In recompense for the small interest which the island can afford to the equine, bovine and ovine genera, it is pleasant to be able to testify that the entomologist and the man curious in reptilia may findf constant amusement. The winged cockroach is so finely developed and so rich in fecundity, that specimens may be seen at all times, and in the most handsome drawing-rooms, crawling over the floors and tables by day, in size like mice, and banging against the lamp glasses at night, in size like birds. The spiders are so colossal that you wonder how they can have fed themselves to such a size, and yet left so many flies undevoured. The mosquitoes are so clever in insinuating themselves through your fortress of gauze, and they so keenly cut slices out of your fleshy parts, that you hail the dawn of day with the sensations of an Abyssinian ox [what meaning that has is lost to history-Ed.]. The serpent tribe find the island favourable to their growth, for it was only a short time since that a Regulus, in the uniform of a British colonel, was brought to a stand by a cobra five feet long - "serpens portculosus magnitudinis." He was destroyed, happily, without any loss on the side of the British....So if you are relieved that the onset of winter has caused a diminution of your living household annoyances, rest assured you are far from the first to have expressed such sentiments...
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The Vermin of 19th Century Hong Kong
Many of the first visitors to Hong Kong were not overly impressed with it. In the first decade (1840-1850), it was thought a fervid, pestilential place that may not survive. The following decade saw it prosper, and travelers accordingly changed their tune, describing it as a place full of palaces, but far too expensive as a travel destination. Certainly George Wingrove Cooke, a correspondent from the Times of London, was not overly impressed when he arrived in the late 1850s. Perhaps the first travel journalist recorded for posterity, he had the following to say about the vermin of the small island, in a section he called, simply, "torments":