OF THE BABY NAME SOPHIA
Sophia Primrose is one of the two daughters of the title character in Oliver Goldsmith’s highly popular novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, first published in 1766. This is practically a re-telling of The Book of Job – the vicar, at the outset in full flush of contentment, suddenly loses all, and his daughter, Sophia, is one of the unfortunate victims of his (temporary) downfall. She is not as beautiful as her sister, but Sophia is good and kind-hearted, and longs only for the love of one good man. When she does meet a man who rescues her from drowning, a Mr. Burchell, it appears that he is poor, and such a marriage cannot be encouraged. The Primroses are in reduced circumstances, but it would appear that even had they still retained their former fortunes, a societal prejudice would have precluded any such arrangement. Well, not to fear, this is the eighteenth century, and goodness shall surely be rewarded. As it happens, Mr. Burchell is really Sir William Thornhill, who poses as a poor man and roams around the countryside checking out peoples’ reactions to him, and making assessments accordingly. This is all right, however, because Sophia passed the litmus test – she is kind and courteous to one and all. The Vicar and Mama Primrose don’t come off smelling quite as sweet, but good Sir Thornhill generously chooses to ignore that. Sophia and Sir William are married, the vicar’s fortunes are restored, and everyone lives happily ever after. Job should have had it so good.
Sophia Western is a character in Henry Fielding’s 1749 comic novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, which was made into a memorable film in 1963, with Susannah York as Sophia. Sophia is the very essence of a beautiful, modest and virtuous young girl of her times; as the daughter of Squire Western, she becomes the love interest of Tom, a foundling who has been raised by a neighbor of the Westerns, Squire Allworthy. Tom, due to his thought-to-be lowly birth status, is not considered a suitable match for her. It’s just as well that the course of love does not run well for these two at first, because then we wouldn’t have such a rollicking story. As the picaresque tale unfolds, Tom manages to bed many a beauty before it is discovered that his lineage is, indeed, impeccable, therefore worthy of Sophia’s hand. During all this, our Sophia is not just a goody-two-shoes; she defies her father and refuses to marry the man he has chosen, and she sets out to find Tom when she thinks he has come to harm. She is generous and good-hearted, and more than a worthy mate to such a high-spirited man. Of course, all ends well, and the two marry with the beaming approval of all about them; our only concern is that Sophia didn’t have the same extensive premarital advantages as Tom – we hope it doesn’t cause trouble seven years into the union!