Lovestruck Rose

Rose and Jose in the doorway of Rose’s tent at Shark Bay in 1818

Nearly two hundred years after she created a scandal and made headlines in all the French newspapers, Rose de Freycinet is making headlines again. The State Library of New South Wales has decided to feature her journal and letters to mark Valentine’s Day. This time she is making the news because of her husband, Liouis’s, attempt to keep her name out of the official reports of the voyage of the Uranie.

Juilie Power’s article in The Sydney Morning Herald this weekend features the two different versions, by the official artist, Alphonse Pellion, of the same scene at Shark Bay. The first shows Rose and her pupil, Jose, in the open doorway of Rose’s distinctive tent in the camp site and observatory set up by the crew of the Uranie. In the second picture the doorway is empty. The images of both Rose and Jose have been removed. In other paintings made during the voyage Pellion shows that he has heeded to instructions of his Commander, Louis de Freycinet, never to mention the fact that Rose is on board the Uranie. Since she was illegally on board, her husband was trying to protect her, and his own career, from the consequences of decision to travel with him even though French Naval regulations strictly forbade it. But in the first of these pictures Pellion has obviously ignored his Commander or decided that, more than a year into the voyage, everyone knows that Rose is on board anyway. In the second he has thought better of it, since Louis’s instructions still stand. It is, therefore, mostly from Rose’s own journal that we get the incredibly detailed and uniquely feminine view of life in the remote communities and regions that she visited.

Like Rose, her journal survived the rigours of the three year voyage. On her arrival back in France, she presented it to her friend Caorline de Nanteuil, for whom it was written. After Caroline’s death it was kept in the Nanteuil family for two generations before being handed over to the then Baron de Freycinet. In 1926 the Marine Archeologist, Charles Duplomb, who was researching the wreck of the Uranie, approached the Baron about publishing Rose’s Journal. The Baron refused, saying that it was a personal document and never intended for publication. However, in 1927, 550 copies were published, 50 of these were deluxe editions, several of which have survived. Another seventy years would go by before Marc Serge Riviere translated the journal into English.

Today there are translations in English, Italian, Portuguese, German and Spanish. And in 2017 there will be celebrations in France and Australia, at least, of the important contribution that Rose de Freycinet has made to the history of the world.

Here is a link to the full text of Julie Power’s article which includes both pictures:

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