Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)

"No man was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he had." Samuel Johnson on Oliver Goldsmith 

Oliver Goldsmith (1730 to 1774, born Ballymahon, Ireland) was an Anglo-Irish writer of a famous play, She Stoops to Conquer, a still much read pastoral poem "The Deserted Village" but most famously he is known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield.  My mental picture of Goldsmith comes from Samuel Johnson's many backhanded compliments, quoted by Boswell in his Life of Johnson.  He emerges from Johnson's battering as kind of like Polinus.  Johnson did greatly admire The Vicar of Wakefield and read it numerous times.

My purpose here is just to make a few observations on things that occurred to  me as I read the novel

The prose style is a great pleasure to read and lends itself to fast reading.  The story is told in the first person by the Vicar.  It is kind of an innocent Tom Jones.  The vicar has two daughters ready for marriage as well as two sons of marriageable age.  For women this seems at the time about sixteen and men a bit older.  He and his wife also have two younger children.  The subjects of older novels do not normally have real work every day jobs, being a cleric was often the choice for a central character.  Like many a novel of the period much of the plot action turns on finding suitable spouses for the children, suitable meaning rich.  Keeping the girls "pure" prior to marriage was of all importance. The cleric is given to constant instances of sage advice, most of which is actually very sound.  He is a devoted family man and excellant husband.  The family has their ups and downs, the vicar spends sometime in jail for debt but circumstances rescue him and his family.  

I would that The Vicar of Goldsmith was a great pleasure to read, the plot was interesting, the village life scenes were well done so I endorse the reading of this book to all literary autodidacts. This is a book well described as a "pleasant read".   My understanding is that in Victorian England it was very widely read.  


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