Sunday, January 7, 2018

'Flight' from NoelW: Napoleonic Archipelago

Surprisingly little is known about Mary Wollstonecraft’s journey with her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, across Europe in early 1815, on their way, as it turned out, to stay with Lord George Gordon Byron in Geneva the following year. There she was destined to write her frighteningly convincing first novel, “Frankenstein”, in which life is restored to the dead.

Not much is known, either, about the extent to which she inducted Shelley into her twin – but, it would seem, related – interests: in the novel science of paleontology and the somewhat less scientific speculations on the animation of living tissue through the application of galvanic energies. He had been, of course, particularly interested in creation myths and, indeed, in Natural Forces in general – witness his expulsion from Oxford for keeping a pet bear in his rooms. What is, however, well known, is that these interests, once kindled, grew rapidly, so much so a later genius of another generation, Charles Darwin, dedicated his “Origin of the Species” to the Shelleys.

We also know that early in their European wanderings the Shelleys spent several weeks in a farmhouse near Brussels. And we’ve scrappy records in Mary’s journal of days spent happily rooting in the limestone quarries that dot the lowlands of that region, prising “stone worms” and “rocks near the shape of ancient eggs” from the white pits and chalky cliffs.

As the chateau of Hougoumont lies in the heart of Belgic fossil country, is it unreasonable to suggest that this was the “farmhouse” where they spent this time? Might their tentative experiment applying tendrils of “galvanic current” to the apparently lifeless relics of ancient creatures have been conducted in the very stables where fierce conflict would rage only a few months in the future? Is it then unreasonable to further suggest that, in order to lighten their load for further travelling, they many of those finds and nascent experiments in these barns and sheds? And is it so far fetched consequently to speculate that perhaps, some of their experimentation had in fact, proved surprisingly successful?

If so, we might have an explanation for the so-called “flying dragon” so many claimed to have sighted on that fateful battlefield of June 18th, veering into and out of the smoke-filled skies? Might those sketches made by Ensign Frederick Davis on that day, so often subsequently dismissed as the nightmare imaginings of a delicate consciousness sent awry by the horrors of war, have here found a plausible, even rational explanation?

So that you, dear reader, can decide from the evidence uninfluenced by the prejudices of the narrow-minded and complacent, we reproduce those sketches below …

The “flying dragon” pteranadon is a plastic toy from Poundland, which actually takes paint surprisingly well, even though the detail is not that well defined, I was pleased how nicely it’s come out. The two Napoleonic figures in flight before it, are Major Thomas Reignolds of the Scots Greys, and Major de Lacey Evans (both of whom died on the field of Waterloo in unclear circumstances). They’re by the excellent Perrys. I was very pleased with these, though didn’t manage to get a decent photo of de Lacey Evans.

The setup was just a silly idea to give me an entry for the theme, with a flying monster (who will appear when I get my Frostgrave/Ghost Archipelago game going, and progress on the Napoleonic collection, with two junior offers in flight before the enemy. (Do I get twice the points for submitting two different meanings of the word?) But now I'm wondering about a whole new setting, of Napoleonic prehistorics...

2 X 28mm cavalry figures: 20 points, 1 x pteranadon in no particular scale: 5 points, perhaps?


  1. I love this entry. The whole absent-minded-Shelly's-on-a-science-tour premise just cracks me up. Also, excellent work on both the cavalrymen and the pteranadon. Two thumbs up!

  2. That was a great read, backed up with some wonderful painting!

  3. Love that purple-blue shading!

  4. Funny monster and fun idea in general!

  5. A combination never before seen, that is absolutely guaranteed; great entry, Noel, a real standout!

  6. Great idea and wonderful back story!

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  8. Wacky and fantastic story, and great painting. I really enjoyed your submission, thanks Noel!

  9. Very humorous tale, Noel! The Shelley's seem to be somewhat absent-minded on their experiments!
    Nice work on the Dino toy, I suspect the wizards and attendants will have a bit of bother with it! ;)

  10. I like this!
    Reminds me of a series (trilogy?) of fantasy/historical / what if novels set in Napoleonic times but with dragons ..... Naomi Novik’s “ His Majesty’s Dragon”.

    But, I think I prefer the Shelley’s forgotten dark experiments as an explanation for flying creatures at Waterloo!🦇