In 1885 Jules Verne published Mathias Standorf as one of his series of stories known as the Voyages Extraordinaires. Fundamentally this was a convoluted adventure story involving two petty criminals who intercept a carrier pigeon. The ciphered message attached to its leg revealed a plot to free Hungary from Hapsburg rule. Whoever wants to know what happened next will have to buy the book. What is of interesthere is that Gibraltar is mentioned in the plot.
Cover of the first edition
Given the date of its publication and the apparent accuracy of some of the descriptions it would be fair to say that Verne drew heavily on his experiences when visiting the Rock in 1878 ( see LINK ) and in 1884. ( see LINK ) Below I have included extracts from the book on those sections which deal with Gibraltar. The illustrations are by Leon Bennet and are taken from a later Dutch edition.
Windmill Hill and Barracks looking toward the 'Sugar Loaf'
. . . The passenger who had not been told whither the ship was bound that carried him would hardly guess in what part of the world he had set foot if he landed at Gibraltar. First there is a quay, cut up into little docks for ships to be moored along, then a bastion and a wall with an insignificant gate, then an irregular square, bordered by high barracks, which rise one behind the other up a hill, then the long, narrow, winding thoroughfare known as Main Street.
At the end of this road, which is always sloppy and dirty, among the porters, smugglers, bootblacks, and sellers of cigar lights, among the trucks, trollies, and carts of vegetables and fruits, all on the move, there crowds a cosmopolitan mixture of Maltese and Moors, Spaniards and Italians, Arabs and Frenchmen, Portuguese and Germans — a little of everything, in fact, even of citizens of the United Kingdom, who are specially represented by infantrymen in red coats, and artillerymen in blue tunics, with their caps only kept above their ears by a miracle of equilibrium.
Main Street runs right through the town, from the Sea Gate to the Alameda Gate. Thence it runs on toward Europe, by the side of many-coloured villas and verdant squares, shaded by large trees, through beds of flowers, green parks, batteries of cannons of all designs, and masses of plants of all countries for a length of four miles and three hundred yards.
Such is the rock of Gibraltar, a sort of headless dromedary that crouches on the sands of San Roque, with its tail dragging in the Mediterranean Sea.This enormous rock is nearly 1400 feet above the shore of the continent that it menaces with its guns—“the teeth of the old woman,” as the Spaniards call them—more than 700 pieces of artillery, whose throats stretch forth from the embrasures of its casements. .
The 'teeth of the old woman' refers specifically to the Gallery embrasures on the North Front of the Rock.
. . . Twenty thousand inhabitants and 6000 men of the garrison are housed on the lower spurs of the hill, without counting the quadrumana, the famous “monos,” the tailless apes, the descendants of the earlier families of the place, the real proprietors of the soil, who now occupy the heights of the ancient Calpe.These are the apes which Verne used to great effect in his satirical story Gil Braltar ( see LINK )
From the summit of the rock the view extends across the straits; the Moorish coast can be seen; the Mediterranean is looked down upon from one side, the Atlantic from the other; and the English telescopes have a range of 124 miles, of which they can keep watch over every foot—and they do keep watch.
If happily the “Ferrato” had arrived two days sooner in the roadstead of Gibraltar, if between the rising and the setting of the sun Dr. Antekirtt and Pierre Bathory had landed on the little quay, entered by the Sea Gate, walked along Main Street, passed the Alameda Gate, and reached the lovely gardens that are planted half-way up the hill to the left, perhaps the events reported in this narrative would have advanced more rapidly, and had a different result.The 'Sea Gate' was known as Waterport Gate, the 'Alameda Gate' refers to South Port Gate. The main thoroughfare between the two is correctly identified as Main Street.
For on the afternoon of the 19th of September, on one of the wooden benches under the shade of the trees with their backs turned to the batteries commanding the roadstead, two persons were talking together, and carefully avoiding being overheard by the people around.
'Wooden benches under the shade' . . in the 'lovely gardens'
. . . . The Ferrato anchored on the evening of September 22 in the Bay of Gibraltar, which is so frequently swept by the easterly and south-easterly winds. But she was only to remain there during the 23d. The doctor and Pierre landed on the Saturday morning and went for their letters to the post-office in Main Street. . . .
If the doctor and Pierre had taken their walk in the gardens of Gibraltar thirty-six hours before, they would have come across Sarcany and Namir. The day was spent in coaling the “Ferrato” from the lighters which carry the coals from the floating stores moored in the harbour. Fresh-water tanks were also replenished, and everything was in trim when the doctor and Pierre, who had dined at the hotel in Commercial Square, returned on board at gun-fire.
The Ferrato did not weigh anchor that evening. As it would only take her a couple of hours to cross the straits, she did not start till eight o'clock the next morning. Then, passing the English batteries, she went out under full steam toward Ceuta.