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The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)

af Oliver Goldsmith

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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

The Vicar of Wakefield follows the life of a wealthy vicar and his family who lie an idyllic life in their country parish thanks to the vicar's clever investments. The evening that his son is to marry an heiress, the vicar discovers that his merchant investor has lost all his money in bankruptcy.

Written by Irish author Oliver Goldsmith in the late 18th century.

… (mere)

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Engelsk (44)  Catalansk (1)  Fransk (1)  Alle sprog (46)
Viser 1-5 af 46 (næste | vis alle)
Summary: The “memoir” of the vicar, who experiences a series of financial and family disasters, ending up in prison, and how matters resolved themselves.

It was one of the most popular novels of the eighteenth century, and were it not for the poverty of Oliver Goldsmith and the efforts of his friend, Samuel Johnson, it might not have seen the light of day:

“I received one morning a message from poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion: I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill.”


The story centers around the memoirs of Dr. Charles Primrose, the vicar of a rural parish, who was well-off due to an invested inheritance, enabling him to donate his “living.” On the eve of his son George’s wedding to wealthy Arabella Wilmot, he receives word that his investor has gone bankrupt and skipped town, leaving the Primroses in poverty. The change in status as well as a theological dispute with the bride’s father result in a breaking of the engagement. Things go from bad to worse. They take refuge on the estate of Squire Thornhill, a notorious womanizer. They turn a thatch roofed home into a comfortable refuge while George seeks to support himself in the city, succeeding as an actor. Both son and father are swindled by a smooth-talking “sharp” losing their remaining animals. The family’s hope turns on securing good husbands for the daughters. Squire Thornhill visit and is drawn to Olivia. Then a mysterious gentleman, Mr. Burchell visits, and rescues Sophia from drowning, but Dr. Primrose is reluctant to trust him.

Thornhill heads off any possibility of George and Arabella getting together by arranging a commission to the West Indies, with Goldsmith agreeing to a note to fund George. Meanwhile, Olivia has been abducted, it being thought, by Mr. Burchell, when in fact it was Thornhill, who arranged a fictitious marriage, a tactic he apparently used with several women. Olivia is rescued by Primrose, but shortly after returning home, the house burns, with Primrose being badly burned on the arm, Thornhill calls the note which Primrose cannot pay, and is thrown into jail, while the violated Olivia grows more and more ill and dies.

This is one of those “sentimental” stories where in the end, all things are righted. I won’t say how but I will tell you that even Olivia lives and a succession of weddings and a restoration of Primrose’s fortunes occurs.

It is kind of like the book of Job without Job’s agonizings. Primrose continues to trust to God’s providence and act with rectitude. While wanting to recover what was lost, he is able to be content with little. Even in jail, he embraces his pitiful surroundings and sets about evangelizing the prisoners.

The other feature of this story is its lightning fast reversals–dramatic changes in a sentence or a paragraph. Goldsmith doesn’t let moss grow under his plot. In the end, things turn out as one might hope, but the series of disasters it takes to get there and the seeming impossibility of undoing them might stretch credulity at points.

This was the only novel Goldsmith wrote but it was a good one. After all, don’t we all like a story where good prevails and all who should, live happily ever after? Life isn’t always like this, perhaps one of the reasons for the timelessness of stories like this. ( )
  BobonBooks | May 24, 2022 |
Every now and then there's nothing like a good classic. (Groucho Marx voice:) And this is nothing like a good classic!

It's wild and crazy. Fortunes are lost, houses burn down, reputations are ruined, ruffians roughhouse, people come back from the dead, and digressions digress a la galore. The vicar has six lovely children, two of them marriageable daughters. At heart, it is a classic Marriage Plot; and that's OK by me. ( )
  Tytania | Mar 12, 2022 |
  Murtra | May 10, 2021 |
An 18th-century comic/sentimental novel about a prosperous vicar and his family who finds themselves in reduced circumstances.

The book starts off slowly, establishing the situation, characters, and details which will become important later. The middle chapters of the book present a gentle satire of rural society of the period. Towards the end, the story takes on a more melodramatic tone as the vicar and his family encounter a series of increasingly serious misfortunes.

I found the book to be a pleasant mix of satire and sentiment. Recommended as light reading for those who enjoy English literature. ( )
1 stem gcthomas | Mar 24, 2021 |
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 |
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Goldsmith, OliverForfatterprimær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
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Boynton, Henry W.Introduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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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.
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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.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

The Vicar of Wakefield follows the life of a wealthy vicar and his family who lie an idyllic life in their country parish thanks to the vicar's clever investments. The evening that his son is to marry an heiress, the vicar discovers that his merchant investor has lost all his money in bankruptcy.

Written by Irish author Oliver Goldsmith in the late 18th century.


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