This compilation of stories were edited - and presumably chosen - by Jacob Abbott an American who was well known at the time as a writer of children's books. Published in 1859, Abbott's preface to this book probably says more about it than anything I could possibly add.
Preface - This book is not intended chiefly to amuse you, but to instruct you; if you read it carefully and attentively, it will teach you a great many things that it will be very useful to you to know. Do not run over any of the articles hastily, merely to look at the pictures or to read the dialogues and stories, but note particularly, and treasure up carefully in your mind, all the substantial information it furnishes you.So now you know children! The book - incidentally is called the Gibraltar Gallery, simply because the very first article is an account which mentions in passing the galleries in the Rock of Gibraltar. What follows below is just a small section of the essay. Most of it is a potted history of the taking of the Rock in 1704. Read it slowly and carefully!
Gibraltar is an immense rock, or, rather, rocky mountain,which lies at the southern extremity of Spain, at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea. It is almost an island in fact, being connected with the main land only by a narrow tongue of low and level ground. It is four or five miles long, and two or three wide, and the loftiest peaks in it are thirteen hundred feet high.
It is an immense fortress, one of the strongest, indeed, in the world, and as it guards the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, it is considered of great importance. It does not, however, belong to Spain. It belongs to England. The English took possession of it a hundred and fifty years ago, and they have held it ever since. It is supposed that now it would be almost impossible to take it away from them.
On one side of the mountain there is a town, near the water. This town is defended by a very strong wall, which is built between it and the sea. The entrance to the town from the sea is through arched gateways, well guarded, and of prodigious strength. Behind the town, on the ascent of the hill, are a great many forts, and redoubts, and batteries, all built in the most substantial manner, and armed with heavy artillery.
The guns of these forts point in every direction over the sea, and are sufficient to destroy any hostile ship that should attempt to approach the town. At some of these batteries are furnaces for heating cannon balls red hot. These balls are intended, when thus heated, to be put into cannons and fired into the enemy's ships, in order to set them on fire.
But the most remarkable of all the fortifications of Gibraltar are the subterranean batteries. These are chambers cut out in the solid rock to serve as batteries, with openings through the rock to the outer air for the mouths of the cannon. These chambers have been excavated very extensively along the side of the mountain, and in sailing by the place, you see here and there the rows of port-holes in the face of the rock, hundreds of feet above the town.
With a spy-glass you can see, in each of these port-holes, the muzzle of a monstrous gun pointing down at you in a very ominous that is, threatening manner. The engraving represents a portion of one of these chambers. It is called St. George's Hall. In the foreground, a little to the left, we see a company of soldiers moving a gun.
From the book
The gun is very heavy, and it requires great force to move it, although it is mounted upon a truck, and the floor is level. Two of the men are pulling by means of a sort of harness over their shoulders. The other four are pushing. Near them stand a group of officers, who seem to be directing the operation. In the distance we see five guns at the embrasures. They are pointed down toward the water. Through the nearest embrasure on the left we can see the water, with one or two sail-boats upon it not very far from the shore.
The fortifications of Gibraltar, including the walls and batteries on the lower slopes of the mountain, near the shore of the sea, and these immense subterranean galleries above, are now so strong as to make the place well nigh impregnable.
Indeed, it is supposed that it would be impossible to take it by force with any armament, however formidable. The only way would be to invest it closely by sea and by land, so as to cut off the supplies of provision, and thus, in time, the garrison might be starved out. But even this is impracticable at present, for England is supposed to be stronger at sea than any nation in the world, and, of course, if any nation whatever should bring up a fleet of ships of war around Gibraltar to invest it, the English could bring up a larger fleet, and drive them away.
Thus, so long as England retains her naval supremacy, Gibraltar cannot be taken away from her in any possible way. . . .
. . . . The fortress of Gibraltar is stronger now than ever before and there is no probability that it will ever be taken away from the English. Nor is it desirable that it should be. This country does not desire to possess such a fortress.
To maintain it would entail upon us an enormous expense without any corresponding advantage; and it is better for mankind that such places should be in the hands of the English than of any other European power, for the government of England exercises the control which the possession of such strongholds confers upon her in a more liberal spirit and in a manner more beneficial to the rest of mankind than any other nation.
Remember that Gibraltar, though it is a part of Spain, belongs to England, and that England conquered it from Spain in the year 1704.
Remember, too, that in form it is a rocky mountain, rising abruptly from the sea, close to the Spanish shore, at the entrance to the Mediterranean, and that it is connected to the shore by a low and level peninsula.
Rudyard's Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden" - written in the late 19th century - advanced the idea that the Britain was honour bound to "civilise" what he considered to be "primitive" people that came under their jurisdiction. It was a naive philosophy that - in the eyes of far too many - legitimised the British Empire.
Nearly fifty years before Kipling came up with the idea, Abbott was proposing a similar rational for hanging on to Gibraltar as a place. The British Empire - according to him synonymous with "England" - had to hang on to Gibraltar - despite the huge expense - because no other nation in the world - least of all the Spaniards - were good enough to look after such an important place.
Finally and as is so often the case in the literature of the mid 18th century, Abbott fails to mention the presence of any of local inhabitants - of which there were around 15 000 living there at the time. Perhaps he should have added a third sentence to his recapitulation:
Remember, too, that Gibraltar would not be British today without the support of all those local non-British born inhabitants who came to live there of their own free will - after 1704.
The Galleries ( 1800 - Cooper Willyams ) (See LINK)
Windsor Galleries ( 1829 - William Mein Smith ) (See LINK)
The Galleries ( 1830 - Frederick Leeds Edridge ) (See LINK)
St George's Hall (1835 - H.E Allen ) (See LINK)
St George's Hall (1835 - H.E Allen )
The Galleries (1853 - Lady Patrick Crichton-Stuart ) ( See LINK)
St George's Hall (1853 - Lady Patrick Crichton-Stuart )
The Galleries ( 1862 - Strahlheim )
St George's Hall ( 1878 - Unknown German Newspaper )
St George's Hall ( 1900s William Robert Hill )
The Galleries ( 1940 - National Geographic )