Malaspina to Joseph
Cádiz, 17 June 17891
While, I trust, Mr. Pearson2 has sent you a letter (a copy of which is enclosed) that I took the liberty of writing to you some time ago, do not be astonished to see it again; its subject is of too great an interest for you not to have the goodness to answer it; and for me, in turn, to neglect any means of acquainting you with it.
The essential purpose of our voyage can be none other than to bring about interesting discoveries; and although, using astronomical means, we shall be working on hydrographic charts of our coasts in the Southern Sea, this object is interesting only to our own nation. For this reason, and the better to follow for ourselves in the footsteps of the explorers who have preceded us, all our attention will instead be occupied by natural history, and perhaps our familiarity with the language, the greater length of our visits and the assistance we shall receive in all our colonies will help us achieve a quantity of knowledge useful for comprehending in larger scope the history of man and of nature.
You, sir, who - with a courage that is equalled only by the utility of your voyage - outlined the foundations of this useful science, you who next laid out all of its steps, indicate to us, therefore, what in your opinion will be the most useful research, and by what means we shall be able to achieve what is most to your liking. This is a right which is recognized as your due by all those who undertake voyages, but it is also a tribute that society in general must expect you to pay on account of your zeal for the public good.
I dare to flatter myself, sir, that you would truly wish me to apply myself to everything that could bring you pleasure, be it in this country or in those to which I shall be travelling, and that you will be persuaded that no one feels more devotion and esteem for you than I
1 Original in (rather poor!) French in British Library, Add.MS 8097: 218-20. Dario Manfredi, Alessandro Malaspina e Fabio Ala Ponzone: Lettere dal Vecchio e Nuovo Mondo (1788-1803), Bologna, il Mulino, 1999, pp. 184-185. Translated with notes by John Black.
2 Presumably a mis-spelling of "Parsons," referring to William Parsons of 5A New Bond Street, London, to whom Malaspina wrote on July 13/1789, thanking him for his intersession with Banks on Malaspina's behalf.
Updated: December 27, 2005