THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MRS. GRUNDY. ___________ THE STORY OF THE REAL LADY. "Like other legendary beings, she has changed her nature with the flight of time. In the year 1800 she was little else than a generally censorious woman, a personification of other people's opinion upon one's
own conduct," says a London "Times" leader concerning Mrs. Grundy." "Gradually she sphere of criticism , was restricted to the territory of courtship and gallantry, with its attached colonies of chaperonage, flirtation, and amatory indiscretion. She became, in short, a specialist in maiden modesty and wifely pre- caution. Then-perhaps, in the seventies or eighties-her history took a strange turn. She, who had begun as something of an ogress, became almost popular, except among the irreverent young. No longer thought of as a captious busybody, she won for herself a re- putation as a true model of pro- priety. It was she who would kindly teach young, ladies how not to be 'conspicuous,' how to avoid being 'talked about,' how to fish in dan- gerous waters without tumbling in. She became a kind of deified aunt, stern but-and here was the essence of the change in her-helpful and necessary. Her tenure of Olympus was not, however, prolonged. Irre- verent youth rebelled, dragged 'her down, and, in a" thousand angry or hysterical novels,; made of her an Aunt Sally. Now even that phase in her career is ended. Her, name, which, in jest or earnest, was once on every lip, is seldom spoken." Referring to this leader, Mr. Ernest Law, of Hampton Court Palace, points out 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 last century. Her fame is perpetuated in a dark space-one of the mys- terry chambers of the palace-the door of which is rarely opened, and which is still known as 'Mrs. Grundy's Gallery.' Here she im- pounded any picture or sculpture which she considered unfit for ex- hibition in the State rooms; and here she kept them under lock and key: in defiance of the authority and protests of the Queen's sur- vevor of pictures. The story goes that on one occasion the First Com missioner of Works, on a visit of inspection, sent for Mrs, Grundy. In answer to the First Commis- sioner's request, she declined to open the door for him. 'But I am one of Her Majesty's Ministers, and I have authority over the struc ture of the palace.' 'I cannot help that, sir, replied Mrs. Grundy, 'only on an order signed by his Lordship the Lord Chamberlain of her Majesty's Household can I al- low anybody to enter my gallery' That is the sort of thing that Mrs. Grundy would say.' History does not record the eventual result; though he did not get in on that occasion. But in the century-old struggle between the Office of Works and the Lord Chamberlain's department, some 40 years after her death, the First Commissioner suc- ceeded in having the occupation of 'Mrs. Grundy's Gallery' transferred to his department, to be used for stores. Some 15 years afterwards its treasures were gradually brought forth, and the pictures hung in the State rooms, notably Cariani's beautiful 'Venus Recumbent,' No. 88, in the Second Presence Cham- ber, identified three years ago by Mr. Tancrd Borenius as having be- longed to the famous Venetian col- lector, Andrea Vendramin, from . drawing in his catalogue of 1827. It was not until 20 years ago 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?' "