Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hawthorne on Pigs

I was taking a look at Hawthorne's Lost Notebook, 1835-1841 the other day, tracking down some of his comments on the circus, when I saw this meditation on pigs from his journal of June 15, 1835:
Returning by the almshouse, I stopt a good while to look at the pigs--a great herd--who seemed to be just finishing their suppers. They surely are types of unmitigated sensuality;--some standing in the trough, in the midst of their own and others victuals;--some thrusting their noses deep into the filth;--some rubbing their hinder-ends against a post;--some huddled together, between sleeping and waking, breathing hard;--all wallowing in each other's defilement;--a great boar swaggering about, with lewd actions;--a big-bellied sow, waddling along, with her swag-paunch. Notwithstanding the unspeakable filth with which these strange sensualists sauce all their food, they seem to have a quick and delicate sense of smell.--What strange and ridiculous looking animals! Swift himself could not have imagined anything nastier than they practise by the mere impulse of natural genius. Yet the Shakers keep their pigs very clean; and with good advantage.
N.B.--The legion of devils in the herd of swine--what a queer scene it must have been!
Hawthorne kept this notebook in Salem before his marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842. It contains lots of notes and ideas for stories and articles and some journalistic observations about public events, such as the circus mentioned above, the public activities of the Fourth of July, 1838, and a show of wax figures. I knew that this notebook would be of use to my work on antebellum popular culture, but to find some comments about pigs, ones that reflect the general contemporary disdain for what was seen as a "dirty" animal, was a pleasant surprise.

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Blogger d said...

Find his Brook Farm diaries if they aren't in that volume -- if I'm not mistaken, he gets stuck shoveling hog manure and has some equally Bakhtinian things to say there about his porcine friends....

11:21 AM  

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