The Wonderful Pig
June 12, 2009 12:54 AM   Subscribe

My wife has become infatuated with a learned pig from long ago, and now wants to play a historical song from 1785 honoring it on the piano, but we have only a fragment of the full song. Where might I find the full score?

The first page of the song is printed in Ricky Jay's Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, and is credited as "Sheet Music for 'The Wonderful Pig', circa 1785". There is no secondary source given in the bibliography or copyright page of the book.

The full title is "The Wonderful Pig who exhibits every day near Charing Cross, with new music, and sung at several convivial Societies".

The lyrics contained are as follows:
In this wonderful age, what strange subjects strive
To call our attention, amuse and surprise
Dancing Dogs are quite common
And Monkeys are found
Of wonderful parts as we travel around
The nation with learning grows...

Where would be the best place to look for it? Google books finds a few mentions of the song but no full scores. I do not have access to any academic libraries at the moment.
posted by benzenedream to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Reading the intro, the first thing that popped into my mind was "Oh, a music library at your local university, of course," and then I read the last line :P

Still though, when you say "I do not have access to any academic libraries at the moment" do you mean you can't get to one, or you can't get access to one. If it is the latter, you may be mistaken. Most academic libraries will let anyone in if they are "affiliated" with any other educational institution. Depending on how strict the policy is, this could even me being an alum of another university. Also many libraries (in the US at least) who are government repositories are required by law to let anyone in who asks.

If you do get in, a reference librarian could help you narrow down your search.
posted by arcolz at 2:15 AM on June 12, 2009

The UCLA Music Library Archive of Popular American Music doesn't seem to have it - though perhaps they might be the sort of people who would know where to get it?
posted by Coobeastie at 3:11 AM on June 12, 2009

The author of the item you linked to at Google Books has a blog, and he might be fairly receptive to providing you with more information if you contacted him.
posted by mattn at 3:16 AM on June 12, 2009

Is that 'charing cross' of Charing Cross, London? If so it could have a British origin. The V&A has a large collection of 18th century music sheets and might be able to help by email.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:43 AM on June 12, 2009

Best answer: I found it in Oxford's library system. Unfortunately it's listed as being in the Bodleian, so there's no way for anyone to check it out. If you can't find it anywhere else, however, I could try to request a photocopy and mail it along. Below is a copy/paste of the electronic record... maybe it will help your search:

Uniform Title In this wonderful age
Title The wonderful pig : who exibits every day near Charing Cross, with new music. And sung at several convivial societies.
Publisher London : Printed for T. Skillern ... , [ca. 1785]
Description 1 score ([2] leaves) : 1 ill.
Notes Song for voice and continuo (unfigured bass); with a version for the guitar.
Composer unknown.
Concerns a performing pig exhibited in London in 1785.
First line: In this wonderful age what strange subjects arise.
Caption title.
Subjects Songs with continuo.
Animals -- Songs and music.
Other Names Skillern, Thomas, fl. 1777-1802, publisher.
Library Holdings
Location Shelfmark Status
BOD Bookstack
posted by fatllama at 5:34 AM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

While (unsuccessfully) attempting to find what you're looking for, I came upon this story in the Massachusetts Centinel for October 26, 1785:
Foreign Intelligence.
LONDON, August 2.
Extract of a letter from Durham, July 20.

The enclosed hand bill having been previously distributed through the town, an immense number of people crowded to the place to view the wonderful hog of knowledge, among whom were the High Sheriff, a great many of the gentlemen of the long robe of the circuit, all the clergy in the diocess, (the Bishop excepted, he being indisposed) and ladies out of number. The crowd was so great, hats, caps, aprons, handkerchiefs, &c, were victioms to the eager curiousity of the fair sex to see this wonderful animal on its passage as the bill announced to Edinburgh. Upwards of three hundred persons of all ages and distinctions, but principally of the genteeler sort, procured admission at 2s and 1s each, when after waiting some time the fellow, who had published the advertisement, made his appearance, and began, by way of entertaining the company to repeat the soliloquy in Hamlet and then attempted to sing "Oh, what a charming thing's a battle," "Four and twenty fiddlers," &c. &c. &c. The company becoming rather impatient for the appearance of the wonderful pig, as they thought, a gentleman called out, "bring on the pig." "Bring on the pig," echoed throughout the whole assembly. The fellow made a most profound bow and addressed the company nearly as follows :

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you will do me the honour to look at the bill I published, you will see that the wonderful hog of knowledge is all I undertook to produce." Then with as much bare-faced audacity as ever was seen, he added with a very low bow, "My name, ladies and gentlemen, my name, I say, is Hog."

The indignation of the auditors was immediately raised, a general confusion ensued, when such hats, caps, &c. as had escaped the former crowd were now, in the general bustle, totally demolished, while the culprit by the assistance of a light pair of heels, effected his escape, and the audience were left to laugh at each other, and be laughed at by all who were not present for their duplicity.
The handbill announced that the "Hog of Knowledge" had appeared in London too--maybe this is the pig in question?
posted by nasreddin at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Slightly off-topic, but: you can get Thomas Rowlandson's 'The Wonderful Pig' print from the British Museum image service. They will email you a high-res version of the print for free, if you follow the 'Use digital image' link. It normally takes less than 24 hours.
posted by mattn at 9:46 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a description of the wonderful pig from a children's book of the time:

The creature was shewn for a sight in a room provided for the purpose, where a number of people assembled to view his performances. Two alphabets of large letters on card paper were placed on the floor; one of the company was then desired to propose a word which he wished the Pig to spell. This his keeper repeated to him, and the Pig picked out every letter successively with his snout, and collected them together till the word was compleated. He was then desired to tell the hour of the day, and one of the company held a watch to him, which he seemed with his little cunning eyes to examine very attentively; and having done so, picked out figures for the hour and minutes of the day. He shewed a number of tricks, of the same nature, to the great diversion of the spectators.

The pig turns up again in a song ('sung at Astley's Theatre, with universal Applause') describing all the attractions on display at Bartholomew Fair:

O Bartlemy, Bartlemy Fair,
That scene of confusion and frolic,
Such wonderful doings are there,
Would cure an old maid of the colic:
There's roundabouts, wild beasts and monkeys,
And also the wonderful pig!
There's gentlemen riding on donkeys,
And gin for the ladies to swig.
Ri tol de rol, &c.

I can't find a copy of the song you're looking for, but the British Library has a copy of another one, The Learned Pig, A Celebrated Comic Song (c. 1780), beginning 'Since London's the place'. I'll have a look at it on Monday and let you know if it includes the music as well as the words. If it does I'll send you a photocopy.
posted by verstegan at 11:34 AM on June 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I think fatlama has it - that would be great if you can get a photocopy, I've sent you memail as well. Arcolz: I'm not a student or alumni of any of the local universities, and from what I remember ILL services are usually for students only. I might try Berkeley to see what they have and what their policies are like.

The Wonderful Pig print - now who wouldn't want that in their living room over the couch?

Verstegan - both songs sound great as well. I'll memail you my details. Time to start a Learned Pig Song blog and post all of these for interested parties.

The Ricky Jay book has a large section on Learned Pigs for anyone who is interested in the subject of 18th century animal training.
posted by benzenedream at 12:04 PM on June 12, 2009

Best answer: Mission accompigged.

Got the print into the reading room today and had a look. A wonderful score, indeed! It is complete with an engraved illustration of a rotund pig on a stage, with his barker, and an audience. There's porcine onomatopoeia, and strangely, the pig-handler's and audience members' speech bubbles contain upside-down text. Several more verses are listed on the second page, as is the guitar part.

Bad news: they wouldn't let me take a photograph of the print, even with no flash.

Good news: they did agree to take it up to the photocopying room; three copies should be ready for pick up tomorrow sometime. Both (facing) pages may fit on one A3 page, or, we may have two separate pages. I'll try to get some zeros and ones online in some form soon after that.
posted by fatllama at 9:08 AM on June 15, 2009

(pics or it didn't happen)
posted by fatllama at 7:11 AM on June 16, 2009

Excellent work fatllama! benzenedream - do post the results in MeMusic, it'd be great to hear...
posted by freya_lamb at 4:18 PM on June 17, 2009

« Older window fan + lightning storm - will sparks fly?   |   I know what movie, i need to find it! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.