The Returning Officer: Honeybun

Tom Taylor was a popular Victorian playwright as well as the fourth editor of Punch. His play Our American Cousin was onstage when Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.

The Contested Election (1859) concerns a poll at Flamborough. The two usual candidates have agreed not to fight, eliminating free beer and vote-buying. This horrifies the election clubs the Blue Lambs and the Green Lions; they conspire with the corrupt attorney Dodgson to put up another candidate. The choice falls on a retired grocer, Mr Honeybun (“Vote Honeybun and no coalition”), whose wife wants to get back to London life.

Honeybun does not want to win and his putative son-in-law, Wapshott, stands to force Mrs Honeybun to agree to let him marry their daughter. The play ends with the match agreed but the poll still undecided.

This article first appeared in the 18 March 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The German Problem