Title: Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Author: F. Bruce Sampson

Publication details: Reed Methuen, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: F. Bruce Sampson

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Early New Zealand Botanical Art

After the voyage

After the voyage

By 1778 J. R. Forster was considerably in debt and there was a very real danger that he might be imprisoned. George, now twenty-three, boarded a ship for Holland and Germany, without his father's blessing, in the hope that he could find a suitable job for his father and himself. He received a warm welcome in both Holland and Germany and accepted, after first trying to obtain the position for his father, the professorship of natural history at the Collegium Carolinium in Cassel. He continued to seek employment for his father and spent five weeks in Berlin trying to arrange his father's release from debts in England and a position for him in Germany. Finally, through the interest of Karl von Zedlitz, Frederick the Great's Minister for Education and Culture, the post of professor of natural history and mineralogy was obtained for Johann at the University of Halle, his alma mater. The university had been rather in the doldrums, and Forster's appointment was one of several made to lift academic standards. Johann Forster was a member of the masonic lodge, and a scheme was instituted to raise money from the masonic lodges in Germany — about £1,000 was needed — to secure Forster's release from London. This was achieved with the help of Frederick the Great's brother-in-law, Duke Ferdinand, Grand Master of the masonic orders. After his pride and stubbornness were overcome, J. R. Forster, now fifty, took his family by ship to Hamburg in July 1780.

Johann Forster spent the rest of his days in Halle. With such a man, life inevitably had its ups and downs and at times Forster tried to obtain employment elsewhere. He mellowed a little and eventually "was far from forgotten, certainly not neglected and was more popular and respected in Halle than on the eve of his arrival" (Hoare, 1975). Both Forsters translated page 46 many books on travel and natural history in the last decades of the eighteenth century. Some of these contained footnotes by the Forsters that recorded observations they had made on the second voyage. J. R. Forster also co-edited some children's books on natural history, and George translated an account of Cook's third voyage into German. Johann Reinhold Forster died in Halle, 9 December 1798.

George Forster had left Cassel in 1783 and moved to Wilna in Lithuania, where he was employed by the Polish Government as professor of natural history at the university. In 1789 he married Therese Heyne, daughter of a classical scholar in Gottingen. George's father-in-law became a father figure to him. In 1788 George Forster and family moved to Mainz, when he obtained the post of librarian at the university. The Forsters had four children, one a son who died in infancy. George Forster's last years were unhappy ones. In 1792 Mainz was captured by the French. George, with his liberal views, joined the provisional government, to his father's dismay. His wife, who had been having an affair with Ludwig Huber, secretary to the Saxon embassy in Mainz, left with the children to join Huber, then in Frankfurt. George Forster became a citizen of the French Republic and moved to Paris, with a price on his head. He became disgusted with the excesses of the Revolution and died, poverty striken, in Paris in January 1794 and was buried in an unmarked grave. He was outlived by his father by four years.