Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/11

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PREFACE.


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

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