Background.

Sketches by Boz
  • The field was filled with competitors for the vacant office, each of whom rested his claims to public support, entirely on the number and extent of his family, as if the office of beadle were originally instituted as an encouragement for the propagation of the human species” is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Our Parish, Chapter 4 (The Election for Beadle).

Context.

This quotation humourosly describes the potential candidates for an election of a beadle, their suitability appearing to be based on the number of children they have.

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:

The breath was scarcely out of the body of the deceased functionary, when the field was filled with competitors for the vacant office, each of whom rested his claims to public support, entirely on the number and extent of his family, as if the office of beadle were originally instituted as an encouragement for the propagation of the human species. ‘Bung for Beadle. Five small children!’—‘Hopkins for Beadle. Seven small children!!’—‘Timkins for Beadle. Nine small children!!!’ Such were the placards in large black letters on a white ground, which were plentifully pasted on the walls, and posted in the windows of the principal shops. Timkins’s success was considered certain: several mothers of families half promised their votes, and the nine small children would have run over the course, but for the production of another placard, announcing the appearance of a still more meritorious candidate. ‘Spruggins for Beadle. Ten small children (two of them twins), and a wife!!!’ There was no resisting this; ten small children would have been almost irresistible in themselves, without the twins, but the touching parenthesis about that interesting production of nature, and the still more touching allusion to Mrs. Spruggins, must ensure success. Spruggins was the favourite at once, and the appearance of his lady, as she went about to solicit votes (which encouraged confident hopes of a still further addition to the house of Spruggins at no remote period), increased the general prepossession in his favour. The other candidates, Bung alone excepted, resigned in despair. The day of election was fixed; and the canvass proceeded with briskness and perseverance on both sides.

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The field was filled with competitors for the vacant office, each of whom rested his claims to public support, entirely on the number and extent of his family, as if the office of beadle were originally instituted as an encouragement for the propagation of the human species.
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