The Vicar of Wakefield

by Oliver Goldsmith

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"A Mutilated Curtsey"

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 329

Context: The events of this work are related in the first person. The writer begins by telling how he, a vicar, married a good wife who could read, pickle, preserve, and work. He and his wife loved each other tenderly; they lived in an elegant house and filled in their vacant time with rural amusements, visiting their rich neighbors, and relieving the wants of the poor; their life was easy and pleasant. As they dwelt near the highroad, they had a great deal of company, especially relatives, some of whom were not very creditable representatives of the family. As, however, the wife insisted that they were of the same flesh and blood, they were all entertained in the best possible manner. When anyone turned up who was actually unwelcome, the vicar and his wife entertained him as well as they did anyone else; but at his departing they lent him a riding coat, a pair of boots, or a horse of small value, and as he never came back to return what he had borrowed, they were spared his company in the future. Thus they lived in happiness, although sometimes their orchard was plundered or the wife's custards purloined; sometimes the squire would fall asleep during the best part of the sermon, or the squire's lady would greet the vicar's wife's civilities with small politeness–with a mutilated curtsey:

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 favors. My orchard was often robbed by schoolboys, 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 curtsey. But we soon got over the uneasiness caused by such accidents, and usually in three or four days began to wonder how they vexed us.

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