accidents will happen in the best regulated families

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First attested in the early 19th century. Popularised by Charles Dickens' novel The Personal History of David Copperfield (1850).


accidents will happen in the best regulated families

  1. Accidents will always happen, even where there is an expectation of success.
    • 1837 June, "Spanish Theatre", The London Quarterly Review, no. 117, page 50.
      In spite of all precautions, accidents will happen in the best regulated families, and wolves steal in, in the fleeces of Merinos.
    • 1842, Life in the West: Back-wood Leaves and Prairie Flowers, Saunders and Otley (publ.), page 65.
      “Why, for my own part, I never like to alarm people—I hate that; but, when accidents will happen in the best regulated families, why not in this very irregular?”
    • 1843 February, Charles Starr, Jr., "Inversion of the womb, or the casting of the withers" (letter to the editor), American Agriculturalist, page 22.
      It is an old saying, that "accidents will happen in the best-regulated families;" and as it is important for every farmer to know how to repair the damages to which he is liable, I send you an account of an accident which occurred in my experience last months, and the remedy which was successfully applied.
    • 1845, Winter & Co., Descriptive Catalogue of fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, plants, etc., page 6.
      We do not claim to be infallible; as the proverb says, “accidents will happen in the best regulated families;” but so far as integrity and the exercise of the utmost care and circumspection on the part of the Proprietors, and the employment by them of experienced and careful hands, will ensure correctness, purchasers may rely upon every variety sent proving true to name.
    • 1846 April 2, Allens Indian Mail, page 248.
      Accidents will happen in the best regulated families,” and the best regulated steam-ships may not enjoy perfect immunity from them; but as some children are eternally in mischief, and some persons never walk out of their own houses without meeting with adventures out of the common way, so there are steam-vessels, and the Virago seems to be one of them, which never put to sea without an accident.
    • 1850, Charles Dickens, chapter 28, in The Personal History of David Copperfield, page 291:
      "My dear friend Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "accidents will occur in the best regulated families; and in families not regulated by that pervading influence which sanctifies while it enhances the —a— I would say, in short, by the influence of Woman, [] "
    • 1987, Cambridge University, The Social History of Language, page 54:
      With home and family defined as the private sphere, its members were reminded that Accidents will happen in the best regulated families and they should not wash dirty linen in public.
    • 1995, Louis P. Masur, The Real War Will Never Get in the Books: Selections from Writers During the Civil War, page 88-89:
      Occasionally there is a hiatus; for instance, our sweet potatoes, turnips and cabbages arrived late this morning but "accidents will happen in the best regulated families.

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