The vicar of Wakefield

by Oliver Goldsmith

Other authorsGeorge Saintsbury (Introduction), Thomas Rowlandson (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1926

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

[London] : Printed at the Chiswick Press for Constable and Company Ltd and Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926.

Description

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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Cariola
This is one of those classics that I probably should have read years ago. It's the story of Mr. Primrose, a proud but good man, who suffers at the hands of both ill fortune and human malice. As the novel begins, Mr. Primrose seems to be the man who has everything: a good post in a friendly and peaceful town, a small but sufficient invested fortune, a loving wife whom he equally adores, two beautiful and refined daughters, two honest and hardworking elder sons, and two adorable little ones. But as one would expect from a sentimental novel, trials and tribulations soon begin, bringing him to debtor's prison and to the point of despair. But never fear: through a series of miraculous coincidences, all ends well.

Had The Vicar of Wakefield been written within the last 50 years, I would have dismissed it as little more than cliché and melodrama; but since it was written in 1761, I recognized it as the source of many clichés to follow and forgive it the excesses and improbabilities of its happy ending. Goldsmith presents a charming portrait of the Primrose family, full of the little details of life in the eighteenth century English countryside. The character of Deborah Primrose, the vicar's adored wife, is particularly well-drawn as a woman devoted to her husband but even more devoted to her ambitions for her daughters--with near-tragic results. While I enjoyed this brief, fast-paced novel, it wasn't exactly a stunner. But I'd recommend it especially to anyone with an interest in the history and development of the English novel.
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LibraryThing member iayork
A new book of Job: In the Bible, Job is a wealthy and happy man who is put to test by God, in order to settle a bet with the Devil. Primrose, the vicar of Wakefield, seems to suffer the same fate: first, he loses all his money; then, a man seduces his daughter and all manners of trouble set upon he and his family. But the man will never surrender. His undestructible good humor and wit, his reliance on philosophy and religion, allow him to endure all kinds of calamities, until the happy end. This is not a moralizaing book: it is pure, intelligent fun, with a message not lectured to us, but insinuated. This novel deserves to be put out of the infamous "classic" shelf (the one that condemns masterpieces of art to become "boring" for lazy readers) and into the public. It's very much worth it.… (more)
LibraryThing member AnnaMC
Finally I have managed to stay awake at bedtime long enough to reach the end of this novel. I had to concentrate quite hard to stay focused on the 18th century turn of phrase in this farcical romantic tale written in 1762, and consequently kept falling asleep with exhaustion after just 2 pages; but don't let my laziness put you off! In the end I found it to be a highly amusing romp with an unexpected happy ending. It is written in the form of a memoir of the fictional Dr. Primrose, a ridiculously naive and trusting country pastor. His good-natured generosity get him and his large family into a heap of trouble. Dr. Primrose goes to great lengths in order to be hospitable to everyone he encounters, even those he doesn't find particularly savoury. His method of discouraging visits from exploitative distant relatives is to contrive a reason to lend them something of value like a horse, trusting that it be returned on their next visit, but knowing full well that is the last he will see of either the horse or the disagreeable relation.

On some occasions my progress was hampered by the chapter headings which seem unnecessarily long winded and complicated and took quit a few minutes of puzzling over to get the gist. Chapter XXIX might be the worst culprit:

"The equal Dealings of Providence demonstrated with Regard to the Happy and Miserable here below. That from the nature of Pleasure and Pain, the Wretched must be repaid the Balance of their Sufferings in the Life hereafter."

Once you get over the difficult language though, the story moves along at a surprisingly rapid pace with very little in the way of metaphorical or descriptive narrative. I really enjoyed reading it and I think it is even worth a second read soon.
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LibraryThing member tinLizzy
I loved this - for all I'm enamored with 17th & 18th Century British history and literature at the moment. A few bits of narrative I found clunky and overwrought, but for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm delighted reading of the attitudes and social mores of this period, and Goldsmith tells an enjoyable tale that resolves with some fun and unexpected (at least to me) twists!… (more)
LibraryThing member Sandydog1
A short, flat-prosed 18th century "sentimental novel" that was widely read by subsequent authors.
LibraryThing member Ansy
I had to confess I couldn't make up my mind about this book. I neither like nor dislike it and I still wonder if it was worth reading.
Dr. Primrose is a strange creature: sometimes naiv or simply-hearted (don't know which expresses my meaning best), that I want to shake him, or he is kind of dignified in a very arrogant manner (no, that's perhaps not the right description, but nearly and I'm lacking the right words even in German) so I did not wonder what happened to him. It's amazing or even refreshing that he founds happyness anyhow.
I don't think this to be moral literature (what I really mean is "Erbauungsliteratur" but how to translate this????) and I can't put it in a genre for myself. Strange literature is a category I would choose ;-)
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LibraryThing member Ray_Cavanaugh
Oliver Goldsmith was a funny character. He graduated at the bottom of his class, drifted through Europe playing the flute, eventually became a gambling junkie, and planned to emigrate to the U.S. but missed the boat ‘cause he got too sloshed the previous night.

I saw this at a sidewalk sale for a buck. And the font was enticingly big. So I bought it.

There are a few humorous lines, but there’s way too much stuff about the marriage prospects of the Vicar’s daughters. I gave up around page 45.

The reason I give this 3 stars is because of this line from the preface:

“A book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may be dull without a single one.”

Food for thought indeed. Couldn’t agree more.
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LibraryThing member Prop2gether
Delightful~I avoided this book for ages, and find I've only cheated myself of a great read. Truth to tell, I read the 1971 Folio Society edition first, with some fun plates depicting scenes from the story.
LibraryThing member stillatim
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member PitcherBooks
Abduction › FictionChildren of clergy › FictionClergy › FictionDomestic fictionEngland › FictionFiction in English, 1745-1800 - TextsIrish fictionPoor families › FictionPrisoners › Fiction
LibraryThing member HopingforChange
I think this book was fine, though its unfinished ending drives me nuts!
LibraryThing member cmbohn
Reverend Charles Primrose is the father of a large family and a vicar. He has a private income which supports him in a nice lifestyle. But his income is suddenly lost and he must move to the country and begin a new modest life there. The new landlord is a notorious seducer, but for some reason, they don't seem to listen to this, and push their daughters in his direction. One of their daughters IS seduced, and then their lives fall apart.

From a pure plot or story view, this is action packed, but totally melodramatic. On his way from rescuing his wayward daughter, he comes home to find their house has burned down. His evil landlord demands payment. They wind up in debtor's prison. And so on, and on. It is completely unbelievable.

As for the characters, it's pretty hard to believe too. They are so completely naive to the ways of the world. Both the vicar and his son are swindled by the same con man. They remain oblivious to the motives of their landlord way past the point of credibility. They are vain. The vicar himself is given to sermonizing at the drop of a hat and takes offense if others don't enjoy this. They are likable enough, though, and I was hoping they would wise up at some point. The craziest part is at the end, when it turns out that Olivia is actually MARRIED to the seducing landlord. One of the other characters actually "wishes her joy!?" Yeah, that would make me happy, all right, to be stuck married to a lying libertine.

And yet, it was kind of fun to read. I skipped some of the long sermons and stuff. Boring. But I did finish it. This was a very popular book at the time, and later was popular as the subject of spoof and satire. Worth reading for that, and it is short, but otherwise, I wouldn't really recommend it. 2.5 stars, mostly for the fact that it is an influential book and for the unintentional humor.
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LibraryThing member atimco
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.
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LibraryThing member KamGeb
A proper English novel that was very preachy and it felt like the values of the author were being shoved down my throat. Got through it, but I wouldn't recommend it.
LibraryThing member cebellol
This book... well, it was ok. I know the main character is a priest, but he got a little too preach-y for my taste. I understand that he was trying to give his family something to look forward to, but it became so repetitive. Additionally, the ending was just too perfect, and I don't mean in the "I absolutely loved it" sort of way. Everything was wrapped up too nicely. It brought "happily ever after" and "what goes around comes around" to a whole new level; I think Disney would have even said it was too much. What is the likelihood that the vicar ends up in debtor's prison with one of the men who helped his landlord kidnap his oldest daughter? Then also, what is the likelihood that he actually would have schemed ahead (after kidnapping her) so he would have leverage over the landlord? Additionally, how could he know for certain who it was that kidnapped the younger daughter? I could go on and on! As I said before, it's too perfect of an ending. I'm not a fan.

I WILL say this, however: I would definitely recommend this as a reference or, at the very least, a talking point for a philosophy vs. religion or similar essay. There are several chapters within that would easily strengthen one's argument, clarify a point or, at the very least, allow the writer to play devil's advocate, depending on your position.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
Quite amusing satire of mid-eighteenth century English society. However, I didn't think it was as good as Goldsmith's famous play, "She Stoops to Conquer".
LibraryThing member tess_schoolmarm
This is the story of a humble, gullible Vicar who lived the life of Job. I listened to this on an audio book as well as reading along. I felt the reader had a very false voice that was in excess. The story was very slow moving and almost unbelievable, but had a few amusing spots. I persisted! The novel is billed as a satire; but evidently I didn't "get it."… (more)
LibraryThing member Iambookish
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.
LibraryThing member Cecrow
Curiosity satisfied, but not really worth it. Written in the 1760s, here is the tale of a countryside vicar who falls upon hard times in the footsteps of Job and ... no, that's pretty much it. You've heard the Job story, so you know this one. It's also a satire of its times, so living in the 18th century is strongly recommended for a full appreciation.

The Vicar of Wakefield gets a mention in a ton of 19th century classics so I presumed it was something worth reading. It is, for the sake of sampling some English literature history - if you can tolerate a well-disguised climax that occurs halfway through, a whole lot of sermons, and such an avalanche of coincidences that even Dickens would say yeah, that's too much. There were a couple of funny bits, but today's newspaper probably rates the same amount. I still love the classics but I didn't love this.
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
What a struggle. I did not enjoy this at all, and even though it is under 200 pages it took me 2 full weeks to read.

The vicar is not a nice man (he dumps out his daughters' beauty concoctions, and finds it funny; he mocks the other prisoners as bad men--yet he is a prisoner too). The notes in my edition were great, and point out the many instances in the book where Goldsmith has reused key phrases from his past essays, etc. So he reused his own nonfiction writing, and cobbled it together with a really sappy story.

Blech.
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LibraryThing member raizel
This version starts with a biography of Goldsmith written by Sir Walter Scott.

Language

Local notes

24 color plates by Thomas Rowlandson

Barcode

4367
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