Background.

Sketches by Boz
  • Two coaches for the old ladies, the greater portion of whom, owing to the captain’s impetuosity, were driven up to the poll and home again, before they recovered from their flurry sufficiently to know, with any degree of clearness, what they had been doing” is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Our Parish, Chapter 4 (The Election for Beadle).

Context.

This quotation humourosly describes the practise of ‘bussing-in’ of voters at an election. Captain Purday has organised a series of coaches to transport people to vote in his support for the candidate Bung.

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:

On the following day the polling began, and we never have had such a bustle in our parish since we got up our famous anti-slavery petition, which was such an important one, that the House of Commons ordered it to be printed, on the motion of the member for the district. The captain engaged two hackney-coaches and a cab for Bung’s people—the cab for the drunken voters, and the two coaches for the old ladies, the greater portion of whom, owing to the captain’s impetuosity, were driven up to the poll and home again, before they recovered from their flurry sufficiently to know, with any degree of clearness, what they had been doing. The opposite party wholly neglected these precautions, and the consequence was, that a great many ladies who were walking leisurely up to the church—for it was a very hot day—to vote for Spruggins, were artfully decoyed into the coaches, and voted for Bung. The captain’s arguments, too, had produced considerable effect: the attempted influence of the vestry produced a greater. A threat of exclusive dealing was clearly established against the vestry-clerk—a case of heartless and profligate atrocity. It appeared that the delinquent had been in the habit of purchasing six penn’orth of muffins, weekly, from an old woman who rents a small house in the parish, and resides among the original settlers; on her last weekly visit, a message was conveyed to her through the medium of the cook, couched in mysterious terms, but indicating with sufficient clearness, that the vestry-clerk’s appetite for muffins, in future, depended entirely on her vote on the beadleship. This was sufficient: the stream had been turning previously, and the impulse thus administered directed its final course. The Bung party ordered one shilling’s-worth of muffins weekly for the remainder of the old woman’s natural life; the parishioners were loud in their exclamations; and the fate of Spruggins was sealed.

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Two coaches for the old ladies, the greater portion of whom, owing to the captain’s impetuosity, were driven up to the poll and home again, before they recovered from their flurry sufficiently to know, with any degree of clearness, what they had been doing.
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