What’s Early Modern English for “Tom, Dick & Harry”?

The other manner of my prosecution of my cuntrym{ens} causes they so farr myslyke, as one Don francisco (a Judg delegate for the assisting of the Councell of warr, in Causes ther depending in law) hauing lately receaued very sharpe letters from his majestie here, reprouing his slow proceeding in those of ye King my masters subjects) vpon tewsday last sayd vnto one of my secretaries, that he so much honored and loued me, as he must of Necessity lett me know playnly what he thought, and others sayd of me, which was, that I performed here rather the part of a solycitor then an Embassador ./ […]
He then […] sayd; That were he in my place, he would wright to the King playnly, tho{ugh} yt neyther agreed with his majesties honor nor with the reputation of the place that I represent of his person to make me a solycitor of the Causes of Peter, Jhon, and James; That yt was not an office becomming an Embassador […]

– Sir Charles Cornwallis, English Ambassador at the Spanish Court, to the Privy Council in London, 27 June 1607 (TNA SP 94/14 ff. 65-68)

Here’s the real question: is “Peter, John and James” i) the/an EModE equivalent English idiom we now know as “Tom, Dick and Harry”, or ii) a calque from Spanish? (“Pedro, Juan y Diego”?) I leave it to you, dear hypothetical reader, to google for the answer.


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  1. On the contrary, thanks for being non-hypothetical. As to Tom, Dick & Harry, I have no idea! So you’re left to your own devices once more. 😉

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