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GLDIII posted Orville Wright’s 1905 description of the sensations of flying. This reminded me of Fanny Kemble’s description of her first train ride, in 1830. First, here’s Orville:
When you know, after the first few minutes, that the whole mechanism is working perfectly, the sensation is so keenly delightful as to be almost beyond description. Nobody who has not experienced it for himself can realize it. It is a realization of a dream so many persons have had of floating in the air. More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace, mingled with the excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
And now, here’s Fanny:
You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses; and when I reflected that these great masses of stone had been cut asunder to allow our passage thus far below the surface of the earth, I felt as if no fairy tale was ever half so wonderful as what I saw. Bridges were thrown from side to side across the top of these cliffs, and the people looking down upon us from them seemed like pigmies standing in the sky… After proceeding through this rocky defile, we presently found ourselves raised upon embankments ten or twelve feet high; we then came to a moss, or swamp, of considerable extent, on which no human foot could tread without sinking, and yet it bore the road which bore us… We passed over it at the rate of five and twenty miles an hour, and saw the stagnant swamp water trembling on the surface of the soil on either side of us… It was lovely and wonderful beyond all words.
Fanny Kemble was a famous British actress and a gifted writer. She married an American and lived with him on his Georgia plantation; what she observed there caused her to become a strong opponent of slavery. She was an acute observer of American life and made many interesting comments. Fanny is definitely worth getting acquainted with; I reviewed and excerpted some of her work here.
Also, a longer excerpt of her description of the train journey appears in this post.