George Gordon, Lord Byron
  (1788 - 1824)

Journey through Spain and Gibraltar
Sunday 23rd July till Thursday 17th August 1809 (21)

Byron and Hobhouse sailed from Falmouth, England on 2nd July 1809, arriving at Lisbon on 7th July.

Map of Byron's journey through Portugal and Spain

Byron's journey through Portugal and Spain

Spain and Gibraltar

The political and military situation in Spain at the moment that Byron and Hobhouse entered was precarious.

On 29th October 1807 the Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed by Napoleon and the Spanish first minister and favourite Godoy, allowing French troops to enter Spain to assist her in invading Portugal. The two parties to the agreement then intended to divide the territoy between them. But popular unrest during March 1808 caused the reigning King Charles IV to abdicate in favour of his son, who became Ferdinand VII. With unrest continuing, however, the two asked for the arbitration of their 'ally', Napoleon, who, in April 1808, invited them both to Bayonne in France.

The result of this Entrevue de Bayonne was the abdication of Ferdinand VII, and the imposition of Napoleon's brother, Joseph, as King Joseph I of Spain.

The Baron de Marbot writes that on 6th May 1808

... the old [King Carlos IV] in his ignoble desire for revenge, encouraged by the Queen and the Prince of the Peace [Mauel de Godoy], made over to the Emperor all his rights to the throne of Spain on certain conditions, the principal one being that by which he was to have the estate of Compiegne with a pension of seven and a half million francs. Ferdinand [Prince of the Asturias] was cowardly enough also to renounce his hereditary rights in favour of Napoleon, in return for a pension of a million and the château of Navarre in Normandy. .. Thus was consummated the most iniquitous spoliation which modern history records. In all times, a conqueror in a fair and open war has been held to have the right to take possession of the dominions of the conquered, but I can say with sincerity that the conduct of Napoleon in this scandalous affair was unworthy of so great a man. To offer himself as a mediator between a father and a son in order to draw them into a trap and then plunder them both - this was an odious atrocity which history has branded, and which Providence did not delay to punish. It was the war in Spain which brought about Napoleon's fall. (BMM, vol I, ch 36)

Just before this Entrevue de Bayonne, the events of 2nd May 1808 in Madrid, when General Joachim Murat ruthlessly suppressed a minor Spanish rebellion, consolidated opposition to the French occupying forces, and sparked rebellion throughout the country. Juntas (committees) were set up everywhere to oppose French rule. French soldiers (of whom there were by this time some 100,000 in Spain) and administrators were savagely attacked, as were those Spaniards who continued to support the French. The Spanish opposition offensive culminated in the victory of Bailén on 19th July 1808, when 20,000 French under General Pierre Dupont de l'Etang were defeated by the Spanish under General Francisco Castanos, with over 17,000 French prisoners taken. Although the tide against the French was briefly turned when Napoleon himself arrived in Spain to direct operations in November 1808, his departure two months later, and the arrival of Arthur Wellesley to direct a significant Anglo Portuguese force against the French in April 1809, together with continuing opposition from the population of Spain as a whole, led to the gradual erosion of French military power in Spain, until they were finally expelled in 1813.

Gibraltar had been ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and  had remained in British hands despite several attempts by Spain to retake it, most notably during the siege of June 1779 - February 1783.

The two travellers moved on from Elvas to Badajoz, entering Spain for the first time, and showing their passports to a 'fellow who could not read',

Wood engraving, Badajoz, from France Militaire, pub Delloye, Paris, 1837
Badajoz, view early 19th century

On Monday 24th July, a courier from the Junta of Spain wanted to requisition their horses, but they managed to refuse his request. The travel writer, Sir John Carr, whom they met in Seville two days later, notes 'a little bribe or interest, easily eludes the requisition'. (JCDT, p78)

They noticed churned up fields, the signs of recent battles, and took up a local boy as one of their guides, who 'regaled them with some 'patriotic' songs, for example:

La Reyna es una puta,
El Rey es un cabron,
Viva el rey Fernando
Y muera Napoleon.

Which, roughly translated, means:

The queen is a tart / the King is an old goat / long live King Fernando / death to Napoleon.

They saw further evidence of the war: a castle in the distance with a 'fourteen pounder' which 'did them (the French) much mischief', 'two French prisoners and a Spanish spy going to be hanged at Seville', and at Monasterio, '2,000 patriot troops of a decent appearance.'

At the same time, Wellesley's force of 20,000 British troops was assembling with 34,000 Spanish in front of Talavera, some 280km to the east.

Plan of the Battle of Talavera from Johnstone's Atlas of Military Geography
Plan of the Battle of Talavera

They found lodgings 'at a currier's house', where a 'large woman bolted into the room and began to dance when Sanguinetti played his flute to a fandango tune'.

On Tuesday 25th July, they continued on to Ronquillo, which was full of soldiers, and passed the Sierra Morena with batteries on the heights. At around four o'clock, they saw Seville 'in the plain immediately below'. Arriving in the town, they had some difficulty in finding lodgings, due to the influx of soldiers and others who had fled the French, but were eventually 'recommended to the lodgings of two unmarried ladies in the Callea de las Cruzes no 19 - Josepha Beltram and sister', where they all four (ie Byron's party) slept in the same room.


On Wednesday 26th July, they 'met three Spaniards officers, who talked French and flattered the English in a most disgusting manner', and visited the cathedral, which Hobhouse found 'very grand indeed'. He notes that 'the poorer even of the Spaniards of Seville have all cloaks of silk'.

On Thursday 27th July, the waiter, an Italian brought up in France, tried to ingratiate himself into their service, because he 'did not wish to be a common waiter any more', and, similarly, a 'lieutenant in the Spanish service' made an offer to become Lord Byron's servant. Hobhouse notes that 'the Spaniards still express the utmost contempt for the Portuguese,' and that 'Seville has 100,000 inhabitants now, 30,000 more than ordinary (the Grand Junta being settled here)'.

Hobhouse mounted to one of the highest galleries in Seville cathedral, where he brought his notes up to date.

Engraving of Seville, Procession of Corpus Christi, eng et del Rouargue, c1855
Seville, Procession of Corpus Christi
from Lavallée, Th, Géographie Universelle de Malte-Brun
Rouargue sc et del

pub Furne et Cie, Paris 1855

Of Seville, Byron writes to his mother:

Seville is a beautiful town; though the streets are narrow, they are clean. We lodged in the house of two Spanish unmarried ladies, who possess six houses in Seville, and gave me a curious specimen of Spanish manners. They are women of character, and the eldest a fine woman, the youngest pretty, but not so good a figure as Donna Josepha. The freedom of manner, which is general here, astonished me not a little ... The eldest honoured your unworthy son with a very particular attention, embracing him with great tenderness at parting (I was there but three days), after cutting off a lock of his hair, and presenting him with one of her own, about three feet in length, which I send, and beg you will retain till my return. Her last words were 'Adios, tu hermoso! me gusto mucho' - Adieu, you pretty fellow! you please me very much. She offered me a share of her apartment, which my virtue induced me to decline; she laughed and said I had some English amante (lover), and added that she was going to be married to an officer in the Spanish army.

On Friday 28th July, they were visited by Sir John Carr, a travel writer, referred to by Byron in Childe Harold as 'Green Erin's knight and Europe's wandering star'. Byron requested not to be included in his forthcoming travelogue, which was published in 1811 under the title Descriptive Travels in the Southern and Eastern Parts of Spain and the Balearic Isles in the year 1809. The two men then took leave of their hostesses. According to Hobhouse, Donna Josepha had offered to share her bed, rather than her apartment, asking Byron before he departed why he had not joined her at two in the morning as arranged. 

They made their way in a carriage to Utrera, where they saw the church of St Iago, which Hobhouse found 'very pretty, with a cupola', and the town 'very clean and neat, with broad streets'. He notes further 'inn very good'.

On Saturday 29th July, they made their way to Xeres (Jeres), 'through corn plains - herds of horses in the fields', then 'through corn lands and olive groves - a large vineyard and a farm belonging to Mr Gordon of Xeres', who gave them a good dinner, and whose sherry warehouse they visited, containing '5,000 butts in one warehouse'. (For anyone wishing to visit, the descendants of Mr Gordon are still in Jeres, and still receive British visitors, though dinner cannot be guaranteed.) They were given 'two bottles of most capital Sherry... one of which was drunk by Sanguinetti, Robert, and a clerk of Mr Gordon's in regimentals, who said to me he was doing very well with his family, being allowed a dollar and a half a day by Mr Gordon'.

They then set out for Puerto de Maria, where there was a 'great bustle', and 'embarked and arrived in an hour at Cadiz' at seven thirty. At Wood's hotel, they were told that there were no lodgings for servants, and that the landlady preferred 'merchants ... to Lords', so they put up at Bailly's hotel, where they were 'well served', though Hobhouse also notes: 'the bog through a scullery at the top of the house with a suffocating vapour and many black beetles'.


On Sunday 30th July, they called on Don Diego Duff, the English Consul, and met Lord Jocelyn and Mr Wellesley, Arthur Wellesley's nephew. They dined early at Bailly's hotel with a Mr Terry, from Mr Duff's office, 'who drank no wine, but told a great many lies, so truth does not lie in a well'.

After dinner, they went to Puerto de Maria, 'to a bull-feast'. Hobhouse later wrote:

The author of Childe Harold, and the writer of this note, and one or two other Englishmen, who have certainly, in other days, borne the sight of a pitched battle, were, during the summer of 1809, in the governor's box at the great amphitheatre of Santa Maria, opposite to Cadiz. The death of one or two horses completely satisfied their curiosity. A gentleman present, observing them shudder and look pale, noticed that unusual reception of so delightful a sport to some young ladies, who stared and smiled, and continued their applause as another horse fell bleeding to the ground. One bull killed three horses off his own horns. He was saved by acclamations which were redoubled when it was known he belonged to a priest. An Englishman who can be much pleased with seeig two men beat themselves to pieces, cannot bear to look at a horse galloping round an arena with his bowels trailing on the ground, and turns from the spectacle and the spectators with horror and disgust. (Note to Childe Harold IV, Stanza 142)

Engraving of a bullfight at Seville, c1850
Bullfight, Seville, c1850, Adolphe et Emile Rouargue

In the evening they went to the comedy: 'good house, in form of a horseshoe. Peculiar kind of pit, rented by single seats or chairs - no women there (no place but a small one behind the pit for the common people - and a stranger, unless he knows some person, not able to go into a box except perhaps the Governor's)'. He saw the English opera A Peep into the Seraglio, but found the dancing bad, then returned to Bailly's to eat, where he heard several accounts of the death of the Marquis of Solano, previously governor of Cadiz, who had refused to join the junta in opposition to the French, and, returning to Cadiz from Seville, had begun making preparations to surrender the city to the French, an event recorded by William Jacob in his Travels in the South of Spain: in letters written AD 1809 and 1810. Solano was pulled into the street and

.. the general cry of the populace was, 'to the gallows! to the gallows!' whither this veteran was conducted; but such was the indignation of the people, that before he had quitted the house, where he was discovered, he was lacerated with knives and his cloaths literally torn from his body. Naked, and streaming with blood from numberless wounds, he preserved the firm step, and the manly dignity of an officer. To the taunts of the multitude he appeared superior, but not insensible, and at every fresh stab that was inflicted, he fixed his eyes on the perpetrator with an expression of contempt; till a soldier, who had been long under his command, dreading the impending degradation of his old officer, plunged his sword in his heart, and terminated his sufferings. (WJTS, p30)

Hobhouse comments:

... certain that he, and the French way of doing things, very useful to the people of Spain.

On Monday 31st July, he bought a book in a 'decent bookshop ... of a woman who talked French and Italian'. The book appears to have been a compendium of two little known and little regarded Roman authors writing about Roman history. They dined with, among others, Consul Duff, Lord Jocelyn and Mr Wellesley (probably Arthur Wellesley's nephew), then 'walked in the Almedea [Alameda]', the stretch of promenade on the sea-front.

On Tuesday 1st August, he 'heard the cannon fired for the victory of Cuesta, and for Lord Wellesley's landing'. This was the 'victory' of General Cuesta and Arthur Wellesley at Talavera, and the arrival in Cadiz of Lord Wellesley, Arthur Wellesley's brother, Richard Colley (the explanation as to why he was called 'Colley' relates to the exigencies of families, wills and inheritances), who had come to replace John Hookham Frere as British Ambassador to the junta. He continues

Engraving of Richard Colley Wellesley, Marquess Wellesley
Richard Colley Wellesley, Marquess Wellesley
engraved by G. Adcock after Sir Thomas Lawrence

.. saw the bustle about the ambassador's, and saw the cobbler get up and make a speech refusing a sum of money offered by Lord Wellesley to the people who drew his carriage through the city.

Byron himself notes later that he saw Wellesley:

... listening to the speech of a patriotic cobler of Cadiz, on the event of his own entry into that city, and the exit of some five thousand bold Britons from this 'best of all possible worlds'. (CPW II 275)

The reference being to the 'victory' at Talavera, which cost some six thousand British lives, and to the philosopher Leibniz's theory, proven on logical principles, and ridiculed by Voltaire and many others ever since, that we in fact live in the 'best of all possible worlds'. The sourness of the comment may, however, also be related to the fact that Byron was not himself the centre of attention on this occasion.

They visited the convent of St Francis, where they saw 'the life of that saint in pictures', then dined with two officers of the Hyperion.

Hobhouse relates further that he bought a book of Spanish poetry, from a 'stall man who talked Latin - a Castilian and student of Salamanca', and he notes that there are 'desks for persons who write letters for those who cannot write, set up near the fruit market'.

He overheard a Spaniard relating the events of the battle of Talavera as follows:

The French attacked the English first because they thought to rout them directly - but they did not - the English behaved very well indeed and Cuestra soon finished the business.

He also observes 'not a great deal said of Wellesley in the patriotic songs sung this night'.

They walked again at the Alameda, where they met Wellesley-Pole (yet another brother of Arthur Wellesley, and Secretary of the Admiralty) and Gally Knight (MP, traveller and writer, but not a travel writer, satirised by Byron in Ballad to the Tune of Salley in our Alley), and were joined by Mr Gordon of Xeres. Both Wellesley Pole and Gally Knight were former students at Eton, Gally Knight being known to Byron from Cambridge. Readers not enamoured of squibs may scroll down.

Oil painting of Sir William Wellesley-Pole by Sir Thomas Lawrence
William Wellesley-Pole
Oil painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Ballad. To the Tune of Salley in our Alley

Of all the twice ten thousand bards
That ever penned a canto,
Whom Pudding or whom Praise rewards
For lining a portmanteau;
unread works were used by suitcase makers to line portmanteaus
Of all the poets ever known,
From Grub-street to Fop's Alley,
Grub Street was the abode of needy literary hacks, Fop's Alley the fashionable promenade through the centre of the pit in a theatre or opera house
The Muse may boast -- the World must own
There's none like pretty Gally!

He writes as well as any Miss,
Has published many a poem;
The shame is yours, the gain is his,
In case you should not know 'em:
He has ten thousand pounds a year --
I do not mean to vally --
His songs at sixpence would be dear,
So give them gratis, Gally!

And if this statement should seem queer,
Or set down in a hurry,
Go, ask (if he will be sincere)
His bookseller -- John Murray.
Murray was also Byron's publisher: sincerity was perhaps not his strongest attribute.
Come, say, how many have been sold,
And don't stand shilly-shally,
Of bound and lettered, red and gold,
Well printed works of Gally.

For Astely's circus Upton writes,
And also for the Surry;
William Upton, poet and songwriter, wrote for both Astley's circus, and its imitator, the Surrey, which later became the Surrey Theatre. Astley's has claim to be the first circus in the world, the name deriving from Astley's use of a circular format for his equestrian displays.
Fitzgerald weekly (or weakly) still recites,
Though grinning Critics worry:
William Thomas Fitzgerald was a poet who recited his poetry annually at the Freemason's Tavern.
Miss Holford's Peg, and Sotheby's Saul,
Miss Margaret Holford and William Sotheby were fellow poets
In fame exactly tally;
From Stationer's Hall to Grocer's Stall
ie having been printed and registered at Stationer's Hall, they go straight to the grocer's stall to wrap up vegetables
They go -- and so goes Gally.

He rode upon a Camel's hump
Through Araby the sandy,
He toured the Near East in 1810-11
Which surely must have hurt the rump
Of this poetic dandy.
His rhymes are of the costive kind,
And barren as each valley
In deserts which he left behind
Has been the Muse of Gally.

He has a Seat in Parliament,
Is fat and passing wealthy;
And surely he should be content
With these and being healthy:
But Great Ambition will misrule
Men at all risks to sally, --
Now makes a poet -- now a fool,
And we know which -- of Gally.

Some in the playhouse like to row,
Some with the Watch to battle,
being presumably the Night Watch
Exchanging many a midnight blow
To Music of the Rattle.
Some folks like rowing on the Thames,
Some rowing in an Alley,
But all the Row my fancy claims
Is rowing -- of my Gally (or galley).

We might conclude, with Robert Greene, that Byron considered himself to be 'the only Shake-scene in a country', and it is difficult to find him giving any praise, unless it be faint praise, to any other contemporary poet, with the sole exception of Coleridge, and then only for some of his poems. Not that he was necessarily wrong. And Gally was perhaps an irresistible butt for satire (perhaps also well known to Byron for his sexual proclivities: the idea of Byron 'rowing his Gally' is fairly unambiguous), having also the misfortune to have an annual income of some ten thousand pounds, and no known physical deformity (apart, perhaps, from his fatness).

Gally was elsewhere described as a 'very bald-headed' man of 'middle height' who was 'rather stoutly made', and further ridiculed by James Grant:

He has got a tolerable voice, but the evil of it is, he has got no ideas in the expression of which to employ it. He speaks seldom: in that he is wise ... He attempts none of the loftier flights of oratory: a most commendable resolution; for he never was destined to soar. He contents himself with giving utterance, two or three times a session, to thirty or forty sentences, not sentiments; and this done, he resumes his seat, with a look of infinite self-complacency, just as if he had thereby relieved his conscience of a burden which was pressing on it. (quoted by Martin Casey, (DRHP, Grant ii, 106-7))

They attended the theatre once more.

On Wednesday 2nd August, they again saw Sir John Carr, and took leave of Mr Duff, dining very well with Admiral Purvis on the Atlas. They again attended the play:

... whilst Byron was in a box with Miss Cordova, a little mad and apt to fall in love, daughter of the admiral whom Lord St Vincent beat, and another lady.

Hobhouse, meanwhile, found a certain solace with a whore.

With reference to Cadiz, Byron writes to Francis Hodgson, from Gibraltar on 6th August 1809:

Cadiz, sweet Cadiz! - it is the first spot of creation. The beauty of its streets and mansions is only excelled by the loveliness of its inhabitants. 

Engraving of Cadiz
Finden sc

He writes further, in the same letter:

Cadiz is a complete Cythera [one of the islands associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love]. Many of the grandees who have left Madrid during the troubles reside there, and I do believe it is the prettiest and cleanest town in Europe. London is filthy in comparison. The Spanish women are all alike, their education the same. The wife of a duke is, in information, as the wife of a peasant, - the wife of a peasant, in manner, equal to a duchess. certainly they are fascinating; but their minds have only one idea, and the business of their lives is intrigue.

And to his mother from the same place on 11th August 1809:

I beg leave to observe that intrigue here is the business of life; when a woman marries she throws off all restraint, but I believe their conduct is chaste enough before. If you make a proposal, which in England will bring a box on the ear from the meekest of virgins, to a Spanish girl, she thanks you for the honour you intend her, and replies, 'Wait till I am married, and I shall be too happy.' This is literally and strictly true.

He had, in fact, struck up a liaison with the daughter of Admiral Cordova:

The girl is very pretty, in the Spanish style; in my opinion, by no means inferior to the English in charms, and certainly superior in fascination. Long black hair, dark languishing eyes, clear olive complexions, and forms more graceful in motion than can be conceived by an Englishman used to the drowsy, listless air of his countrywomen, added to the most becoming dress, and, at the same time, the most decent in the world, render a Spanish beauty irresistible.

The girl

after regretting my ignorance of the Spanish, .. proposed to become my preceptress in that language. I could only reply by a low bow, and express my regret that I quitted Cadiz too soon to permit me to make the progress which would doubtless attend my studies under so charming a directress.

On Thursday 3rd August, they sailed in the Hyperion frigate for Gibraltar, getting on board around seven in the morning. By seven in the evening, they had sighted the coast of Africa.


On Friday 4th August, they saw Gibraltar at around nine o'clock, and came on shore around midday. They installed themselves in the Three Anchors or British Hotel in two rooms 'very buggy-looking and dirty like the rest of this shocking hotel', run by a man who reminded Byron of a 'jolly Bacchus'. They found that Byron's servants, Murray, Fletcher and Friese, had not yet arrived with the baggage. In the evening, they climbed the Rock.

Gibraltar, drawn by David Roberts, engraved by C.Varrall
Gibraltar, drawn by David Roberts, engraved by C.Varrall

On Saturday 5th August, they got up at three p.m. and did nothing, though Hobhouse discovered he had contracted a minor illness, probably from his encounter on Wednesday.

On Sunday 6th August, they were up early, and Hobhouse visited the Rock Galleries, tunnels excavated for gun emplacements high in the rock during the siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783) when Spanish and French forces had attempted to drive out the British.

Engraving, Gibraltar, St Georges Hall, J.Salmon sc, G Presbury eng
Gibraltar, St Georges Hall, J.Salmon sc, G Presbury eng

He saw several monkeys, then went to the library, which he says was well stocked with 'good common books', though the Life of Voltaire he read he says was 'very bad'. He walked up the Rock with Byron again in the evening.

On Monday 7th August, he went again to the library, then stayed in the hotel.

On Tuesday 8th August, he went again to the library, and read again Voltaire's life, noting the quote that 'all originality nothing but ingenious imitation'. They again walked up the Rock.

On Wednesday 9th August, they settled Sanguinetti's account, and Hobhouse went again to the library, where he read Arthur Young's French Tour, (Travels in France during the years 1787, 1788, 1789 first published in 1792), which he liked.

On Thursday 10th August, he found his illness was now more serious. He went to the library and again read Young's Tour. He speculates with Young on the identity of Dom Cowley of London, mentioned by Young as an honorary member of Metz agricultural society (Arthur Young was particularly interested in agriculture). Hobhouse records that he has seen the name 'Cowley' under an engraving of a cow ('Of Mr Cowley's breed') in Bewick's Quadrupeds (A General History of Quadrupeds, the Figures Engraved on Wood by Thomas Bewick, 1790).

He goes on to praise a paragraph in Young's account devoted to Petrarch:

Whether it was because I had read much of this town in the history of the middle ages, or because it had been the residence of the Popes, or more probably from the still more interesting memoirs which Petrarch has left concerning it, in poems that will last as long as Italian elegance and human feelings shall exist, I know not - but I approached the place with a sort of interest, attention and expectancy that few towns have kindled. Laura's tomb is in the church of the Cordeliers; it is nothing but a stone in the pavement, with a figure engraven on it partly effaced, surrounded by an inscription in Gothic letters, and another in the wall adjoining, with the armorial of the family of Sade. How incredible is the power of great talents, when employed in delineating passions common to the human race. How many millions of women, fair as Laura, have been beloved as tenderly - but, wanting a Petrarch to illustrate the passion, have lived and died in oblivion! Whilst his lines, not written to die, conduct thousands under the impulse of feelings, which genius only can excite, to mingle in idea their sighs with those of the poet who consecrated these remains to immortality! - There is a monument of the brave Crillon in the same church; and I saw other churches and pictures - but Petrarch and Laura are predominant at Avignon. - 19 miles. (Young, Travels in France during the years 1787, 1788, 1789 first published in 1792, London)

There is an interesting correlation here between a travel writer and a poet, ie Young / Petrarch and Hobhouse / Byron, though, of course, Young was not a contemporary of Petrarch. There is also an interesting correlation between the quote from Voltaire on originality, and the idea in Young that it is the genius of the great poet to commuicate 'passions common to the human race' in a way that speaks to everybody, ie that the great poet can take a common idea and make it compulsively interesting. Hobhouse is clearly pondering the question of what makes a poet, and, possibly, his own lack of originality. He does not yet know that his own poetic offering, published just before sailing (The Wonders of a Week at Bath), has elicited no interest with the public.

He also read Carter's Gibraltar to Malaga, which he finds a 'curious antiquarian book'. He would have been interested to read:

Of all the countries in the known world, there is not perhaps any one province so worthy of our attention and curiosity, as that part of the kingdom of Granada which we are going to traverse; none blest with a richer or more luxuriant climate; none more famous in Ancient History; and none that can be compared with it, even in these our days, for any of those natural gifts and blessings which are allowed to contribute to the pleasure and happiness of mankind.

Curious indeed, for neither Hobhouse nor Byron show the least enthusiasm for the place (though Carter is, of course, not writing just of Gibraltar itself). Carter goes on to write of Lucan the Poet, who 'speaks with complacency of the serenity and perpetual clearness of the sky about Gibraltar'; of Pliny, who resided in Granada many years, and who 'in the last words of his Natural History, after having through a laudable partiality given the preference to his native Italy, renders justice to the Southern coast of Spain, and affirms that only of all others can be compared to it'; of Strabo who 'likewise celebrates the great fertility and abundance of this country, which he stiles marvellous': of Julius Caesar who, in his Commentaries, 'calls Spain a most healthy region'; of Justin the Historian who 'passes great encomiums on its mildness, observing that it was placed in a happy temperature, not so hot as Africk, nor subject to the cold winds of France'. All this indeed constitutes a very 'antiquarian' approach to writing a travelogue, though written less than fifty years before. The idea of citing ancient authors at the beginning as a justification for what one is about to write is typical of the mindset that created Georgian literature, and Georgian society. But the change, the romantic transformation, has already happened. What Hobhouse is interested in is recording his own experiences, and what Byron is interested in is detailing his own feelings: they did reference classical antiquity, but only to demonstrate their education, not to tie their own observations in to a historical tradition. Carter transcends the prejudices of English eighteenth century society by approaching his subject through the ancients, Byron transcends the narrow cultural context of nineteenth century England by virtue of his undoubted poetic ability and his huge, self-observing.ego, but Hobhouse languishes in his own mediocrity, retailing the narrow prejudices of the society that produced him. Not that what he writes of his travels is uninteresting, for mediocrity allows at least a certain truthfulness to creep in, and it is easier to judge of what actually happened from a mediocre man recounting his experiences than from an inspired poet, but, of course, in general, much less interesting. The combination of the two would seem to be akin to giving us a binocular vision of history.

Hobhouse no doubt gained a few pointers from these two writers (Young and Carter) with regard to his own project of writing a travelogue, though it is doubtful whether, given his sanguine and unenthusiastic nature, he would ever have followed the style of Francis Carter's exclamations concerning the ancient city of Carteia, which he locates on the coast south of Algeciras and opposite Gibraltar (though other research, now generally accepted, locates the city about halfway between Gibraltar and Algeciras, between the rivers Guadaranque and Palmones, whereas the ruins found by Carter seem to be now identified as the ruins of Iulia Traducta, another Roman settlement):

Oh Carteia! thou once famous and renowned city, whose beauty and loveliness captivated the merchant, drawing all nations of the earth to thy port, can I contemplate without compassion thy present desolate state? Behold thy noble theatre is destroyed, thy populous streets are ploughed up and sown, thy walls are taken away, thy sacred temples are beat down, and thy beauteous head once crowned with turrets, is now levelled with the dust: Where are thy Senators, thy purpled Quator-viri, thy Aediles, thy streets swarming with people? Thy port is deserted, no fleets are to be seen in it, nor the shouts of mariners any more heard: thy fields for want of culture are turned to morasses; the very air over thee is become heavy and unwholesome, and the chilling ague drives man from thine habitation; in thy latter end, as in thy prosperity, one common fate attends thee with the mighty Babylon!

Worthy of Coleridge, and more original. If this doesn't inspire you to love archaeology, then nothing will.

He discovered a circulating library, and bought D'Anville's Geography. Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville (1697 - 1782) spent his life correcting geographies on the basis of historical documents, producing many maps of the ancient world.

On Friday 11th August, he copied his notes from his red pocket-book into his journal, noting everything added, ie not recorded on the spot, in parentheses. Byron informs him that the Triumph schooner under Captain Mackinnon had arrived and 'that he had a looseness'. He records that he 'embraced him for this news', though he does not specify which one. He blames MacKinnon, a 'wretched Yankee Scot', for the delay, and they went riding as far as the Spanish lines.

On Saturday 12th August, they 'set off in the afternoon in the Governor's barge to Algeciras, with Sir William Drummond', and an unidentified Mr Jephson. Sir William (c1770-1828) was a Scottish diplomat, MP, philosopher and poet, whose book Academical Questions (1805) was a strong influence on the ideas of Bysshe Bysshe Shelley. He writes:

Aristotle has observed, that the knowledge of the human mind is to be placed among the most excellent of the sciences, not only because it is in itself a subject of the most sublime speculation, but because it chiefly conduces to an acquaintance with truth and nature. This observation is undoubtedly just. The knowledge of ourselves is the surest basis both of wisdom and of virtue.

Commenting on the fact that little progress has been made in the subject, he observes:

It must indeed be confessed, that philosophers have too frequently quitted the direct road, which leads to truth, in order to wander in the mazes of metaphysical conjecture. (WDAQ, p1-2)

He observes further:

.. the noblest of science is mistaken and vilified by the folly of some and by the prejudices of others, by the impertinent pretensions of a few, who could never understand it, and by the unjustifiable censures of many, who have never given it a fair and candid examination. He, however, who has been accustomed to meditate the principles of things, the springs of action, the foundations of political government, the sources of moral law, the nature of the passions, the influence of habit and association, the formation of character and temper, the faculties of the soul, and the philosophy of mind, will not be persuaded that these subjects have been unworthy of his patient attention, because presumptuous writers have abused the liberty of investigation, or because dull ones have found it to be unavailing. 


It is nothing to him [the philosopher], that he is considered as a useless member of society by the heavy plodding man of business; or that he is exposed to the impotent ridicule of the gaudy coxcomb, by whom he can never be approved, because he can never be understood.What is it to him, though his name be unknown among the monopolizers, the schemers, and the projectors, that throng the crowded capital of a mercantile nation? What is it to him, though his talents be undervalued by the votaries and the victims of dissipation, folly, and fashion? What is it to him, though grandeur should have withdrawn its protection from genius; though ambition should be satisfied with power alone; and though power should only exert its efforts to preserve itself? ... The influence of passion diminishes, as the love of knowledge encreases; and habits of reflection, produced by philosophical and scientific enquiries, are the best antidotes against the allurements of pleasure, idleness and vice.

One cannot help wondering whether the good Sir William gave the bad Lord Byron any advice. Hobhouse, of course, does not tell us, though he does tell us that Sir William had 'a star'.

Engraving of Sir William Drummond
Sir William Drummond, with his star

They dined with an unidentified Mr Jephson, and Lady Westmoreland, who was later to be instrumental in introducing Byron to Lady Caroline Lamb, and whose clitoris, according to Byron, was 'supposed to be of the longest', though on what authority he has this, he does not tell. He also calls her 'Sapphic Westmoreland', implying that she had lesbian tendencies, though again we do not hear on what basis he makes this suggestion.

General Castanos 'came in after dinner, with a red sash over his shoulder'': this was the general who had been in charge of Spanish forces at the Battle of Bailén.

Engraving of General Castanos
General Castanos

On Sunday 13th August, they set off again for Algeciras to dine with General Castanos, but there was a contrary wind, and they did not land. He wrote a 'long letter' to David 'Long' Baillie.

On Monday 14th August, they set off on horseback for Algeciras once again, passing by Carteia, arriving at 'half past two at General Castanos' house'. He found Castanos 'good humoured, polite - dressed in a brown coat - at parting said to Lord Byron 'Mes compliments au Roi de Rose' '(my compliments to King Rose) Hobhouse makes no comment on the compliment, if compliment it was. They returned to their hotel, and Hobhouse finished his letter to Baillie, adding the lines:

One active friend more useful aid affords
Than twenty kind well-meaning lazy lords.

On Tuesday 15th August, they went to the packet, and walked up the hill.

On Wednesday 16th August, they embarked on board the Townshend packet (boat). One of the fellow passengers was John Galt, who published his own Life of Byron in 1830. He gives the following picture of Byron:

It was at Gibraltar that I first fell in with Lord Byron. I had arrived there in the packet from England, in indifferent health, on my way to Sicily, with no intention of travelling. I only went a trip, intending to return home after spending a few weeks in Malta, Sicily, and Sardinia.

He recounts that while he was in the garrison library:

... a young man came in and seated himself opposite to me at the table. Something in his appearance attracted my attention. His dress indicated a Londoner of some fashion, partly by its neatness and simplicity, with just so much of a peculiarity of style as served to show, that although he belonged to the order of metropolitan beaux, he was not altogether a common one.... His physiognomy was prepossessing and intelligent; a habit, as I then thought, with a degree of affectation in it, probably first assumed for picturesque effect and energetic expression; but which I afterwards discovered was undoubtedly the occasional scowl of some unpleasant reminiscence: it was certainly disagreeable - forbidding - but still the general cast of his features was impressed with elegance and character.

He is told afterwards that the man he has seen is Lord Byron, and he later watches him embark:

In the bustle and process of embarking their luggage, his Lordship affected, as it seemed to me, more aristocracy than befitted his years, or the occasion; and then I thought of his singular scowl, and suspected him of pride and irascibility. The impression that evening was not agreeable, but it was interesting; and that forehead mark, the frown, was calculated to awaken curiosity, and beget conjectures.

Hobhouse, with more of the commoner, made himself one of the passengers at once; but Byron held himself aloof, and sat on the rail, leaning on the mizzen shrouds, inhaling, as it were, poetical sympathy from the gloomy rock, then dark and stern in the twilight. There was in all about him that evening much waywardness; he spoke petulantly to Fletcher, his valet; and was evidently ill at ease with himself and fretful towards others. I thought he would turn out as an unsatisfactory shipmate; yet there was something redeeming in the tones of his voice, and when, some time after having indulged his sullen meditation, he again addressed Fletcher; so that instead of finding him ill-natured, I was soon convinced that he was only capricious.


The poet biographies, criticism, translations, maps and textual notes on this site are the copyright of Paul Scott