The Vicar of Wakefield

by Oliver Goldsmith

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"Talk Of Shakespeare, And The Musical Glasses"

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 241

Context: One of the delightful incidents in The Vicar of Wakefield is an evening of country dancing, occasioned by the arrival of Squire Thornhill along with "two young ladies, richly drest, whom he introduced as women of very great distinction and fashion from town." These two tried mightily to participate in the dancing, but found doing so difficult and finally, being "apprehensive of catching cold, moved to break up the ball." One of them, says Dr. Primrose, "expressed her sentiments upon this occasion in a very coarse manner, when she observed, that by the living jingo, she was all of a muck of sweat." At supper the conversation was more reserved, Primrose says, but the two ladies continued their supercilious treatment of the country folk, particularly the two Primrose daughters. It is obviously this passage that Everard Webley is referring to in Aldous Huxley's (1894-1963) Point Counterpoint (1928) when, angered at Elinor Quarles's dallying with him, he asks sarcastically: "Shall we talk about Shakespeare? Or the musical glasses?" Primrose describes their conversation:

. . . The two ladies threw my girls into the shade; for they would talk of nothing but high life, and high-lived company; with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses. 'Tis true they once or twice mortified us sensibly by slipping out an oath; but that appeared to me as the surest symptom of their distinction (though I am since informed that swearing is perfectly unfashionable).

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