Category Archives: Sarah Bernhardt

An Empty Carriage Drove Up To the Théâtre Français and Sarah Bernhardt Alighted From It

Target: Sarah Bernhardt? Alexander H. Stephens?

Dear Quote Investigator: Complaints about the body shapes of people in the public eye have a very long history. Small and thin individuals have sometimes been targeted with the following type of quip:

An empty vehicle rolled up to the hotel and so-and-so got out of it.

Would you please explore the history of this joke?

Quote Investigator: Sarah Bernhardt was a prominent French stage actress who was notably thin. A quip circulating in France was printed in a New York newspaper in May 1879. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . only yesterday, says a correspondent, you may read in the same paper a fragment of conversation as follows: “An empty carriage stops and who is it who steps out? Sarah Bernhardt.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1879 May 31, Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Table Talk, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)