Rambling Ratz has been somewhat cage-bound of late, but does that stop me rambling? Does it heck. While everyone else in the UK has been enjoying the heatwave I have been sniffing out a marvellous free e-book, courtesy of the good folks at Project Gutenberg.
The past few very wet summers have been bad for our butterflies, but they have bounced back with the recent hot sunny weather. For those who would like to learn more about British butterflies, but prefer their information wordy and overblown, then I would heartily recommend the 1860 tome, “British Butterflies – Figures and Descriptions of Every Native Species” by W.S. Coleman which can be found here. It has some illustrated colour plates by Edmund Evans, some of which are prettifying this post.
Victorian butterfly collectors filled their drawers, “Oooer, now missus ..” with trays upon trays of innocent little butterflies, chloroformed and pinned to death in order to satisfy the OCD-like mania for collecting stuff. We of course have the advantage of portable photographic equipment and so no longer need to kill them to enjoy their beauty in the comfort of our own homes.
However, for the Victorian, a net and pot of chloroform were much easier to carry than a whacking great camera and photographic plates, so we have to forgive them.
This book, as well as being informative as to the variety of butterflies around in the UK circa 1860, also has anecdotal gems such as the following:
“Once, also, I listened to the grave recital—by a classical scholar too—of a murderous onslaught made by a Privet Hawk-moth on the neck of a lady, and how it “bit a piece clean out.” Of course I attempted to prove, by what seemed to me very fair logic, that the moth, having neither teeth nor even any mouth capable of opening, but only a weak hollow tongue to suck honey through, was utterly incapable of biting or inflicting any wound whatever. But, as is usual in such cases, my entomological theory went for nothing in face of the gentleman’s knock-down battery of facts—ocular facts; he had seen the moth, and he had seen the wound: surely, there was proof enough for me, or any one else. So, I suppose, he steadfastly believes to this day, that the moth was a truculent, bloodthirsty monster; whilst I still presume to believe, that if any wound was caused at the moment in question, it was by the nails of the lady attacked, or her friends, in clutching frantically at the terrific intruder; who, poor fellow, might have been pardoned for mistaking the fair neck for one of his favourite flowers (a lily, perhaps), while the utmost harm he contemplated was to pilfer a sip of nectar from the lips he doubtless took for rosebuds.”
Why oh why have we stopped writing like this? How the Victorians would have hated Twitter.