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FROM THE UNIVERSAL MAGAZINE.
An Account of GIBRALTAR: its present state of Society, Manners, &c. By Sir John Curr.
THE wind blew strong, and our captain made a sad bungling business of weathering the numerous vessels by which we were surrounded. Instead of cursing most boisterously, a la mode Anglaise, he roared out most lustily to numerous saints to assist him. Which of them heard him, I do not know; but we got out fairly to sea at last, and in about three hours passed Chiclana, in which there are many handsome country houses, chiefly belonging to the merchants at Cadiz.
As we passed Trafalgar, my mind could not but dwell upon the fate of the illustrious Nelson. Even at this day, several pieces of wrecks are to be found upon the beach, as proud, though melancholy, memorials of that great battle, in which the joyous sensations excited by its glory were qualified by a pensive sympathy for the loss of one of the greatest of our heroes. After passing Tariffa, the most southern point of Europe, where there is a large Moorish round tower, and a small village behind, the view of the entrance of the Mediterranean becomes uncommonly grand. Behind us lay the Atlantic Ocean; to the south, at a short distance, arose, midway, covered with clouds, a craggy mountain of stupendous height, called Ape's Hill, the ancient Abyla, one of the northern bulwarks of Africa. Before us, the bay of Gibraltar expanded itself, formed on one side by the mighty rock, from which it derives its name, ascending to the heigh of fourteen hundred feet, presenting at the nearest extremity a rich, rural, and most romantic appearance, and at the farthest, tremendous batteries raised amidst rocks and barreness, whilst numerous ships of various nations, floated securely in its shadow.
Charmed with this magnificent scene, we felt no impatience at the difficulty which we experienced in getting well in the bay, on account of the wind having changed, and a strong Levanter blowing, one of the effects of which is to cover the elevated summits of the rock to the northward with thick foggy clouds.
Great caution is used in granting pratique, particularly since the last dreadful fever, which consigned so many of our countrymen in this place to their untimely graves. However, as we had come only from a neighbouring port, we were soon pronounced to be plague-free, and permitted to step on the ancient Mount Calpe, and one of the Pillars of Hercules, the grand and classical impressions of which somewhat suffered upon entering the town, which at first, in some of its objects, not a little resembled Portsmouth Point. I staid here on account of my companion, much
longer than I wished, without being able, owing to the uncertainty of his engagements, to visit the opposite coast of Africa, the passage to which is so short, that boats are continually going over to supply the garrison with bullocks.
As this celebrated rock has been so often and so minutely described, my remarks upon it will be very few. Considering the heat of the summer, and the reverberation of that heat from the rock, the town and most of the barracks appear to me to be badly constructed. Many of the streets are very narrow, and nearly all built after the English, instead of the Moorish fashion; they are not sufficiently ventilated, and of course are more likely to assist, than prevent, contagion. On account of the number of adventurers who, attracted by the prodigious trade in English manufactures which was till lately carried on here, reside at Gibraltar, and the small space allowed by the government for the erection of buildings, house-rent is almost incredibly high. Three or four hundred pounds per annum, for a small store and two or three miserable rooms, is a common rent; and my worthy friend Mr. John Sweetland, the captain of the port, informed me that, were he so disposed, he could let his residence, a small Moorish house, having a square court, and stores and apartments on the basement and first floor on each side, for nine hundred pounds per annum.
I had not been long in Gibraltar, before I beheld a picture of the sad mutability to which nations are liable. The Moors, to whom Spain was once subject, and under whose brilliant dominion it attained a high degree of renown for those arts and sciences, and systems of political economy, which enrich and embellish nations, who, on their landing, gave to this very rock the name of Ghiblaltah, or the Mountain of the Entrance, which, with little alteration, it now bears, are now, of all their mighty conquest, permitted, by a condescending act of sufferance, to show themselves only upon this narrow spot of ground. The descendants of the mighty conquerors of Spain may be seen in the streets of this tiny peninsular extremity, plying for hire as porters, and frequently cursed, struck, spit upon, and treated with every indignity by their employers!
Writers of eminence are divided in opinion respecting the political value of this wonderful rock. Some have regarded the tenacity, with which the British government has always retained it, from the time it was ceded to them by the treaty of Utrecht and Seville, as originating in homage to the feelings, rather than a wise attention to the interests, of the British nation: however well founded such opinions might have been, when entertained, it would scarcely, I think, be persisted in at the present period, when, in consequence of the wonderful changes, which have nar
rowed our commercial enterprise and communication, in other seas, the Mediterranean has presented to us mercantile advantages before but little known.
Although the Spaniards regard Ceuta, in some degree, as an indemnity for the loss of the mighty fortress opposite, yet, protected by its batteries, and an inconsiderable British naval force, every ship bearing the British flag was, during the late war, enabled to sail through that extraordinary straight which separates Europe from Africa, and pass in safety into the Mediterranean, without experiencing any check, but an occasional and petty annoyance from the gun-boats of Algeziras.
During the war, the clandestine trade carried on from this rock with the Spaniards was very great; and since the peace with the patriots, the commercial intercourse has been very valuable, until the communication was, after my first visit to Gibraltar, cut off by the unexpected irruption of the French into Seville, Malaga, Grenada, and other southern and eastern parts of Spain. So great was this intercourse, that the quay was much too small for the immense number of vessels which came to the rock.
It has been the wish of England to obtain Ceuta, and it is said that she has obtained it; but it is by a small British force being most suspiciously admitted into the garrison, where nearly five times the number of Spanish soldiers are kept. If the Spaniards in war with England held Gibraltar and Ceuta, few vessels could pass through the narrow entrance I have described, without being shattered to pieces. Should England ever evacuate this rock, her dominion in the Mediterranean will be but slender and precarious.
The excavated batteries, which open towards the Spanish lines, and the great cavern called the Hall of St. George, are wonderful efforts of human ingenuity and labour. From the stupendous summits above these batteries, upwards of one thousand three hundred feet high, there is a vast and magnificent view of the African coast, including, Barbary, Fez, and Morocco, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the town below, the bay with its numerous shipping, Algeziras, the country behind, the hill from whence the Queen of Spain contemplated as a spectacle the memorable siege of Gibraltar, and on which are traceable the ruins of the ancient city of Cartea, the town of San Roque, and the lofty mountains of Granada.
Quitting this spot, I visited one of the signal houses, and as the Levanter was just beginning to blow, I had an opportunity, which an officer who had been nearly three years on the rock had not before met with, of seeing groups of very large monkeys, to whom this wind is peculiarly disagreeable, quit their caverns, which almost impend over the inaccessible crags on the eastern side, and
having ascended the heights, descend, many bearing their young on their backs, a short way, and range themselves in rather formidable bodies on the western side. I counted no less than fourteen in a short space of time. We passed near them, but they did not appear to be annoyed at our presence. As shooting at them is prohibited, perhaps more from the fear of loosening the stones of these summits by the shot, which by rolling from such a height towards the town might do mischief below, than from tenderness to the antic race, they may probably derive confidence from being but seldom molested. As they were seated on this side of the rock, some time since, an officer happened to pass with a fine terrier, which ran at them. The monkeys, who were seated in a circle, were not in the least dismayed; but, upon some of them moving a little, the dog ran into the centre, when a very powerful monkey seized him by one of his hinder legs, ran with him to the top, hurled him over the eastern side of the rock, a stupendous and nearly perpendicular height, and dashed the rash assailant to pieces. Of these monkeys stranger stories are related. A most absurd and ridiculous one has obtained credit with some of the most credulous of the inhabitants, that before the English got possession of this place, one of them contrived to seize a pretty girl whilst she was enjoying the view from an elevated part of the rock, and to gratify his amorous propensities towards her, that he was put under arrest according to military law, tried by a court-martial of grave Spanish officers, and shot for the rape. It is worthy of remark, that this is the only spot in Europe where monkeys are found wild. Many are brought over from Barbary, and sold in the market for a mere trifle; and hence a monkey is almost as common as a cat in the houses of Gibraltar.
The stern and hostile aspect of the northern side of the rock softens into scenes of rural beauty to the south, leading to Europa Point. Here well cut roads wind through avenues of poplars, along the sides of gardens, and through groves of orange and citron trees. The official house of the commissioner, elevated high on the rock, half-embosomed in a garden abounding with productions of the south, offers, at least in point of picturesque situation, a comparison unfavourable to the residence of the governor, which stands in the town, at the base of the rock, in the principal street, and was formerly a Franciscan convent, It is called "the convent" to this day. Here, however, there is an excellent garden, kept in high order, containing orange, citron-trees, vines, flowers, and vegetables. Towards Europa Point, there are also several other beautiful spots. Mr. Commissary Sweetland and his amiable lady have a delightful cottage here, as well known for the elegant hospitality which reigns within, as for the beauty of the scenery without.
On this side of the rock is the celebrated cave of St. Michael; this is a magnificent hall of nature, apparently supported by columns of crystallization, rude, brilliant, and beautiful, from which there are narrow and difficult passages leading to other apartments. During the war with Spain, and before the French arms became sullied by a spirit of ruthless ferocity, an intercourse, distinguished for its urbanity, existed between our garrison and the Spaniards, such as did honour to the exalted sensibility of two great nations. Our officers were permitted to enjoy the sports of the turf within the Spanish territory, and, in return, gave balls and other entertainments to the Spaniards. Upon some of these festive and generous occasions, the cave of St. Michael's was accustomed to be brilliantly lighted up. Under these illuminations, the effect of its roof,-fretted and richly adorned with prismatic spars and dropping crystals, wildly resembling the minute and delicate richness of saracenic decoration,-of its glittering sides, of its milk-white and semi-transparent columns, presenting all sorts of fantastic orders of architecture, its numerous and mysterious recesses, the whole enlivened by groups of visitors gayly dressed, must have been most singular and enchanting. Rugged,barren, and bladeless, as this rock appears at the height of this cave, still flocks of goats and even some cows contrive to find pasture upon its western side. The roads are excellent, and enlivened with persons riding backwards and forwards, and even by barouches and other carriages.
In the town, there is an excellent garrison library in a handsome detached building. To the balls given by the military, the families of the merchants are rarely, if ever, admitted: this unpleasant line of separation has been drawn, in consequence of the great number of low and vulgar mercantile adventurers, who have settled in Gibraltar. Universal toleration exists, without, as might be expected, any inconvenience to the garrison, always excepting, however, the horrid nuisance produced by a fellow beating the bell of the Spanish Catholic church with a great hammer, many times in the course of the day, to the no little annoyance of every one in its neighbourhood. This noisy functionary is a great coxcomb in his way, and says that the English have good bells, but do not know how to ring them, and that he alone possesses taste in this way! I was informed, that an officer once, provoked by his noise, after repeatedly, but unavailingly, requesting him not to strike so hard, could not resist caning him when he descended, upon which the bellman brought his action, and obtained damages; he now, therefore, frequently shows his triumph, by the additional vehemence with which he strikes his bell.
The traveller will do well to pay a visit to Catalan Bay, situated at the base of the eastern side of the rock, which is there per