State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 13 March 1974


Three Letters From Matthew Flinders

1. Letter to Ann Flinders, Partney.

Isle of France July 7 1805 My dear love
Since the sailing of Mr Aken, the following circumstances have occurred. He had been gone but few days before an English squadron under commodore Osborn arrived off this island, which, had he been a fortnight later, would have effectually stopped him. Not very long afterward arrived a cartel from Calcutta, bringing captain Bergeret and the French officers of La Psyche with some others, upon their parole; and for the purpose of taking back all the English prisoners in this island to India. By this cartel, I have received an answer to my letter written in May 1804 to the marquis Wellesley, Governor-General of India, which contains the following extract from His Excel-lencys letter to the French general De Caen. “I avail myself of this opportunity to request your Excellencys particular attention to the truly severe case of captain Flinders, and earnestly request your Excellency to release captain Flinders immediately, and to allow him, either to take his passage to India in the Thetis (the cartel) or to return to India in the first neutral ship.”
This letter I received through the medium of the secretary of general De Caen, with one accompanying it, wherein the secretary says “Je desirerais de tout mon coeur que le capitaine-general put acceder a la demande de son Excellence Monsieur le Marquis de Wellesley, mais les motifs de votre detention ayant ete de nature a etre soumis au gouverne-ment Francais, le capitaine-general ne peut, avant qu'il ait recu reponse, rien changer a la mesure qui a ete prise a votre egard” so that I now know upon good authority what I have to trust to. Privately, I am also informed, that an officers [sic] with dispatches from France is expected every week; and then, if the French government shall not have forgotten me, and shall not be desirous to keep me a prisoner in this island any longer, I may expect to arrive either in France or in England about February or March next.
I tell thee these circumstances without any gloss or palliation, for I scarcely know myself what confidence to put in the hope of liberation, it is liable to be overturned by so many circumstances: the conclusion above drawn is upon the most favourable side, and rests upon chance for its accomplishment.
Pray, my love, if thou knowest Mr Akens address, write him the heads of these circumstances, they will be interesting to him; my friends and relations, also, I wish to be informed of what little hope I have of liberty.
I am in tolerable health, and as there is some prospect of obtaining a little more liberty for exercise, after all my countrymen are gone, and I shall be the only English prisoner in this island, I hope to gain an accession of health and strength; for this climate is far from being a bad one, though, upon the whole, it is too hot. My faithful servant Elder still continues with me. I gave him his choice to go away with the other prisoners in the cartel, but he seems determined to stay by me, until we shall weather this storm of adversity.
I think, my love, that the family at Boston are more thy favourites than any other of my relations. Pray write my affectionate remembrances to William and his family in particular. I think Mr Hursthouse's family at Tidd are, upon the whole, my greatest favourites; and it is their kind and generous conduct to my cousin Henrietta that has inclined the balance in their favour; but by so much the more as I love and respect thee above any one in the world, by so much shall I be most attached to them, whom, on my return, I shall find to have been most kind and attentive to thee.
Adieu, my dearest love, rest confident in the inviolable love and esteem of thy Mattw Flinders Augt. 20 I have seen in a newspaper, with much concern, the bankruptcy of my cousin William at Boston. I know not what to think of it.
I write this from the house of my friend Pilot where I am remaining two or three days previous to my going into the country for which I have at last obtained permission; all
the other English prisoners being gone from the island.
When, my love, shall I obtain complete liberty and return to thee? Soon, I hope; ah very soon, I will hope.
See Notes, p.20

2. Letter to Mrs Elizabeth Flinders, Donington.

Wilhems Plains in the Isle of France
My dear Mother-in-law
I have written so fully to my wife by this occasion, and to Mr. Tyler concerning her projected voyage to this island, that I have little more to add; for should she venture to undertake it, you will doubtless see her first. The little hope that I had of being liberated, is now less, since the arrival of several vessels from France, which bring no orders relative to me, and since the governor has again refused to send me to France until he shall receive orders. I have written letters to the marine minister of France, to Mons. Fleurieu a man of great celebrity and influence in that nation, to our admiralty, to Sir Joseph Banks, to the governor-general in India, and to the commander in chief of the naval forces there; and my friend here, Mr Thomas Pilot, has written to many other celebrated characters of his nation, but as yet, all is without effect. My beloved wife, in a letter dated June 1805, expressed a desire to come here to me, and although I see no prospect of her being able to accomplish it, I have taken all the precautions, and made all the preparations for it, in my power to make at this distance. I shall be able, I expect, to transmit a direction in America by which letters may be conveyed to me at all times: in fine, I have prepared for all events; still hoping, however, that the present prospect which there is said to be of peace, may not be far distant.
I was much pleased with the letter that Hannah wrote me in June last, I desire she may continue to write to me of her progress in her studies, by all occasions; and you my dear Mother, I hope will also write to me by all opportunities. I am at present wholly ignorant of the state of my affairs; whether the money left by my dear father is in your hands, or in those of my agent. I desired that the interest of it should be applied to the education of my two sisters, until my return, and I am pleased to learn from Hannahs letter that this has been done. When their education is completed, you will either add the interest continually to the principal, or pay it to my agent for my use.
In this island, I have enjoyed tolerable health, since I have been allowed to live in the country, and am as comfortably situated as a prisoner can well be. Did I know the state of my affairs, was promoted to the rank of post-captain and had my beloved wife with me, I could even be happy. Of the first, I hope to be soon informed; but of the last, the great difficulty of a woman voyaging with propriety, and the dangers of the voyage, make me despair of obtaining it. I do not indeed wish her to undertake it, but under the most favourable circumstances, and even then I have desired that she may not embark before three months are expired after the receival of my present letters, lest a favourable occasion should offer for my return. Requesting you my dear mother, to be assured of my affection and concern for your happiness, and to present my remembrance to our friends in Donington and the neighbourhood, I remain as ever
Your sincere and affectionate
friend and son-in-law
Mattw. Flinders.
See Notes, p.20

3. Letter to Captain Farquharson Stuart, Foley Place.

Upper Fitzroy Street
Saturday Dear Sir,
The conversation we had last Monday evening has induced me to state to you, how much I am pressed to get out my voyage by next spring, for which it is advertised for publication.
I have, in fact, so little time, that I never go out but on pressing business, and am closely occupied every day and hour in the week, from breakfast till going to bed. It pains me to forego the pleasure of seeing you as usual, but the frankness and consideration which you have shewn have explained to me, that I should do an injustice to your character in longer witholding the truth. After this next winter is passed, when the extreme pressure of occupation will have ceased, I hope to see our communications renewed; and in the meantime, should there be any thing in which my advice or assistance can avail, be assured that neither my time nor trouble will be regretted where they can usefully serve you. With much regard I am, my dear Sir
Your affectionate humble servt. Mattw. Flinders
See Notes, p.20