Wakefield. English town in which the vicar, Dr. Primrose, settles after losing his fortune. Its locale is never named, but to Primrose it is more than a place where there is a cure available and a farm that he can manage—it is a refuge, where he can keep his family safe from the world.
Although Primrose’s new home is clearly in England, Goldsmith’s description of it probably draws upon his childhood memories of Lissoy, Ireland, which was undoubtedly also the model for the town celebrated in his meditative poem The Deserted Village (1770). In The Vicar of Wakefield, the hero comments on the fact that the farmers still hold to the old ways and live by the old virtues. They work hard, live frugally, go to church on the Lord’s Day, and find their pleasure in the traditional festivals that every season brings. However, when the vicar returns home one evening, he sees his house on fire and his family in danger and realizes that no place on Earth is truly safe. Moreover, though the local villagers are mostly virtuous people, the vicar’s neighbor and landlord, wealthy Squire Thornhill, has all the vices of “the town,” that is, London.
“The town” (London)
“The town” (London). Eighteenth century term for London, the center of English society, luxury, and pleasure. It is a place of great appeal but of even greater peril. After the vicar’s son George is dissuaded from applying for a job in a London boarding school, he tries to become a...
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