Have you ever heard a person described as a “Mrs. Grundy” (a humorless arbiter of strict conventionality) and wondered about its origins? I did.
Turning to Wikipedia, I discovered that Mrs. Grundy was a fictional English character whose unwavering adherence to rigid respectability came to represent other people’s judgement of everyday behavior. She’s first mentioned (though she never appears onstage) in Thomas Morton’s 1798 play Speed the Plough, in which one character, Dame Ashfield, continually worries about what her neighbour Mrs. Grundy will say of each development.
By the 19th century, this figure of speech was commonplace, and the tendency to be overly fearful of what others might think was sometimes referred to as Grundyism.
[Excerpted from Wikipedia]:
In the first scene of the play, Dame Ashfield’s mention of Mrs. Grundy provokes a scathing response from her husband.
Ashfield. Well, Dame, welcome whoam. What news does thee bring vrom market?
Dame. What news, husband? What I always told you; that Farmer Grundy’s wheat brought five shillings a quarter more than ours did.
Ash. All the better vor he.
Dame. Ah! the sun seems to shine on purpose for him.
Ash. Come, come, missus, as thee hast not the grace to thank God for prosperous times, dan’t thee grumble when they be unkindly a bit.
Dame. And I assure you, Dame Grundy’s butter was quite the crack of the market.
Ash. Be quiet, woolye? Aleways ding, dinging Dame Grundy into my ears — what will Mrs Grundy zay? What will Mrs Grundy think — Canst thee be quiet, let ur alone, and behave thyzel pratty?
A real Mrs. Grundy?
During the reign of William IV (1830–1837) a Mrs. Sarah Hannah Grundy was employed as Deputy Housekeeper at Hampton Court Palace one of Henry VIII of England‘s most famous residences, a position that would have required her to keep a sharp eye out for various infractions.
Ernest Law, chief historian of Hampton Court, noted that a “Mrs Grundy” did really exist.
“That lady was, as a fact, embodied in the housekeeper of that name at Hampton Court Palace in the late ‘forties and early ‘fifties of [the 19th] century. Her fame is perpetuated in a dark space — one of the mystery chambers of the palace — the door of which is rarely opened, and which is still known as ‘Mrs Grundy’s Gallery.’
Here she impounded any picture or sculpture which she considered unfit for exhibition in the State rooms; and here she kept them under lock and key in defiance of the authority and protests of the Queen’s surveyor of pictures. The story goes that on one occasion the First Commissioner of Works, on a visit of inspection, sent for Mrs Grundy. In answer to the First Commissioner’s request, she declined to open the door for him. It was not until the early 1900s that a leaden statue of Venus, which had been sent from Windsor, and was stored in Mrs Grundy’s Gallery, was brought forth to adorn Henry VIII’s pond garden. “What would Mrs Grundy say?”
However, a book published in 1836 shows that the expression was already in common use before the arrival of the Hampton Court housekeeper. In The Backwoods of Canada Being Letters From The Wife Of An Emigrant Officer, Illustrative Of The Domestic Economy Of British America, by Catharine Parr Traill, the author writes: “Now, we bush-settlers are more independent: we do what we like; we dress as we find most suitable and most convenient; we are totally without the fear of any Mr. or Mrs. Grundy; and having shaken off the trammels of Grundyism, we laugh at the absurdity of those who voluntarily forge afresh and hug their chains.”
The Victorian era ushered in a new morality comprised of decency, serious-mindedness, propriety and community discipline, as well as hypocrisy and self-deception. In the 1841 novel Phineas Quiddy, author John Poole wrote, “Many people take the entire world to be one huge Mrs. Grundy, and, upon every act and circumstance of their lives, please, or torment themselves, according to the nature of it, by thinking of what that huge Mrs. Grundy, the World, will say about it”. In 1869, John Stuart Mill referred to Mrs. Grundy in The Subjection of Women, noting that “Whoever has a wife and children has given hostages to Mrs. Grundy”.
Will future lexicographers describe behavior that is embarrassing, belligerent, ignorant and vulgar with the expression, “Trumpism”?
Happy Hilaria (aka, April Fools’ Day)! If you’re curious about its origins, this is a great summary of the holiday from history.com:
“Although April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery.
Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563.
People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.
These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.
Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises.
There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.
April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.
In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.
In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.
In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.”
(Adapted from alltimelists.com. Interesting stuff!)
You’ve surely heard that Friday the 13th has a bad reputation. Many people consider it to be one of the most dangerous days of the year and conduct their business throughout the day with great caution – whether traveling, working, meeting friends or dining with family. Whether or not you’re superstitious, here are ten fun facts about this date.
10. Friday and 13 Are Linked to the Crucifixion of Jesus
Phillips Stevens Jr., a well-known anthropologist, says that people started fearing Friday the 13th during the Middle Ages.
He says, “There were 13 people present at the Last Supper and Jesus was said to be the 13th. The Last Supper was on a Thursday and the next day was the day of the crucifixion.”
When the number 13 and Friday come together, people fear it as double trouble. Very tall buildings usually don’t have a 13th floor. It is also considered unlucky to sit thirteen people at a table and some airplanes skip the 13th row.
9. Friday the 13th and the Calendar
Is there a divine pattern? Whenever January 1 falls on a Thursday, the months of February, March and November all have a Friday the 13th. This will happen 11 times in the 21st century.
Our current cycle began in 2009, when Friday the 13th occurred in February, March and November. It also happened in 2015. However, it won’t happen again until 2026, after which you will have to wait until 2037 — another 11 years — for the trifecta.
8. Historical Associations
Some contributing factors to the avoidance of the 13th are historical as well as biblical. For example, the number 12 is considered as a whole in numerology: the twelve tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Jesus and then the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam. Anything over that number is considered “un-whole” by numerologists.
Another theory is mentioned by author Dan Brown in his book about the crusaders and the Knights Templar. On October 13, 1307, France’s King Philip IV ordered the arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar and many were murdered throughout Europe. Another reason, bound in blood, that people fear Friday the 13th.
7. It Became Popular in the 19th Century
Much of the paranoia started in the 1800’s. Henry Sutherland Edwards wrote in his 1869 biography of Giochino Rossini (a leap year baby, by the way), that “He was [always] surrounded with friends. He considered [the number] 13 to be unlucky until his last day and he also passed away on Friday the 13th.”
Later, a novel published in 1907 titled Friday, the Thirteen by Thomas W. popularized the idea, inciting superstition throughout American culture.
6. Alfred Hitchcock Was Born on Friday the 13th
Who isn’t familiar with Alfred Hitchcock? The legendary director was born in August 13, 1899 and made his directorial debut in 1922 with a movie called Friday the 13th. However, the movie didn’t gain much popularity and suffered from financial issues.
Other well-known celebrities who were born on Friday the 13th include actresses-turned-designers Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen, playwright Samuel Beckett and former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro. One could argue that it hasn’t been unlucky for them!
5. Terrible Things Happen on Friday the 13th
Some people deny that Friday the 13th is unlucky but there is a lot of evidence to back this up. For example, the Nazis dropped a bomb on Buckingham Palace on September 13, 1940 and the day was a Friday. Also, consider the Knights Templar and their fate on Friday the 13th.
On October 13, 1989, the stock market suffered a massive crash. That day happened to be Friday the 13th. It is considered the second most damaging day in stock market history. There have also been a considerable number of plane crashes on Friday the 13th.
4. It’s a Lucky Number for Taylor Swift
Despite the bad things that have happened on this fateful day, it’s still a good luck charm for singer Taylor Swift. She is so obsessed with this number that she paints 13 on her hand every time she does a show.
She explains the significance of this day in her life with the following words: “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album skyrocketed in 13 weeks. My #1 song has a 13 seconds intro. I have always won an award when I am sitting in the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter of the alphabet.”
3. A Group Was Formed to Debunk the Superstition
In the 1880s, the Thirteen Club was formed to debunk the myths surrounding this fateful day. The group gathered on every 13th of the month and conducted experiments. They would throw salt and break mirrors in an attempt to get a reaction from supernatural powers. They would also note the number of people who died that day.
The group eventually gained great popularity and grew to have 400 members, including a number of U.S. Presidents.
2. The Fear of This Number is Psychological
The correct word to describe fear of the 13th is “triskaidekaphobia”.
Some of the problems people face on this day range from relatively low anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. Because of all the distractions Friday the 13th causes, millions are lost each year for companies around the world. The National Geographic states, “It’s been estimated that about $800 to $900 million are lost in business on this day because people don’t fly as they [normally do].”
1. Good Things Happen, Too
Good things happen on this day, too, although they don’t get as much attention. For example, the Hollywood sign — one of the most powerful and recognizable images around the world — was unveiled on Friday the 13th, 1923.
Whether you’re superstitious or not, you can’t deny that it’s a significant day. Hope yours is a lucky one!
Last week, Dear Husband and I spent a delightful few days in Charleston, a gracious city neither of us had visited before. Highly recommended for food, sightseeing and history!
We got in late afternoon, with just enough time to check in to our swanky Art Deco hotel The Spectator— where all rooms include breakfast and an on-call butler — and check out the sweetgrass basket weavers at the Charleston City Market.
After meeting up with our friends T & B who’d escaped another nor’easter the previous day, we all Uber’d to dinner at Leon’s Oyster House, which was lively even on a Tuesday.
Fried oysters were terrific, though we didn’t pair them with the local champagne as suggested. Fried food + champagne = decadence to consider for the future!
The ladies’ room at The Spectator. I’m coveting this fab mirror and art deco faucets!
Today was all about walking. Heritage sites and signage abounds, keeping you aware of Charleston’s history before, during and after the Civil War.
First, DH had a meeting at the Dock Street Theatre. The original theater didn’t survive the Great Fire of 1740 which destroyed many of the buildings in Charleston’s French Quarter. In 1809, the Planter’s Hotel was built on the site and in 1835 the wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns were added.
Facade of Dock Street Theatre
The beautiful music room upstairs is used for donor events and other special occasions.
Next, we strolled down Rainbow Row and admired other nearby homes. Many have been in the same family for generations.
Do you think the resemblance between these bushes and the statue’s butt is intentional??
Love this old movie theater and more pastel buildings.
All that walking entitled us to overeat at Husk, local celeb chef Sean Brock’s high temple of low country cooking, featuring locally sourced ingredients served with style in a charming Victorian house.
We ended with a nightcap at the Spectator’s Prohibition-style bar, where Allen the bartender creates 1920’s inspired cocktails (his specialty: “The Dude Imbibes”) or whatever you fancy.
And poured ourselves into bed to rest up for Day Two….