Pies have had leading and cameo roles in all sorts of works of fiction. Nursery rhymes, such as those illustrated here, and others such as Simple Simon, refer to pies. Pies have also made numerous appearances in novels. The ingredients and the method of procurement of Mrs Lovett's pies in Sweeney Todd has probably done more damage to the image of the meat pie than any other work of fiction to date.
FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS
An Italian recipe published in 1859 contained the method for making a very novel pie. Bake a large pie crust filled with flour. After baking make a hole in he bottom and empty out the flour. Before serving at the table, fill the empty crust with live birds. For at least three centuries this was a popular party piece and was the origin of the nursery rhyme.
LITTLE JACK HORNER
This nursery rhyme dates back to the 18th century or earlier. There is a theory that Jack Horner refers to Thomas Horner, steward to the Abbot of Glastonbury during the reign of Henry VIII. The abbot is said to have sent the king a large Christmas pie stuffed with title deeds of a dozen manors to persuade him not to confiscate the Church's lands. On the way to London, Horner opened the pie and removed the deeds to one of the manors, which he kept for himself.
GEORGIE PORGIE The nursery rhyme "Georgie Porgie' is said to refer to George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628).
King James I of England took Villiers as his lover and nicknamed him "Steenie". Villiers' good looks also appealed to the ladies. His most famous liaison was with Anne of Austria (1609-1669) who was Queen of France and married to King Louis XIII. The romance is featured in Alexander Dumas' novel 'The Three Musketeers'.
MRS LOVETT’S PIES
Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first appeared as a murderer in the Victorian "penny dreadful', The String of Pearls (1846-47).
Todd, a barber, dispatches his victims by pulling a lever as they si in his chair. His victims fall backwards into the basement, generally causing them to break their necks or skulls. In case they are alive, he goes to the basement and slits their throats with his razor.
After Todd has robbed his dead victims of their goods, Mrs. Lovett his partner in crime, disposes of the bodies by baking their flesh into pies and selling them to the unsuspecting customers of her pie shop.