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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 15: Eliza’s Journey

Extract

CHAPTER 15

Eliza’s Journey

It was so strange that Charles and I should leave England on the same day, from different ports, on different ships. He did explain it all to me the reason why it should be so. There is no need for haste with respect to the children and myself, but Mr Coppin has given an undertaking to exhibit a balloon at his pleasure garden in Melbourne, to celebrate the New Year. I am sure I can manage on my own. Charles brought us to Plymouth on the Monday and then, having settled the passage for us, for which Mr Coppin had given the money, rushed off to get to Portsmouth for his ship. It was ₤15 for my steerage passage. Our ship is the Swiftsure, and it seems to be a fine vessel.1

Annie is such a help. She is, I think, enjoying being a little mother to Eugene, and Frederick has decided that he will have to be the man of the family, now that his father is not here. It was foggy when we sailed, so the last I saw of England was the harbour wall, shrouded in mist. Charles says that we will not be long away, just sufficient time for him to establish himself as a practical aeronaut. And while he speaks of exploring the interior of Australia, he has promised that we will return home within at least the next two years. I hope this will...

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