Besides, nobility was not a caste, but rather an
office, personal and transmissible to but one. ‘The insolent prerogative of primogeniture’ made its most conspicuous victims in the bosom of the families which it kept up, and which themselves set the leading example of resignation to its injustice.
Not younger sons only, who might find employment in public office, or at the bar, or in the church, the army, or navy, or in mercantile adventures and pursuits; the daughters of the great landed proprietors, from a delicate spirit of self-sacrifice, characteristic of the sex, applauded the rule by which they were disinherited, and placed their pride in upholding a system which left them dependent or destitute.
In the splendid houses of their parents they were bred to a sense of their own poverty, and were bred to endure that poverty cheerfully.
They would not murmur against the system, for their sighs might have been taunted as the repinings of selfishness.
They all revered the head of the family, and by their own submission taught the people to do so. Even the mother who might survive her husband, after following him to his tomb in the old manorial church, returned no more to the ancestral mansion, but vacated it for the heir.
The daughters of the nobility were left poor, and most of them necessarily remained unmarried, or wedded persons of inferior birth.
The younger sons became commoners; and though they were in some measure objects of jealousy, because they used their relationship to appropriate to themselves the chief benefits of the public patronage, yet, as they really were commoners, and entered the body of the people,