I launched into this article with a happy smile. I thought it would simply entail my usual very short biography of the author John Mitford - followed by as many copies of the etchings that I could find which were used to illustrate his Adventures of Johnny Newcome in the Navy – a Poem in four Cantos and which referred to Gibraltar.
The first problem was that the name of the author of first edition of the book published in 1818 was Alfred Burton and not John Mitford as I had thought. Worse still not one of the sixteen cartoons by Thomas Rowlandson in this edition has anything to do with Gibraltar
Title page of the 1818 edition – and of a copy published in 1904
However, a little bit of digging revealed a second edition dated 1819 published by a completely different publisher. Although the name of the book is identical to that of the 1818 edition the author is given as John Mitford. Although not mentioned in the title page the illustrations are by Charles Ansell Williams.
My rather limited success in researching this unusual discrepancy suggests that most people think that of John Mitford used the name Alfred Burton as a pseudonym - but not everybody. Bonhams, the well known auctioneers are very clear in warning potential buyers that the 1819 edition should not be confused with the 1818 one.
The Mitford work is an entirely different poem from the poem by Alfred Burton, though evidently an imitation of it."Whatever the case the fourth canto on the 1818 first edition contains the following text:
. . .
The next time John roused his terrific,
Resentment by a scrape specific,
Was when a Launcher ran away,
While watering in Gibraltar Bay.
When John came off, and told his tale,
The Captain turned with fury pale-
‘G—d d—n your blood - you Brat! so you
‘Have lost me one of the boat's crew !
‘A Man, Sir, so you’ve lost for me?
‘A Man!- a thing you ne’er will be!
‘Be silent, Sir!—d’ye dare to mutter?
‘Be off this instant! - take the Cutter!
‘And ere the Evening Gun 1 you hear, -
‘Bring him on board! - or else stand clear.
John, empty-carcased - heavy-hearted
Upon the wild goose chase departed.
From the Old Mole he hunted till
He reached the New one 2, and Scud Hill 3
At each Jew Agent’s 4 did he stop,
Each Wine-House, and Rosolio-Shop 5,
And search’d, and ask’d, and search’d again ;
But all his labour was in vain
For fagged he was in every limb,
And the Rock Scorpion 6 laughed at him
If he had hunted to this day
His Hunting had been thrown away;
For long ere first he left the Beach
The man was far beyond his reach
A CUBA creole - He had found
His way from off the Neutral Ground 7,
And gained the Spanish Lines 8, unseen
By any of the Picquets 9 keen.
The Gun was fired-our Hero went
On board, exhausted - jaded—spent
The captain on the Gangway met him
Pray where’s your man? You did not get him?
Eh! Douce your Grigo – Come, no talk!
Up to the topmost cross trees 10 walk!
Up to the topmost cross trees walk!
The reference to places in Gibraltar are surprisingly correct.
1. The evening gun was fired at the closing of the gates for the night
2. The Old and the New Moles were the north and south moles respectively (See LINK)
3. Scud Hill was and still is a road close to the New Mole
4. There were numerous Jewish “agents” of all sorts in Gibraltar at the time
5. Rosolio is a type of Italian liqueur derived from rose petals, and which is often used as the basis for the preparation of other liquors of various flavours. A Rosolio-shop must have been some sort of pub selling some of the harder stuff
6. Rock-scorpion – a Nickname for the inhabitants of and the small privateers belonging to Gibraltar. As far as I can make out this is the earliest reference that associates this name with the locals
7. The Neutral Ground referred to an area of the isthmus between Gibraltar and Spain
8. The Spanish Lines were fortifications on the northern end of the isthmus. They were that demolished in 1810 (See LINK)
9. Spanish picket huts or garritas were for many years placed strategically across the entire isthmus from east to west to guard against smuggling (See LINK)
10. Cross-trees are the transverse bars on the main top-mast of a sailing ship
In other words I suspect the poem was written by somebody who had visited Gibraltar – not unusual in the case of a Johnny Newcome or newly enlisted sailor.
As regards the second 1819 edition written by “John Mitford” I have not been able to find a copy of the text. What I have found is that out of the 20 cartoons by Charles Ansell Williams published in this book at least three make reference to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar Sally Port - News for Newcome
The Navy Tavern
And that is as far as I can go until I manage to get a copy of the 1819 Mitford edition.