Background.

Sketches by Boz
  • A determined opponent of the constituted authorities, whoever they may chance to be” is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Our Parish, Chapter 4 (The Election for Beadle)
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Context.

Description of Captain Purday. Purday is an ardent supporter of Bung in his quest to be elected as beadle.

The Charles Dickens sketch, The Election for Beadle first appeared in The Evening Chronicle on Tuesday, 14 July 1835. The tale describes a battle between two men, Bung and Thomas Spruggins, to be elected as the local parish beadle.


Canvassing for the candidates Bung and Spruggins in the election to be the local parish beadle. Illustration by George Cruikshank from Sketches by Boz.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in the sketch The Election for Beadle:

His great opponent in public life is Captain Purday, the old naval officer on half-pay, to whom we have already introduced our readers. The captain being a determined opponent of the constituted authorities, whoever they may chance to be, and our other friend being their steady supporter, with an equal disregard of their individual merits, it will readily be supposed, that occasions for their coming into direct collision are neither few nor far between. They divided the vestry fourteen times on a motion for heating the church with warm water instead of coals: and made speeches about liberty and expenditure, and prodigality and hot water, which threw the whole parish into a state of excitement. Then the captain, when he was on the visiting committee, and his opponent overseer, brought forward certain distinct and specific charges relative to the management of the workhouse, boldly expressed his total want of confidence in the existing authorities, and moved for ‘a copy of the recipe by which the paupers’ soup was prepared, together with any documents relating thereto.’ This the overseer steadily resisted; he fortified himself by precedent, appealed to the established usage, and declined to produce the papers, on the ground of the injury that would be done to the public service, if documents of a strictly private nature, passing between the master of the workhouse and the cook, were to be thus dragged to light on the motion of any individual member of the vestry. The motion was lost by a majority of two; and then the captain, who never allows himself to be defeated, moved for a committee of inquiry into the whole subject. The affair grew serious: the question was discussed at meeting after meeting, and vestry after vestry; speeches were made, attacks repudiated, personal defiances exchanged, explanations received, and the greatest excitement prevailed, until at last, just as the question was going to be finally decided, the vestry found that somehow or other, they had become entangled in a point of form, from which it was impossible to escape with propriety. So, the motion was dropped, and everybody looked extremely important, and seemed quite satisfied with the meritorious nature of the whole proceeding.

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A determined opponent of the constituted authorities, whoever they may chance to be.
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