PORTRAIT OF THOMAS HOBSON (1544?-1631)

half-length, the bearded elderly man in a broad-brimmed black hat, large ruff and cloak, holding a purse, within a feigned oval frame with identifying inscription ‘Mr. Hobson’ (upper left) and further inscribed, including a part of a well-known verse about Hobson on his purse. In an English mid-eighteenth century carved gilt-wood frame.

Oil on canvas, 30" x 24⅝" (76cm x 62.5cm).

Provenance :-  Linley Hall, Shropshire.

Literature :- A. Oswald, ‘Linley Hall, Shropshire - II, The Home of Mr. and Mrs. Jasper More’, Country Life, 14th September 1961, p. 559, illustrated in the Dining Room.

Thomas Hobson has given his name to the expression ‘Hobson’s Choice’, meaning of course ‘no choice’. He was a carrier, based in Cambridge, and ran a mail service and livery stable transporting goods and passengers. He is said to have insisted his customers take the first horse offered them or none, hence the expression. His business evidently thrived, as the full verse of which the inscription on his purse in this painting is taken, runs as follows :-

‘Witness the Bagg he wears, though seeming poore,

The fertile Mother of a hundred more He was a thriving man,

through lawfull Gaine And wealthy grew by warrantable paine’.

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