Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Lot of Gas…or Was It?

My dear nephew (thanks, Ian!) sent me the following item, which first appeared in the Northampton Mercury on July 23, 1808, and again on the blog of the website britishnewpaperarchive.co.uk roughly two hundred years later. I cannot vouch for its veracity (one of the principals being named "Monsieur Le Pique" does ring a few quiet BS-o-meter alarms in my head), but by gosh, what a story!

I’ll let you be the judge:

Novel Duel.—A very novel species of duel has lately taken place at Paris. M. Grandpree and M. Le Pique having quarreled about Mademoiselle Tirevit, a celebrated opera dancer, who was kept by the former, but was discovered in an intrigue with the latter, a challenge ensued. Being both men of elevated minds, they agreed to fight in balloons, and in order to give time for their preparation, it was determined that the duel should take place on that day month. Accordingly on the 3rd of May the parties met in a field adjoining the Tuilleries [sic], where their respective balloons were ready to receive them. Each, attended by his second, ascended his car, loaded with blunderbusses, as pistols could not be expected to be efficient in their probable situations. A multitude attended, hearing of the balloons, but little dreaming of the purpose: the Parisians merely looked for the novelty of a balloon race. At nine o’clock the cords were cut, and the balloons ascended majestically amidst the shouts of the spectators. The wind was moderate, blowing from the north north west, and they kept, as far as could be judged, within about 80 yards of each other. When they had mounted to the height of about 900 yards, M. Le Pique fired his piece ineffectually; almost immediately after the fire was returned by M. Grandpree, and penetrated his adversary’s balloon; the consequence of which was its rapid descent, and M. Le Pique and his second were both dashed to pieces on a house-top, over which the balloon fell. The victorious Grandpree then mounted aloft in the grandest style, and descended safe, with his second, about seven leagues from the spot of ascension.

See the original post here: https://blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/2012/08/24/the-first-duel-fought-in-hot-air-balloons-paris-1808/

What do you think? Did it really happen, or did an editor at the Northampton Mercury think that the July 23 issue needed a little sprucing up and concocted the tale out of whole cloth, journalistic rigor not yet having the importance it does in modern times?

Whether it did or not, dear readers, this is what makes studying history so much fun!

1 comment:

Regina Scott said...

Oh, my word! I can certainly see the potential. The spectacle, the drama! And the French were a bit ahead of the English when it came to the science of ballooning, so it is possible two balloons could be inflated and rise over Paris in 1808. And I suppose the names could have been changed to protect the ahem innocent. What a prize to find, though! I love history!