From William Youatt’s encyclopedic tome on the pig, aptly titled The Pig(1847). He also wrote on The Dog(1855) and The Horse(1831), so he might have had a little franchise on this theme (it brings to mind the excellent Reaktion Animal Series). As I looked into it, I found that he also penned Cattle(1838) and Sheep(1837). Isn’t it telling, that the two animals that were in more intimate relationship with humans (dogs, horses) were graced with the preceding “The,” while those that are food (cows, sheep) aren’t? The “The” confers upon the dog and horse a greater potential for individuality. Cows and sheep, on the other hand, are referred to in the plural, a move that generalizes and homogenizes.
This is from Arthur Gibson’s 1883 The Adventures of the Pig Family, a representative example of literature that humanized animals—using them as stand-ins for entirely human behavior. In this case, Mrs. Sarah Pig is a veritable Angel in the House. The pig family’s performance might have undermined the discourse of separate spheres, even as it reaffirmed it.
Look, Mr. Pig is home for dinner, after a long hard day:
And speaking of dinner—as if this gathering of texts was not motley enough!—I end with a mention of Charles Lamb’s A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig (1888), a satire which I look forward to reading through. It has a little bit of anti-Chinese sentiment, at least in these horrible illustrations,
but, also moments where the way he pokes fun at the reverence for roast pig offers a chance for empathy:
Happy National Pig Day!