The Vicar of Wakefield with his family at breakfast
Engraved: for Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield, by William Woollett (figures), and William Ellis (landscape), published by Ellis, 1780;
Literature: D. Morris, Thomas Hearne and his Landscape, London, 1989, pp. 57-58</p
Marshfield, Glos. 1744-1817 London
The Vicar of Wakefield: the Vicar and his family at breakfast on the honeysuckle bank (vol. II, Ch. 5)
Pencil and wash
17.5 x 33 cm 6 7/8 x 13 inches (oval)
Engraved: for Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield, by William Woollett (figures), and William Ellis (landscape), published by Ellis, 1780
Literature: D. Morris, Thomas Hearne and his Landscape, London, 1989, pp. 57-58
This drawing is the second of two images by Hearne to be engraved for the first illustrated
edition of Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, published in two parts in May and December 1780, having been first published in 1766. The watercolour for the first engraved subject is missing. The artist was taking advantage of the widening readership of the English novel as he had done previously with two illustrations for Fielding's Joseph Andrews.
Goldsmith's novel is a tale of life in the countryside where he saw the moral rectitude of the hard-working rural community, neither rich nor poor, being undermined by the wealthy and aristocratic families. The Vicar's two daughters, Sophia and Olivia, attract the attention of two suitors, Burchell and Thornhill. It ultimately transpires that Burchell is Sir William Thornhill, the rightful owner of the local house and estate, and that Thornhill is his rakish nephew. The latter attempts to seduce Olivia who elopes with him, but then returns to her family. Hearne chooses the scene of the family at breakfast following this event, but the distant coach is carrying Thornhill who then brings ruin on the Vicar by having him arrested and the family evicted.
The expansion of readership of novels in the eighteenth century led to increasing illustration of the volumes. Hearne's images differ in being placed outdoors in the landscape where they had previously generally been placed in less elaborate indoor settings. His gift for landscape was particularly suited and he employed the oval format to advantage here and in a further set of ten subjects depicting aspects of rural life.
The legend to the print reads:
When lovely Woman stoops to Folly,
And finds too late that Men betray
What charm can sooth her melancholy
What art can wash her guilt away.
The only art her guilt to cover
To hide her shame from every eye
To give Repentance to her Lover
And wring his bosom.....is to die.