Conceit and Misfortune in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield

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Conceit and Misfortune in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield From three hundred years of Ireland’s history, The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction1[1] collects a combination of complete works and samples of the works of many great Irish authors. Among the authors included in this volume is Oliver Goldsmith, an Irishman of great diversity in his writings and remembered perhaps as well for his individuality, character and generosity as for the various poems, essays, and works of fiction that he contributed to literary world. The Vicar of Wakefield, the selection chosen for the anthology, is not only significant because it is often considered his best work, but also as it is the only novel that Goldsmith ever wrote.2[2]…show more content…
Goldsmith’s development of the Vicar’s personal ideologies plays a vital roll in construction of the work’s themes as well as its plot. Primrose places substantial importance on the value of virtues such as his favorite “monogamy” and of course charity. He is himself a charitable man, almost to a fault. “The profits of my living, which amounted to but thirty-five pounds a year, I made over to the orphans and widows of the clergy of our diocese” (p.40). Although selfless and commendable, the Vicar’s extreme acts of personal charity are very soon seen as folly on his part. When his entire inherited fortune is suddenly lost, the Primroses are left with nothing because he saved nothing of his earnings for them. This not only starts the chain of ill fate for the Primrose family as a whole, but one speedy result of this loss is incurred particularly by the eldest son, George. He was about to be married to Miss Wilmot, a girl of no little fortune, but the engagement is broken immediately and without ordeal. Goldsmith writes, “Wilmot, who seemed before sufficiently inclined to break off the match, was by this blow soon determined” (p.43). Because Primrose, and in turn his son, is now a pauper, Miss Wilmot’s father cannot possibly consent to such a match. This is comically nearly the last sentence uttered pertaining to the matter, as everyone seems to find it a perfectly understandable and

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