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Whole Hogs

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Subjects Associations; Institutions; Clubs; Labor Unions
Food; Cooking; Gastronomy; Alcohol; Bars (Drinking Establishments); Restaurants; Dinners and Dining
Temperance; Alcoholism
United States—Social Life and Customs
War; Battles; Peace; Military History; Weapons; Soldiers
Other Details
Printed : 23/8/1851
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume III
Magazine : No. 74
Office Book Notes
Views : 788

'I don't know what to write about', Dickens wrote to Wills on 10 August 'in the absence of your Paris-trip notes [see Headnote to 'A Flight', HW, Vol. III, 30 August 1851], but I think of a paper on "Whole Hogs" – Peace Society, Temperance Do, [i.e. ditto] and Vegetarians – all of whom have lately been making stupendous fools of themselves' (Pilgrim, Vol. VI, p. 457). All three Societies had featured prominently in The Times during the previous two or three weeks. On 5 August the paper satirically reported the National Temperance Society's 'Great Teetotal Demonstration' at Exeter Hall the previous day. George Cruikshank and the American pacifist Elihu Burritt were among those on the platform, and the committee's address stressed that 'nothing short of total abstinence could destroy their fearful foe'. There were also some dismal attempts at humour. 

Subsequent Times reports described, in the same satirical vein, the fetes held by 'these disciples of a single idea', the 'self-styled regenerators of the human race', at the Surrey Zoological Gardens (6 August) and at the Rosherville pleasure gardens in Gravesend (8 August), and the great 'aggregate meeting' at St Martin's Hall (7 August) when 'the chairman was flanked by the great men who slew their men of buckram – disease, ignorance, infidelity, and every other evil, by their one weapon, total abstinence' (The Times, 8 August 1851, p. 3f). Dickens was an old opponent of Teetotalism (see his 'Demoralisation and Total Abstinence' [...]; also his review of Cruikshank's The Bottle and ['Frauds on the Fairies', HW, Vol. VIII, 1 October 1853 and 'The Great Baby', HW, Vol. XII, 4 August 1855]) and had also mocked Burritt and his League of Universal Brotherhood before. The self-taught shoemaker's son from Connecticut, who features here as the 'Dove Delegate from America', had been organising annual Peace Congresses in different European capitals since 1848. At the London one, a French delegate deplored little boys being given soldiers to play with or little girls being encouraged to dress up their dolls as 'instilled into them the art of coquetry, which was not always conducive to peace' (The Times, 24 July 1851, p. 5e). Many long speeches were made and many resolutions passed, such as the following (moved by the Secretary of the American Peace Society): 'That as an appeal to the sword can settle no question on any principle of equity and right it is the duty of Government to refer to the decision of competent and impartial arbitrators such differences arising between them as cannot be otherwise amicably adjusted.' Richard Cobden was a prominent speaker, claiming that, 'With all the boast of England's loving peace, she had maintained a more aggressive attitude than any other country on the face of the whole earth.' What The Times termed 'the almost mystic rites of a vegetarian soirée (2 August, p. 8e) were held at the Freemasons' Tavern, where, after feasting on 'bread and parsley fritters, moulded ground rice', etc, an MP called Brotherton declared the 'master-means' of achieving social progress 'were the means of correcting the drunken habits (tremendous cheers) of the nation' and argued that 'men who killed no animals would refrain from banding themselves together for the murder of man'. One of the American vegetarian delegates was a Rev. Wolf. 
      Dickens's reference to the political state of Europe, 'oppressors and oppressed arrayed against each other', relates to the crushing of the various 1848 revolutions, the suppression of the Hungarians by Austria, of the Poles by Russia, and so on. The Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with its capital at Naples was a byword for squalor and corruption.

Literary allusions
  • story about the dancing-shoes: untraced;
  • 'CARLYLE...consuming their own smoke': Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1838), Book 2, Ch. 6;
  • 'there is no Pork in him': parodies a phrase from the 'General Confession' in The Book of Common Prayer, 'there is no health in us';
  • 'my worthy friend John Bates': Bates is one of the common English soldiers with whom the disguised King Henry talks the night before Agincourt (Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4, Sc. 1) – Bates and his comrades taking a very bleak view of the glories of war;
  • 'like the sister in Blue Beard': allusion to Charles Perrault's 1697 fairy tale 'La Barbe Bleue', in which Blue Beard's bride, awaiting death at his hands, sends her sister up to the turret of his castle to look out for her brothers coming to visit her and repeatedly calls out to her, 'Sister Anne, sister Anne, do you see nothing on the road?', only to be answered, 'I see nothing but dust.'

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851–59 (1998). DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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