A man may still climb to the top of the tree;
That questions of family, rank, and high birth,
All bow to the query, How much is he worth?
That John Smith, plebeian, who forty years since
Walked Broadway barefooted, now rides as a prince;
Having managed, though not overburdened with wit,
But rather by chance and a fortunate hit,
To take a high place of Society's rounds;
His claim, being based on pence, shillings, and pounds.
I admit there's a certain republican merit
In making the fortune which others inherit;
But why should John Smith so completely ignore
The bridge which has brought him triumphantly o'er,
And turn with disgust from the opposite shore?
And why when Miranda, whose heart is not proof
Against Cupid's sharp arrows, some day leaves his roof,
And, sundering her family ties at a jerk,
Returns in the evening-the wife of his clerk!
Thus at Love's trumpet-call bidding Duty defiance,
Should he strive to break up the clandestine alliance?
For, though men have made money, and will do again,
There as never a case known here money made men
And if Jones be a man in what constitutes manhood,
He's a far better match than young Frederic Stanwood,
Though the one be a clerk, and the other the heir
Of the house, next M'Flimsey's, on Madison-square.
If the one is deficient in wealth, we may find
The other quite bankrupt in morals and mind.
--An Excerpt from "Nothing To Do: A Tilt at Our Best Society"
Home Page for Lucia Knoles
Department of English, Assumption College
The Search for Improvement in Antebellum America
Project in Progress