THE LIFE OF
CAPTAIN MATTHEW FLINDERS, R.N.
PROFESSOR OF HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
AUTHOR OF "TERRE NAPOLEON" AND "LIFE OF LAPEROUSE"
WITH PORTRAITS, MAPS, AND FACSIMILES.
SYDNEY ANGUS & ROBERTSON LTD. 89 CASTLEREAGH STREET 1914.
The subject of this book died one hundred years ago. Within his forty years of life, he discovered a very large area of what is now an important region of the earth; he participated in stirring events which are memorable in modern history; he applied a vigorous and original mind to the advancement of knowledge, with useful results; and he was the victim of circumstances which, however stated, were peculiarly unfortunate, and must evoke the sympathy of everyone who takes the trouble to understand them. His career was crowded with adventures: war, perilous voyages, explorations of unknown coasts, encounters with savages, shipwreck and imprisonment are the elements which go to make up his story. He was, withal, a downright Englishman of exceptionally high character, proud of his service and unsparing of himself in the pursuit of his duty.
Yet up to this time his biography has not been written. There are, it is true, outlines of his career in various works of reference, notably that contributed by Sir J.K. Laughton to the Dictionary of National Biography. But there is no book to which a reader can turn for a fairly full account of his achievements, and an estimate of his personality. Of all discoverers of leading rank Matthew Flinders is the only one about whom there is no ample and convenient record.
This book endeavours to fill the gap.
The material upon which it is founded is set forth in the footnotes and the bibliography. Here the author takes pleasure in acknowledging the assistance he has received from several quarters. A previous book brought him the acquaintance of the grand-nephew of that Comte de Fleurieu who largely inspired three famous French voyages to Australia—those of Laperouse, Dentrecasteaux and Baudin—all of which have an important bearing upon the subject. The Comte A. de Fleurieu had long been engaged in collecting material relative to the work and influence of his distinguished grand-uncle, and in the most generous manner he handed over to the author his very large collection of manuscripts and note-books to be read, noted, and used at discretion. Even when a historian does not actually quote or directly use matter bearing upon his subject, it is of immense advantage to have access to documents which throw light upon it, and which enable an in-and-out knowledge of a period and persons to be obtained. This book owes much of whatever value it may possess to monsieur de Fleurieu's assistance in this respect, and the author thanks him most warmly.
The Flinders papers, of which free use has been made, were presented to the Melbourne Public Library by Professor W.M. Flinders Petrie. They are described in the bibliography. The transcripts of family and personal documents were especially valuable. Although they were not supplied for this book, Professor Flinders Petrie gave them in order that they might be of use to some biographer of his grandfather, and the author begs to thank him, and also Mr. E La Touche Armstrong, the chief librarian, in whose custody they are, and who has given frequent access to them.
The rich stores of manuscripts in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, have been thoroughly examined, with the assistance of Mr. W.H. Ifould, principal librarian, Mr. Hugh Wright, and the staff of that institution. Help from this quarter was accorded with such grace that one came to think giving trouble was almost like conferring a favour.
All copies of documents from Paris and Caen cited in this book have been made by Madame Robert Helouis. The author was able to indicate the whereabouts of the principal papers, but Madame Helouis, developing an interest in the subject as she pursued her task, was enabled, owing to her extensive knowledge of the resources of the French archives, to find and transcribe many new and valuable papers. The author also wishes to thank Captain Francis Bayldon, of Sydney, who has kindly given help on several technical points; Miss Alma Hansen, University of Melbourne, who was generous enough to make a study of the Dutch Generale Beschrijvinge van Indien—no light task—to verify a point of some importance for the purpose of the chapter on "The Naming of Australia"; and Mr. E.A. Petherick, whose manuscript bibliography, containing an immense quantity of material, the fruit of a long life's labour, has always been cheerfully made available.
Professor Flinders Petrie has been kind enough to read and make some useful suggestions upon the personal and family passages of the book, which has consequently benefited greatly.
The whole work has been read through by Mr. A.W. Jose, author of The History of Australasia, whose criticism on a multitude of points, some minute, but all important, has been of the utmost value. The help given by Mr. Jose has been more than friendly; it has been informed by a keen enthusiasm for the subject, and great knowledge of the original authorities. The author's obligations to him are gratefully acknowledged.
It is hoped that these pages will enable the reader to know Matthew Flinders the man, as well as the navigator; for the study of the manuscript and printed material about him has convinced the author that he was not only remarkable for what he did and endured, but for his own sake as an Englishman of the very best type.
Melbourne, June 1914.
CHAPTER 1. BIRTH AND ORIGINS.
Place of Flinders among Australian navigators. Birth. Flemish origins. Pedigree. Connection with the Tennysons. Possible relationship with Bass. Flinders' father. Donington.
CHAPTER 2. AT SCHOOL AND AT SEA.
Education. Robinson Crusoe. Aspirations for a naval career. His father's wish. John Flinders' advice. Study of navigation. Introduction to Pasley. Lieutenant's servant. Midshipman on the Bellerophon. Bligh and the Bounty mutiny.
CHAPTER 3. A VOYAGE UNDER BLIGH.
The second breadfruit expedition. Flinders in the Providence. Notes from Santa Cruz. At the Cape. Tahiti. In Torres Strait. Encounter with Papuans. Return to England.
CHAPTER 4. THE BATTLE OFF BREST.
The naval war with France. The battle of June 1st, 1794. Flinders as gunner. Pasley wounded. Flinders' journal of the engagement. Effect of Pasley's wound on the career of Flinders.
CHAPTER 5. AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHY BEFORE FLINDERS.
The predecessors of Flinders. How Australia grew on the map. Mediaeval controversies on antipodes. Period of vague speculation. Sixteenth century maps. The Dutch voyagers. The Batavia on the Abrolhos Reef. The Duyfhen in the Gulf. Torres. The three periods of Australian maritime discovery. Geographers and their views of Australia. The theory of the dividing strait. Cook and Furneaux. The untraced southern coast.
CHAPTER 6. THE RELIANCE AND THE TOM THUMB.
Governor Hunter. Captain Waterhouse. Flinders' passion for exploring new countries. Joins the Reliance. Hunter on the strategic importance of the Cape. Sailing of Reliance and Supply for New South Wales. Flinders' observations. Arrival at Port Jackson. George Bass. The Tom Thumb. Exploration of George's River. A perilous cruise. Meeting with aboriginals. The midshipman as valet. Port Hacking. Patching up the Reliance. Voyage to South Africa.
CHAPTER 7. THE DISCOVERY OF BASS STRAIT.
Bass in the Blue Mountains. Supposed strait isolating Van Diemen's Land. Bass's whaleboat voyage. Wilson's Promontory. Escaped convicts. Discovery of Westernport. Return to Port Jackson.
CHAPTER 8. THE VOYAGE OF THE FRANCIS.
The wreck of the Sydney Cove. Discovery of Kent's Islands. Biological notes. Seals. Sooty petrels. The wombat. Point Hicks.
CHAPTER 9. CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF TASMANIA.
Flinders in command of the Norfolk. Bass's association with him. Twofold Bay. Discovery of Port Dalrymple. Bass Strait demonstrated. Black swans. Albatross Island. Tasmanian aboriginals.
CHAPTER 10. THE FATE OF GEORGE BASS.
Bass's marriage. Part owner of the Venus. Voyages after pork. A fishing concession. South American enterprise. Unsaleable goods. A "diplomatic-looking certificate." Bass's last voyage. Probable fate in Peru. His missing letters.
CHAPTER 11. ON THE QUEENSLAND COAST.
Flinders and the Isaac Nicholls case. Exploration on the Queensland coast. Moreton Bay.
CHAPTER 12. THE INVESTIGATOR.
Return to England in the Reliance. Sir Joseph Banks. Marriage of Flinders. Ann Chappell and Chappell Island. The Franklins. Publication of Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass Strait and its Islands. Anxiety about French expedition. The Investigator commissioned. Equipment of ship. The staff and crew. East India Company's interest. Instructions for the voyage. The case of Mrs. Flinders. Sailing orders delayed. The incident at the Roar. Life on board. Crossing the Line. Australia reached.
CHAPTER 13. THE FRENCH EXPEDITION.
Origin of Baudin's expedition. His instructions. Baudin's dilatoriness. In Tasmanian waters. Waterhouse Island.
CHAPTER 14. SOUTH COAST DISCOVERY.
The south coast of Australia. Method of research. Aboriginals at King George's Sound. Discovery of Spencer's Gulf. Loss of Thistle and a boat's crew. Memory Cove. Port Lincoln. Kangaroo Island. St. Vincent's Gulf. Pelicans. Speculations on the fate of Laperouse.
CHAPTER 15. FLINDERS AND BAUDIN IN ENCOUNTER BAY.
The sighting of Le Geographe. Flinders visits Baudin. Their conversations. Flinders invites Baudin to visit Port Jackson.
CHAPTER 16. FLINDERS IN PORT PHILLIP.
Grant's discoveries. Murray discovers Port Phillip. King Island. Flinders enters Port Phillip. Ascends Arthur's Seat. The Investigator aground. Cruise in a boat. Ascends Station Peak. Flinders' impression of the port. Arrival in Port Jackson. Healthiness of his crew.
CHAPTER 17. THE FRENCH AT PORT JACKSON: PERON THE SPY.
Arrival of Le Geographe at Port Jackson. State of the crew. Hospitality of Governor King. Rumours as to French designs. Baudin's gratitude. Peron's report on Port Jackson. His espionage. Freycinet's plan of invasion. Scientific work of the expedition.
CHAPTER 18. AUSTRALIA CIRCUMNAVIGATED.
Overhaul of the ship. The Lady Nelson. Flinders sails north. Discovery of Port Curtis and Port Bowen. Through the Barrier Reef. Torres Strait. Remarks on Coral Reefs. The Gulf of Carpentaria. Rotten condition of the ship. Melville Bay discovered. Sails for Timor. Australia circumnavigated. The Investigator condemned. Illness of Flinders. News of father's death. Letter to step-mother. Letters to Mrs. Flinders. Letter to Bass. The end of the Investigator.
CHAPTER 19. WRECKED ON THE BARRIER REEF.
New plans. Flinders sails in the Porpoise. Remarks on Sydney. Wrecked. Conduct of the Bridgewater. Plans for relief. Stores available. Voyage in the Hope to Sydney. Franklin's description of the wreck.
CHAPTER 20. TO ILE-DE-FRANCE IN THE CUMBERLAND.
King receives news of the wreck. The Cumberland. Wreck Reef reached. Voyage to Timor. Determination to sail to Ile-de-France. Flinders' reasons. Arrival at Baye du Cap. Arrival at Port Louis.
CHAPTER 21. GENERAL DECAEN.
Decaen's early career. His baptism of fire. War in the Vendee. The Army of the Rhine. Moreau. Battle of Hohenlinden. Moreau and Napoleon. The peace of Amiens. Decaen's arrival at Pondicherry. His reception. Leaves for Ile-de-France. His character and abilities.
CHAPTER 22. THE CAPTIVITY.
Flinders' reception by Decaen. His anger. Imprisoned at the Cafe Marengo. His papers and books. His examination. Refusal of invitation to dinner. Decaen's anger. His determination to detain Flinders. King's despatches. Decaen's statement of motives. Flinders asks to be sent to France.
CHAPTER 23. THE CAPTIVITY PROLONGED.
Decaen's despatch. A delayed reply. Flinders' occupations. His health. The sword incident. Anniversary of the imprisonment. Aken's liberation. The faithful Elder.
CHAPTER 24. THE CAPTIVITY MODIFIED.
Thomas Pitot. Removal to Wilhelm's Plains. The parole. Madame D'Arifat's house. Hospitalities. Flinders studies French and Malay. Further exploration schemes. The residence of Laperouse. Work upon the charts. King's protest and Decaen's anger. Elder's departure.
CHAPTER 25. THE ORDER OF RELEASE.
Influences to secure release. The order of release. Receipt of the despatch. Decaen's reply. Flinders a dangerous man. Reason for Decaen's refusal. State of Ile-de-France. Project for escape. Flinders' reasons for declining.
CHAPTER 26. THE RELEASE.
Blockade of Ile-de-France. Decaen at the end of his tether. Release of Flinders. Return to England. The plagiarism charge. Flinders' papers. Work of Peron and Freycinet.
CHAPTER 27. LAST YEARS AND DEATH OF FLINDERS.
Flinders in London. Prolonged and severe work. His illness. Death of Flinders. His last words. Treatment of his widow by the Admiralty.
CHAPTER 28. CHARACTERISTICS.
Personality. Portraits. Flinders' commanding look. Geniality. Conversational powers. Gentleness. Kindness to wounded French officer. Advice to young officers. An eager student. The husband.
CHAPTER 29. THE NAVIGATOR.
Technical writings. The marine barometer. Variations in the compass. Praise of other navigators. Love for his work.
CHAPTER 30. THE NAMING OF AUSTRALIA.
The name Australia given to the continent by Flinders. The "Austrialia del Espiritu Santo" of Quiros. De Brosses and "Australasia." Dalrymple and "Australia." Flinders' use of the word in 1804. His use of it in a French essay in 1810. Persistent employment of the word in letters. Proposes the word "Australia" to Banks. His fight for his word. "Terra Australis." The footnote of 1814.
APPENDIX A. BAUDIN'S NARRATIVE OF THE MEETING IN ENCOUNTER BAY.
APPENDIX B. PERON'S REPORT ON PORT JACKSON.
APPENDIX C. NAMES GIVEN BY FLINDERS TO AUSTRALIAN COASTAL FEATURES.
MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS.
1. PORTRAIT OF MATTHEW FLINDERS, AGED 27.
From the engraving in the "Naval Chronicle," 1814, after a miniature in the possession of Mrs. Flinders.
2. FLINDERS' BIRTHPLACE, DONINGTON, LINCOLNSHIRE.
(From photograph lent by Mr. George Gordon McCrae.)
3. FACSIMILE OF LETTER TO SIR JOSEPH BANKS, 1794.
Spithead March 20th 1794.
Yesterdays Post brought me a Letter from Mr. Miles, in Answer to the one I wrote him for his Power of Attorney, after I had the Honour of waiting upon you in the Country, at which Time you were pleased to express a Desire to be informed when it should arrive; in Compliance with which, I now take the Liberty of addressing you. It seems he has not sent the Power, but says he enclosd something like one to you by which it appears he is not exactly acquainted with the Business in Question, he tells me he has explained his Sense of the Matter in your Letter and begd that the remaining Sum might be paid to Mr. Dixon or Mr. Lee, from whom he wishes me to receive it. When I wrote for the Power, I explaind to him (as far as my Knowledge of the Subject extended) the Necessity of his sending it, that he was to consider himself as employd by Government, that it was from the Treasury his Salary was to be got and that they would require some Authority for paying it to me—at present Sir, I am at a Loss how to proceed; whether what he has sent will be sufficient, or whether it will still be necessary to get a regular Power is what I must trespass upon your Generosity for a Knowledge of the doing which will add to the Obligation your Goodness before conferd upon me; with a gratefull Sense of which I beg leave to subscribe myself, Sir Joseph
your much obligd and
most humble Servant
To Sir Jos Banks Bart.
4. TABLET ON MEMORIAL ERECTED BY SIR JOHN FRANKLIN AT PORT LINCOLN, SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
from which the Gulf and its Shores were first surveyed on 26. Feb, 1802 by MATTHEW FLINDERS, R.N. Commander of H.M.S. Investigator the Discoverer of the Country now called South Australia was set apart on 12. Jan. 1841 with the sanction of LT. COL. GAWLER. K.H. then Governor of the Colony and in the first year of the government of CAPT. G. GREY adorned with this Monument to the perpetual Memory of the illustrious Navigator his honored Commander by JOHN FRANKLIN. CAPT. R.N. K.C.H. K.R. LT. GOVERNOR OF VAN DIEMEN'S LAND.
5. MEMORIAL ON MOUNT LOFTY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
IN HONOUR OF MATTHEW FLINDERS
COMMANDER OF THE INVESTIGATOR
WHO FROM KANGAROO HEAD, KANGAROO ISLAND
DISCOVERED AND NAMED MOUNT LOFTY
ON TUESDAY 23RD. MARCH 1802
THIS TABLET WAS UNVEILED AND THE COLUMN NAMED
BY HIS EXCELLENCY LORD TENNYSON. 22ND. MARCH 1902.
6. MAP OF FLINDERS' VOYAGES IN BASS STRAIT.
FLINDERS' VOYAGES IN BASS STRAIT IN THE FRANCIS, NORFOLK, AND INVESTIGATOR.
7. BASS'S EYE-SKETCH OF WESTERNPORT.
Western Port on the South Coast of NW. SOUTH WALES from Mr. Bass's Eye-sketch. 1798.
8. PORTRAIT OF GEORGE BASS.
9. PAGE FROM FLINDERS' MANUSCRIPT NARRATIVE OF THE VOYAGE OF THE FRANCIS, 1798.
(Melbourne Public Library.)
FEBRUARY SATURDAY 10 close round the rock. At 8, when off a rocky point on which are two eminences of white stone in the form of oblique cones inclining inwards, we stood to the southward, and off and on during the night, keeping the peak and high land of Cape Barren in sight, the wind, from the westward. SUNDAY 11 At the following noon, the observed latitude was 40 degrees 41 1/2, Cape Barren bearing north-by-west. The wind being strong at west-south-west we continued standing off and on, and lying to occasionally, till day light next morning, when we made sail MONDAY 12 west-north-west for the south end of Clarkes Island, having the wind now at north by east. A little to the westward of the rocky point, which has the inclining cones upon it, lies an island, between which and the point, is a deep channel of between half and three-quarters of a mile wide; and about the same distance to the westward of this island, is another of nearly the same size: they are rather low and covered with brush and grass. Between these islands and Clarkes Island, we observed two low islets, and two rocks above water, the latter not more than three or four miles from us. To the southward also, we saw the land extending a great distance; but the whole are better seen in the sketch.
About ten o'clock, the ebb tide was running with such violence, that although the schooner was going one knot and a half through the water, yet by the land we were evidently going retrograde almost as much, and towards the land withal: but the light air that remained enabled us to draw the ???
10. MEMORIAL ON THE SUMMIT OF STATION PEAK, PORT PHILLIP.
MATTHEW FLINDERS, R.N.,
STOOD ON THIS ROCK TO SURVEY THE BAY.
MAY 1, 1802.
NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION,
11. PORT DALRYMPLE, DISCOVERED IN THE NORFOLK, 1798.
DISCOVERED 1798 IN THE NORFOLK SLOOP BY
12. PAGE FROM BASS'S MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT OF THE VOYAGE OF THE NORFOLK.
New South Wales; Western Port, excepted. Notwithstanding this evident superiority, the vegetable Mould, is frequently, of nor great depth, and is sometimes, (perhaps advantageously) mixed with small quantities of sand.
The best of the soil, lies upon the sides of sloping hills, and in the broad vallies between them. Some parts that are low and level, have a wet, peaty, surface, bounded by small tracts of flowering heath and oderiferous plants, that perfume the air with the fragrance of their oils.
The Plants, retain in general, the air of those of New South Wales, while, they are in reality, different. The rich & vivid colouring of the more northern flowers, and that soft & exquisite graduation of their tints, for which they are so singularly distinguished, hold with them here, but in a less eminent degree. The two countries present a perfect similarity in this, that the more barren spots are the most adorned.
Except in these useless places, the grass does not grow in tufts, but covers the land equally, with a short, nutritious herbage, better adapted possibly, to the bite of small, than of large cattle. The food for the latter, is grown in the bottoms of the vallies & upon the damp flats. A large proportion of the soil, promises a fair return, for the labours of the cultivator, and a smaller, insures an ample reward: but the greater part, would perhaps turn to more advantage, if left for pasturage, than if thrown into cultivation; it would be rich as the one, but poor as the other. Water is found in runs, more than in Ponds, and the not
13. CAIRN ERECTED ON FLINDERS' LANDING-PLACE, KANGAROO ISLAND, SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
14. PORTRAIT OF EARL SPENCER.
GEORGE JOHN, SECOND EARL SPENCER, K.G.
Who, as First Lord of the Admiralty, despatched Flinders on his discovery voyage in the Investigator.
(Photographed, by permission of Lord Spencer, from the painting by Copley, at Althorp, Northamptonshire.)
15. TABLET AT MEMORY COVE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
16. VIEW ON KANGAROO ISLAND, BY WESTALL.
(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's drawing.)
17. FLINDERS'S CHART OF SPENCER'S GULF, ST. VINCENT'S GULF, AND ENCOUNTER BAY.
18. TABLET AT ENCOUNTER BAY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, COMMEMORATING THE MEETING OF FLINDERS AND BAUDIN.
IN COMMEMORATION OF THE MEETING NEAR THIS BLUFF
BETWEEN H.M.S. 'INVESTIGATOR'—MATTHEW FLINDERS
WHO EXPLORED THE COAST OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
AND M.F. 'LE GEOGRAPHE'—NICOLAS BAUDIN, APRIL 8, 1802.
ON BOARD THE 'INVESTIGATOR' WAS JOHN FRANKLIN THE ARCTIC DISCOVERER: THESE ENGLISH AND FRENCH EXPLORERS HELD FRIENDLY CONFERENCE. AND FLINDERS NAMED THE PLACE OF MEETING 'ENCOUNTER BAY.'
UNVEILED BY HIS EXCELLENCY LORD TENNYSON.
APRIL 8, 1902.
19. VIEW OF THE WESTERN ARM OF PORT PHILLIP, BY WESTALL.
From the copy (in the Mitchell Library) of Westall's original drawing in the Royal Colonial Institute, London.
Distant view of the West arm of the Western Port.
Looking to south-west.
April 30th 1802.
The view appears to be one of Indented Head. On April 30, 1802, the date of the sketch, Flinders was "nearly at the northern extremity of Indented Head" and took some bearings "from the brow of a hill a little way back."
20. FLINDERS' MAP OF PORT PHILLIP AND WESTERNPORT.
21. VIEW OF SYDNEY HARBOUR, FROM VAUCLUSE, BY WESTALL.
(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's drawing.)
22. FLINDERS' CHART OF TORRES STRAIT, ALSO SHOWING COOK'S AND BLIGH'S TRACKS.
23. FLINDERS' MAP OF THE GULF OF CARPENTARIA.
24. FLINDERS' MAP OF AUSTRALIA, SHOWING HIS PRINCIPAL VOYAGES.
25. VIEW ON THE HAWKESBURY RIVER, BY WESTALL.
From the copy (in the Mitchell Library) of Westall's original drawing in the Royal Colonial Institute, London.
26. WRECK REEF ISLAND, BY WESTALL.
(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's drawing.)
27. FLINDERS' MAP OF WRECK REEF.
FLINDERS' TRACKS IN THE VICINITY OF WRECK REEF.
28. PORTRAIT OF GENERAL DECAEN.
29. VIEW OF PORT LOUIS. ILE-DE-FRANCE.
30. MAP OF ILE-DE-FRANCE.
(From the Atlas of Milbert, 1812.)
31. PAGE FROM FLINDERS' COPY OF HIS MEMORIAL TO THE FRENCH MINISTER OF MARINE (WRITTEN IN ILE-DE-FRANCE).
(Melbourne Public Library.)
To his Excellency the
Minister of the marine and colonies
The memorial of Matthew Flinders Esq.
Prisoner in the Isle of France.
May it please Your Excellency
Your memorialist was commander of His Britannic Majesty's ship the Investigator, despatched by the Admiralty of England to complete the discovery of New Holland and New South Wales, which had been begun by the early Dutch navigators, and continued at different periods by Cook, D'Entrecasteaux, Vancouver, and your memorialist. He was furnished with a passport by order of His Imperial and Royal Majesty, then first Consul of France; and signed by the marine minister Forfait the 4th Prarial, year 9; which passport permitted the Investigator to touch at French ports in any part of the world, in cases of distress, and promised assistance and protection to the commander and company, provided they should not have unnecessarily deviated from their route, or have done, or announced the intention of doing any thing injurious to the French nation or its allies: Your memorialist sailed from England in July 1801, and in April 1802, whilst pursuing the discovery of the unknown part of the south coast of New South Wales, he met with the commandant Baudin, who being furnished with a passport by the Admiralty of Great Britain, had been sent by the French government with the ships Geographe and Naturaliste upon a nearly similar expedition some months before. From Port Jackson, where the commandant was again met with, your memorialist, accompanied by the brig Lady Nelson, continued his examinations and discoveries northward, through many difficulties and dangers, but with success, until December 1802, when, in the Gulf of Carpentaria
32. PORTRAIT OF FLINDERS IN 1808.
(From portrait drawn by Chazal at Ile-de-France.)
33. SILHOUETTE OF FLINDERS, MADE AFTER HIS RETURN FROM ILE-DE-FRANCE.
(By permission of Professor Flinders Petrie.)
34. REDUCED FACSIMILE OF ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT DEDICATION OF FLINDERS' JOURNAL.
the right hon. George John, Earl Spencer, the right hon. John, Earl of St. Vincent, the right hon. Charles Phillip Yorke, and the right hon. Robert Saunders, Viscount Melville, who, as first Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, successively honoured the Investigator's voyage with their patronage, this account of it is respectfully dedicated, by Their Lordships most obliged, and most obedient humble servant Matthew Flinders
35. PAGE FROM MANUSCRIPT OF FLINDERS' ABRIDGED NARRATIVE (UNPUBLISHED).
(Melbourne Public Library.)
from the general's conduct, that he has sought to impose upon him, and this for the purpose, perhaps for the pleasure, of prolonging to the utmost my unjust detention.
But if apprehensions for the safety of this land are not the cause of the order of the French government remaining unexecuted, what reason can there be, sufficiently strong to have induced the captain-general to incur the risk of misobedience, first to the passport, and afterwards to the order for my liberation. This I shall endeavour to explain in the following and last chapter of this discussion; promising, however, that what I shall have to offer upon this part of the subject, can only be what a consideration of the captain-general's conduct has furnished me, as being the most probable. I am not conscious of having omitted any material circumstance, either here or in the narration, or of having misrepresented any; as if after an attentive perusal, the reader thinks my explanation not borne out by the facts, I submit it to his judgment to deduce a better; and should esteem myself obliged by his making it public, so that it may reach so far as even to me.
Chapter XII. Probable causes of my imprisonment, and of the marine minister's order for my liberation being suspended by the captain-general
Before explaining what I conceive to have been the true causes which led the captain-general to act so contrary to my passport, as to imprison me and seize my vessel, charts, and papers; it will be proper to give the reader a knowledge of some points in His Excellency's character, in addition to those he will have extracted from the abridged narrative. At the time of my arrival, he entertained, and does I believe still entertain, an indiscriminate animosity against Englishmen, whether this arose from his having been deprived of the advantage of fixing the seat of his government at Pondicherry, by the renewal of war in 1803, or from any antecedent circumstance, I cannot pretend to say; but that he did harbour such animosity, and that in an uncommon degree, is averred by his keeping in irons, contrary to the usages of war, the first English seamen that were brought to the island (Narrative page 58 and 70); by the surprise he testified at the proceeding of a French gentleman, who interceded with him for the liberty on parole of a sick English officer; on which occasion he said amongst other things, that had he his own will, he would send all the English prisoners to the Marquis Wellesley without their ears: this animosity is, besides, as well known at the Isle of France, as the existence of the island.
It is probably owing to an original want of education, and to having passed the greater part of his life in the tumult of camps during the French revolution, that arises his indifference for the arts and sciences, other than those which have an immediate relation to war. His Excellency's ideas seem even to be so strictly military, that the profession of a seaman has very little share in his estimation; and his ignorance of nautical affairs has been shewn by various circumstances to be greater than would be supposed in a moderately well informed man, who had made a voyage from Europe to India.
36. EXTRACT FROM FLINDERS' LETTER-BOOK, REFERRING TO OXLEY'S APPOINTMENT AS SURVEYOR-GENERAL.
(Melbourne Public Library.)
To Captain Thos. Hurd, Hydrographer, Admiralty Office.
London April 2, 1812.
My dear Sir
Understanding that Lieut. John Oxley of the Navy is going out surveyor-general of Lands in New South Wales, I wish to point out to you, that if he should be enabled, in intervals of his land duty, to accomplish the following nautical objects, in the vicinity of Port Jackson, and of the settlements in Van Diemen's Land, our knowledge of those coasts would be thereby improved, and some material advantages to the colonies probably obtained.
1st. Jervis Bay, a large piece of water whose entrance is in 35.5 south, and not from than 75 miles from Port Jackson, has never yet, to my knowledge been surveyed. There have been two or three eye sketches made of it; but it would be desirable to have it surveyed, with the streams which are said to fall into its North and western sides; and also the corresponding line of the sea coast, in which there are thought to be strata of coal.
The great semicircular range of mountains which has hitherto resisted all attempts to penetrate into the interior country behind Port Jackson, appears to terminate at Point Bass in latitude about 34.43; and the land behind Jervis Bay is represented to be low and flat. It is, therefore, probable, that a well conducted effort to obtain some knowledge of the interior of that vast country, would be attended with success if made by steering a West or N.N.W. course from the head of Jervis Bay.
37. FLINDERS' MEMORIAL IN PARISH CHURCH, AT HIS BIRTHPLACE, DONINGTON, LINCOLNSHIRE.
IN MEMORY OF CAPTAIN MATTHEW FLINDERS, R.N. WHO DIED JULY 19TH 1814, AGED 40 YEARS.
AFTER HAVING TWICE CIRCUMNAVIGATED THE GLOBE, HE WAS SENT BY THE ADMIRALTY IN THE YEAR 1801, TO MAKE DISCOVERIES ON THE COAST OF TERRA AUSTRALIS. RETURNING FROM THIS VOYAGE HE SUFFERED SHIPWRECK, AND BY THE INJUSTICE OF THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT WAS IMPRISONED SIX YEARS IN THE ISLAND OF MAURITIUS.
IN 1810, HE WAS RESTORED TO HIS NATIVE LAND, AND NOT LONG AFTER WAS ATTACKED BY AN EXCRUCIATING DISEASE, THE ANGUISH OF WHICH HE BORE UNTIL DEATH WITH UNDEVIATING FORTITUDE.
HIS COUNTRY WILL LONG REGRET THE LOSS OF ONE WHOSE EXERTIONS IN HER CAUSE WERE ONLY EQUALLED BY HIS PERSEVERANCE: BUT HIS FAMILY WILL MOST DEEPLY FEEL THE IRREPARABLE DEPRIVATION.
THEY DO NOT MERELY LAMENT A MAN OF SUPERIOR INTELLECT. THEY MOURN AN AFFECTIONATE HUSBAND, A TENDER FATHER, A KIND BROTHER, AND A FAITHFUL FRIEND.
38. MEMORIAL TO BASS AND FLINDERS AT THE COMMONWEALTH NAVAL BASE, WESTERNPORT, VICTORIA.)
The maps have been copied from Flinders' Atlas, with the omission of a few details, which, on the small scale necessarily adopted, would have caused confusion; it has been thought better to make what is given quite legible to the unassisted eye. All names on the maps are as Flinders spelt them, but in the body of the book modern spellings have been adopted. In the case of the Duyfhen the usual spelling, which is also that of Flinders, is retained; but the late J. Backhouse Walker has shown reason to believe that the real name of the vessel was Duyfken.
1774 (March 16) : Born at Donington.
1789 (October 23) : Enters the Royal Navy.
1790 (July 31) : Midshipman on the Bellerophon.
1791 to 1793 : Voyage in the Providence.
1793 (September) : Rejoins the Bellerophon.
1794 (June) : Participates in the battle off Brest.
1795 (February) : Sails for Australia in the Reliance. Meets George Bass.
1796 (March) : Cruise of the Tom Thumb.
1797 (December) : Bass's whaleboat voyage.
1798 (January) : Discovery of Westernport.
1798 (January) : Flinders' voyage in the Francis.
1798 (January 31) : Flinders obtains lieutenant's commission.
1798 (October) : Voyage of the Norfolk.
1798 (November) : Discovery of Port Dalrymple.
1798 (December) : Bass Strait demonstrated.
1799 : Return to Port Jackson.
1799 (July) : Exploration on Queensland coast.
1800 (March) : Return to England in the Reliance.
1800 (October) : Arrival in England. Plan of Australian Exploration.
1800 (December) : The Investigator commissioned.
1801 (January 17) : Publication of Observations.
1801 (February 16) : Obtains commander's rank.
1801 (April) : Marriage of Flinders.
1801 (July 18) : Sailing of the Investigator.
1801 (December) : Australia reached.
1802 (February) : Discovery of Spencer's Gulf.
1802 (March) : Discovery of Kangaroo Island and St. Vincent's Gulf.
1802 (April) : Meeting of Flinders and Baudin in Encounter Bay.
1802 (May) : Flinders in Port Phillip.
1802 (July) : Voyage to Northern Australia.
1802 (August) : Discovery of Port Curtis and Port Bowen.
1802 (November) : In the Gulf of Carpentaria.
1803 (April) : Return voyage; Australia circumnavigated.
1803 (June) : Sydney reached; the Investigator condemned.
1803 (July 10) : Sails in the Porpoise.
1803 (August 17) : Wrecked on the Barrier Reef. Voyage in the Hope to Sydney.
1803 (September 8) : Arrival in Port Jackson.
1803 (September 21) : Sails in the Cumberland.
1803 (November) : Timor reached.
1803 (December 17) : Arrival at Ile-de-France; made a prisoner.
1804 (April) : Removal to the Garden Prison (Maison Despeaux).
1805 : Removal to Wilhelm's Plains.
1806 (March 21) : French Government orders release of Flinders.
1810 (June 13) : Release of Flinders.
1810 (October 24) : Return to England.
1814 (July 19) : Death of Flinders.
THE LIFE OF MATTHEW FLINDERS.
CHAPTER 1. BIRTH AND ORIGINS.
Matthew Flinders was the third of the triad of great English sailors by whom the principal part of Australia was revealed. A poet of our own time, in a line of singular felicity, has described it as the "last sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space; "* (* Bernard O'Dowd, Dawnward, 1903.) and the piecemeal, partly mysterious, largely accidental dragging from the depths of the unknown of a land so immense and bountiful makes a romantic chapter in geographical history. All the great seafaring peoples contributed something towards the result. The Dutch especially evinced their enterprise in the pursuit of precise information about the southern Terra Incognita, and the nineteenth century was well within its second quarter before the name New Holland, which for over a hundred years had borne testimony to their adventurous pioneering, gave place in general and geographical literature to the more convenient and euphonious designation suggested by Flinders himself, Australia.* (* Not universally, however, even in official documents. In the Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, dated May 1, 1849, "New Holland" is used to designate the continent, but "Australia" is employed as including both the continent and Tasmania. See Grey's Colonial Policy 1 424 and 439.)
But, important as was the work of the Dutch, and though the contributions made by French navigators (possibly also by Spanish) are of much consequence, it remains true that the broad outlines of the continent were laid down by Dampier, Cook and Flinders. These are the principal names in the story. A map of Australia which left out the parts discovered by other sailors would be seriously defective in particular features; but a map which left out the parts discovered by these three Englishmen would gape out of all resemblance to the reality.
Dampier died about the year 1712; nobody knows precisely when. Matthew Flinders came into the world in time to hear, as he may well have done as a boy, of the murder of his illustrious predecessor in 1779. The news of Cook's fate did not reach England till 1781. The lad was then seven years of age, having been born on March 16th, 1774.
His father, also named Matthew, was a surgeon practising his profession at Donington, Lincolnshire, where the boy was born. The Flinders family had been settled in the same town for several generations. Three in succession had been surgeons. The patronymic indicates a Flemish origin, and the work on English surnames* that bids the reader looking for information under "Flinders" to "see Flanders," sends him on a reasonable quest, if to no great resulting advantage. (* Barker, Family Surnames 1903 page 143.)
The English middle-eastern counties received frequent large migrations of Flemings during several centuries. Sometimes calamities due to the harshness of nature, sometimes persecutions and wars, sometimes adverse economic conditions, impelled companies of people from the Low Countries to cross the North Sea and try to make homes for themselves in a land which, despite intervals of distraction, offered greater security and a better reward than did the place whence they came. England derived much advantage from the infusion of this industrious, solid and dependable Flemish stock; though the temporary difficulty of absorption gave rise to local protests on more than one occasion.
As early as 1108, a great part of Flanders "being drowned by an exudation or breaking in of the sea, a great number of Flemings came into the country, beseeching the King to have some void place assigned them, wherein they might inhabit."* (* Holinshed's Chronicle edition of 1807 2 58.) Again in the reign of Edward I we find Flemish merchants carrying on a very large and important trade in Boston, and representatives of houses from Ypres and Ostend acquired property in the town.* (* Pishey Thompson Collections for a Topographical and Historical Account of Boston and the Hundred of Skirbeck 1820 page 31.) In the middle of the sixteenth century, when Flanders was boiling on the fire of the Reformation, Lincolnshire and Norfolk provided an asylum for crowds of harassed refugees. In 1569 two persons were deputed to ride from Boston to Norwich to ascertain what means that city adopted to find employment for them; and in the same year Mr. William Derby was directed to move Mr. Secretary Cecil, Queen Elizabeth's great minister, to "know his pleasure whether certain strangers may be allowed to dwell within the borough without damage of the Queen's laws."* (*Boston Corporation manuscripts quoted in Thompson, History and Antiquities of Boston 1856.)
During one of these peaceful and useful Flemish invasions the ancestors of Matthew Flinders entered Lincolnshire. In the later years of his life he devoted some attention to the history of his family, and found record of a Flinders as early as the tenth century. He believed, also, that his people had some connection with two men named Flinders or Flanders, who fled from Holland during the religious persecutions, and settled, in Queen Elizabeth's reign, in Nottinghamshire as silk stocking weavers. It would be very interesting if it were clear that there was a link between the family and the origins of the great Nottingham hosiery trade. A Flinders may in that case have woven silk stockings for the Royal termagant, and Lord Coke's pair, which were darned so often that none of the original fabric remained, may have come from their loom.
Matthew Flinders himself wrote the note: "Ruddington near Nottingham (it is four miles south of the town) is the place whence the Flinders came;" and he ascertained that an ancestor was Robert Flinders, a Nottingham stocking-weaver.
A family tradition relates that the Lincolnshire Flinders were amongst the people taken over to England by Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, a Dutch engineer of celebrity in his day, who undertook in 1621 to drain 360,000 acres of fen in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. He was financed by English and Dutch capitalists, and took his reward in large grants of land which he made fit for habitation and cultivation. Vermuyden and his Flemings were not allowed to accomplish their work of reclamation without incurring the enmity of the natives. In a petition to the King in 1637 he stated that he had spent 150,000 pounds, but that 60,000 pounds of damage had been done "by reason of the opposition of the commoners," who cut the banks of his channels in the night and during floods. The peasantry, indeed, resisted the improvements that have proved so beneficent to that part of England, because the draining and cultivation of so many miles of swamp would deprive them of fishing and fowling privileges enjoyed from time immemorial. Hardly any reform or improvement can be effected without some disruption of existing interests; and a people deeply sunk in poverty and toil could hardly be expected to contemplate with philosophical calm projects which, however advantageous to fortunate individuals and to posterity, were calculated to diminish their own means of living and their pleasant diversions. The dislike of the "commoners" to the work of the "participants" led to frequent riots, and many of Vermuyden's Flemings were maltreated. He endeavoured to allay discontent by employing local labour at high wages; and was courageous enough to pursue his task despite loss of money, wanton destruction, and many other discouragements.* (* See Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, for 1619, 1623, 1625, 1638, 1639 et seq; and White's Lincolnshire page 542.) Ebullitions of discontent on the part of fractious Fenlanders did not cease till the beginning of the eighteenth century.
A very simple calculation shows that the great-grandfather of the first Matthew Flinders would probably have been contemporary with Sir Cornelius Vermuyden's reclamation works. He may have been one of the "participants" who benefited from them. The fact is significant as bearing upon this conjecture, that no person named Flinders made a will in Lincolnshire before 1600.* (* See C.W. Foster, Calendar of Lincoln Wills 1320 to 1600, 1902.)
It is, too, an interesting circumstance that there was a Flinders among the early settlers in New England, Richard Flinders of Salem, born 1637.* (* Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Boston U.S.A. 1860.) He may have been of the same family as the navigator, for the Lincolnshire element among the fathers of New England was pronounced.
The name Flinders survived at Donington certainly for thirty years after the death of the sailor who gave lustre to it; for in a directory published in 1842 occur the names of "Flinders, Mrs. Eliz., Market Place," and "Flinders, Mrs. Mary, Church Street."* (* William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the City and Diocese of Lincoln, 1842 page 193.)
The Flinders papers, mentioned in the preface, contain material which enables the family and connections of the navigator to be traced with certainty for seven generations. The genealogy is shown by the following table:—
John Flinders, born 1682, died 1741, settled at Donington as a farmer, married Mary Obray or Aubrey in 1702 and had at least 1 child:
John Flinders, surgeon at Spalding, born 1737, still living in 1810, had at least two children:
1. John Flinders, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, born 1766, died 1793.
2. Matthew Flinders, surgeon at Donington, born 1750, died 1802, married Susannah Ward, 1752 to 1783, in 1773 and had at least two children:
2. Samuel Ward Flinders, born 1782, died 1842, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, married and left several children.
1. Matthew Flinders the Navigator, born March 16, 1774, died July 19, 1814, married Ann Chappell, born 1770, died 1852, in 1801 and had one daughter:
Ann Flinders, born 1812, died 1892, married William Petrie, born 1821, died 1908, in 1851 and had one son:
Professor W.M. Flinders Petrie, eminent scholar and Egyptian archaeologist, born 1853, married Hilda Urlin in 1897 and had at least two children:
1. John Flinders Petrie.
2. Ann Flinders Petrie.
There is also an interesting connection between Flinders and the Tennysons, through the Franklin family. The present Lord Tennyson, when Governor of South Australia, in the course of his official duties, in March, 1902, unveiled a memorial to his kinsman on Mount Lofty, and in April of the same year a second one in Encounter Bay. The following table illustrates the relationship between him who wrote of "the long wash of Australasian seas" and him who knew them as discoverer:
Matthew Flinders (father of Matthew Flinders the navigator) married as his second wife Elizabeth Weekes, whose sister, Hannah Weekes, married Willingham Franklin of Spilsby and had at least two children:
1. Sir John Franklin, born 1786, midshipman of the Investigator, Arctic explorer, Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) 1837 to 1844, died 1847.
2. Sarah Franklin, married Henry Sellwood, solicitor, of Horncastle, in 1812 and had at least two children:
2. Louisa Sellwood married Charles Tennyson-Turner, poet, brother of Alfred Tennyson.
1. Emily Sarah Sellwood, born 1813, died 1896, married Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate, born 1809, died 1892, in 1850 and had at least one son:
Hallam, Lord Tennyson, born 1852; Governor of South Australia 1899 to 1902; Governor-General of Australia, 1902 to 1904.
The Flinders papers also contain a note suggesting a distant connection between Matthew Flinders and the man who above all others was his choice friend, George Bass, the companion of his earliest explorations. Positive proof is lacking, but Flinders' daughter, Mrs. Petrie, wrote "we have reason to think that Bass was a connection of the family," and the point is too interesting to be left unstated. The following table shows the possible kinship:
John Flinders of Donington, born 1682, died 1741 (great-grandfather of the navigator) had:
Mary Flinders, third and youngest daughter, born 1734, married as her third husband, Bass, and had:
George Bass, who had three daughters, and is believed to have been an uncle or cousin of George Bass, Matthew Flinders' companion in exploration.
It is clear from the particulars stated above that the tree of which Matthew Flinders was the fruit had its roots deep down in the soil of the little Lincolnshire market town where he was born; and Matthew himself would have continued the family tradition, inheriting the practice built up by his father and grandfather (as it was hoped he would do), had there not been within him an irresistible longing for the sea, and a bent of scientific curiosity directed to maritime exploration, which led him on a path of discovery to achievements that won him honourable rank in the noble roll of British naval pioneers.
His father earned an excellent reputation, both professional and personal. The career of a country practitioner rarely affords an opportunity for distinction. It was even less so then than today, when at all events careful records of interesting cases are printed in a score or more of professional publications. But once we find the elder Matthew Flinders in print. The Memoirs of the Medical Society of London* (* 1779 Volume 4 page 330.) contain a paper read before that body on October 30th, 1797: "Case of a child born with variolar pustules, by Matthew Flinders, surgeon, Donington, Lincolnshire." The essay occupies three pages, and is a clear, succinct record of symptoms, treatment and results, for medical readers. The child died; whereupon the surgeon expresses his regret, not on account of infant or parents, but, with true scientific zest, because it deprived him of the opportunity of watching the development of an uncommon case.
Donington is a small town in the heart of the fen country, lying ten miles south-west of Boston, and about the same distance, as the crow flies, from the black, muddy, western fringe of the Wash. It is a very old town. Formerly it was an important Lincolnshire centre, enjoying its weekly Saturday market, and its four annual fairs for the sale of horses, cattle, flax and hemp. During Flinders' youth and early manhood the district grew large quantities of hemp, principally for the Royal Navy. In the days of its prosperity Donington drew to itself the business of an agricultural neighbourhood which was so far cultivable as it rose above the level of desolate and foggy swamps. But the drainage of the fens and the making of good roads over what had once been an area of amphibious uncertainty, neither wholly land nor wholly water, had the effect of largely diverting business to Boston. Trade that came to Donington when it stood over its own tract of fen, like the elderly and respectable capital of some small island, now went to the thriving and historic port on the Witham. Donington stopped growing, stagnated, declined. On the map of Lincolnshire included in Camden's Britannia (1637) it is marked "Dunington," in letters as large as those given to Boston, Spalding and Lincoln. On modern maps the name is printed in small letters; on some in the smallest, or not at all. That fact is fairly indicative of its change of fortunes. Figures tell the tale with precision. In 1801 it contained 1321 inhabitants; in 1821, 1638; in 1841 it reached its maximum, 2026; by 1891 it had gone down to 1547; in 1901 to 1484; at the census of 1911 it had struggled up to 1564.* (* Allen, History of Lincolnshire, 1833 Volume 1 342; Victoria History of Lincolnshire Volume 2 359; Census Returns for 1911.)
The fame conferred by a distinguished son is hardly a recompense for faded prosperity, but certain it is that Donington commands a wider interest as the birthplace of Flinders than it ever did in any other respect during its long, uneventful history. The parish church, a fine Gothic building with a lofty, graceful spire, contains a monument to the memory of the navigator, with an inscription in praise of his character and life, and recording that he "twice circumnavigated the globe." Many men have encircled the earth, but few have been so distinguished as discoverers of important portions of it. Apart from this monument, the church contains marble ovals to the memory of Matthew Flinders' father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. They were provided from a sum of 100 pounds left by the navigator, in his will, for the purpose.
It is interesting to notice that three of the early Australian explorers came from Lincolnshire, and were all born at places visible in clear weather from the tower of St. Botolph's Church at Boston. While Flinders sprang from Donington, George Bass, who co-operated with him in his first discoveries, was born at Aswarby, near Sleaford, and Sir John Franklin, who sailed with him in the Investigator, and was subsequently to become an Australian Governor and to achieve a pathetic immortality in another field of exploration, entered the world at Spilsby. Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist of Cook's first voyage, Flinders' steadfast friend, and the earliest potent advocate of Australian colonisation, though not actually born in Lincolnshire, was the son of a squire who at the time of his birth owned Revesby Abbey, which is within a short ride of each of the places just named.
CHAPTER 2. AT SCHOOL AND AT SEA.
Young Flinders received his preparatory education at the Donington free school. This was an institution founded and endowed in 1718 by Thomas Cowley, who bequeathed property producing nowadays about 1200 pounds a year for the maintenance of a school and almshouses. It was to be open to the children of all the residents of Donington parish free of expense, and in addition there was a fund for paying premiums on the apprenticeship of boys.
At the age of twelve the lad was sent to the Horbling Grammar School, not many miles from his own home. It was under the direction of the Reverend John Shinglar. Here he remained three years. He was introduced to the Latin and Greek classics, and received the grounding of that mathematical knowledge which subsequently enabled him to master the science of navigation without a tutor. If to Mr. Shinglar's instruction was likewise due his ability to write good, sound, clear English, we who read his letters and published writings have cause to speak his schoolmaster's name with respect.
During his school days another book besides those prescribed in the curriculum came into his hands. He read Robinson Crusoe. It was to Defoe's undying tale of the stranded mariner that he attributed the awaking in his own mind of a passionate desire to sail in uncharted seas. This anecdote happens to be better authenticated than are many of those quoted to illustrate the youth of men of mark. Towards the end of Flinders' life the editor of the Naval Chronicle sent to him a series of questions, intending to found upon the answers a biographical sketch. One question was: "Juvenile or miscellaneous anecdotes illustrative of individual character?" The reply was: "Induced to go to sea against the wishes of friends from reading Robinson Crusoe."
The case, interesting as it is, has an exact parallel in the life of a famous French traveller, Rene Caille, who in 1828, after years of extraordinary effort and endurance, crossed Senegal, penetrated Central Africa, and was the first European to visit Timbuctoo. He also had read Defoe's masterpiece as a lad, and attributed to it the awaking in his breast of a yearning for adventure and discovery. "The reading of Robinson Crusoe," says a French historian, "made upon him a profound impression." "I burned to have adventures of my own," he wrote later; "I felt as I read that there was born within my heart the ambition to distinguish myself by some important discovery."* (* Gaffarel, La Politique coloniale en France, 1908 page 34.)
Here were astonishing results to follow from the vivid fiction of a gouty pamphleteer who wrote to catch the market and was hoisted into immortal fame by the effort: that his book should, like a spark falling on straw, fire the brains of a French shoemaker's apprentice and a Lincolnshire schoolboy, impelling each to a career crowded with adventure, and crowned with memorable achievements. There could hardly be better examples of the vitalising efficacy of fine literature.
A love of Robinson Crusoe remained with Flinders to the end. Only a fortnight before his death he wrote a note subscribing for a copy of a new edition of the book, with notes, then announced for publication. It must have been one of the last letters from his hand. Though out of its chronological order, it may be appropriately quoted here to connect it with the other references to the book which so profoundly influenced his life:
"Captain Flinders presents his compliments to the Hydrographer of the Naval Chronicle, and will thank him to insert his home in the list of subscribers in his new edition of Robinson Crusoe; he wishes also that the volume on delivery should have a neat, common binding, and be lettered.—London Street, July 5, 1814."
It seems clear that Flinders had promised himself the pleasure of re-reading in maturity the tale that had so delighted his youth. Had he lived to do so, he might well have underlined, as applicable to himself, a pair of those sententious observations with which Defoe essayed to give a sober purpose to his narrative. The first is his counsel of "invincible patience under the worst of misery, indefatigable application, and undaunted resolution under the greatest and most discouraging circumstances." The second is his wise remark that "the height of human wisdom is to bring our tempers down to our circumstances, and to make a great calm within under the weight of the greatest storm without." They were words which Flinders during strenuous years had good cause to translate into conduct.
The edition of the book to which he thus subscribed was undertaken largely on account of his acknowledgment of its effect upon his life. The author of the Naval Chronicle sketch of his career* (* 1814 Volume 32.) wrote in a footnote: "The biographer, also happening to understand that to the same cause the Navy is indebted for another of its ornaments, Admiral Sir Sydney Smythe, was in a great measure thereby led to give another studious reading to that charming story, and hence to adopt a plan for its republication, now almost at maturity;" and he commended the new issue especially "to all those engaged in the tuition of youth."
One other anecdote of Flinders' boyhood has been preserved as a family tradition. It is that, while still a child, he was one day lost for some hours. He was ultimately found in the middle of one of the sea marshes, his pockets stuffed with pebbles, tracing the runlets of water, so that by following them up he might find out whence they came. Many boys might have done the same; but this particular boy, in that act of enquiry concerning geographical phenomena on a small scale, showed himself father to the man.
"Against the wish of friends," Flinders wrote, was his selection of a naval career. His father steadily but kindly opposed his desire, hoping that his son would adopt the medical profession. But young Matthew was not easily thwarted. The call of the sea was strong within him, and persistency was always a fibrous element in his character.
The surgeon's house at Donington stood in the market square. It remained in existence till 1908, when it was demolished to give place to what is described as "a hideous new villa." It was a plain, square, one-story building with a small, low surgery built on to one side of it. Behind the door of the surgery hung a slate, upon which the elder Flinders was accustomed to write memoranda concerning appointments and cases. The lad, wishing to let his father know how keen was his desire to enter the Navy, and dreading a conversation on the subject—with probable reproaches, admonitions, warnings, and a general outburst of parental displeasure—made use of the surgeon's slate. He wrote upon it what he wanted his father to know, hung it on the nail, and left it there to tell its quiet story.
He got his way in the end, but not without discouragement from other quarters also. He had an uncle in the Navy, John Flinders, to whom he wrote asking for counsel. John's experience had not made him enamoured of his profession, and his reply was chilling. He pointed out that there was little chance of success without powerful interest. Promotion was slow and favouritism was rampant. He himself had served eleven years, and had not yet attained the rank of lieutenant, nor were his hopes of rising better than slender.
From the strictly professional point of view it was not unreasonable advice for the uncle to give. A student of the naval history of the period finds much to justify a discouraging attitude. Even the dazzling career of Nelson might have been frustrated by a long protracted minority had he not had a powerful hand to help him up the lower rungs of the ladder—the "interest" of Captain Suckling, his uncle, who in 1775 became Comptroller of the Navy, "a civil position, but one that carried with it power and consequently influence." Nelson became lieutenant after seven years' service, in 1777; but he owed his promotion to Suckling, who "was able to exert his influence in behalf of his relative by promptly securing for him not only his promotion to lieutenant, which many waited for long, but with it his commission, dated April 10, to the Lowestofte, a frigate of thirty-two guns."* (* Mahan, Life of Nelson edition of 1899 pages 13 and 14.)
That even conduct of singular merit, performed in the crisis of action, was not sufficient to secure advancement, is illustrated by a striking fact in the life of Sir John Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South Australia (1836). At the battle of the Nile, Hindmarsh, a midshipman of fourteen, was left in charge of the Bellerophon, all the other officers being killed or wounded. (It was upon this same vessel, as we shall see later, that Flinders had a taste of sea fighting). When the French line-of-battle ship L'Orient took fire she endangered the Bellerophon. The boy, with wonderful presence of mind, called up some hands, cut the cables, and was running the ship out of danger under a sprit sail, when Captain Darby came on deck from having his wounds dressed. Nelson, hearing of the incident, thanked young Hindmarsh before the ship's company, and afterwards gave him his commission in front of all hands, relating the story to them. "The sequel," writes Admiral Sir T.S. Pasley, who relates the facts in his Journal, "does not sound so well. Lord Nelson died in 1805, and Hindmarsh is a commander still, in 1830, not having been made one till June, 1814." A man with such a record certainly had to wait long before the sun of official favour shone upon him; and his later success was won, not in the navy, but as a colonial governor.
There was, then, much to make John Flinders believe that influence was a surer way to advancement than assiduous application or natural capacity. His own naval career did not turn out happily. A very few years afterwards he received his long-delayed promotion, served as lieutenant in the Cygnet, on the West Indies station, under Admiral Affleck, and died of yellow fever on board his ship in 1793.
John Flinders' letter, however, concluded with a piece of practical advice, in case his nephew should be undeterred by his opinion. He recommended the study of three works as a preparation for entering the Navy: Euclid, John Robertson's Elements of Navigation (first edition published in 1754) and Hamilton Moore's book on Navigation. Matthew disregarded the warning and took the practical advice. The books were procured and the young student plunged into their problems eagerly. The year devoted to their study in that quiet little fen town made him master of rather more than the elements of a science which enabled him to become one of the foremost discoverers and cartograhers of a continent. He probably also practised map-making with assiduity, for his charts are not only excellent as charts, but also singularly beautiful examples of scientific drawing.
After a year of book-work Flinders felt capable of acquitting himself creditably at sea, if he could secure an opportunity. In those days entrance to the Royal Navy was generally secured by the nomination of a senior officer. There was no indispensable examination; no naval college course was necessary. The captain of a ship could take a youth on board to oblige his relatives, "or in return for the cancelling of a tradesman's bill."* (* Masefield's Sea Life in Nelson's Time 1905 gives a good account of the practice.) It so happened that a cousin of Flinders occupied the position of governess in the family of Captain Pasley (afterwards Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley) who at that time commanded H.M.S. Scipio. One of her pupils, Maria Pasley, developed into a young lady of decidedly vigorous character, as the following incident sufficiently shows. While her father was commander-in-chief at Plymouth, she was one day out in the Channel, beyond the Eddystone, in the Admiral's cutter. As the country was at war, she was courting danger; and in fact, the cutter was sighted by a French cruiser, which gave chase. But Miss Pasley declined to run away. She "popped at the Frenchman with the cutter's two brass guns." It was like blowing peas at an elephant; and she would undoubtedly have been captured, had not an English frigate seen the danger and put out to the rescue.
Flinders' cousin had interested herself in his studies and ambitions, and gave him some encouragement. She also spoke about him to Captain Pasley, who seems to have listened sympathetically. It interested him to hear of this boy studying navigation without a tutor up among the fens. "Send for him," said Pasley, "I should like to see what stuff he is made of, and whether he is worth making into a sailor."
Young Matthew, then in his fifteenth year, was accordingly invited to visit the Pasleys. In the later part of his life he used to relate with merriment, how he went, was asked to dine, and then pressed to stay till next day under the captain's roof. He had brought no night attire with him, not having expected to sleep at the house. When he was shown into his bedroom, his needs had apparently been anticipated; for there, folded up neatly upon the pillow, was a sleeping garment ready for use. He appreciated the consideration; but having attired himself for bed, he found himself enveloped in a frothy abundance of frills and fal-lals, lace at the wrists, lace round the neck, with flutters of ribbon here and there. When, at the breakfast table in the morning, he related how he had been rigged, there was a shriek of laughter from the young ladies; the simple explanation being that one of them had vacated her room to accommodate the visitor, and had forgotten to remove her nightdress.
The visit had more important consequences. Captain Pasley very soon saw that he had an exceptional lad before him, and at once put him on the Alert. He was entered as "lieutenant's servant" on October 23rd, 1789. He remained there for rather more than seven months, learning the practical part of a sailor's business. On May 17th, 1790, he was able to present himself to Captain Pasley on the Scipio at Chatham, as an aspirant of more than ordinary efficiency; and remained under his command until the next year, following him as a midshipman when he left the Scipio for the Bellerophon in July, 1790.
This famous ship, which carried 74 guns, and was launched in 1786, is chiefly known to history as the vessel upon which Napoleon surrendered to Captain Maitland on July 15th, 1815, after the Waterloo debacle. She took a prominent part in Nelson's great battles at the Nile and Trafalgar. But her end was pitifully ignoble. After a glorious and proud career, she was converted into a convict hulk and re-named the Captivity. A great prose master has reminded us, in words that glow upon his impassioned page, of the slight thought given by the practical English to the fate of another line-of-battle ship that had flown their colours in the stress of war. "Those sails that strained so full bent into the battle, that broad bow that struck the surf aside, enlarging silently in steadfast haste full front to the shot, those triple ports whose choirs of flame rang forth in their courses, into the fierce avenging monotone, which, when it died away, left no answering voice to rise any more upon the sea against the strength of England, those sides that were wet with the long runlets of English life-blood, like press-planks at vintage, gleaming goodly crimson down to the cast and clash of the washing foam, those pale masts that stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, shaking out their ensigns through the thunder, till sail and ensign drooped, steeped in the death-stilled pause of Andalusian air, burning with its witness clouds of human souls at rest—surely for these some sacred care might have been left in our thoughts, some quiet resting place amidst the lapse of English waters? Nay, not so, we have stern keepers to trust her glory to, the fire and the worm. Never more shall sunset lay golden robe on her, nor starlight tremble on the waves that part at her gliding. Perhaps, where the gate opens to some cottage garden, the tired traveller may ask, idly, why the moss grows so green on its rugged wood; and even the sailor's child may not answer nor know, that the night-dew lies deep in the war-rents of the wood of the old Temeraire."
But even the decline of might and dignity into decrepitude and oblivion described in that luminous passage is less pathetic than the conversion of the glorious Bellerophon, with her untarnished traditions of historic victories, into a hulk for the punishment of rascals, and the changing of her unsullied name to an alias significant only of shame.
During this preliminary period Flinders learnt the way about a ship and acquired instruction in the mechanism of seamanship, but there was as yet no opportunity to obtain deep-water experience. He was transferred to the Dictator for a brief period, but as he neither mentions the captain nor alludes to any other circumstance connected therewith, it was probably a mere temporary turnover or guardship rating not to lose any time of service.* (* Naval Chronicle 1814.)
His first chance of learning something about the width of the world and the wonder of its remote places came in 1791, when he went to sea under the command of a very remarkable man. William Bligh had sailed with James Cook on his third and fatal voyage of discovery, 1776 to 1780. He was twenty-three years of age when he was selected by that sagacious leader as one of those young officers who "under my direction could be usefully employed in constructing charts, in taking views of the coasts and headlands near which we should pass, and in drawing plans of the bays and harbours in which we should anchor;" for Cook recognised that constant attention to these duties was "wholly requisite if he would render our discoveries profitable to future navigators."* (* Cook's Voyages edition of 1821 5 page 92.)
Bligh's name appears frequently in Cook's Journal, and is also mentioned in King's excellent narrative of the conclusion of the voyage after Cook's murder. He was master of the Resolution, and was on several occasions entrusted with tasks of some consequence: as for instance on first reaching Hawaii, when Cook sent him ashore to look for fresh water, and again at Kealakeakura Bay (January 16, 1779) when he reported that he had found good anchorage and fresh water "in a situation admirable to come at." It was a fatal discovery, for on the white sands of that bay, a month later (February 14), the great British seaman fell, speared by the savages.
On each of Cook's voyages a call had been made at Tahiti in the Society group. Bligh no doubt heard much about the charms of the place before he first saw it himself. He was destined to have his own name associated with it in a highly romantic and adventurous manner. The idyllic beauty of the life of the Tahitians, their amiable and seductive characteristics, the warm suavity of the climate, the profusion of food and drink to be enjoyed on the island with the smallest conceivable amount of exertion, made the place stand out in all the narratives of Cook's expeditions like a green-and-golden gem set in a turquoise sea, a lotos-land "in which it seemed always afternoon," a paradise where love and plenty reigned and care and toil were not. George Forster, the German naturalist who accompanied Cook on his second voyage, wrote of the men as "models of masculine beauty," whose perfect proportions would have satisfied the eye of Phidias or Praxiteles; of the women as beings whose "unaffected smiles and a wish to please ensure them mutual esteem and love;" and of the life they led as being diversified between bathing in cool streams, reposing under tufted trees, feeding on luscious fruits, telling tales, and playing the flute. In fact, Forster declared, they "resembled the happy, indolent people whom Ulysses found in Phaeacia, and could apply the poet's lines to themselves with peculiar propriety:
'To dress, to dance, to sing our sole delight, The feast or bath by day, and love by night.'"
In Tahiti grew an abundance of breadfruit. It was in connection with this nutritious food, one of nature's richest gifts to the Pacific, that Bligh undertook a mission which involved him in a mutiny, launched him upon one of the most dangerous and difficult voyages in the annals of British seamanship, and provided a theme for a long poem by one of the greatest of English authors. Byron it was who, writing as though the trees sprouted quartern loaves ready baked, said of it (The Island 2 11):
"The bread-tree, which without the ploughshare yields The unreaped harvest of unfurrowed fields, And bakes its unadulterated loaves Without a furnace in unpurchased groves, And flings off famine from its fertile breast, A priceless market for the gathering guest."
Breadfruit had been tasted and described by Dampier in the seventeenth century. His description of it has all the terse directness peculiar to the writing of the inquisitive buccaneer, with a touch of quaintness that makes the passage desirable to quote:* (* Dampier's Voyages edition of 1729 1 page 294.)
"The breadfruit, as we call it, grows on a large tree as big and as tall as our largest apple trees. It hath a spreading head full of branches and dark leaves. The fruit grows on the boughs like apples; it is as big as a penny loaf when wheat is at five shillings the bushel. The natives of this island (Suam) use it for bread. They gather it when full-grown; then they bake it in an oven, which scorcheth the rind and makes it black; but they scrape off the outside black crust and there remains a tender thin crust and the inside is soft, tender and white, like the crumb of a penny loaf. There is neither seed nor stone in the inside, but all is of a pure substance like bread; it must be eaten new, for if it is kept above twenty-four hours it becomes dry and eats harsh and chokey; but 'tis very pleasant before it is too stale."
By Dampier, who in the course of his astonishing career had consumed many strange things—who found shark's flesh "good entertainment," and roast opossum "sweet wholesome meat"—toleration in the matter of things edible was carried to the point of latitudinarianism. We never find Dampier squeamish about anything which anybody else could eat with relish. To him, naturally, the first taste of breadfruit was pleasing. But Cook was more critical. "The natives seldom make a meal without it," he said, "though to us the taste was as disagreeable as that of a pickled olive generally is the first time it is eaten." That opinion, perhaps, accords with the common experience of neophytes in tropical gastronomy. But new sensations in the matter of food are not always to be depended on. Sir Joseph Banks disliked bananas when he first tasted them.
The immense popularity of Cook's voyages spread afar the fame of breadfruit as an article of food. Certain West Indian planters were of opinion that it would be advantageous to establish the trees on their islands and to encourage the consumption of the fruit by their slaves. Not only was it considered that the use of breadfruit would cheapen the cost of the slaves' living, but—a consideration that weighed both with the planters and the British Government in view of existing relations with the United States—it was also believed that it would "lessen the dependence of the sugar islands on North America for food and necessaries."* (* Bryan Edwards History of the British West Indies 1819 1 40.)
The planters petitioned the Government to fit out an expedition to transplant trees from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Sir Joseph Banks strongly supported them, and Lord Hood, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was sympathetic. In August, 1787, Lieutenant Bligh was appointed to the command of the Bounty, was directed to sail to the Society Islands, to take on board "as many trees and plants as may be thought necessary," and to transplant them to British possessions in the West Indies.
The vessel sailed, with two skilled gardeners on board to superintend the selection and treatment of the plants. Tahiti was duly reached, and the business of the expedition was taken in hand. One thousand and fifteen fine trees were chosen and carefully stowed. But the comfortable indolence, the luxuriant abundance, the genial climate, the happy hospitality of the handsome islanders, and their easy freedom from compunction in reference to restraints imposed by law and custom in Europe, had a demoralising effect upon the crew of the Bounty. A stay of twenty-three weeks at the island sufficed to subvert discipline and to persuade some of Bligh's sailors that life in Tahiti was far preferable to service in the King's Navy under the rule of a severe and exacting commander.
When the Bounty left Tahiti on April 14, 1787, reluctance plucked at the heart of many of the crew. The morning light lay tenderly upon the plumes of the palms, and a light wind filled the sails of the ship as she glided out of harbour. As the lazy lapping wash of the waters against the low outer fringe of coral was lost to the ear, the Bounty breasted the deep ocean; and as the distinguishable features of green tree, white sand, brown earth, and grey rock faded out of vision, wrapped in a haze of blue, till at last the only pronounced characteristic of the island standing up against the sky and sea was the cap of Point Venus at the northern extremity—the departure must have seemed to some like that of Tannhauser from the enchanted mountain, except that the legendary hero was glad to make his return to the normal world, whereas all of Bligh's company were not. For them, westward, whither they were bound,
"There gaped the gate Whereby lost souls back to the cold earth went."
The discipline of ship's life, and the stormings and objurgations of the commanding officer, chafed like an iron collar. At length a storm burst.
On April 28 the Bounty was sailing towards Tofoa, another of the Society Islands. Just before sunrise on the following morning Bligh was aroused from sleep, seized and bound in his cabin by a band of mutineers, led out by the master's mate, Fletcher Christian, and, with eighteen companions, dropped into a launch and bidden to depart. The followers of Christian were three midshipmen and twenty-five petty officers and sailors. They turned the head of the Bounty back towards their island paradise; and as they sailed away, the mariners in the tossing little boat heard them calling "Hurrah for Tahiti!"
The frail craft in which the nineteen loyalists were compelled to attempt to traverse thousands of miles of ocean, where the navigation is perhaps the most intricate in the world, was but 23 feet long by 6 feet 9 inches broad and 2 feet 9 inches deep. Their provisions consisted of 150 pounds of bread, 16 pieces of pork, each about two pounds in weight, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine, and 28 gallons of water. With this scanty stock of nourishment, in so small a boat, Bligh and his companions covered 3618 miles, crossing the western Pacific, sailing through Torres Strait, and ultimately reaching Timor.
That Bligh was somewhat deficient in tact and sympathy in handling men, cross-grained, harsh, and obstinate, is probably true. His language was often lurid, he lavished foul epithets upon his crew, and he was not reluctant to follow terms of abuse by vigorous chastisement. He called Christian a "damned hound," some of the men "scoundrels, thieves and rascals," and he met a respectful remonstrance with the retort: "You damned infernal scoundrels, I'll make you eat grass or anything you can catch before I have done with you." Naval officers of the period were not addicted to addressing their men in the manner of a lady with a pet canary. Had Bligh's language been the head and front of his offending, he would hardly have shocked an eighteenth century fo'c'sle. But his disposition does not seem to have bound men to him. He generated dislike. Nevertheless it is credible that the explanation which he gave goes far to explain the mutiny. He held that the real cause was a species of sensuous intoxication which had corrupted his crew.
"The women of Tahiti," Bligh wrote, "are handsome, mild and cheerful in their manners and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and loved. The chiefs were so much attached to our people that they rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made them promises of large possessions. Under these and other attendant circumstances equally desirable, it is perhaps not so much to be wondered at, though scarcely possible to have been foreseen, that a set of sailors, many of them void of connections, should be led away; especially when in addition to such powerful inducements they imagined it in their power to fix themselves in the midst of plenty on one of the finest islands in the world, where they need not labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are beyond anything that can be conceived...Had their mutiny been occasioned by any grievance, either real or imaginary, I must have discovered symptoms of their discontent, which would have put me on my guard; but the case was far otherwise. Christian in particular I was on the most friendly terms with; that very day he was engaged to have dined with me; and the preceding night he excused himself from supping with me on pretence of being unwell, for which I felt concerned, having no suspicions of his integrity and honour."
Support is given to Bligh's explanation by a statement alleged to have been made by Fletcher Christian a few years later, the genuineness of which, however, is open to serious question. If it could be accepted, Christian acquitted his commander of having contributed to the mutiny by harsh conduct. He ascribed the occurrence "to the strong predilection we had contracted for living in Tahiti, where, exclusive of the happy disposition of the inhabitants, the mildness of the climate, and the fertility of the soil, we had formed certain tender connections which banished the remembrance of old England from our breasts." The weight of evidence justifies the belief that Bligh, though a sailor of unequivocal skill and dauntless courage, was an unlikeable man, and that aversion to service under him was a factor contributing to the mutiny which cannot be explained away.
Bligh is the connecting link between Cook and Flinders. Bligh learned under Cook to experience the thrilling pleasure of discovery and to pursue opportunities in that direction in a scientific spirit. Flinders learnt the same lesson under Bligh, and bettered the instruction. Cook is the first great scientific navigator whose name is associated with the construction of the map of Australia; so much can be said without disparagement of the adventurous Dutchmen who pieced together the outline of the western and northern coasts. Flinders was the second; and Bligh, pupil of the one and teacher of the other, deserves a better fate than to be remembered chiefly as a sinister figure in two historic mutinies, that of the Bounty, and that which ended his governorship of New South Wales in 1808. Much worse men have done much worse things than he, have less that is brave, honourable, enterprising and original to their credit, and yet are remembered without ignominy. It is said by Hooker: "as oftentimes the vices of wicked men do cause other their commendable virtues to be abhorred, so the honour of great men's virtues is easily a cloak to their errors." Bligh fell short of being a great man, but neither was he a bad man; and the merit of his achievements, both as a navigator and amid the shock of battle (especially at Copenhagen in 1801, under Nelson), must not be overlooked, even though stern history will not permit his errors to be cloaked.
Notwithstanding the failure of the Bounty expedition, Sir Joseph Banks pressed upon the Government the desirableness of transplanting breadfruit trees to the West Indies. He also proved a staunch friend to Bligh. The result was that the Admiralty resolved to equip a second enterprise for the same purpose, and to entrust the command of it to the same officer.
We may now follow the fortunes of Matthew Flinders under the tutelage of this energetic captain.
CHAPTER 3. A VOYAGE UNDER BLIGH.
Bligh's second expedition was authorised by the admiralty in March, 1791, and the commander was consulted as to "what sort of vessel may be best adapted to the object in view." The Providence, a 28-gun ship, was chosen, with the brig Assistant as a tender. The latter was placed in charge of Lieutenant Nathaniel Portlock. Flinders, eager for sea experience, joined the Providence as a midshipman on May 8th, and thus had the advantage of being under the immediate direction of her captain.
He took this step with Pasley's concurrence, if not actually upon his advice. The captain wrote him an encouraging letter asking him to send from time to time observations on places visited during the voyage; and his protege complied with the injunction. It is to this fact that we owe some entertaining passages from young Flinders' pen concerning the voyage. The letters despatched to Pasley are lost; but Flinders, with the love of neatness which was ever characteristic of him, sent only fair copies, and some of his original drafts remain in manuscript. Pasley's letter was as follows:* (*Flinders' Papers.)
Bellerophon, Spithead, June 3rd, 1791.
I am favoured with your letter on your return from visiting your friends at the country, and I am pleased to hear that you are so well satisfied with your situation on board the Providence. I have little doubt of your gaining the good opinion of Capt. Bligh, if you are equally attentive to your duty there as you were in the Bellerophon. All that I have to request in return for the good offices I have done you is that you never fail writing me by all possible opportunities during your voyage; and that in your letters you will be very particular and circumstantial in regard to every thing and place you may chance to see or visit, with your own observations thereon. Do this, my young friend, and you may rest assured that my good offices will not be wanting some future day for your advancement. All on board are well. Present my kind remembrances to Captain and Mrs. Bligh, and believe me, yours very sincerely,
The Providence and Assistant left England on August 2nd. From Santa Cruz in Teneriffe Flinders sent his first letter to Captain Pasley. It is worth while to quote a few passages:* (* Flinders' Papers.)
"Not a large town; streets wide, ill-paved and irregular. The houses of the principal inhabitants large; have little furniture, but are airy and pleasant, suitable to the climate. Most of them have balconies, where the owners sit and enjoy the air. Those of the lower classes ill-built, dirty, and almost without furniture. In the square where the market is held, near the pier, is a tolerably elegant marble obelisk in honour of our Lady of Candelaria, the tutelar goddess of the place. The Spaniards erected this statue, calling it Our Lady, keeping up some semblance of the ancient worship that they might better keep the Tenerifeans in subjection. At the top of the obelisk is placed the statue, and at its base are four well executed figures, representing the ancient kings or princes of Teneriffe, each of which has the shin-bone of a man's leg in his hand. This image is held in great honour by the lower classes of people, who tell many absurd stories of its first appearance in the island, the many miracles she has wrought, etc.
"We visited a nunnery of the order of St. Dominic. In the chapel was a fine statue of the Virgin Mary, with four wax candles burning before her. Peeping through the bars, we perceived several fine young women at prayers. A middle-aged woman opened the door halfway, but would by no means suffer us to enter this sanctified spot. None of the nuns would be prevailed upon to come near us. However, they did not seem at all displeased at our visit, but presented us with a sweet candy they call Dulce, and some artificial flowers, in return for which Mr. Smith* (* The botanist.) gave them a dollar. In general these people appear to be a merry, good-natured people, and are courteous to and appear happy to see strangers. We found this always the case, although they said we were no Christians: but they generally took care to make us pay well for what we had. They live principally upon fruits and roots, are fond of singing and dancing, and upon the whole they live as lazily, as contentedly, and in as much poverty as any French peasant would wish to do."
The Cape of Good Hope was reached in October, and Flinders told Captain Pasley what he thought of the Dutch colonists:
"The Dutch, from having great quantities of animal food, are rather corpulent. Nevertheless they keep up their national characteristic for carefulness. Neither are they very polite. A stranger will be treated with a great deal of ceremony, but when you come to the solid part of a compliment their generosity is at a stand. Of all the people I ever saw these are the most ceremonious. Every man is a soldier and wears his square-rigged hat, sword, epaulets, and military uniform. They never pass each other without a formal bow, which even descends to the lowest ranks, and it is even seen in the slaves."
On April 10th, 1792, Bligh's ships anchored at Tahiti, where they remained till July 19th. There was no disturbance this time, and the relations between Bligh and his crew were not embarrassed by the indulgent kindness of the islanders. Their hospitality was not deficient, but a wary vigilance was exercised.
At Tahiti Bligh found the major part of the crew of a whaler, the Matilda, which had been wrecked about six days' sail from the island. Some of the men accepted passages on the Providence and the Assistant; some preferred to remain with the natives; one or two had already departed in one of the lost ship's boats to make their way to Sydney.* (* This incident is reported in the Star, a London newspaper, March 2nd, 1793.) Two male Tahitians were persuaded to accompany the expedition, with a view to their exhibition before the Royal Society, in England, when at length, laden with 600 breadfruit trees, it sailed for the West Indies.
The route followed from the Friendly Islands to the Caribbean Sea was not via Cape Horn (since that cold and stormy passage would have destroyed every plant), but back across the Pacific, through Torres Strait to Timor, thence across the Indian Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope. St. Helena was reached on December 17, and Bligh brought his ships safely to Kingston, St. Vincent's, on January 13th 1793. Three hundred breadfruit trees were landed at that island, and a like number taken to Jamaica. The plants were in excellent condition, some of them eleven feet high, with leaves 36 inches long. The gardener in charge reported to Sir Joseph Banks that the success of the transplantations "exceeded the most sanguine expectation." The sugar planters were delighted, and voted Bligh 500 pounds for his services.* (* Southey, History of the West Indies, 1827 3 61.) To accentuate the contrast between the successful second expedition and the lamentable voyage of the Bounty, it is notable that only one case of sickness occurred on the way, and that from Kingston it was reported that "the healthy appearance of every person belonging to the expedition is remarkable."* (* Annual Register 1793 page 6.)
But though nothing in the nature of a mutiny marred the voyage, Flinders' journal shows that Bligh's harshness occasioned discontent. There was a shortness of water on the run from the Pacific to the West Indies, and as the breadfruit plants had to be watered, and their safe carriage was the main object of the voyage, the men had to suffer. Flinders and others used to lick the drops that fell from the cans to appease their thirst, and it was considered a great favour to get a sip. The crew thought they were unfairly treated, and somebody mischievously watered some plants with sea-water. When Bligh discovered the offence, he flew into a rage and "longed to flog the whole company." But the offender could not be discovered, and the irate captain had to let his passion fret itself out.
Bligh published no narrative of this expedition; but Flinders was already accustoming himself to keep careful notes of his observations. Twenty years later, when preparing the historical introduction to his Voyage to Terra Australis, he wrote out from his journal (and with Bligh's sanction published) an account of the passage of the Providence and Assistant through Torres Strait, as a contribution to the history of navigation and discovery in that portion of Australasia. From the Pacific to the Indian Ocean the passage was accomplished in nineteen days. "Perhaps," commented Flinders, "no space of 3 1/2 degrees in length presents more dangers than Torres Strait, but with caution and perseverance the captains, Bligh and Portlock, proved them to be surmountable, and within a reasonable time." Bligh's Entrance and Portlock Reef, marked on modern charts, are reminders of a feat of navigation which even nowadays, with the dangers accurately described, and the well-equipped Torres Strait pilot service to aid them, mariners recognise as pregnant with serious risks. On this occasion it was also attended with incidents which make it worth while to utilise Flinders' notes, since they are of some biographical importance.
The high lands of the south-eastern extremity of Papua (New Guinea), were passed on August 30th, and at dusk on the following day breakers "thundering on the reef" were sighted ahead. On September 1st the vessels edged round the north end of Portlock Reef. Thence the monotonous record of soundings, shoals, reefs seen and charted, passages tried and abandoned, in the prolonged attempt to negotiate a clear course through the baffling coral barrier, is relieved by the story of one or two sharp brushes with armed Papuans in their long, deftly-handled canoes. On September 5th, while boats were out investigating a supposed passage near Darnley Island, several large canoes shot into view. One of these, in which were fifteen "Indians," black and quite naked, approached the English cutter, and made signs which were interpreted to be amicable. The officer in charge, however, suspecting treacherous intentions, did not think it prudent to go near enough to accept a green cocoanut held up to him, and kept his men rowing for the ship. Thereupon a native sitting on the shed erected in the centre of the canoe, called a direction to the Papuans below him, who commenced to string their bows. The officer ordered his men to fire in self-defence, and six muskets were discharged.