They [the laws] are at present, both in form and essence, the greatest curse that society labours under ; the scorn of the wicked, the consternation of the good, the refuge of those who violate, and the ruin of those who appeal to them.
For Spirits when they pleaſe / Can either Sex aſſume, or both ; ſo ſoft / And uncompounded is their Eſſence pure, / Not ti’d or manacl’d with joynt or limb, / Nor founded on the brittle ſtrength of bones, / Like cumbrous fleſh […]
And put to proof his high Supremacy, / Whether upheld by ſtrength, or Chance, or Fate, / Too well I ſee and rue the dire event, / That with ſad overthrow and foul defeat / Hath loſt us Heav’n, and all this mighty Hoſt / In horrible deſtruction laid thus low, / As far as Gods and Heav’nly Eſſences / Can Periſh.
1824, Washington Irving, “The Adventure of the German Student”, in The Works of Washington Irving, volume VII, new edition, New York: G. P. Putnam & Company, published 1853, page 55:
He [Gottfried Wolfgang] had been indulging in fanciful speculations on spiritual essences, until, like Swedenborg, he had an ideal world of his own around him.
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From Old French, from Latinessentia. Sense 2 very likely from Latin edō(“eat”), in the sense of 'what is eaten, fuel'. Many forms of the latter are indistinguishable from the former, and so the confusion with 'essence' is very understandable.