“whose coat had the fine polish about the collar, elbows, seams, and shoulder-blades that long-continued friction with grimy surfaces will produce, and which is usually more desired on furniture than clothes.”
– Thomas Hardy, “The Mayor of Casterbridge”
That phrase “more desired on furniture than clothes” is impossibly evocative: is the character furniture? was he furniture? He touches filth and grime now enough to shine his clothes, but insists on referring for a female character for her breeding and his having rubbed elbows in fine social circles as proof enough to know.
Hardy’s indication, immediately following the above quote, that he had been “groom or coachman to some neighboring county family” gives him proof of life in both having rubbed those now shiny elbows with families of breeding or wealth enough to employ a groom or coachman and, simultaneously, an excuse to discuss women in the same manner as horses.