the word “mean” only in the sense of humility of station.
He usually raised himself largely by the aid of wealth, and often by qualities held in their day disreputable.
In a country of hereditary aristocracy it is rare to dwell much on the first step taken by the “mean man” ; people often admit very frankly that his elevation came from the trickery of some courtier or from some woman's disgrace.
What they urge in favor of the system is that aristocracy is a habit of living, not a difference in the chemical atoms of the blood; that people acquire by the exercise of power and station a certain advantage of manner and tone.
Now comes Mr. Hamerton
and points out, with great skill and plausibility, that all this applies just as clearly to an aristocracy of wealth, and that a household which spends $20,000 a year for two or three generations becomes insensibly different in its habits and standards from one which spends $500 a year.
This does not imply that these standards and habits are necessarily superior, especially on the moral side; on the contrary, it is now common in all countries to speak rather contemptuously of “the bourgeois virtues,” as if high breeding soon carried us beyond those.
The point is that this high breeding,