Friday, 16 September 2011

Moth to the flame

I met a very nice man the other day, Joe Kent, who once had an even nicer job title: Head of the North. This was for Homeless Link, the excellent charity tackling rough sleeping. Joe still works for them but internal changes mean that he now has a wider a brief but a less romantic title. We met at a talk I gave in Knaresborough about my book True North (a fine Christmas present, even for moth enthusiasts...) and I have added 'Head of the North' to my anecdotage. Every company should have one.

Anyway, we chatted about moths too, inevitably, and Joe has sent me the following fascinating email, an episode I'd not registered though I'm pretty sure I've read The Return of the Native, long ago and probably compulsorily. Here's Joe:
When you mentioned your Moth blog I made an automatic link in my head to a Thomas Hardy novel and now I have finally remembered why! Here is one section of the novel (book four chapter four), there may be others sections that mention moths, too, and the heath is a fundamental part of the novel:

"The heath tonight appeared to be totally deserted; and Wildeve, after looking over Eustacia's garden gate for some little time, with a cigar in his mouth, was tempted by the fascination that emotional smuggling had for his nature to advance towards the window, which was not quite closed, the blind being only partly drawn down. He could see into the room, and Eustacia was sitting there alone. Wildeve contemplated her for a minute, and then retreating into the heath beat the ferns lightly, whereupon moths flew out alarmed. Securing one, he returned to the window, and holding the moth to the chink, opened his hand. The moth made towards the candle upon Eustacia's table, hovered round it two or three times, and flew into the flame.
Eustacia started up. This had been a well-known signal in old times when Wildeve had used to come secretly wooing to Mistover. She at once knew that Wildeve was outside, but before she could consider what to do her husband came in from upstairs. Eustacia's face burnt crimson at the unexpected collision of incidents, and filled it with an animation that it too frequently lacked."

It must have made an impression on me to remember as I haven't read this book for over 25 years!

It certainly makes an impression me. Gloomy old Hardy, what an image... Mind you, the biography of him by Claire Tomalin is absolutely excellent.

Now, we'd better have a moth. This one flew into our kitchen last night, although not into the candle which we romantically light to have with our supper. I am still working on what it is (the colouring is highly misleading) but do you think it was a signal from some equivalent of Wildeve outside?

Update: my best guess so far is Angle-striped Sallow, although they are not so common. All help appreciated.


Bill D said...

Yes, surely an Angle-striped Sallow. Very nice find!



MartinWainwright said...

Many thanks Bill, and our county moths recorder Charlie Fletcher concurs

All warm wishes - I am so grateful for this expertise