Far from the Madding Crowd
The New Acquaintance Described
IDIOSYNCRASY and vicissitude had combined to stamp Sergeant Troy as an
He was a man to whom memories were an incumbrance, and anticipations a
superfluity. Simply feeling, considering, and caring for what was before his eyes,
he was vulnerable only in the present. His outlook upon time was as a transient
flash of the eye now and then: that projection of consciousness into days gone by
and to come, which makes the past a synonym for the pathetic and the future a
word for circumspection, was foreign to Troy. With him the past was yesterday;
the future, to-morrow; never, the day after.
On this account he might, in certain lights, have been regarded as one of the
most fortunate of his order. For it may be argued with great plausibility that
reminiscence is less an endowment than a disease, and that expectation in its
only comfortable form -- that of absolute faith -- is practically an impossibility;
whilst in the form of hope and the secondary compounds, patience, impatience,
resolve, curiosity, it is a constant fluctuation between pleasure and pain.
Sergeant Troy, being entirely innocent of the practice of expectation, was never
disappointed. To set against this negative gain there may have been some
positive losses from a certain narrowing of the higher tastes and sensations
which it entailed. But limitation of the capacity is never recognized as a loss by
the loser therefrom: in this attribute moral or aesthetic poverty contrasts plausibly
with material, since those who suffer do not mind it, whilst those who mind it soon
cease to suffer. It is not a denial of anything to have been always without it, and
what Troy had never enjoyed he did not miss; but, being fully conscious that what
sober people missed he enjoyed, his capacity, though really less, seemed
greater than theirs.
He was moderately truthful towards men, but to women lied like a Cretan -- a
system of ethics above all others calculated to win popularity at the first flush of
admission into lively society; and the possibility of the favour gained being
transitory had reference only to the future.
He never passed the line which divides the spruce vices from the ugly; and
hence, though his morals had hardly been applauded, disapproval of them had
frequently been tempered with a smile. This treatment had led to his becoming a
sort of regrater of other men's gallantries, to his own aggrandizement as a
Corinthian, rather than to the moral profit of his hearers.
His reason and his propensities had seldom any reciprocating influence, having
separated by mutual consent long ago: thence it sometimes happened that, while
his intentions were as honourable as could be wished, any particular deed
formed a dark background which threw them into fine relief. The sergeant's
vicious phases being the offspring of impulse, and his virtuous phases of cool
meditation, the latter had a modest tendency to be oftener heard of than seen.
Troy was full of activity, but his activities were less of a locomotive than a
vegetative nature; and, never being based upon any original choice of foundation
or direction, they were exercised on whatever object chance might place in their