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- The Vicar of Wakefield - 1/33 -




Supposed to be written by Himself

Sperate miseri, cavete faelices


There are an hundred faults in this Thing, and an hundred things might be said to prove them beauties. But it is needless. A book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may be very dull without a single absurdity. The hero of this piece unites in himself the three greatest characters upon earth; he is a priest, an husbandman, and the father of a family. He is drawn as ready to teach, and ready to obey, as simple in affluence, and majestic in adversity. In this age of opulence and refinement whom can such a character please? Such as are fond of high life, will turn with disdain from the simplicity of his country fire-side. Such as mistake ribaldry for humour, will find no wit in his harmless conversation; and such as have been taught to deride religion, will laugh at one whose chief stores of comfort are drawn from futurity.



1. The description of the family of Wakefield; in which a kindred likeness prevails as well of minds as of persons

2. Family misfortunes. The loss of fortune only serves to increase the pride of the worthy

3. A migration. The fortunate circumstances of our lives are generally found at last to be of our own procuring

4. A proof that even the humblest fortune may grant happiness, which depends not on circumstance, but constitution 5. A new and great acquaintance introduced. What we place most hopes upon generally proves most fatal

6. The happiness of a country fire-side

7. A town wit described. The dullest fellows may learn to be comical for a night or two

8. An amour, which promises little good fortune, yet may be productive of much

9. Two ladies of great distinction introduced. Superior finery ever seems to confer superior breeding

10. The family endeavours to cope with their betters. The miseries of the poor when they attempt to appear above their circumstances

11. The family still resolve to hold up their heads

12. Fortune seems resolved to humble the family of Wakefield. Mortifications are often more painful than real calamities

13. Mr Burchell is found to be an enemy; for he has the confidence to give disagreeable advice

14. Fresh mortifications, or a demonstration that seeming calamities may be real blessings

15. All Mr Burchell's villainy at once detected. The folly of being-over-wise

16. The Family use art, which is opposed with still greater

17. Scarce any virtue found to resist the power of long and pleasing temptation 18. The pursuit of a father to reclaim a lost child to virtue

19. The description of a Person discontented with the present government, and apprehensive of the loss of our liberties

20. The history of a philosophic vagabond, pursuing novelty, but losing content

21. The short continuance of friendship among the vicious, which is coeval only with mutual satisfaction

22. Offences are easily pardoned where there is love at bottom

23. None but the guilty can be long and completely miserable

24. Fresh calamities

25. No situation, however wretched it seems, but has some sort of comfort attending it

26. A reformation in the gaol. To make laws complete, they should reward as well as punish

27. The same subject continued

28. Happiness and misery rather the result of prudence than of virtue in this life. Temporal evils or felicities being regarded by heaven as things merely in themselves trifling and unworthy its care in the distribution

29. The equal dealings of providence demonstrated with regard to the happy and the miserable here below. That from the nature of pleasure and pain, the wretched must be repaid the balance of their sufferings in the life hereafter

30. Happier prospects begin to appear. Let us be inflexible, and fortune will at last change in our favour

31. Former benevolence now repaid with unexpected interest

32. The Conclusion


The description of the family of Wakefield; in which a kindred likeness prevails as well of minds as of persons

I 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 surfaces 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 shew more. 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 house- keeping; tho' I could never find that we grew richer with all her contrivances. However, we loved each other tenderly, and our fondness encreased 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 amusements; 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 fire-side, and all our migrations from the blue bed to the brown.

As we lived near the road, we often had the traveller or stranger visit us to taste our gooseberry wine, for which we had great reputation; and I profess with the veracity of an historian, that I never knew one of them find fault with it. Our cousins too, even to the fortieth remove, all remembered their affinity, without any help from the Herald's office, and came very frequently to see us. Some of them did us no great honour by these claims of kindred; as we had the blind, the maimed, and the halt amongst the number. However, my wife always insisted that as they were the same flesh and blood, they should sit with us at the same table. So that if we had not, very rich, we generally had very happy friends about us; for this remark will hold good thro' life, that the poorer the guest, the better pleased he ever is with being treated: and as some men gaze with admiration at the colours of a tulip, or the wing of a butterfly, so I was by nature an admirer of happy human faces. However, when any one of our relations was found to be a person of very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house, I ever took care to lend him a riding coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes an horse of small value, and I always had the satisfaction of finding he never came back to return them. By this the house was cleared of such as we did not like; but never was the family of Wakefield known to turn the traveller or the poor dependent out of doors.

Thus we lived several years in a state of much happiness, not but that we sometimes had those little rubs which Providence sends to enhance the value of its favours. My orchard was often robbed by school-boys, and my wife's custards plundered by the cats or the children. The 'Squire would sometimes fall asleep in the most pathetic parts of my sermon, or his lady return my wife's civilities at church with a mutilated curtesy. But we soon got over the uneasiness caused by such accidents, and usually in three or four days began to wonder how they vext us.

My children, the offspring of temperance, as they were educated without softness, so they were at once well formed and healthy; my sons hardy and active, my daughters beautiful and blooming. When I stood in the midst of the little circle, which promised to be the supports of my declining age, I could not avoid repeating

The Vicar of Wakefield - 1/33

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