Dan Sandman

42: The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

In Books, Fiction on 17/10/2014 at 12:00 pm

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver GoldsmithAs the story goes, Samuel Johnson sold The Vicar of Wakefield for sixty pounds because Oliver Goldsmith was broke. This helped the gambling writer to pay his land lady and secured Goldsmith’s place in literary history. Born the son of an Anglo-Irish clergyman, Oliver Goldsmith was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. After travelling around Europe for some time, Goldsmith settled in London to scrape a living as a professional writer. During this time, he wrote mostly history books and travel books, but he is most famous for his sole novel, a story narrated by a helpful and pious vicar.

Dr. Charles Primrose is the head of a large family and a leading member of the community. In the first half of the novel, the Reverend tries to secure happy futures for his sons and daughters, expecting the sons to find good jobs and the daughters to marry well. As the novel progresses into its second half, the family are mistreated by society and fall under hard times. Finally, just as everything seems to be going wrong for the Primrose family, things take a turn for the better.

I enjoyed this much beloved work of eighteenth-century fiction and would recommend it to a friend. The fairy tale like plot and memorable scenes appealed to my love of imaginative writing. Perhaps the old-fashioned language took a little bit of getting used to, but once I got over the two-hundred and fifty year time drag, the story was a delight to read. Most pleasing of all, was the happy ending, which had an almost Shakespearean like quality to it. The character of Dr. Primrose stands for all that is integral to the British character and I wanted him to do well, despite his tendency towards being deceived by those less honest than himself.

I can see why it was championed by the likes of Sir Walter Scott, Byron and Goethe – fine stuff.



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