set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil

A proverb (now frequently used elliptically) with many variations, meaning that one unaccustomed to power or luxury will abuse it or be corrupted by it.

1576 G. PETTIE Petit Palace 76 Set a Beggar on horsebacke, and he wyl neuer alight.

1592 NASHE Pierce Penniless 1.174 These whelpes..drawne vp to the heauen of honor from the dunghill of abiect fortune, haue long been on horseback to come riding to your Diuelship.

1616 T. ADAMS Sacrifice of Thankfulness 6 He that serues the Flesh serues his fellow: And a Beggar mounted on the backe of Honour, rides post to the Diuell.

1669 W. WINSTANLEY New Help to Discourse 151 Set a Beggar on Horse-back, and he will ride to the Devil.

1855 GASKELL North & South I. X. You know the proverb..‘Set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil,’—well, some of these early manufacturers did ride to the devil in a magnificent style.

1923 C. WELLS Affair at Flower Acres ii. I should think your early days of forced economy would have taught you not to be quite so extravagant. But there’s an old proverb—‘Set a beggar on horse-back—’ and so forth, that jolly well fits you.

1961 W. H. LEWIS Scandalous Regent X. He had a good deal of the vulgarity and insolence of the beggar on horseback.


Proverbs new dictionary.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • set a beggar on horseback and he'll ride to the Devil — proverb someone unaccustomed to power or luxury will abuse or be corrupted by it …   Useful english dictionary

  • devil — see the devil can quote Scripture for his own ends the devil finds work for idle hands to do why should the devil have all the best tunes? the devil is in the details the devil is not so black as he is painted the devil lo …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • beggar — see set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil beggars can’t be choosers sue a beggar and catch a louse if wishes were horses, beggars would ride …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • ride — see if you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil if two ride on a horse, one must ride behind if wishes were horses, beggars would ride he who rides a tiger is afraid… …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • set — see set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil sow dry and set wet set a thief to catch a thief …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • horseback — see set a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride to the devil …   Proverbs new dictionary

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