Should have been a novelist!

I came across this great bit of descriptive writing from an entry in the diary of William Holland, November 1799:

Briffet is here to kill the sow. A horrible looking fellow, his very countenance is sufficient to kill anything, a large hulky fellow, a face absolutely furrowed with the small pox (a The Judge null by Thomas Rowlandson 1756-1827very uncommon thing in these days of inoculations) two ferret eyes and a little turned up nose with a mouth as wide as a barn door and lips as thick and projecting they look like two rollers of beef bolstered up to guard against, as it were, the approach to his ragged rotten teeth. However, he is a good pig killer.

Holland was not an author but a vicar writing a personal journal, but I think this is brilliant – and I’d easily recognise Briffet if I saw him in the street today!

(Historical note: it was common for even quite poor families to keep a pig and fatten it through the summer, to be killed to provide some meat over the winter months. Slaughtermen used to travel from village to village, plying their trade. The practice was still going on at least a century after this diary entry. In the wonderful Lark Rise to Candleford books by Flora Thompson, whose life spanned the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries, she describes exactly the same scenes being played out in rural Oxfordshire.)


About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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