Matthew Flinders to his wife, Ann

The Lovers
Matthew Flinders
was born in Lincolnshire in northeast England, to a surgeon of Flemish origin. At 15 he joined the navy and in 1791 sailed as a midshipman aboard H.M.S. Providence under the notorious Captain Bligh. In 1794 he joined his first ship, H.M.S. Bellerophon, which was victorious in battle against the French at Brest. In 1795 he sailed to Australia, where he and fellow navigator George Bass explored and mapped the area of Port Jackson, New South Wales. Flinders married in 1801 and set sail again to Australia as captain of H.M.S. Investigator. Returning in 1803, he was detained on Mauritius by the French until 1810. He spent his final years, dogged by ill health, writing A voyage to Terra Australis and died in 1814.
Ann Chappelle
was the stepdaughter of the Reverend W. Tyler, rector of Brothertoft in Lincolnshire, England. Her own father had died at sea. She must have formed an attachment to Matthew Flinders before he sailed to Australia in 1795, as he named a group of islands off the coast of Tasmania the Chappell[e] Isles. They married on April 17, 1801. Three months later, the Admiralty refused her permission to sail with Flinders to Australia. She did not see her husband again for almost 10 years. From October 1810 until Flinders' death in 1814, they lived in London. A daughter, Anne, was born in 1812, the future mother of Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, the famous archeologist and Egyptologist.

January 7, 1802

My dearest friend, thou adducest my leaving thee to follow the call of my profession, as a poor proof of my affection for thee. Dost thou not know, my beloved, that we could have barely existed in England? That both thou and me must have been debarred of even necessaries: unless we had given up our independence to have procured them from perhaps unwilling friends. It was only upon the certainty of obtaining an employment, the produce of which would be adequate to thy support as well as my own, that I dared to follow the wishes of my heart and press thee to be mine. Heaven knows with what sincerity and warmth of affection I have loved thee--how anxiously I look forward to the time when I may return to thee, and how earnestly I labour that the delight of our meeting may be no more clouded with the fear of a long parting. Do not then, my beloved, adduce the following of the dictates of necessity as my crime...Let no unavailing sorrow increase thy malady, but look my dear Ann to the happy side. See me engaged, successfully thus far, in the cause of science and followed by the good wishes and approbation of the world.

Their Story




Text from
Famous Love Letters
Messages of Intimacy and Passion
Edited by Ronald Tamplin