From Far from the Madding Crowd, from the scene in which Bathsheba is paying her workers their wages:

"What do you do on the farm?"
"I do do carting things all the year, and in seed time I shoots the rooks and sparrows, and helps at pig-killing, sir."
"How much to you?"
"Please nine and ninepence and a good halfpenny where 'twas a bad one, sir--ma'am I mane."
"Quite correct. Now here are ten shillings in addition as a small present, as I am a new comer."

What is the meaning of this? Is it derived from some proverb or byword?

P.S. "mane" is eye dialect for "mean" (here's one source)

  • I think it means they get tipped a ha'penny every now and again. Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


My interpretation is that Poorgrass gets a ha’penny bonus if the pig-killing is a ‘bad one’.

Hardy is known to have been opposed to the prevalence of inhumane pig slaughter and in particular the practice of slow-bleeding. We can see this represented in Jude’s revulsion at the cruelty of Arabella’s preferred methods in Jude the Obscure.

In ‘Food in the Novels of Thomas Hardy: Production and Consumption’ By Kim Salmons, the author states

In Harry’s personal notebooks, he records a letter of August 1919 that he sent to Mr. W. J. Malden, Chair of the Wessex Saddleback Pig Society, in which he remarks that he is ‘more bent on human methods of slaughter that [sic] on anything else in relation to it.’ Hardy continues the letter with a suggestion: ‘I am not aware if the stupid custom still prevails of having pork “well bled”. This impoverishment of the meat for the sake of a temporary appearance should, I feel, be discouraged by the Society’. At the bottom of the letter in Hardy’s notebook, he remarks in the third person, ‘It is satisfactory to know that Hardy’s suggestions were acted upon by the society’. (Taylor 1979, p. 270).

Salmons goes on to note that Hardy had hoped the slaughter scene in Jude would

serve a humane end in showing people the cruelty that goes on unheeded under the barbarous regime we call civilisation.

So I would read it that Poorgrass gets a little extra compensation if the pig kicks up extra fuss about being killed slowly. The 9/9 was his regular wage covering all of his duties, including pig-killing, but as pig-killings happen only infrequently any bonus related to a difficult one seemed worthy of special mention.

  • +1. This ties in with the prior question How much [does pig-killing give] to you? Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 21:28
  • As I understand, Poorgrass was expected to tell the total sum that the owner of the farm was to pay to him for his work. So he was not telling the total, but explaining the rates paid for each type of work, is it? Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 1:54
  • What does "bad one" mean in this context - killing the pig slowly, or the pig making a lot of noise, or ?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 6:52
  • @Randal'Thor Whatever Poorgrass found hard to handle I suppose. I’ve never attended a pig-killing so my references are limited. Hardy makes Jude bothered by his awareness of the pigs suffering, so anything where that was more acute or apparent perhaps. A botched job of some sort where the pig suffers more.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 7:23
  • @CopperKettle I couldn’t find anything to say what period the nine and ninepence covered, but it can’t have been very long if the ten shillings is described as a small gift, so my understanding was that the 9/9 was his regular wage covering all of his duties, including pig-killing, but that pig-killings happen only infrequently so that any bonus related to a difficult one seemed worthy of special mention.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 7:29

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