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The "Derby Dilly" (1835)

"Dilly" was an abbreviaton for a type of coach called a diligence, the main form of public transport in France; in England, it was known as a stagecoach.

By the end of 1834, political parties at Westminster were in some disarray. The Great Reform Act of 1832 had upset what had been a tolerable balance of power between the Whigs and Tories and out of the mix had emerged Sir Robert Peel's new "Conservative" party. The Whigs had regained power in the general elections held after the passing of the Reform Act but Peel had separated himself from the High Tories and was "party building" himself. Other MPs were trying to find a place for themselves in what were becoming new, very different types of political groupings in parliament. Lord Edward Stanley, leader of the Whigs in the House of Commons, really did not know where he fitted into this scheme of things and attempted to form a "centre" group between Peel and Melbourne. Stanley, together with Richmond, Ripon (formerly Goderich), Graham and about forty MPs, were in parliamentary transit, having left Melbourne's Whig ministry after Russell attempted to commit the administration to the princlple of lay appropriation. After having toyed with the idea of creating a new centre party, the "Derby Dilly" — diminished in strength by roughly one half by the 1835 General Election — gradually coalesced with Peel's Conservative Party although King William IV had hoped for a Stanley-Conservative coalition. Stanley and his followers struggled to make themselves a credible group in the House of Commons and became the target of other politicians such as Daniel O'Connel who said (26 February 1835):

What are we to call that section of the House to which the right hon. Baronet alluded, and over which the noble Lord (Stanley) presides? It is not a party — that he denies; it is not a faction — that would be a harsher title. I will give it a name — we ought to call it the tail. How delightful would it be to see it walking in St. James's-street to-morrow — to see the noble Lord strutting proudly, with his sequents behind him, and with a smile passing over his countenance — something like, as Curran said, "a silver plate on a coffin," while the right hon. member for Cumberland made one of its lustiest links — not held by the Cockermouth crutch [Fretchville Lawson Ballantine Dykes] , but supported by his detestation of all coalition. Yes, Sir, this is the ludicrous combination of supports by which the right hon. Baronet is this night to be saved. How is he to be saved? By the Tories? Oh no! By the Whigs? Oh no! the genuine Whigs have not gone over yet. Whatever becomes of speculation for places where no negotiation has as yet been entered into — whatever becomes of future prospects, of difficulties got over and subdued, of kindness thrown out, and courtesies offered, and protection held over these unfortunate orphans , — the Ministers as we call them — whatever becomes of their party, the true Whig, the true Reformer, the true friend of liberty will stand firm; and I doubt much that the right hon. Baronet's protection, with that of his noble Friend the noble Lord, and the sequents which he may carry with him, will avail those over whom it is extended: —

Down thy bill, romantic Ashbourne, glides
The Derby dilly, with his six insides.

Sir, it is quite consistent with the genius and disposition of my country to mix merriment with woe; the sound of laughter is often heard while the heart is wrung with bitter anguish, and the tear of sorrow dims the check. I have been led, in the spirit of this consistency, to mingle mirth with melancholy in speaking of the coalition of which we hear so much — this coalition of those who detest coalitions — this desertion from the cause of the country on the part of a set of nominal patriots and would-be ministers. How many embryo Lords of the Treasury see I not before me — how many Commissioners of the Board of Control — how many Lords of the Admiralty — how many Presidents of the Board of Trade? Quite enough of them to make an Administration. And the only difference between such a one and the present Administration would be, that it would not be so confident of the favour of the Court, or of the favour of the Conservatives. Though it would not have the support of the people, it would be a Ministry, mighty in imagination. But God forbid that the destinies of this country should be intrusted to men who know not themselves, and who stand firm to nobody!

House of Commons Debates, 26 February 1835 vol 26 cc325-410

The original poem, The Loves of the Triangle, written by C Frere, was published in the Anti-Jacobin on 23 April in Edition 24 (1798). The final lines of the poem are:

So down thy hill, romantic Ashboun, glides
The Derby dilly, carrying Three INSIDES.
One in each corner sits, and lolls at ease,
With folded arms, propt back, and outstretch'd knees;
While the press'd Bodkin, punch'd and squeezed to death,
Sweats in the midmost place, and scolds, and pants for breath.

This cartoon was produced by John Doyle on 10 August 1835: it is called "The Derby Dilly taken in tow by the Patent Safety".

The Spectator commented: "The Derby Dilly taken in tow by the Patent Safety" is a capital hit at the isolated position of those two trimmers PEEL and STANLEY. The Derby Dilly, empty and shabby, as been deserted by its coachman and cad; and is dragged along by PEEL's Patent Safety, with one poor miserable hack, — just as we see the stage-coaches, of a morning, being taken to be repaired. The Patent Safely is passengerless; except that the driver of the Dilly has got on the roof to keep company with his brother in misfortune, its coachman PEEL, and the Derby cad has taken his seat on the dickey, — intimating, we may suppose, that it's "all dickey", as the slang phrase runs, with poor Sir JAMES. (Vol. 8. 1 August 1835 p. 784)

The third person is identified as Sir Robert Inglis

The New Umpire Commonly Called "The Derby Dilly" published 5 March 1835. John ('HB') Doyle, printed by Ducôte & Stephens, published by Thomas McLean. Lithograph.

H. B. Political Sketches (1841) , p. 246, gives this description of the lithograph:

When Lord Stanley seceded from the Melbourne administration, he maintained for a time a neutral position. The number of members from both Houses of Parliament, who concurred with him, was so few that they could scarcely be called a party. The principal among them were the Duke of Richmond, Lord Ripon, and Sir James Graham. To this small select party, Mr O'Connell game the title of the Derby Diully, and here is the Derby Dilly upon the road. John Bull leans against the gate-post, and regards the concern with great indifference. His Majesty William IV., as the owner of all highways, stands in the toll-house. Lord Stanley is the proprietor, and drives for himself, and his two passengers in front are the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Ripon. Sir James Graham acts as guard to the coach.


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