Read The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith Arthur Friedman Robert L. Mack Online

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Oliver Goldsmith's hugely successful novel of 1766 remained for generations one of the most highly regarded and beloved works of eighteenth-century fiction. It depicts the fall and rise of the Primrose family, presided over by the benevolent vicar, the narrator of a fairy-tale plot of impersonation and deception, the abduction of a beautiful heroine and the machinations ofOliver Goldsmith's hugely successful novel of 1766 remained for generations one of the most highly regarded and beloved works of eighteenth-century fiction. It depicts the fall and rise of the Primrose family, presided over by the benevolent vicar, the narrator of a fairy-tale plot of impersonation and deception, the abduction of a beautiful heroine and the machinations of an aristocratic villain. By turns comic and sentimental, the novel's popularity owes much to its recognizable depiction of domestic life and loving family relationships.New to this edition is an introduction by Robert L. Mack that examines the reasons for the novels enduring popularity, as well as the critical debates over whether it is a straightforward novel of sentiment or a satire on the social and economic inequalities of the period and the very literary conventions and morality it seems to embody. This edition also includes a new, up-to-date bibliography and expanded notes, and contains reprints of Arthur Friedman's authoritative Oxford English Novels text of the corrected first edition of 1766....

Title : The Vicar of Wakefield
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ISBN : 9780192805126
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 197 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Vicar of Wakefield Reviews

  • Jason Koivu
    2018-11-16 13:45

    It's "father knows best" 18th Century style!A relatively well-off parson's family in mid 1700s England is forced into reduced circumstances and then really falls on hard times. A contemporary and friend of lexicographer Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith too was a lover of language. He was a teller of tales and The Vicar of Wakefield is essentially just that, a collection of stories tailored to fit linearly into this one novel. As such, there are occasional moments when the book veers from the main story for a moment and it becomes obvious that Goldsmith had a particular tale or some allegorical tidbit he wanted to feed his readers. But it gets back on track and finishes by tying up ALL loose ends in a comically clustered finish. Yes, it can get a tad preachy and the all-knowing father figure bores all but himself. Ahhh, but there's the saving grace! The witty and humorous Goldsmith was clever enough not to create a flawless god-like priest in the father who is blindly obeyed by his dutiful family. No, the dad is human. He makes a mistake or two and is sometimes ignored by his wife and children like most dads through out the ages. And that keeps The Vicar of Wakefield a relatable piece of work that has endured over time and influenced English writers like Jane Austen in the years following its publication.Rating: 3.5

  • Kj
    2018-11-02 09:03

    You can't get very far into Victorian literature without tripping over references to The Vicar of Wakefield. Either the novel's heroine is reading the book, making fun of the book or trying to teach her French pupils how to translate the book. Oliver Goldsmith's 1766 novel is sort of the Moby Dick of the 19th century, in that it was the book that everyone read, or was supposed to read, and thus, the default title to name drop. I'm not comparing the literary merit of Moby Dick and Vicar of Wakefield, just the fact that as for us 20/21st century folks who can't really read a magazine or watch a TV show without eventually getting a reference to the 100 year old Moby Dick, so the 19th centurty folk couldn't pass a garden gate without someone quoting the 100 year old Vicar of Wakefield.Which is why I decided to read it. After about the ninth reference, somewhere between Frankenstein and Middlemarch, I thought i might as well see what all the chatter is about.I was amused to find that scholarship on Vicar of Wakefield is still in debate as to whether it's satire or sincere. The highly sentimental and ridiculous plot, matched with the idealistic and oblivious narrator, make it difficult to imagine anyone reading the novel seriously- but people did/do. I think that's the mark of genius satire; you've satirized something so well that those whom you are satirizing actually think it's great. Thus, most of my encounters with Vicar references are tongue in cheek, winking at the reader whenever introducing a character who loves it- you pretty much know they're either simple, shallow or stupid. Which isn't to say the book is stupid- it brilliantly challenges a world-view based on romantic concepts of providence and prudence that turns a blind eye to personal responsibility and social accountability. The very fact that horrendous things keep happening to the characters, only to be turned into blissfully wonderful endings with no effort at all, points to the absurdity of expecting one's life to follow the pattern of the moralistic tales of the period. Vicar of Wakefield, painted in its its pastoral colors of goodwill and virtue, actually serves as a foil to the real hardships encountered in daily life- causing the reader, almost bitterly, to wonder why real life isn't like this. Don't let the sweet stupidity of the characters fool you- this book is actually warning you not to be as sweet and stupid as its characters. I think that's why it makes for such good inside jokes by the likes of Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte- women who could not abide vapidity or surface morality.

  • Bettie☯
    2018-10-31 15:06

    Description: Oliver Goldsmith's hugely successful novel of 1766 remained for generations one of the most highly regarded and beloved works of eighteenth-century fiction. It depicts the fall and rise of the Primrose family, presided over by the benevolent vicar, the narrator of a fairy-tale plot of impersonation and deception, the abduction of a beautiful heroine and the machinations of an aristocratic villain. By turns comic and sentimental, the novel's popularity owes much to its recognizable depiction of domestic life and loving family relationships.An interesting section in Boswell's biography of Samuel Johnson makes me wish to read this book and here it is:https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2667William Powell Frith: Measuring Heights, 1863 (A scene from Chapter 16: Olivia Primrose and Squire Thornhill standing back to back)Opening:The description of the family of Wakefield; in which a kindred likeness prevails as well of minds as of persons.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. From this motive, I had scarce taken orders a year before I began to think seriously of matrimony, and chose my wife as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine glossy surfaces but such qualities as would wear well. To do her justice, she was a good-natured notable woman; and as for breeding, there were few country ladies who could shew more. She could read any English book without much spelling, but for pickling, preserving, and cookery, none could excel her. She prided herself also upon being an excellent contriver in house-keeping; tho' I could never find that we grew richer with all her contrivances. However, we loved each other tenderly, and our fondness encreased as we grew old. What a refreshing change of pace this was; a sentimental read that failed to descend into dreaded mawkishness. The Primrose's family fortunes were a white knuckle ride tempered by stiff upper lip and the moral high ground. Ernest Gustave Girardot 1883 Charles Robert Leslie : A Scene from "The Vicar of Wakefield" (chapitre XI)

  • Gretchen Ingram
    2018-10-25 08:47

    I know that this is a classic. I had it recommended to me at a very early age by Louisa May Alcott via Jo March and with that august endorsement did not ever think that it could be anything less than utterly charming.In spite of that, it has taken 45 years for me to get around to reading it and I wish I had waited 45 more.Perhaps it is me but I found nothing of worth in the book. The characters are undeveloped, the plot, such as it is, was antiquated before it was written and has been done to death (and better done) since. It is supposedly a humorous book- I found very little of wit about it and nothing that actually made me laugh. If it is a satire, it is a very poor one to make one wonder if it is or not. Swift's contemporary essay certainly leaves no doubt in the mind that it is a satire so it is not the changing use of the language to blame.There are some classics that I do not personally like that I still understand why they are classic and agree that everyone should read them at least once. This isn't one of them.

  • Sherwood Smith
    2018-10-20 11:45

    One of those books that changes over the decades. It was especially interesting to read now given how many mentions of it show up in novels over the past two hundred years, and how many well-respected writers talk fondly about its light-heartedness, its mildness, its being the quintessential English domestic novel.On this (very spoilery!) reading, I picked up how very tongue in cheek Goldsmith wrote, satirizing class and social climbing and the real meaning of posh manners as well as town/country, women and fashion, the haphazard (and greed-driven) state of schools and ecclesiastical learning at upper levels. Son George's interview for becoming a schoolmaster will make every teacher laugh and wince.And yet it wasn't all that light-hearted. The riff about prison reform could be published today, with regrettably few emendations. The auctioning off of daughters is a grim reminder of the fact that marriage between a man and a woman not so long ago was anything but holy. This is especially true at the end, when everyone is celebrating a thorough-going scoundrel and possibly serial rapist finding out his marriage is real, yay, the money is safe! The idea that this book was given to youngsters to read for a couple of centuries would raise eyebrows now, notwithstanding all the hardcore stuff seen on tv and film to which kids are exposed.It's also a fascinating look at how the novel was developing. Goldsmith was riffing off Sterne's recent runaway bestseller, Tristram Shandy, and also taking a leaf from Tom Jones in his rambunctiously coincidence-driven plotting. The excursions into manners, the poetry and fantasy storytelling, the sermonizing and satire all reflect popular tropes of the time. Completely unexamined--indeed reinforced--was the idea that women were not expected to have any agency because they needed male guidance in all things. Willful women invariably came to no good.It's short, and quick read, and full of eighteenth century views, but a cozy domestic novel? With the sons almost burning to death, a daughter believed to be dead after her betrayal, the thievery and so forth? Not my idea of cozy at all, in spite of everybody on stage grinning at their happy endings. Interesting, yes, cozy, no.

  • Clif Hostetler
    2018-10-21 09:10

    Much like the Biblical story of Job but in a nineteenth century English setting, this tale of extreme misfortune suffered by an English vicar—followed in the end by the restoration of his former life—is a model for living through such extremes with exemplary alacrity. The vicar is described as a natural born preacher who takes every opportunity to pontificate—first to his family and later to his fellow debtor's prison inmates—on the virtues of faithful patience when dealing with the calamities of life. These exhortations are included in the text of this book which allows the reader to also be the recipient of these sermons.One can take the novel's plot at face value and consider it to be a sentimental work containing a moral lesson. However, more cynical critics have suggested that it is be a satire on such sentimentality and that it shows the uselessness of the vicar's pious values when dealing with the real "sinful" world.In either case the highs and lows of this story are so extreme as to be only that which can happen in fictional literature. Nevertheless, it makes for a good story. If you want a thorough description of this book's plot I suggest the following website:http://www.gradesaver.com/the-vicar-o...The main virtue of this book is its antiquity. It was written from 1761 to 1762 and published in 1766. It was one of the most popular and widely read 18th-century novels among Victorians. The novel claims the distinction of being referenced in the writings of many other nineteenth century writers. The following quote is taken from Wikipedia. The novel is mentioned in George Eliot's Middlemarch, Stendhal's The Life of Henry Brulard, Arthur Schopenhauer's "The Art of Controversy", Jane Austen's Emma, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Sarah Grand's The Heavenly Twins, Charlotte Brontë's The Professor and Villette, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as his Dichtung und Wahrheit.I think these references show how widely this book was read during the nineteenth century. It is still remembered today, but its fame has not continued into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries at that level.

  • Laura
    2018-11-20 09:10

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg.ADVERTISEMENTThere are an hundred faults in this Thing, and an hundred things might be said to prove them beauties. But it is needless. A book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may be very dull without a single absurdity. The hero of this piece unites in himself the three greatest characters upon earth; he is a priest, an husbandman, and the father of a family. He is drawn as ready to teach, and ready to obey, as simple in affluence, and majestic in adversity. In this age of opulence and refinement whom can such a character please? Such as are fond of high life, will turn with disdain from the simplicity of his country fire-side. Such as mistake ribaldry for humour, will find no wit in his harmless conversation; and such as have been taught to deride religion, will laugh at one whose chief stores of comfort are drawn from futurity.OLIVER GOLDSMITH

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2018-10-25 17:10

    West Yorkshire, England, 1761 and 1762. Oliver Goldsmith wrote The Vicar of Wakefield, his one and only novel. Part of the introduction of this book says that Mr. Goldsmith was asked by his landlady to leave his apartment due to unpaid rent. Mr. Goldsmith asked his friend, Mr. Boswell, to sell the manuscript of this novel for him to have money.According to Wikipedia, this novel was one of the most popular and widely read 18th century novels among 19th century Victorians. The novel is mentioned in George Eliot's Middlemarch, Jane Austen's Emma, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Charlotte Brontë's Villette, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. I have read one of these and will be reading all the rest later this year so I decided to read this book first.The plot revolves around Reverend Dr. Charles Primrose who can be likened to Job. Dr. Primrose is a father of 6 children and an Anglican priest. He is loving and good natured but he can also be stubborn and somehow naive (or idiotic if it is not too harsh a word). The reason why I say idiotic is that there are some obvious situations when I would, as a father myself, do or react differently (like letting your children sleep in the jail or gaol in this old English novel) or know right away using common sense (like telling the real intent of the two suitors of his daughter Olivia). Anyway, maybe this was how the Victorian readers would like their novels to be. So, it is not for me to judge especially a well-loved 243-year old classic. Just like in American Idol, some songs are not supposed to be changed. The novel uses first person narrative through Dr. Primrose. Being a priest, the narratives are preachy at times. I normally hate preachy novels but this one is okay since it uses old English and the sentences brought back the memories of my days in college English Literature classes. There are some quotable quotes and I particularly like this part - his monologue - on aging:"...as we grow older, the days seem to grow shorter, and our intimacy with time, ever lessens the perception of our stay. Then let us take comfort now, for we shall soon be at our journey's end; we shall soon lay down the heavy burthen laid by heaven upon us, and though death, the only friend of the wretched, for a little while mocks the weary traveller with the view, and like our horizon, still flies before us; yet the time will certainly and shortly come, when we shall cease from our toil; when the luxurious great ones of the world shall no more tread us to the earth; when we shall think with pleasure on our sufferings below; when we shall be surrounded with all our friends, or such as deserved our friendship; when our bliss shall be unutterable, and still, to crown all, unending."And the Victorian readers seem to like their novels to have happy endings. Just like the Book of Job, this one ends with all Dr. Primrose lost went back to him.

  • Bruce
    2018-11-09 14:14

    This novel was published in 1766 and has a first person narrator. The novel is somewhat picaresque and reminds me of the works of Fielding. The plot involves our hero, having lost his fortune, leaving with his family on a journey to a new and much reduced clerical position. The loss of their fortune is the initial destabilizing event. Dangers are abundant: various possibly unscrupulous people are met, and the vicar’s family is too credulous. The family is also too ready to have aspirations to higher society and be taken in by external wealth and gentile behaviors, scorning the poor but honest people they encounter. The vicar often sees these dangers but is insufficiently strong to counteract the ambitions of his wife. It is a common story, frequently told, and it reads like a parable. Foolish ambition is ever part of the human condition.Goldsmith takes advantage of the various episodes in the story to expatiate on topics he finds interesting - politics, writing and other authors, social customs and manners, penal theory. And more misfortunes continue to accumulate - a son’s prospects ruined, a daughter seduced and abandoned, their home destroyed by fire, apparent friends too willing to betray the innocence and gullible, a spell in prison for debt. The story would read like Candide except that the Vicar has no illusions that everything is fine or will get better, although he is determined to remain content despite his circumstances. This turns out to be a modern retelling of the story of Job, complete with a total and improbably reversal of fortunes at the end when all crises are resolved and everything turns out perfectly.The book is cleverly written, and many episodes reflect experiences in Goldsmith’s own life. Like the novels of Fielding and Richardson, it is an entertaining and illuminating example of the early development of the novel form.

  • Gill
    2018-10-28 15:58

    I read The Vicar of Wakefield in connection with a group read of The Novel: A Biography. I read the section in Schmidt first, followed by the novel, and then re-read the section in Schmidt. I also read the notes and analysis on www.gradesaver.com after finishing the novel.The book was first published in 1766, so as I read it I was trying to consider it from the point of view of its readers on first publication, as well as how I found it now.I can see why it was a very popular novel. It's an easy read, with interesting characters and lots happening in the story. The first half is more comedic, whilst the second half is more melodramatic. The story is told as first person narrative by the Vicar. Some of the events are based on real events in the author, Oliver Goldsmith's life.I found the level of coincidences, especially in the second half of the book, very implausible (although at one stage the narrator/Goldsmith tries to make a good case that such coincidences happen).The novel has a mixture of sentimentality and satire that I quite enjoyed. It tells how the vicar moves from self-satisfied prudence to fortitude.I'm pleased I read the book, from the point of view of filling in a gap in my knowledge of the tradition of British novels.

  • Renee M
    2018-11-06 15:05

    I found this delightful. Funny, sappy, thrilling, and sweet. Filled with beautiful innocent young women, separated lovers, a despicable villain, a kindly long suffering vicar father, goodness rewarded, evil punished, secret identities, and an overall appreciation for the charms of a simple life. This created the perfect balance to some of the heavier reading I've been doing lately. I definitely recommended Librivox Version 2 for audiobook. The reader (Tadhg) has a lovely Irish accent and a genuine talent for his craft.

  • Cindy Newton
    2018-11-17 11:14

    This is a literary classic from whence sprang many other literary classics. This book is mentioned fondly by the likes of Dickens, Austen, Shelley, Eliot, Bronte, and Goethe. Goldsmith helped pave the way for these other literary giants with his tale of a large, loving family brought to ruin (they lived in an outhouse for awhile!) and then back again. There are overtones of Job here--the devout minister, his faith tested by the onslaught of a rain of misfortune, each event more devastating than the last. We wait to see his breaking point. At what point will Mr. Primrose lose his unshakeable calm and curse God? It doesn't happen. He remains optimistic no matter what, and he is rewarded by the return of his worldly possessions.Some of the misfortunes are indeed calamitous, including the seduction and abandonment of one daughter, the abduction and intended rape of a second, and the imprisonment of his son--not to mention his own! The family home also burns down, with the fire starting while the family sleeps. There are different ways of looking at the plot. Possibly it is a satire of the pastoral novels of the time, or it is a comment on the randomness of fate and the fact that a person's morality has nothing to do with cosmic justice. There are gentle pokes at human frailties. The Vicar eschews worldly ambition, but goes along with his wife's and daughters' schemes for snaring husbands. The incident with the portrait is a delightful example of overreaching ambition being brought back to earth. It is a gently humorous read, and an entertaining, if implausible, story. At the end, the coincidences are flying so thick and fast that it is difficult to keep up with them. However, it must be honored for its place in literary history.

  • Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
    2018-10-28 09:02

    A novel swimming with wise sayings, ancient maxims, aphorisms--those distilled wisdom of the old past. No wonder, since this was written about 250 years ago in a Christian setting. It has things to say about good and evil, fortune and misfortune, love and hate, sin and forgiveness, and even about books:"...I armed her against the censures of the world, shewed her that books were sweet unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if they could not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it."Of course at that time they didn't have those "great" works of postmodern, ultramodern and overlymodern literature --the Great Undecipherables-- those which reproach even the already miserable and suck dry what little enjoyment one hopes in reading them.

  • Sandy (CA)
    2018-11-09 08:44

    All's well that ends well - so the saying goes. It appears that, after all the calamities and shenanigans, all is well with the Primrose family. Such an exciting life they led - abductions, a house-fire, the homecoming of the prodigal son (twice), secrets, lies, and deception - mixed in with a healthy dose of humour, humility, and forgiveness - and (of course) some "preachy" passages. With the exception of a few chapters which dragged a bit, the Librivox recording by Martin Clifton provided about six hours of pure enjoyment. Highly recommended for lovers of classics and adventure stories.

  • Leslie
    2018-11-12 13:50

    I found this satire of mid-eighteenth century English society quite amusing. However, it wasn't as good as Goldsmith's famous play, She Stoops to Conquer. For this Librivox recording (version 2), I would give 4½*. Tadhg's Irish accent was perfect for this classic.

  • Stephen
    2018-11-14 16:47

    Looking for one more summary of the plot of The Vicar of Wakefield? Why would we do that again here?Rather than waste time in that way, I wish to propose this theory. Those who most enjoy reading The Vicar of Wakefield, are those who, without realizing it on a conscious level, share many of Dr. Primrose's more problematic traits. His inability even to consider taking responsibility for his own destiny or the destiny of his family. His blindness as to the true nature of what goes on about him. His persistence in mistaking his own opinions for facts. He did not initiate a marriage and a family of six children as he claims. This simply happened to him. Fortune, if you will. A Nietzschean text it is not.To what happy accident is it that we owe so unexpected a visit?To what fortuitous occurrence do we not owe every pleasure and convenience of our lives.If you read and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, if you delight in Dr. Primrose's voice, as I did, then you actually believe something like this:I armed her against the censures of the world; showed her that books were sweet unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if they could not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it. I mean, that could be a praecipe of Jonathan Franzen's famous essay in the April 1996 issue of Harper's, "Perchance to Dream," could it not?Laugh at the Vicar; laugh at yourself.“And speak for youself,” you say? You are quite right. Sorry. Let me amend that.I laughed at the Vicar, and much later realized that I was laughing at myself as I had lived my life to that point. I now labor amide a different delusion--that at last I have the bull by the horns. Which makes me more Dr. Primrose than Dr. Primrose was.The plot is mundane. The voice of Dr. Primrose makes the book. Therein lies the delight.Actually, my reason for writing this particular review, other than to jack up my book numbers of course, is to create the only page on the world wide web (do we still call it that?) that will substantively answer the call of google with the search terms “vicar of wakefield friederich nietzsche.” I believe that I have accomplished that. You have therefore just visited something unique within the vastness of the internet.

  • Faith
    2018-10-27 12:52

    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.

  • Starry
    2018-10-26 10:10

    This classic from the 1700s was once beloved and now scarcely known among American readers. It has a Dickens-ish feel -- a sort of meandering tale of the rise and fall of a family's fortunes, with plenty of commentary on society and morality. Parts had a Pickwickian humor and other parts a David Copperfield-ish pathos. And good and bad characters alike keep reappearing like a good Dickens novel -- though here they are all eventually redeemed or offered redemption, no matter how badly they behaved. The first half of the book also reminded me of a Jane Austen novel -- two sisters with a grasping mother, poor fortunes despite their aristocratic upbringing, and problems with wealthy and possibly unscrupulous suitors. The vicar is a cheerful, good-hearted man who practices what he preaches but has a poor understanding of the world. It's not clear if the author means this last trait to be a good quality or bad. For, though the vicar, in his naivety, is cheated and badly used by dishonest people, he remains true to his values and cheerful in a terrible downward spiral of adversity -- thus, he ultimately triumphs. And, (SPOILER ALERT) he is rewarded for staying firmly faithful in a final few chapters. It's an 1700s version of the book of Job.It's interesting that the main character is both satirical and serious, that he is ridiculous in parts but also delivers a beautiful, thoughtful commentary on the nature of evil in the world.

  • ·Karen·
    2018-11-04 08:54

    The nice thing about novels written mid-eighteenth century is that they are so different, to each other as well as to what we have come to expect from the realistic novels of the nineteenth. The sentimental story requires virtue assailed by calamity, but Goldsmith avoids the lachrymose by the sustained cheerful resilience of the Vicar, without him ever becoming annoying. Calamity succeeds disaster, and towards the end there's little left that hasn't yet occurred, but the calm light tone prevents too much distress in the reader. Add on a few essay-like digressions on politics, the penal system, religion and philosophy and you have a rather appealing mix, written at a time when writers were still experimenting with what you could do in a novel, and maybe adding in the essays to try to counter its reputation as corrupter of the young and naive, trying to make it seem more serious. Certainly what you don't get is any kind of psychological grounding for why the villain acts as he does, no explanation as to why the Primrose house should suddenly burst into flames, no thought as to whether the older daughter is pleased to be married to the man who abducted her. You have to wait for Jane Austen for that.

  • Matthew
    2018-10-28 15:04

    While the various vignettes that comprise the novel are mildly entertaining in their own right, the "Vicar of Wakefield" as a whole is simplistic and uninteresting. At its core, this story is the Book of Job transposed into 18th-century England. The overzealous vicar, who is well off in the beginning, experiences a number of setbacks, but in the end all is restored to him. All the while, his faith in God is never shaken.However, Goldsmith's vicar is an undynamic, one-dimensional character. Despite his many tribulations, his faith never wavers, his zealousness never wanes. Furthermore, his troubles are due to no fault of his own, and his restoration to his former wealth and happiness comes at the hands of others. There is absolutely no character development.If this novel was intended as a satire, it would certainly deserve more acclaim than as a serious novel. However, there are few cues that this story is one, unless you count the overly-nauseating vicar and the neat, sentimental ending themselves as cues of tongue-in-cheek prose. Otherwise, "The Vicar of Wakefield" is just a glorified morality play.

  • Margaret
    2018-11-05 15:05

    I'd wanted to read The Vicar of Wakefield ever since encountering it in the pages of Little Women, when Aunt March catches Jo chuckling over it and demands that Jo read it to her (Jo later catches Aunt March reading it by herself). It's the tale of the Primrose family -- "all equally generous, credulous, simple, and inoffensive" -- headed by their father, the eponymous vicar, and their trials and tribulations. It was a little tough to get into, due to a highly digressive and coincidental plot, but once I got used to that, it was rather funny and charming. However, I'd probably only recommend it to those interested in 18th-century English literature, as I don't think the sentimentality of the style has worn terribly well.

  • Manny
    2018-11-10 16:13

    You know that Monty Python sketch, where the guy introduces himself as "Mr. Smoketoomuch"?"Well, you'd better cut down a little!" says Mr. Bounder."I'm sorry?""You'd better cut down a little then.""Oh, I see! Smoke too much so I'd better cut down a little then!""Yes. Ooh, it's going to get people making jokes about your name all the time, eh?""No, actually, it never struck me before. Smoketoomuch..."We had a Northern English au pair once, whose father actually was the Vicar of Wakefield. She'd been brought up in the Vicarage, and she told us that she had over a dozen copies of this book. That was when she was 18. By now, I imagine that she has at least a hundred.

  • Kate S
    2018-11-09 13:47

    While this is a short book, it took a little longer than I expected to read it. I enjoyed the optimistic attitude of the narrator even in the face of every imaginable hardship. Some of the observations regarding human nature were so astute and amazing to think about how little people have changed in 250 years. There were moments of laugh out loud hilarity, some preachy-ness, and a lot of looking on the bright side. I enjoyed this short tale.

  • Alex
    2018-11-13 09:14

    Oliver Goldsmith's blockbuster hit of 1766 was a big influence on Austen and Dickens*, but has been more or less forgotten now, which is probably because it's not that great. For its time it's good, but that's faint praise since the 18th century was like the worst one ever for books. I didn't dislike reading it, but I can't say you're going to be totally psyched you read it; its main interest at this point is for its historical value.The story is of a Poloniusesque** vicar who has some shit luck and gains a little wisdom, and then there's an ending that's preposterous even by the standards of the time. Along the way Goldsmith, also a popular poet, shows us the kind of poetry he likes, which is generally clunky and shitty, but leaps once into pretty good territory:When lovely woman stoops to follyAnd finds too late that men betrayWhat charm can sooth her melancholy,What art can wash her guilt away?The only art her guilt to cover,To hide her shame from every eye,To give repentance to her lover,And wring his bosom - is to die.Bummer message there, and I can't recommend taking his advice, but it's a nice bit of poetry. You see the singsongy feel though. He's a little too spot on with his rhythm.There's a pretty great sermon near the end about reforming prisons - another theme Dickens will pick up on. Generally, Goldsmith is capable of some nice sentences; check this one out:"The reputation of books is raised not by their freedom from defect, but the greatness of their beauties."Good shit, right?Look, it's short and fairly engaging. It's not terrible. But there's no pressing reason for you to read it, either.Penguin edition's intro is thorough but pedantic, somewhat like the Vicar.* Dickens borrowed an incident from this book for David Copperfield. Spoilers for both books: (view spoiler)[Upon retrieving his deceived and ruined daughter, the vicar "assured her, that she should never perceive an change in my affections." Dickens lifts and expands that whole plotline with Peggotty and his daughter Emily. (hide spoiler)] Goldsmith's influence on Austen is less clear to me. Lise reminds me that this was cited in Middlemarch, too. ** I was reminded of Polonius, but Goldsmith would be pissed off if he heard that; he hated Shakespeare. "How is it possible," his mouthpiece says, "the present age can be pleased with that antiquated dialect, that obsolete humour, those overcharged characters?" Which is funny because those are all accusations that can easily be leveled at this book.

  • Pamela
    2018-11-13 10:04

    A curious book. I honestly didn't know what to expect. However, as I read the outrageous twists and turns of fate of Doctor Primrose (the titular vicar) and his family, I couldn't help but think that everything was meant satirically, and not as a true sentimental novel, with heaving bosoms, last-minute pardons, etc., etc. (although those do make appearances!). Everything is so absolutely over-the-top, and the vicar himself so very out of touch with the world and, at times, with rationality, that I can't help but think that we are meant to laugh at him and his rather silly, stupid family. They fall for every scheme thrown in their path, lap up the praises of every villain and scoundrel in the neighborhood. I'm not at all familiar with Goldsmith's writing, but I do hope to read She Stoops to Conquer. Perhaps the most difficult part of the book (aside from the VERY lengthy harangues on politics, liberty, philosophy, and those other ones I am not ashamed to say I paged over) is that it's difficult to tell how you, the reader are supposed to take the story. Is it at face value, or is it as satire? A little mystery is a good thing, but obscurity is quite another.I'm too confused to say whether I would recommend this or not.

  • Justin Evans
    2018-11-04 10:49

    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.

  • Larissa
    2018-10-25 11:53

    The Vicar of Wakefield is a charmingly ramshackle book. Published to relieve Goldsmith's debts, for which his landlady tried to arrest him, it has the loose organization and abrupt tonal shifts of a work written in haste. The various digressions work in its favor, though, as around the middle of the novel Goldsmith starts to give his wit free reign. The somewhat placid story of a pious vicar becomes a madcap picaresque, and builds to a deliberately preposterous conclusion in which all of the characters appear at the same jail at the same time, to tie up plot threads and be assigned spouses. Interspersed with the satire are chapters that seem to have been written in earnest, with strongly worded commentaries upon politics, justice and the duties of the religious. This book a lot to recommend it, both for its insights into 18th-century English life, and as a work of literature.

  • Ronan Doyle
    2018-10-26 08:57

    "I armed her against the censures of the world; showed her that books were sweet, unreproaching companions to the miserable, and if they could not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it."I needn't have had the benefit of over a book a day read that week to almost burst into tears at the beauty of this line, which so perfectly speaks to why I can't stop buying books. What an extraordinary one this is, with its amusingly-enacted tale shot through with that stark sense of sadness under it all. The twenty-ninth chapter is one of the most extraordinary things I think I've ever read, and as perfect an apologia for the lingering role of religion (even to this day) there may have ever been. It is exquisite.

  • Tim Patrick
    2018-10-22 12:54

    Oliver Goldsmith's riches-to-rags story examines the life of a family plagued with one bad thing after another. Some troubles are caused by their own inept actions, while others are inflicted on them. Through it all, the patriarch--the Vicar of Wakefield--never loses his calm demeanor. The story has a happy ending, but when reading, you are forced to ask if lifelong contentment is truly possible, even when the world is against you.

  • Brigitte
    2018-11-01 13:11

    Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield was the final novel that I read for my 18th century novel class and was, by a wide margin, the shortest, weighing in at 160 pages. Published in 1766 it enjoyed wild popularity and was mentioned in such now-classics as Frankenstein, Emma, and A Tale of Two Cities. How I’ve read so many novels which mention this one without having actually read it, I’m not sure, but I blame my professors.It's a comedic sentimental novel which follows the fall and rise of the Primrose family (I think I’m paraphrasing the back of the book) which is made up of the vicar, his wife, and their six children (George, Olivia, Sophia, Bill, Dick, and one other whose name I can't remember). If you’re like, “Golly, I would love to read an 18th century novel, but I’m just so darn short on time!” I think this might be a good choice for you, it also has a somewhat gratifying ending, as long as you’re not a militant feminist (in which case, fight the good fight!). Now, after 250 years, perhaps the “spoiler alert” caveat is a bit unnecessary, but regardless, if you intend to read the novel and yet long to be completely surprised, I suggest you stop reading now.The novel is narrated by the head of the Primrose family, the vicar himself, who has several very amusing digressions on matrimony, one of which prevents his eldest son’s marriage. Irony alert! The novel doesn’t take itself too seriously, there are a lot of comedic elements which really balance out all the horrible things that happen to this poor family before they get their lives back. Oh, the calamity! So in the course of this tiny novel the Primrose family loses all their money, their house burns down, both of their daughters are kidnapped (separately), one son loses a duel, they get hosed twice by the same grifter, and finally end up in debtors prison. The great thing about this novel, which I think contributed to its popularity, was that it never really slows down (unlike Clarissa, which is 99% slowed down).So with the Primrose family broke like the proverbial joke George goes to town to seek fortune (which doesn’t go well), while the rest of the family moves to a humbler house in a new town. Sophia is saved from drowning by a remarkably intelligent hobo named Burchell, and soon thereafter the house is visited by the young landlord, Thornhill, who starts courting Olivia. Suddenly Burchell falls out of favor for preventing the girls from going to town with some sophisticates that the landlord is friends with. Then the family attempts to force Thornhill’s hand by introducing a rival for Olivia’s hand, which backfires, since Olivia runs away with Thornhill and marries him. After getting super ill and grifted to the utmost trying to bring her home, Dr. Primrose (vicar) accidentally finds her at an inn not too far from their house, just as the rather gauche landlady is trying to drag her out into the street by her hair for nonpayment of bills. The vicar, who is shown throughout to be a supremely decent human being, forgives her instantly, and then even moreso after Olivia reveals that Thornhill tricked her with a fake marriage, then got bored with her and tried to force her into prostitution, from which she had recently escaped, virtue intact, thank you very much.Everything seems good again until they return home to find their tiny house ablaze, come on, God! This guy works for you! The vicar is badly burned as he rushes into the house to save his two youngest sons, which he does at the last possible second, but everyone lives and the village pitches in to build them a hut. Suddenly Thornhill arrives and the vicar tears him a new one for trying to force is daughter to be a lady of the evening. Thornhill is like, “Prostitution is great, but since you don’t agree, let me remind you that I’m your landlord and, btw, your rent is totally late!” which is followed by maniacal laughter (in his head). The family returns home to find themselves accosted by police, who drag them all off to debtors prison, where only vicar stays, though his youngest sons sleep there because they’re very poor and need to save on board, and also to make us hate Thornhill more. Suddenly we find out that Thornhill, that bastage, is engaged to George's ex-fiance (remember the marriage vicar ruined at the beginning?). George rushes back into town to avenge his father’s wrongful imprisonment only to be spanked in a duel by Thornhill's goons, and is thrown into prison with the rest of his family.Can things get worse? Yes! Because then we hear that Olivia has died, wtf? “Noes!” cries the vicar, who has been hard at work successfully converting convicts to the faith, “Life hurts me!” Then, out of nowhere, Thornhill’s uncle, Uncle Thornhill, who is even richer and more powerful than Nephew Thornhill, swoops in and is all, “Nephew Thornhill, you make me crazy sick!” and then some other person arrives and is all like, “The fake marriage license between Olivia and Thornhill was a fake, erm, meaning that it was real!” and then Ms. Fiance shows up and she’s like, “Nephew Thornhill, you suck at life! Also I’m still in love with George!” and then Nephew Thornhill is all, “I was marrying you for you money and it’s mine! Evil laughter!” Then it turns out that Olivia isn’t dead, that it was all a trick to lure Nephew Thornhill out into the open, and Uncle Thornhill leaves Olivia all the money that would have gone to Nephew Thornhill, so he has to stay married to her now. This is where feminists can and should get angry. Then George and Ms. Fiance get married and are happy, and also Sophia gets married to Burchell, who has shown up again, and who also is rich, not a hobo, and only kept the girls from going to town because the sophisticates were actually prostitutes. Score! Then everyone leaves prison and gets their feast on. The end!Okay, so now I know you've just got to read it, and if you’re too cheap to spend the eight clams (that's $8) on the Penguin edition then I have good news for you, Uncle Scrooge, it’s available online at Project Gutenberg for nothing. Could life get any better? I’m thinking not.