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The Vicar of Wakefield
By Oliver Goldsmith

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The Vicar of Wakefield

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The Vicar of Wakefield
By Oliver Goldsmith
Illustrations by William Mulready, John Absolon, and George Thomas
ISIS Clear Type Classics (1992)
ISBN: 1-85695-330-0
Genre: Classic Fiction

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - July 31, 2007

The Vicar of Wakefield is a classic work of comic literature by the Irish author, Oliver Goldsmith. In this delightful tale, which was first published in 1766, Goldsmith introduces the reader to the Primrose family. Dr. Primrose is the Vicar of Wakefield, and he lives a harmonious life with his wife Deborah, and their six children. The Vicar of Wakefield is a jovial tale of family life. It illustrates how the Primroses, despite all the hardships and disasters that beset them, manage to maintain a stable and happy home life. The story itself is narrated by Dr. Primrose, and as an added bonus it also includes some poetry and ballads, such as the old favorite An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog.

The Vicar of Wakefield is, in many regards, a comic novel. Goldsmith satirizes the bathetic sentimental novels so popular during his lifetime in this work. Writing in the best traditions of a modern-day soap opera, Goldsmith tosses everything into the pot from kidnapping to false love. The main character, Dr. Primrose, is so naive that his actions are often humorous, giving the entire story a jocular feel.

The calamities that Goldsmith sets upon the poor Vicar, and his family, are numerous, beginning with a loss of all their money, their oldest son being jilted at the altar, and one of the daughters is almost drowned. As if that were not enough, Goldsmith throws in a terrible house fire, a sinister squire with devious designs on one of the daughters, to the vicar himself being thrown into jail (goal)!

"Wait, a minute," you say. "This is a comedy?"

Believe it or not, it is, although I'll grant, not a laugh out loud one! Rather the humor in this story is of a more subtle nature, and may not be apparent on your first reading of the book. Despite all the melodrama, Goldsmith manages to extract a happy ending and to leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. In short, the The Vicar of Wakefield is sort of a satire on the Book of Job, but with a much happier ending for all involved and no matter what is thrown at Primrose, he keeps his head about him and sees only what is right with the world.

The Vicar of Wakefield is a very short book, especially when compared to the massive tomes that his contemporaries were publishing. The story is well paced and enthralling, and the book can be read simply for its entertainment value, or you can read it more closely to study its literary merits. This edition is illustrated by a set of wonderful pen and ink drawings by William Mulready, John Absolon, and George Thomas, which greatly enhance this already vibrant story.

A few words about ISIS Clear Type

This edition of The Vicar of Wakefield is part of the ISIS Clear Type Classics series, and for readers of the regular ISIS Large Print books, I wanted to point out that there is a difference in the fonts used between the two types of books.

The books in ISIS Clear Type series are printed in a very dark, 14 point font size, with chapter headers in a much larger type face. The print used in the regular ISIS Large Print books, on the other hand, while lighter in color, is larger in size. The ISIS Large Print books are printed in 16 point font size, with, to my eye, more spacing around the individual letters and words. For me, I find the regular ISIS Large Print books much more comfortable to read than the ISIS Clear Type books, but I have very poor eyesight. I believe that most people who normally read large print books will find the ISIS Clear Type to be more than satisfactory, and some may find that the smaller font size is more than compensated for by the darker print. (By way of comparison, all too many standard print books are printed in a 10 point or smaller font size!)

The Vicar of Wakefield can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS.

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