Why Airy Somethings?

Why Airy Somethings?

OUR “AIRY NOTHING” from Punch March 3, 1909. Possibly Horatio’s inspiration for HIS book Airy Nothings.

It is possible that the image from the March 1909 edition of Punch was on Barber’s mind when he wrote Airy Nothings, a small book of six chapters and a poem. Horatio penned the curious volume while he was on a fortnight’s leave in Torquay. Most of the chapters are lightly disguised accounts of his aviation adventures, and one chapter looks into the future and is quite accurate.

It would be easy to dismiss Airy Nothings as rambling jottings.  Indeed,  the editors of Flight magazine, who previously had only praise for the aviation pioneer, criticized the publication calling it a rip-off of Kipling. They also came down on him for appropriating the title from a book of humorous verse by Jesse Pope, who in turn, probably lifted it from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

There is little doubt that if Barber had not been successful with earlier publications, How to Fly a Plane  and The Aeroplane Speaks, this book would not have been published.

Horatio saved this clipping of the negative review of his book Airy Nothings. From Flight  magazine October 31, 1918. The scrapbook resides in the collection of the Hendon RAF Museum.

We decided to title our book Airy Somethings because, as Flight magazine suggested, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and our work is, in part, an homage to Horatio Barber. It is an account that sets the record straight about his overlooked contribution to aviation which was indeed “something.”

But we wanted to tell the full story, to answer the question as to how he made his fortune prior to entering the field of aeronautics in 1909. That was something, too! As a matter of fact, our working title was Rogue to Riches. 

To See What was There was on our short list of final titles. This was Barber’s response to the question, “Why did you got to Turkey?” as reported in the 1912 edition of Flight magazine.  As a title, the phrase “To see what was there” has a double meaning, reflecting Barber’s inquiring mind then, and our curiosity today.

We decided against From Underground to Overground  but it made for some clever correspondence between the authors. Terry said, “Now I can’t get the Wombles out of my head. Did you get the Wombles in Canada?”

Maggie wrote, “I’ve heard of Wombles, but haven’t seen the program – we live in a cultural dessert over here.” 😉

So, Airy Somethings was the winner!

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Speaking of reviews, we are thrilled to receive our first!

“A fascinating, thorough, most interesting and important biography.”

Larry Millberry, publisher of CANAV Books in Toronto has this to say:

Airy Somethings: The Extraordinary Life of the Aviation Pioneer Horatio Barber New book … Terry Grace and Maggie Wilson have thoroughly researched the life of this eccentric Englishman and his many interests.

In his global travels in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Barber spent time in the Australia, USA and Canada too often getting into trouble with women and business ventures. In California he swindled investors in a ranching scheme; in Canada, his chief focus was hustling shares in northern mines. Back in the UK he spent years promoting pioneer aviation ventures, earned Royal Aero Club licence No.30, promoted airplane designs and sales, sold aviation insurance, and served in the RFC in WWI, supposedly even being in America for a time promoting what became the hugely successful RFC training plane.

The book concludes with all Barber’s shady schemes in the 1920s-50s to his death in 1964. A fascinating, thorough, most interesting and important biography. 236 pages, large format, softcover, photos, diagrams throughout, bibliography, index.

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Airy Somethings, the Extraordinary Life of the Aviation Pioneer, Horatio Barber by Terry Grace and Maggie Wilson is available to purchase online and at local booksellers.

6 thoughts on “Why Airy Somethings?

  1. I did wonder, Maggie – but no more. A highly satisfactory explanation ! 🙂
    So he was a philanderer too, eh ? – a kind of disco ball, in constant movement and reflecting back every facet of naughtiness !! [grin]

  2. Hi, I just received my copy this week as part of my research in to the early history of aviation at Shoreham. Did you find much about Shoreham Aerodrome during your research into this book? I’d love to see any pics of Shoreham from that era if you found any that didn’t end up getting used. Here’s a link to one of my blogs which mentions him:- https://wolfeeboy.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/a-brief-history-of-aviation-at-shoreham-part-three/

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