National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record
- John Grant
- Papers of John Grant
- Date Range
- Collection Number
- MS 737
- 0.2 metres (2 boxes)
- Language of Materials
- National Library of Australia
Scope and Contents
The collection consists chiefly of letters by Grant to his mother and sister Matilda in England, 1803-1810, and a journal, Jan. 1805 - March 1810, written in French and transcribed and translated by W.S. Hill-Reid, Yvonne Cramer and others. The letters and journal contain detailed accounts of Grant's voyage on the Coromandel, his experiences in the colony and descriptions of the people he encountered, including Major George Johnston, Jude Richard Atkins, Charles Bishop, Sir Henry Hayes, Simeon Lord, John Palmer, Governors King, Bligh and McGuene. A transcription of John Grant's journal by W.S. Hill-Reid, Joan O'Hagan and others forms part of the collection. The collection also includes correspondence with Robert Campbell while John Grant was on Norfolk Island and a copy of his 'Bond of union', 1805, his instrument of protest that resulted in his deportation to Norfolk Island. Also included in the collection are petitions; certificates; legal documents; correspondence with Robert Campbell, 1806-1807; a notebook kept on his return to Sydney from Norfolk Island, 1809; poetry written while at Parramatta and Norfolk Island, 1804-1805; and other papers.
Conditions Governing Access
Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn2963493).
Conditions Governing Use
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], MS 737, National Library of Australia, Papers of John Grant, [box number and series and/or file number]'.
The collection was discovered in the vaults of Lloyd's Bank in London by Mr W.S. Hill-Reid. Mr Hill-Reid used the documents as the basis for his book John Grant's journey : a convict's story, 1803-1811 (London : Heinemann, 1957). The collection was acquired by the Library in 1957. Yvonne Cramer later used the papers for her book This beauteous, wicked place : the letters and journals of John Grant, gentleman convict. (Canberra : National Library of Australia, 2000).
John Grant was born in 1776 in Buckinghamshire, England and educated at Christ's Hospital. Grant was sentenced to death for firing at a family solicitor who frustrated his attempts to woo the daughter of Lord Dudley and Ward. After a petition by his sister to the daughters of George III, he was reprieved and sent to New South Wales for life. Grant was transported on the Coromandel and arrived in Sydney in May 1804.
Although he was in many ways a privileged convict on ticket-of-leave, Grant was influenced by Sir Henry Browne Hays and in May 1805 expressed public criticism of Governor King, his officials and the convict system. Grant's refusal to retract his views led to five years hard labour in Norfolk Island and Phillip Island in Van Diemen's Land, which reduced him almost to death.
Grant returned to Sydney upon completion of his sentence in 1808 and obtained a post as chaplain in Newcastle. He was later granted a full pardon by Macquarie and sailed to England in 1811 in the Spring Grove.
Grant wrote poetry during his period in Australia, although only one poem Panegyrie on an eminent artist, written on the naturalist J.W. Lewin, was published in his lifetime.
Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Carlton, Vic. : Melb. Univ. Press, 1966).
Petition to the Princesses Augusta Sophia, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia and Amelia submitted by Matilda Grant, 1803 (Item 10)
In further support of the above and requesting them to use their influences with the King and Queen to reverse the sentence by which her brother John Grant is to be executed on the following Wednesday.
Thanks her for clothing and other favours etc. Somewhat pessimistic. "Buonaparte will certainly be among you soon, or in Ireland",
Farewell nature suggests last letter before sailing.
Referred to and summarised in following letter but probably never delivered, being entrusted to a Portuguese frigate.
20 pages, describing voyage on Coromandel (Captain Robinson). Leaves Portsmouth some time shortly before 1 January 1804. (Grant appears to have had a privileged passage, being accepted, presumably because of his education and social position, as one of the Captain's staff, and sleeping and messing in their quarters. His main function appears to have been keeping five journals for the Captain.)
He entertains ideas of joining forces with Robert Campbell - "of trying to open a connection with India". (Robert Campbell b. Scotland 1769, d. 1846 on the Limestone Plains, now Canberra).
In this letter of May 1804, Grant has presented his letters of introduction to Judge Atkins and Major Johnston. Appears to be in line for the post of secretary to Atkins, but is kept standing still until the letters from England regarding him are received by Governor King. These letters are coming on the ship Experiment carrying women convicts and due to arrive at the same time or shortly after the Coromandel. In the meantime Grant seems to have a free hand, visits Atkins freely, and continues to sleep in the ship. Mrs. Atkins thinks he might be given a free pardon in the following month. The letter was taken to Bengal by Dr. Fielding on the Mersey and fortnight after arrival in Sydney, for on forwarding through brother Samuel Grant in India.)
Personal description of Judge Atkins. Grant is living in a "ruinous house" offered as an asylum by Mr Williamson at Parramatta, and is supporting himself. Governor King did not give him the freedom of the colony, as he was persuaded by Williamson, Captain Cox, Judge Atkins and Major Johnston that the time was not ripe to apply for it. From Governor King he received £20 for rum acquired in San Salvador, but no favours as King had animosity for the previous Governor Hunter's friends, including Williamson who befriended Grant. Captain Charles Bishop of Prospect befriends Grant, 5 miles from his home at Parramatta. (Bishop a man of influence, and in a joint concern with George Bass who has been gone 17 months to Peru on a trading voyage. Bishop himself a minor explorer).
Pope to Attenbury (1804)
The Jug (Parramatta, September 1804)
Thoughts in a mulberry bush (Parramatta, November 1804)
Chicken and the grasshopper (Parramatta, October 1804)
Devotion (Parramatta, October 1804)
The Dream (Norfolk Island, 1805)
Reflexions (Norfolk Island, 1805)
Ideas awakened before daybreak (Norfolk Island, 1805)
Written on the morning of Mr. Wakefield's funeral (n.d.)
To mother and sister and to Mr. Pearce, and to Mr. Barnes and Mr. Pearce with newspapers; not in files, and presumably lost.
His unhappy relations with Governor King and general description of his progress, and acquaintances, which include Surveyor-General Evans, Captain Kent (Hunter's nephew), and naturalist J.W. Lewin. Grant still at Williamson's farm. (20 p.).
Is now working property of Captain Bishop who has become insane, and through intercession of Captain Kent has been given freedom of the Colony by Governor King.
To mother, via Captain Forrest of the Sydney, also a print from J.W. Lewin. Missing from file.
Few lines only, listing letters already sent, and enclosing copy of 1806 'Birthday Ode.' Also copy of order to Captain Forrest to deliver paquet to Captain Burnett.
In French, listing his poetical productions in exile. (Also 'Plaintive Ballad,' written Parramatta, 1804).
On contacting him at Norfolk Island and on carrying of his mail to England.
Acknowledging above and parcels, and requesting further favours. Expresses some views on Governor Bligh.
Requesting their signatures to "Addition of Bond of Union".
With 1810 'Birthday Ode.' (and copy of letter by King of Tahiti to missionaries) for insertion in Sydney Gazette.
Enclosing copy of request through Rev. Marsden to Governor Macquarie for a free pardon.
Encloses copy of petition to Governor Macquarie signed by Robert Campbell and others, for Grant's pardon. Also copy of Bligh's testimony and Grant's reply to him, 10 May 1810. (2 copies of this letter). Includes copy of promise to pay Sam Breakwell, 24 April 1810.
Advising proposed despatch with Commodore Blight of his six journals.
Grant is not yet pardoned but Macquarie has promised him such if he can arrange a voyage home. Grant is promised a passage home in the Springrove due to leave shortly, promised by Mr. Hook, Mr. Campbell's partner. As there is no more correspondence it is presumed he accepted this. Also in letter is 1810 Ode.
Also includes a version of the journal transcribed and translated by W.S. Hill-Reid, Joan O'Hagan and others. (4 files).
Press release by Commonwealth of Australia News and Information Bureau, Australia House, London, 14 October 1957 (Item 44)
Regarding the handing over of John Grant's papers to the Australian High Commissioner. There is also a news cutting about the presentation.