Augustus Hare was an English writer who was born in Rome in 1834. He was renounced by his parents and was brought up by his aunt. As a relatively young man he travelled through Spain and later published his experiences in Wanderings in Spain which was published in 1873. It contains a short chapter on Gibraltar.
Augustus Hare ( 1879 - Angiolo Romagnoli )
Arrival - It was with real regret that we left Algeciras and made the short voyage across the bay to Gibraltar, where we instantly found ourselves in a place as unlike Spain as it is possible to imagine. Upon the wharf you are assailed by a clamour of English-speaking porters and boatmen. Passing the gates, you come upon a barrack-yard swarming with tall British soldiers, looking wonderfully bright and handsome, after the insignificant figures and soiled, shabby uniforms of the Spanish army.
Hence the Waterport Street opens, the principal thoroughfare of the town, though, from its insignificant shops, with English names, and its low public-houses, you have to look up at the strip of bright blue sky above, to be reminded that you are not in an English seaport.
The Alameda Gardens - Just outside the principal town, between it and the suburb of Europa, is the truly beautiful Alameda, an immense artificial garden, where endless gravel paths wind through labyrinths of geranium and coronella and banks of flame-coloured ixia, which are all in their full blaze of beauty under the March sun, though the heat causes them to wither and droop before May.
During our stay at Gibraltar, it has never ceased to surprise us that this Alameda, the shadiest and pleasantest place open to the public upon the Rock, should be almost deserted; but so it is. Even when the band playing affords an additional attraction, there are not a dozen persons to listen to it; whereas at Rome on such occasions, the Pincio, exceedingly inferior as a public garden, would be crowded to suffocation, and always presents a lively and animated scene.
The northern part of Grand Parade and the Alameda gardens (1840 - G.Vivian and T.Boys )
Plant Life - One succession of gardens occupies the western base of the Rock, and most luxuriant and gigantic are the flowers that bloom in them. Castor-oil plants, daturas, and daphnes, here attain the dignity of timber, while geraniums and heliotropes many years old, are so large as to destroy all the sense of floral proportions which has hitherto existed in your mind. It is a curious characteristic, and typical of Gibraltar, that the mouth of a cannon is frequently found protruding from a thicket of flowers.
Galleries and el Hacho - On the northern side of the Rock are the famous galleries, tunnelled in the face of the precipice with cannon pointing towards Spain from their embrasures. Through these, or, better, by delightful paths, fringed with palmitos and asphodel, you may reach El Hacho, the signal station, whence the view is truly magnificent over the sea, and the mountain chains of the two continents, and down into the blue abysses beneath the tremendous precipice upon which it is placed.
The first picture is an illustration from the book. The second by an unknown artist.
The Brigand Don Diego - The greatest drawback to the charms of Gibraltar has seemed to us to be the difficulty of leaving it. It is a beautiful prison. We came fully intending to ride over the mountain passes by Ronda, but on arriving we heard that the whole of that district was in the hands of the brigands under the famous chief Don Diego, and the Grosvenor positively refused to permit us to go that way. Our lamentations at this have since been cut short by the news of a double murder at the hands of the brigands on the way we wished to have taken, and at the very time we should have taken it. So we must go to Malaga by sea, and wait for the happy combination of a good steamer and calm weather falling on the same day.
The above was written in the King's Arms Hotel in Gibraltar - as were his experiences in Algeciras just prior to arrival. From the shortness of his stay and what little he had to say about the Rock it seems he must have spent most of his time imitating the poet Alexander Pope who was reputed to have written about nature with his back to his club-house window.
Hare managed to ignore the twenty thousand souls that inhabited the Rock at the time, found the Alameda Gardens empty - yet noticed every common plant he came across during his short stay. He obviously couldn't wait to get out as soon as possible and one is reluctantly left with the feeling that it might have been a rather good idea if Don Diego had been allowed to meet him.