World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Vicar of Wakefield

 

The Vicar of Wakefield

The Vicar of Wakefield
1766 edition bound in calfskin,
with title page
Author Oliver Goldsmith
Country Great Britain
Language English
Genre Comedy, satire
Published 1766 (R. Collins)
Media type Print, octavo
Pages 170
823.6
LC Class 647209259
Text The Vicar of Wakefield at Wikisource


The Vicar of Wakefield — subtitled A Tale, Supposed to be written by Himself — is a novel by Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774). It was written from 1761 to 1762 and published in 1766. It was one of the most popular and widely read 18th-century novels among Victorians.

Contents

  • Publication 1
  • Plot summary 2
  • Structure and narrative technique 3
  • Main characters 4
    • Revd Dr Charles Primrose 4.1
    • Deborah Primrose 4.2
    • Olivia and Sophia Primrose 4.3
  • Reception 5
  • Adaptations 6
  • Notes 7
  • External links 8

Publication

Dr Samuel Johnson

, one of Goldsmith's closest friends, told how The Vicar of Wakefield came to be sold for publication:[1]

The novel was The Vicar of Wakefield, and Johnson had sold it to Francis Newbery, a nephew of John. Newbery "kept it by him for nearly two years unpublished".[1]

Plot summary

William Powell Frith: Measuring Heights, 1863 (A scene from Chapter 16: Olivia Primrose and Squire Thornhill standing back to back, so that Mrs. Primrose can determine who is taller.)

The duel when he had heard about his wickedness.

But then Mr. Burchell arrives and solves all problems. He rescues Sophia, Olivia is not dead, and it emerges that Mr. Burchell is in reality the worthy Sir William Thornhill, who travels through the country in disguise. In the end, there is a double wedding: George marries Arabella, as he originally intended, and Sir William Thornhill marries Sophia. Squire Thornhill's servant turns out to have tricked him, and thus the sham marriage of the Squire and Olivia is real. Finally, even the wealth of the vicar is restored, as the bankrupt merchant is reported to be found.

Structure and narrative technique

The book consists of 32 chapters which fall into three parts:

  • chapter 1 – 3: beginning
  • chapter 4 – 29: main part
  • chapter 30 – 32: ending

Chapter 17, when Olivia is reported to be fled, can be regarded as the climax as well as an essential turning point of the novel. From chapter 17 onwards it changes from a comical account of 18th-century country life into a pathetic melodrama with didactic traits.

There are quite a few interpolations of different literary genres, such as poems, histories or sermons, which widen the restricted view of the first person narrator and serve as didactic fables.

The novel can be regarded as a fictitious memoir, as it is told by the vicar himself by retrospection.

Main characters

Choosing the Wedding Gown by William Mulready, an illustration of Ch. 1

Revd Dr Charles Primrose

He is the vicar in the title, and the narrator of the story. He presents one of the most harmlessly simple and unsophisticated yet also

External links

  1. ^ a b Irving, Washington, Oliver Goldsmith: a Biography, Chapter XV

Notes

A silent film adaptation was produced in 1916.

Adaptations

“Now Herder came, and together with his great knowledge brought many other aids and the later publications besides. Among these he announced to us the Vicar of Wakefield as an excellent work, with a German translation of which he would make us acquainted by reading it aloud to us himself. … A Protestant country clergyman is, perhaps the most beatific subject for a modern idyl; he appears, like Melchizedek, as priest and king in one person.” The Autobiography of Johann Goethe, p. 368ff

The novel is mentioned in George Eliot's Middlemarch, Stendhal's The Life of Henry Brulard, Jane Austen's Emma, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Sarah Grand's The Heavenly Twins, Charlotte Brontë's The Professor and Villette, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as his Dichtung und Wahrheit. Goethe wrote:

In literary history books the Vicar of Wakefield is often described as a sentimental novel, which displays the belief in the innate goodness of human beings. But it can also be read as a satire on the sentimental novel and its values, as the vicar's values are apparently not compatible with the real "sinful" world. It is only with Sir William Thornhill's help that he can get out of his calamities. Moreover, an analogy can be drawn between Mr. Primrose's suffering and the Book of Job. This is particularly relevant to the question of why evil exists.

Reception

Their father originally wished to name each after their aunt Grissel, but other considerations prevented him. They are affectionate, generally dutiful daughters. Of his daughters, the vicar claims, "Olivia...had that luxuriancy of beauty with which painters generally draw Hebe; open, sprightly, and commanding . . . Sophia's features were not so striking at first; but often did more certain execution; for they were soft, modest, and alluring. The one vanquished by a single blow, the other by efforts successfully repeated...Olivia wished for many lovers, Sophia to secure one. Olivia was often affected from too great a desire to please. Sophia even represt (repressed) excellence from her fears to offend. They both alike reflect their father's nature of being good-hearted, though prone to occasional fault; Olivia runs away with Mr. Thornhill in a rush of impetuous passion, and even the more sensible Sophia joins in with making "a wash" for herself and dressing up in fancy clothes.

Olivia and Sophia Primrose

Dr Charles Primrose's wife. She is faithful, if still rather independent-minded. She has some vanity of her own, however: she has a "passion" for clothes, and is seen making a "wash" (a sort of lotion) for her girls. She is also eager to see her daughters splendidly married, and this ambition sometimes blinds her. Dr Charles Primrose refers to her wife as "a good-natured notable woman; and as for breeding, there were few country ladies who could shew (show) more. She could read any English book without much spelling, but for pickling, preserving, and cookery, none could excel her." She is even prouder of her children than her husband, especially her beautiful girls.

Deborah Primrose
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.