October 1822: the hapless Monsieur Mugnier, aeronaut
Fortunately, judging by his other attempts, Monsieur Mugnier did not actually send himself a kilometre up in his balloon, as he threatened to do.
The Star October 22nd, 1822
MR MUGNIER, Aeronaut, &c., has the honour to acquaint the public, that he will shortly exhibit the ascension of a Balloon, of 24 feet in height, and 42 in circumference. The Balloon is to ascend at random, and is to carry a living animal to the height of 500 toises,1 which will descend in a parachute. Due notice will be given of the particulars of the ascension, as well as the time and place of exhibition.
The Star October 29th, 1822
M. MUGNIER, Aeronaut, &c. &c., anxious to merit the approbation of the Inhabitants of this island, has the honour to acquaint them that, owing to the unfavourable state of the weather, he has been under the necessity of postponing the ascension of his BALLOON to tomorrow, at 2 o’clock precisely or, if that day should also prove unpropitious, the exhibition will be further postponed to the ensuing Saturday.
An operation of this description must take place on a calm day, and the sky should be serene, in order to enable the amateurs of this delightful art to enjoy the sight of the Balloon as long as possible; and to observe the effect produced by the descent of the Parachute, a department in Aerostatics never before attempted in this island.
Mr Mugnier flatters himself that his talents will secure him a continuance of that public approbation, which he has obtained in the various countries he has visited. The certificates of which he is the bearer have been presented to the Royal Court, and to several gentlemen in this island.
NB The ascension will take place in a yard occupied by Mr. Martin, Livery-stable keeper, New-Town, of which due notice will be given by the town crier.
The gates are to be opened at one o’clock. First seats, 10d.; Second do., 6d. Tickets to be had of H. Brouard, Printer.
The Star November 5th, 1822
Mr Mugnier the Aeronaut, by dint of advertisements and posting bills, succeeded in attracting a considerable crowd at New-Town on Wednesday, to witness the expected ascent of his balloon, and the descent of a living animal in the parachute; but the weather proving unfavourable, the exhibition was unavoidably postponed. On the ensuing day, notice being given that he intended to make the attempt, persons moved slowly, yet doubtingly, towards the spot; the greater number however stayed away, unwilling to have their patience a second time put to the test. The crowd, though not yet so great as on the preceding day, was yet adequate to satisfy the moderate expectations of the humble artist, had each contributed his mite; but a very small proportion paid the money demanded. Some, acting on an economical plan of satisfying their curiosity, quietly posted themselves on an adjacent wall, notwithstanding the bitter taunts and jeers of the artist’s fair assistants; (fair by courtesy,) others covered the roofs of the remaining houses; while a few, still more ambitious of ascending, though, like some of their betters, not very particular as to the cleanliness of obtaining their object, perched themselves on the chimney tops. A numerous band of Frenchmen of a certain stamp were in attendance, and vainly endeavoured to impart to the crowd without the gate, their assumed notion of propriety of behaviour. The artist at length made his appearance: he presented another lamentable proof, that a whole life spent in the study of the art of rising is, at best, but an uncertain mode of securing a provision for old age.
Preparations were now made for the long-expected exhibition; the balloon was raised, and one of the feline tribe fastened to the frail machinery. This animal, like his ancestor in the memorable days of Whittington, appeared destined to raise his master to a state of opulence and splendour, and to figure in history; for the aeronaut, apprized no doubt of the present rage for voyages and travels, had projected the publication of a voyage through the upper regions, and had already calculated the expected wealth to a fraction, when lo! An envious gust of wind burst the balloon! So unhappy a catastrophe, in one unlucky moment annihilated the hopes of him who had been blest with the smiles of the crowned heads of Europe, and honoured with their certificates of his successful talents.
No sooner had the disaster become known outside the gate, and that the cat had postponed appearing in the character of an aerial traveller, than the crowd determined to wreak their vengeance on some of his family. A second cousin of the intended exhibitor, whom an unlucky curiosity had tempted to the fatal spot, was seized without mercy, and inhumanely tossed in the air; and at every toss, one of the nine threads which formed his whipcord destiny was severed, until the cruel sisters had cut it right through. The people within were rather more rational; they limited their recreations to a hearty laugh at some of the company who narrowly escaped being hurt by a fall; and with a few exceptions, to the demand of a restitution of the trifle of entrance money from the disappointed, and seemingly destitute, aeronaut.
The Star November 12th, 1822
Mr Mugnier’s balloon ascended on Thursday; and, although the weather was not as favourable as might have been wished, he was eminently successful. A sea-gull was placed in the parachute, in which it fell perfectly unhurt near the New-Ground, from a considerable elevation. Owing to previous disappointments, and other causes, but few persons witnessed the ascension. It is said that the aeronaut purposes ascending in person, should he be able to raise a subscription sufficiently large to defray his expenses.
The Star November 19th, 1822
We refer our readers to our advertising columns for an appeal to their curiosity, as well as their better feelings, from Mr Mugnier, the disappointed aeronaut. We know him to be in the most distressed circumstances, and can conscientiously recommend him to the consideration of benevolent persons.
Mr. Mugnier, Aeronaut, anxious to merit the approbation of the inhabitants of Guernsey, and to render his talents generally known, has the honour, at the request of a considerable number of persons, to offer to the amateurs in his art, by subscription, to exhibit the ascension of a balloon 24 feet in height, and 42 in circumference, to which will be attached a superb artificial crown, ornamented with rays of Bengal flame. These rays surpass snow in whiteness, and their brilliancy presents to the spectators the lustre of the diamond.
From the same balloon will descend magical stars and various artificial fireworks, representing the effects of a volcano. Whatever has been written in fairy tales of the marvellous effects of palaces of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds, will be realised in this exhibition.
Mr M., inventor of this description of ascensions, attempted the first on 28th June 1794, at the Tivoli gardens in Paris, where he received the most flattering praise from the public, that just judge of the arts.
His intention in commencing this subscription is solely to secure the expenses of the experiment, having been disappointed in his first attempt; and likewise to afford the public the gratification of a coup d’oeil of an extraordinary nature, never witnessed in this island. To remove all suspicion, he gives notice that the subscription money shall be deposited in the hands of the Printer of THE STAR and MERCURE: and as soon as the subscription will enable him to defray the expense, due notice will be given at the time and place of exhibition.
The Star March 25th 1823
By Authority of the Royal Court Mr MUGNIER has the honour to acquaint the public that, on this present Tuesday, at seven o’clock in the evening, he will let off FIREWORKS of the most brilliant description, on the New-Ground.
The price of places not being fixed upon, each person will contribute at pleasure.
¹ One toise was approximately two metres.