The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

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/2667

William 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)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s