"Not Without Mustard."|
-- Shakespeare's family motto,
as parodied by Ben Jonson.
You can't choose your relatives, and
family pride, like other sorts, goeth before a fall. Witness
Jonson's apt skewering of his social-climbing fellow playwright William
Shakespeare, who with the proceeds of his then-disreputable theatrical
career had bought his father a coat of arms and (perhaps) the motto
that went with it:
non sans droit
("not without honor").
Ideally, honor is what we bring to our
families, not take from them, a point perhaps half felt by Shakespeare,
since he purchased for his the honor in whose reflected glory he sought
to bask. Yet, by an irony of history, it was his own supposedly sordid
profession that brought him immortality, not his dubiously-acquired
Most of us live and strive within
narrower bounds than Shakespeare, but it is as foolish for us as it
was for him to look to family pride to fill the gap between us and our
aspirations. If we would truly honor our families, it should be for
their true selves, warts and all.
This small effort at preserving its
memory is my attempt to honor mine.