The Sin of Height
An Excerpt from Levels of Lifeby Julian Barnes
You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice at the time, but that doesn’t matter. The world has been changed nonetheless.
Colonel Fred Burnaby of the Royal Horse Guards, member of the Council of the Aeronautical Society, took off from the Dover Gasworks on March 23, 1882, and landed halfway between Dieppe and Neufchâtel.
Sarah Bernhardt had taken off from the center of Paris four years previously, and landed near Emerainville in the département of Seine-et-Marne.
Félix Tournachon had taken off from the Champ de Mars in Paris on October 18, 1863; after being driven east by a gale for seventeen hours, he crash-landed close to a railway line near Hanover.
Fred Burnaby traveled alone, in a red-and-yellow balloon called the Eclipse. Its basket was five feet long, three feet wide, and three feet high. Burnaby weighed seventeen stone, wore a striped coat and a close skullcap, and to protect his neck from the sun made a puggaree of his handkerchief. He took with him two beef sandwiches, a bottle of Apollinaris mineral water, a barometer to measure altitude, a thermometer, a compass, and a supply of cigars.