The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale Supposed to Be Written by Himself

The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale Supposed to Be Written by Himself

The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale Supposed to Be Written by Himself

The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale Supposed to Be Written by Himself

Excerpt

When, about 1761 or 1762, he came to write The Vicar of Wakefield, Goldsmith had spent considerable time as a book reviewer, had published one small book of literary criticism, had devoted some slight efforts to poetry and biography, and --most important--had written a large number of essays, narrative and expository, for a variety of periodicals. He had not, however, tried his hand at an extended continuous narrative. In The Citizen of the World Goldsmith had attempted to gain some continuity in the 'Letters from a Chinese Philosopher, Residing in London, to his Friends in the East' by introducing a few characters who could reappear from time to time and whose fortunes could be settled in the concluding letter; but, apart from the few letters devoted to the adventures of the Chinese philosopher's son, there is little: narrative continuity, and almost all the letters can be read as separate essays. When, consequently, Goldsmith made his first (and only) attempt at writing a novel, it is not surprising to find him amplifying his rather slight plot in the manner of an essayist--that is, by adding parts which at best have only a slight connection with the action of the work. These digressive parts may be expository (as the Vicar's discussion of English politics in chapter XXVII and of English legal punishment in chapter XXII) or more frequently narrative (as the account of Moses at the fair in chapter XII or the fable of the dwarf and the giant in chapter XIII); they may be very short (as Mr. Burchell's criticism of modem poetry in chapter VIII) or very long (as George Primrose's account of his adventures . . .

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