Monday, August 04, 2008

Mrs. Grundy

Katherine Parker of the Washington Post had an excellent column today, printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she deplores the tendency of the blogosphere (of which I am a humble member, although I hope I don't act like this) to wallow in unsubstantiated gossip about public figures, which isn't printed in the "mainstream media" precisely because it is unsubstantiated. It's worth reading, and it contained a wonderful story about Mrs. Brown and Mrs. MacQueen:

When I was a little girl, my best friend was Mrs. Brown, a 65-year-old widow who lived on the corner across the street. Several times a week, I joined Mrs. Brown for lunch. She always ate the same thing: a hamburger patty, a scoop of cottage cheese, two slices of tomato with pepper, and a cup of hot tea with lemon.

One day, Mrs. Brown veered from course and also ate a slice of pecan pie. No sooner had she taken her last bite than her telephone rang. It was Mrs. MacQueen, another widow who lived on the opposite corner: "I saw you eat that piece of pie," she said.

Mrs. Brown and I were both horrified, even though I knew that Mrs. Brown also watched Mrs. MacQueen's every move from her own dining room window. They gossiped incessantly about one another. Heaven forbid, one should have had a night visitor.

Or that either had been a blogger.

This story reminded me of a bit of doggerel I'd like to share, which John Dickson Carr once included in one of his detective stories; his character was talking about English society but I think it applies here:
They eat and drink and scheme and plod,
And go to church on Sunday,
And many are afraid of God,
But more of Mrs. Grundy.
Mrs. Brown and Mrs. MacQueen, meet Mrs. Grundy.

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