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Jude the Obscure

PART III: Chapter 1
PART III: At Melchester
"For there was no other girl, O bridegroom, like her!"--SAPPHO (H.T. Wharton).
IT was a new idea--the ecclesiastical and altruistic life as distinct from the
intellectual and emulative life. A man could preach and do good to his fellow-
creatures without taking double-firsts in the schools of Christminster, or having
anything but ordinary knowledge. The old fancy which had led on to the
culminating vision of the bishopric had not been an ethical or theological
enthusiasm at all, but a mundane ambition masquerading in a surplice. He feared
that his whole scheme had degenerated to, even though it might not have
originated in, a social unrest which had no foundation in the nobler instincts;
which was purely an artificial product of civilization. There were thousands of
young men on the same self-seeking track at the present moment. The sensual
hind who ate, drank, and lived carelessly with his wife through the days of his
vanity was a more likable being than he.
But to enter the Church in such an unscholarly way that he could not in any
probability rise to a higher grade through all his career than that of the humble
curate wearing his life out in an obscure village or city slum--that might have a
touch of goodness and greatness in it; that might be true religion, and a
purgatorial course worthy of being followed by a remorseful man.
The favourable light in which this new thought showed itself by contrast with his
foregone intentions cheered Jude, as he sat there, shabby and lonely; and it may
be said to have given, during the next few days, the COUP DE GRACE to his
intellectual career--a career which had extended over the greater part of a dozen
years. He did nothing, however, for some long stagnant time to advance his new
desire, occupying himself with little local jobs in putting up and lettering
headstones about the neighbouring villages, and submitting to be regarded as a
social failure, a returned purchase, by the half-dozen or so of farmers and other
country-people who condescended to nod to him.
The human interest of the new intention--and a human interest is indispensable
to the most spiritual and self-sacrificing-- was created by a letter from Sue,
bearing a fresh postmark. She evidently wrote with anxiety, and told very little
about her own doings, more than that she had passed some sort of examination
for a Queen's Scholarship, and was going to enter a training college at
Melchester to complete herself for the vocation she had chosen, partly by his
influence. There was a theological college at Melchester; Melchester was a quiet
and soothing place, almost entirely ecclesiastical in its tone; a spot where worldly
learning and intellectual smartness had no establishment; where the altruistic
 
 
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