[Ads-l] mole = spy antedating (?)

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Tue Dec 8 13:02:04 UTC 2015

On 12/8/15 12:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
> The statement by Bacon was reprinted many times over the years. The
> 1891 citation below contained the passage about moles and included a
> reference to "spials". A footnote indicated that "spials" were
> "spies". So the passage was clearly connected to the domain of
> espionage circa 1891:
> Year: 1891
> Title: Selections in English Prose from Elizabeth to Victoria (1580-1880)
> Section: Francis Bacon
> Quote Page 85
> Compiler: James M. Garnett (James Mercer Garnett)
> Publisher: Ginn & Company, Boston, Massachusetts
> https://books.google.com/books?id=cVcYAAAAYAAJ&q=spials#v=snippet&
> [Begin excerpt]
> As for his secret spials, [21] which he did employ both at home and
> abroad, by them to discover what practices and conspiracies were
> against him, surely his case required it; he had such moles
> perpetually working and casting to undermine him. Neither can it be
> reprehended; for if spials be lawful against lawful enemies, much more
> against conspirators and traitors.
> Footnote [21] spies
> [End excerpt]
Garson: note the use of "mole" along with "undermine". Here's that 
metaphor at work: "undermining" is that act of digging under the 
fortification walls to make them collapse,
as Peter pointed out.

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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