Once again I’m afraid I’ve failed to think of anything interesting to say about County Cricket, but here instead is something on a sadly topical subject. This is from the preface to ‘Dear Pig’ by Nathaniel Gubbins, first published in 1948. Gubbins (who had puzzlingly adopted the name of a much better-known writer as his pseudonym) was a whimsical humourist for the Express, hugely popular during the War, though I’d say now largely forgotten. After the War, his left-wing opinions brought him into conflict with Lord Beaverbrook and his column was dropped.
I address you as ‘Dear Pig’ for two reasons. I do not know your name. For more than seventeen years you have sent me a weekly unsigned letter to the Sunday Express addressing me as ‘Dear Pig’.
Your first letter reached me the day after my first column appeared. Like the eight hundred and fifty letters which followed at regular intervals it was terse, to the point and highly critical. I think I can remember the exact words. They were ‘Dear Pig, what tripe’.
… I know you are passionately devoted to doggies and kiddies. You are also a stout defender of the ladies. Whenever I have offered some mild criticism of women, children or dogs, your letters have always been more vituperative and have appeared, at times, to have been written in a state of great agitation … I have been able to imagine you, hot with indignation, grabbing pen and paper before your anger had time to cool and rushing to the post office immediately after your Sunday morning breakfast. One one occasion you were so upset about a harmless little rhyme I wrote on motherhood that you threatened me with a horsewhip.
I think you are also a plain man who prefers facts to fancy. It is impossible to remember how many lines you have written in complaining that cats and sparrows can’t talk and that the many letters sent to me by animals and birds were ‘all a lot of lies’. … I have a sincere admiration for you. I admire your persistence in reading something which has infuriated you for seventeen years. A weaker character would have either turned a blind eye to my column, or bought another Sunday newspaper … I also admire your courage. Even when you were bombed out during the raids on London you staggered to the nearest post office still standing, grabbed a lettercard and wrote:
‘Dear Pig, My house has gone and your rotten article with it – one of the worst I have ever read.’
When you were ill in hospital you called for a pencil and paper and scrawled:
‘Dear Pig, I am feeling pretty bad and no better for reading your muck. This week you have touched bottom.’
So for all these reasons I am dedicating this book to you and taking its title from you. If I knew your name and address … I would send you a free copy, so that you could have the misery of reading some of the column all over again.
I any case, if you buy a copy I shall look forward eagerly to your comments.