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something, it being notorious that, whilst immoderate wealth, concentrated in a small number of hands, exists in various continental states upon a larger scale than with us, moderately large estates, on the other hand, are, with them, as one to two hundred, or even two hundred and fifty, in comparison of ours), but chiefly upon this fact, which is too much overlooked, that the foreign universities are not peopled from the wealthiest classes, which are the class either already noble, or wishing to become such. And why is that? Purely from the vicious constitution of society on the continent, where all the fountains of honor lie in the military profession or in the diplomatic. We English, haters and revilers of ourselves beyond all precedent, disparagers of our own eminent advantages beyond all sufferance of honor or good sense, and daily playing into the hands of foreign enemies, who hate us out of mere envy or shame, have amongst us some hundreds of writers who will die or suffer martyrdom upon this proposition that aristocracy, and the spirit and prejudices of aristocracy, are more operative (more effectually and more extensively operative) amongst ourselves, than in any other known society of men. Now, I, who believe all errors to arise in some narrow, partial, or angular view of truth, am seldom disposed to meet any sincere affirmation by a blank, unmodified denial. Knowing, therefore, that some acute observers do really believe this doctrine as to the aristocratic forces, and the way in which they mould English society, I cannot but suppose that some symptoms do really exist of such a phenomenon ; and the only remark I shall here make on the case is
this, that, very often, where any force or influence reposes upon deep realities, and upon undisturbed foundations, there will be the least heard of loquacious and noisy expressions of its power; which expressions arise most, not where the current is most violent, but where (being possibly the weakest) it is most fretted with resistance.
In England, the very reason why the aristocratic feeling makes itself so sensibly felt and so distinctly an object of notice to the censorious observer is, because it maintains a troubled existence amongst counter and adverse influences, so many and so potent. This might be illustrated abundantly. But, as respects the particular question before me, it will be sufficient to say this: With us the profession and exercise of knowledge, as a means of livelihood, is honorable; on the continent it is not so. The knowledge, for instance, which is embodied in the three learned professions, does, with us, lead to distinction and civil importance; no man can pretend to deny this; nor, by consequence, that the professors personally take rank with the highest order of gentlemen. Are they not, I demand, everywhere with us on the same footing, in point of rank and consideration, as those who bear the king's commission in the army and navy? Can this be affirmed of the continent, either generally, or, indeed, partially? I say, no. Let us take Germany, as an illustration. Many towns (for anything I know, all) present us with a regular bisection of the resident notables, or wealthier class, into two distinct (often hostile) coteries: one being composed of those who are "noble ;" the other, of families equally well educated and
accomplished, but not, in the continental sense, "noble." The meaning and value of the word is so entirely misapprehended by the best English writers, being, in fact, derived from our own way of applying it, that it becomes important to ascertain its true value. A "nobility," which is numerous enough to fill a separate ball-room in every sixth-rate town, it needs no argument to show, cannot be a nobility in any English sense. In fact, an edelmann or nobleman, in the German sense, is strictly what we mean by a born gentleman; with this one only difference, that, whereas, with us, the rank which denominates a man such passes off by shades so insensible, and almost infinite, into the ranks below, that it becomes impossible to assign it any strict demarkation or lines of separation; on the contrary, the continental noble points to certain fixed barriers, in the shape of privileges, which divide him, per saltum, from those who are below his own order. But were it not for this one legal benefit of accurate circumscription and slight favor, the continental noble, whether Baron of Germany, Count of France, or Prince of Sicily and of Russia, is simply on a level with the common landed esquire of Britain, and not on a level in very numerous cases.
Such being the case, how paramount must be the spirit of aristocracy in continental society! Our haute noblesse our genuine nobility, who are such in the general feeling of their compatriots — will do that which the phantom of nobility of the continent will not the spurious nobles of Germany will not mix, on equal terms, with their untitled fellow-citizens, living in the same city and in the same style
as themselves; they will not meet them in the same ball or concert-room. Our great territorial nobility, though sometimes forming exclusive circles (but not, however, upon any principle of high birth), do so daily. They mix as equal partakers in the same amusements of races, balls, musical assemblies, with the baronets (or élite of the gentry); with the landed esquires (or middle gentry); with the superior order of tradesmen (who, in Germany, are absolute ciphers, for political weight, or social consideration, but, with us, constitute the lower and broader stratum of the nobilitas,* or gentry). The obscure baronage of Germany, it is undeniable, insist upon having "an atmosphere of their own;" whilst the Howards, the Stanleys, the Talbots, of England; the Hamiltons, the Douglases, the Gordons, of Scotland, are content to acknowledge a sympathy with the liberal part of their untitled countrymen, in that point which most searchingly tries the principle of aristocratic pride, namely, in their pleasures. To have the same pursuits of business with another, may be a result of accident or position; to have the same pleasures,
* It may be necessary to inform some readers that the word noble, by which so large a system of imposition and fraud, as to the composition of foreign society, has long been practised upon the credulity of the British, corresponds to our word gentlemanly (or, rather, to the vulgar word genteel, if that word were ever used legally, or extra gradum), not merely upon the argument of its virtual and operative value in the general estimate of men (that is, upon the argument that a count, baron, &c., does not, qua such, command any deeper feeling of respect or homage than a British esquire), but also upon the fact, that, originally, in all English registers, as, for instance, in the Oxford matriculation registers, all the upper gentry (knights, esquires, &c.) are technically designated by the word nobiles. Chamberlayne, &c.
being a matter of choice, argues a community of nature in the moral sensibilities, in that part of our constitution which differences one man from another in the capacities of greatness and elevation. As with their amusements, so with their graver employments; the same mutual repulsion continues to divide the two orders through life.
The nobles either live in gloomy seclusion upon their private funds, wherever the privilege of primogeniture has enabled them to do so; or, having no funds at all (the case of ninety-nine in one hundred), they go into the army; that profession, the profession of arms, being regarded as the only one compatible with an edelmann's pretensions. Such was once the feeling in England; such is still the feeling on the continent. It is a prejudice naturally clinging to a semi-barbarous (because growing out of a barbarous) state, and, in its degree, clinging to every stage of imperfect civilization; and, were there no other argument, this would be a sufficient one, that England, under free institutions, has outrun the continent, in real civilization, by a century; a fact which is concealed by the forms of luxurious refinement in a few exclusive classes, too often usurping the name and honors of radical civilization.
From the super-appreciation of the military profession arises a corresponding contempt of all other professions whatsoever paid by fellow-citizens, and not by the king or the state. The clerical profession is in the most abject degradation throughout Southern Germany; and the reason why this forces itself less imperiously upon the public notice is, that, in rural situations, from the absence of a resident gentry