Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 9, 2010

The earliest recording of this phrase is from 1546 in John Heywood’s “A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue” where he wrote:  “Wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?”  A few years later in 1633, George Herbert reworked the phrase for his poem “The Size” published in the book “The Temple.”

To be in both worlds full
Is more then God was, who was hungrie here.
Wouldst thou his laws of fasting disanull?
Enact good cheer?
Lay out thy joy, yet hope to save it?
Wouldst thou both eat thy cake, and have it?
 
 

You can’t eat your cake and have your cake” appeared in John Ray’s “A collection of English Proverbs” in 1670 and in 1738,  Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist and poet Jonathan Swift’s book  “A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation” included this version of the phrase: “She was handsome in her time but she cannot eat her cake and her cake.”

In America, the phrase is first found in the 1742 “Colonial Records of Georgia” in “Original Papers, 1735-1752.

In 1879, in Volume V of “The Extravaganzas of J. R. Planché  on page 307 in the play entitled “King Christmas” James Robinson (J.R.) Planché wrote:

I, of M. Folly would say just a word to the wise,
Though of course with contempt they will treat it;
‘Tis to point to the moral the proverb implies,
“You can’t have your cake if you eat it.”
But let the toast pass
For I’m not the ass
To our next merry  meeting who won’t drain his glass.

The exact wording of the current version is found in the Tecumseh Fox mystery novel by Rex Stout entitled “Broken Vase” which was first published in 1941.

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