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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 4: Trouble




The Illustrated London News, 13 October 1849, carried a front-page item under the heading, ‘British Adventure.’ It was fulsome in its praise of the spirit of the British as ‘messengers of civilisation’ and as a race which had done more than almost any other people towards the extension of geographical and scientific knowledge. The article, after more effusiveness, then got to the point:

The long absence of Sir John Franklin … has excited in the public mind an affectionate and deep interest, amounting at last to a painful solicitude for his fate and that of the brave men who share his perils and glory.

The Admiralty was urged to mount one more rescue expedition to search for those foolhardy explorers who had set off in search of the North-West Passage over four years earlier. Further, Lady Franklin was offering a reward for information leading to the rescue of her husband and his crew, or for any news relating to the missing vessels, HMS Erebus and Terror.

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