We historical romance writers frequently make use of coaching accidents and drunken coachmen in our stories. Unlike the number of dukes we’ve created—which at this point must far exceed the total of all noblemen in 19th-century Great Britain—coaching accidents are, unfortunately, not an exaggeration. They occur frequently in Dickens’s novels because they occurred frequently. He experienced several.
Isabella/Susan sent me a link to Geri Walton’s recent post on the subject, at the History of the 18th and 19th Centuries blog. Ms. Walton explains the many ways carriage and coach travel could go wrong. One method she doesn’t mention is the following, apparently based on an actual incident:
“Heads, heads—take care of your heads!" cried the loquacious stranger, as they came out under the low archway, which in those days formed the entrance to the coach-yard. "Terrible place—dangerous work—other day—five children —mother—tall lady, eating sandwiches—forgot the arch— crash—knock—children look round—mother's head off—sandwich in her hand—no mouth to put it in—head of a family off—shocking, shocking!”
Look into any book about coaching, and you’ll read about accidents.
The clipping at right comes from the 1819 Annual Register* for 13 August.
Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.
Image: C.B. Newhouse, "A Passing Remark," from Thomas Cross, The Autobiography of a Stage Coachman (1904), courtesy Internet Archive.
*Account of the year 1819, published in 1820.