"I Had A Soul Above Buttons"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Sylvester Daggerwood or New Hay at the Old Market is a one-act picture of London theatrical life written by George Colman (or Coleman) a graduate of Christ College, Oxford, and King's College, Aberdeen. He took over management of the Haymarket Theatre when his father, another playwright, went mad. At the beginning of this farce, Fustian, a writer of tragedies, and Daggerwood, a strolling player of the Dunstable Company, sit in the manager's office at the Haymarket Theatre, looking for employment. The skit recounts the difficulties in mounting a theatrical performance, and ends with a song. Fustian seeks details about Daggerwood, whom he takes for some rustic barnstormer. He gets an autobiographical answer. Daggerwood feels himself born for something above a commercial or manufacturing life. He is an artist, though an improverished one. He laments the fact that his wife stutters and therefore cannot help him in a stage career. As for his possessions, he says he has three shirts, and:

Children too young to make a debut–except my eldest, Master Apollo Daggerwood; a youth of only eight years old; who has twice made his appearance in Tom Thumb, to an overflowing and brilliant barn–house, I mean–with unbounded and universal applause.
Have you been long upon the stage, Mr. Daggerwood?
Fifteen years since I first smelt the lamp, Sir. My father was an eminent Button-Maker at Birmingham; . . . but I had a soul above buttons, and abhorred the idea of mercenary marriage. I panted for a liberal profession–so ran away from my father, and engaged with a travelling company of Comedians.