Emmanuel Benzaquen and General and Lady Don - Captain Shirreff,
Richard Ford's - Gatherings from Spain - is succinctly described in the book's frontispiece as having been written "by the Author of the Handbook of Spain; chiefly selected from that work, with much new matter." (See LINK)
As regards Gibraltar, however, there is very little indeed that is new - other than an indulgent and lengthy review of the smuggling trade and its effect on the the Spain - and that had everything to do with the Rock. The quotes shown below, therefore tip toe among those these paragraphs dealing with the subject and carefully ignore the rest.
Servants - Sometimes a person may be picked up who has some knowledge of languages, and who is accustomed to accompany strangers through Spain as a sort of courier. These accomplishments are very rare, and the moral qualities of the possessor often diminish in proportion as his intellect has marched; he has learnt more foreign tricks than words, and sea-port towns are not the best schools for honesty. Of these nondescripts the Hispano-Anglo, who generally has deserted from Gibraltar, is the best, because he will work, hold his tongue, and fight;
The Rock from Spain ( 1846- G.F.Weston )
Emmanuel Benzaquen of Granada seems to have been one of these! (See LINK) The above when compared with Ford's lengthy - and exhausting - passage on the general uselessness of Spanish servants must be taken as a compliment. Then, after a massive exposition on what Sherry really is, how it is manufactured and the very important fact that the Spaniards have very little to do with either its origins or popularity - Gibraltar makes its appearance among the vines.
Sherry Wines . . .the people at large of Spain are scarcely acquainted with the taste of sherry wine, beyond the immediate vicinity in which it is made; and more of it is swallowed at Gibraltar at the messes than in Madrid, Toledo, or Salamanca. Sherry is a foreign wine, and made and drunk by foreigners; nor do the generality of Spaniards like its strong flavour, and still less its high price . . .
In Andalucía it was no less easy for the Moor to encourage the use of water as a beverage, than to prohibit that of wine, which, if endued with strength, which sherry is, must destroy health when taken largely and habitually, as is occasionally found out at Gibraltar.
The Jews of Gibraltar - Black blood is the vile Stygian pitch which is found in the carcasses of Jews, Gentiles, Moors, Lutherans, and other combustible heretics, with whose bodies the holy tribunal made bonfires for the good of their souls. Nay, in the case of the Hebrew this black blood is also thought to stink, whence Jews were called by learned Latinists putos, quia putant; and certainly at Gibraltar an unsavoury odour seems to be gentilitious in the children of Israel, not however to unorthodox and unheraldic nostrils a jot more so, than in the believing Spanish monk.
The children of Israel - three Jewish Gibraltarian merchants (1832 - M. C. Perry ) (See LINK)
Ford's distaste for Jews - one only needs to read his famous Handbook to realise it was quite deep-rooted - was by no means unusual. It was a common affliction found in many a British traveller of the era. The literature is strewn with unpleasant comments which would today be considered both anti-Semitic and thoroughly unpleasant. Reading his opinions here is guaranteed to leave the reader with a nasty taste in the mouth.
And yet it would seem that his dislike for Jews in Gibraltar did not extend to those he met elsewhere. In 1833, for example, he visited Tetuan and wrote about his experiences there in a letter to his friend Henry Unwin Addington - Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the Court in Madrid
Tetuan . . . is a paradise compared to the garrison and gunfire of Gibraltar, almost as beautiful as Granada. . and abounding with comforts and accommodations, seeing that the houses of Jews are more handsomely and abundantly furnished than those of the grandees of Seville.
Jews or Christians . . Both are treated with great kindness, and the proof is in the silks and jewels, domestic comforts and luxuries, which are to be met with even among the poorest of them.
Later he visited Tangier:
The Jewesses do not hide their faces, and it would be a sin to do so, as they are truly beautiful, Their costume is most fanciful and oriental - a mass of brocade, golden sashes, handkerchiefs and jewellery, pearls, rubies and emeralds.
"Silks and jewels" - A Jewish lady . . . not of Tetuan but of Gibraltar ( 1830s -John Frederick Lewis )
Horses - The Andalucian horse is round in his quarters, though inclined to be small in the barrel. . . he never, however, stretches out with the long graceful sweep of the English thorough-bred; his action is apt to be loose and shambling, and he is given to dishing with the feet. The pace is, notwithstanding, perfectly delightful.
From being very long in the pastern, the motion is broken as it were by the springs of a carriage; their pace is the peculiar which is something more than a walk, and less than a trot, and it is truly sedate and sedan-chair-like, and suits a grave Don, who is given, like a Turk, to tobacco and contemplation.
Those Andalucian horses which fall when young into the hands of the officers at Gibraltar acquire a very different action, and lay themselves better down to their work, and gain much more in speed from the English system of training than they would have done had they been managed by Spaniards. . .
. . overfeeding a horse in the hot climate of Spain, like overfeeding his rider, renders both liable to fevers and sudden inflammatory attacks, which are much more prevalent in Gibraltar than elsewhere in Spain, because our countrymen will go on exactly as if they were at home.
( 1830s - George Frederick Lewis ) (See LINK)
Smuggling - Another source was, not to say is, Gibraltar, that hot-bed of contraband, that nursery of the smuggler, the prima materia of a robber and murderer. The financial ignorance of the Spanish government calls him in, to correct the errors of Chancellors of Exchequers . . . .
The fiscal regulations are so ingeniously absurd, complicated, and vexatious, that the honest, legitimate merchant is as much embarrassed as the irregular trader is favoured. The operation of excessive duties on objects which people must, and therefore will have, is as strikingly exemplified in the case of tobacco in Andalucia, as it is in that, and many other articles on the Kent and Sussex coasts: in both countries the fiscal scourge leads to breaches of the peace, injury to the fair dealer, and loss to the revenue; it renders idle, predatory and ferocious, a peasantry which, under a wiser system, and if not exposed to overpowering temptation, might become virtuous and industrious.
"Idle, predatory and ferocious" ( 1860 - A.C. Andros )
In Spain the evasion of such laws is only considered as cheating those who cheat the people; the villagers are heart and soul in favour of the smuggler, as they are of the poacher in England; all their prejudices are on his side.
The smuggler himself, so far from feeling degraded, enjoys the reputation which attends success in personal adventure, among a people proud of individual prowess; he is the hero of the Spanish stage, and comes on equipped in full costume, with his blunderbuss, to sing the well-known “Yo! que soy contrabandista! yo ho !” to the delight of all listeners from the Straits to the Bidasoa, custom-house officers not excepted. . . .
The contrabandista in his real character is welcome in every village; he is the newspaper and channel of intelligence; he brings tea and gossip for the curate, money and cigars for the attorney, ribands and cottons for the women ; he is magnificently dressed, which has a great charm for all Moro-Iberian eyes; he is bold and resolute - “ none but the brave deserve the fair ;” a good rider and shot; he knows every inch of the intricate country, wood or water, hill or dale; in a word, he is admirably educated for the high-road . . . .
“Yo! que soy contrabandista! Yo ho!” ( 19th century - Gustave Dore )
Many circumstances combined to make this freebooting career popular among the lower classes. The delight of power, the exhibition of daring and valour, the temptation of sudden wealth, always so attractive to half-civilized nations, who prefer the rich spoil won by the bravery of an hour, to that of the drudgery of years; the gorgeous apparel, the lavish expenditure, the song, the wassail, the smiles of the fair, and all the joyous life of liberty, Freemasonry, and good fellowship, operated with irresistible force on a warlike, energetic, and imaginative population.
This smuggling was the origin of Jose Maria’s (see LINK) career, who rose to the highest rank and honours of his profession . . . .
José Maria "el Tempranillo" ( 19th century - John Frederick Lewis )
The iniquity and dearness of the royal tobacco makes the fortune of the well-meaning smuggler, who being here, as everywhere, the great corrector of blundering chancellors of exchequers, provides a better and cheaper thing from Gibraltar. The proof of the extent to which his dealings are carried was exemplified in 1828, when many thousand additional hands were obliged to be put on to the manufactories at Seville and Granada, to meet the increased demand occasioned by the impossibility of obtaining supplies from Gibraltar, in consequence of the yellow fever which was then raging there. (See LINK)
No offence is more dread-fully punished in Spain than that of tobacco-smuggling, which robs the queen’s pocket - all other robbery is treated as nothing . . . The encouragement afforded to the manufacture and smuggling of cigars at Gibraltar is a never-failing source of ill blood and ill will between the Spanish and English governments.
This most serious evil is contrary to all treaties, injurious to Spain and England alike and is beneficial only to aliens of the worst character, who form the real plague and sore of Gibraltar. The American and every other nation import their own tobacco, good, bad, and indifferent into the fortress free of duty, and without repurchasing British produce. It is made into cigars by Genoese, is smuggled into Spain by aliens, in boats under the British flag, which is disgraced by the traffic and exposed to insult from the revenue cutters of Spain, which it cannot in justice expect to have redressed.
A smuggler and his wife ( Early 19th century )
The Spaniards would have winked at the introduction of English hardware and cottons - objects of necessity, which do not interfere with this, their chief manufacture, and one of the most productive of royal monopolies.
There is a wide difference between encouraging real British commerce and this smuggling of foreign cigars, nor can Spain be expected to observe treaties towards us while we infringe them so scandalously and unprofitably on our parts.
The style is uniquely Ford's and if one ignores his prejudices it easy to understand why he was such a popular read in his day. He was perhaps, as his peer might have put it - too clever by half - and often masked many of his ill-informed opinions with an unusually flowing literary style.
He was certainly well informed about the methods and character of the smugglers of Andalucia who ran their trade from Gibraltar but he certainly fails to identify the people who were mainly responsible for it - the many British -born merchants of the Rock, all of them well-backed both financially and politically by British businessmen back at home with close contacts with the UK Government.
Nevertheless, He seems to have visited Gibraltar quite frequently, especially in the 1830s. Captain Shirreff, the Port-admiral of Gibraltar was a friend of his and it must have helped that General Don's wife - Maria Margaretta - (see LINK) was an old friend of his mother and that he probably often stayed at the Convent - the Governor's residence - which he found very agreeable. His delight, however, rarely lasted all that long:
We were right glad to be landed at the Rock, and spent eight to ten days there very agreeably in seeing the lions and the monkeys, guns and garrisons and in going to balls and batteries. . . having clambered all over the Rock we began to feel the epidemic under which the Garrison labours, namely boredom, and the feeling of being shut up on so small a space.
Guns . . and batteries - Gibraltar ( 1853 - Lady Crichton Stuart ) (See LINK)
Unfortunately, his comments on the Jews of Gibraltar (see LINK) are the ones that stick mostly in the mind.
Other essays on Richard Ford:
1855 - Richard Ford - A Cloacal Nuisance
1855 - Richard Ford - Quotes