Hobson's choice

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Jul 5 21:48:06 UTC 2013

I have no early datings for the term "Hobson's choice," but let me offer a brief bibliographical note on the popular and ever-expanding anthology _Witts Recreations_" (1640 et seq.):

George Herbert (d.1633) was the (supposed) collector of the "outlandish proverbs" (i.e., coming from non-London parts of England).  The compiler of the miscellany of epigrams (by numerous authors, mostly uncredited in this publication), "J.M," as he's referred to, is sometimes identified as John Mennes.

Other than his (non)choice, Hobson is principally famous for the light-hearted epitaphs that John Milton and other Cantebridgians wrote.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Friday, July 05, 2013 4:08 PM-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I meant to say: OED has a citation for the phrase Hobson's choice in
1660 and that seems to be the earliest currently known. ...

On Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 3:57 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> OED has a citation from Hobson's choice in 1660 and that seems to be
> the earliest currently known. Back on 2009 Fred sent a message to the
> ADS list about the term when he was searching Early English Books
> Online. The 1660 cite was the earliest cite in EEBO in 2009. Has
> anyone searched EEBO or other appropriate databases recently?
> I was asked to explore this term and have a question for list members.
> The book below contained several epitaphs for "Hobson the Carrier".
> Further below is one epitaph. Do you think this epitaph might refer to
> the choice of a single horse (or carrier) that was offered by Hobson?
> Does the phrase "Six Carriers" refer to the group carrying a coffin
> (i.e., pallbearers, though the term was no yet in use, apparently)?
> Alternatively, could it refer to a team of horses?
> Year: 1640
> Title: Witts recreations: Selected from the finest Fancies of Moderne
> Muses: With A Thousand out Landish Proverbs
> Author: George Herbert; William Marshall
> Publisher: London : Printed by R[ichard] H[odgkinson and Thomas Paine]
> for Humphry Blunden at the Castle in Corn-hill
> (The above bibliographic data is from WorldCat)
> http://books.google.com/books?id=j7_bpWjze40C&q=carriage
> [Begin excerpt]
> He that such carriage store, was wont to have,
> Is carried now himselfe unto his grave:
> O strange! he that in life ne're made but one,
> Six Carriers makes, now he is dead and gone.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson

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