this gale; and she did it with two hempen cables out, partly protected, however, by a good berth. There was a Swede that came back next day to her anchorage, which was said to have got back-strapped, behind the Rock, by some legerdemain, and so escaped also. I do not know how many lives were lost on this occasion; but the destruction of property must have been very great.
William Gilmore Simms, Count Julian (1845)
William Gilmore Simms was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1806. A precocious, somewhat unsettled youth, Simms tried studying law and medicine before abandoning formal education for literature. At the age of twenty-one he published his first volume of poetry, Lyrical and other Poems. A year later he became editor and partial owner of the Charleston City Gazette – a venture that drove the young entrepreneur to near bankruptcy. Although Simms’ reputation has suffered over the years, Edgar Allan Poe considered him a talented novelist and his books – Martin Faber (1833), The Yemassee (1835), Castle Dismal (1845) and Count Julian (1845), among others – sold extraordinarily well during his lifetime. He died in 1870.
Remembering the awful vision which he had witnessed in the mysterious cavern of Covadonga — the vision of these swarthy invaders, following in the pale light of the baleful crescent — recalling the terrible prediction which he could not drive from his senses, and which told him that, by infidels in this aspect, his sceptre was to be wrested from his hands, the soul of Roderick was startled by its fears, and he readily conceded to so brave a captain as Julian, all that he craved for the defence of the frontier against this greatly threatening foe. In his anxiety and apprehension, he stripped his kingdom of its means of defence, and, even as the apostate count had desired, accumulated, ready for the use of the traitor, the implements of war, and the steeds necessary for a mighty cavalry, conveniently at the foot of the rock of Calpe, one of the great guardian mountains which keep the entrance to the Mediterranean sea.
Circumstances continued to favor the progress of conspiracy. The temporary suspension of hostilities, and the disappearance of the Arabs from the immediate neighborhood of Ceuta, by withdrawing from sight the immediate danger, disarmed the fears of the Gothic monarch. The preparations which he made and the precautions which he had begun to take for the safety of his kingdom were at once suspended, and satisfied with having furnished adequate means for its defence, to the very person whom he had most reason in the world to fear, he again surrendered himself to the heartless dissipation and the unwise tyrannies in which he had so long indulged. But he was soon to waken from his dream of security and the voluptuous languor of that life which had so enslaved his soul and subdued his courage. The preparations of Julian being all complete, he summoned the veteran Taric el Tuerto to his side. The banner of the Christian and of Islam waved together in the ghastly starlight, as, darting across the narrow streight that divides the shores of Spain from those of Africa, the prows of the Arabian, which had been silently gathering along the coast preparatory to this event, shot into the dark but sheltering shadows of the great mountain height of Calpe.
“Here,” said Julian the Apostate, to the gaunt and fiery veteran, Taric el Tuerto, as they climbed the rugged elevation, and looked down upon the blue waters that lay below sleeping in the serene starlight. “Here did Hercules the mighty set up his pillar. This is the rock of Calpe.”
“And here,” said the ambitious and impatient Taric, “here will I set up mine, and it shall be a mark forever, high above the sea. Calpe no longer! It is my mountain now – ‘Geber al Taric’ — the pillar of Taric.”
Strange that the exulting and arrogant spirit of the Arabian should, in this moment, have spoken in the voice of prophecy. His pillar has indeed overthrown that of Hercules. To this day, Gibraltar – ‘Gebir-al-tar’ — is the name of the mountain — perpetuating the events of that night of import, and of the confident speech of the Islam chieftain.
William Makepeace Thackeray, Notes of a Journey From Cornhill to Grand Cairo (1846)
Born in Calcutta to English parents, William Makepeace Thackeray was sent back to England after his father died in 1814. He attended Charterhouse and then Trinity College, Cambridge — although large gambling debts forced him to leave university without taking a degree. During his early manhood Thackeray led a rootless and semi‑migratory existence — working as journalist in Paris, meeting Goethe in Weimar, qualifying as a barrister (but never actually practising as one), travelling through the Mediterranean, and studying drawing and painting at various ateliers. In 1836 he married Isabella Shawe, who bore him three children before she suffered a mental breakdown in 1840. Increasingly miserable and lonely, Thackeray fell in love with the wife of a childhood friend and a major scandal ensued. From then on Thackeray led the sedentary life of a well-to-do bourgeois author, writing occasional pieces for London magazines (Punch, Fraser’s Magazine) and publishing novels every two to three years (Vanity Fair, The Luck of Barry Lyndon, The Virginians). He died suddenly on Christmas Eve, 1863.
Suppose all the nations of the earth to send fitting ambassadors to represent them at Wapping or Portsmouth Point, with each, under its own national signboard and language, its appropriate house of call, and your imagination may figure the Main Street of Gibraltar: almost the only part of the town, I believe, which boasts of the name of street at all, the remaining houserows being modestly called lanes, such as Bomb Lane, Battery Lane, Fusee Lane, and so on. In Main Street the Jews predominate, the Moors abound; and from the “Jolly Sailor,” or the brave “Horse Marine,” where the people of our nation are drinking British beer and gin, you hear choruses of “Garryowen” or “The Lass I left behind me;” while through the flaring lattices of the Spanish ventas come the clatter of castanets and the jingle and moan of Spanish guitars and ditties. It is a curious sight at evening this thronged street, with the people, in a hundred different costumes, bustling to and fro under the coarse flare of the lamps; swarthy Moors, in white or crimson robes; dark Spanish smugglers in tufted hats, with gay silk handkerchiefs round their heads; fuddled seamen from men-of-war, or merchantmen; porters, Galician or Genoese; and at every few minutes’ interval, little squads of soldiers tramping to relieve guard at some one of the innumerable posts in the town.
Some of our party went to a Spanish venta, as a more convenient or romantic place of residence than an English house; others made choice of the club-house in Commercial Square, of which I formed an agreeable picture in my imagination; rather, perhaps, resembling the Junior United Service Club in Charles Street, by which every Londoner has passed ere this with respectful pleasure, catching glimpses of magnificent blazing candelabras, under which sit neat half-pay officers, drinking half-pints of port. The club-house of Gibraltar is not, however, of the Charles Street sort: it may have been cheerful once, and there are yet relics of splendour about it. When officers wore pigtails, and in the time of Governor O’Hara, it may have been a handsome place; but it is mouldy and decrepit now; and though his Excellency, Mr. Bulwer, was living there, and made no complaints that I heard of, other less distinguished persons thought they had reason to grumble. Indeed, what is travelling made of? At least half its pleasures and incidents come out of inns; and of them the tourist can speak with much more truth and vivacity than of historical recollections compiled out of histories, or filched out of handbooks. But to speak of the best inn in a place needs no apology: that, at least, is useful information. As every person intending to visit Gibraltar cannot have seen the flea-bitten countenances of our companions, who fled from their Spanish venta to take refuge at the club the morning after our arrival, they may surely be thankful for being directed to the best house of accommodation in one of the most unromantic, uncomfortable, and prosaic of towns.
If one had a right to break the sacred confidence of the mahogany, I could entertain you with many queer stories of Gibraltar life, gathered from the lips of the gentlemen who enjoyed themselves round the dingy tablecloth of the club-house coffee-room, richly decorated with cold gravy and spilt beer. I heard there the very names of the gentlemen who wrote the famous letters from the ‘Warspite’ regarding the French proceedings at Mogador; and met several refugee Jews from that place, who said that they were much more afraid of the Kabyles without the city than of the guns of the French squadron, of which they seemed to make rather light. I heard the last odds on the ensuing match between Captain Smith’s b. g. Bolter, and Captain Brown’s ch. c. Roarer: how the gun-room of Her Majesty’s ship ‘Purgatory’ had ‘cobbed’ a tradesman of the town, and of the row in consequence. I heard capital stories of the way in which Wilkins had escaped the guard, and Thompson had been locked up among the mosquitoes for being out after ten without the lantern. I heard how the governor was an old —, but to say what, would be breaking a confidence: only this may be divulged, that the epithet was exceedingly complimentary to Sir Robert Wilson. All the while these conversations were going on, a strange scene of noise and bustle was passing in the market-place, in front of the window, where Moors, Jews, Spaniards, soldiers were thronging in the sun; and a ragged fat fellow, mounted on a tobacco-barrel, with his hat cocked on his ear, was holding an auction, and roaring with an energy and impudence that would have done credit to Covent Garden.
The Moorish castle is the only building about the Rock which has an air at all picturesque or romantic; there is a plain Roman Catholic cathedral, a hideous new Protestant church of the cigar-divan architecture, and a Court-house with a portico which is said to be an imitation of the Parthenon: the ancient religions houses of the Spanish town are gone, or turned into military residences, and masked so that you would never know their former pious destination. You walk through narrow whitewashed lanes, bearing such martial names as are before mentioned, and by-streets with barracks on either side: small Newgate-like looking buildings, at the doors of which you may see the sergeants’ ladies conversing; or at the open windows of the officers’ quarters, Ensign Fipps lying on his sofa and smoking his cigar, or Lieutenant Simpson practising the flute to while away the weary hours of garrison dullness. I was surprised not to find more persons in the garrison library, where is a magnificent reading-room, and an admirable collection of books.
In spite of the scanty herbage and the dust on the trees, the Alameda is a beautiful walk; of which the vegetation has been as laboriously cared for as the tremendous fortifications which flank it on either side. The vast Rock rises on one side with its interminable works of defence, and Gibraltar Bay is shining on the other, out on which from the terraces immense cannon are perpetually looking, surrounded by plantations of cannon-balls and beds of bomb-shells, sufficient, one would think, to blow away the whole peninsula. The horticultural and military mixture is indeed very queer: here and there temples, rustic summer-seats, &c. have been erected in the garden, but you are sure to see a great squat mortar look up from among the flower-pots: and amidst the aloes and geraniums sprouts the green petticoat and scarlet coat of a Highlander. Fatigue-parties are seen winding up the hill, and busy about the endless cannon-ball plantations; awkward squads are drilling in the open spaces: sentries marching everywhere, and (this is a caution to artists) I am told have orders to run any man through who is discovered making a sketch of the place. It is always beautiful, especially at evening, when the people are sauntering along the walks, and the moon is shining on the waters of the bay and the hills and twinkling white houses of the opposite shore. Then the place becomes quite romantic: it is too dark to see the dust on the dried leaves; the cannon-balls do not intrude too much, but have subsided into the shade; the awkward squads are in bed; even the loungers are gone, the fan-flirting Spanish ladies, the sallow black-eyed children, and the trim white-jacketed dandies. A fife is heard from some craft at roost on the quiet waters somewhere; or a faint cheer from yonder black steamer at the Mole, which is about to set out on some night expedition. You forget that the town is at all like Wapping, and deliver yourself up entirely to romance; the sentries look noble pacing there, silent in the moonlight, and Sandy’s voice is quite musical as he challenges with a ‘Who goes there?’
‘All’s Well’ is very pleasant when sung decently in tune, and inspires noble and poetic ideas of duty, courage, and danger: but when you hear it shouted all the night through, accompanied by a clapping of muskets in a time of profound peace, the sentinel’s cry becomes no more romantic to the hearer than it is to the sandy Connaught-man or the bare-legged Highlander who delivers it. It is best to read about wars comfortably in Harry Lorrequer or Scott’s novels, in which knights shout their war-cries, and jovial Irish bayoneteers hurrah, without depriving you of any blessed rest. Men of a different way of thinking, however, can suit themselves perfectly at Gibraltar; where there is marching and counter-marching, challenging and relieving guard all the night through. And not here in Commercial Square alone, but all over the huge Rock in the darkness — all through the mysterious zig-zags, and round the dark cannon-ball pyramids, and along the vast rock-galleries, and up to the topmost flagstaff, where the sentry can look out over two seas, poor fellows are marching and clapping muskets, and crying ‘All’s Well,’ dressed in cap and feather, in place of honest nightcaps best befitting the decent hours of sleep.
All these martial noises three of us heard to the utmost advantage, lying on iron bedsteads at the time in a cracked old room on the ground-floor, the open windows of which looked into the square. No spot could be more favourably selected for watching the humours of a garrison town by night. About midnight, the door hard by us was visited by a party of young officers, who having had quite as much drink as was good for them, were naturally inclined for more; and when we remonstrated through the windows, one of them in a young tipsy voice asked after our mothers, and finally reeled away. How charming is the conversation of high-spirited youth! I don’t know whether the guard got hold of them: but certainly if a civilian had been hiccupping through the streets at that hour, he would have been carried off to the guard-house, and left to the mercy of the mosquitoes there, and had up before the Governor in the morning. The young man in the coffee-room tells me he goes to sleep every night with the keys of Gibraltar under his pillow. It is an awful image, and somehow completes the notion of the slumbering fortress. Fancy Sir Robert Wilson, his nose just visible over the sheets, his night-cap and the huge key (you see the very identical one in Reynolds’s portrait of Lord Heathfield) peeping out from under the bolster!
If I entertain you with accounts of inns and nightcaps it is because I am more familiar with these subjects than with history and fortifications: as far as I can understand the former, Gibraltar is the great British depot for smuggling goods into the Peninsula. You see vessels lying in the harbour, and are told in so many words they are smugglers: all those smart Spaniards with cigar and mantles are smugglers, and run tobaccos and cotton into Catalonia; all the respected merchants of the place are smugglers. The other day a Spanish revenue vessel was shot to death under the thundering great guns of the fort, for neglecting to bring to, but it so happened that it was in chase of a smuggler: in this little corner of her dominions Britain proclaims war to custom-houses, and protection to free trade. Perhaps ere a very long day, England may be acting that part towards the world, which Gibraltar performs towards Spain now; and the last war in which we shall ever engage may be a custom-house war. For once establish railroads and abolish preventive duties through Europe, and what is there left to fight for? It will matter very little then under what flag people live, and foreign ministers and ambassadors may enjoy a dignified sinecure; the army will rise to the rank of peaceful constables, not having any more use for their bayonets than those worthy people have for their weapons now who accompany the law at assizes under the name of javelin-men. The apparatus of bombs and eighty-four-pounders may disappear from the Alameda, and the crops of cannon— balls which now grow there may give place to other plants more pleasant to the eye; and the great key of Gibraltar may be left in the gate for anybody to turn at will, and Sir Robert Wilson may sleep in quiet.
I am afraid I thought it was rather a release, when, having made up our minds to examine the Rock in detail and view the magnificent excavations and galleries, the admiration of all military men, and the terror of any enemies who may attack the fortress, we received orders to embark forthwith in the ‘Tagus,’ which was to early us to Malta and Constantinople. So we took leave of this famous Rock — this great blunderbuss — which we seized out of the hands of the natural owners a hundred and forty years ago, and which we have kept ever since tremendously loaded and cleaned and ready for use. To seize and have it is doubtless a gallant thing; it is like one of those tests of courage which one reads of in the chivalrous romances, when, for instance, Sir Huon of Bordeaux is called upon to prove his knighthood by going to Babylon and pulling out the Sultan’s beard and front teeth in the midst of his Court there. But, after all, justice must confess it was rather hard on the poor Sultan. If we had the Spaniards established at Land’s End, with impregnable Spanish fortifications on St. Michael’s Mount, we should perhaps come to the same conclusion. Meanwhile let us hope, during this long period of deprivation, the Sultan of Spain is reconciled to the loss of his front teeth and bristling whiskers— let us even try to think that he is better without them. At all events, right or wrong, whatever may be our title to the property, there is no Englishman but must think with pride of the manner in which his countrymen have kept it, and of the courage, endurance, and sense of duty with which stout old Eliott and his companions resisted Crillon and the Spanish battering ships and his fifty thousand men. There seems to be something more noble in the success of a gallant resistance than of an attack, however brave. After failing in his attack on the fort, the French General visited the English Commander who had foiled him, and parted from him and his garrison in perfect politeness and good-humour. The English troops, Drinkwater says, gave him thundering cheers as he went away, and the French in return complimented us on our gallantry, and lauded the humanity of our people. If we are to go on murdering each other in the old-fashioned way, what a pity it is that our battles cannot end in the old-fashioned way too!
James Richardson, Travels in Morocco (1859)
James Richardson was one of the leading lights of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. As a young man he travelled extensively through Libya, Morocco and other North African countries, lobbying foreign potentates along the way and trying to disrupt the circulation of the slave trade. In spite of his indefatigably nomadic life, Richardson found time to write a number of travel books during his journeys, including Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara in the Years of 1845 and 1846 (1848), Mission to Central Africa and Travels in Morocco (the last two being published posthumously in 1853 and 1860 respectively). Although he writes principally about Morocco in the latter, the author nevertheless includes some interesting anecdotal information about the relationship between the Muslim kingdom and the British colony in the mid-1850s. Richardson died on 4 March, 1851, halfway through an expedition to Lake Chad in the company of the German explorers Heinrich Barth and Adolf Overweg.
The grand cicerone for the English at Tangier, is Benoliel. He is a man of about sixty years of age, and initiated into the sublimest mysteries of the consular politics of the Shereefs. Ben is full of anecdotes of everybody and everything from the emperor on the Shreefian throne, down to the mad and ragged dervish in the streets. Our cicerone keeps a book, in which the names of all his English guests have been from time to time inscribed. His visitors have been principally officers from Gibraltar, who come here for a few days sporting. On the bombardment of Tangier, Ben left the country with other fugitives. The Moorish rabble plundered his house; and many valuables which were there concealed, pledged by persons belonging to Tangier, were carried away; Ben was therefore ruined. Some foolish people at Gibraltar told Ben that the streets of London were paved with gold, or, at any rate, that, inasmuch as he (Ben) had in his time entertained so many Englishmen at his hospitable establishment at Tangier (for which, however, he was well paid), he would be sure to make his fortune by a visit to England. I afterwards met Ben accidentally in the streets of London, in great distress. Some friends of the Anti-Slavery Society subscribed a small sum for him, and sent him back to his family in Gibraltar. Poor Ben was astonished to find as much misery in the streets of our own metropolis, as in any town of Morocco. Regarding his co-religionists in England, Ben observed with bitterness, “The Jews there are no good; they are very blackguards.” He was disappointed at their want of liberality, as well as their want of sympathy for Morocco Jews. Ben thought he knew everything, and the ways of this wicked world, but this visit to England convinced him he must begin the world over again. Our cicerone is very shrewd; withal is blessed with a good share of common sense; is by no means bigoted against Mahometans or Christians, and is one of the more respectable of the Barbary Jews. His information on Morocco is, however, so mixed up with the marvellous that only a person well acquainted with North Africa can distinguish the probable from the improbable, or separate the wheat from the chaff. Ben has a large family, like most of the Maroquine Jews; but the great attraction of his family is a most beautiful daughter, with a complexion of jasmine, and locks of the raven; a perfect Rachel in loveliness, proving fully the assertion of Ali Bey, and all other travellers in Morocco, that the fairest women in this country are the Jewesses. Ben is the type of many a Barbary Jew, who, to considerable intelligence, and a few grains of what may be called fair English honesty, unites the ordinarily deteriorated character of men, and especially Jews, bora and brought up under oppressive governments. Ben would sell you to the Emperor for a moderate price; and so would the Jewish consular agents of Morocco. A traveller in this country must, therefore, never trust a Maroquine Jew in a matter of vital importance.
Mr. Drummond Hay, our Consul at Tangier, advised me to return to Gibraltar, and to go by sea to Mogador, and thence to Morocco, where the Emperor was then residing. Adopting his advice, I left the same evening for Gibraltar. I took my passage in a very fine cutter, which had formerly been a yacht, and had since been engaged as a smuggler of Spanish goods. I confess, I was not sorry to hear that the Spanish custom-house was often duped. The cutter had been purchased for the Gibraltar secret service.
The Anti-Slavery Society had placed at my disposal a few yards of green cloth, for a present to the minister of the Emperor. At the custom-house of Havre-de-Grace, I paid a heavy duty on it. But, when I got to Irun, on the Spanish frontier, (having determined to come through Spain in order to see the country), the custom-house officers demanded a duty nearly double the cost of the cloth in London, so that there was no alternative but to leave it in their possession. The only satisfaction, or revenge which I had, was that of calling them — ladrones — in the presence of a mob of people, who, to do justice to the Spanish populace, all took my part.
When I complained of this conduct at Madrid, my friends laughed at my simplicity, and told me I was “green” in Spanish; and in travelling through “the land of chivalry,” and of “ingeniosos hildagos,” ought, on the contrary, to thank God that I had arrived safe at Madrid with a dollar in my pocket; whilst they kindly hinted, if I should really get through the province of Andalusia safe to Cadiz, without being stripped of everything, I must record it in my journal as a miracle of good luck. This was, however, exaggeration. I had no reason to complain of anything else during the time I was in Spain. My fellow travellers (all Spaniards), nevertheless, rebuked me for want of tact. “You ought,” they said, “to have given a few pesetas to the guard of the diligencia, who would have taken charge of your cloth, and kept it from going through the custom-house.”
On reaching Gibraltar, I made the acquaintance of Frenerry, who for thirty years has been a merchant in Morocco. Mr. Frenerry had frequent opportunities of personal intercourse with Muley Abd Errahman, and had more influence with him than the British Consul. Indeed, at all times, a merchant is always more welcome to his Imperial Highness than a diplomatic agent, who usually is charged with some disagreeable mission. Mr. Frenerry was called, par excellence, “the merchant of the West.” Of course, Mr. Frenerry’s opinions must be valuable on Maroquine affairs. He says: “The Morocco Moors like the English very much, and better than any other Europeans, for they know the English to be their best friends. At the same time, the Moors feel their weakness. They know also, that a day might come when the English would be against them, or have disputes with them, as in days past. The Moors are, therefore, jealous of the English, though they consider them their friends; and do not like Englishmen more than any other Christians to travel in their country. In other respects, if well managed and occasionally coaxed or bribed with a present, the Moors are very good natured, and as tractable as children.”
However, I find since the murder of Mr. Davidson, both the people and government of Morocco have got a bad name in Gibraltar; and opinion begins to prevail that it is almost impossible for an Englishman to travel in the country. Mr. Frenerry recommends that a Moor should be treated not proudly, but with a certain degree of firmness, to shew him you will not be trifled with. In this way, he says, you will always continue friends.
Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad (1869)
Samuel Langhorne Clemens — or Mark Twain, as he has been known to generations of readers — was born at Florida, Missouri in 1835. He combined journalism and lecture tours with novel writing, establishing himself as one of the most versatile and influential American writers of the time. Innocents Abroad: or The New Pilgrim’s progress (1869), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1882), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) are among his most popular works, although the extraordinary but relatively unknown The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900) is probably his masterpiece. He died in 1900, a lonely and penniless old man embittered by the death of his wife and two of his three daughters in the preceding years.
Within the hour we were fairly within the Straits of Gibraltar, the tall yellow‑splotched hills of Africa on our right, with their bases veiled in a blue haze and their summits swathed in clouds — the same being according to Scripture, which says that “clouds and darkness are over the land.” The words were spoken of this particular portion of Africa, I believe. On our left were the granite-ribbed domes of old Spain. The strait is only thirteen miles wide in its narrowest part.
At short intervals along the Spanish shore were quaint-looking old stone towers — Moorish, we thought — but learned better afterwards. In former times the Morocco rascals used to coast along the Spanish Main in their boats till a safe opportunity seemed to present itself, and then dart in and capture a Spanish village and carry off all the pretty women they could find. It was a pleasant business, and was very popular. The Spaniards built these watchtowers on the hills to enable them to keep a sharper lookout on the Moroccan speculators.
The picture on the other hand was very beautiful to eyes weary of the changeless sea, and by and by the ship’s company grew wonderfully cheerful. But while we stood admiring the cloud-capped peaks and the lowlands robed in misty gloom a finer picture burst upon us and chained every eye like a magnet — a stately ship, with canvas piled on canvas till she was one towering mass of bellying sail! She came speeding over the sea like a great bird. Africa and Spain were forgotten. All homage was for the beautiful stranger. While everybody gazed she swept superbly by and flung the Stars and Stripes to the breeze! Quicker than thought, hats and handkerchiefs flashed in the air, and a cheer went up! She was beautiful before — she was radiant now. Many a one on our decks knew then for the first time how tame a sight his country’s flag is at home compared to what it is in a foreign land. To see it is to see a vision of home itself and all its idols, and feel a thrill that would stir a very river of sluggish blood!
We were approaching the famed Pillars of Hercules, and already the African one, “Ape’s Hill,” a grand old mountain with summit streaked with granite ledges, was in sight. The other, the great Rock of Gibraltar, was yet to come. The ancients considered the Pillars of Hercules the head of navigation and the end of the world. The information the ancients didn’t have was very voluminous. Even the prophets wrote book after book and epistle after epistle, yet never once hinted at the existence of a great continent on our side of the water; yet they must have known it was there, I should think.
In a few moments a lonely and enormous mass of rock, standing seemingly in the center of the wide strait and apparently washed on all sides by the sea, swung magnificently into view, and we needed no tedious travelled parrot to tell us it was Gibraltar. There could not be two rocks like that in one kingdom.
The Rock of Gibraltar is about a mile and a half long, I should say, by 1,400 to 1,500 feet high, and a quarter of a mile wide at its base. One side and one end of it come about as straight up out of the sea as the side of a house, the other end is irregular and the other side is a steep slant which an army would find very difficult to climb. At the foot of this slant is the walled town of Gibraltar — or rather the town occupies part of the slant. Everywhere — on hillside, in the precipice, by the sea, on the heights — everywhere you choose to look, Gibraltar is clad with masonry and bristling with guns. It makes a striking and lively picture from whatsoever point you contemplate it. It is pushed out into the sea on the end of a flat, narrow strip of land, and is suggestive of a “gob” of mud on the end of a shingle. A few hundred yards of this flat ground at its base belongs to the English, and then, extending across the strip from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, a distance of a quarter of a mile, comes the “Neutral Ground,” a space two or three hundred yards wide, which is free to both parties.
“Are you going through Spain to Paris?” That question was bandied about the ship day and night from Fayal to Gibraltar, and I thought I never could get so tired of hearing any one combination of words again or more tired of answering, “I don’t know.” At the last moment six or seven had sufficient decision of character to make up their minds to go, and did go, and I felt a sense of relief at once — it was forever too late now and I could make up my mind at my leisure not to go. I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up.
But behold how annoyances repeat themselves. We had no sooner gotten rid of the Spain distress than the Gibraltar guides started another — a tiresome repetition of a legend that had nothing very astonishing about it, even in the first place: “That high hill yonder is called the Queen’s Chair; it is because one of the queens of Spain placed her chair there when the French and Spanish troops were besieging Gibraltar, and said she would never move from the spot till the English flag was lowered from the fortresses. If the English hadn’t been gallant enough to lower the flag for a few hours one day, she’d have had to break her oath or die up there.”
We rode on asses and mules up the steep, narrow streets and entered the subterranean galleries the English have blasted out in the rock. These galleries are like spacious railway tunnels, and at short intervals in them great guns frown out upon sea and town through portholes five or six hundred feet above the ocean. There is a mile or so of this subterranean work, and it must have cost a vast deal of money and labor. The gallery guns command the peninsula and the harbors of both oceans, but they might as well not be there, I should think, for an army could hardly climb the perpendicular wall of the rock anyhow. Those lofty portholes afford superb views of the sea, though. At one place, where a jutting crag was hollowed out into a great chamber whose furniture was huge cannon and whose windows were portholes, a glimpse was caught of a hill not far away, and a soldier said:
“That high hill yonder is called the Queen’s Chair; it is because a queen of Spain placed her chair there once when the French and Spanish troops were besieging Gibraltar, and said she would never move from the spot till the English flag was lowered from the fortresses. If the English hadn’t been gallant enough to lower the flag for a few hours one day, she’d have had to break her oath or die up there.”
On the topmost pinnacle of Gibraltar we halted a good while, and no doubt the mules were tired. They had a right to be. The military road was good, but rather steep, and there was a good deal of it. The view from the narrow ledge was magnificent; from it vessels seeming like the tiniest little toy boats were turned into noble ships by the telescopes, and other vessels that were fifty miles away and even sixty, they said, and invisible to the naked eye, could be clearly distinguished through those same telescopes. Below, on one side, we looked down upon an endless mass of batteries and on the other straight down to the sea.
While I was resting ever so comfortably on a rampart, and cooling my baking head in the delicious breeze, an officious guide belonging to another party came up and said:
“Señor, that high hill yonder is called the Queen’s Chair -”
“Sir, I am a helpless orphan in a foreign land. Have pity on me. Don’t — now don’t inflict that most in-FERNAL old legend on me anymore today!”
There — I had used strong language after promising I would never do so again; but the provocation was more than human nature could bear. If you had been bored so, when you had the noble panorama of Spain and Africa and the blue Mediterranean spread abroad at your feet, and wanted to gaze and enjoy and surfeit yourself in its beauty in silence, you might have even burst into stronger language than I did.
Gibraltar has stood several protracted sieges, one of them of nearly four years’ duration (it failed), and the English only captured it by stratagem. The wonder is that anybody should ever dream of trying so impossible a project as the taking it by assault — and yet it has been tried more than once.
The Moors held the place twelve hundred years ago, and a staunch old castle of theirs of that date still frowns from the middle of the town, with moss-grown battlements and sides well scarred by shots fired in battles and sieges that are forgotten now. A secret chamber in the rock behind it was discovered some time ago, which contained a sword of exquisite workmanship, and some quaint old armor of a fashion that antiquaries are not acquainted with, though it is supposed to be Roman. Roman armor and Roman relics of various kinds have been found in a cave in the sea extremity of Gibraltar; history says Rome held this part of the country about the Christian era, and these things seem to confirm the statement.
In that cave also are found human bones, crusted with a very thick, stony coating, and wise men have ventured to say that those men not only lived before the flood, but as much as ten thousand years before it. It may be true — it looks reasonable enough — but as long as those parties can’t vote anymore, the matter can be of no great public interest. In this cave likewise are found skeletons and fossils of animals that exist in every part of Africa, yet within memory and tradition have never existed in any portion of Spain save this lone peak of Gibraltar! So the theory is that the channel between Gibraltar and Africa was once dry land, and that the low, neutral neck between Gibraltar and the Spanish hills behind it was once ocean, and of course that these African animals, being over at Gibraltar (after rock, perhaps — there is plenty there), got closed out when the great change occurred. The hills in Africa, across the channel, are full of apes, and there are now and always have been apes on the rock of Gibraltar — but not elsewhere in Spain! The subject is an interesting one.
There is an English garrison at Gibraltar of 6,000 or 7,000 men, and so uniforms of flaming red are plenty; and red and blue, and undress costumes of snowy white, and also the queer uniform of the bare-kneed Highlander; and one sees soft-eyed Spanish girls from San Roque, and veiled Moorish beauties (I suppose they are beauties) from Tarifa, and turbaned, sashed, and trousered Moorish merchants from Fez, and long-robed, bare-legged, ragged Muhammadan vagabonds from Tetuán and Tangier, some brown, some yellow and some as black as virgin ink — and Jews from all around, in gabardine, skullcap, and slippers, just as they are in pictures and theaters, and just as they were three thousand years ago, no doubt. You can easily understand that a tribe (somehow our pilgrims suggest that expression, because they march in a straggling procession through these foreign places with such an Indian-like air of complacency and independence about them) like ours, made up from fifteen or sixteen states of the Union, found enough to stare at in this shifting panorama of fashion today.
Speaking of our pilgrims reminds me that we have one or two people among us who are sometimes an annoyance. However, I do not count the Oracle in that list. I will explain that the Oracle is an innocent old ass who eats for four and looks wiser than the whole Academy of France would have any right to look, and never uses a one-syllable word when he can think of a longer one, and never by any possible chance knows the meaning of any long word he uses or ever gets it in the right place; yet he will serenely venture an opinion on the most abstruse subject and back it up complacently with quotations from authors who never existed, and finally when cornered will slide to the other side of the question, say he has been there all the time, and come back at you with your own spoken arguments, only with the big words all tangled, and play them in your very teeth as original with himself. He reads a chapter in the guidebooks, mixes the facts all up, with his bad memory, and then goes off to inflict the whole mess on somebody as wisdom which has been festering in his brain for years and which he gathered in college from erudite authors who are dead now and out of print. This morning at breakfast he pointed out of the window and said:
“Do you see that there hill out there on that African coast? It’s one of them Pillows of Herkewls, I should say — and there’s the ultimate one alongside of it.”
“The ultimate one — that is a good word — but the pillars are not both on the same side of the strait.” (I saw he had been deceived by a carelessly written sentence in the guidebook.)
“Well, it ain’t for you to say, nor for me. Some authors states it that way, and some states it different. Old Gibbons don’t say nothing about it — just shirks it complete — Gibbons always done that when he got stuck — but there is Rolampton, what does he say? Why, he says that they was both on the same side, and Trinculian, and Sobaster, and Syraccus, and Langomarganbl—”
“Oh, that will do — that’s enough. If you have got your hand in for inventing authors and testimony, I have nothing more to say — let them be on the same side.”
We don’t mind the Oracle. We rather like him. We can tolerate the Oracle very easily, but we have a poet and a good-natured enterprising idiot on board, and they do distress the company. The one gives copies of his verses to consuls, commanders, hotel keepers, Arabs, Dutch — to anybody, in fact, who will submit to a grievous infliction most kindly meant. His poetry is all very well on shipboard, notwithstanding when he wrote an “Ode to the Ocean in a Storm” in one half hour, and an “Apostrophe to the Rooster in the Waist of the Ship” in the next, the transition was considered to be rather abrupt; but when he sends an invoice of rhymes to the Governor of Fayal and another to the commander in chief and other dignitaries in Gibraltar with the compliments of the Laureate of the Ship, it is not popular with the passengers.
The other personage I have mentioned is young and green, and not bright, not learned, and not wise. He will be, though, someday if he recollects the answers to all his questions. He is known about the ship as the “Interrogation Point,” and this by constant use has become shortened to “Interrogation.” He has distinguished himself twice already. In Fayal they pointed out a hill and told him it was 800 feet high and 1,100 feet long. And they told him there was a tunnel 2,000 feet long and 1,000 feet high running through the hill, from end to end. He believed it. He repeated it to everybody, discussed it, and read it from his notes. Finally, he took a useful hint from this remark, which a thoughtful old pilgrim made:
“Well, yes, it is a little remarkable — singular tunnel altogether — stands up out of the top of the hill about two hundred feet, and one end of it sticks out of the hill about nine hundred!”
Here in Gibraltar he corners these educated British officers and badgers them with braggadocio about America and the wonders she can perform! He told one of them a couple of our gunboats could come here and knock Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea
 This was almost certainly the London printer and empresario Thomas Warner of Pater-Noster Row.
 The renegade Duke, who fought for the Spanish during the siege and was convicted of high treason by the English, was known for his dipsomaniac tendencies. See Reg Reynold’s Strange But True Stories of Gibraltar, Vol One (Helvern Publishing, 1993), pp.36-41.
 A protective wall extending from the top of the Rock to the town area, built in 1552 by the Italian architect Giovanni Battista Calvi.
‘A mouth of fire’ (Spanish).
 The Order of Carmelites.
 Julia Traducta was situated near modern-day Algeciras.
 A shielding wall designed to protect a battery from flanking fire.
 Cylindrical bundles of wooden sticks laid over ramparts and parapets.
 Admiral George Anson commanded a four-year expedition around the world (1740-1744) which saw many men die of scurvy.
 Ordered by the Admiralty to relieve the besieged fortress, Rodney captured a small Spanish convoy off Finisterre and then sailed into Gibraltar on 19 February 1780 with the arrested merchant ships.
 The region of North Africa between Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean.
 A firing of guns in token of joy.
Scottish literary periodical founded by Francis Jeffrey in 1802.
 English Bards and Scotch Reviewers was a satire published by Byron in 1808 in which he lampooned almost every member of the so-called Romantic school.
 According to historical legend, Count Julian invited the Moors into Spain after his daughter Florinda was raped by the Visigothic king.
 ‘Savages’ (Spanish).
 Shortly after this episode, H.M.S. Orestes was converted into a coal hulk. She remained in service until she was sold for breaking up in 1905.
 The Santissima Trinidad took part in the Battle of Trafalgar under the command of Francisco Javier Uriarte and Rear Admiral Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros. She lost her mast during the conflict and eventually surrendered to Captain Thomas Fremantle.
 The line of intersection between the side and bottom of a flatbottom or V-bottom boat.
 Alongside Gibraltar, one of the two pillars of Hercules.
 ‘Watchtower’ (Spanish).
 Philip II’s mausoleum built between 1563 and 1584 just outside Madrid.
 Chain of medium-sized mountains near Granada.
 ‘Your good self’ (Greek).
 Dry or scaly skin.
 Major General Sir Alexander Woodford, Lieutenant Governor of Gibraltar during 1835-1839.
 Former name of Essaouira, port in south Morocco.
 ‘The Hebrew Tongue’ (Hebrew).
 ‘The Commentators’ (Hebrew).
 Hebrew slang for ‘atheistic.’
 Blackfriars in London.
 A street in one of Hamburg’s seedier districts.
 ‘Waters of life’ (Hebrew).
 ‘Into someone else’s hands’ (Hebrew.).
 Borrow is referring here to a fourteenth-century military encounter between the English and the Spanish near Vitoria. According to the medieval historian Froissart, 400 English knights were able to fend off 6000 Spaniards for several days before succumbing to their opponents.
 Classical name for Mount Etna in Sicily.
 Ancient territory in central Asia Minor, roughly corresponding to modern-day Turkey.
 A series of mystical commentaries and sermons on the Pentateuch and one of the pivotal texts in Kabbalistic lore.
 A mountain near the Sinai.
 Constantin Francois de Chassebouef Volney (1757-1820) was a French philosopher popular among English rationalists and freethinkers. Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791), was a French revolutionary politician.
 Stopped in open water.
 A rail around the stern of a vessel.
 A supplementary anchor intended for use in an emergency.
 The spritsail is a quadrilateral sail extended by a spar running diagonally to the sail’s peak.
 Past tense of heave.
 Sleight of hand.
 Traditional English ballads.
 ‘Eating houses’ (Spanish).
 Lieutenant General Charles O’Hara, Governor of Gibraltar from 1795 to 1802.
 A berber tribe from the Atlas mountains in Morocco.
 To be ‘cobbed’ is to be eaten on the buttocks.
 Lieutenant General Sir Robert Wilson, Governor of Gibraltar from 1842 to1848.
 The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer, a picaresque novel by the Irish writer Charles James Lever.
 Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish novelist and poet who visited Gibraltar in 1832.
 Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), English portrait artist.
 This incident is mentioned in Huon de Bordeaux, an anonymous French poetry from the first half of the thirteenth century.
 Leader of the besieging French forces during the ‘Great Siege.’
 The biblical wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, one of the four traditional matriarchs.
 Pseudonym of Domingo Badía y Leblich (1766-1818), a Spanish adventurer who, posing as a Muslim, travelled from Cadiz to Mecca.
 An island in the Azores.
 An area of Spain now known as Sierra Carbonera.
 According to popular legend, Queen Maria Amelia, consort to Charles III, was supposed to have behaved in this rather petulant manner.