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The Vicar Of Wakefield
by Oliver Goldsmith
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'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.
The description of the family of Wakefield; in which a kindred likeness prevails as well of minds as of persons
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Oliver Goldsmith, published in two volumes in 1766. The story, a portrait of village life, is narrated by Dr. Primrose, the title character, whose family endures many trials--including the loss of most of their money, the seduction of one daughter, the destruction of their home by fire, and the vicar's incarceration--before all is put right in the end. The novel's idealization of rural life, sentimental moralizing, and melodramatic incidents are countered by a sharp but good-natured irony.
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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