Mrs Grundy

Definition

Theater

  • A character in Thomas Morton's play Speed the Plough(1800), whose name has become a byword for narrow-minded bigotry.Although Mrs Grundy never actually appears in the play, she is frequentlyreferred to by other characters, who anxiously ask: "What willMrs Grundy say? What will Mrs Grundy think?" So notorious didher name become that Herbert Spencer was prompted to remark in OnManners and Fashion: "The tyranny of Mrs Grundy is worsethan any other tyranny we suffer under." Thackeray wrote: "Whoscorns? Who persecutes? Who doesn't forgive? - the virtuousMrs Grundy. She remembers her neighbour's pecadilloes to the thirdand fourth generation, and, if she finds a certain man fallen in herpath, gathers up her affrighted garments with a shriek, for fear themuddy, bleeding wretch should contaminate her, and passes on."When a performance of Speed the Plough was unexpectedly wellreceived in Nashville it transpired that a real-life Mrs Grundy withnot dissimilar views - including a deep loathing of the theater - lived nearby; her husband, Judge Felix Grundy, later becameUS attorney-general.
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