Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Ins and Outs

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 2, 2010

When you know the “ins and outs” of a situation, you know every little detail.  Mark Twain wrote in his book Pudd’n’head Wilson published in 1894:

He never meddled with any other town, for he was afraid to venture into houses whose ins and outs he did not know and the habits of whose households he was not acquainted with

The Mill On The Floss by George Eliot published in 1860 also spoke of the “ins and outs’ of things.

It takes a big raskil to beat him; but there’s bigger to be found, as know more o’ th’ ins and outs o’ the law, else how came Wakem to lose Brumley’s suit for him?

How far back does the phrase “ins and outs” go?  John Hacket, the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry from 1661 until his death was also an author.   His best-known book published in 1693 (23 years after his death) is the biography of his patron, Archbishop John Williams, and is entitled Scrinia Reserata: A Memorial Offered To The Great Deservings of John Williams, D.D.   In this tome, he wrote:

Follow their Whimsies and their Ins and outs at the Consulto, when the Prince was among them.

This puts the phrase back to 1670.  However, it goes back a little further yet to 1605 when the Corporation of Leicester attempted to procure a charter in that year.  They sent their mayor, Thomas Chettel to London to accomplish this task.

P)rocuring a charter was extremely expensive, requiring fees and tips to clerks and scribes, gifts to patrons and their servants and wages to reimburse solicitors for their time, and expenses while in London.  It was said that no matter who went to London to see the business through, that individual required knowledge of local circumstances, some understanding of the ins and outs of petitioning at Court, and most importantly, the persistence to succeed.

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