Misquotation: ‘First catch your hare’
A proverbial warning against overconfidence, often thought to have originated in a recipe for hare soup in Mrs Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747) or Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1851). It does not appear in either book, although Mrs Glasse’s book does have the instruction ‘Take your hare when it is cased [=skinned].’ In more general terms, this appears to be a common formulation. The Spirit of Farmers’ Museum (801) has: ‘How to dress a dolphin, first catch a dolphin.’
A source from a much earlier period, the medieval Latin treatise De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, traditionally attributed to the lawyer Henry of Bratton, has the sentence, ‘It is commonly said that one must first catch the deer, and afterwards, when he has been caught, skin him.’
From the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. For other previous common misquotations, take a look at our Misquotation of the Week feature.
Image credit: A hare. Coloured wood engraving. Creative Commons via Wellcome Library, London.