Matthew Flinders Private Journal: A Private Journey
Dooley, Gillian Mary
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Matthew Flinders began his Private Journal on the day his active career as an explorer and navigator finished, the day he was detained on Mauritius by Governor Decaen. He kept the journal almost daily until 9 days before his death. In this paper I will trace his inner journey - the ways he changed and developed over the decade covered by the journal, and how this is reflected in the Journal. During the six and a half years of detention on Mauritius he broadened his intellectual and cultural horizons considerably. He learned French, and read many classics of French literature and science. After some initial shyness in mixed society, he participated freely in the French plantation society of Mauritius and befriended French naval officers who were officially his enemies. With time on his hands, he undertook projects such as his biographical tribute to Trim, a study of the history of Madagascar, and observations on the marine barometer. By sheer force of will he conquered the black depression which threatened to engulf him as his detention extended indefinitely. Back in England, reunited with his wife after 9 years, he set to work on his major work, Voyage to Terra Australis, which he worked on practically without a break until his death in July 1814. Although in many ways the Private Journal shows Flinders mellowing and maturing as a result of his ordeals, he also lost much of the optimistic and adventurous spirit which spurred him on to the achievements for which he is famous.