The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
This was an interesting read, to say the least. It offered a peek into an England and the customs and language and sensibilities of an age long gone. Yet was completely enjoyable in its own way. The story follows a family as they fall from fortune and take up a new place, and the adventures and misadventures while there. The writer pokes fun at many of the characters, by painting them in very broad strokes. All but the eldest son, who is supposed to be the writer himself.
The main character of the father, Dr. Primrose, is the main focus and the moral center of the book, and we are not left long and doubt of his thoughts and beliefs. Personally, I was really amused and enlightened by those thoughts and how they were conveyed. I tend to have more patience for older forms of writing than contemporary, as that was simply how they wrote and feels somehow more honest and simple than many books that came out later that tried so hard to be clever and ironic that they can forget how to tell a good story. But I won’t linger long on that soap box.
The introduction was written by Ernest Brennecke. He did a good job summarizing the contents of the book and helped make it somewhat more relatable to the modern reader. And I got to warn you, there are many modern readers who might find the language of the book off-putting. There are some names that, while not bad, are not politically correct either. This might offend someone who grew up in today’s culture where political correctness had swung completely in the other direction. Personally, as I already said, I enjoyed the language.
I fancy myself as something of a student of history, and to catch a glimpse into what people of the mid seventeen hundred would have called a best-seller is fascinating. It is not perfect. There is more melodrama than I would like, and the characters are, while good characters, are a bit two-dimensional and sometimes even goofy, the pathos and humor of the family do shine through. And I found it an interesting read, and am not sorry to have read it.
Check it out and have a happy nerdy-wordy day!