Wednesday, May 20, 2009



Some decent, regulated pre-eminence, some preference (not exclusive appropriation) given to birth, is neither unnatural nor unjust nor impolitic.—Burke.

He who boasts of his lineage boasts of that which does not properly belong to him.—Seneca.

It is, indeed, a blessing, when the virtues of noble races are hereditary ; and do derive themselves from the imitation of virtuous ancestors. Nabb.

Some men by ancestry are only the shadow of a mighty name.—Lucan,

It is only shallow-minded pretenders who cither make distinguished origin a matter of personal merit, or obscure origin a matter of personal reproach. Taunt and scoffing at the humble condition of early life affect nobody in America but those who are foolish enough to indulge in them, and they are generally sufficiently punished by the published rebuke. A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be ashamed of his early condition.—Daniel Webster.

It is of no consequence of what parents any man is born, so that he be a man of merit.—


The nobility of the Spencers has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of Marl- borough ; but I exhort them to consider the " Faerie Queenc," as the most priceless jewel of their coronet.—Gibbon.

Pride, in boasting of family antiquity, makes duration stand for merit.—Zimmermann.

He that boasts of his ancestors confesses that he has no virtue of his own. No person ercr lived for our honor ; nor ought that to be reputed ours, which was long before we had a being ; for what advantage can it be to a blind man to know that his parents had good eyes ' Does he see one whit the better ?—Cnarron.

Philosophy does not regtrd pedigree; she did not receive Plato as a noble, but she made him so.—Seneca.

There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ancestry which nourishes only a weak pndc; as there is also a care for posterity, which only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides the workings of a low and grovelling vanity. But there is also a moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the heart.—Daniel Webster.

If it is fortunate to be of noble ancestry, it is not less so to be such as that people do not care to be informed whether you are noble or ignoble.—Bruyere.

We sometimes see a change of expression in our companion, and say, his father or his mother comes to the windows of his eyes, and sometimes a remote relative. In different hours, a man represents ench of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man's skin, — seven or eight ancestors at least, — and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.—Emerson.

It is a shame for a man to desire honor because of his noble progenitors, and not to deserve it by his own virtue.—St. Chrysostom.

Of all vanities of fopperies, the vanity of high birth is the greatest. True nobility is derived from virtue, not from birth. Titles, indeed, may be purchased, but virtue is the only coin that makes the bargain valid.—Burton.

The pride of ancestry is a superstructure of the most imposing height, but resting on the most flimsy foundation. It is ridiculous enough to observe the hauteur with which the old nobility look down on the new. The reason of this puzzled me a little, until I began to reflect that most titles are respectable only because they are old ; if new, thjy would be despised, because all those who now admire the grandeur of the stream would see nothing but the impurity of the source.—Colton.

What can they see in the longest kingly line in Europe, save that it runs back to a successful soldier 1— Walter Scott.

Title and ancestry render a good man more illustrious, but an ill one more contemptible. Vice is infamous, though in a prince, and virtue honorable, though in a peasant.—Addison.

Being well satisfied that, for a man who thinks himself to be somebody, there is nothing more disgraceful than to hold himself up as honored, not on his own account, but for the sake of his forefathers. Yet hereditary honors are a noble and splendid treasure to descendants.—Plato.

Pride of origin, whether high or low, springs from the same principle in human nature ; one is but the positive, the other the negative, pole of a single weakness.—Lowell.

Take the title of nobility which thou hast received by birth, but endeavor to add to it another, that both may form a true nobility. There is between the nobility of thy father aiid thine own the same difference which exists between the nourishment of the evening and of the morrow. The food of yesterday will not serve thcc for to-day, and will not give thce strength for the next.—Jamakchari.

I am no herald to inquire of men's pedigrees; it suffieeth me if I know their virtues.—

Sir P. Sidney.

It was the saying of a great man, that if we could trace our descents, we should find all slaves to come from princes, and all princes from slaves ; and fortune has turned all things topsy-turvy in a long series of revolutions :' beside, for a man to spend his life in pursuit of a title, that serves only when he dies to furnish out an epitaph, is below a wise man's business.—Seneca.

When real nobleness accompanies that imaginary one of birth, the imaginary seems to mix with real, and becomes real too.—

Lord Greville.

Though you be sprung in direct line from Hercules, if you show a low-born meanness, that long succession of ancestors whom you disgrace are so many witnesses against you; and this grand display of their tarnished glory but serves to make your ignominy more evident.—Boileau.

I am one who finds within me a nobility that spurns the idle pratings of the great, and their mean boasts of what their fathers were, while they themselves are fools effeminate.—


The character of the reputed ancestors of gome men has made it possible for their descendants to be vicious in the extreme, without being degenerate; and there are some hereditary strokes of character by which a family may be as clearlv distinguished as by the blackest features of the human face.—Junius.

It is better to be the builder of our own name than to be indebted by descent for the proudest gifts known to the books of heraldry.

Hosea Ballou.

Let him speak of his own deeds, and not of those of his forefathers. High birth is mere accident, and not virtue ; for if reason had controlled birth, and given empire only to the worthy, perhaps Arbaccs would have been Xerxes, and Xerxes Arbaccs.—Metastasio.

The generality of princes, if they were stripped of their purple and cast naked on the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rank of society, without "a hope of emerging from their obscurity.—Gibbon.

No man is nobler bom than another, unles* he is born with better abilities and a more amiable disposition. They who make such a parade with their family pictures and pedigrees, are, properly speaking, rather to be called noted or notorious than noble persons. I thought it right to say this much, in order to repel the insolence of men who depend entirely upon chance and accidental circumstances for distinction, and not at all on public services and personal merit.—Seneca.

A soldier, such as I am, may very well pretend to govern the state when he has known to defend it. The first who was king was a fortunate soldier. Whoever serves his country well has no need of ancestors.— Voltaire.

It has long seemed to me that it would be more honorable to our ancestors to praise them in words less, but in deeds to imitate them more.—Horace Mann.

By blood a king, in heart a clown.—


Those who have nothing else to recommend them to the respect of others but only their blood, cry it up at a great rate, and have their mouths perpetually full of it. They swell and vapor, and you are sure to hear of their families and relations every third word.—Charron.

Those who depend on the merits of their ancestors may be said to search in the roots of the tree for those fruits which the branches ought to produce.—Barrow.

In the founders of great families, titles or attributes of honor are generally correspondent with the virtues of the person to whom they arc applied ; but in their descendants they are too often the marks rather of grandeur than of merit. The stamp and denomination still continue, but the intrinsic value is frequently lost.


It is with antiquity as with ancestry, nations arc proud of the one, and individuals of the other; but if they are nothing in themselves, that which is their pride ought to be their humiliation.—Cotton.

The man who has nothing to boast of but his illustrious ancestry is like a potato, — the only good belonging to him is underground.— Sir Thomas Overbtiry.

Nobility of birth is like a cipher; it has no power in "itself, like wealth or talent; but it tells with all the power of a cipher when added to either of the oilier two.—J. F. Boyes.

We are very fond of some families because they can be traced beyond the Conquest, whereas indeed the farthA back, the worse, as being thv nearer allied to a race of robbers and thieves.—DeFoc.

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