The British actress Mrs, Patrick Campbell (1865-1940) is supposed to have said about an actor or about the playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), “I really don’t mind what people do, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses!” The saying has been cited in print since at least 1929.
The saying has been popularly used in civics, with CNN host Piers Morgan saying to actor Charlie Sheen in 2011, “You’re entitled to behave however the hell you like as long as you don’t scare the horses and the children.”
Wikiquote: Mrs. Patrick Campbell
Beatrice Stella Tanner Campbell (9 February 1865 – 10 April 1940) was a British actress, the first actress to play “Eliza Doolittle”, in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (which was the inspiration for the musical My Fair Lady). Born Beatrice Stella Tanner she was most commonly known as Mrs. Patrick Campbell or “Mrs. Pat” in reference to her first husband, who died in the Boer War.
Does it really matter what these affectionate people do — so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses!
. Reply to a young actress who asserted that an older actor in a production showed too much affection for the leading man (c. 1910); as reported by Alan Dent in Mrs. Patrick Campbell, p. 78 (1961).
. Variants: “My dear, I don’t care what they do, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”
“I don’t mind where people make love, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”
“It doesn’t make any difference what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”
“Does it really matter what these affectionate people do, so long as they don’t do it on the street and frighten the horses?”
. On the internet, a similar comment regarding politicians has been widely attributed to Victor Hugo, but without any definite sources. It appears to be a modern satirical invention, derived from Mrs. Campbell’s statements.
All That I Have Met
By Mrs. Claude Beddington
London: Cassell and Co.
In our tolerant London Society—did not a witty Edwardian say: “I really don’t mind what people do, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses!” — it is difficult to realize the commotion caused by the advent of this tempestuous young woman at the narrow-minded little Court of Saxony.
Torch Song, a play in prologue and three acts
By Kenyon Nicholson
New York, NY: S. French
Me—morals! Say, I don’t care what anybody does, as long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses!
The One-Act Theater:
New comedies and dramas
New York, NY: Samuel French
ERNEST. I don’t know what Lottie would think of all this. I really don’t; she’s such a big-hearted girl, herself. Her motto is, “Let people do as they like, so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses.”
Stage by Stage
By Peter Daubeny
London, J. Murray
At one moment it would be of Mrs. Patrick Campbell. He had been her leading man and his conversation bristled with anecdotes of her ferocious wit. Pinero may have described her as “that fragile creature of Italian origin,” but by Willie’s day she had become a somewhat substantial wasp, the sting of whose wit was finally to cause self-destruction. Nevertheless, it was always a pleasure to hear Willie Armstrong tell how, when discussing the alarming morals of a certain well- known couple, she had generously observed to him, “Oh well, what does it matter so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses,” and off he would go into his endearing high pitched giggle.
22 August 1961, Baton Rouge (LA) Morning Advocate, “The Lyons Dens” by Leonard Lyons, pg. 4A, col. 2:
LONDON: Henry Sherek, the British producer, started a campaign to eliminate filth from the theater. He was prompted by several plays inwhich four-letter words and four-letter situations were stressed. “I am not a prude,” said Sherek. “In fact, I don’t care what people do outside the theater—so long as it isn’t done in the street and doesn’t frighten the horses.”
Daughters of Bilitis
Asked for a final word on the subject, Dr. Nelken told the story of the little old lady at Oscar Wilde’s trial who whispered to her neighbor: “Oh dear, I don’ t care what they do as long as they don’t do it in the streets and scare the horses!”
The Sexual Wilderness:
The contemporary upheaval in male-female relationships
By Vance Packard
New York, NY: D. McKay Co.
The attitude of a good many parents seems to be that of the early 20th-century dowager who resignedly explained, “I don’t care what people do, just so long as they don’t do it in the streets and scare the horses.”
Google News Archive
31 October 1979, Meriden (CT) Morning Record and Journal, “Still the First Lady” by Smith Hempstone, pg. 7, col. 6:
The Roosevelt’s, man and wife, were what they used to call down South “quality folks,” and as such they adhered pretty much to the British code of sexual ethics: what you do in private is your own business, but don’t do it in front of the children, or in the streets where you may scare the horses.
Google News Archive
21 July 1986, Toledo (OH) Blade, “Political Notebook” by Chase Clements, pg. 3, col. 5:
Alas for candidates, there isn’t a lot they can do during summers except go to the festival sand have fund raisers. There are plenty of both, so it tends to keep them off the streets where they might frighten the horses and the children.
13 February 1988, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg. A14, col. 2:
When Lady Astor was asked what she thought about Oscar Wilde’s problems, she replied: “I don’t care what Oscar does as long as he doesn’t do it in the streets amd scare the horses!”
New York (NY) Times
AUTO RACING; Gordon Is Right Guy For the Turns Ahead
By ROBERT LIPSYTE
Published: November 19, 2001
There is no question about Gordon’s talent as a driver and his emerging maturity as part of a race team. But one of his greatest strengths at a moment when Nascar is facing budget cuts by sponsors and less leisure-time spending money from fans is his Michael Jordan-esque ability to be chatty without being threatening. A hero who won’t scare the horses or pervert the kids.
The Quote Verifier:
Who said what, where, and when
By Ralph Keyes
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
Verdict: Credit Mrs. Patrick Campbell, tentatively.
Cato On Kagan
May 10, 2010 9:20 AM
K.G. Wrote: May 10, 2010 11:44 AM
They have violated the old saw: Don’t scare the horses or the children. Well, they have terrified both and everybody else into paying attention.
Monday Afternoon Open Thread
By Big Tent Democrat, Section Blog Related
Posted on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:32:32 PM EST
I can understand the (#6)
by Zorba on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:57:29 PM EST
“public lewdness” charge, and maybe “indecent exposure.” (As the old saying goes, “I don’t care what the people do, as long as they don’t do it in the streets and scare the horses.” Or the children.)
New York (NY) Times
The Disposable Woman
By ANNA HOLMES
Published: March 3, 2011
Which brings us back to Mr. Morgan, who, like many of Mr. Sheen’s past and present press enablers, showed little to no urgency in addressing the question of violence against women. “You’re entitled to behave however the hell you like as long as you don’t scare the horses and the children,” Mr. Morgan said at one point. Scaring women, it seems, was just fine.
Race 4 2012
October 20, 2011
Romney Speaks in South Dakota
-or- Romney Returns to What Made Him Frontrunner
October 21st, 2011 at 7:52 am
There’s an old saying in politics: Don’t scare the horses or the children.
New York City • Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • Sunday, October 23, 2011 • Permalink