The England of the 19th century was full of them - rambling compilations of this that and everything and taken from just about everywhere. Published in 1839, The Literary World: A Journal of Popular Information and Entertainment - "conducted" by John Timbs - eleven years editor of the Mirror" was unmistakably one of them.
Interestingly - at least for me - it included a "sketch" about a visit to Gibraltar attributed tentatively to a Mr. Southey. However, I would suggest that whoever bothers to read it should do so in conjunction with or just after having read Richard Ford's section on the Rock (see LINK) in his famous Handbook for Travellers in Spain. There are too many similarities between the two not to believe that they were not both written by the same person.
A Vivid Sketch - The north side of Gibraltar rise bluffly from the sands of the neutral ground. It bristles with artillery; the dotted port holes of the batteries, excavated in the rock, are called by the Spaniards “los 'dientes de la vieja,” the grinders of this stern old Cerbera. The town is situated on a shelving ledge to the west. As we approach, the defences are multiplied: the causeway is carried over a marsh, which can be instantaneously inundated.
The Rock from Devil's Tongue - "The town is situated on a shelving ledge to the west " ( Unknown )
Every bastion is raked by another; a ready shotted gun stands out from each embrasure, regnant with death, - a prospect not altogether pleasant to the stranger, who hurries on for fear of an accident. At every turn a well-appointed, well-fed sentinel indicates a watchfulness which defies surprise. We pass on through a barrack teeming with soldiers’ wives and children.
The main street, (see LINK) the aorta of Gibraltar, is the antithesis of a Spanish town. Lions and Britannia's dangle over innumerable pet-houses, the foreign names of whose proprietors combine strangely with the Queen’s English: “Manuel Ximenez - lodgings and neat liquors.” In these signs, and in the surer signs of bloated faces, we see with sorrow that we have passed from a land of sobriety into a den of gin and intemperance: everything and body is in motion; there is no quiet, no repose, all hurry and scurry, time is money, and Mammon is the God of “Gib,” as the name is vulgarised, according to the practice of abbreviators and conquerors of “Boney.”
Adverts- Gibraltar style
All the commerce of the Peninsula seems condensed into this microcosm, where all creeds and nations meet, with nothing in common save their desire to prey upon each other. Adieu the mantilla and bright smile o the dark eyed Andaluca! The women wear bonnets, and look unamiable, as if men were their natural enemies, and meant to insult them.
The officers on service appear to be the only people who have nothing to do. The town is stuffy and sea-coaly, the houses wooden and druggeted, and built on the Liverpool pattern, under a tropical climate.
Richard Ford describes Gibraltar houses as having been built on the "Wapping principle" - which means more or less the same thing as the "Liverpool pattern".
Gibraltar would be intolerable to an unemployed man, as a permanent residence. The eternal row-dow-dow of the drums, the squeaking of the wry-necked fife, the ton de garrison, the military exclusiveness of caste, the dagger distinctions of petty etiquette, the tweedledums and tweedledees of Mrs. Major This, Mrs. Commissioner That, Miss Port-Captain A., Miss Civil Secretary B., embitter the dolce far niente of a southern existence.
This is a comment that was probably true for any small colonial town controlled by a small elite group of officials. It is noticeable however, that he is very careful to avoid insulting the men in charge and aims his barbs at their wives and daughters.
Gibraltar, nevertheless, to the passing stranger, abounds in wonders of art and nature, - in the stupendous bastions and batteries, the miles of galleries tunnelled into the mountain, (see LINK) the Dom-Daniel cave of St. Michael, the glorious Catalan bay, (see LINK) the terrific precipices, the heaven and earth were sold in the sweeping panoramas from the heights, - the hospitality - (a stranger is a God-send) - the activity, intelligence, industry, and taste, which have rendered every nook and corner available for comfort, ornament, and defence.
The glorious Catalan Bay
This elaborate hive of busy men is stamped with all the virtue and vice, all the strength and weakness of the Hercules of England - of her power, knowledge, and system of colonization. Her conquest was not marked by any simultaneous erection of temples to her creed. A hundred years were scandalously suffered to elapse, in which millions were expended in gunpowder and masonry, before a church was erected in this sink of Moslem, Jewish, and Christian profligacy.
The Protestant Cathedral of the Holy Trinity finally "erected in this sink of Moslem, Jewish, and Christian profligacy" in 1828 (Unknown)
Gibraltar is a second land of promise to the Jews, where they congregate, in styes, like the unclean animal which it would be cannibalism in them to eat. The Spaniards, dreading their religious contamination, and still more their connection with the Moors, stipulated, at the peace of Utrecht, that the English should not admit them. Their quarter is sufficient to engender the Gibraltar fever, which punishes our non-observance of treaties.
The disputes of physicians rival the odium theologicum. The medical world on the rock is divided into endemics and epidemics, contagionists and non contagionists. (See LINK) Much depends, as in chancery, on the length of the foot in office: thus General Don, (see LINK) to whom Gibraltar was a pet, maintained that it came from the West Indies; and there was no disputing, as was said of Adrian’s poetry, with the commander of thirty legions: whenever the fever raged, boards of health met and agreed, while the multitude died “como chinches.”
This fever is endemic, and is occasioned by the want of circulation and the offensive sewers at low tide. It is called into fatal activity by some atmospherical peculiarity: the average visitation is about every ten years.
The alameda, or public walk, one of the lungs of Gibraltar, (see LINK) is ornamented with statues and geranium trees, which, indeed, they are. General Elliott is surrounded with more bombs than he was during the siege, (see LINK) while Nelson forms his companion, emerging, like Jonah, from two huge jaw-bones of a whale. At one end is a shadowy, silent spot, where the bones are laid of those who die in this distant land.
General Elliott "surrounded with more bombs than he was during the siege" ( Late 19th century -Edward Angelo Goodall )
"Two huge jaw-bones of a whale" in the Alameda Gardens - but no sign of Nelson at the time this photograph was taken ( Early 20th century )
This alameda was kept up by a small tax laid on the tickets of the Spanish lottery which were sold in the garrison. When English lotteries were abolished in England, it was decreed by the supreme wisdom of Downing-street that Spanish lotteries should be discontinued in Gibraltar. The tickets are now sold a mile off at the lines, to the loss, as was foretold, of the funds by which the garden, a source of health and recreation to the garrison, was supported.
Forsyth mentions a club instituted at Sienna expressly - eo nomine - for the commission of absurdities and extravagances. We have had, and have, “the thing.”
The surface of the rock, bare and tawny in summer, starts into verdure with the autumnal rains. More than three hundred classes of plants flourish on this almost soilless crag. The real lions of Gibraltar are the apes, whose progenitors delighted the wisest of sovereigns (1 Kings 1. 22). They haunt the highest crags, have all the caprice of Crockford dandies, are very exclusive, and seldom visible, except when an easterly wind affects their delicate nerves, and drives them to the west end.
These exquisites are perfectly harmless. The Gibraltarians, who never see any of their dead bodies, imagine that the deceased are carried by a submarine way (probably the one St. Isidore thought the sun took), to be buried on Apes Hill in Africa, as the good Turks of Constantino are taken over into Asia for sepulture.
"The real lions of Gibraltar are the apes" ( 1851 - Bartlett ) (See LINK)
These exquisites are anything but perfectly harmless. They bite.