A previously unseen species of hallucinated moth

I’ve discovered H.G. Wells’ amazing short story The Moth about a scientific feud between two leading entymologists that ends with one’s premature death and the other being driven insane by an hallucinated moth.

It’s a deftly written piece because it captures the method of scientific grudge matches – devastating and savage critiques in scholarly journals – and is peppered with references to illusory scientific papers.

Pawkins, the target of the academic demolition job dies shortly after, only for Hapley, the scientific aggressor, to see a moth that is completely new to science but which seems strangely difficult to capture.

That night Hapley found the moth crawling over his counterpane. He sat on the edge of the bed in his shirt sleeves and reasoned with himself. Was it pure hallucination? He knew he was slipping, and he battled for his sanity with the same silent energy he had formerly displayed against Pawkins. So persistent is mental habit, that he felt as if it were still a struggle with Pawkins. He was well versed in psychology. He knew that such visual illusions do come as a result of mental strain. But the point was, he did not only _see_ the moth, he had heard it when it touched the edge of the lampshade, and afterwards when it hit against the wall, and he had felt it strike his face in the dark.

 

Link to full text of The Moth.

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