Charles Reade

Beth Palmer

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:
Charles Reade

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Charles Reade (b. 1814–d. 1884) entered into the Victorian cultural scene through theatrical adaptations, original dramatic writing, and magazine contributions as well as his best-selling novels. While his historical novel The Cloister and the Hearth (1861) was his most widely respected work in his lifetime, his more sensational contemporary fiction such as Hard Cash (1863) or It Is Never Too Late to Mend (1856) have recently received significant scholarly interest. His first novels were fictional reworkings of stage plays and throughout his career Reade moved back and forth between these forms, each influencing the other. Reade prided himself on his method of fiction writing, which involved extensive research—mostly in the form of cutting out articles that interested him from daily newspapers. This method was important to his “matter-of-fact” romances in which he stressed the significance of factuality in fiction. For much of his life he moved back and forth between Oxford (where he held a fellowship at Magdalen College) and a more bustling and bohemian career in London. An antagonistic figure unafraid to cultivate hostilities with publishers in particular, he nonetheless enjoyed friendships with Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, the actress Ellen Terry, and his dramatic collaborator Tom Taylor. While his Magdalen fellowship precluded the possibility of marriage, he lived for many years with the actress Laura Seymour. Reade found considerable critical esteem in his own lifetime, but he received little scholarly attention during the 20th century. However, the recent interest in popular, middlebrow, and sensational literature has brought Reade greater standing in the field of Victorian studies. His ardent polemics on significant social issues of the day (such as the treatment of prisoners or the medical definition of lunacy) make Reade a significant figure for historians of medicine and law as well as for literary scholars.

Article.  7179 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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