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The Unfortunate Endeavours of Charles Henry Brown

Aeronaut 1827–1870

Terence FitzSimons

This is the biography of a pioneer aeronaut, Charles Henry Brown, whose life-long obsession with aerostation took him from his native Great Britain to Australia and India. The story of his quest for recognition is deeply researched, while being told in an anti-generic mode – imagined dialogue, play scripts and speculative interventions.
To date Brown’s story has not been told in any great detail, and in the few instances where his achievements have been noted the records are marred by inaccuracies. While the story is prima facie an historical biography it also highlights the travail and frustrations faced by the early aviation pioneers – in an age of innovation and advancement they were viewed by many in the scientific community, and the general public, as being no more than providers of novelty entertainment. Brown never accepted this role and had a greater vision of the future of aviation.
Brown’s story also reflects the many interesting, and to us, peculiar aspects of contemporary Victorian society.
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Chapter 13: The Overland Route

Extract

CHAPTER 13

The Overland Route

Marseilles. Sunday, 18 October 1857. I am putting pen to paper to write in a style that is unfamiliar to me, as it is my intention to keep a diary of the journey from Marseilles to Melbourne.1 This being my first time abroad, I may claim it to be the journey of a lifetime, a claim which I previously made for my maiden voyage aloft. We are embarked on the RMS Cambria. It is a steamer of the Cunard fleet, but it has been chartered by the European and Australian Royal Mail Company. I am told we can travel at 9 knots, and if we can sustain that speed we will be at Malta post-haste. As I stood on the deck this evening after most of the passengers had gone below, I could not help reflecting on the good fortune which had secured for me this opportunity. The pity is that I am not able to undertake this adventure with my dear Eliza and the children. She has sailed on the Swiftsure from Plymouth. The ship was in port when I took Eliza there. It is a handsome steamer and will be on the high sea even as I write as it was scheduled to sail on the fifteenth of this month, the same day as we left Portsmouth, but Mr Coppin declined to take passage on it. He insisted that I travel with him on what he calls ‘this speediest...

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