Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/497

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294
LIFE OF MATTHEW FLINDERS

Oxford, and afterwards a Judge in Madras, he wrote (November 27th, 1801):[1]

"You must understand that this voyage of ours is to be written and published on our return. I am now engaged in writing a rough account, but authorship sits awkwardly upon me. I am diffident of appearing before the public unburnished by an abler hand. What say you? Will you give me your assistance if on my return a narration of our voyage should be called for from me? If the voyage be well executed and well told afterwards I shall have some credit to spare to deserving friends. If the door now open suits your taste and you will enter, it should be yours for the undertaking. A little mathematical knowledge will strengthen your style and give it perspicuity. Arrangement is the material point in voyage-writing as well as in history. I feel great diffidence here. Sufficient matter I can easily furnish, and fear not to prevent anything unseamanlike from entering into the composition; but to round a period well and arrange sentences so as to place what is meant in the most perspicuous point of view is too much for me. Seamanship and authorship make too great an angle with each other; the further a man advances upon one line the further distant he becomes from any point on the other."

It did not prove so in Flinders' own case, for his later letters and the latter part of his book are written in an easier, more freely-flowing style than marks his earlier writings. He solicited no assistance in the final preparation of his work. He preferred to speak to his public in his own voice, and was unquestionably well advised in so doing. It is a plain, honest sailor's story; that of a cultivated man withal.

Intense application to the work in hand brought

  1. Flinders' Papers.