With hurricane Irene in the news, it seems this week’s most popular phrase is “my heart goes out to everyone affected”. How did this expression get started?
The earliest reference I can find is from the 1754 book Historical Collections Relating to Remarkable Periods of the Success of the Gospel, and is from "From Mr. Edwards' Sermon at Mr. Brainerd's Funeral" that took place in 1746. In this part, Jonathan Edwards is quoting David Brainerd:
This was also published in at least two other 19th century books. Other than that, here are the three other 19th century references.
From Faithful contendings displayed: being an historical relation of the state ... By John Howie, here's "Sermon II. Galations V. I." by Mr. John Kid:
1784's Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay: 1778 to 1784 By Fanny Burney, in a 1779 diary entry:
1786's Journal of Rev. Francis Asbury: bishop of the Methodist Episcopal ...: Volume 1, from the entry for Friday 10th November 1775:
Heart has several meanings, among them:
To say my heart goes out to you means that my mood/disposition is strongly affected by your state of affairs; my heart (emotions) is sympathetic with you.