The former of these two is not often met with in texts antenor to 1600; I have noted the following instances:
1393 Gower, Conf. Am. I ;6o8, Thou schalt seie, upon this molde, That alle womman lievest wolde Re soverein of mannes love.
c. 1430 Myr. of oure I.adye 29, They that wolde lener be in the quier.
1528 Rede ine etc p. 42, he wolde lever dye a martyr 1553 Ascham, Works I, n, p. 355, My trust is, you will not judge me unconstant for this university in choice of my living, hut rather one that would lievest live as I find myself fittest to serve my prince and my country.
N^Td'1 , ltei mStanCeS' d°Wn to i898' are quoted in the
/ would as lief, a parel lel to / had as lief, is of later origin • t ie earliest instance 1 know of, occurs in the Coventrv Mvttènes (1450—1500):
the trewth wolde I knowe ,w Ir ff as ye. For later instances see the N. E. D. and also the Dial Dict.
The bl en ding process that resulted in / had rathe, is aptly illustrated by the following passage:
Cov. Mir. PI. p. I20, Rather than. I xuld pleynyn opynly... had l levyr fforsake the coutry ffor evyr - cf Ilickescorner P. 17, Yet had 1 liever see him hanged by
the chin, Rather than that should be brought about; -
see similar inst. on p. 192.
I had rather first appears about the middle of the i5th century, in Reliquia Antiquce I, 72, Vet haid l rether dye For his sake ons agayne (quoted in N. E. D.) In the i6th century it entirely ousted I had lever, while it was in a fair way to supPlant / would rather as well, for while instances of the latter phrase are comparatively rare. examples of / had rather may be collected by dozens from the early iöth century dramas Lord Berner's Froissart, Ascham's Works etc. This circuni' stance no doubt led to the mistaken notion that / would ralher was a corruption of / had rather.
52. Jespersen makes the following remark:" a further step in the gradual forgetfulness of the old idiom (i. e had rather