The People of Gibraltar
1846 - Alexandre Dumas - A Visit to Gibraltar

In 1846, Algeria became France’s newest Colony and the French authorities came up with the bright idea that the author Alexandre Dumas should visit and write a book about his impressions. Less than two years earlier, Dumas had written The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, books that had made him a household name not just in France but throughout Europe and elsewhere. 

Alexandre Dumas  (Vanity Fair)

Dumas agreed to do as asked but demanded that a French warship be placed at his disposal. The result was his “Tangier to Tunis” which was published in French in 1848 and only translated into English in the middle of the 20th century.

The French Corvette La Véloce

He first visited Tangier followed by Gibraltar before travelling to Algiers and then extending his tour to Carthage and Tunis - hence the title of the book. It is, of course his chapter on Gibraltar that is of interest here.

More or less contemporary painting of the Bay and Rock probably from Algeciras   (1852 (Anton Melbye)
Arrival - As the sun rose like a globe of fire over Ceuta, we could see Gibraltar distinctly, her fortress white in the morning light, her harbour wrapped in a blanket of fog pierced by the masts and pennants of the ships lying there at anchor. WE were now at a point where one sees at their best those two mountains - Calpe Na Abyla- that face each other across the narrow strait. The ancients called them the ”Pillars of Hercules” . . .
Unfortunately an explanatory note by the translator and editor - A.E.Murch - is somewhat unhelpful in its attempts to clarify exactly where one can find Abyla:
On the African side, the Monte del Hacho, once known as Abyla, is the highest of the seven peaks of the “Montagne de Singes”, or Apes Hill . . . 
The Apes Hill is a tall mountain called Jebel Musa which was known to the British as Apes Hill. The settlement below Jebel Musa was known as Septa - later Ceuta - because of its seven hills, the tallest of which is not particular tall but is called Monte Hacho. Confusingly, Jebel Musa itself, because of its far more imposing height is often thought of as a more likely candidate for the African Pillar of Hercules.

Sketch showing Ceuta to the right a flatter version of the Rock of Gibraltar, the taller section being Monte Hacho, considered by many to be the African “Pillar” - Jebel Musa is the much taller mountain to the right of the lighthouse    (Unknown)

Dumas then addresses an unidentified lady dismissing the Hercules myth while bringing up another fable about Gibraltar being the only place in the whole of Spain that has fog - the reason being that “Gibraltar belongs to England and England is a foggy place”
They (the British) were accustomed to fog and found they missed them, so they made some. With what, Madam? Why, with coal. Now there is so much that if ever you visit Gibraltar . . . look down from the mountain side and you will see the whole town drowned in fog as though a tidal wave had engulfed it. 
I am sure Gibraltar must have had the odd foggy day but I have yet to see a picture or photograph depicting this phenomenon. He may have been referring to Gibraltar’s notorious Levante - an eastern wind that produces a heavy cloud that once in a while pours over the ridge of the Rock very much as a “tidal wave” might. But he is right about the enormous quantities of coal bunkered in Gibraltar to supply Royal Navy and civilian steam ships calling at the harbour. A very few decades after Dumas visited it would become a source of income for several local merchants who made their fortunes out of it.

The Véloce dropped anchor about a mile off shore and Dumas was made to wait for the Health Authority. When they made their appearance he found that they were:
A body composed of ill-looking men who ask where you have come from, and take your passport with a pair of tongs, all the time holding their handkerchiefs over their noses. 
Dumas continues his more or less ironic account in which he never misses a chance to poke fun at the British who he claims were paranoid about the possibilities of some other country capturing the Rock.
At least once a week, the first Lord of the Admiralty . . . . sends orders to the Governor to build a new fort, or raise a new rampart, or construct a new defence post, and above all to install more cannon. Already there are three thousand and a standing reward of £2000 . . . is on offer to anyone who can suggest a spot  . . . where a new gun would be, not merely necessary, but of any conceivable use.

Gardiner’s Battery - relatively new when Dumas came visiting   (c1860s - J.W. Mann)

Once actually in town - Dumas party had banked on leaving the same evening - he dismisses the place in a couple of paragraphs. 
Tangier . . . seemed much more Spanish than Gibraltar. . . . no houses with green shutters or iron lattice-work to their windows, none of those charming patios with marble fountains. Instead, draper’s shops, cutlers, gunsmiths and hotels displayed over their doors the British Coat of arms . . . . 

Main Street looking north - The King’s Arms on the left with its coat of arms facing it and the camera   (1860s -  Detail - J. H. Mann)
. . . . we went into a restaurant where they served us rare beefsteaks , sandwiches and butter, and when we called for a glass of Malaga after our meal, the proprietor had to send out for it. He did, however, give us a perfect cup of tea - the finest pekoe. . . .  

In some of the side streets we found ourselves transported . . . to Spain or Africa or Judea, for natives of those countries form a substantial proportion of the populations.
He seems to have missed the Genoese. As regards the Garrison, the 72nd Regiment of Foot - The Duke of Albany’s own Highlanders were in town at the time:

72nd Regiment of Foot
For most of us the Scottish soldier, with his costume so far behind, or so far in advance of the rest of civilisation, exists only in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. We had already seen a corps of Highlanders  . . .  but like cannon, when you have seen one you have seen them all, unless, of course, you happen to catch sight of one in an unexpected position.
Alexandre Dumas then dwells at length on the escape from prison by the Count de Lavalette, French politian and one of Napoleon’s generals. His wife visited him in prison just before he was about to be executed. Lavalette changed into her clothes walked out of the front gate and into an open carriage driven by an English colonel. The Englishman was Sir Robert Thomas Wilson, Governor of Gibraltar when Dumas visited.

 Sir Robert on the left, Lavallet top right and his wife bottom left

The rest is a series of inconsequential paragraphs mostly taken up with his reunion with his son whom he had inexplicably lost before leaving Cadiz for Gibraltar. Here is part of a conversation between the two.
“My word” (Dumas junior) cried. “If you had been a day later you would have found me dead of boredom.”
“Is Gibraltar as bad as that?”
“It’s simply frightful”
I suspect Dumas senior was more or less of the same opinion.