This is the third biography of the nineteenth-century Polish explorer to appear in the past en years. Unfortunately, it adds little to the established facts, and by imposing a high-minded revaluation of the character merely blears its outlines. According to Miss Heney. Strzelecki „is less suitable for hero-worship, and more entitled to pity”. This leads to a somewhat presumptuous implication that Poles, and particular, have squandered their patriotic admiration on a dubious success story.
Miss Heney does not deny that there was worldly success in the story of Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki, but she naggingly chides him even for qualities like social charm and loyalty to his adopted country, which seem hardly punishable by any moral law. Psychological interpretation, too is used to colour the facts with bias and it is a very naive kid of psychology. Already as a small child in Poland the future explorer of Australia was apparently striking false attitudes, for Miss Heney can see far in a dark glass:
He published the first map of Gippsland and its description which helped to open up this fertile part of Victoria. He produced the first large geological map of Eastern Australia and Tasmania. His book „Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land”, published in London in 1845, gained the praise of Charles Darwin and other scientists. It was an unsurpassed source of knowledge on Australia for at least forty-five years.
In 1845 Strzelecki was naturalised in England. During the great famine in Ireland, in the years 1846-1848 he offered his services to the British Relief Association. He devoted himself to the relief with great dedication and success.
For the important services rendered in Ireland, the British Government nominated Strzelecki one of the first Civil Companions of the Bath, bestowed on him on 21st November 1848. In the words of Lord Overstone he had, indeed, afforded „abundant proof that he possessed those high moral qualities which the British public always hold in the highest esteem”.
Many Australians are direct descendents of the British emigrants who came to this country thanks to the help of the Family Colonisation Loan Society, originated by Carolyne Chisholm.
Strzelecki was, for many years, an active member of this Society and in 1854 was its Chairman, fulfilling his duties with great zeal. He was also an esteemed member of Lord Herbert’s Emigration Committee and of the Duke of Wellington's Emigration Committee. He was, as well, a member of the Crimean Army Fund Committee. At the end of this campaign he accompanied Lord Lyons on a visit to Sevastopol. Strzelecki was also associated with Florence Nightingale and helped her in facilitating the publication of a series of her articles.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in May 1853, and one month later he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. On 20th June 1860, Strzelecki received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford, for his „five years' exploration of Australia, the discovery of gold, the discovery of new territory… and the construction of topographical and geological maps …”.
Strzelecki had a great vision for the future of Australia. He was one of the first men concerned with the Australian ecology, the first man who advocated the most ambitious plans for large scale irrigation in New South Wales and Tasmania. He foretold a bright future for the Australian wool industry. He was the first man who proposed to organise a vast geological survey in Australia as early as 1845. There are about twenty geographical features bearing his name in Australia and one in Canada.
Strzelecki died in London on 6th October 1873 and the famous British politician and Prime Minister, William Gladstone, paid him a final tribute when visiting him personally at his death bed. Strzelecki was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery.
The grave was damaged by a German bomb in 1940. It was later restored by the Australian and Polish Governments.
The Times Literary Supplement, London, June 1, 1962, p.414.