J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Porcupine’s “The Lion and the Pig”

Yesterday I quoted an advertisement from William Frederick Pinchbeck announcing the appearance of his learned pig in Salem in 1798. A couple of months before they had appeared in Boston.

In the 1790s, William Cobbett was another immigrant from England in America. He was publishing a high Federalist newspaper in Philadelphia called Porcupine’s Gazette. In addition to promoting pro-British policies, the newspaper also commented, usually acerbically, on public entertainments.

This is what Cobbett had to say about the wonderful pig in March 1798:
The LION and the PIG.

To Mr. Pinchbeck, Proprietor of the Learned Pig now in Boston.

“Corpora magnanimo satis est prostrasse LEONI.” Ovid.

Tell us no more of your learned little pig,
In size a mere runt, though in science very big.
Tell us no more of your little pig of knowledge,
Who can cipher and spell like a sophomore at college.
Can the grunting little thing, which you set so very high on,
Be compared to our beast, the GREAT AND MIGHTY LION?
You boast your little pig can spell the hardest word;
But did your little pig ever wear a wooden sword?
Your bonny pig may dance jigs, round-abouts, and reels;
But did he ever prance with rogue’s march at his heels?
I’ll allow your bristled beau can count and tell his letters;
But can he name and shew, his gammons to his betters?
Spades, diamonds, clubs, and hearts, your piggy well can handle;
But did his hinder parts ever hold a lighted candle?
Though your piggy screws his snout in such learned grimaces,
I defy the squeaking lout to spit in Christians’ faces,
And if the thing could be, is such the hoggish fashion,
That one third of the fly would applaud him for the action?
Then tell us no more of your little grunting creature,
But confess that the LION is the GREATEST BEAST in nature.
Cobbett returned to Britain in 1800 and eventually became a radical Member of Parliament, particularly interested in agricultural reform. (The portrait above comes from that period of his career.) Cobbett had another chance to comment on learned pigs in 1817 when yet another Toby made its London debut, but I don’t think he did so.

TOMORROW: But what the heck was that poem about?

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