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The Vicar of Wakefield Paperback – Jun 15 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Edition edition (June 15 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192805126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192805126
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,433,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars 31 reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Consolations of Philosophy and Religion Oct. 1 2000
By mp - Published on
Format: Paperback
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. Both exhibit a picaresque tendency to wander and interact - Primrose with the intellectual/philosophical elements, and George with the material/experiential elements in the world. This is altogether a wonderful, spirited novel, and Stephen Coote's introduction to this Penguin edition is excellent in its explication of the novel's major themes and concerns.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly good read that still has relevance today. May 15 2002
By Marcus Jones - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Conscience is a coward, and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent, it seldom has justice enough to accuse." So ends chapter 13 in this delightful novel by Oliver Goldsmith, his only novel by the way.
Oliver creates a pious character in the form of the vicar, Dr Primrose, that suffers from that most deadly of the 7 deadly sins, Pride. The problem is he doesn't know it. As a result he is brought down peg by peg, and made a thorough fool of in the process, in a way that is comical and warm to the reader. The vicar becomes a most beloved character by way of his suffering and in the end I'm sure will have earned from even the most hard hearted reader that most cherished gift a reader can bestow upon any flawed character, redemption.
Oliver also creates villiany, more like evil incarnate, in the form of Mr. Thornhill. Thornhill is central to the most severe of the hardships suffered by the vicar and his family. A very meddlesome and self-centered character indeed!!
Written in the 1750's, it has it all. Greed,envy,lust,unjust imprisonment, even prostitution. Yes, It's hard to believe a novel written in the 1750's could even touch on the subject, but nevertheless it is central to the plot.
Combine all this with some of the finest wit in English literature and you've got a great way to spend a weekend. The book is less than 200 pages and moves along at nice pace from page one. Well worth everyone's time.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An 18th Century essential Oct. 23 2004
By Bluestalking Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback
I agree with the reviewers who've described this as a slow read. No argument there. But it's also a very important 18th Century work and one essential to anyone interested in the literature of the period. If you read the book with an ironical slant it's much easier to see that there is actual humor in the often improbable situations. Granted, it may not be laugh out loud humor, but it is there. The poor vicar is modeled on the biblical Job, to a very exaggerated extent. It's so exaggerated that the modern reader will likely be rolling his eyes, I know. If you're looking for tight plot and fast pace this won't be your book, but those reading 18th Century literature will realize the novel was much different at the beginning that it is now. You don't read THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD for the plot. You read it for the study. It remains an important book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the 20th century reader it charms. Jan. 5 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found this little book a delight from start to finish.This was a favourite little "classic" of the Victorian classroom. What entranced me was the quaint 18th century English. How can I describe the charm of the use of the preposition "AN" before words such as "HORSE" or "HUSBAND"! or the narrators's wife whose "CIVILITIES" are received with a "MUTILATED COURTESY" by the squire.? In fine, a book to be read over & over without a dimunition of pleasure at each reading.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A billiant novel written by a brilliant man! Feb. 1 2005
By Shirley Schwartz - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although Goldsmith was brilliant, he was not an easy man to know and to like, and his egoism and unevenness of character does come out in this book. He was always misunderstood, as geniuses often are. This book has assured Goldsmith a place high up in the literature food chain. The theme of the book resembles somewhat the Book of Job from The Bible. Our hero is a good and innocent man who remains steadfast in faith and unbroken in courage as he faces numerous disasters. It is a story about the family Primrose and its fall from it's a place of comfort and security. The family consists of a mother and father and six children. Mr. Goldsmith's genius is in characterization, as well as his ability to evoke a pure goodness of heart and warmth and generosity of people of simple faith and warm generosity. This little book is truly a masterpiece.