Posted by ESC on October 14, 2003
In Reply to: "It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it" posted by Gord Smedley on October 13, 2003
: I was intrigued to find an antecedent to "It's a dirty job..." from no less a wordsmith than Charles Dickens. In A Tale of Two Cities, the spy Barsad is confronted by Sydney Carton. In his defence, Barsad says, "I admit that I am a spy, and that it is considered a discreditable station -- though it must be filled by somebody..." Could Dickens have been the first to utter the sentiment? I doubt it, but in his capacity as reporter and chronicler of his time, it's likely he was the first to record it.
I looked in a couple of quote books (including Bartlett's) and a few phrase books. No luck so far.