[Ads-l] "join the circus"?

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Jun 7 12:57:48 UTC 2019

Has anyone looked into the origin of the trope "to run away and join the circus" and variants? I've checked in a few places, and aside from non-native speakers asking what it means, I can't find any discussion of the age of this trope.

In a very quick glance at Google Books, I found a literal 1883 example:

1883 _Peterson's Mag._ Aug. 137/1 Jack knew all about circuses. They were his one ambition. He had been to several, before his stay with his aunt; been twice since, surreptitiously. "Why can't I run away," he said, "and join this one?"

But I'm curious when it became a cliche for 'escaping conventional life' etc.

Jesse Sheidlower

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

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