Letter to North Devon Journal

Thursday September 27 1849

Sir – A letter appeared in your paper last week, signed “Tenant Farmer”, which I should not attempt to answer were it not that it contains statements which, if true, would certainly tend to bring much discredit on myself. The writer opens his epistle by expressing his surprise at the tenacity with which persons stick to old customs, when so doing turns to their profit. What he alludes to “sticking to old customs,” as everyone who reads his letter may easily understand, is the keeping of pigs. Now this very custom which “Tenant Farmer” so strongly deprecates as being adhered to with tenacity by myself and others, is the same custom which he himself, according to his own acknowledgment, would gladly adopt, were he permitted to do so.

He says he has “room enough to keep 500 pigs, and would send tight carts every morning to collect he wash” - that is, that he would do the very thing which he condemns me for doing, while I only keep 10 at an average. He condemns me for keeping ten pigs, while he himself would not hesitate to keep 50 times that number. And for what would he keep them? - For profit, no doubt. Oh! but he would keep these pigs in the country. That, to be sure, alters the case. He would keep nuisances (as he calls them) in fairer realms which as yet have escaped the dread influence of the malady. “Tenant Farmer” then would evidently remove the evil from the infected towns into the country. This “Tenant Farmer” would certainly do. He would remove all these unclean poor creatures (Creatures, however, not always as unclean as men) to the abodes of innocent farmers who know not how to stick to old, by-gone and pernicious customs, for profit, which, alas! so often characterize us unworthy residents of the towns.

This worthy “Tenant Farmer” authoritatively exclaims, “Let the authorities do their duty” - let them remove every pig, and hand each one of these unclean animals over to me; I can keep 500 of them – I can serve the town with pork. But for what will you do so, Mr “Tenant Farmer”? - For profit, to be sure, for that very thing which you condemn others for seeking.

But what appears to the the worst breach of charity and justice contained in this Mr “Tenant Farmer's” letter is, that he endeavours, most unmanly indeed, to make it appear that , in consequence of my sticking to the custom of keeping pigs, &c, several families have been obliged to leave the premises which they occupied, as being approximate to mine. Indeed, he seems to have been well aware that no persons had left their premises on such an account; for he neither affirms no denies everything, but yet puts the question - “Is it a fact that several families within the last two years have been obliged to leave that neighbourhood in consequence of the intolerable effluvia arising from his boiling apparatus and stinking pigggeries?” - He puts this question in such a sophisticated manner as to leave the impression on the minds of his readers that persons had actually left in consequence. But who have left their premises within the last two or three years, on either side of mine? None, but Mr. Williams who emigrated to New South Wales; and, it is well known, he did not go on that account. The same persons, with the exception of Mr Williams, who were residing in the premises on this and on that side of mine, three or four years ago, reside there still; and that speaks ill of “Tenant Farmer's” philanthropy and veracity.

Indeed, I admit the impropriety of keeping pigs in places not adapted for that purpose; but the place in which I store mine is situated at the extremity of a garden 120 feet from the nearest dwelling house. This place is sheltered by a wall 10 feet in height; so that nothing, in the way of mischief, can reasonably be supposed to result from pigs being kept under such circumstances. But one word more – will Mr “Tenant Farmer” be so bold, and so manly, and so honest, as to give his proper name and address in answer to this, that our townspeople may have the opportunity of knowing to whom they must send their wash. I hope he will learn from this that pigs are not the only unclean animals; and that meanness and spleen, grounded on the most fallacious, ungenerous, and unjust principles, as they of necessity be, can never fail to merit the censure and disapprobation of very lover of truth.

Hoping when “Tenant Farmer” writes again that he will show more regard to truth,

I am, Sir, you obedient servant,


Pilton, September 14th, 1849.

Note: the paragraphs have been inserted for easier reading.

The newspaper cutting, taken with thanks from the Bristish Newspaper Archives:

Text from briths Newspaper Archives