Tom Keymer on Samuel Johnson and ballooning.
I've had this one bookmarked for some days: it's appealing to me in its own right, because I love Samuel Johnson and I also love the early history of ballooning, but it also caused me to think very intensely of Wendy, who would have turned fifty-three today.
Wendy had cherished for many years a plan to have breakfast near Tiffany's, namely an expedition to the famous Manhattan jewelry emporium! There we saw, among an inconceivable array of wonders, one very lovely piece of jewelry that has stuck with me. I will quote from Wendy's own description of it, because she had a precision of observation and notation that I cannot command when it comes to such things: "A pear shaped peacock tahitian mounted upside down inside a gold netted framework — it was a hot air balloon pendant." It really was extraordinary - it was the most delicate and beautiful thing, very much in the spirit of the Faberge eggs which are the only jeweled thing I could say I actually have an emotional relationship with (they, too, represent a twentieth-century reimagining of an eighteenth-century tradition), and powerfully evoked that strange science-fictional spirit of early aerialism.