Immanuel Bensaken - Sir Robert William Gardiner
Known mostly as a English classical and Shakespearean scholar William George Clark - a decidedly middle-aged Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge - took it upon himself to visit Spain for no particular reason whatsoever. As he put it himself in his Preface:
In my visit I enjoyed no particular facilities, and I went with no definite purpose - such as circulating the Scriptures, or surveying for a railroad; consequently, I was exempt from the persecutions and obstructions which a person engaged in either would have had to encounter. From the Pyrenees to the Pillars of Hercules (that is, I think, the correct phrase), my journey was deplorably void of misadventure . . .
He later published his less than exciting account of his travels in 1850 under the title of Gazpacho: or Summer Months in Spain.
Midway on his journey through the peninsular towards he visited Granada where he met Immanuel Bensaken who seems to have been something of an institution among the travel guide fraternity of the town.
We had not been there five minutes before a dark, keen-eyed man, with a fierce moustache, appeared at the open door, cap in hand, and addressed me in English - ‘ Good bye, Sare how you do? I am Immanuel Bensaken, of Gibraltar, British-born; much commended in dat red book you wear in your hand, page 129,—Give me leave, Sare? He proceeded to find the place . . . . Bensaken . . . claimed me by right of conquest, because the English were masters of Gibraltar.
The curious thing about Immanuel is that ten years later he was still touting for business in Granada - as proved by Amias Andros' - another intrepid English traveller - who not only mentions him - calling him Emmanuel - in his book - Sketches of a Holiday Scamper in Spain (see LINK) - but offers a far lengthier description of the fellow. For a start by 1860 he seemed to have learned how to speak English properly. Andros calls him Emmanuel
The following is a more or less complete quote from Clark's chapter on Gibraltar.
Gibraltar -What shall I say of Gibraltar? Is it not already more familiarly known to us than Plymouth or Chatham - seeing that we speak of it by the endearing diminutive ‘Gib,’ while we never say ‘Plym,’ or ‘Chat?’ Have we not all heard all about it, from the letters of our respective cousins in the Muffs or Bombardiers, who have spent their prescriptive time there watching over the interests of England, and between whiles shooting rabbits at Estepona, or making pic-nics at the cork wood? (See LINKS)
A Picnic in the Almoraima - the Cork Woods near Gibraltar ( 1877 )
I shall say the less about it because, excepting in latitude, it has ceased to be Spain, and has become part and parcel of that most expansive ‘ tight little island,’ of whose glory we are prouder than of our purses.
Excepting the cloudless sky, the old castle, and a convent or two, now reformed and secularized to more cheerful uses, there is nothing in the place to remind you that it has ever been otherwise than a small English town. (I am forgetting the new cathedral, which is made to resemble a mosque, with a view, I suppose, to African conversions.)
"The new cathedral, which is made to resemble a mosque" - The Catheral of the Holy Trinity ( Early 20th century postcard )
All the streets have received English baptism, and the houses are constructed on the principle of defying, instead of propitiating the climate, being low, small, and compact, with neither court-yard nor fountain. Want of room may be one cause of this; for even the principal square, (see LINK) far from rivalling the vastness of a Spanish plaza, is cribbed and confined within very narrow limits. One side of this square is formed by the Club House Hotel (where we lodged), a sort of commercial inn, second-rate in everything but prices.
The Club House Hotel in Commercial Square ( 1869 )
In front of it a military band plays twice a week. The Frenchmen turned up their noses at the performance, as their wont is in all that relates to English art. I certainly thought that the drums drowned the trumpets, - that there was a deficiency of wind, and a superfluity of parchment. Our soldiers generally do more execution with their hands than their lips.
The crowd which assembled on these occasions was curious, consisting, as it did, of Moslems and Jews, and a nondescript rabble of ‘Scorpions,' the Anglo-Spanish mongrel race, that dwells on the Rock, and nowhere else, like the monkeys. Here all creeds and all trades are alike tolerated; there is neither Inquisition nor perquisition. Taxes and tithes are unknown.
As a Shakespearean scholar he definitely came up with the goods there. His description of Gibraltar's hard pressed lumpenproletariat - "Moslems and Jews, and a nondescript rabble of ‘Scorpions,' the Anglo-Spanish mongrel race, that dwells on the Rock, and nowhere else, like the monkeys" - is hard to beat.
Not Gibel Tarif, of course, but Gibel Tarik - a common mistake at the time. Most of the "catholic" votaries were actually Protestant British-born merchants - although Jewish businessmen were pretty evident on the Rock at the time. Victor and Paul were travelling companions and the "siege" in question was the 14th or Great Siege of Gibraltar. (See LINK)The Gibel Tarif of the Moor is an English free port, much frequented by the catholic votaries of Mammon. As a matter of course, I devoted one morning to visit the batteries, under the guidance of a tall corporal of artillery. I got permission for Messrs. Victor and Paul to go too - a favour not always accorded to foreigners. My national vanity was abundantly gratified by their admiration; and I quite agreed with them, that the best thing we could do would be to show our enemies our preparations for defence, and then no one would be mad enough to think of repeating that most unsuccessful of farces, ‘the siege of Gibraltar.’
The "Gibel Tarif of the Moor" ( 1830s - J. M. W. Turner Paintings ) (See LINK)
There are (so our corporal said) seven hundred and seventy guns mounted, or ready for mounting, provisions for three years, and ammunition for ever. We traversed the long galleries, (see LINK) cut within a few yards of the face of the cliff towards the land side, with embrasures at intervals, like the galleries of the Simplon road.
"Ammunition for ever" - South Port Gate (See LINK)
In one of these embrasures, a few years ago, seven men were standing, to watch the effect of some experiments in gunnery, when a spark fell into a powder chest behind them, and blew them all out. All that could be found of them was buried in the cemetery on the Neutral Ground. The grave was pointed out to us. There was no officer among them. ‘Fiat experimentum in corpore vili.’
St. George’s Hall, also excavated in the rock, is considered one of the chief lions. Balls are occasionally given in it for the fun of the thing, since it is difficult of access, not much more than forty feet long, and has the most inelastic floor conceivable. Then we went up to the signal house, perched on one of the summits, - for the rock of Gibraltar is so far like Parnassus, that it has two.
Everybody agrees that the view from this point is one of the finest in the world, and I, for my part, agree with everybody. So clear was the air, that the rocks of Africa, though ten miles away, seemed scarcely a bow-shot from us. The pale blue sky, the dark blue strait, dotted with white sails, and the grey shores, were all and each so distinct and clear, that it seemed like the drop-scene in a theatre rather than reality. . . .
"The view . . is one of the finest in the world" ( 1869 - Hubert Sattler )
. . . While on the spot, we all made an impromptu break-fast, consisting chiefly of porter. Some veteran eggs were boiled for us, but they proved not nice, like the corporal, for he eat them all. We supposed he was training his appetite against a protracted siege. During the siege, they cooked and eat the roots of the dwarf palms which grow among the rocks, and English soldiers did, for once, drink water. Never was Gibraltar reduced to such straits.
In descending, we followed the path to St. Michael’s Cave, which had recently been honoured with a visit from the Infanta and her husband. We went on till we got into inner darkness, with the mud oozing over our ankles, and the drops pattering frequent on our hats; then we held a conclave, voted it possibly romantic, but decidedly uncomfortable, and so retreated and emerged into the sunlight.
The visit of the Infanta had taken place about a month before, and the rock was still echoing with the fame there of. She was received by the governor with genuine courtesy and kindness. At first she appeared constrained and reserved; but when, at dinner, Sir Robert proposed Queen Isabel’s health, in a hearty Anglo-Spanish speech, she thawed at once into geniality.
When the Queen heard of the reception given to her sister, she immediately sat down, and with her own hand wrote to Narvaez, requesting that the Grand Cross of Carlos Tercero should be sent to the Governor of Gibraltar. This susceptibility of generous impulses is a noble trait in the Queen’s character, and is a brighter ornament to her crown than any diamond there.
She has been known, in default of money, to throw a costly bracelet to a beggar. That monarch is twice a monarch who ceases to be slave to a master of ceremonies. So the Grand Cross was sent forthwith; but the powers that move men like puppets, with their red tapes, forbade its acceptance. Truly, etiquette and courtesy are not always synonymous, - rather, shall we say, etiquette is courtesy in a strait-waistcoat.
I used to go for an hour or two every day to the garrison library, (see LINK) which is virtually thrown open to all strangers. I had a vast arrear of contemporary literature to make up; I was athirst for news, since even the universal Times does not include within its universe the kingdom of Granada. Every conceivable magazine and review is to be found on that ample table; and there is not an officer in the five battalions who has not an opportunity of going to school with little ‘David,’ and falling in love with poor ‘Pen.’ . . .
The Garrison Library (1834 - H.A. Turner ) (See LINK)
Altogether, ‘Gib’ is a pleasant place to spend five days in, let the residents abuse it as they please. From the brave and gentle Governor, down to the brave and brusque ‘ Sub,’ everybody was kind and hospitable. . . .
The Rock from Eastern Beach ( Unknown )
Smuggling - At eight in the evening we reached Estepona, a straggling village on the sea-shore, which is, or rather used to be, a nest of smugglers (see LINK) - for that athletic and interesting race has of late been much reduced by the oppressive vigilance of the Spanish authorities. Gibraltar may be blockaded, commercially, by a very small force, so the only effective business now done in that line is on the frontiers of Portugal, and the boards of the Surrey and Adelphi theatres.
Generally speaking a rather supercilious account by a man who probably considered himself well above everything he was experiencing. His most memorable event was - unsurprisingly - the 1849 visit by the Infanta of Spain and her husband the Duke of Montpensier and being invited to the dinner held in their honour by the Governor - Sir Robert William Gardiner (See LINK) . For what it is worth it at least gives up the actual date of his visit - July 1849.