Reade was an amateur of the violin, and among his works is an essay on Cremona violins with the title, A Lost Art Revised.
It was characteristic of Reade's open and combative nature that he admitted the public freely to the secrets of his method of composition. He spoke about his method in his prefaces; he introduced himself into one of his novels—“ Dr Rolfe ” in A Terrible Temptation; and by his will he left his workshop and his accumulation of materials open for inspection for two years after his death. He had collected an enormous mass of materials for his study of human nature, from personal observation, from newspapers, books of travel, blue-books of commissions of inquiry, from miscellaneous reading. This vast collection was classified and arranged in huge ledgers and notebooks. He had planned a great work on “ the wisdom and folly of nations,” dealing with social, political and domestic details, and it was chiefly for this that his collection was destined, but in passing he found the materials useful as a store of incidents and suggestions. A collector of the kind was bound to be systematic, otherwise his collection would have fallen into confusion, and Reade's collection contains many curiosities in classification and tabulation. On the value of this method for his art there has been much discussion, the prevalent opinion being that his imagination was overwhelmed and stifled by it. He himself maintained the contrary; and it must be admitted that a priori critics have not rightly understood the use that he made of his laboriously collected facts. He did not merely shovel the contents of his notebooks into his novels; they served rather as an atmosphere of reality in which he worked, so that his novels were like pictures painted in the open air. His imagination worked freely among them and was quickened rather than impeded by their suggestions of things suited to the purpose in hand; and it is probably to his close and constant contact with facts, acting on an imagination naturally fertile, that we owe his marvellous abundance of incident. Even in.his novels of character there is no meditative and analytic stagnation; the development of character is shown through a rapid unceasing progression of significant facts. This rapidity of movement was perhaps partly the result of his dramatic studies; it was probably in writing for the stage that he learned the value of keeping the attention of his readers incessantly on the alert. The hankering after stage effect, while it saved him from dullness, often betrayed him into rough exaggeration, especially in his comic scenes. But the gravest defect in his work is a defect of temper. His view of human life, especially of the life of women, is almost brutal; his knowledge of frailties and vices is obtruded with repellent force; and he cannot, with all his skill as a story-teller, be numbered among the great artists who warm the heart and help to improve the conduct. But as a moral satirist, which was the function he professed over and above that of a story-teller, he did good service, both indirectly in his novels and directly in his own name.
See Charles L. Reade and Compton Reade, Charles Reade, a Memoir (2 vols., 1837); A. C. Swinburne, Miscellanies (1886); and some recollections by John Coleman, Charles Reade as I knew him (1903).
READING, a municipal, county and parliamentary borough and the county town of Berkshire, England, 36 m. W. by S. of London by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 72,217. It is an important junction on the Great Western system, and has communication southward by a joint line of the South-Western and South-Eastern and Chatham companies. The Kennet and Avon canal, to Bath and Bristol, and the Thames, aHord it extensive connexions by water. It lies in the/3 flat valley of the Thames on the south (right) bank, where' the Kennet joins the main river. The population more than doubled in the last thirty years of the 19th century, and the town is of modern appearance. All the ancient churches are much restored and in part rebuilt. Greyfriars church, formerly monastic, was completed early in the 14th century; and after the dissolution of the monasteries served successively as a town hall, a workhouse and a gaol, bei ng restored to its proper use 939
in 1864. St Mary's is said to have been rebuilt in 1551 from the remains of a nunnery founded by /Elfthryth in expiation of the murder of her stepson Edward the Martyr. St Lawrence's is a large-Perpendicular building, and St Giles's, in Various styles, was much damaged during the siege of the town in 1643 by the parliamentary forces, and is almost wholly rebuilt. A Benedictine abbey was founded at Reading in 1121 by Henry I., and became one of the richest in England, with a church among the largest in the country. Its founder was buried here, but his monument was destroyed in the time of Edward VI. The church was the scene of John of Gaunt's marriage to Blanche of Lancaster in 13 59. By Henry VIII. the abbey was converted into a royal palace, and was so used until its destruction during the civil wars of the 17th century. Little remains of the foundation; only a gateway and a fragment of the great hall, the meeting-place of several parliaments, are of importance. The greater part of the site is occupied by public gardens. The educational establishments are important. The site of an ancient hospice of St John is occupied by the University Extension College. It was opened in 1892, is affiliated to Oxford University, and has accommodation for 600 students, of both sexes, giving instruction in every main branch of higher university education, agriculture, &c. The grammar school, founded in 1485, occupies modern buildings and ranks among the lesser public schools. Archbishop Laud was educated here, and became a generous benefactor of the school. There are also a blue-coat school (1656), and other charitable schools of early foundation. The municipal museum, besides an art gallery and other exhibits, includes a fine collection of Romano-British relics from Silchester, the famous site not far distant in Hampshire. Besides the public grounds on the site of the abbey there may be mentioned Prospect Park of 131 acres, purchased by the Corporation, and Palmer Park, presented by a member of the firm of Huntley & Palmer, together with extensive recreation grounds.,
The industry for which Reading is chiefly famous is the biscuit manufacture, the principal establishment for which is that of Messrs Huntley & Palmer, employing about 5000 hands. In the town and its vicinity are large seed warehouses and testing grounds. There are also iron foundries, engineering works and factories for agricultural implements, and manufactures of tin boxes, sauces, velvet and silk, and sacking, together with riverside boat-building yards. Reading gives title to a suliragan bishopric in the diocese of Oxford. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The municipal borough is under a mayor, ro aldermen and 30 councillors. Area, 5876 acres. Reading (Redinges, Rading, Redding) early became a place of importance. In 871 the Danes encamped here between the Thames and the Kennet, and in 1006 it was burned by Sweyn. It consisted of only thirty houses at the time of the Domesday Survey. There is some reason to think that a fortification existed there before the Conquest, and Stephen probably built a masonry castle which Henry II. destroyed. On the foundation of Reading abbey the town, hitherto demesne of the crown, was granted to the abbey by Henry I. Henceforth, until the 16th century, the chief feature of its history was the struggle as to rights and privileges. This was carried on between the abbey and the merchant gild which claimed to have existed in the time of the Confessor, and the chief officer of which was from the 15th century styled warder or mayor.-A
16th-century account of the gild merchant shows that many trades were then carried on, but Leland says the 'town “ chiefly stondith by clothing.” The story of Thomas Cole, written by Deloney (d. e. 1600) and purporting to refer to the reign of Henry I., indicates that the industry was carried on at an early date. Archbishop Laud was the son of a Reading clothier. By the 17th century the trade was beginning to decline; the bequest of Kendrich “ the Phoenix of worthy Benefactors ” did little to revive it, and it was greatly injured by the Civil War. In the 18th century the chief trade was in malt. The first town charter is that given by Henry III. (1253) on behalf of the “ burgesses in the Gild Merchant, ” which was confirmed and