Saturday 18 December 2010

The Pigs of Celebrities

In 1899 the Strand magazine, never one to miss a trick, came up with the idea of asking famous Victorians to draw a pig blindfolded, in order to reveal the inner works of their souls — a sort of comic porcine graphology, if you will. The article was entitled 'The Pigs of Celebrities'.

Here is a selection of results, with the accompanying text, from some of the game souls who participated:
"Turning to the "pig literary," he must be wanting in imagination indeed who fails to trace in Dr. Conan Doyle's spirited little sketch the resemblance to the immortal and lamented Sherlock Holmes. That pig is evidently 'on the scent' of some baffling mystery. Note the quick and penetrating snout, the alert ears, thrown back in the act of listening, the nervous, sensitive tail, and the expectant, eager, attitude. The spirit of the great detective breathes in every line and animates the whole."

"To get a blindfold pig from a celebrated artist is rare indeed, and I doubt whether an R.A. has ever been known to draw one. We may feel the more grateful, then to that famous veteran, Sir John Tenniel, for his unexampled goodness in giving us a specimen from his own unrivaleld pencil. It is the work of an artist, indeed, and even Sir John himself seems rather proud of it, for he writes "I have much pleasure in sending you my picture of a 'Piggee' drawn in pencil (blindfold) and duly signed. The result, as I need hardly say, fill me with wonder and admiration. It is simply an amazing fluke."

"Referring to his pig, Mr. Maxim writes: 'I have just a suspicion that the pigs that are so well drawn in your album are by people who had their eyes partly open. The trouble with my pig is that my eyes were too tightly closed." But nobody will find fault with Mr. Maxim's animal on that score or on any other. It bears the imprint of his matchless genius, and is certainly suggestive of the action of his incomparable gun."

Mr. Maxim was, of course, the inventor of the maxim gun (or machine-gun, to you and me). One can only hope that he wasn't casting doubt on the honesty of Sir John Tenniel and his 'fluke' (I remain agnostic ... artists out there ... could you draw that pig blindfold?).

The author of this article is one 'Gertude Bacon'. Whatever her true name, I feel that she earned her fee.


  1. I think Mr Maxim's pig is the most unexpected thing I've seen all week.

  2. And it could pass for a machine-gunned pig at that.

  3. An interesting, if not very profound, exercise, the sort of thing that causes hilarity at a party or, as here, acts as filler in a magazine.

    It's nice to see the Great and Good going along with the joke.