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The Vicar of Wakefield [Paperback]

Oliver Goldsmith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15 2006 0192805126 978-0192805126 New Edition
'He loved all mankind; for fortune prevented him from knowing there were rascals.' 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. Regarded by some as a straightforward and well-intentioned novel of sentiment, and by others as a satire on the very literary conventions and morality it seems to embody, The Vicar of Wakefield contains, in the figure of the vicar himself, one of the most harmlessly simply and unsophisticated yet also ironically complex narrators ever to appear in English fiction.

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About the Author

Robert L. Mack has edited a number of volumes for Oxford World's Classics, including Burney's The Wanderer, Oriental Tales, and Arabian Nights' Entertainments. He has also edited Thomas Gray's poetry and Goldsmith's poetry for Everyman, and written a biography of Thomas Gray (Yale, 2000).

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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4.0 out of 5 stars Faith and Family July 29 2003
Goldsmith's only novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, is, as another reviewer pointed out, a modern (1766) version of the book of Job. In the book of Job, Satan attempts to make a fool of God and at the same time attack Job. Satan accomplishes this by arguing that the godliness of Job, who is God's beloved, is motivated by self-interest alone. God allows Satan to test Job in order that God and Job be vindicated.
In Goldsmith's story, Dr. Primrose is a priest with a loving wife and 6 wonderful children. They have an elegant house, the respect of their neighbors and the means to help others less fortunate. We are barely introduced to Dr. Primrose and his family when they are beset by misfortune. Their wealth is stolen and they must give up their family home and move to a distant village. From this point on, a series of ever increasing calamities occur.
Through it all we know that Dr. Primrose and family will persevere even if we can't anticipate all the twists and turns in the story. With that said, Dr. Primrose is not perfect. The introduction makes clear that he is possessed of intellectual pride. This measure of sin lends the story an air of authenticity that would be missing if Dr. Primrose was perfection personified. As a side note, the Penguin edition of this book does have a useful introduction which helps to frame the issues Goldsmith was trying to communicate as well as providing context for the times. The end notes are also of tremendous help.
The ending may be unlikely but the message of faith and family love endures. Don't let the age of this classic novel prevent you from enjoying its wit and wisdom.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Consolations of Philosophy and Religion Oct. 1 2000
By mp
Oliver Goldsmith's 1766 novel, "The Vicar of Wakefield" offers the trials and tribulations of Primrose, an ecclesiastic living in the English countryside. Primrose is content in his life, with a faithful wife, and lovely, if somewhat distracted children. Hearing that his banker has gotten into trouble and fled the country, Primrose and his family begin a series of adventures which test the strength of Primrose's convictions.
Among the issues which Goldsmith addresses in the novel are social ambition in a rigid class system, the drawbacks and benefits of a relatively liberal household, and the admittedly imperfect nature of the British legal system. Sprinkled throughout the novel are various discourses on the notion of liberty, the primacy of the monarchy, and a wealth of interesting references to British imperialism and colonial slavery.
Regarding the class system, Primrose seems throughout the novel, to eschew the idea that social or economic mobility is possible, or even desirable. He posits, in a way that follows Aristotle and Edmund Burke, that people are fit for certain stations by their very nature; and that such social partitioning is right and should be maintained. Primrose also appears as a latter day Horace, championing the virtues of simple, rustic life. This pastoral life is directly associated in the novel with the laboring classes, who, not without faults themselves, manage to avoid the intrigues and excesses of the consistently vilified city folk.
Goldsmith's writing style is fast-paced, with clear, direct language, wonderfully rendered characters, and a surprising number of plot twists for so short a work. Primrose and his eldest son George are the two finest characters in the novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars loverly story July 16 2004
i found the book in a car boot sale it is over a hundred years old ,it was a bit hard with the text,being old ,i had to read the book twice for it to sink in ,what a story best one yet,especialy that it was written so long ago,i havent read the new version, but if its like mine you will enjoy it happy reading .
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4.0 out of 5 stars Charming book! Dec 6 1998
The Vicar of Wakefield is a wonderful book. A little slow going sometimes, but still a good read. Not only does it tell a story of a family but it also relates very well to real life moral and ethic values. It could almost be said to be inspiring. And definitely shows that the ends justifies the means.
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