A Flying Visit
T Hood / J Scott
Aeronautics, Invention, Instruments, Amusement, Astronomy, Comparative Philology, Meteorology, Prognostication, Charlatanry, Authorship, Expertise, Physics, Controversy
Thomas Monck Mason , Robert Hollond , Margaret Graham
The poem begins by reminding readers of the descent of an aeronaut from a balloon by means of a 'parasol thing', the preceding September (133). The description appears to be a slightly fictionalized or inaccurate allusion to the parachute descent of John Hampton at Cheltenham on 8 October 1838 (Rolt 1966). The illustration captioned 'An Air Pump' (facing 134) depicts a man descending rapidly in a basket attached to a parachute, clinging to the ropes with a grim expression, his sparse hair blown upwards, as his balloon floats away high into the sky. The question of where the liberated balloon might land was much discussed: 'Some held, but in vain / With the first heavy rain, / Twould surely come down to the Gardens again!' (134). The poet avers that 'The firm Gye and Hughes', proprietors of the Vauxhall Gardens and patrons of ballooning, 'Wore their boots out and shoes, / In running around and inquiring for news' (135). When at last the balloon descended six weeks later, it caused a great public sensation: 'off ran the folk,— / It is such a good joke / To see the descent of a bagful of smoke' (136). The illustration captioned 'Taking a Fly at a Watering-Place' (facing 138) depicts a gentleman chasing a butterfly with a net, his hat and wig falling off in the act of running into a pond. It was seen that there was a person aboard, and the observers speculated which of the leading aeronauts it might be. The figure was, however, of startling appearance, and spoke an incomprehensible language. John Bowring—'A Doctor well able, / Without any fable, / To talk and translate all the babble of Babel' (143)—acted as interpreter. The man introduced himself as 'the Lunatick Man, / Confined in the Moon since creation began', who, having found the 'Wind-Coach' on the 'horns of the moon', had decided to visit the earth (144). The illustration captioned 'The Music of the Spheres' (facing 144) depicts a black musician wearing a turban, and about to strike cymbals together. The man in the moon's visit was in part occasioned by his having 'heard of a profiting Prophet [i.e. Patrick Murphy] below [...] Who pretended to gather / The tricks that the Moon meant to play with the weather'. Being 'shortish of cash' he had decided to sell his own almanac to the trade. In addition, he had wanted to honour his 'friend Sir John Herschel', and had inscribed his almanac to his name, 'Which is now at the full in celestial fame'. (145) Some showmen sought to kidnap the man, but Bowring declared: 'You ignorant Turks! / You will be your own Burkes— / He holds all the keys of the lunary works! / You'd best let him go— / If you keep him below, / The moon will not change, and the tides will not flow' (146–47). As he left, the man threw down 'quite a flight / Of Almanacks, wishing to set us all right— / And, thanks to the boon, / We shall see very soon / If Murphy knows most, or the Man in the Moon!' (148). The illustration 'Losing Ground' (148) depicts two men fist-fighting, one having just knocked the other backwards into a frozen lake.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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