Oscar Wilde? Sign in Leadville? Minister in Pooleville, Arkansas?
Dear Quote Investigator: When Oscar Wilde was touring the United States he apparently saw a sign in a saloon requesting goodwill for the keyboardist. Here are three versions:
- Please do not shoot the piano player; he is doing his best.
- Please don’t shoot at the pianist; he’s doing his best.
- It is requested that you will not shoot at the organist. He does his best.
Would you please explore the provenance of this appeal?
Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this comical and plaintive request located by QI appeared in a newspaper in Northamptonshire, England in August 1879. The short item referred to a religious service in faraway Arkansas. The instrument was an organ instead of a piano, and the entreaty was spoken instead of written. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The minister, during a service at Pooleville, Arkansas, some years ago, said: “I have again to apologise for the absence of the newly-engaged tenor for the choir. He is expected on the next train, however, and will be at his post next Sunday without fail. And while I think of it, I would suggest that the present practice of shooting at the organist during the service be discontinued. It is a ridiculous habit, and annoys the congregation by filling the church with smoke. The poor man has his faults, but he does the best he can. Besides, it chips the new organ.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading
- 1879 August 2, The Northampton Mercury, Untitled short item, Quote Page 7, Column 6, Northamptonshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive) ↩