One who sticks his (or, more likely, her) nose into the affairs of others; or, among the young, one who inordinately busies oneself with or constantly fingers objects belonging to others.
The term derived from a poem of that title, written by Ann Taylor, first appearing in Original Poems for Infant Minds, published in 1804-05, and written chiefly by members of the family of Isaac Taylor, English engraver.
Among them, incidentally, was the well-known “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are,” written by Ann’s younger sister, Jane.
The nine verses of “Meddlesome Matty,” too extensive to be quoted here, are recommended reading for all, children or adults, who have been accused of possessing such propensities:
Oh, how one ugly trick has fpoil’d
The fweeteft and the beft! Matilda, tho’ a pleaf ant child,
One ugly trick poffeff’d,
Which like a cloud before the fkies,
Hid all her better qualities.
Sometimes fhe’d lift the teapot lid,
To peep at what was in it; Or tilt the kettle, if you did
But turn your back a minute.
In vain you told her not to touch,
Her trick of meddling grew fo much.
But Matilda went too far eventually and got her comeuppance:
Her grandmamma went out one day, And by mif take The laid
Her fpectacles and fnuff-box gay Too near the little maid
She donned the “glaffes,” and “looking round, as I fuppofe, The fnuff box too fhe fpied.” Nothing would do, of course, but open it.
So thumb and finger went to work
To move the stubborn lid; And prefently, a mighty jirk,
The mighty mifchief did:
For all at once, ah! woeful cafe,
The fnuff came puffing in her face!
In vain fhe ran about for eafe,
She could do nothing elfe but fneeze!