antedating (?) "Cheshire cat"

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Aug 8 13:47:12 UTC 2009

OED cat, n. 1. 13f gives as its first quote the curiously-dated:

1770-1819 WOLCOTT (P. Pindar) 91 (D.) Lo! like a Cheshire cat our court will

The quote is from:

A pair of lyric epistles to Lord Macartney and his ship, that was first
published, as far as I know, in 1792. Since it refers to Lord Macartney's
embassy to China it could not have been written as early as 1770, as George
Macartney [or Maccartney] was appointed envoy in 1792.

Earlier than the 1792 quotation is (unpaginated):
CHESHIRE CAT. He grins like a Cheshire cat; said of any one who shows his teeth
and gums in laughing.

in A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue, Francis Grose, The Second
Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, London 1788.

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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