The People of Gibraltar
1864 - Hans Christian Anderson - Prison-like Vaults

Christian Mathiasen

Hans Christian Anderson was a prolific Danish writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems but is still best remembered for his fairy tales. He hardly needs any further introduction other than to remind ourselves that an English translation of his travelogue titled In Spain was published in 1864. Several pages of this book are given over to a visit to Gibraltar.

Hans Christian Anderson

Anderson's sexuality seems to have been ambiguous - which of course is neither here nor there.  But it is curious to note that his companion on this trip was Jonas Collin, the son of his good friend Edvard Collin for whom he held unreciprocated feelings that went further than mere affection.

Hans Christian Anderson and Jonas Collin

The quotes below are taken from In Spain, the record of a visit that probably took place in the early months of 1863 - the date of publication of the original Danish version.
Arrival - Our vessel glided along the flat strip of land, in under the mighty rock; the sea has made deep cavities in it; there were plenty of screaming sea-birds about. High above tunnels have been blasted, and strong fortifications erected; eighty-pounders stretch forth their death-dealing mouths over the sea. 
Our steamer shot through the water, leaving behind it the sailing ships that were trying to catch the wind; it swept past the fortifications on the part of the rock farthest south, turned to the north, and so into the bay, where a town built in terraces met our eyes. 
This, however, was not the fortified town of Gibraltar, but the suburbs out of it, which is called by the Spaniards Europe, and by the English South, that is to say, South Gibraltar; then came terraces with villas and gardens, and lastly, behind bastions and fortified walls, the town itself, amidst cactus-grown rocks. A boat came out to the steamboat; all the papers were taken up with a pair of iron tongs, looked at, and returned by the hand. We then obtained permission to land, and at the landing place were told that we might remain a few days. We were now upon English ground.

From 1804 right through to 1828, yellow fever ( see LINK ) made regular visits to Gibraltar claiming perhaps 10,000 lives. Not surprisingly quarantine was imposed and became a regular inconvenience for anybody visiting the Rock for years to come. The arrival of cholera in the later part of the 19th century is probably the reason for the use of 'iron tongs by the fellow on the pratique.
The Locals - A motley crowd, a whole pattern-book of nationalities, streamed in and out of the low gate of the fortifications, before which stood English soldiers with scarlet uniforms, blue eyes, and fair hair. Outside of the gate were markets for meat, vegetables, and fruit; within it an extensive parade ground, which led to the long, principal street of the town; there mingled, with Bedouins in their burnouses, Morocco Jews in Kaftans slippers and turbans, sailors from all parts of the world, strangers also, some of whom wore long green veils attached to their hats, as a defence against the over-powering rays of the sun.. . . 
At Gibraltar, one is under lock and key at times; at sunset the signal gun is fired, the gatesof the fortress are locked, and all communication with the outside world is broken off, until at sunrise another gun then thunders the order that the gates may be opened. If one does not think of it, one experiences no feeling of imprisonment.  The long gas-lighted street is thronged with people of all nations, Turks, Arabs, English, and French; military music is played, the theatre is open: here at that time there was an opera being given; one of the newest, ‘Moreto ’ - the music was by a Spaniard - was very successful. 
The King's Arms - Our Danish consul, Herr Mathiasen, had bespoken rooms for us at the ‘King’s Arms Hotel.’ The 'valet de place', who met us in the harbour, was aware of this, and we were soon established in good English comfort. On the stairs and in the rooms one saw people of all nations and speaking all languages. At table acquaintances were quickly made; here were a few lively agreeable English naval officers, two young Frenchmen, a German, and a Russian, and some Spaniards who had just arrived from crocodile hunting on the Nile.
The Danish Consul was Christian Mathiasen. He was originally from Copenhagen and his residence was in the South and on the road to Wind Mill Hill. The King's Arms Hotel was in the central Commercial Square and probably the best in town. 
While we were still at table, came Consul Mathiasen and carried us with him to his hospitable house. Around the rooms there was much that reminded one of Denmark. There hung a large picture, a Danish beech-wood, painted by Tkovgaard; on the table lay Paludan-Müller collected works. Herr Mathiasen brought us the last numbers of Dagbladet, which had come via England. I read in it what piece had been given at the Theatre Royal in Copenhagen eight days before; it was ‘Far away from Denmark.’ I myself was far away and yet near, for thought, with which God has endowed us, has power to fly. 
Frederik Paludan-Müller was a contemporary Danish poet and Tkovgaard - nowadays spelt Skovgaard - a contemporary Danish artist.  The Dagbladet was - and still is - a daily Danish newspaper.  

The Beech-wood ( 1856 - P.C. Skovgaard ) but probably not the one hanging in the Danish Consul's House. 
A letter had been awaiting me a whole month here; it was from the English minister at Tangier, Sir John Drummond Hay: he was so kind as to invite me, and my travelling companion, to stay at his house, if we should visit the African coast. The steamer only went once a week from Gibraltar to Tangier, and we had still a few days before us; therefore we were enabled to write to announce our coming. A fisherman often carried letters between Gibraltar and Tangier, and by him I sent a letter, accepting the invitation we had received.
Sir John Drummond Hay was the United Kingdom's Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Morocco in the nineteenth century. He had only recently acted as a mediator in the difficulties which Morocco had had with Denmark. 
Consul Mathiasen took us to see a beautiful view. We drove through the ponderous fortifications, and narrow crooked roads, out upon the flat tongue of land which joins the rock of Gibraltar to the high land of Spain. Everything was arid and dried up; here and there stood an Agave with its thick stunted trunk, the dust lay upon its long heavy leaves. 
The bay, with Algeciras, stretched itself out on the left; the open sea was on our right. On the sandy road over which we were driving, there was an encampment; the English garrison here take it by turns to live within the town, and outside in the tents, to accustom them to camp life.
La Línea - We soon reached and passed over a (within reach of gun) piece of desert neutral land, and then came to the first little Spanish village; it was enclosed within under railings, and Spanish soldiers stood at the gate. We turned round, and before us, starting up as it were, from the sandy plain and the sea arose the mighty, perpendicular wall of rock; we distinctly saw the embrasures in the galleries, which are widely extended throughout it. They were practising sharp- shooting on the sandy isthmus, therefore we were obliged to confine ourselves to the road by which we had come, and, unwillingly, to return by it.

Rock of Gibraltar and the 'sandy plain' of the Neutral Ground  ( 1860s - Frederick Richard Lee ) ( see LINK
The South - Through the fortifications, and over the walls, we reached the southern part of the town, near the Alameda; here we came to a charming spot, covered with gardens. Soon South Gibraltar lay between us; we drove past pleasant looking country-houses with white walls and green jalousies; in the garden were growing splendid trees, with large sunny fruits, and carnation-tinted flowers; there was quite a wilderness of foliage and bright creeping plants. At one villa, which belonged to our consul’s mother-in-law, an Irish lady, we enjoyed a charming view extending from the bay of Algeciras to the town and hills, and over to Tarifa, and to the African coast.  
The view now became much grander, as from the southern part of the rock our carriage road led to the north-east, and there suddenly stopped. We had to proceed on foot up the parched rocks, upon which the sun and the sun-fogs had exercised their influence. Passing soldiers and cannons we reached the lofty solitude; wild cucumbers grew here amidst masses of stone; immediately beneath us we saw the dark blue, almost ink-black water with its foaming white-crested waves; a fisherman in his boat lay down there, while sea-birds flew over him into the deep caverns of the rock.   
Many vessels had sought shelter here, and were awaiting a favourable wind to pass through the straits out into the Atlantic Ocean. The view here was a very comprehensive one . . . . Consul Mathiasen obtained the governor’s permission for us to see the immense fortifications, and we visited them in company with him. Through a small over-crowded square, where many of the garrison and their families resided, we passed, guided by two soldiers, and were conducted into prison-like vaults, the doors of which were locked and bolted behind us; sometimes we were in gloom and darkness, then suddenly weentered open passages, with the clear air above us, and the rock itself, with its loop-holes, forming the walls
That small over-crowded square is hard to identify. One can only assume that the rest of the description refers to the labyrinthine trip through the Moorish Castle Area and on to the upper Rock. 
St Michael's cave It was a very fatiguing walk up to the flag-house at the top of the hill; the way down from this leads past an enormous cavern in the rock, and whose singularly-formed stalactites and unfathomable depth awaken great interest. It is a popular idea that this cavern extends across under the Straits, and has its outlet on the African coast. Apes, it is said, have, through this submarine tunnel, found their way over here.  
Many skeletons of these animals have been discovered in this cave; the apes bury their own dead. When Collin was here, the governor happened to visit the place with a number of strangers, blue lights were burned in the cave, the extraordinary formation of which and the stalactites assumed, in the glare, quite a magic appearance. 
The Moorish Castle A relic from the time of the Moors is still to be seen on the north-west, a sort of fort; it is now, so to speak, incorporated with the new walls and fortifications, which extend from the top to the bottom of the rock. . . 
Not exactly an admiring description of the oldest and largest Moorish Castle in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula but an understandable one as the place was probably in a state of general disrepair at the time and has never been particularly beautiful.
The Alameda Gardens - Trafalgar Cemetery  - Collin had gone scrambling among the rocks to gather snails and other insects for his collection. I preferred wandering about with a young lively Frenchman: we went out towards the Alameda, and came first to the churchyard, which lies immediately outside the Southern gate of the town close to the walls. 

On the right, the Trafalgar Cemetery, on the left a sunken garden ( 1860s ) 
Fig-trees spread their shade over the graves, dark cypresses and flowering plants offer a charming variety; here grew high hedges, with large bell-formed blossoms that somewhat resemble white calla; they flourish in all the gardens about here, and are worn by ladies at balls. 
It is only for the first hour or two that they retain their original hue; in the course of the night they become lilac, and at early morning turn red. We were soon on the Alameda, which, with rows of trees, bushes, and flowers, is very inviting; here one gets the fresh sea-breeze; from hence one looks over the bay, filled with ships and boats, to Algeciras, and the bare stony hills which characterise the southern extremity of Europe.We met a number of promenaders, especially ladies and children. 
The most of them had light hair and fair complexions, and seemed to be English. My young Frenchman, a susceptible, excitable youth, was quite charmed at the sight of one of these blonde beauties,although he had declared that his heart could only beat for the dark-haired Spaniards. One might have thought, from his conversation, that he was irresistible, like the beauties about whom he raved. . . . 
The inhabitants of the south are so lively, so almost childish, and so un-calculating, that many strangers judge the women in these countries wrongly. One should not believe all that people of vivid imagination assert, one should not believe all that is written and printed.
They say that a woman in Spain
Is of bold and masculine mind; 
They say that a dirk in her belt,
There carried for use you will find.
They say so much more than they should-
The chattering tourist trust not;
For a light and childish heart
The young Spanish female has got.
If you raise a finger at her
When laughing, and merry, and gay -
The bright daughter of Spain may then
A dirk that was hidden display.

All in all an oddly unsatisfying account - especially when on considers who wrote it. It is shallow, confused and relatively uninformative. Perhaps the fault might e that of his translator - a Mrs Bushby. But I suspect she wasn't entirely to blame. His descriptions of the local community simply confirm the usual stereotypes spouted by so many who came before him and that a man as widely read as he was must have been aware of. 

The Rock from Devil's Tongue. Anderson uses the word 'fortification' and the like about a dozen times in his short passage on Gibraltar. This picture might go some way to explain why  ( Unknown )