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THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.
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, un husbandman, and the father of a family. He is drawn as ready to teach, and ready to obey ; as simple in afluence, 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 fireside ; 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.
situated in a fine country, and a good V The Description of the Family of Wakefield, in neighbourhood. The year was spent in which a kindred Likeness prevails, as well of a moral or rural amusement, in visiting Minds as of Persons.
our rich neighbours, and relieving such I was ever of opinion, that the honest as were poor. We had no revolutions to man who married and brought up a large fear, nor fatigues to undergo ; all our family did more service than he who con- adventures were by the fireside, and all tinued single, and only talked of popula- our migrations from the blue bed to the tion. From this motive, I had scarce brown. taken orders a year before I began to As we lived near the road, we often think seriously of matrimony, and chose had traveller or stranger visit us toy my wife, as she did her wedding-gown, taste our gooseberry wine, for which we not for a fine glossy surface, but for such had great reputation; and I profess, with qualities as would wear well. To do her the veracity of an historian, that I never justice, she was a good-natured notable knew one of them find fault with it. Our woman; and, as for breeding, there were cousins, too, even to the fortieth remove, few country ladies who could show more. all remembered their affinity, without any She could read any English book without help from the heralds' office, and came much spelling ; but for pickling, preserv- very frequently to see us. Some of thens ing, and cookery, none could excel her. did us no great honour by these claims of She prided herself also upon being an kindred; as we had the blind, the maimed, excellent contriver in housekeeping ; and the halt amongst the number. Howthough I could never find that we grew ever, my wife always insisted that, as they richer with all her contrivances.
were the same flesh an' blood, they should However, we loved each other tenderly, sit with us at the same table. So that, if and our fondness increased as we grew we had not very rich, we generally had old. There was, in fact, nothing that very happy friends about us ; for this recould make us angry with the world or mark will hold good through life, that the each other. We had an elegant house poorer the guest, the better pleased he
ever is with being treated : and as some after her aunt Grissel ; but my wife, who men gaze with admiration at the colours during her pregnancy had been reading of a tulip, or the wing of a butterfly, so I romances, insisted upon her being called was, by nature, an admirer of happy human Olivia. In less than another year we faces. However, when any one of our had another daughter, and now I was relations was found to be a person of very determined that Grissel should be her bad character, a troublesome guest, or one name ; but a rich relation taking a fancy we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving to stand godmother, the girl was, by her my house I ever took care to lend him a directions, called Sophia ; so that we had riding-coat, or a pair of boots, or some- two romantic names in the family ; but times an horse of small value, and I always I solemnly protest I had no hand in it. had the satisfaction of finding he never Moses was our next, and, after an interval came back to return them. By this the of twelve years, we had two sons more. house was cleared of such as we did not It would be fruitless to deny exultation like; but never was the family of Wake when I saw my little ones about me; but field known to turn the traveller or the the vanity and the satisfaction of my wife poor dependant out of doors.
were even greater than mine.
When Thus we lived several years in a state our visitors would say, “Well, upon my of much happiness, not but that we some- word, Mrs. Primrose, you have the finest times had those little rubs which Provi- children in the whole country;"
“Ay, dence sends to enhance the value of its neighbour,” she would answer, “they are favours. My orchard was often robbed as Heaven made them, handsome enough, by schoolboys, and my wife's custards if they be good enough; for handsome is plundered by the cats or the children. that handsome does." And then she The Squire would sometimes fall asleep would bid the girls hold up their heads; in the most pathetic parts of my sermon, who, to conceal nothing, were certainly or his lady return my wife's civilities at very handsome. Mere outside is so very church with a mutilated curtsey. But we trilling a circumstance with me, that Í soon got over the uneasiness caused by should scarce have remembered to mensuch accidents, and usually in three or tion it, had it not been a general topic of four days began to wonder how they conversation in the country: Olivia, now vexed us.
about eighteen, had that luxuriancy of My children, the offspring of tem- beauty with which painters generally perance, as they were educated without draw Hebe; open, sprightly, and comsoftness, so they were at once well-formed manding. Sophia's features were not so and healthy ; my sons hardy and active, striking at first, but often did more certain my daughters beautiful and blooming. execution ; for they were soft, modest, and When I stood in the midst of the little alluring. The one vanquished by a single circle, which promised to be the supports blow, the other hy efforts successfully re of my declining age, I could not avoid peated. repeating the famous story of Count The temper of a woman is generally Abensberg, who, in Henry the Second's formed from the turn of her features : at progress through Germany, while other least it was so with my daughters. Olivia courtiers
with their treasures, wished for many lovers; Sophia to secure brought his thirty-two children, and one. Olivia was often affected, from too presented them to his sovereign as the great a desire to please ; Sophia even most valuable offering he had to bestow. repressed excellence, from her fears to In this manner, though I had but six, offend. The one entertained me with I considered them as a very valuable her vivacity when I was gay, the other present made to my country, and con- with her sense when I was serious. But sequently looked upon it as my debtor. these qualities were never carried to excess Our eldest son was named George, after in either, and I have often seen them his uncle, who left us ten thousand pounds. exchange characters for a whole day toOur second child, a girl, I intended to call gether. A suit of mourning has transformed my coquette into a prude, and a which, as they never sold, I have the new set of ribands has given her younger consolation of thinking were read only sister more than natural vivacity. My by the happy few. Some of my friends eldest son George was bred at Oxford, as called this my weak side; but, alas ! I intended him for one of the learned pro- they had not, like me, made it the subfessions. My second boy Moses, whom I ject of long contemplation. The more designed for business, received a sort of I reflected upon it, the more important miscellaneous education at home. But it it appeared. I even went a step beyond is needless to attempt describing the par- Whiston in displaying my principles ; as ticular characters of young people that he had engraven upon his wife's tomb had seen but very little of the world. In that she was the only wife of William short, a family likeness prevailed through Whiston, so I wrote a similar epitaph for all, and, properly speaking, they had but my wife, though still living, in which I one character,—that of being all equally extolled her prudence, economy, and obegenerous, credulous, simple, and inoffen- dience till death; and having got it copied sive. ✓
fair, with an elegant frame, it was placed
over the chimney-piece, where it answered CHAPTER II.
several very useful purposes : it admonFamily Misfortunes., The Loss of Fortune only ished my wife of her duty to me, and my serves to increase the Pride of the Worthy.
fidelity to her; it inspired her with a The temporal concerns of our family were passion for fame, and constantly put her chiefly committed to my wife's manage. in mind of her end. ment; as to the spiritual, I took them It was thus, perhaps, from hearing entirely under my own direction. The marriage so often recommended, that my profits of my living, which amounted to eldest son, just upon leaving college, fixed but thirty-five pounds a year, I made over his affections upon the daughter of a neighto the orphans and widows of the clergy bouring clergyman, who was a dignitary of our diocese ; for, having a fortune of in the Church, and in circumstances to my own, I was careless of temporalities, give her a large fortune. But fortune and felt a secret pleasure in doing my was her smallest accomplishment. Miss duty without reward. I also set a re- Arabella Wilmot was allowed by all solution of keeping no curate, and of (except my two daughters) to be combeing acquainted with every man in the pletely pretty. Her youth, health, and parish, exhorting the married men to innocence, were still heightened by a temperance, and the bachelors to matri- complexion so transparent, and such an mony: so that in a few years it was a happy sensibility of look, as even age common saying, that there were three could not gaze on with indifference. As strange wants at Wakefield, a parson Mr. Wilmot knew that I could make a wanting pride, young men wanting wives, very handsome settlement on my son, he and ale-houses wanting customers. was not averse to the match ; so both
Matrimony was always one of my families lived together in all that harmony favourite topics, and I wrote several which generally precedes an expected allisermons to prove its happiness : but there ance. Being convinced, by experience, was a peculiar tenet which I made a point that the days of courtship are the most of supporting ; for I maintained with happy of our lives, I was willing enough Whiston, that it was unlawful for a priest to lengthen the period; and the variof the Church of England, after the death ous amusements which the young couple of his first wife, to take a second ; or, to every day shared in each other's company express it in one word, I valued myself seemed to increase their passion. We upon being a strict monogamist. + were generally awaked in the morning by
I was early initiated into this important music, and on fine days rode a-hunting. dispute, on which so many laborious The hours between breakfast and dinner volumes have been written. I published the ladies devoted to dress and study ; some tracts upon the subject myself, I they usually read a page, and then gazed
at themselves in the glass, which, even the controversy was hottest, I was called philosophers might own, often presented out by one of my relations, who, with a the page of greatest beauty. At dinner, face of concern, advised me to give up my wife took the lead; for, as she always the dispute, at least till my son's wedding insisted upon carving everything herself, was over. “How,” cried I, “relinquish it being her mother's way, she gave us, the cause of truth, and let him be a upon these occasions, the history of every husband, already driven to the very verge dish. When we had dined, to prevent of absurdity ? You might as well advise the ladies leaving us, I generally ordered me to give up my fortune as my arguthe table to be removed ; and sometimes, ment. -“Your fortune," returned my with the music-master's assistance, the friend, “I am now sorry to inform you, girls would give us a very agreeable is almost nothing. The merchant in
Walking out, drinking tea, town, in whose hands your money was V country dances, and forfeits, shortened lodged, has gone off, to avoid a statute
the rest of the day, without the assistance of bankruptcy, and is thought not to have of cards, as I hated all manner of gaming, left a shilling in the pound. I was unexcept backgammon, at which my old willing to shock you or the family with friend and I sometimes took a twopenny the account till after the wedding : but hit. Nor can I here pass over an omi- now it may serve to moderate your nous circumstance that happened, the last warmth in the argument; for, I suppose, time we played together. I only wanted your own prudence will enforce the neto Aing a quatre, and yet I threw deuce cessity of dissembling, at least till your ace five times running.
son has the young lady's fortune secure." Some months were elapsed in this —“Well,” returned 1, "if what you tell manner, till at last it was thought con- me be true, and if I am to be a beggar, venient to fix a day for the nuptials of the it shall never make me a rascal, or induce young couple, who seemed earnestly to me to disavow my principles. I'll desire it. During the preparations for moment and inform the company of my the wedding, I need not describe the circumstances : and, as for the argument, busy importance of my wife, nor the I even here retract my former concessions sly looks of my daughters : in fact, my in the old gentleman's favour, nor will attention was fixed on another object, allow him now to be a husband in any the completing a tract, which I intended sense of the expression.” shortly to publish, in defence of my fa- It would be endless to describe the dif. vourite principle. As I looked upon this ferent sensations of both families when I as a masterpiece, both for argument and divulged the news of our misfortune : but style, I could not, in the pride of my what others felt was slight to what the heart, avoid showing it to my old friend lovers appeared to endure. Mr. Wilmot, Mr. Wilmot, as I made no doubt of who seemed before sufficiently inclined to receiving his approbation : but not till break off the match, was, by this blow, too late I discovered that he was most soon determined: one virtue he had in perviolently attached to the contrary opinion, fection, which was prudence, too often the and with good reason; for he was at only one that is left us at seventy-two. that time actually courting a fourth wife. This, as may be expected, produced a
CHAPTER III. dispute, attended with some acrimony, which threatened to interrupt our in- A Migration. The fortunate Circumstances of tended alliance; but, on the day before
our Lives are generally found at last to be of
our own procuring. that appointed for the ceremony, we agreed to discuss the subject at large. The only hope of our family now was,
It was managed with proper spirit on that the report of our misfortune might be both sides; he asserted that I was heter- malicious or premature ; but a letter from odox ; I retorted the charge : he replied, my agent in town soon came, with a con. and I rejoined. In the meantime, while firmation of every particular. The loss of
fortune to myself alone would have been mother and the rest, who mingled their trifling; the only uneasiness I felt was for tears with their kisses, came to ask a blessmy family, who were to be humbled with ing from me. This I gave him from my out an education to render them callous to heart, and which, added to five guineas, contempt.
was all the patrimony I had now to bestow. Near a fortnight had passed before I “You are going, my boy,” cried I, " to attempted to restrain their affliction ; for London on foot, in the manner Hooker, premature consolation is but the remem- your great ancestor, travelled there before brancer of sorrow. During this interval, you. Take from me the same horse that my thoughts were employed on some was given him by the good bishop Jewel, future means of supporting them; and at this staff, and take this book, too, it will last a small cure of fifteen pounds a year be your comfort on the way : these two was offered me, in a distant neighbour- lines in it are worth a million, -'I have hood, where I could still enjoy my prin- been young, and now am old ; yet never ciples without molestation. With this saw I the righteous man forsaken, or his proposal I joyfully closed, having deter- seed begging their bread.' Let this be mined to increase my salary by managing your consolation as you travel on. Go, a little farm.
my boy ; whatever be thy fortune, let me Having taken this resolution, my next see thee once a year ; still keep a good care was to get together the wrecks of my heart, and farewell.” As he was possessed fortune; and, all debts collected and paid, of integrity and honour, I was under no out of fourteen thousand pounds we had apprehensions from throwing him naked but four hundred remaining. My chief into the amphitheatre of life; for I knew attention, therefore, was now to bring he would act a good part whether van. down the pride of my family to their cir- quished or victorious. cumstances; for I well knew that aspiring His departure only prepared the way for beggary is wretchedness itself. “You our own, which arrived a few days aftercannot be ignorant, my children,” cried I, | wards. The leaving a neighbourhood in “that no prudence of ours could have which we had enjoyed so many hours of prevented our late misfortune ; but pru- tranquillity was not without a tear, which dence may do much in disappointing its scarce fortitude itself could suppress. effects. We are now poor, my fondlings, Besides, a journey of seventy miles, to a and wisdom bids us conform to our humble family that had hitherto never been above situation. Let us then, without repining, ten from home, filled us with apprehengive up those splendours with which num- sion; and the cries of the poor, who folbers are wretched, and seek in humbler lowed us for some miles, contributed to circumstances that peace with which all increase it. The first day's journey may be happy. The poor live pleasantly brought us in safety within thirty miles of without our help ; why, then, should not our future retreat, and we put up for the we learn to live without theirs ? No, my night at an obscure inn in a village by the children, let us from this moment give up way.
When we were shown a room,
I all pretensions to gentility: we have still desired the landlord, in my usual way, to enough left for happiness if we are wise, let us have his company, with which he and let us draw upon content for the defi- complied, as what he drank would increase ciencies of fortune."
the bill next morning. He knew, however, As my eldest son was bred a scholar, I the whole neighbourhood to which I was determined to send him to town, where removing, particularly Squire Thornhill, his abilities might contribute to our sup- who was to be my landlord, and who lived port and his own. The separation of within a few miles of the place. This friends and families is, perhaps, one of the gentleman he described as one who de. most distressful circumstances attendant sired to know little more of the world than on penury.
The day soon arrived on its pleasures, being particularly remarkwhich we were to disperse for the first able for his attachment for the fair sex. time. My son, after taking leave of his He observed that no virtue was able to