The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Had \Had\ (h[a^]d), imp. & p. p. of Have. [OE. had, hafde,
hefde, AS. h[ae]fde.]
Had as lief, Had rather, Had better, Had as soon,
etc., with a nominative and followed by the infinitive
without to, are well established idiomatic forms. The
original construction was that of the dative with forms of
be, followed by the infinitive. See Had better, under
And lever me is be pore and trewe.
[And more agreeable to me it is to be poor and
true.] --C. Mundi
Him had been lever to be syke.
[To him it had been preferable to be sick.]
For him was lever have at his bed's head
Twenty bookes, clad in black or red, . . .
Than robes rich, or fithel, or gay sawtrie.
Note: Gradually the nominative was substituted for the
dative, and had for the forms of be. During the process
of transition, the nominative with was or were, and the
dative with had, are found.
Poor lady, she were better love a dream. --Shak.
You were best hang yourself. --Beau. & Fl.
Me rather had my heart might feel your love
Than my unpleased eye see your courtesy. --Shak.
I hadde levere than my scherte,
That ye hadde rad his legende, as have I.
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself. --Shak.
I had rather be a dog and bay the moon,
Than such a Roman. --Shak.
I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my
God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.