A Royal Navy toast from the 1800s is:
“May our wives always be our sweethearts and our sweethearts always become our wives.”
A jocular version of the toast has been cited in print since at least 1899:
“Sweethearts and wives, may they never meet.”
By at least the 1990s, “sweethearts” was replaced with “girlfriends,” and this version was credited to New York City-born comedian and actor Groucho Marx (1890-1977), who might not have said it. Also since at least the 1990s, the toast has been frequently credited as an Irish toast.
Wikiquote: Groucho Marx
Julius Henry Marx (2 October 1890 – 19 August 1977), primarily known as Groucho Marx, was an American comedian and actor, famous for his work in the Marx Brothers comedy team, and his solo film and television career.
Here’s to our wives and girlfriends… may they never meet! (Variation on an old Royal Navy wardroom toast: “Wives and Sweethearts! May they never meet!")
Our Conquests in the Pacific
By Oscar King Davis
New York, NY: Frederick A. Stokes Company
It was General Anderson who arose at the close of the dinner, when the glasses had been charged all around, and proposed “Sweethearts and wives,” in the good old way they do every Saturday night in the navy, “May our wives always be our sweethearts and our sweethearts always become our wives.” Then everybody “drank out” — there was ice from somewhere for the fizz — and everybody cheered, and it remained only breath to his next neighbour, “Sweethearts and wives, may they never meet.”
9 July 1900, Daily Chronicle (Muskegon, MI), “Another Fine Bill,” pg. 2, col. 4:
“To our sweethearts and wives,” Miss Norton said, quoting that beautiful toast and then shattering it. “To our sweethearts and wives—may they never meet.”
24 July 1900, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), “Banquet at Night,” pg. 4, col. 6:
Miss Elvira Sydnor Miller responded to the toast proposed by Mr. Brown as “Our Wives and Sweethearts—May They Never Meet.”
23 August 1900, Wood County Reporter (Grand Rapids, WI), pg. 5, col. 5:
“Here’s to our sweethearts and wives—may they never meet—except to say, “Where is Cobb?”
23 October 1900, The Morning Sun (Chanute, KS), “The Passing Show,” pg. 1, col. 2:
“Here’s to our sweethearts and wives, may they never meet—except to say, ‘Where is Cobb?’”
11 February 1901, Denver (CO) Post, “Prince Saw the End Men,” pg. 3, col. 6:
He was much pleased by the monologue man’s toast. “Our wives and sweethearts—may they never meet.”
July 1903, Good Housekeeping, “Sweethearts and Wives” by Cyrus Townsend Brady, pg. 5, col. 1:
It seems a shame to spoil so pretty a sentiment with this cynical corollary of some confirmed misogynist, a rare, though possible thing in the navy, “Sweethearts and wives—may they never meet!”
25 April 1907, Life (New York, NY), pg. 577:
Toast : “Here’s to our wives and sweethearts; may they never meet.”
New Treasury of Stories for Every Speaking and Writing Occasion
By Jacob Morton Braude
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
To our wives and sweethearts, may they never meet!
Google Groups: alt.quotations
Groucho Marx Fan Club
“ Here’s to our wives and girlfriends...may they never meet! “
Google Groups: rec.martial-arts
HAPPY ST. PADDY’s DAY!!!
National Capital Marathon
Here’s one we always used at mess dinners:
To our wives and girlfriends,
May they never meet.
28 February 2002, Newsday (Long Island, NY) “Greats’ Neck: Hughes is not alone in putting her town on the map” by Beth Whitehouse, pg. B3:
Groucho Marx, with his bushy black mustache and eyebrows and ever- present cigar, lived for a time on Lincoln Road. He is known for slapstick films he made with his brothers Chico and Harpo, and for his one-liners, such as “Here’s to our wives and girlfriends ... may they never meet!”
Irish Wit and Wisdom:
Quips and Quotes to Suit All Manner of Occasions
By Richard Benson
Summersdale Publishers Ltd
Here’s to our wives and girlfriends: May they never meet!