Detail taken from pg 13 of Sketchbook by Dorothea and Margaret Francis, H2011.94/51. This work is in copyright.

One of my favourite books in our children’s collection is a story written by explorer Matthew Flinders about his cat, Trim. This story languished for many years in the archives of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, until it was discovered and published in the literary magazine Overland in 1973. Flinders wrote the story during the seven years that he was held captive by the French on the island of Mauritius.

Trim was jet black with white feet and had a white star on his breast. According to Flinders, Trim was an accomplished sailor. He was handsome, resourceful, and highly intelligent. Trim did however, have one flaw in his character; ‘he was… excessively vain of his person, particularly of his snow white feet’ (pg. 8).

Happily, this flaw was counterbalanced with ‘a noble zeal for the improvement of his faculties’ (pg. 10). Trim’s activities on the ship included nautical astronomy (he liked to play with the hands on the ship astronomer’s timepiece), swimming (after he accidentally fell overboard and swam gamely to safety), and ball sports (wrestling yarns of wool on the deck).

Sadly, Trim went missing during the years of captivity in Mauritius. Flinders was heartbroken. He feared that Trim had been captured and eaten by the natives. A notice was published in the island’s public gazette, with a reward of ten Spanish dollars offered for Trim’s safe return, to no avail. Trim was lost.

In the postscript of the book, Flinders wrote: ‘To the memory of Trim, the best and most illustrious of his race, the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures…Never will his like be seen again!’

What’s your favourite item in the collection?



This article has 2 comments

  1. Great story and I love the little watercolour you have included. Is the sketchbook available for viewing?

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