Leigh Hunt

On the graces and anxieties of pig-driving

From the perusal of this article we beg leave to warn off vulgar readers of all denominations, whether of the “great vulgar or the small.” Warn, did we say? We drive them off; for Horace tells us that they, as well as pigs, are to be so treated. Odi profanum vulgus [I hate the vulgar rabble], says he, et arceo [and drive them away]. But do thou lend thine ear, gentle shade of Goldsmith, who didst make thy bear-leader denounce “everything as is low;” and thou, Steele, who didst humanise upon public-houses and puppet-shows; and Fielding, thou whom the great Richardson, less in that matter (and some others) than thyself, did accuse of vulgarity, because thou didst discern natural gentility in a footman, and yet was not to be taken in by the airs of Pamela and my Lady G.

The title is a little startling; but “style and sentiment,” as a lady said, “can do anything.” Remember, then, gentle reader, that talents are not to be despised in the humblest walks of life; we will add, nor in the muddiest. The other day we happened to be among a set of spectators who could not help stopping to admire the patience and address with which a pig-driver huddled and cherished onward his drove of unaccommodating élèves, down a street in the suburbs. He was a born genius for a manœuvre. Had he originated in a higher sphere he would have been a general, or a stage-manager, or, at least, the head of a set of monks. Conflicting interests were his forte; pig-headed wills, and proceedings hopeless. To see the hand with which he did it! How hovering, yet firm; how encouraging, yet compelling; how indicative of the space on each side of him, and yet of the line before him; how general, how particular, how perfect! No barber’s could quiver about a head with more lightness of apprehension ; no cook’s pat up and proportion the side of a pasty with a more final eye. The whales, quoth old Chapman, speaking of Neptune,

The whales exulted under him, and knew their mighty king.

The pigs did not exult, but they knew their king. Unwilling was their subjection, but “more in sorrow than in anger.” They were too far gone for rage. Their case was hopeless. They did not see why they should proceed, but they felt themselves bound to do so; forced, conglomerated, crowded onwards, irresistibly impelled by fate and Jenkins. Often would they have bolted under any other master. They squeaked and grunted as in ordinary; they sidled, they shuffled, they half stopped; they turned an eye to all the little outlets of escape; but in vain. There they stuck (for their very progress was a sort of sticking), charmed into the centre of his sphere of action, laying their heads together, but to no purpose; looking all as if they were shrugging their shoulders, and eschewing the tip-end of the whip of office. Much eye had they to their left leg; shrewd backward glances; not a little anticipative squeak and sudden rush of avoidance. It was a superfluous clutter, and they felt it; but a pig finds it more difficult than any other animal to accommodate himself to circumstances. Being out of his pale, he is in the highest state of wonderment and inaptitude. He is sluggish, obstinate, opinionate, not very social; has no desire of seeing foreign parts. Think of him in a multitude, forced to travel, and wondering what the devil it is that drives him! Judge by this of the talents of his driver.

We beheld a man once, an inferior genius, inducting a pig into the other end of Long Lane, Smithfield. He had got him thus far towards the market. It was much. His air announced success in nine parts out of ten, and hope for the remainder. It had been a happy morning’s work; he had only to look for the termination of it; and he looked (as a critic of an exalted turn of mind would say) in brightness and in joy. Then would he go to the public-house, and indulge in porter and a pleasing security. Perhaps he would not say much at first, being oppressed with the greatness of his success; but by degrees, especially if interrogated, he would open, like Æneas, into all the circumstances of his journey and the perils that beset him. Profound would be his set out; full of tremor his middle course; high and skilful his progress; glorious, though with a quickened pulse, his triumphant entry. Delicate had been his situation in Ducking Pond Row; masterly his turn at Bell Alley. We saw him with the radiance of some such thought on his countenance. He was just entering Long Lane. A gravity came upon him, as he steered his touchy convoy into this his last thoroughfare. A dog moved him into a little agitation, darting along; but he resumed his course, not without a happy trepidation, hovering as he was on the borders of triumph. The pig still required care. It was evidently a pig with all the peculiar turn of mind of his species; a fellow that would not move faster than he could help; irritable, retrospective; picking objections, and prone to boggle; a chap with a tendency to take every path but the proper one, and with a sidelong tact for the alleys.

He bolts !

He’s off!—Evasit! Erupit! [from Cicero, Abiit, excessit, evasit, erupit—He has left, absconded, escaped and disappeared.]

“Oh,” exclaimed the man, dashing his hand against his head, lifting his knee in an agony, and screaming with all the weight of a prophecy which the spectators felt to be too true—“He’ll go up all manner of streets!

Poor fellow! we think of him now sometimes, driving up Duke Street, and not to be comforted in Barbican.


MLA Citation

Hunt, Leigh. “On the graces and anxieties of pig-driving.” 1828. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 16 May 2008. 01 Oct 2023 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/hunt/graces_and_anxieties/>.

Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

Join Us on Facebook
facebook logo

Generate PDF

Related Essays


Edith Wharton

The deeper civilization of a country may to a great extent be measured by the care she gives to her flower-garden, the corner of her life where the supposedly "useless" arts and graces flourish.

“A chapter on ears”

Charles Lamb

Sentimentally I am disposed to harmony. But organically I am incapable of a tune.

“The Indian jugglers”

William Hazlitt

A clever or ingenious man is one who can do anything well, whether it is worth doing or not; a great man is one who can do that which when done is of the highest importance.

“On education”

Hannah More

Let the graces be industriously cultivated, but let them not be cultivated at the expense of the virtues.

“Spirit of religion”

Harriet Martineau

Religion is not an affair of occupation and circumstance, but of principle and temper.