The Gentleman that pays the rent

And The Swine That Takes it

Under your mighty ancestors, we Pigs
Were blessed as nightingales on myrtle sprigs,
Or grasshoppers that live on noonday dew,
And sung, old annals lull, as sweetly too ;
But now our styes are fallen in, we catch
The murrain and the mange, the scab and itch :
Sometimes your royal dogs tear down our thatch.
And then we seek the shelter of a ditch ;
Hog wash or grains, or ruta baga, none
Has yet been ours since your reign begun.

—Chorus of swine in Shelley’s “Oedipus Tyrannus.”

And Jesus sent the devils out of the man, and they entered into the swine ; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
—Chapter VIII of St. Luke.

The English nation has often been accused, by its foes, of aimlessness. The truth is that, far from being fickle, the flower of the nation search down many a winding road till they find a subject, dark and despised, which needs the light of their serious genius. Fortunately we have even recent evidence of national solemnity which allows us to repudiate with scorn any suggestion of English triviality. We know not from what high quarter the earnest and stimulating influence came, nor do we intend to pry further into the secrets of the State, for it is enough to know that the humble pig, so inconsiderately dealt with by Jesus, has been given well-deserved publicity, not as so many gross pork chops or sausages, but tactfully, as the living pig, upon which the fate of the Empire depends.

It is indeed strange that pigs, since those Utopian days of which Shelley writes, should have for so many generations lain under a cloud, and the whole grunting nation been despised not only by ignorant people, but even by men of considerable attainments. Like the witches of old, who were often wise women, the ancient swine must have been of an unprepossessing aspect, which would give rise to the traditional belittlement of their worth. Happily, then, there has been a reconsideration of values in society and in parliament, so that pigs as well as politicians have been assigned to different niches in the House of Life.

It is not our purpose here to enter into any consideration of the infinite variety of the pig-family. We shall endeavour to do no more than indicate one or two features which are common to the whole genus. Still, at the outset, we would ask readers, who may be tainted with the journalism of the day, to cast aside their disrespect or adoration of particular pigs and view the question in a calm and dispassionate spirit. We say, with full knowledge of our grave responsibility, that the homage which has been bestowed upon, the comforts and services which have been given to certain pigs, might be extended to the entire household of swine. It would mean a broadening of our sympathies which many journalists are longing to see. This will be the more easily done if it is remembered that the extension is one not so much of principle as of practice.

While it may be simpler to give a welcome hand to the less obviously filthy among these poor creatures, it is not good for humanity to be too sectarian. No doubt there are the cynics, even in these enlightened times, who will speak of what they call the “cleansing of society” by the universal slaughter of the whole pack of pigs. That is not our point just now for, while the patriotic must deplore such drastic words, we can easily ignore this misanthropic band who have not the interests of Empire at heart. My point is that while it is comparatively easy to join in the national admiration of the more dignified and prosperous pigs, it will be a sad reflection on our morality and discretion if we neglect the commoner brethren of the same litter. Get to your books of science, dear readers, and you will see that even those swine among the blood and muck of the stye are as capable of development, under generous cherishing as their happier sisters and brothers, whose language is admired and whose virtues are enthroned in the hearts of the people. Visit any piggery in a sympathetic spirit and it will be at once evident that, although the faculties of the imprisoned swine are to a large extent dormant, they would with kindly nourishment, warmth, and housing, soon be rivals, for the esteem of nations, with those of their kindred who possess such well-moulded buttocks and obese bellies.

The difficulties in front of a reformer in this sphere are not so great as would be supposed. It is not so much a development of the intellect in the lower animals that is required. The chief shortcoming of the pig in a stye is in its want of cleanliness. In this respect, it must be confessed, he falls sadly short of his gilded kindred. While the members of what we may call, for the mere sake of definition, the Piggy Upper Ten, are in no other way in advance of their more unfortunate neighbours (this, we believe, will be readily admitted), yet the toilette and etiquette of the former are in every way superior. The untutored pig slobbers over his slops, thrusts his snout in filth, then shows himself in deshabille to our loathing eyes ; on the other hand the more punctilious swine, after meddling with filthier heaps, snivelling in other more abominable ditches and gutters, is washed and toiletted by his keepers and can even associate with a certain class of human beings on an equal footing. The chief thing, therefore, we might say the only thing, which should concern those who are anxious to establish an equality in the status of all pigs is the question of water.

None but the most violent reactionaries can deny that, while some swine are raised to lofty stations that they are incapable of maintaining with dignity, others are given no opportunity whatever. All their similarity of instincts is glossed over, all their similarity of pigheadedness is unconsidered, and all the honours are indiscriminately given to those whose only claim to distinction is that the vile prominence of one specific feature is a little softened, while the intonation of their voices is, perhaps, a little more varied. Alluring as all these refinements may be, we are pleased to see that up-to-date journalists (in whose utterance we trace just a grain too much of egoism), are proclaiming them to be of a purely artificial and illusory nature over which the bond of blood-relationship is bound to triumph.

Nowadays, however, there is a more impartial view being taken, not only among Socialists but among other men of far different talents. While the Socialist realises, perhaps even more fully than the patriot, that the stability of the Empire depends largely upon the appreciation in which the subject of our article is held, there has been latterly, too, a perfect inferno of voices raised in his defence ; the result of which will be that for years to come the name of many a public character will be inseparably linked with that of the pig.

With our protegé thus in the ascendency we are willing to leave the rest to the humanity of our readers. In a discussion of this character we would warn newspaper readers to preserve, as far as possible, a cold and rational outlook ; to remember that as we would not trust a farmer’s opinion of his own wheat, a mother’s opinion of her own children, so it would be as well not to put too much simple faith in the writings of those journalists whose interests are so closely allied with those of swine. We do not wish to sound a note of aloofness and we hope this warning will not be so construed. Let us say again, therefore, that our Socialism has led us to completely understand the full significance of pigs during these critical times long before the recent Press clamour. Ever since the formation of our party we have stood for equality in the treatment of swine. So it is no new departure to ask you to look not at the discrepancies between one pig and another, not to consider the differences created by favouritism, but to regard, rather, such qualities of grunting, shuffling, dawdling, and blinking which characterise the whole genus. Finally we would urge our readers to remember that however scented and petted a pig may be,

“The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
A pig’s a pig for a’ that.”


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