Words of Wisdom from History’s Most Scholarly Swine

Those seeking inspiration or guidance often look to respected authors, philosophers, inventors, world leaders, and other famous people.

But few, if any, look to a pig.

Toby The Sapient Pig, 1817 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Toby The Sapient Pig, 1817 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The swine race, however, should not be so easily discarded. A look back into the history of the species reminds us of its shining star, Toby, the Sapient Pig.

Toby was a learned pig who achieved great fame in England in the early 1800s. Billed as “The only scholar of his race in the world,” Toby could spell, read, play cards, tell time and guess people’s ages.

Fortunately for us, he could also write. And with that glorious talent, he wrote his autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Toby, the Sapient Pig; With His Opinions on Men and Manners. Thus, his tale has been preserved through the centuries, allowing us all to marvel at his genius.

In the book, he informs us that he was born in Aversall on April 1, 1816. He’s quick to note that day is “no fool’s day with me.”

A gentleman passing through town purchased the piglet, and rather than eating him, he began tutoring the little fellow. During these sessions, Toby’s name came to be: “As it was a matter of chance, for some time, whether my master and I succeeded or not, in point of talent, he doubted much; recollecting Hamlet’s soliloquy, ‘To be, or not to be,’ he involuntarily used those words in addressing me.”

His master indeed succeeded. Perhaps someday we will see another pig of his equal, but until then, enjoy a few observations and words of wisdom from Toby below.


On his own superiority:

By the time I was four months old, I could read tolerably well: at present I know many little boys and girls, at four years old, that cannot do any thing like it. What a shame that will appear to them, and how angry will they be with themselves, when they are able to read this my life, that one of my race should so far surpass them at so tender an age.


Toby's autobiography.

Toby’s autobiography.

On drunkenness:

If a man did but know how far he lessens his dignity, and how near he approaches, nay outsteps the brute creation, in his thoughts, words, and deeds, besides the offence he offers to the sober eye, at the blush of modesty, he would never again be found in that degraded state.


On nerves:

The celebrity I had attained in the country had somewhat run before me in the way of newspaper report; but when I was formally announced to perform, I became the topic of the day—expectation was on the wing—the prying eye of curiosity was wide open—and the most arduous task I should ever have to accomplish, was now before me. Those who have been in a similar situation, can alone be able to conceive what I must have felt: as the time grew nearer, it was dreadful; however, I possess a strong nerve, and small share of confidence, which, I was convinced, would greatly assist me, and in the trial I found them adequate to my purposes.


On the joys of triumph:

My first appearance was greeted with loud and reiterated plaudits; from every part handkerchiefs waving—fans rapping—placards exhibited;—in fact, the tumults of applause were greater than ever was known before. The encouragement such a flattering reception afforded, roused every latent spark of genius in me; and the brilliancy of my mind shone like a constellation. As I proceeded through the various scenes I had to depict, I received every testimony of approbation I could wish; and the close of my scenic effort was crowned with universal applause.

May these words serve you well, whether you believe in writing pigs or not.