The Vicar of Wakefield

The Vicar of Wakefield

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The Vicar of Wakefield

The Vicar of Wakefield

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Excerpt

Oliver Goldsmith was born of English stock, in Pallas, County Longford, Ireland, on the 10th of November, 1728. His father, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, was, at the time of Oliver's birth, "passing rich on forty pounds a year" in the poor village which formed his parish. Two years afterwards, however, he succeeded to a more lucrative living in the county of West Meath. He was distinguished rather for kindliness and tender generosity towards others than for the prudence that looks out for self. "Neither his practice nor his precepts were those which make rich men," wrote Oliver later of another, doubtless with his father in mind; for he showed his children "the art of giving away thousands before they were taught the more necessary qualification of getting a farthing."

Oliver's mother, Ann Jones, was also of a clerical family, which had migrated to Ireland. The son who was to bring the family fame was fifth of a family of eight children.

"Never was so dull a boy," said Elizabeth Delap, a relative who taught the child his letters. From Paddy Byrne's school, to which he went when he was six years old, his report is little different,--"a stupid, heavy blockhead." But here was one good fortune Byrne was a character. He had been a soldier, and he liked to talk of his wanderings. Besides this he had a host of Irish . . .

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