E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Nolo Episcopari. [I am unwilling to accept the office of bishop.]
A very general notion prevails that every bishop at consecration uses these words. Mr. Christian, in his notes to Blackstone, says, The origin of these words and of this vulgar notion I have not been able to discover; the bishops certainly give no such refusal at present, and I am inclined to think they never did at any time in this country. When the see of Bath and Wells was offered to Beveridge, he certainly exclaimed, Nolo episcopari: but it was the private expression of his own heart, and not a form of words, in his case. Chamberlayne says in former times the person about to be elected bishop modestly refused the office twice, and if he did so a third time his refusal was accepted. (Present State of England.)