akashiver: (People who read too much!)

Researching the development of hot air balloons, I came across this lovely letter from Horace Walpole (inventor of the Gothic novel) geeking out about the new invention. For your amusement:

To Hon, H.S. Conway, Oct 15 1784,

"As I was writing this, my servants called me away to see a balloon... I saw it from the common field before the window of my round tower....

I chiefly amused myself with ideas of the change that would be made in the world by the substitution of balloons for ships. I supposed our seaports to become deserted villages; and Salisbury Plain, Newmarket Heath... and all downs... arising into dockyards for aerial vessels. Such a field would be ample in furnishing new speculations. But to come to my ship-news:--

[Walpole writes his version of ship news from a world of air ships]:

'The good balloon Daedalus, Captain Wing-ate, will fly in a few days for China; he will stop at the top of the Monument to take in passengers.

'Arrived on Brand-sands, the Vulture, Captain Nabob; the Tortoise snow, from Lapland; the Pet-en-l'air, from Versailles; the Dreadnought, from Mount Etna, Sir W. Hamilton, commander; the Tympany, Montgolfier; and the Mine-A-in-a-bandbox, from the Cape of Good Hope. Foundered in a hurricane, the Bird of Paradise, from Mount Ararat. The bubble, Sheldon, took fire, and was burnt down to her galley; and the Phoenix is to be cut down to a second-rate.'

In those days Old Sarum will again be a town and have houses in it. There will be fights in the air with wind-guns and bows and arrows; and there will be a prodigious increase of land for tillage, especially in France, by breaking up all public roads as useless. But enough of my fooleries; for which I am sorry you must pay double postage."

I rather wish Walpole had written his air balloon news story. It might have given him another "first." As it is, he'll just have to settle for being indirectly responsible for goths.


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December 2015

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