England's Reformation: From The Time Of King Henry Viii, To The End Of Oates' Plot "Hobson's Choice"
by Thomas Ward

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"Hobson's Choice"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Thomas Ward's England's Reformation . . ., an extensive poem on church history, deals with the period from Henry VIII to that of Charles II. There was apparently some question about the validity of the consecration of Archbishop Parker, who was in a way the founder of Anglicanism. To set the record straight a certain Frank Mason writes a book to refute the slurs of the Roman Catholics and the Presbyterians on the Anglican hierarchy. The situation is that the monarch sends a lettermissive to the convocation of bishops, telling them to elect Parker. Ward says that when only one can be voted on, it is "Hobson's choice," or no choice at all. The expression is supposed to have had its origin in Cambridge: a livery-stable owner named Thomas Hobson would assign the horse nearest the door to anyone wanting to hire a horse, and if the customer would not take the one offered to him, he got none at all. The passage in Ward is:

A letter-missive is a writ
That names what man the king thinks fit,
And only he is chose by it.
Where to elect there is but one,
'Tis Hobson's choice: take that or none.