The Vicar of Wakefield Paperback – Jun 15 2006
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Holy god, don't buy this book. It is intensely bad and over-appreciated. 1000 words cannot even begin to do justice to the extent of this book's worthlessness. Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2004 by J. Tyler
This volume is well worth the time for any lover of English Literature. It accurately portrays the life of an English vicar and his family. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 2000 by Queen Horatius