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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 18: Aloft




When The Ballarat Times was circulated on Wednesday, 20 January 1856, it carried a notice to the effect that Gustavus Brooke would lay the foundation-stone of the Theatre Royal at the building site on Sturt Street. The ceremony was set for three o’clock and was calculated not to clash with any of the Governor’s engagements. The attendance of all was solicited, especially ‘shareholders, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dramatic Profession, Members of the Garrick Club, and Literary and Dramatic Society’. A special platform was erected for the exclusive use of the ladies.

As Dunne had warned, the advertisements for Green’s balloon ascent also appeared in The Ballarat Times. And, like as not to Brooke’s annoyance, it was placed directly under the Theatre Royal announcement.1 At least he had secured the co-operation of the two hotel proprietors and successfully grounded the proposed balloon ascents.2 So, despite his present irritation, the overall result had been a satisfactory one, and the whole incident could be made into an amusing story to relate to Coppin, when he got back to Melbourne.

At the appointed time hundreds of spectators gathered on Sturt Street to watch their favourite thespian in action, and Brooke made a good production of the affair. When the large foundation stone was in position, he jumped onto it and launched into a vigorous speech. He pronounced the people of Ballarat to be ‘men of marvellous energy’. This went down very well...

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