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Mr. Pickwick and the Eatanswill Election

This extract is taken from Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers (1836-7).  An election is being held in the constituency of Eatanswill; the description illustrates contemporary election methods.  The candidates are Mr. Fizkin and Samuel Slumkey.  Here, Mr. Perker - Slumkey's agent - is explaining to Mr. Pickwick the plans to get votes for Slumkey.


'You have come down here to see an election - eh? Spirited contest, my dear sir, very much so indeed. We have opened all the public-houses in the place. It has left our opponent nothing but the beer-shops — masterly policy, my dear sir, eh?' The little man smiled complacently, and took a large pinch of snuff.

'And what is the likely result of the contest?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Why, doubtful, my dear sir, rather doubtful as yet,' replied the little man. 'Fizkin's people have got three-and-thirty voters in the lock-up coach-house at the White Hart.'

'In the coach-house!' said Mr. Pickwick, much astonished.

'They keep 'em locked up there till they want 'em,' resumed the little man. The effect, you see, is to prevent our getting at them. Even if we could, it would be of no use, for they keep them very drunk on purpose. Smart fellow, Fizkin's agent —very smart fellow indeed.

'We are pretty confident, though,' said Mr. Perker, his voice sinking almost to a whisper. 'We had a little tea-party here, last night — five-and-forty women, my dear sir — and gave every one 'em a green parasol when she went away. Five and-forty green parasols, at 7/6d each. Got the votes of all their husbands, and half their brothers. You can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half a dozen green parasols.'

'Is everything ready?' said Samuel Slumkey to Mr. Perker.

'Nothing has been left undone, my dear sir. There are twenty washed men at the street door for you to shake hands with; and six children in arms that you're to pat on the head, and ask the age of. Be particular about the children, my dear sir. It always has a great effect, that sort of thing.

'And perhaps if you could manage to kiss one of ''em, it would produce a very great impression on the crowd. I think it would make you very popular.'

'Very well,' said Samuel Slumkey, with a resigned air, 'then it must be done. That's all.'

'Arrange the procession,' cried the twenty committee-men.

There was a moment of awful suspense as the procession waited for Samuel Slumkey to step into his carriage. Suddenly the crowd set up a great cheering.

'He has come out,' said little Mr. Perker.

Another cheer, much louder.

'He has shaken hands with the men,' cried the little agent.

Another cheer, far more vehement.

'He has patted the babies on the head,' said Mr. Perker, trembling with anxiety.

A roar of applause that rent the air.

'He has kissed one of 'em!' exclaimed the delighted little man.

A second roar.

'He has kissed another."

He's kissing ''em all!' screamed the little gentleman. And, hailed by the deafening shouts of the crowd, the procession moved on.

See also A Year at Hartlebury for another election account.


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Last modified 26 October, 2013

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