Antedating of "sweet dreams"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 11 19:28:21 UTC 2013

"sweet dreams" int. (OED: 1908)

As an interjection, I found two 1801s a 1776 (twice). (Dreams described as sweet can be found in 1680 and 1709.)

(This info with screeenshots: )


John Wolcot, writing under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar, used it in his poem "Orson and Ellen; A Legendary Tale" published in 1801:

" But I will go since 'tis thy wish :
  " My angel fair, good night ;
" Sweet dreams to thee, my only dear,
  " Aye, dreams of rich delight."

" Sweet dreams unto my friend also,"
  With sweetest smiles, said she ;
" Ah then of ELLEN I must dream,"
  With gallantry said he.


Also from 1801 in *The infernal Quixote* (Page 287) by Charles Lucas:

Poor Emily was like one thunder-
struck. -- " Good night, and sweet
dreams to my lovely girl!" was the great
man's address as he left the room.


In the March 1776 of *The Universal Magazine* was published "The Serenade. A Pastoral Tale. From the German of Gesner", where the shepherd Daphnis watches over his beloved as she sleeps and sings:

Lovely dreams! conduct her to the grove where flowers are with the verdure mixed!
Sweet dreams! deign at last to present my image to her.

The same tale appears in 1776's as Idyl XI, "Daphnis" in New Idylles by Gessner translated by W. Hooper. Salomon Gessner was a Swiss painter and poet and first wrote "Daphnis" in 1754.


Dreams had been referred to as sweet much earlier, such as in Francis Bacon's Wisdom of the Ages in 1680 (originally from 1609 in Latin, "Done into English by Sir Arthur Gorges Kt."), and 1709 in The Works of Sir John Suckling: Containing His Poems, Letters and Plays.



The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list