Jim Piggin is an innkeeper with a wife and a son in Unnatural Death, one of the Lord Peter Wimsey detective stories by Dorothy L. Sayers. The episode in chapter 11 begins as follows:
Crofton is a delightful little old-world village, tucked away amid the maze of criss-cross country roads which fills the triangle of which Coventry, Warwick, and Birmingham mark the angles.
Wimsey and Parker are driving along and come across a man:
"There's a man sitting under that tree," pursued Parker. "We can ask him."
"He's lost his way too, or he wouldn't be sitting there," retorted the other. "People don't sit about in the rain for fun."
At this moment the man observed their approach and, rising, advanced to meet them with raised, arresting hand.
Wimsey brought the car to a standstill.
"Excuse me," said the stranger, who turned out to be a youth in motor-cycling kit, "but could you give me a hand with my 'bus?"
Wimsey fixes the motorcycle and then asks if there is an inn nearby:
"My governor keeps the 'Fox-and-Hounds.' Would that do? We'd give you awfully decent grub."
My interpretation is that this is the Piggin son, since he has a middle-class accent where "governor" would be a slang term for a father rather than an employer. Piggin senior however has a very Birmingham way of talking:
The "Fox-and-Hounds" turned out to be one of those pleasant, old-fashioned inns where everything is upholstered in horse-hair and it is never too late to obtain a good meal of cold roast sirloin and home-grown salad. The landlady, Mrs. Piggin, served the travellers herself. She wore a decent black satin dress and a front of curls of the fashion favoured by the Royal Family. Her round, cheerful face glowed in the firelight, seeming to reflect the radiance of the scarlet-coated huntsmen who galloped and leapt and fell on every wall through a series of sporting prints. Lord Peter's mood softened under the influence of the atmosphere and the house's excellent ale, and by a series of inquiries directed to the hunting-season, just concluded, the neighbouring families and the price of horseflesh, he dexterously led the conversation round to the subject of the late Miss Clara Whittaker.
"Oh, dear, yes," said Mrs. Piggin, "to be sure, we knew Miss Whittaker. Everybody knew her in these parts. A wonderful old lady she was. There's a many of her horses still in the country. Mr. Cleveland, he bought the best part of the stock, and is doin' well with them. Fine honest stock she bred, and they all used to say she was a woman of wonderful judgment with a horse—or a man either. Nobody ever got the better of her twice, and very few, once."
"Ah! "said Lord Peter, sagaciously.
"I remember her well, riding to hounds when she was well over sixty," went on Mrs. Piggin, "and she wasn't one to wait for a gap, neither. Now Miss Dawson—that was her friend as lived with her—over, at the Manor beyond the stone bridge—she was more timid-like. She'd go by the gates, and we often used to say she'd never be riding at all,' but for bein' that fond of Miss Whittaker and not wanting to let her out other sight. But there, we can't all be alike, can we, sir?—and Miss Whittaker was altogether out of the way. They don't make them like that nowadays. Not but what these modern girls are good goers, many of them, and does a lot of things as would have been thought very fast in the old days, but Miss Whittaker had the knowledge as well. Bought her own horses and physicked 'em and bred 'em, and needed no advice from anybody."
"She sounds a wonderful old girl," said Wimsey, heartily. "I'd have liked to know her. I've got some friends who knew Miss Dawson quite well—when she was living in Hampshire, you know."
"Indeed, sir? Well, that's strange, isn't it? She was a very kind, nice lady. We heard she'd died, too. Of this cancer, was it? That's a terrible thing, poor soul. And fancy you being connected with her, so to speak. I expect you'd be interested in some of our photographs of the Crofton Hunt. Jim?"
"Show these gentlemen the photographs of Miss Whittaker and Miss Dawson. They're acquainted with some friends of Miss Dawson down in Hampshire. Step this way—if you're sure you won't take anything more, sir."
Mrs. Piggin led the way into a cosy little private bar, where a number of hunting-looking gentlemen were enjoying a final glass before closing-time. Mr. Piggin, stout and genial as his wife, moved forward to do the honours.
"What'll you have, gentlemen?—Joe, two pints of the winter ale. And fancy you knowing our Miss Dawson. Dear me, the world's a very small place, as I often says to my wife. Here's the last group as was ever took of them, when the meet was held at the Manor in 1918. Of course, you'll understand, it wasn't a regular meet, like, owing to the War and the gentlemen being away and the horses too—we couldn't keep things up regular like in the old days. But what with the foxes gettin' so terrible many, and the packs all going to the dogs—ha! ha!—that's what I often used to say in this bar—the 'ounds is going to the dogs, I says. Very good, they used to think it. There's many a gentleman has laughed at me sayin' that—the 'ounds, I says, is goin' to the dogs—well, as I was sayin', Colonel Fletcher and some of the older gentlemen, they says, we must carry on somehow, they says, and so they 'ad one or two scratch meets as you might say, just to keep the pack from fallin' to pieces, as you might say. And Miss Whittaker, she says, 'Ave the meet at the Manor, Colonel,' she says, 'it's the last meet I'll ever see, perhaps,' she says. And so it was, poor lady, for she 'ad a stroke in the New Year. She died in 1922. That's 'er, sitting in the pony-carriage and Miss Dawson beside 'er. Of course, Miss Whittaker 'ad 'ad to give up riding to 'ounds some years before. She was gettin' on, but she always followed in the trap, up to the very last. 'Andsome old lady, ain't she, sir?"
Mr Piggin provides a little more information and suggests another informant, then closing time arrives:
Excuse me, sir, but it's time. I must get 'em out of the bar.—Time, gentlemen, please! Three and rightpence, sir, thank you, sir. Hurry up, gentlemen, please. Now then, Joe, look sharp."
Chapter 12 begins with Wimsey waking early after staying the night at the Piggin inn. Wimsey waylays Cobling, the other informant he has been seeking, on the road outside and invites him in for a drink:
"Now you mention it, there is something fretful about tea. Mr. Piggin, two pints of bitter, please, and will you join us?"
"Thank you, my lord," said the landlord. "Joe! Two large bitters and a Guinness. Beautiful morning, my lord—'morning, Mr. Cobling—I see you've made each other's acquaintance already."
"By Jove! so this is Mr. Cobling. I'm delighted to see you. I wanted particularly to have a chat with you."
"I was telling this gentleman—Lord Peter Wimsey his name is— as you could tell him all about Miss Whittaker and Miss Dawson. He knows friends of Miss Dawson's."
The last time we see Piggin in the story he is nothing but tedious:
Mr. Piggin roused himself presently from contemplation to tell a story of Miss Whittaker in the hunting-field. Mr. Cobling capped this by another. Lord Peter said "Ah!" Parker then emerged and was introduced, and Mr. Cobling begged the privilege of standing a round of drinks. This ritual accomplished, Mr. Piggin begged the company would be his guests for a third round, and then excused himself on the plea of customers to attend to.
A farmer Piggins, well dressed in kneebreeches and top-coat, appears in an early illustrated children's book, The Rocking Horse, or True Things and Sham Things Intended For the Amusement and Instruction of Children by Robin Goodfellow (the Guelph catalogue elsewhere states that this was a pseudonym used by John Galt (1779-1839), the Scottish novelist) [American edition: New York : N.B. Holmes, 1825]:
Farmer Piggins was standing smoking his pipe at the door of his house; his hands were in his waistcoat pocket; for the fields being all under snow, he had nothing to do.
"Dear heart, (quoth farmer Piggins, when he saw the boys coming in such haste towards him,) what can be the matter with Johnny and Tommy?" [...]
"What do you want younkers?" said Farmer Piggins, in a loud voice, which was very kind, although hoarse and gruff.
"We want (cried the boys,) corn and hay for our horse."
"Mercy on us! (said Goody Groaner,) mercy on us! have you got a horse?"
"Yes, yes (said Johnny and Tommy,) and such a beautiful creature, the like was never before seen in all this world. Do, good Piggins, do, give us some hay and corn; for he is so hungry, that, although we have been riding him all the morning, he has never budged from the hall."
"O, ho! (says farmer Piggins,) then it is not a live horse."
"O no! (replied Johnny,) it is a Rocking horse."
"Then (said the Farmer,) it can't eat; for it is made of timber.
"Ah! but (answered Tommy,) he has got a mouth; and, if he could not eat, he need not have had any mouth.
Farmer Piggins laughed at this answer, and went to the barn with the boys, and gave them hay and corn.
E-book edition reproduced at:
The surname Piggins is mentioned disparagingly in Elizabeth Gaskell's 1853 novel Cranford:
Now Mrs Fitz-Adam was the widowed sister of the Cranford surgeon, whom I have named before. Their parents were respectable farmers, content with their station. The name of these good people was Hoggins. Mr Hoggins was the Cranford doctor now; we disliked the name and considered it coarse; but, as Miss Jenkyns said, if he changed it to Piggins it would not be much better. We had hoped to discover a relationship between him and that Marchioness of Exeter whose name was Molly Hoggins; but the man, careless of his own interests, utterly ignored and denied any such relationship, although, as dear Miss Jenkyns had said, he had a sister called Mary, and the same Christian names were very apt to run in families.
from: Chapter VII: Visiting
Possibly the highest-status Piggin in fiction, this man is Secretary of State for Health of the United Kingdom, an adept television politician administering a 100-million-pound budget, in Lance Price's dire 2005 novel Time and Fate (Polperro Heritage Press). However he is regarded as a political enemy by British prime minister Paul Sinclair's chief of staff, Helen, and is also disparaged by the woman foreign secretary, Joanna Morgan. She despises Stephen Piggin as she manipulates him to her assist her in a party coup:
Morgan ... signalled for the Health Secretary to sit beside her on the old leather sofa. At least from there Stephen Piggin couldn't stare too openly at her legs. She never ceased to be amazed at how the older, fatter and less attractive a male MP was, the more of a predator he was likely to be. Yet anybody who thought that lechery wasn't a convertible currency in the market place of modern politics was a fool. And Joanna Morgan was no fool. Piggin on the other hand was, in the view of most of those who knew him at all well, every inch a fool. Every government had a sprinkling of them, but Joanna was a little embarrassed that she had invested so much political capital in keeping his career afloat. Fortunately he had few illusions that he was better than he really was. Without Joanna Morgan there would be no Stephen Piggin and he knew it.
At a meeting, Piggins is set up as a tool.
Only Stephen Piggin looked a little confused. Everybody else knew what they had to do.
Later Health Secretary Piggin is praised for his performance on TV, but an aide to the prime minister makes a snide remark:
"Stephen Piggin? A good show? There's a first time for everything. I suppose." This time Helen's interruption earned her a stern look from the direction of the Prime Minister's chair.
The chief of staff later tells the prime minister that Piggin has confided in a woman journalist over lunch:
"You remember Janine Clairmont? ... Well she's just had lunch with our Stephen Piggin ..... Now we all know that Piggin is pond life and he's only in the Cabinet because Jo insisted you keep him, and you caved in. Actually, for once it was a good move because if we didn't have our beloved Health Secretary we might know rather less about what Ms Morgan was up to. Like all pond life, he's severely deficient in brain cells. He also likes a drink and has a pathetic weakness for even half-way attractive women.... After a bottle of wine over lunch he was singing like a canary. ... Stephen Piggin is zero without Joanna Morgan. He has no thoughts of his own and no role in life other than to do her bidding until such time as she gets to sit in that chair and repays him for his mindless loyalty.
A character named Jeremiah Piggins appears in the humorous legal book Ten Years A Police Court Judge by "Judge Wiglittle of a Country Circuit". The University of Harvard librarian identifies this pseudonymous author as a Massachusetts judge, A.A. Putnam. The character Piggins is drunk on the day of his arraignment in the fictitious 19th century American town of Sprigton. Piggins behaves disgracefully in court, but is found not guilty: the judge rules that being drunk when appearing in court by no means proves that an accused had been drunk on the day of the offence:
The defendant is charged with being drunk by the voluntary use of intoxicating liquor. The day of the alleged offence was the day of the town-meeting in the town of his residence, and the place, as it is said, the town-hall, where the meeting was held....
It appears that there was a large attendance upon the meeting of the townspeople, including many ladies, who were present in earnest force to secure, if they might, a vote adverse to the licensing of liquor-selling; that the defendant was present for two or more hours, and moved more or less about the hall, and held discourse with divers persons, women as well as men; that he voted a vote in favour of license, and was outspoken in advocacy of the policy of granting license; and that there were several officers at hand who saw defendant, but did not arrest him nor attempt to do so....
The evidence, as I see it and have endeavoured to state it, raises in my mind not only a reasonable doubt, but involves me in absolute doubt and darkness. The answer to the question whether Jeremiah Piggins was inebriated on the day of the late town-meeting in Sprigton is enshrouded in impenetrable mystery. For aught I know, he might have been. For aught I know, he had on that interesting occasion tasted not, touched not, handled not. If I were to draw an inference from what appeared to be Mr. Piggin's [sic] tendency to beer the day he was arraigned on this complaint, I should think it is not impossible that he might have been too far in his cups for a discreet exercise of the right of suffrage on the day of the town-meeting. But it is not possible for me to go outside of the evidence in the case. I am to know only what I may, enlightened by the evidence material to the issue....
I know nothing about it, and, knowing nothing about it, the defendant is discharged and the witnesses are dismissed from further attendance on the case.
from: One of the Judge's Criminal Decisions, Commonwealth vs. Piggins, pages 57-61 [New York : Funk and Wagnalls, 1884]
Piggins is the unflappable butler at the home of Mr and Mrs Reynard in a series of children's books by the U.S. author Jane (Hyatt) Yolen, born 1939/02/11. The first book in the series appeared in 1987. As drawn by Jane Dyer, Piggins is an anthropomorphic but very porky pig. See him in the cover pictures reproduced on Jane Yolen's website. Yolen graciously writes in a signed copy of the original book: "For the Piggin family—Thanks for the loan of your name!"
Titles include the original Piggins [New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1987], Picnic with Piggins [San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1988], Piggins and the Royal Wedding [San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1988]. Bibliographic data is available from the U.S. Library of Congress Catalog via Z39.50 gateway: http://lcweb.loc.gov/z3950/gateway.html (searched 1999/05/17).
Trit-trot, trit-trot. That is the sound of Piggins, the butler at 47 The Meadows, going up the stairs. He has polished the silver teapot so well he can see his snout in it....
Piggins outwits a thief who comes to dinner:
Piggins smiles. "I, on the other hand, am not stumped. I know who has done it.... "First there are the clues," says Piggins. "A piece of red thread near the door. A trail of cheese crumbs..."
Yolen (jokingly?) told fourth-graders at Wellesley College's Bates School in 1998 that there would be no more Piggins books. Her remarks are recorded in a thank-you letter to the Wellesley old girl who had arranged the gathering:
"We had a great time talking with Jane Yolen.... One interesting thing we found out is that Jane Yolen can't do any more Piggins books because the illustrator, Jane Dyer, won't illustrate any more Piggins books unless it is Piggins on the Titanic..."
Extracted 1999/10 from the Friends of the Library Newsletter at Wellesley.
The Australian comedy writer R.A. Spratt has recently (2009) published two books of illustrated humour for children, The Adventures of Nanny Piggins and Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan. Spratt's website, raspratt.com offers this summary: Nanny Piggins (the world’s most glamorous flying pig) runs away from the circus and goes to live with the Greens as their nanny. The Green children, Derrick, Samantha and Michael, fall in love with her instantly. Who could not fall in love with a Nanny whose only job qualifications are her astonishing ability to be fired out of a cannon and her amazing ability to make chocolate cake, sometimes both at the same time?
Hamlet Piggins is a talented young swine who inherits a restaurant and turns it into a cooking school in Hamlet and the tales of Sniggery Woods, a primary school reader published in 2009 by Henry Holt of New York. This character was created by Maggie Kneen
Our trawls of the Internet have produced one or two other fictional Piggins characters in unpublished (and seriously incompetent) writing. We leave them unmentioned here, other than a madwoman, Mrs Piggins, in a self-published U.S. novel, Last Flight of the Fallen Valkyrie by Theodore Lovecraft (2004, PageFree Publishing), and a mystery character, Percy Piggins, who apparently figures in a cartoon (Entry (p. 36) in Encyclopedia of Comic Characters, by Denis Gifford [Harlow : Longman, 1987]. Nothing else is known of him.
© Jean-Baptiste Piggin 2000-2009. This page may not be copied, published or placed online elsewhere without express permission from the author.