Secur'd from Flight


A young man has two caged doves which he holds up for display.

Accession Number: 

A young man has two caged doves, and holds the cage up to display them. 
In addition to the interest in flight, the collecting and taxonomizing of birds is of interest in this period.
This image's title, “Secur’d Flight” implies the sense of dominion that the child has over the bird and its ability to fly once it is caught. The fascination with capturing birds is found in several books of the period including two books of instruction for children. In Mental improvement: or, the beauties and wonders of nature and art in a series of instructive conversations, Priscilla Wakefield writes long dialogues about various species of birds, bird habitats, and capturing methods. In this passage, Mr. Harcourt, the older character, tells the young boy about the appropriate relationship to birds while catching them:

“It is with great willingness I comply with your request, since I am certain your tenderness and humanity will never permit you to avail yourself of my information to entrap or destroy a harmless bird wantonly. All creatures are given for our use and are subject to our power, it is therefore allowable to kill them for food, or other necessary purpose, but the boy who is capable of inflicting pain without any other already hardened to a degree that prepares him for the perpetration of cruelty towards his fellow man...” (P. Wakefield, Mental Improvement 228).

In a second children’s book, The juvenile library, including a complete course of instruction on every useful subject: particularly natural and experimental philosophy, there is a story called “The Hermitage” in which several children are staying at a little place in the country. The teaching character, Joseph, informs them in the narrative about the names of plants, the behavior of bees, and then the methods for catching animals. Here is a passage from the story:

"The three children, impatient to make so interesting a discovery, immediately set out on the search. Several times their ardour was painfully deceived by old birds’ nests, or mere tufts of moss, which they mistook for the object of their search. But at length they were well rewarded for their trouble. In the evening they had the satisfaction of bringing home three new guests, a little squirrel and two young doves.

By care, they soon rendered them very familiar; and the company of these pretty little animals added new charms to their habitation. When they came in the morning, on one side the two young doves hastened to the, clapping their wings, and fluttering from one to another; sometimes on their shoulders and uttering little cries of joy, as if to express their pleasure at seeing them again...They were so tame that, in the absence of their young masters, they did not leave the cabin, though they were at full liberty....the two doves remained side by side on a stick placed across the top of the cabin for a perch.

The children wished to increase still more the population of their little colony; and one day told Joseph how glad they should be to have an aviary full of birds by the side of their cottage. ‘I could easily,’ replied Joseph, ‘shew you how to catch a great number, and of almost all the kinds that inhabit this part of the country; but it is on one condition, that you will not keep them in captivity, and will suffer all those that do not choose to stay with you to return to the woods; for it is a cruel thing, my little friends, for these poor animals, as well as for men, to be deprived of their liberty” ("The Hermitage" 252).

The focus on the importance of liberty in this text in useful to consider when examining the liberty gained by the humans who, with the technology of the air balloon, also learn to fly.

Baldwin, Thomas. Airopaida. London: J. Fletcher, 1786.

Burke, Edmund. “Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful,” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Ed. Leitch, Vincent, B. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Cavallo, Tiberius. The History and Practice of Aerostation. London : printed for the author, and sold by C. Dilly; P. Elmsly; and J. Stockdale, 1785.

Cosgrove, Denis. Apollo’s Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination. JHU Press, 2001

Cruikshank, George. George Cruikshank’s Table Book, Abbot Beckett, Editor. London: Punch Office, 1845.

De Bolla, Peter. The Education of the Eye: Painting, Landscape, and Architecture in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Harley, J.B. The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Holmes, Richard. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. UK: Harper Collins, 2008.

Illustrations of Natural Philosophy. London: Reynolds. 1850.

Keats, John. Complete Poems. Stillinger, Jack, Ed. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982.

Keen, Paul. “The ‘Balloonomania’: Science and Spectacle in 1780s England,”

Eighteenth-Century Studies - Volume 39, Number 4, Summer 2006, pp. 507-535

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004-9. (

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004-9.


Stewart, Susan. On Longing. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993.

The Juvenile Library, Vol. 2. London, 1800-01. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Wisconsin - Madison. 12 May 2009 

The Juvenile Library, Vol. 3. London 1800-01. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Wisconsin - Madison. 12 May 2009 

The London Packet ; Or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Issue 2310. London, 1785.

The New Spectator with the Sage Opinions of John Bull, No. 1 (3 February 1784) - No. 25 (17 January 1786) London: T. Rickaby.

Wakefield, Priscilla. Mental improvement: or, the beauties and wonders of nature and art. In a series of instructive conversations. Dublin: 1800.

Wolf, Norbert. Romanticism. Koln: Tanshen, 2007.

The Busy Body; A Collection of Periodical Essays, No. 15 (3 February 1787) - No. 25. London: C. Stalker, 1787.

Artist Unknown