E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
This or none. Tobias Hobson was a carrier and inn-keeper at Cambridge, who erected the handsome conduit there, and settled seven lays of pasture ground towards its maintenance. He kept a stable of forty good cattle, always ready and fit for travelling; but when a man came for a horse he was led into the stable, where there was great choice, but was obliged to take the horse which stood nearest to the stable-door; so that every customer was alike well served, according to his chance, and every horse ridden with the same justice. (Spectator, No. 509.)
Milton wrote two quibbling epitaphs upon this eccentric character.
Why is the greatest of free communities reduced to Hobsons choice?The Times.