I could have done even better, miss, and I'd know a lot more, if it wasn't for my destiny ever since childhood. I'd have killed a man in a duel with a pistol for calling me low-born, because I came from Stinking Lizaveta without a father, and they were shoving that in my face in Moscow. It spread there thanks to Grigory Vasilievich. Grigory Vasilievich reproaches me for rebelling against my nativity: 'You opened her matrix,' he says. I don't know about her matrix, but I'd have let them kill me in the womb, so as not to come out into the world at all, miss.
All the golden societies of the past to which historians point and turn their wistful smiles have had what patience-players would call a discard pile. They operated on two levels with a slave class who worked, ate, slept, and died and a leisured class who reclined on one elbow and spoke. Naturally it is from this latter group that we learn what life at that time was like. It often makes charming reading but we can hardly take it to be the whole truth.
An old joke has an Oxford professor meeting an American former graduate student and asking him what he's working on these days. 'My thesis is on the survival of the class system in the United States.' 'Oh really, that's interesting: one didn't think there was a class system in the United States.' 'Nobody does. That's how it survives.