Aerial Song Clippings (BL L.R.301. H.3, 060) and Lunardi’s Downfall and “Grand Triumphal Entry” (BL L.R.301. h.3 , 035r)
Aerial Song Clippings (BL L.R.301. H.3, 060)
The juxtapositions on this page of the scrapbook are especially interesting. All four clippings are songs or verses about balloon travel. Moving from left to right, the first two are identical, with the exception of the handwritten note on the second clipping which dictates the tune to which “A trip to France, or, the Aerial Voyage” should be sung. These clippings emphasize both the spectacle and the fancy of balloon travel. There is a lightheartedness to the verse, as it addresses itself to people “fond of recreation” and reassures them that they won’t be “drown’d” but, with the balloon, will be able to “dine at Dover” and then head to “France to tea.” The verses then describe a balloon crash in the most jovial terms with “hearty laughter” accompanying the balloon being “hamper’d and clinging to the tree.” In spite of this hiccup, the verse continues to encourage people to “prance, from england o’er to France” with the likes of the famous balloonist Blanchard. The song concludes by claiming that the show of the balloon will cause everyone to bid “adieu to Sadlers Wells” (the theatre also a subject of this particular scrapbook) and to find “recreation” in the air “Like fairy kings and queens.”
While these first two clippings show ballooning in its fancy and frivolity, the third clipping draws attention to the more disastrous aspects of balloon flight. While maintaining the levity of verse, “The Downfall of Arnold’s Balloon” describes the disastrous ascent of the “Royal George” balloon. The verses describe the balloon’s “burst” and Arnold’s (fortunate) fall into the water. What this clipping seems to highlight is the recreation to be found even amid such a disaster. The crowd watches the accident, declaring that Arnold’s “neck will be broke.” This declaration by a “gin-drinking dame” paints a crass picture of delight in the disastrous spectacle that builds upon earlier depictions of Lunardi’s “downfalls.”
The placement of the final clipping, “The Lady’s Balloon, or, Female Aerial Traveller,” after the two previous accounts of the frivolity and dangers of balloon flight emphasizes the bravery of Miss Simonet, who went up in a balloon with Mr. Blanchard in May, 1785. The verses speak to her courage and boldness. She is compared to a Greek goddess, showing the female aeronaut to seemingly find her destiny in the air. Sarah Sophia’s choice to place the clippings in this order significantly enhances the weight of this poem. Alone, it seems a light-hearted and fanciful depiction of Miss Simonet’s flight. When contrasted with the other clippings on the page detailing the spectacle of male balloon flights in terms of their delightful or disastrous consequences, this clipping stands out; it depicts balloon flight in a much nobler manner, characterized by the feminine grace of the female aeronaut.
Lunardi’s Downfall and “Grand Triumphal Entry” (BL L.R.301. h.3 , 035r)
This page of the scrapbook displays an interesting juxtaposition between clippings. The top clipping shows Lunardi’s downfall in Totnamcourt Road. Lunardi appears small in the balloon, surrounded by concerned spectators, as the balloon catches flame above. The image below, Lunardi’s Grand Triumphal Entry into Tottenham Court road taken on the spot, May 13, 1785,” shows Lunardi as a hero being lifted from his balloon by a joyous crowd. This illustration is accompanied by a poem in the lower corner that praises Lunardi as an Icarus-type figure. Though he was “plunged from the sky,” the heroics of his ascent are celebrated. These two clippings, juxtaposed by Sarah Sophia on this page, highlight not only contrasting print depictions of an event, a decision which speaks to larger concerns of information processing and mass media culture, but also the complexity of ballooning as spectacle. Much like the burning balloon in Lord Foley’s garden, Lunardi’s balloon is as much a celebrated spectacle in its success as in its failure.