The entry in the online OED has not yet been fully updated, and the earliest citation it give for this sense is from 1891. Does anyone know of an earlier sighting of it?
I ask because I picked up from a barrow a copy of Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England by Roger Sales, and flipping through it I note that he refers to another critic, Margaret Kirkham as arguing [with reference to Austen’s comic treatment in Persuasion of Mrs Musgrove’s grief for her midshipman son, known to his family in life as ‘Dick’ but referred to her to Captain Wentworth as ‘Richard’ ’that Austen’s obsession with the comic possibilities of the name Richard/Dick got the better of her on this occasion‘.
I followed up the reference in Google Books, and what Kirkham actually said was that the character of Mrs Musgrove was not ‘a proper target for such burlesque as attaches to her whenever ‘poor Richard’ is mentioned. It all seems to have had something to do with Jane Austen’s finding the name ‘Richard’ irresistibly comic...’
Unless Kirkham and Sales are implying that Austen was suffering from an adolescent fit of the giggles on account of ‘Dick’ meaning ‘penis’, I really can’t make out what they are implying. Is there any evidence of that meaning’s existence as early Austen’s time?