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The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

The Vicar of Wakefield (original 1766; edition 2016)

by Oliver Goldsmith (Author)

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2,569454,022 (3.25)166
The simple village vicar, Mr. Primrose, is living with his wife and six children in complete tranquility until unexpected calamities force them to weather one hilarious adventure after another.
Title:The Vicar of Wakefield
Authors:Oliver Goldsmith (Author)
Info:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2016), 116 pages
Collections:My Audiobooks

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The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)



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English (44)  French (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
More than I expected from the 18th century, and with an interesting pre-Dickensian rant against British jails.

Also, the Librivox recording is quite good. ( )
  beautifulshell | Aug 27, 2020 |
It’s probably best to go into this one with the same mindset as a stage comedy. Things just happen. Coincidences abound. The vicar almost gets his son married—but then a merchant runs off with his savings! He successfully sells his horse at market—to a conman! And so on and so forth. Which is not to say that I found any of that annoying, being used to novels where plot and theme are a bit tighter and more believable, because this is a satire, a comedy, and a 250-year-old novel, so my expectations were about on par. I didn’t even mind the wordiness or the fact that, when the vicar really gets going, I had to reread a page to figure out what he was saying. Also, the characters are more rounded than I thought they’d be!

I had fun reading this, in other words, though it’s not the best bit of 18th-century writing I’ve read. There’s a lot of parody and satire in it, from the small and domestic misfortunes that are treated as the end of the world to the vicar’s stubborn insistence on being kind and forgiving to everyone (including the aforementioned conman) to his views on marriage to the bit near the end where he’s sure he’s converting an entire jail but they’re making fun of him the whole time. I suspect there’s also a bit of parody in how quickly and randomly tragedy strikes, but I haven’t read any other sentimental novels so I can’t comment.

And yes, if you couldn’t tell from my summary, there are Austen vibes. (She must’ve read this. It was a bestseller and, well, let’s just say there are mistaken identities and a rake who’s taken for an honest man and the vicar reminded me a lot of Mr. Bennett at times.) That alone would make this worth reading, but it was enjoyable apart from that and I’m glad to have read it, and read it when I did so I could appreciate what Goldsmith was doing. I can totally picture it being read aloud in social settings with people tittering behind their fans and then debating the satire over sherry or embroidery.

Recced, but not fannishly. ‘Twas good and holds up, but is also not the best novel in the world.

Warnings: Period sexism. One scene with the g-slur describing a fortune teller. Several reports of comedic abduction.

7/10 ( )
  NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
There is an ongoing debate about whether The Vicar of Wakefield is serious or a satire. I tend toward the former opinion, for while the utter hypocrisy of the characters and the unbelievable serendipity of its plot have all the stuff of satire, I think this is just a coincidence. Goldsmith is not a satirist in the manner of Swift or Haywood: the absurdities of his novel are almost certainly a result of incompetence rather than biting social humor.

The novel itself is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. There is a debate about politics, for instance, in which the protagonist, Charles Primrose, ties himself up in knots trying to explain the importance of liberty, only to end up by affirming that the highest expression of liberty is actually monarchy.

"What they may then expect, may be seen by turning our eyes to Holland, Genoa, or Venice, where the laws govern the poor, and the rich govern the law. I am then for, and would die for, monarchy, sacred monarchy; for if there be any thing sacred amongst men, it must be the anointed sovereign of his people, and every diminution of his power in war, or in peace, is an infringement upon the real liberties of the subject."

We must treasure liberty - by cultivating monarchy. We must value the misery of poverty - by aspiring to riches. We must be honest - but it is okay to lie and deceive to cultivate "virtue." These recurrent hypocrisies run throughout The Vicar of Wakefield in a way that makes the characters seem like a bunch of social climbers of the most cynical kind. There is no sense of actual virtue, love, or kindness in the social relations on display here: everything is a performance designed to raise social status.

Of course, The Vicar of Wakefield, for the sheer extent of its influence, is a necessary text to read in a historical sense. But let's be honest: it is an awful book, lacking in plot or entertainment, full of hypocrisy, with a narrative that at times borders on the territory of an eighteenth-century American Psycho in its sheer lack of conscience or restraint. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
I literally only wanted to read this because of a passing reference (or two) in Jane Austen's Emma! (Harriet gives a copy to Robert Martin, and Mrs Elton misquotes the verse about woman stooping to folly, I think!) I found an old library copy and couldn't resist. But, having suffered through Evelina and the like in the past, I had to brace myself. Goldsmith is slightly more witty than Burney, but still dedicates whole chapters to random subjects.

The story, even in such a short book, is bonkers. Talk about melodrama! The vicar of the title lives an idyllic life with his loving wife and large family of two daughters and four sons until the proverbial hits the fan. He loses all his money, they have to move to another parish miles away belonging to a dodgy landowner who puts Willoughby and Wickham in the shade, his eldest daughter elopes but nobody is sure who with, the family house burns down, he's thrown in jail for not paying his rent, where he finds his son, sent away to earn his fortune, who has killed someone in a duel. I think!

Mental, densely packed, but still just about readable! ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Apr 19, 2020 |
Goldsmith's only novel. Novel writing was in an early stage and the dialogue is totally unrealistic, but no matter. The characters are mouthpieces for various viewpoints that Goldsmith had. The storyline is a cumulation of disasters, but things are reversed not totally convincingly at the end. I had always assumed that the book had something to do with the city of Wakefield in Yorkshire, but the story is set in a village closer to London.
  jgoodwll | Mar 8, 2020 |
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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
Farrell, NicholasNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Julia R. PigginEditorsecondary 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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The simple village vicar, Mr. Primrose, is living with his wife and six children in complete tranquility until unexpected calamities force them to weather one hilarious adventure after another.

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