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The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)

by Oliver Goldsmith

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English (37)  French (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
I was a bit surprised to learn that there was a debate over whether or not this 1766 Goldsmith novel is a satire. I think if it is read as anything other than a satire, its import is lost. The humor hidden just beneath the surface is the only thing I can imagine would have garnered it its popularity or held its recognition over the years. It was very popular in the 19th Century and has reportedly influenced many writers.

The Vicar is a sanguine character, who grabs the silver lining from cloud after cloud. He’d tell you that glass is half full and then say it was more than one body needed and give part of it away to his fellow man. He seems a little naive with today’s vision, but he cares far more about honor and integrity than money or position, and we could use a few more of his ilk, I think.

Goldsmith made me laugh more than once with his dry humor, i.e.

However, when any one of our relations was found to be a person of very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house, I ever took care to lend him a riding coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes a horse of small value, and I always had the satisfaction of finding he never came back to return them.

Or, in a longer passage, one of the characters embarks to Holland where he means to earn his living by teaching English to the Dutch. I addressed myself therefore to two or three of those I met whose appearance seemed most promising but it was impossible to make ourselves mutually understood. It was not till this very moment I recollected, that in order to teach Dutchmen English, it was necessary that they should first teach me Dutch. How I came to overlook so obvious an objection, is to me amazing; but certain it is I overlooked it.

Tell me you didn’t nod a little and smile.

The plot is thin and full of cliches. In a modern writer, I would toss it out the window, but somehow its date and language make it very palatable. There is some sermonizing (what would you expect from a book written in the 1700s?), but again, I didn’t find it objectionable and actually thought many of his ideas well ahead of his time. He pressed for reform efforts instead of punishment for minor crimes and decried a system in which two crimes, dissimilar in nature, such as murder and theft, often received the same punishment, death by hanging.

But a contract that is false between two men, is equally so between an hundred, or an hundred thousand; for as ten millions of circles can never make a square, so the united voice of myriads cannot lend the smallest foundation to falsehood.

I was struck by the wisdom of that statement and how it applies, perhaps even more, to us in this day of mass media. The truth can be buried beneath so many lies that it seems to disappear, but the lies will never be the truth, no matter how many times they are repeated.

I found this book easy to read and mostly fun to watch unfold. It was pretty predictable, but that is because subsequent authors have used the same intrigues since. I caught glimpses of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, and had to remind myself that Goldsmith predated them all. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
I can certainly see how this book was all the rage back in the late 1700's! It has sex, violence, villains and heroes. Quite a bit of stuff packed in this one. ( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
Creativity: 7.5
Plot: 7
Characters: 7
Writing: 8
Pace: 6
Ending: 9.5
Stars: 3 ( )
  marybethsoper | Dec 12, 2016 |
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
What I thought was going to be a sweet, charming chronicle of the life of a vicar and his family took a definite maudlin turn which I was not expecting. Then it turned into an absolute glut of marriages. It was all very "of-the-period" and I guess I should have been on notice (or read some of the reviews). I was amused by parts of it and I enjoyed the narration of the audiobook, but this book was just OK for me. ( )
  fhudnell | Jun 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (167 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Goldsmith, Oliverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Emslie, MacDonaldmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anhava, TuomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowlandson, ThomasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sperate miseri, cavete faelices

[Hope, ye wretched, beware, ye prosperous]
First words
I was ever of opinion that the honest man, who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and only talked of population.
The jewels of truth have been so imported by others, that nothing was left for me to import but some splendid things that, at a distance, looked every bit as well.
That virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarce worth the sentinel.
However, when any one of our relations was found to be a person of very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house, I ever took care to lend him a riding coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes a horse of small value, and I always had the satisfaction of finding he never came back to return them.
The pain which conscience gives the man who has already done wrong is soon got over. Conscience is a coward; and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent, it seldom has justice enough to accuse.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140431594, Paperback)

"The greatest object in the universe, says a certain philosopher, is a good man struggling with adversity."

When Dr Primrose loses his fortune in a disastrous investment, his idyllic life in the country is shattered and he is forced to move with his wife and six children to an impoverished living on the estate of Squire Thornhill. Taking to the road in pursuit of his daughter, who has been seduced by the rakish Squire, the beleaguered Primrose becomes embroiled in a series of misadventures – encountering his long-lost son in a travelling theatre company and even spending time in a debtor’s prison. Yet Primrose, though hampered by his unworldliness and pride, is sustained by his unwavering religious faith. In The Vicar of Wakefield, Goldsmith gently mocks many of the literary conventions of his day – from pastoral and romance to the picaresque – infusing his story of a hapless clergyman with warm humour and amiable social satire.

In his introduction, Stephen Coote discusses Goldsmith’s eventful life, the literary devices used in the novel, and its central themes of Christianity, justice and the family. This edition also includes a bibliography and notes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:21 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Rich with wisdom and gentle irony, Goldsmith's only novel tells of an unworldly and generous vicar who lives contentedly with his large family until disaster strikes. But bankruptcy, his daughter's abduction, and the vicar's imprisonment fail to dampen his spirit. Considered the author's finest work, this book is a delightful lampoon of 18th-century literary conventions.… (more)

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