Now, my Friend who are the ἄριστοι ["aristocrats"]? Philosophy may Answer the Wise and Good." But the World, Mankind, have by their practice always answered, "the rich the beautiful and well born." And Philosophers in marrying their children prefer the rich the handsome and the well descended to the wise and good.Adams added a postscript:
What chance have Talents and Virtues in competition, with Wealth and Birth? and Beauty? ...
The five Pillars of Aristocracy are Beauty Wealth, Birth, Genius and Virtues. Any one of the three first can at any time over bear any one or both of the two last.
You may laugh at the introduction of Beauty, among the Pillars of Aristocracy. But Madame Barry says La veritable Royautée est la B[e]autee ["true royalty is beauty"], and there is not a more certain Truth. Beauty, Grace, Figure, Attitude, Movement, have in innumerable Instances prevailed over Wealth, Birth, Talents Virtues and everything else, in Men of the highest rank, greatest Power, and sometimes, the most exalted Genius, greatest Fame, and highest Merit.This came to mind when I was reading through the pages dedicated to Mme. Récamier in Mémoires de Outre-Tombe. These were to have formed a book of the third part, but Chateaubriand decided against publishing them: Livres de Poche includes them in the "Fragment retranchés" at the end of the third volume. They run to twenty-three chapters, almost ninety pages. Mme. Récamier's beauty does seem to have prevailed over much. The list of men with their heads turned includes at least Lucien Bonaparte, Prince August of Prussia, Benjamin Constant, and of course Chateaubriand. (One could presumably add M. Recamier to the list; but in the narrative he is all but absent.) It is fair to say that Mme. de Staël was devoted to her also. A thumbnail biography in the back of a Larousse writes of Mme. Récamier as celebrated for her wit, her beauty, and the salon she kept. Was she enchanted, flatter, bored, or distressed by the very silly letters sent her by mostly sensible men?