September 15, 2014


Author whose novels expose with passionate indignation the social injustices of his times.
His greatest work, however, The Cloister and the Hearth (1861) is a brilliant historical romance.

As a young man Reade was an active partner in a Soho violin business and was himself a fair performer.

In 1843 he was called to the bar but never practiced.
In 1851 he became vice president of his college Magdalen but treated the position as a sinecure.
A loyal friend of Reade´s, Mrs. Laura Seymour, the actress, became his housekeeper from 1856 until her death in 1879.

Although Reade spent a great deal of time and money in writing and staging plays (he wrote 40), they are crippled by crude characterizations and melodrama.

Reade´s 14 novels reveal his humanitarianism and concern with social issues.
It Is Never Too Late to Mend (1856) attacked conditions in prisons and Hard Cash (1863) exposed the ill-treatment of mental patients, especially in private asylums.
Put Yourself in His Place (1870) dealt with the terrorist activities of trade unionists and the melodramatic Foul Play (1868) written with Dion Boucicault, revealed the racket in "coffin ships" and helped to sway public opinion in favour of the safety measures proposed later by Samuel Plimsoll.
While these novels succeed as propaganda Reade´s indignation sometimes mars them as art.

Reade´s finest novel The Cloister and the Hearth relates the adventures of the father of Erasmus.
Next in merit is Griffith Gaunt (1866) in which Reade explores a marriage relationship and the passion of jealousy.

There have been many studies of Reade including one by Swinburne in his Miscellanies (1866) and one by W. Burns entitled Charles Reade: A Study in Victorian Authorship (1961).

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