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  • Title
    Series 65: Correspondence, being mainly letters received by Banks from Matthew Flinders, 1800-1807, 1811
  • Level of description
  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Physical Description
    44 items of textual material
  • Scope and Content
    Matthew Flinders returned to England from New South Wales, onboard the Reliance, in August 1800. He had arrived in thecolony in September 1795 and undertaken coastal exploration,including the 12 week circumnavigation of Tasmania, in company withthe surgeon George Bass.

    Flinders was to have circumnavigated Australia in command of theLady Nelson but had already departed from Port Jackson, onhis return to England, before the arrival of the LadyNelson in the colony.

    Believing the Lady Nelson to be inadequate for theproposed circumnavigation, Flinders recommended to Banks that twovessels be employed for the task. Accordingly the Xenophon, renamed HMS Investigator, was selected tosail with the Lady Nelson, with Flinders incommand. His orders were to explore the Australiancoastline in detail, in particular the southern coast of whichlittle was known. His investigations included establishing, as wasbelieved at the time, whether a strait divided Australia from northto south, separating New South Wales from the rest of thecontinent.

    Banks, intimately involved in the preparations for the voyage,successfully sought 1,200 pounds in mess money from the HonourableEast India Company which expected to derive commercial benefit fromthe results of the voyage.

    In April 1801, in the midst of preparing for the voyage,Flinders married Anne Chappell. A short time later he was orderedby Banks to remove his wife from on board the Investigatoror lose command of the expedition. It had been Flinders' intentionto take Anne with him on the voyage and leave her in Sydney whilehe completed the circumnavigation. Anne Flinders left the ship atSpithead. She did not live with her husband again for another nineyears.

    Before sailing Flinders also faced reprimands from Banks overthe desertion of members of the crew, the escape of a prisoner fromthe ship, and the grounding of the ship at Hythe Bay.

    Flinders received his sailing orders and passport at Spithead on17 July 1801. The Investigator set sail the next day.

    Flinders commenced his survey of the Australian coastline inDecember 1801, at Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia, travellingwestward. He entered and named Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent,and encountered the French ships Geographe and Naturaliste, under the command of Nicholas Baudin, at a pointhe named Encounter Bay. He continued his survey on to Sydney.

    After overhauling the ship, the Investigator set out onthe second leg of the circumnavigation travelling north, in companywith the Lady Nelson. Off the Queensland coast the Lady Nelson sustained keel damage and suffered the loss ofseveral anchors. Flinders ordered the ship to return to Sydney andthe Investigator continued the survey alone. After passingthrough Torres Strait, the ship, leaking badly, proved too crank tocontinue the survey. Abandoning the survey work, Flinders chose tocomplete the circumnavigation returning to Sydney via the west andsouth coasts. He arrived in Sydney again in June 1803.

    In August Flinders sailed from Sydney a passenger on board HMSPorpoise, under the command of the Investigator'sLieutenant Robert Fowler, destined to be wrecked on a reef off theQueensland coast. Flinders returned to Sydney in the ship's cutterwhere he arranged for the rescue of his shipmates. He then departedfor England, on board the Cumberland, sailing via TorresStrait.

    The Cumberland also proved defective and Flinders wasforced to anchor at the French controlled island of Mauritius inDecember 1803 where he was immediately placed under arrest byGeneral De Caen. The reasons for his arrest are unclear althoughthere were several contributing factors. Unknown to Flinders, warhad broken out between Britain and France and De Caen saw Flindersas a British spy. Flinders was carrying a passport which was validfor the Investigator and not for the Cumberlandin which he was sailing. In addition, he was carrying dispatchesfrom Governor King in New South Wales suggesting troops be sent toSydney in the event of conflict with South America.

    In May 1805 John Aken, Master of the Investigator, wasreleased from Mauritius owing to his ill health. He returned toEngland taking with him some of Flinders' papers and charts.Flinders' imprisonment continued. In July all prisoners of war wereallowed to leave Mauritius in exchange for French prisoners,Flinders alone being detained. De Caen did relax the terms ofFlinders' confinement, however, by allowing him to leave his placeof detention and reside in the country with friends.

    Many intercessions were made on Flinders' behalf to the Frenchgovernment, the National Institute of France and other bodies. SirJoseph Banks repeatedly petitioned the National Institute for therelease of Flinders.

    After six and a half years of confinement on Mauritius, Flinderswas free to return to England. He sailed in June 1810 arriving inEngland in December where he was informed of his long awaitedpromotion to post captain.

    The remaining four years of his life were dedicated largely topublishing his important account of his voyages of HM Ships Investigator, Porpoise and Cumberland, workbegun and assiduously carried out during the years of hisimprisonment. A Voyage to Terra Australis; undertaken for thepurpose of completing the discovery of that vast country andprosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803 in His Majesty's ShipInvestigator, and subsequently in the Armed Vessel Porpoise andCumberland Schooner... was published by G. and W. Nicol in1814.
  • General note

    Document 1 in this series was previously located at ML A83. Itis part of an accession of Banks papers purchased for the MitchellLibrary from Sotheby's, London, in May 1929.

    Document 42 was previously located at ML MSS 743/2. It wasacquired for the Mitchell Library from the London booksellerFrancis Edwards on 18 July 1938.

    The remaining documents in this series were previously locatedat ML A79-4. These papers, purchased in 1884 from Lord Brabourne bySir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales, weretransferred to the Mitchell Library in 1910. They were part of theaccession which became known as the Brabourne collection.

    Some of these letters were used in Historical records of NewSouth Wales, vol. 5 (1897), and include notes and annotationsmade by the compilers.

    It is now not possible to reconstruct Banks' originalarrangement, the series has therefore been arrangedchronologically.

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