Mrs. Grundy, of course, is man’s embodied fear of his neighbour, the creation of timid souls who are afraid of being themselves, and who, instead of living their lives after their own fashion and desires, choose to live them in hypocritical discomfort according to the standards of others, standards which in their turn may be held insincerely enough from fear of someone else, and so on without end—a vicious circle of insincere living being thus created, in which no man is or does anything real, or as he himself would naturally prefer to be and to do. It is evident that such a state of mutual intimidation can exist only in small communities, economically interdependent, and among people with narrow boundaries and no horizons. If you live in a village, for example, and are dependent on the good opinion of your neighbours for your means of existence, your morals and your religious belief must be those of the village, or you are liable to starve. It is only the rich man in a village who can do as he pleases. The only thing for the dependent individualist in a village to do is to go somewhere else, to some place where a man may at the same time hold his job and his opinions, a place too big to keep track of its units, too busy to ask irrelevant questions, and so diverse in its constituents as to have generated tolerance and free operation for all.
Now, in spite of its bigness, the world was till quite recently little more than a village, curiously held in subjection by village superstitions and village ethics, narrow conceptions of life and conduct; but the last twenty years have seen a remarkable enlargement of the human spirit, a reassertion of the natural rights of man as against the figments of prurient and emasculate conventions, to which there is no parallel since the Renaissance. Voices have been heard and truths told, and multitudes have listened gladly that aforetime must take shelter either in overawed silence or in utterance so private that they exerted no influence; and the literature of the day alone, literature of wide and greedy acceptance, is sufficient warrant for the obituary announcement which, if not yet, as I said, officially made, is already writing in the hearts, and even in the actions, of society. The popularity of such writers as Meredith and Hardy, Ibsen and Nietzsche, Maeterlinck and Walt Whitman, constitutes a writing on the wall the significance of which cannot be gainsaid. The vogue alone of Mr. Bernard Shaw, apostle to the Philistines, is a portent sufficiently conclusive. To regard Mr. Shaw either as a great dramatist or an original philosopher is, of course, absurd. He, of all men, must surely be the last to imagine such a vain thing about himself; but even should he be so self-deluded, his immense coarse usefulness to his day and generation remains, and the value of it can hardly be overestimated. What others have said for years as in a glass darkly, with noble seriousness of utterance, he proclaims