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And then had come the unlooked-for tidings of the imminent proceedings for divorce. And such a divorce! There were cross-suits and allegations and counter-allegations, charges of cruelty and desertion, everything in fact that was necessary to make the case one of the most complicated and sensational of its kind. And the number of distinguished people involved or cited as witnesses not only embraced both political parties in the realm and several Colonial governors, but included an exotic contingent from France, Hungary, the United States of North America, and the Grand Duchy of Baden.

from The Unkindest Blow, a short story by Saki

Does "political parties" mean the members of political parties?

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The number of distinguished people involved [...] not only embraced both political parties in the realm and several Colonial governors, but included an exotic contingent from France, Hungary, the United States of North America, and the Grand Duchy of Baden.

Embraced is synonymous with "included" in this context. It's not a typical use of the word. Most of the time you would either "embrace an idea" (meaning accept it willingly) or "embrace a person" (hug).

Political parties always means "the people who belong to a political organization which promotes a certain doctrine or goal or policies."

So this sentence is effectively saying that "everyone was involved, no matter their political views or country of origin."

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    'Embrace' to mean 'include' is pretty well-established; hence the old joke about 'the male embraces the female', related to the old fashioned notion that the masculine pronoun (the so-called 'universal he') can do double duty to refer specifically to persons of the male sex and generally to persons of either sex. – Michael Harvey Jan 4 at 23:52
  • @ Michael That's a really interesting point but, as you point out, it's a bit "old fashioned." I think, in this day, that's a pretty atypical meaning and that the two meanings I cite would make up the vast majority of uses. – rpeinhardt Jan 5 at 0:19
  • rpeinhardt , Read my comment again, and see what I actually said was old-fashioned. – Michael Harvey Jan 5 at 9:16
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In this context, "political parties" refers to the organizations, not the people in the organizations. "Embraced" refers to this definition:

embrace (v): 2. Accept (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.

So, "the ... people involved ... embraced both political parties" means that these people were from both political parties -- which is to say, they represented a broad spectrum of political affiliations.

A similar example:

The people in the rural bar embraced both kinds of music -- Country and Western.

reference

  • What should I think about "the ... people involved ... embraced ... several Colonial governors"? – bandaid Jan 4 at 23:33
  • @bandaid you should think it's an odd continuation of the same metaphor. Obviously they didn't physically embrace the governors, so it must mean that they agreed with the political views and policies of the different governors. – Andrew Jan 4 at 23:41
  • As for "include" can I think it means "to contain something as a part of something else, or to make something part of something else"? – bandaid Jan 4 at 23:51
  • @bandaid Yes, it's just the standard definition of "include". The [group of people] included [some examples]. – Andrew Jan 4 at 23:53
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And the number of distinguished people involved or cited as witnesses not only embraced both political parties...

The language in this text is rather flamboyant. It uses words in a fancy or exaggerated way.

Here the key word is "embraced" which is being used in a style that is beyond most dictionaries. "Embraced" suggests "Puts arms around" or "In the circle of". It means that among the "distinguished"(=high class) people, there were people from "both political parties". Both parties would refer to the Conservative and Liberal parties, the dominant parties in the UK in the 19th century.

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    The OP identifies this as being from a short story by Saki (pen name of H.H. Munro), who lived from 1870 to 1916, so it's not "giving an impression" of a 19th century story so much as it is an actual 19th century story. And yes, he had a florid, flamboyant style, but he was hardly "steampunk" - he was writing contemporary social satire. – Canadian Yankee Jan 4 at 22:22
  • James K, bandaid has been asking a lot of questions about Saki recently. – Michael Harvey Jan 4 at 23:53
  • I have edited my answer – James K Jan 5 at 0:16

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