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[ Also see Age Antiquity Beginnings Birth Blood Character Childhood Courtiers Family Gentility Gentlemen Heirs Heredity Inheritance Nobility Parents Pedigree Posterity Race Rank ]

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
  Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
    Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
      And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
      - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
         (Juliet at II, ii)

Pedigrees seldom improve by age; the grandson is too often a weak infringement on the grandsire's parent.
      - Henry Wheeler Shaw (used pseudonyms Josh Billings and Uncle Esek)

Our ancestors are very good kind of folks; but they are the last people I should choose to have a visiting acquaintance with.
      - Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The Rivals
         (act IV, sc. 1)

I am no herald to inquire of men's pedigrees; it sufficeth me if I know their virtues.
      - Sir Philip Sidney (Sydney)

What is birth to a man if it shall be a stain to his dead ancestors to have left such an offspring?
      - Sir Philip Sidney (Sydney)

I make little account of genealogical trees. Mere family never made a man great. Though and deed, not pedigree, are the passports to enduring fate.
      - Mikhail Skobeleff, in "Fortnightly Review"

The Smiths never had any arms, and have invariably sealed their letters with their thumbs.
      - Sydney Smith, Lady Holland's Memoir
         (vol. I, p. 244)

Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal.
      - Robert Louis Stevenson,
        Memories and Portraits

'Tis happy for him that his father was born before him.
      - Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation
         (dialogue III)

He that boasts of his ancestors, the founders and raisers of a family, doth confess that he hath less virtue.
      - Jeremy Taylor

By blood a king, in heart a clown.
      - Lord Alfred Tennyson

From yon blue heavens above us bent,
  The gardener Adam and his wife
    Smile at the claims of long descent,
      Howe'er it be, it seems to me
        'Tis only noble to be good,
          Kind hearts are more than coronets,
            And simple faith than Norman blood.
      - Lord Alfred Tennyson,
        Lady Clara Vere de Vere (st. 7)

He seems to be a man sprung from himself.
      - Tiberius (Tiberius Clauius Nero),
        Annals of Tacitus (bk. XI, sc. 21)

As though there were a tie,
  And obligation to posterity!
    We get them, bear them, breed and nurse.
      What has posterity done for us,
        That we, lest they their rights should lose,
          Should trust our necks to grip of noose?
      - John Trumbull (1), McFingal
         (canto II, l. 121)

Whoever serves his country well has no need of ancestors.
      - Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire)

High birth is a thing which I never knew any one to disparage except those who had it not; and I never knew any one to make a boast of it who had anything else to be proud of.
      - Bishop William Warburton

It is only shallow-minded pretenders who either 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

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

Bishop Warburton is reported to have said that high birth was a thing which he never knew any one disparage except those who had it not, and he never knew any one make a boast of it who had anything else to be proud of.
      - Archbishop Richard Whately,
        Annotations of Bacon's Essay, Of Nobility

A man's rootage is more important than his leafage.
      - Thomas Woodrow Wilson

Rank is a farce; if people Fools will be
  A Scavenger and King's the same to me.
      - Dr. John Wolcot (Wolcott or Woolcott) (used pseudonym Peter Pindar),
        Title Page--Peter's Prophecy

He stands for fame of his forefather's feet,
  By heraldry, proved valiant or discreet!
      - Edward Young, Love of Fame
         (satire I, l. 123)

They that on glorious ancestors enlarge,
  Produce their debt, instead of their discharge.
      - Edward Young, Love of Fame
         (satire I, l. 147)

Like lavish ancestors, his earlier years
  Have disinherited his future hours,
    Which starve on orts, and glean their former field.
      - Edward Young, Night Thoughts
         (night III, l. 310)

Pride, in boasting of family antiquity, makes duration stand for merit.
      - Johann Georg von Zimmermann

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