E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Red Herring (The)
of a novel is a hint or statement in the early part of the story to put the reader on the wrong scent. In all detective stories a red herring is trailed across the scent. The allusion is to trailing a red herring on the ground to destroy the scent and set the dogs at fault. A red herring is a herring dried and smoked.