« AnteriorContinuar »
Son. (To Autolicus), you are well met, sir : you denied to fight with me this other day, because I was no gentleinan born : see you these clothes ? say, you see them not, and think me still no gentleman born. Give me the lie ; do ; and
try whether I am now gentleman born. Autolicus. I know you are now, sir, gentleman born.
Son. Ay, and have been so any time these four hours.
0. Shepherd. And so have I, boy.
Son. So you have :--but I was a gentleman born before my father : for the king's son took me by the hand, and called me brother; and then the two kings called my father brother; and then the prince my brother, and the princess my sister, called my father, father; and so we wept : and there was the first gentleman-like tears that ever we shed.
0. Shepherd. We may live, son, to shed many more.
Son. Ay; or else 'twere hard luck, being in se preposterous a state as we are.
The vulgar distinction between people of birth and people of no birth, will probably puzzle the critics and antiquarians of the thirtieth or fortieth centuries, when, in the judicious or laborious researches into the customs and manners of these present times, they shall have reason to suppose, that in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth
centuries, the island of Great Britain was inhabited by two sorts of people, some born, but the much greater number unborn.-I therefore take with pleasure this opportunity of explaining and clearing up this difficulty to my remotest successars in the republic of letters, by giving them the true meaning of the several expressions of great birth, noble birth, and no birth at all.
Great and illustrious birth is ascertained and authenticated by a pedigree carefully preserved in the family, which takes at least an hour's time to unroll, and when unrolled discloses twenty marriages of valiant and puissant Geoffreys and Hildebrands, with as many chaste and pious Blaunches and Mauds, before the conquest, not without here and there a dash of the Plantagenets. But if unfortunately the insolent worms should have devoured the pedigree, as well as the persons of the illustrious family, that defect may be supplied by the ancient records of the herald's office, that inestimable repository of good sense and useful knowledge. If this great birth is graced with a peerage, so inuch the better ; but if not, it is no great matter ; for being so solid a good in itself, it wants no borrowed advantage, and is unquestionably the most pleasing sentiment that a truly generous mind is capable of feeling.
Noble birth implies only a peerage in the family. Ancestors are by no means necessary, for this kind of birth : the patent is the midwife, and the very first descent is noble.
Birth, singly, and without an epithet, extends, I cannot positively say how far, but negatively it stops where useful arts and industry begin. Merchants, tradesmen, yeomen, fariners, and ploughmen, are not born, or at least in so mean a way, as not to deserve that name ; and it is perhaps for that reason that their mothers are said to be delivered, rather than brought to bed of them. But baronets, knights, and squires have the honour of
THERE are a set of men in all the states of Europe who assume from their infancy a pre-eminence independent of their moral character. The attention paid them from the moment of their birth, gives them the idea that they are formed for command; they soon learn to distinguish themselves as a distinct species, and being secure of a certain rank and station, take no pains to make themselves worthy of it. To this institution we owe so many indifferent ministers, ignorant magistrates, and bad generals
Hist, of European Settlements, b. i. He is but a poor observer, who has not seen that the generality of peers, far from supporting themselves in a state of independent greatness, are but too apt to fall into an oblivion of their proper dignity, and to run headlong into an abject servitude.
BURKE. Thoughts on the Discontents, p. 28.
Is there a lord that knows a cheerful noon, Without a fidler, flatterer, or buffoon? Whose table wit, or modest merit share, Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player ?
POPE. Moral Epistles, epist. iii.
SEVERAL of the great, I am told, understand as much of farriery as their grooms ; and a horse, with any share of merit, can never want a patron among the nobility,
GOLDSMITH. Citizen of the World, vol. ii. let. Lxxxvi, Our young nobility are bred from their childhood in idleness and luxury. As soon as their years will permit, they consume their vigour, and contract odious diseases among lewd females; and when their fortunes are almost ruined, they marry some woman of mean birth, disagreeable person, and unsound constitution, merely for the sake of money, whom they hate and despise. The pro, ductions of such marriages are generally scrophulous, ricketty, or deformed children; by which means the family seldom continues above three generations, unless the wife takes care to provide a healthy father among her neighbours or domestics, in order to improve and continue the breed. A weak discased body, a meagre countenance, and sallow icomplexion, are the true marks of noble blood; and a healthy robust appearance is so disgraceful in a man of quality, that the world concludes his father to have been a groom or a coachman, The imperfections of his mind are parallel with those of his body, being a composition of spleen, dullness, ignorance, caprice, sensuality, and pride.
Without the consent of this illustrious body [of nobles] no law can be enacted, repealed, or altered ; and these nobles have likewise the decision of all our possessions without appeal.
Swift. Gulliver's Travels, part, iii. cb. vi.
Let states that aim at greatness take heed how their nobility and gentry do multiply too fast: for that maketh the common subject grow to be a peasant and base swain, driven out of heart, and in effect but a gentleman's labourer.
LORD BACON. Works, vol. iii. p. 343:
PRINCES and lords inay flourish or may fade,
It is surprising what an influence titles shall have upon the mind, even though these titles be of our own making. Like children, we dress up
the puppets in finery, and then stand in astonishment at the plastic wonder. I have been told of a ratcatcher here, who strolled for a long time about the villages near town, without finding any employment. At last, however, he thought proper