Short summary - The Vicar of Wakefield - Oliver Goldsmith

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Vicar of Wakefield
Oliver Goldsmith

England, XVIII century The family of pastor Charles Primrose enjoys a serene existence "in a beautiful house in the midst of beautiful nature." The main treasure of the four Primrozs is six wonderful children: "sons - well done, agile and full of courage, two daughters - flowering beauties." The eldest son, George, studied at Oxford, middle, Moses, studied at home, and the two youngest, Dick and Bill, are still kids.

The favorite theme of the sermons of Pastor Primrose is marriage in general and the strictest monogamy of clergy in particular. He even wrote several treatises on monogamy, however, they still remained with the bookseller. He adores philosophical disputes and innocent amusements and hates vanity, vanity and idleness. Having some fortune, he spends everything that the parish gives him, "for widows and orphans."

But misfortune befell the family: the merchant, who knew her fortune, was ruined. Primrose gladly accepts the offer to host a small branch far from his native Weckfield and urges the household to "abandon luxury without regrets."

During the move, the family meets Mr. Birchell, a smart, generous and courteous man, but apparently poor. He saves the life of Sophia, who fell from a horse into a turbulent stream, and when Primrose settles in a new place, he becomes a frequent guest in a one-story house, thatched, together with the farmer Flembro and the blind flute player.

The new parishioners of the pastor live on their own farm, "knowing neither need nor excess." They have kept patriarchal simplicity, they work with pleasure on weekdays and indulge in simple-hearted fun on holidays. And Primrose also "rises with the sun and ceases work with its setting."

One day, Mr. Thornhill, nephew of Sir William Thornhill, «known for his wealth, virtue, generosity, and eccentricities,» appears on a holiday. Uncle left almost all his wealth and estates to his nephew. The wife of the pastor, Deborah, and both daughters, seduced by a luxurious outfit and laid-back manners of the guest, gladly accept his compliments and introduce a new acquaintance to the house. Soon, Deborah already sees Olivia married to the owner of all the surrounding lands, although the pastor warns her of the dangers of "unequal friendship", especially since Thornhill has a very bad reputation.

Mr. Thornhill sets up a village ball in honor of the young ladies of Primrose and comes there, accompanied by two «extremely lavishly dressed persons,» whom he represents as noble ladies. They immediately express their affection for Olivia and Sophia, begin to paint the delights of metropolitan life. The consequences of a new acquaintance turn out to be the most detrimental, awakening the vanity that has faded during a simple rural life. The «frills, loops and jars with grindings» that disappeared were again used. And when London ladies start talking about taking Olivia and Sophia as companions, even the pastor forgets prudence in anticipation of a bright future, and Bircell's warnings cause widespread indignation. However, fate itself seems to be trying to restrain the pastor’s naively ambitious aspirations. Moses sent to the fair in order to sell a working stallion and buy a riding horse, which is not shameful to ride into people, and he returns with two dozen worthless green glasses. They were tricked into him at the fair by some crook. The remaining gelding is sold by the pastor himself, imagining himself "a man of great worldly wisdom." And what? He also returns penniless in his pocket, but with a fake check received from a handsome, gray-haired old man, an ardent supporter of monogamy. The family orders a portrait for the wandering painter «in the historical genre», and the portrait goes well, but the trouble is, it is so great that there is definitely nowhere to put it in the house. And both secular ladies suddenly leave for London, allegedly having received bad reviews about Olivia and Sophia. The culprit of the collapse of hopes is none other than Mr. Bercheld. He is being harshly refused home,

But real disasters are yet to come. Olivia runs away with a man who, according to descriptions, is similar to that of Burchell. Deborah is ready to renounce her daughter, but the pastor, with his Bible and staff under his arm, sets off on a journey to save the sinner. «A very well-dressed gentleman» invites him to visit and starts a conversation about politics, and the pastor makes a whole speech, from which it follows that «he has an inborn disgust for the physiognomy of every tyrant,» but human nature is such that tyranny is inevitable, and the monarchy - the least evil, because at the same time "the number of tyrants is reduced." A major quarrel is brewing, as the owner is an advocate of "freedom." But here the real owners of the house come back, uncle and aunt Arabella Wilmot, along with her niece, the former bride of the eldest son of the pastor, and his interlocutor is just a butler. All together attend a vagrant theater, and the stunned pastor finds out in one of George's actors. While George talks about his adventures, Mr. Thornhill appears, who, as it turns out, wraps himself up to Arabella. Not only does he not seem upset when he sees that Arabella is still in love with George, but, on the contrary, does the greatest service to him: he buys him a lieutenant’s patent and thus sends his opponent to the West Indies.

By chance, the pastor finds Olivia in a village hotel. He clutches his «cute lost sheep» to his chest and finds out that the true culprit of her misfortunes is Mr. Thornhill. He hired street girls portraying noble ladies to lure Olivia and her sister to London, and when the venture failed thanks to a letter from Mr. Burchell, he persuaded Olivia to escape. The Catholic priest performed a secret ceremony of marriage, but it turned out that such wives at Thornhill had either six or eight. Olivia could not come to terms with this situation and left, throwing money in the face of the seducer.

That very night, when Primrose returns home, a terrible fire occurs, he barely has time to save the younger sons from the fire. Now the whole family is huddled in the barn, possessing only the property that the good neighbors shared with them, but Pastor Primrose does not complain about fate - after all, he preserved the main asset - the children. Only Olivia is in inconsolable sadness. Finally Thornhill appears, who not only does not feel the slightest remorse, but insults the pastor with a proposal to marry Olivia with anyone so that «her first lover remains with her,» Primrose in anger drives out the villain and hears in response the threats that Thornhill already the next day it enforces: the pastor is sent to prison for debt.

In prison, he meets a certain Mr. Jenkinson and recognizes in him that very gray-haired old man who deftly fooled him at the fair, only the old man was pretty rejuvenated because he took off his wig. Jenkinson is, in general, an evil little, though notorious, con man. The pastor promises not to testify against him in court, thereby gaining his appreciation and favor. The pastor is amazed that he does not hear in the prison neither screaming, nor moaning, nor words of repentance - the prisoners spend time in rude fun. Then, forgetting about his own hardships, Primrose turns to them with a sermon, the meaning of which is that "there is no benefit in their blasphemy, but they can miscalculate a lot," because unlike the devil whom they serve and who did not give they have nothing but hunger and deprivation, "the Lord promises to accept everyone to himself."

And new troubles fall on the Primrose family: George, having received a letter from his mother, returns to England and challenges his sister's seducer, but he is beaten by Thornhill's servants, and he ends up in the same prison as his father. Jenkinson brings the news that Olivia died of illness and grief. Sophia is abducted by an unknown person. The pastor, setting an example of truly Christian firmness of spirit, addresses his relatives and prisoners with the preaching of humility and hope for heavenly bliss, especially precious for those who have experienced only suffering in life.


Deliverance comes in the person of the noble Mr. Bircell, who turns out to be famous Sir William Thornhill. It was he who tore Sophia from the clutches of the kidnapper. He calls for an account of his nephew, whose list of atrocities is replenished with the testimony of Jenkinson, who carried out his vile instructions. It was he who ordered the abduction of Sophia, it was he who informed Arabella of the alleged treason of George in order to marry her for a dowry. At the height of the proceedings, Olivia appears safe and sound, and Jenkinson announces that instead of forged marriage permits and the priest, Jenkinson this time delivered the real ones. Thornhill on his knees pleads for forgiveness, and his uncle decides that from now on the nephew's young wife will own a third of the entire fortune. George connects with Arabella, and Sir William, who finally found a girl who appreciated him not for wealth, and for personal merits, Sofya makes an offer. All the pastor’s misfortunes ended, and now he has only one thing left - «to be as grateful in happiness as he was humble in need».