Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Ch. 2 Annotation – Old Poz, the Parent’s Assistant by Maria Edgeworth

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

Did you ever read the Rambler? It’s a wonderful book – wonderful! …better than that strange old book, with the queer name, poor Captain Brown was killed for reading – that book by Mr Boz, you know – ‘Old Poz’; when I was a girl – but that’s a long time ago – I acted Lucy in ‘Old Poz.’

While this dialogue of Miss Jenkyns seems quite rambling it has some significant insight to her character. Can it be foreshadowing her relationship with her father? Is it once again reiterating the image of Miss Jenkyns as a true judge or justice? We’ll be exploring more of her character through Miss Matty’s memories of their youth. But for now let’s take a quick look at the storyline of Old Poz, which was a short children’s play in a collection of children stories published in 1796 called The Parent’s Assistant.

Old Poz is a play about a young girl, named Lucy. Her father is a justice and when an old man comes asking to see him on a small matter that’s important to him Lucy goes to her father to ask him to see the old man. But her father is a gouty and stubborn, he won’t see anyone until he’s finished drinking his chocolate, which he drinks extra sweet,

Just. No, child–there’s NO sugar, I tell you; that poz!
Lucy. Oh, but, papa, I assure you I put in two lumps myself.
Just. There’s NO sugar, I say; why will you contradict me, child, for ever? There’s no sugar, I say.

Second edition of Part I of Maria Edgeworth's The Parent's Assistant

When the old man is finally admitted we learn that he’d been staying at Saracen’s Head and that he was traveling to live with his grandson. Before he said his prayers he checked his tobacco box ,where he keeps his money, when he woke up, the box was empty. The Justice finds it irrational that a thief wouldn’t steal the box and assumes the old man is lying threatening him a committal but he’ll give him an hour to re-think what he’s said.

Just. Pshaw! pshaw! pshaw! darling. Go to your dolls, darling, and don’t be positive–go to your dolls, and don’t talk of what you don’t understand. What can you understand, I want to know, of the law?

Lucy. No, papa, I didn’t mean about the law, but about the box; because, if the man had taken it, how could it be here, you know, papa?

But the old gentleman insists it was true. Throughout the whole Lucy displays a genuine concern for true justice and during the hour solved what happened, the money had been taken and hid by a magpie. The old man is very happy and thankful for Lucy’s help.

You can read the eight page play here: Old Poz – The Parent’s Assistant by Maria Edgeworth

Katherine C.


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