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The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

The Vicar of Wakefield (original 1766; edition 2008)

by Oliver Goldsmith, Arthur Friedman (Editor), Robert L. Mack (Editor)

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1,903293,598 (3.29)104
Title:The Vicar of Wakefield
Authors:Oliver Goldsmith
Other authors:Arthur Friedman (Editor), Robert L. Mack (Editor)
Info:OUP Oxford (2008), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, Classic Fiction (pre 1945), To read

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The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)


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English (26)  French (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith is hard to describe. Partly moralistic, partly comic, partly political, and partly I don't know what, this short novel is a strange little animal that is by all accounts no stranger than its author. The story is narrated by a vicar who falls upon hard times and must remove with his family to a much less profitable post. From there, the family's distresses are increased by their intimacy with a local nobleman who eventually seduces the eldest daughter. In the end everything turns around happily after a series of improbable coincidences and exaggerated setbacks. Apparently many of the characters' experiences were drawn from Goldsmith's own life as an indigent wanderer, which was interesting.

The moralistic bits of the novel come in the form of the vicar's musings, while the comic parts come from his attempts (largely ignored) to impart gravity and piety to his family. He's not a dry moralist, however, and often joins in or allows frivolous amusements because he doesn't wish to deny his children pleasure. His wife is also a source of humor, as some of his descriptions of her are somewhat uncomplimentary (and true). He himself is also quite funny in his naivete and fierce devotion to the doctrine of monogamy (yes, random).

I knew nothing about this novel before I picked it up, and am still a bit puzzled by it. Apparently I'm not the only one; the afterword talks about the novel's deficiencies (ridiculous coincidences, stilted dialogue, and one-dimensional characters) as well as its enduring and rather unexplainable popularity. The prose has a graceful, quotable cadence to it, which makes the awkward dialogue even odder. The novel might have been better as a play. Definitely didn't love this one and probably won't reread. ( )
  wisewoman | Aug 25, 2014 |
I can only describe it as a some bizaare mixture of Pride and Prejudice and Candide. It has the wry social commentary and twist of phrase that I expect from Jane Austen and the satire and irrepressible "Best of All Possible Worlds" sense from Candide. I missed perhaps nearly all of the satire, despite the extensive but not very helpful notes but I saw it was there. No, really. But I enjoyed it anyway.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
What's going on here? According to the introduction and notes, it's satire on literary convention. But satire seems too harsh- more like loving parody. I have very little to say, except that if i had to read one eighteenth century novel, this would be it: it's short, it's not repetitive, the prose is lean and clean, it's funny, and it's full of good cheer. And the characters have persuasive arguments for the importance of neo-classical ideals in literature, of which recent authors of bloated monstrosities and self-referential navel gazing turgidities are much in need. And the soft-hearted Tory politics are pleasant even for a crusty old revolutionary such as myself: "I found that monarchy was the best government for the poor to live in, and commonwealths for the rich. I found that riches in general were in every country another name for freedom; and that no man is so fond of liberty himself as not to be desirous of subjecting the will of some individuals in society to his own," chapter 20. Amen to that, vicar's son. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
I think this book was fine, though its unfinished ending drives me nuts! ( )
  HopingforChange | Jan 21, 2013 |
If you’re looking for a sentimental feel-good tale where everything that goes wrong in the first half of the book is resolved to everyone’s delight in the second half, this is the book for you. I wasn’t.

Like many books I find laborious to wade through on the 1001 list, I’m not allowed to give this as low a rating as I would have done before I changed to my new rating system. Why? Because although I didn’t enjoy the book for itself, I have to acknowledge its influence as one of the first of its type.

Embedded in Vicar are all the elements that would influence Austen, Eliot, the Brontes and Dickens. I’ll be the first to admit that they did it better than Goldsmith but he gets the credit due him for coming up with so many of the ideas they would later develop.

The novel is the story of a guy who calls himself a vicar but obviously cares more about his place is society than his place in heaven. His family go through various crises which, from this vantage point in literary history, are all too predictable. And, just as predictably if you’re into Austen or Disney, everything turns out fine in the end.

I didn’t enjoy it, but I’m glad I read it. Now at least I know who to blame. ( )
  arukiyomi | Feb 27, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (71 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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:45 -0400)

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A vicar's simple faith sustains him through the trials and tribulations that beset his loved ones.

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