S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
In addition to the obvious and unavoidable difficulties which entomologists have to encounter, they have to bear up against the martyrdom of contempt which the vulgar-minded public inflicts upon them. They are ignominiously nicknamed bug-hunters, and are regarded as a species of lunatic at large. But astronomers and chemists have been equally despised. Galileo, Tycho Brahe, Priestley, and even Davy, have been pitied in their time, especially in the early part of their career, as foolish enthusiasts, whose proper place would be the mad-house, if they were not harmless.
But the world of insects lies not on our terrestrial map. Perhaps it may have a closer relationship with life as it goes in the planets Venus and Mercury, which, from their nearer approach to the sun, may abound with a gigantic insect population. We are cut off from all communion with insects; we cannot look into their eyes, nor catch the expression of their faces. Their very senses are merely conjectural to us; we know not exactly whether they have ears to hear, a palate to taste, or a voice to speak. For a noise mechanically produced is not a voice.
And why should not insects have a world of their own, just as well as you and I? Is the Butterflys Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast a bit more unreal than Almacks or the Carlton? Dont grasshoppers feast? dont they and their family connections, the locusts, gormandize, and devour, and swallow up everything? Dont butterflies flutter, and flirt, and perform the polka and the varsovienne in the air, and display their fine clothes with gratified vanity? Did no young dragon-fly, with brilliant prospects, ever get married to the horse-leechs daughter, and repent of the alliance after it was too late? If philosophic fiction has created a Micromegas, that is to say a Mr. Littlebig, romantic natural history may surely record the sayings and doings of the Megamicroses, or the Messieurs Biglittles. Vast souls often dwell in undersized bodies.
But how are you to fathom the mysteries of insect economy, if you do not pursue and familiarize yourself with insects? Notwithstanding which, it is quite true, as our secretary says, that society throws a wet blanket over entomology in all its branches. Take your water-net and go to a pond or stream in quest of water-beetles, and the passers-by, if they notice you at all, will invariably think you are foiling; or, if they see what you are taking, will ask you if your captures are for baits. If you say, Yes, they will think yours a profitable employment; if you say, No, you may add as much more in exculpation as you like, you will only pass for a fool. So much for the popular appreciation of natural history,and for your encouragement.
Yes! There it goes! One of those mighty buzzers, these enormous flesh-fliesemblems of gigantic fussiness, types of terrific power of boredomhas just whirled into the apartment, and continues sharply to whir about, stirring up the smaller fly gentry, making a preponderant base to their tiresome treble, dashing furiously against walls, ceiling, window-panes; of course never finding its stupid way out through any widely-opened casementbuzz, buzz, buzz! Ah! he is silent! Is he gone? No, only entangled in the muslin curtain, where he now makes (most unmusical, most melancholy) a quivering, dithering sound, like a watch running down when the main-spring is broken. Then loose again, and da-capo, with his buzz, buzz! fuss, fuss!then really resting for a few moments, only to get up fresh energy and make his drone the worse for the short relief of silence. I must let out my rage.
I have beheld with my own eyes what an old grudge is that of man against the flies. Our injuries are of a long date. At Pompeii, in the old Roman guard-house, I have seen written a soldiers malediction on the many flies. I have seen it (I will not plague my reader with the original, which, besides, I have forgotten) scrawled in red chalk, covered up for centuriesrestored fresh as to-day to bear witness to eternal truth.
Who plagued Io, and made her scream out (as well she might) that fearful antistrophe,
Ah, ah! dost thou vex me so
That I madden and shiver?
Who but the gadfly, as that wonderful fount of information, every school-boy, knows? Who drives the lion mad amidst the Libyan sands? The gadfly, as Mansfield Parkyns will inform you. Who made a spot on my Madonnas nose? (Madonna said to be by Carlo Dolce.) The blue-bottle fly.