The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

I’ve decided that on Mondays I’m going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.

Author: Oliver Goldsmith was born November 10, 1728, the son of a poor Irish clergyman. He was educated at various borading schools and one of his schoolmasters called him a “stupid, heavy blockhead.” You can read his most famous play, She Stoops to Conquer online. The Vicar of Wakefield, Goldsmith’s novel, is also available here. Said novel starts with this line:

“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.”

This line was written back when populating the world was still considered a service. The book goes on to tell the story of Dr. Primrose, the vicar of Wakefield, and his family and his many troubles.

Goldsmith himself was an unknown literary critic in poor financial straits until he became a protege of Samuel Johnson. Samuel Johnson said of his friend Goldsmith: “Goldsmith, however, was a man, who, whatever he wrote did it better than any other man could do.” High praise, indeed. Goldsmith, however, said of Samuel Johnson: “There is no arguing with Johnson; for when his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.“

His association with Samuel Johnson brought Goldsmith recognition but not financial success. When Goldsmith died in 1774, he was in debt for 2000 pounds, a great deal of money in that day.

Dr. Primrose–the vicar of Wakefield
Mrs. Primrose–his wife
George, Sophia, Olivia, and Moses–the Primrose children
Mr. Thornhill–a gentleman
Sir William Thornhill–Mr. Thornhill’s uncle
Miss Wilmot–George’s fiancee

Dr. Primrose and his family endure various trials and vicissitudes, including the seduction of one daughter, the loss of their fortune, a fire, and the imprisonment of the title character. It’s supposed to be funny, folks.

“Man little knows what calamities are beyond his patience to bear till he tries them . . . As we descend, the objects appear to brighten, unexpected prospects amuse, and the mental eye becomes adapted to its situation.”

“Her own misfortunes engrossed all the pity she once had for those of another, and nothing gave her ease. In company she dreaded contempt and in solitude she only found anxiety.”

More reviews:
Hope at Worthwhile Books on The Vicar of Wakefield: “The language was not singularly beautiful nor were the characters richly developed. In fact, the calamities and coincidences in the book were so unbelievable that I had to force myself to finish it. “

Writen by Sherry

I'm a Christian, the homeschooling mom of eight (yes, all mine) children, married to a NASA engineer, and a confirmed bookaholic. I like old books, conservative politics, and new and interesting ideas. My hair is grey, my favorite clothes are red, and I love purple. Come on in and enjoy the blog. Be sure to tell me what you think before you leave.

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *