20 April 2011

Guest Post: Recollections of Rose de Freycinet

Rose de Freycinet (1794–1832) was an exceptional woman in several ways. Although born to a middle-class family (her mother was a school teacher) she married into the aristocracy. When her husband, Louis de Saulces de Freycinet (1779–1842), was appointed to command the Uranie on a voyage of circumnavigation which sailed from France in September 1817 (and would return in 1820), Rose accompanied him, in flagrant disregard of regulations which forbade female passengers on French naval vessels. Initially, she dressed in male clothing—in itself scandalous behaviour—but soon switched to conventional female dress. She was also the first woman to sail around the world AND keep a diary of her experiences: this was published in French in 1926 and in English translation in 1996.

In November-December 1819 the Uranie made an extended visit to Sydney, and Rose's account of this visit is rich in details of the generous hospitality and the formal and informal social occasions in which she shared. Major-General Lachlan Macquarie (1762–1824), the colony's governor, and his wife and son, figure prominently in the passage recounting this period.

One of Rose's letters, in which she recollects Governor Macquarie, has been recently discovered in the Dunedin Public Library. It was written in Paris late in 1824, to a Miss E. Ashburne.

We learned some time ago of the death of the excellent General Macquarie, no-one more than us can feel such a real loss!  We were led to judge the goodness of his character on several occasions; he is one of those men whose death is regretted & felt by all those who had the good fortune to know him; his widow & his son are to be greatly pitied, for nothing can bring consolation for such a loss!

Macquarie had died in London on 1 July 1824, and Rose included in this letter a second one which she asked Miss Ashburne to pass on to Mrs Macquarie.

The letter also contains a further nod to the voyage of the Uranie. Rose envies the journey her correspondent has recently made to Scotland, something which she herself has long wished to do, rather than visit 'the wild Sandwich [Islands]' — that is, Hawaii — and 'the cloud-covered rocks of Cape Horn!!'

Signature of Rose de Freycinet

The Freycinet letter is held as part of the Dunedin Public Library's Autograph Letters & Manuscripts Collection, which includes more than 200 letters in French from the seventeenth to ninteenth century. The majority were written by members of the French aristocracy, such as Philip, Duke of Orleans (1640–1701); Louis Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, Prince of Conde (1692–1740); and Louie Philippe (1773–1850), King of the French from 1830 to 1848, and his consort Maria Amalia (1782–1866). Letters by literary figures, like Alexander Dumas fils (1824–95) and Charles Nodier (1780–1844), and by a number of French and Belgian artists are also held.

By Roger Collins, Former Senior Lecturer in French and Art History, University of Otago.

No comments:

Post a Comment