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It would appear that, in almost every age,
from time immemorial, there has been a strong
feeling in certain ambitious mortals to ascend
among the clouds. They have felt with

"Oh what a dainty pleasure 'tis
To sail in the air!"

So many, besides those who have actually
indulged in it, have felt desirous of tasting
the "dainty pleasure" of a perilous flight,
that we are compelled to believe that the
attraction is not only much greater than the
inducement held out would lead one to expect,
but that it is far more extensive than generally
supposed. Eccentric ambition, daring, vanity,
and the love of excitement and novelty, have
been quite as strong impulses as the love of
science, and of making new discoveries in
man's mastery over physical nature. Nevertheless,
the latter feeling has, no doubt, been
the main-stay, if not the forerunner and
father of these attempts, and has held it in
public respect, notwithstanding the many follies
that have been committed.

To master the physical elements, has always
been the great aim of man. He commenced
with earth, his own natural, obvious, and
immediate element, and he has succeeded to
a prodigious extent, being able to do (so far
as he knows) almost whatever he wills with
the surface; and, though reminded every now
and then by some terrible disaster that he
is getting "out of bounds," has effected great
conquests amidst the dark depths beneath the
surface. Water and fire came next in
requisition; and by the process of ages, man may
fairly congratulate himself on the extraordinary
extent, both in kind and degree, to
which he has subjected them to his designs-
designs which have become complicated and
stupendous in the means by which they are
carried out, and having commensurate results
both of abstract knowledge and practical,
utility. But the element of air has hitherto
been too subtle for all his projects, and defied
his attempts at conquest. That element
which permeates all earthly bodies, and without
breathing which the animal machine cannot
continue its vital functions,- into that grand
natural reservoir of breath, there is every
physical indication that it is not intended man
should ascend as its lord. Travelling and
voyaging man must be content with earth
and ocean;—the sublime highways of air, are,
to all appearance, denied to his wanderings.

Wild and daring as was the act, it is no less
true that men's first attempts at a flight
through the air were literally with wings.
They conjectured that by elongating their
arms with a broad mechanical covering, they
could convert them into wings; and forgetting
that birds possess air-cells, which they can inflate,
that their bones are full of air instead of
marrow, and, also, that they possess enormous
strength of sinews expressly for this purpose,
these desperate half-theorists have launched
themselves from towers and other high places,
and floundered down to the demolition of their
necks, or limbs, according to the obvious laws
and penalties of nature. We do not allude
to the Icarus of old, or any fabulous or remote
aspirants, but to modern times. Wonderful
as it may seem, there are some instances
in which they escaped with only a few broken
bones. Milton tells a story of this kind in
his "History of Britain;" the flying man
being a monk of Malmsbury, "in his youth."
He lived to be impudent and jocose on the
subject, and attributed his failure entirely
to his having forgotten to wear a broad tail
of feathers. In 1742 the Marquis de Bacqueville
announced that he would fly with wings
from the top of his own house on the Quai des
Theatins to the gardens of the Tuileries. He
actually accomplished half the distance, when,
being exhausted with his efforts, the wings no
longer beat the air, and he came down into
the Seine, and would have escaped unhurt,
but that he fell against one of the floating
machines of the Parisian laundresses, and
thereby fractured his leg. But the most
successful of all these instances of the extraordinary,
however misapplied, force of human
energies and daring, was that of a certain
citizen of Bologna, in the thirteenth century,
who actually managed, with some kind of
wing contrivance, to fly from the mountain of
Bologna to the river Reno, without injury.
"Wonderful! admirable!" cried all the
citizens of Bologna. "Stop a little!" said
the officers of the Holy Inquisition; "this
must be looked into." They sat in sacred
conclave. If the man had been killed, said