Biographical Note of Sir Francis Beaufort
Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857) was the son of Daniel Augustus Beaufort (1739-1821), rector of Collon, Co. Louth, Ireland,
and a geographer, and Mary Waller Beaufort. His grandfather, Daniel Cornelius de Beaufort,
had been a Huguenot refugee from France who established a ministry in London, and his family's consciousness of its religious
heritage was very strong.
He was first sent to sea in 1789 on the Vansittart, commanded by Lestock Wilson, to whose family he became very close, and
whose daughter, Alicia Magdalena, became his first wife in 1813.
Subsequently, he entered the British navy, and from 1790-1800 served successively on the Latona, the Aquilon, and the Phaeton;
the latter's commander (Sir) Robert Stopford became a close
professional acquaintance. During these years his closest confidant was his older brother, William Lewis Beaufort, who took
orders and served under Thomas St. Lawrence, Dean of Cork
(marrying the Dean's daughter in 1805).
Active in the sea war against France, in particular Cornwallis's retreat (1795), Beaufort became Lieutenant in 1796, and,
following a near-fatal wounding in a battle with the Spanish,
November, 1800, he was promoted Commander. He was not given a command, however, and, invalided home, he lived with his family.
He became close to Richard Lovell Edge-worth, inventor and
landowner, father of the novelist Maria Edgeworth, and husband (after 1798) of Francis's sister, Frances (Fanny). Beaufort
and Edgeworth worked on projects including the Dublin-Galway
semaphore telegraph (1803-04), until 1805, when he was named commander of the storeship H.M.S. Woolwich. Only in 1809, after
much frustrations over his eventless command (although in 1807
he did his first major hydrographical work, surveying the Rio de la Plata), did he get an active command, that of the H.M.S.
Blossom. Soon after his return on the Blossom from a mission to Quebec,
in 1810, Beaufort was given post rank, and assigned command of the frigate, H.M.S. Frederiksteen. From his base on Malta,
during 1810-1812 Beaufort conducted surveys geographical and
hydrographical of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Karamania (the south Turkish coast). He was again grievously wounded
in June, 1812, and returned home, marrying
Alicia, living quietly, and writing his widely acclaimed book
Karamania, or a Brief Description of the South Coast of Asia Minor... (1817), based on his survey. His researches
and book earned him membership in the Royal Society, in which he was active throughout his life, and access to the scientific
circles of England, which included such luminaries as
Sir Humphry Davy. He was much involved in plans for the establishment of mining and other industries in Ireland, and with
his father's revisions of his map of Ireland and financial
troubles, until Daniel's death in 1821.
In 1829, after years of petitioning for reactivation in the Navy, Beaufort was named Hydrographer to the Navy. Until his retirement
in 1854, this position was his constant concern.
He expanded its staff and physical facilities, established surveys over the entire globe, and served on many naval commissions.
Deeply affected by his wife's tragic death in 1834,
he found support in closeness to his children: Daniel Augustus, Francis Lestock, William Morris, Emily Anne Sophia, and Rosalind
Elizabeth. In 1839 he remarried, his new wife being
Honora, daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth. In 1846 he was named Rear Admiral (ret.), and knighted in 1848. His retirement
was accompanied by unfortunate and painful quarrels over
the amount of his annuity.
Sir Francis had spent his early married life at Lestock Wilson's house at Epping, Surrey. As hydrographer, he lived on Manchester
St., London; he passed his last days at Brighton.
At his death on December 17, 1857, he was survived by all six of his children.
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains the papers of British admiral and hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort
and members of the Beaufort and Edgeworth families dating from 1710-1953 (bulk 1780-1890)
and consisting of diaries, journals, account books and correspondence. Subject matter
includes the Beaufort and Edgeworth families; British naval history of the late 18th and
early 19th centuries, in particular the period of the Napoleonic Wars; geography and
hydrography, particularly of the Eastern Mediterranean; Irish affair of the late 18th and
early 19th centuries, particularly related to economic and commercial issues; and the Royal
Society and scientific affairs in England in the early 19th century.
The bulk of the collection is comprised of the papers of Sir Francis and includes journals of
his naval service (1791-1812); journals, notes, and working papers for his survey of
Karamania (or Caramania), along the southern coast of Turkey (1813-1817); his professional
diaries as hydrographer to the British Navy (1840-1857); and 854 letters by Sir Francis.
Notable topics included in the correspondence of Sir Francis includes a letter-journal of
his first sea-voyage, to Indonesia (1789, July 24); a description of the Battle of San
Joseph, in which he was critically wounded (1800, Oct. 28); letters to Richard Lovell
Edgeworth detailing the construction of the Dublin-Galway telegraph (1803) and later
discussing various projects for navigation mensuration (1808, May 5); commentary at length
on the death of Lord Nelson (1805, Nov. 9); a voyage to Cape of Good Hope (1806, May 16-22);
Malta (1808, Oct. 21); Quebec and French Canada (1809, Oct.-Nov.); and an explanation of a
naval cause celebre in which he opposed the Admiralty by asserting that an escaped slave
that had served 2 years on his ship was by definition enfranchised (1814, Feb. 3); a visit
with Sir Walter Scott (1821, Apr. 23); the intellectual community in Paris (Laplace, Cuvier,
etc.) (1825, Nov. 4); an eyewitness description of the Coronation of William IV (1831, Sep.
9); Sir Francis's knighthood ceremony (1848, May 7); and attempts to locate Sir John
Franklin by balloon (1850, Jan. 9).
Notable correspondence about science written to Beaufort includes:
- Brinkley, John. Letters describing astronomical research 1824-1829.
- Dalrymple, Alexander. Series of letters concerning activities of the
Hydrographical office, etc. 1805-1808.
- Franklin, Sir John. Two letters from northern Canada describing his explorations.
1825, Apr. 21; 1826, Feb. 6
- Hall, Basil. Series of letters to Sir Francis Beaufort describing efforts to
salvage the Royal George using a diving bell. 1839, Sep.-Oct.
- Herschel, Sir John Frederick William. Letter discussing his career, his election
as president of the Royal Society, and issues facing the Society. 1830, Nov.
- Parry, Sir William. Letter from Davis Strait describing problems of mensuration in
polar regions. 1824, July 1.
- Ussher, Henry. Letter discussing astronomical research. 1789, Nov. 6.
In addition to the papers of Sir Francis, the collection also includes the papers of other
members of the Beaufort family including thirty-seven letters and four diaries of Sir
Francis's father, Daniel Augustus Beaufort; seventeen letters and a journal of family
history by Sir Francis's first wife, Alicia Magdalena Wilson Beaufort (d. 1834); a volume of
original botanical watercolor paintings by Frances Anne Beaufort Edgeworth (1769-1865); and
correspondence with and about writer Maria Edgeworth, including a series of letters from her
to Sir Francis discussing literary maters and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge, dating from 1814-1827. There are also two letters by Sir Francis describing in
detail the critical response to Maria Edgeworth's
Patronage (1814, Feb. 3),
and a letter discussing details of the publication of Edgeworth's novel
Ormond (1817, June 12). Additional family correspondents include: William
Lewis Beaufort (21 letters); Frances Anne Beaufort Edgeworth (3 letters); and Richard Lovell
Edgeworth (7 letters). The oldest item in the collection is a grant of nobility to Francis
de Beaufort (Sir Francis's ancestor) from Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I Hapsburg, dated March
Some interesting or important items include:
- Allott, Anna Maria. Memoirs of Edward Gibbon's residence in Switzerland
[fragment]. c. 1794.
- Beaufort, Emily Anne and Beaufort, Rosalind Elizabeth. Manuscript entitled
Anecdotes of Captain Beaufort, R.N., compiled by his daughters. 1840-42.
- Blennerhasset, Jeanne. Series of letters giving fascinating insight into the early
life of Daniel Augustus Beaufort. 1764-1775.
- Hillyar, Mary Taylor. Letter describing last days of Sir James Hillyar. 1843, Oct.
29. Accompanied by three letters of Sir James Hillyar.
- Lennon, Maria. Series of letters chronicling her dramatic rescue by Sir Francis
Beaufort and her loyalty to his memory decades afterwards. 1809-1843.
- Melville, Sir Peter Melville (also spelled Melvill). Series of letters describing
his travels from India to Egypt, Turkey, Vienna. 1832, Jan. 5-Aug. 23.
Some additional significant persons represented in the collection include: Sir Thomas Dyke
Acland (2 letters); Thomas Arnold (7 letters); Sir Joseph Banks (3 letters); Sir John Barrow
(9 letters); William Bligh (1 letter); Robert Cadell (3 letters); Stratford Canning (7
letters); Charles Robert Cockerell (4 letters); Cuthbert Collingwood (2 letters); John
Wilson Croker (12 letters); Sir Roger Curtis (2 letters); Sir Humphrey Davy (1 letter);
James Gambier, Baron Gambier (1 letter); Davies Gilbert (5 letters); Sir Charles Hamilton (4
letters); Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1 letter); Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1
letter); John Jervis, Earl of St. Vincent (1 letter); Alicia Le Fanu (1 letter); Edward
Hawke Locker (2 letters); Sir Thomas Erskine May (2 letters); Sir James Nicoll Morris (2
letters); Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1 letter); Horatio Nelson (1 letter); Sir William
Edward Parry (2 letters); Sir Edward Pellew (7 letters); Lady Jane Spencer-Wilson Perceval
(2 letters); Sir Henry Prescott (2 letters); James Rennell (29 letters); George Cecil
Renouard (4 letters); Elisabeth-Paul-Edouard, Chevalier de Rossel (3 letters); Sir James
South (4 letters); Thomas Spring-Rice (1 letter); Leslie Stephen (1 letter); Sir Robert
Stopford (4 letters); Victoria, Queen of Great Britain (2 letters); Robert Walpole (7
letters); Sir John Borlase Warren (2 letters); John Washington (4 letters); William
Wellesley-Pole, 1st Baron Maryborough (2 letters); Joseph Blanco White (1 letter); Lestock
Wilson (12 letters).