Eclipses. How many have I seen. And so forth. Attach all related questions here. I have seen many many lunar eclipses. Too many to count. As for Solar, they are more rare, and while I’ve been privy to several partials, I think I care to only revel in one complete and total solar eclipse.
Halley’s Eclipse, London, May of 1715. Why this one? Well, several reasons. Firstly because it was so incredible. Most regions of totality are very small, but this one covered the whole of London for almost 4 minutes. Secondly, because we knew it was coming. You see, by that time, science was beginning to win the war with ignorance. The Enlightenment was in full rage. We knew it was coming, such that we could plan out little parties and enjoy ourselves without fear the world would end. I was allowed to walk freely, unmolested.
Recall, this was after the Great Fire, during the time in which I lived a fully human life. I was building a fortune, preparing for my trek abroad. I had a home, and a servant, and a wardrobe. I had a cellar for my less presentable food stuffs. I could walk about town during the height of the darkness and never feel concern. And so I did.
In fact, I became somewhat trapped on the Southern side of the Thames for several hours, as most of the ferry boats had been taken to the center of the waterway so that humans could coo at the sky, something they see literally every night. I had a pleasant enough seat for the main event, as I’d made myself quite comfortable at Pickleherring Stairs, and had a fine view, though I was shouted at by a drunkard who nearly pitched head first into the water. I had popped over to the Talbot, thinking to wet my whistle. I stood in a gallery for a bit, but the horses put me off. So it was back toward the water for me. The streets were quite crowded. Though on this side of the river they were clogged with shipmen and prostitutes, workmen and barmaids. I suppose I could have gone out to a park, but eclipses are only significant to the people, and so I choose the people carefully. To the rich it was a delightful little gas the universe was having with them, that they could watch through dainty glasses. For the Southwark, it still had that old feeling – foreboding, wrath, uncertainty. Soaking that up is my second favorite food.
So I sat on Piickleherring Stairs. They’re west of Old Horsleydown, where the Tower Bridge was put in. I suppose if you look at a map of modern London, it would be about where City Hall is, just at the water’s edge from Potter’s Field Park. At the time, the area was like an industrial crust formed along the dirty river. Nothing but pubs, taverns, warehouses, shipyards, and docks. And for three minutes in the middle of day, they went dark as night and silent as the grave.
It is such a strange thing to recall, how of a sudden all life stopped as if it were the dead of night, but still peopled like the day. I had a curious thought, that suddenly I was looking at the world of dreams, and that at night, when humans sleep, they wander here, all together, but seeing no one else. It lasted a few minutes, and then it was gone.
There was a ship coming into port about then. I decided a ferry wasn’t the best idea. Nor would it satisfy my sudden, but Old anxiety. So I walked along the causeway toward London Bridge. Eventually ended up at the George, listened to some old fat man go on about astrology.
All in all, it was not terribly notable to me, except for the lack of repercussions. I walked homeward safe and sound (which was a bit sad, because I did want to find someone to eat), and made it back unscathed.
And that is my favorite solar eclipse story.
It is perhaps worth noting that the fat man at the George was talking about the archaic theory of the Sky Dragon. If you’re feeling particularly taken with eclipses at the moment, might I suggest you research this trace of a previous age.