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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 7: A New Beginning

Extract

CHAPTER 7

A New Beginning

Confounded and not a little confused, Brown and his few supporters left the Town Hall. From early on in the project, Mayor Rand had encouraged its completion, explaining that it would, like as not, bring prestige to Bradford. Now, on the heels of the balloon’s failure, he was offering no support whatever; he had to all intents and purposes turned on Brown and marked him as a pariah. Brown sought some way to justify himself. Friends undertook to arrange a further meeting with the Mayor, but Brown needed to do something a little more immediate. For all the caustic tone employed by the Bradford Observer in reporting the destruction of the balloon, the editor had a soft spot for Brown and, unlike the Mayor, was convinced of his bona fides. A sympathetic paragraph had been appended to the newspaper report of the magisterial sitting called to deal with the rioters. In it, an anonymous reporter asserted that Brown had been following the accepted practices employed for a Montgolfier ascent. Brown was afforded an opportunity to explain the lack of drag ropes and grappling irons. This he did, stating that they would be useless in his craft, which relied on heat as the agent for ascent and descent. He was, however, careful not to comment on the lack of a top valve, a device he had insisted Hampton incorporate in the Dublin balloon.

Encouraged by this turn of events Brown...

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