CHAPTER 12. THE INVESTIGATOR.
Flinders sailed from Port Jackson for England in the Reliance on March 3rd, 1800. The old ship was in such a bad condition that Governor Hunter "judged it proper to order her home while she may be capable of performing the voyage." She carried despatches, which Captain Waterhouse was directed to throw overboard in the event of meeting with an enemy's ship of superior force and being unable to effect his escape. She lived through a tempestuous voyage, making nine or ten inches of water per hour, according to the carpenter's report, and providing plenty of pumping exercise for a couple of convict stowaways who emerged from hiding two days out of Sydney. At St. Helena, reached at the end of May, company was joined with four East India ships, and off Ireland H.M.S. Cerberus took charge of the convoy till the arrival at Portsmouth on August 26th.
When Flinders left England six years before, he was a midshipman. He passed the examination qualifying him to become lieutenant at the Cape of Good Hope in 1797, and was appointed provisionally to that rank on the return of the Reliance to Sydney from the South African voyage in that year. The prompt confirmation of his promotion by the admiralty he attributed to the kind interest of Admiral Pasley.
When he quitted his ship at Deptford in October, 1800, he was a man of mark. His name was honourably known to the elders of his profession, whilst he was esteemed by men concerned with geography, navigation, and kindred branches of study, for the importance of the work he had done, and for the thorough scientific spirit manifested in it.
Chief among those who recognised his quality was Sir Joseph Banks, the learned and wealthy squire who was ever ready to be to zealous men of science a friend, a patron, and an influence. Banks was, indeed, memorable for the men and work he helped, rather than for his own original contributions to knowledge. During his presidency of the Royal Society, from 1777 to 1820 - a long time for one man to occupy the principal place in the most distinguished learned body in the world - he not only encouraged, but promoted and directed, a remarkable radiation of research work, and was the accessible friend of every man of ability concerned in extending the bounds of enquiry into phenomena.
Banks took a special interest in the young navigator, who was a native of his own bit of England, Lincolnshire. He knew well what a large field for geographical investigation there was in Australia, and recognised that Flinders was the right man to do the work. Banks had always foreseen the immense possibilities of the country; he was the means of sending out the naturalists George Caley, Robert Brown, and Allan Cunningham, to study its natural products. That he was quick to recognise the sterling capacity of Matthew Flinders constitutes his principal claim to our immediate attention. The spirit of our age is rather out of sympathy with the attitude of patronage, which, as must be confessed, it gratified Banks to assume; but at all events it was, in this instance, patronage of the only tolerable sort, that which helps an able man to fulfil himself and serve his kind.
Before he went to sea again, Flinders was married (April 1801) to Miss Ann Chappell, stepdaughter of the Rev. William Tyler, rector of Brothertoft, near Boston. She was a sailor's daughter, her own father having died while in command of a ship out of Hull, engaged in the Baltic trade. It is probable that there was an attachment between the pair before Flinders left England in 1794; for during the Norfolk expedition in 1798 he had named a smooth round hill in Kent's group Mount Chappell, and had called a small cluster of islands the Chappell Isles. He does not tell us why they were so named, as was his usual practice. He merely speaks of them as "this small group to which the name of Chappell Isles is affixed in the chart." But a tender little touch of sentiment may creep in, even in the making of charts; and we cannot have or wish to have, any doubt as to the reason in this case.
In his Observations, published in the year of his marriage, Flinders remarks (page 24) that the hill "had received the name of Mount Chappell in February, 1798, and the name is since extended to the isles which lie in its immediate neighbourhood." The fact that the name was given in 1798, indicates that a kindly feeling, to say the least of it, was entertained for Miss Chappell before Flinders left England in 1795. The lover in As You Like It carved his lady's name on trees:
"O Rosalind, these trees shall be my books, And in their barks my thoughts I'll character."
Here we find our young navigator writing his lady's name on the map. It is rather an uncommon symptom of a very common complaint.