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“SHOULDER'D HIS CRUTCH, AND SHOW'D HOW FIELDS WERE WON" “ AS SOME TALL CLIFF THAT LIFTS ITS AWFUL Fory":
LEONTINE, CROAKER, AND OLIVIA .
as permanent as it is widely diffused. We may not predicate a time when it shall cease to be read, or a class or an age which it shall not instruct and delight. It charms the boy to-day, as it delighted Goethe throughout life.
It would be easy to multiply the testimony which great writers in every country have borne to the charms of this composition ; but it is needless. We can well understand how, notwithstanding the fears of Dr. Johnson, this tale stole silently upon the world without the eulogy of critics or the appreciation of wits, till it struck its roots deep into the soil of the English heart, and became perennial. Faults it has, but they are few and trifling-forgotten in the charm of style and sentiment by all save the critic. Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett, command now not one reader for every hundred who read this tale of Goldsmith. This need not excite our wonder. He paints Nature as truly as any of them, but without the sententious formality and wearisome particularity of the first, or the coarseness and pruriency of the others.
“ The Vicar of Wakefield” is a domestic epic. Its hero is a country parson—simple, pious, and pure-hearted—a humorist in his way, a little vain of his learning, a little proud of his fine family—sometimes rather sententious, never pedantic, and a dogmatist only on the one favourite topic of monogamy, which crops out now and then above the surface of his character only to give it a new charm. Its world is a rural district, beyond whose limits the action rarely passes, and that only on great occasions. Domestic affections and joys, relieved by its cares, its foibles, and its little failings, cluster around the parsonage, till the storms from the outward world invade its holiness and trouble its peace. Then comes sorrow and suffering; and we have the hero, like the patriarchal prince of the land of Uz, when the Lord “put forth his hand and touched all that he had,” meeting each new affliction with meekness and with patience—rising from cach trial with renewed reliance upon God, till the lowest depth of his earthly suffering becomes the highest elevation of his moral strength.
In this charming work we see the moral nature of Goldsmith more translucently than in anything else that he has written—that thorough honest, unsophisticated nature, full of truth and hope, and love and charity, unsordid and unselfish, improvident yet resilient, rising ever with elastic rebound the moment that the pressure is removed from his spirit; and then the tale flows gracefully, easily along, as some full, clear stream wanders through a varied landscape, now calmly over the daisied meadow, now troublously between rocks and wooded hills, now in light and now in shadow, but always clear and pure, reflecting the heavens over it and the scenes around it. Here we have satire, the gentlest that ever fell from pen ; pungent, but the pungency of a pleasant acid, without one drop of gall; humour, the quaintest,
a the simplest, the slyest; wit that sparkles like dew-drops ; pathos that makes its way right to the heart; and with all and above all, an exquisite power of delineating the foibles that make one smile, as well as the fortitude that makes the eye moist : all these render “The Vicar of Wakefield" the most readable, the most lovable, the most imperishable of novels.
Note.—The fifth edition (1773) has been adopted in the present publication.
THE DESCRIPTION OF THE FAMILY OF WAKEFIELD, IN WHICH A KINDRED LIKENESS
PREVAILS, AS WELL OF MINDS AS OF PERSONS.
WAS ever of opinion that the honest man who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single and only talked of
population. From this motive, I had scarce taken orders a year, before I began to think seriously of matrimony, and chose my wife as she did her wedding-gown,
not for a fine glossy surface, but such qualities as would wear well. To do her justice, she was a good-natured notable woman; and as for breeding, there were few country ladies who could show
She could read any English book without much spelling; but for pickling, preserving, and cookery none could excel her. She prided herself also upon being an excellent contriver in housekeeping, though I could never find that we grew richer with all her contrivances.
However, we loved each other tenderly, and our fondness increased as we grew old. There was, in fact, nothing that could make us angry with the world or each other. We had an elegant house, situated in a fine country, and a good neighbourhood. The year was spent in moral or rural amusement; in visiting our rich neighbours, and relieving such as were poor. We had no revolutions to fear, nor fatigues to undergo; all our adventures were by the fireside, and all our migrations from the blue bed to the brown.