The second book I read in the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge is The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith first published in 1766. This book falls under the category of a classic originally published before 1800.
The book became very popular at the time of publication and was read and appreciated by many readers of the Victorian Age. Interestingly, the novel is mentioned in various works of George Elliott, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Mary Shelley, and Louisa May Alcott. In fact, The Vicar of Wakefield has the distinction of having never gone out of print since its original publication.
Be that as it may, when all was said and done my thoughts on the book left me somewhat conflicted.
I didn’t quite like it … but I didn’t hate it either! One thing is certain, when I closed it for the last time I had no desire to open it again.
It’s not that I didn’t find some passages well written and memorable. Towards the beginning there was one humorous section that I read out loud to my husband.
The Vicar of Wakefield written during the Age of Romanticism tends to be over sentimental and unrealistic, with much moralizing and a fairy tale ending where all live happily ever after. It’s not that I don’t like happily ever after, but these circumstances require the suspension of reality.
The story of the Primrose family is narrated by the vicar, Dr. Charles Primrose, a loving husband and father of six children. The family endures one misfortune after another but manages to make the best of things for the most part. They are deceived, abused, taken advantage of, with life changing consequences, until finally at the end, all (or almost all) that has been done to them is made right.
|Oliver Goldsmith, 1728-1774
The Vicar has a solid faith in Providence and his faith never waivers, or almost never waivers, and if it does he repents immediately. Towards the end he longs for death and heaven to give him the joys that are lost to him on earth.
I do admit that it was difficult to put the book down when reading the final chapters. I couldn’t see how it could possibly all work out in the end, but it does, even if it is pretty unbelievable.
This is not one of those books in which I gush over it and encourage you to read it for yourself. But I won’t tell you it has no redeeming value either. If nothing else it’s a study in forgiveness and perseverance!
I really wanted to like this book. When I began reading it I had high hopes. I almost felt guilty about not liking it, like somehow there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t fully appreciating this English classic.
But I got over it! To each his own, as they say!