London News: Sir Joseph Banks dies

19th June 1820

On this day, 19th June 1820, While Allan Cunningham was on a voyage with Phillip Parker King, the third coastal survey aboard HMS Mermain, his patron and mentor Sir Joseph Banks dies. 1

When Mr Cunningham returned to Port Jackson, at the end of Phillip Parker King’s third coastal survey of the Australian coast, Mr Cunningham learned of Sir Joseph’s death, and he wrote the following:

The announcement of the lamented demise of Sir Joseph Banks, after a rapid decline of health, appeared in the Sydney Gazette; and on the confirmation of it by letters from England, I immediately put on that outward garb of sorrow, which at best is but a poor indication of that heartfelt grief I even now feel for the loss we have all sustained in the departure of so firm, so excellent, and invaluable a friend. 

I could have rejoiced to have again seen the cheering countenance of this great Maecenas; however, viewing the advanced and well-ripened age to which this illustrious person [p266] had arrived, with the infirmities attendant thereon, and the probably distant year of my return to my native country there, to enjoy the afternoon of my life, (a period I occasionally contemplate,) I scarcely could for a moment hope for such a gratification. 

I duly received his last letter, (of date the 14th April, 1820) it was short and explicit, and to me highly gratifying – fully approving of my conduct in this country, and reporting that the various journeyings of the last six years of an active life have eventually added something to the brilliancy of the garden of our Sovereign. 

I am particular in preserving all the letters of my superiors; but this I shall guard as I would the essential points of the religion in which I have been educated; it is the word of a dying nobleman, whose liberality had fallen alike on the just and unjust, whose kindnesses none of us can any more experience; and if, from a sight of it, I can from time to time call up the courteous sprit of its illustrious writer, to regulate my own frame of mind in the “jostlings of the world,” literally I shall be a happy man.

ALLAN CUNNINGHAM 2

The following is a letter written by Sir Joseph Banks to Allan Cunningham. It is very like a farewell letter, which it probably was:

Soho Square, 14th April, 1820
Mr Cunningham,
Sir, – I have received safe and in good condition the numerous things you have sent me, and the Royal Gardens have materially benefited by what we have had from you. I give you great credit for having the second time volunteered to go with Captain King to the north coast, we could have no account of the plants he meets with from any other quarter. I trust and hope, however, you will not be called away anymore, but will be able to attend to the inland excursions made from Sydney. I write you a short letter, because I am not well. I know of nothing more to say to you, than that I entirely approve of the whole of your conduct, as does also our worthy friend, Aiton at Kew.

Your sure Friend,
(Signed) Jos. Banks
To Mr A Cunningham, Botanical Collector
to His Majesty, George IV. 3

SIR JOSEPH BANKS 14th APRIL 1820
  1. Source:: Wikipedia – Sir Joseph Banks[]
  2. Source: Robert Heward’s Biographical Sketch of Allan Cunningham, page 265[]
  3. Source: Robert Heward’s Biographical Sketch of Allan Cunningham, page 265.[]