We might say that good taste started to replace good blood. Sensibility, like land and wealth, could be acquired rather than just inherited. A person could be born into low rank based on family or wealth but gain respect through good taste.
Virginia Woolf said that the biography as a genre was only established itself in second half of the 18th century. We know very little about
Emma’s blindness in this regard drives the narrative. She cannot accept those who rise through work or investment. Social rank is firmly tied to family; it is not about individuals. A person who tries to earn a place in the upper-classes would be guilty of “pretending”; they would be considered pretentious.