[Ads-l] "spirit" = "kidnapper", 1649; antedates OED2 a1675--

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Nov 25 23:33:42 UTC 2014

A good illustration, I believe, of a case where database searching 
would not be productive.  It would be like delving into the 
proverbial haystack: one would come up with countless false positives 
for other senses (such as "the immaterial, animating force" or "the 
incorporeal being"), which senses surely were widely used in the 17th 
century and earlier.  There is still a place for serendipitous discoveries.

"The usuall way of getting servants, hath been by a sort of men 
nick-named Spirits, who take up all the idle, lazie, simple people 
they can intice, such as have professed idlenesse, and will rather 
beg then work; who are perswaded by these Spirits, they shall goe 
into a place where food shall drop into their mouthes: and being thus 
deluded, they take courage, and are transported. But not finding what 
was promised, their courage abates, & their minds being dejected, 
their work is according: nor doth the Master studie any way how to 
encourage them, but with sowre looks, for which they care not; and 
being tyred with chasing himselfe, growes carelesse, and so all comes 
to nothing."

1649 [imprint adds 19 April].  William Bullock.  _Virginia 
Impartially examined, and left to publick view, to be considered by 
all Iudicious and honest men_.  London: John Hammond.  p. 14.  [First 
encountered in a book on involuntary servitude in the early modern 
period; text taken from EEBO.]

Antedates OED2 "spirit" sense 5.a.  a1675--.


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