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Letters and Reminiscences of Charles Reade

by Kinahan Cornwallis

I knew Charles Reade in England far back in "the days that are no more," and dined with him at the Garrick Club on the evening before I left London for New York in 1860, when he gave me parting words of good advice and asked me to write to him often. Then he added, "I am very sorry you are going away, my dear boy; but perhaps you are doing a good thing for yourself in getting out of this God-forsaken country. If I were twenty years younger, and enjoyed the sea as you do, I might go with you; but, if travel puts vitality into some men and kills others, I should be one of the killed. What is one man's food is another's poison."

He was my senior by more than twenty years, and no man that I have known well was more calculated to inspire love and respect among his friends. To know him personally, after only knowing him through his writings and his tilts with those with whom he had "a crow to pick," was a revelation. He had the reputation of being always "spoiling for a fight," and the most touchy, crusty, and aggressive author of his time, surpassing in this respect even Walter Savage Landor. But, though his trenchant pen was sometimes made to do almost savage work, it was generally in the chivalric exposure of some abuse or in the effort to redress some grievous wrong. Then indeed he was fired with righteous indignation. The cause had to be a just one, however, before he did battle in its behalf, for no bold champion of the right ever had more sterling honesty and sincerity in his character, or more common sense and less quixotism.

His placid and genial manner and amiable characteristics in his every-day home-life presented a striking contrast to his irritability and indignation under a sense of injury; for whenever he considered himself wronged or insulted his wrath boiled up with the suddenness of a squall at sea. He resented a slight, real or imaginary, with unusual outspokenness and vigor, and said, "I never forgive an injury or an insult." But in this he may have done himself injustice. Generally, he was one of the most sympathetic and even lovable of men, and his pure and resolute manhood appeared in its truest light to those who knew him best.

While genial in disposition, he could not be called either mirthful or jovial, and so could neither easily turn any unpleasant incident off with a joke or be turned off by one. He needed a little more of the easy-going good humor and freedom from anxiety that fat men are popularly supposed to possess to break the force of collisions with the world. Had he been more of an actor and less of a student in the drama of life, he would have been less sensitive.

His conscientiousness and honesty of purpose were really admirable; and rather than break a contract or disappoint any one to whom he had made a promise he would subject himself to any amount of inconvenience. For example, he would, whenever necessary, retire to Oxford and write against time in order to have his manuscript ready for the printer when wanted. Much, too, as he disliked burning the midnight oil or any kind of night-work, and the strain that artificial light imposed upon his eyes, he would write late in his rooms, or read up on subjects he was writing about in the reading-room in the Radcliffe Library building till it closed at ten p.m. He had, it will be seen, a high sense of duty, and "business before pleasure" was a precept he never neglected.

In personal appearance Charles Reade, without being handsome, was strongly built and fine-looking. He was about six feet in height, broad-chested and well proportioned, and without any noticeable physical peculiarity. His head was well set on his shoulders, and, though not unusually small, might have been a trifle larger without marring the symmetry of his figure.

His features were not massive, but prominent, strong, and regular, and his large, keen, grayish-brown eyes were the windows of his mind, through which he looked out upon the world with an expressive, eager, and inquiring gaze, and through which those who conversed with him could almost read his thoughts before he uttered them. He had a good broad forehead, well-arched eyebrows, and straight, dark-brown hair, parted at the side, which, like his entirely unshaven beard, he wore short until late in life. In his dress and manner he was rather négligé than precise, and he bestowed little thought on his personal appearance or what Mrs. Grundy might say. Taking him all in all, the champion of James Lambert looked the lion-hearted hero that he was.

In his personal habits and tastes he was always simple, quiet, regular, and he was strictly temperate. He had no liking for dissipation of any kind. He found his pleasure in his work, as all true workers in the pursuit for which they are best fitted always do. The proper care he took of himself accounted in part for his well-developed muscular system and his good health until within a few years of his death, notwithstanding his studious and sedentary life.

Among literary men he had few intimates, and he was not connected with any clique of authors or journalists. He thought this was one reason why the London reviewers—whom he once styled "those asses the critics"—were so unfriendly toward him. He was not of their set, and some of them regarded him as a sort of literary Ishmael, who had his hand raised against all his contemporaries, a quarrelsome and cantankerous although very able man, and therefore to be ignored or sat down upon whenever possible. He once said, "I don't know a man on the press who would do me a favor. The press is a great engine, of course, but its influence is vastly overrated. It has the credit of leading public opinion, when it only follows it; and look at the rag-tag-and-bobtail that contribute to it. Even the London 'Times' only lives for a day. My books have made their way in spite of the press."

Speaking of publishers, he said, "They want all the fat, and they all lie about their sales. Unless you have somebody in the press-room to watch, it is almost impossible to find out how many copies of a book they print. Then there is a detestable fashion about publishers. I had to fight a very hard battle to get the public to take a novel published by Trübner, simply because he was not known as a novel-publisher; but I was determined not to let Bentley or any of his kidney have all the fat any longer."

Trübner, I may mention, published for him on commission, and under this arrangement he manufactured his own books and assumed all risks.

In the sense of humor and quick perception of the ludicrous he was somewhat deficient, and he was too passionately in earnest and too matter-of-fact about everything ever to attempt a joke, practical or otherwise. Life to him was always a serious drama, calling for tireless vigilance; and he watched all the details of its gradual unfolding with constant anxiety and care, in so far as it concerned himself.

His love for the glamour of the stage led him often to the theatre; but whenever he saw anything "murdered" there, especially one of his own plays, it incensed him, and sometimes almost to fury. He loved music,—not, as he said, the bray of trumpets and the squeak of fiddles, but melody; and occasionally, seated at a piano, he sang, in a voice sweet and low and full of pathos, some tender English ditty.

Charles Reade had a real talent for hard work, not that occasional exclusive devotion to it during the throes of composition to which Balzac gave himself up night and day to an extent that utterly isolated him from the world for the time being, but steady, systematic, willing labor,—a labor, I might say, of love, for he never begrudged it,—which began every morning, when nothing special interfered with it, after a nine-o'clock breakfast and continued until late in the afternoon. He was too practical and methodical to work by fits and starts. Generally he laid down his pen soon after four p.m.; but often he continued writing till it was time to dress for dinner, which he took either at home or at the Garrick Club, as the spirit moved him, except when he dined out, which was not very often,—for, although he was most genial and social in a quiet way among his intimates, he had no fondness for general society or large dinner-parties. Yet his town residence, at No. 6 Bolton Row, was not only at the West End, but in Mayfair, the best part of it; and, although a bachelor to the end of his days, he kept house. He afterwards resided at No. 6 Curzon Street, also in Mayfair, and then took a house at No. 2 Albert Terrace, Knightsbridge, but gave it up not long before his death, which occurred in Blomfield Terrace, Shepherd's Bush, a London suburb.

"This capacity, this zest of yours for steady work," I once remarked to him, "almost equals Sir Walter Scott's. With your encyclopædic, classified, and indexed note-books and scrap-books, you are one of the wonders of literature."

"Well," he replied, "these are the tools of my trade, and the time and labor I spend on them are well invested." Then he went on to say of literary composition, "Genius without labor, we all know, will not keep the pot boiling. But I doubt whether one may not put too much labor into his work as well as too little, and spend too much time in polishing. Rough vigor often hits the nail better than the most studied and polished sentences. It doesn't do to write above the heads or the tastes of the people. I make it a rule to put a little good and a little bad into every page I write, and in that way I am likely to suit the taste of the average reader. The average reader is no fool, neither is he an embodiment of all the knowledge, wit, and wisdom in the world."

He valued success as a dramatic author more highly than as a novelist, and was always yearning for some great triumph on the stage. In this respect he was like Bulwer Lytton, who once said to me, "I think more of my poems and 'The Lady of Lyons' and 'Richelieu' than of all my novels, from 'Pelham' to 'What will he do with it?'" (which was the last he had then written). "A poet's fame is lasting, a novelist's is comparatively ephemeral." Moved by a similar sentiment, Reade once said, "The most famous name in English literature and all literature is a dramatist's; and what pygmies Fielding and Smollett, and all the modern novelists, from Dickens, the head and front of them, down to that milk-and-water specimen of mediocrity, Anthony Trollope, seem beside him!"

He had little taste for poetry, because of his strong preference for prose as a vehicle of thought and expression. He, however, greatly admired Byron, Shelley, and Scott, and paid a passing compliment to Swinburne, except as to the too fiery amatory ardor of his first poems; but he considered Tennyson, with all his polish, little better than a versifier, and said his plays of "Dora" and "The Cup" would have been "nice enough as spectacles without words." For those great masters of prose fiction and dramatic art, Victor Hugo and Dumas père, he had unbounded admiration, and of the former in particular he always spoke with enthusiasm as the literary giant of his age, and to him, notwithstanding his extravagances, assigned the first place among literary Frenchmen. Dumas he ranked second, except as a dramatist; and here he believed him to be without a superior among his contemporaries.

For several years after I came to New York Charles Reade and I kept up a close friendly correspondence, and he sent me proof-sheets of "The Cloister and the Hearth" in advance of its publication in England, so that the American reprint of the work might appear simultaneously therewith, which it did through my arrangements with Rudd & Carleton. He also sent me two of his own plays,—"Nobs and Snobs" and "It is Never Too Late to Mend," drawn from his novel of that name,—in the hope that the managers of some of the American theatres would produce them; but, notwithstanding their author's fame, their own superior merit, and my personal efforts, the expectation was disappointed, owing, as Mr. Reade said, to their preferring to steal rather than to buy plays,—a charge only too well sustained by the facts. Another play, written by a friend of his, that he sent me, met with a like reception.

The first letter I received from Charles Reade after my arrival in New York ran thus:

"6 Bolton Row, Mayfair, July 14 [1860].

"Dear Cornwallis,—I was much pleased to hear from you, and to find you were one of the editors of the 'New York Herald.' A young man of talent like you ought to succeed, when so many muffs roll in one clover-field all their days.

"Not to be behindhand in co-operating with your fortunes, I called on Trübner at once about your Japanese letters....

"If you will be my prime minister and battle the sharps for me over there, I shall be very glad. I am much obliged by your advice and friendly information. Pray continue to keep me au fait.

"My forthcoming work, 'The Eighth Commandment,' is a treatise. It is partly autobiographical. You shall have a copy....

"I should take it very kindly of you if you would buy for me any copies (I don't care if the collection should grow to a bushel of them, or a sack) of any American papers containing characteristic matter,—melodramas, trials, anything spicy and more fully reported than in the 'Weekly Tribune,' which I take in. Don't be afraid to lay out money for me in this way, which I will duly repay; only please write on the margin what the paper contains that is curious. You see I am not very modest in making use of you. You do the same with me. You will find I shall not forget you.

"Yours, very sincerely,

Charles Reade."

In a letter dated February 8, 1861, he wrote me, "Your London publishers sent me a copy of your narrative of your tour with the Prince of Wales" ("Royalty in the New World, or The Prince of Wales in America"), "which I have read with much pleasure....

"I have on hand just now one or two transactions which require so much intelligence, firmness, and friendly feeling to bring them to a successful issue that, as far as I am concerned, I would naturally much rather profit by your kind offer than risk matters so delicate in busy, careless, and uninventive hands. I will, therefore, take you at your word, and make you my plenipotentiary.

"I produced some time ago a short story, called 'A Good Fight,' in 'Once a Week.' I am now building on the basis of that short tale a large and very important mediæval novel in three volumes" ("The Cloister and the Hearth"), "full of incident, character, and research. Naturally, I do not like to take nothing for manuscript for, say, seven hundred pages at least of fresh and good matter. But here pinches the shoe.... Please not to show this to any publisher, but only the enclosed, with which you can take the field as my plenipotentiary. I think this affair will tax your generalship. I shall be grateful in proportion as you can steer my bark safe through the shoals. Shall be glad to have a line from you by return, and will send a part of the sheets out in a fortnight. I think you may speak with confidence of this work as likely to produce some sensation in England."

In July he wrote, "You had better agree with them" (Rudd & Carleton) "for twenty per cent., and let me take care of you, or I foresee you will get nothing for your trouble. I only want fifteen for myself, and a true return of the copies sold. That is where we poor authors are done. Will you look to that? I have placed five pounds to your credit,—this with the double object of enabling you to buy me an American scrap-book or two (no poetry, for God's sake!) of newspaper-cuttings, and also to reimburse a number of little expenses you have been at for me and too liberal to mention."

On September 12, 1861, he wrote, "I send you herewith the first instalment of early sheets of my new novel. The title is 'The Cloister and the Hearth.' I am ashamed to say the work will contain fifteen hundred of these pages. If you are out of it, I will take fifteen per cent.; if you are in it, twelve. But I look to you to secure a genuine return, for that is the difficulty with these publishers. There is considerable competition among publishers here to have the book, and I am only hanging back to get you out the sheets. Now you know the number of pages (for the work is written), it would be advisable to set up type."

On September 26, 1861, he wrote, "As we shall certainly come out next week, I shall be in considerable anxiety until I hear from you that all the instalments sent by me have safely arrived and are in type. To secure despatch, I have sent them all by post, and, owing to the greediness of the United States government, it has cost me five pounds. I do not for a moment suppose the work will sell well during the civil war; but it is none the less important to occupy the shops with it, and then perhaps on the return of peace and the fine arts it will not be pirated away from us. I hope I have been sufficiently explicit to make you master of this book's destiny."

On October 18, 1861, he wrote, "We have now been out a fortnight, and, as it is my greatest success, we are gone coons if you are not out by this time."

A week later his uneasiness had been allayed by a letter from me announcing the publication of the work in New York, and he wrote, "I think you have done very well, considering the complicated difficulties you have had to contend against in this particular transaction. The work is quite the rage here, I assure you. We sold the first edition (a thousand) at one pound eleven shillings and sixpence in one fortnight from date of publication, and have already orders for over two hundred of the second at same price, which we are now printing.

"I will this day place in S. Low's hands for you the manuscript of 'Nobs and Snobs,' a successful play of mine, luckily unpublished. Treat with a New York manager or a Boston manager for this on these terms. Sell them the sole use of it in one city only for ten dollars per night of representation, the play not to be locked up or shelved, but to return to you at the conclusion of the run."

Then follows a "sketch of agreement" to be made with managers; for in all business-matters he was extremely particular, and sometimes needlessly anxious about trifles.

In the same letter he went on to remark, "I say ten dollars as being enough and not a halfpenny too much. It is all I ask. If you can get fifteen dollars on these terms, pocket the balance. But never sell the provincial right to a New York manager. It is worth a great deal more than the New York right, properly worked. It is no use showing it to Laura Keene. I spoke to her in England about it.

"With many thanks for your zeal and intelligence, and hoping that we may contrive, somehow or other, one day or other to make a hit together, I am yours, etc."

On November 19, 1861, he wrote, "Now for your book. Trübner is fair-dealing, but powerless as a publisher. All the pushing is done by me. I have had a long and hard fight to get the public here to buy a novel published by him, and could hardly recommend another to go through it. If done on commission and by Trübner, I could take it under my wing in the advertisements.

"Next week I expect to plead the great case of Reade v. Conquest" (manager of the Grecian Theatre, London) "in the Court of Common Pleas. If I win, I shall bring out my drama 'Never Too Late to Mend' and send it out to you to deal with. Please collect Yankee critiques (on 'The Cloister and the Hearth') for me; the more the better."

On November 1, 1861, he wrote, "I send you 'Saunders & Otley's Monthly,' containing an elaborate review of 'The Cloister,' etc. I don't know the writer, but he seems to be no fool. I do hope, my dear fellow, you will watch the printers closely, and so get me some money, for I am weighed down by law-expenses,—Reade v. Bentley, Reade v. Lacy, Reade v. Conquest,—all in defence of my own. And don't trust the play above twenty-four hours out of your own hand. Theatricals are awful liars and thieves. I co-operate by writing to Ticknors and H—— not to pirate you if they wish to remain on business terms with me. Second edition all but gone; third goes to press Monday. Everybody says it is my best book."

On the next day he wrote, "I am a careful man, and counted every page I sent you, and sealed and posted them with my own hand. I am quite satisfied with the agreement with Rudd & Carleton, if there is to be no false printer's return. The only thing that makes me a little uneasy is your apparent confidence that they could not cheat us out of twenty thousand dollars by this means if extraordinary vigilance were not used. They can, and will, with as little remorse as a Newgate thief would, unless singular precautions are used. If I was there I would have a secret agent in the printing-house to note each order, its date and amount, in writing. The plates being yours, you have, in fact, a legal right to inspect the printer's books. But this is valueless. The printer would cook his books to please the publisher. You can have no conception of the villany done under all these sharing agreements. But forewarned forearmed. Think of some way of baffling this invariable fraud. Ask a knowing printer some way. Do anything but underrate the danger.

"The importance of the work not being the least foreseen, I believe Rudd & Carleton have 'The Cloister' all to themselves.... Every American who has seen Ticknors' returns assures me they are false, and ridiculously so. It goes against my heart to believe it, but everybody is seldom wrong. My opinion is they will all make a false return if they can. Verbum sap. And now, my dear boy, let me thank you for all the trouble you have taken in this complicated affair, and assure you that if I am anxious for a just return it is partly in order that I may be in a position to take care of you. For I am sure if I don't nobody else will.

"'Nobs and Snobs,' a play, has gone out in Low's parcel. If the managers will be quick, you can make this copyright by not calling it 'Honor before Titles'" (the sub-title under which it had been copyrighted in England). "Then, to bind the thing together, I write a different conclusion to the second act, and send it you enclosed. It is hasty, but it will do; and if you can get Jem Wallack to play Pierre, he will do wonders with the change from drunkenness to sobriety and then to incipient madness. The only stage directions required will occur at once to you. Drop should fall on Pierre with a ghastly look, like a man turned to stone, between the two females. I now close, wishing us both success in this attempt to open new veins of ore. I have other plays in manuscript, and one in progress."

On November 9 he wrote under a misapprehension of the terms of an agreement about which I had written to him, and evinced his usual anxiety and impatience when anything seemed to go wrong. If, said he, this and that happens, "Rudd & Carleton can swindle us out of every dollar. I confess this stipulation terrifies me. If you have not done so, for God's sake draw a written agreement in these terms. I shall pass a period of great anxiety until I hear from you. But, for heaven's sake, a written agreement, or you will never get one halfpenny. These fears seem ungracious, after all the trouble you have taken. But it is a most dangerous situation, and not to be remained in a day or an hour. Draw on Rudd & Carleton as soon as ever you can."

On the 9th of December following he had heard from me again, and found he was mistaken. He wrote, "I am in receipt of your last, which is very encouraging. You were quite right to do as you did. Give Rudd & Carleton no loop-hole. They will soon owe us a good round sum, and will writhe like Proteus to escape paying it."

On January 17, 1862, he wrote, "It puts me in some little doubt whether to take your book 'Pilgrims of Fashion' to Trübner or Low. Low will sell more copies if he tries, but he will charge more percentage, and I shall not be able to creep you in among my own advertisements. However, you give me discretion, and I shall look to your advantage as well as I can. To-day I had to argue the great case of Reade v. Conquest. I argued it in person. Judgment is deferred. The court raised no grave objections to my reasoning, but many to the conclusions of defendant's counsel: so it looks pretty well.

"As to 'Nobs and Snobs,' I know the theatrical managers: they will not deal except with thieves, if they can help it. Keep it ten years, if necessary, till some theatre will play it. You will find that all those reasons they have given you will disappear the moment it is played in England, and then the game will be to steal it. Copyright it in your name and mine, if a manuscript can be so protected, and I will enter it here in my name and yours.

"Considering the terrible financial crisis impending over the United States, I feel sad misgivings as to my poor 'Cloister.' It would indeed be a relief if the next mail would bring me a remittance,—not out of your pocket, but by way of discount from the publishers. I am much burdened with lawsuits and the outlay, without immediate return, of publishing four editions" (of "The Cloister and the Hearth"). "Will you think of this, and try them, if not done already? Many thanks for the scrap-book and for making one. Mind and classify yours. You will never regret it. Dickens and Thackeray both offer liberally to me for a serial story." (Dickens then edited "All the Year Bound," and Thackeray "The Cornhill Magazine.")

On January 27, 1862, he wrote, "The theatrical managers are all liars and thieves. The reason they decline my play is, they hope to get it by stealing it. They will play it fast enough the moment it has been brought out here and they can get it without paying a shilling for it. Your only plan is to let them know it shall never come into their hands gratis."

In a letter undated, but written in the same month, he wrote, "My next story" ("Very Hard Cash"). "This is a matter of considerable importance. It is to come out first in 'All the Year Round,' and, foreseeing a difficulty in America, I have protected myself in that country by a stringent clause. The English publishers bind themselves to furnish me very early sheets and not to furnish them to any other person but my agent. This and another clause enable me to offer the consecutive early sheets to a paper or periodical, and the complete work in advance on that to a book-publisher. I am quite content with three hundred pounds for the periodical, but ask five per cent. on the book. It will be a three-volume novel,—a story of the day, with love, money, fighting, manoeuvring, medicine, religion, adventures by sea and land, and some extraordinary revelations of fact clothed in the garb of fiction. In short, unless I deceive myself, it will make a stir. Please to settle this one way or other, and let me know. I wrote to this effect to Messrs. Harper. Will you be kind enough to place this before them? If they consent, you can conclude with them at once."

Messrs. Harper Brothers had always dealt very generously and courteously toward Mr. Reade, and they were offered "The Cloister and the Hearth" in the first instance, but did not feel willing to pay as high a royalty as Messrs. Rudd & Carleton did, in the then depressed condition of the book-trade and in view of their having previously published and paid for "A Good Fight," and hence the agreement made with the latter firm. They evinced a spirit of kind forbearance in refraining from printing a rival edition of the work, and Mr. Reade remained on very friendly terms with them to the end of his days.

On February 13, 1862, he wrote from Magdalen College, Oxford, "I have defeated Conquest, and am just concluding the greatest drama I ever wrote,—viz., my own version of 'Never Too Late to Mend.' I will send you out a copy in manuscript, and hold back for publication. But I fear you will find that no amount of general reputation or particular merit of the composition offered will ever open the door of a Yankee theatre to a dramatic inventor. The managers are 'fences,' or receivers of stolen goods. They would rather steal and lose money than buy and make it. However, we will give the blackguards a trial."

On March 22, 1862, he wrote, "Only yesterday I wrote to you in considerable alarm and anxiety. This anxiety has been happily removed by the arrival of your letter enclosing a draft for the amount and Rudd & Carleton's account up to date. I think you showed great judgment in the middle course you have taken by accepting their figures on account. All that remains now is to suspect them and to watch them and get what evidence is attainable. The printers are better than the binders for that, if accessible. But I know by experience the heads of the printing-house will league with the publisher to hoodwink the author. I have little doubt they have sold more than appear on the account."

On March 7, 1862, he wrote, "Many thanks, my dear fellow, for your zeal; rely on it, I will not be backward in pushing your interests here, and we will have a success or two together on both sides of the Atlantic. I mean soon to have a publishing organ completely devoted to my views, and then, if you will look out sharp for the best American books and serial stories, I think we could put a good deal of money into your hands in return for judgment, expedition, and zeal."

On March 28, 1862, he wrote, "You are advertised with me this week in the 'Saturday' and 'London' Reviews. Next week you will be in the 'Athenæum,' 'Times,' 'Post,' and other dailies. The cross-column advertisements in 'Athenæum' cost thirty shillings, 'Literary Gazette' fifteen shillings, and so on. You will see at once this could not have been done except by junction. I propose to bind in maroon cloth, like 'The Cloister:' it looks very handsome. I congratulate you on being a publicist. Political disturbances are bad for books, but journals thrive on them. Do not give up the search for scrap-books, especially classified ones."

He wrote me on April 2, 1862, "This will probably reach you before my great original drama 'It is Never Too Late to Mend,' which has gone by a slower conveyance. When you receive, please take it to Miss Kean" (Laura Keene), "and with it the enclosed page. You will tell her that, as this is by far the most important drama I have ever written, and entirely original, I wish her to have the refusal, and, if she will not do it herself, I hope she will advise you how to place it. Here in England we are at the dead-lock. The provincial theatres and the second-class theatres are pestering me daily for it. But I will not allow it to be produced except at a first-class theatre. I have wrested it by four actions in law and equity from the hands of pirates, and now they shall smart for pirating me. At the present time, therefore, any American manager who may have the sense and honesty to treat with me will be quite secure from the competition of English copies. I have licked old Conquest, and the lawyers are now fighting tooth and nail over the costs. The judges gave me one hundred and sixty pounds damages, but, as I lost the demurrer with costs, the balance will doubtless be small. But, if the pecuniary result is small, the victory over the pirates and the venal part of the press is great."

He wrote on May 30, 1862, "As for writing a short story on the spur, it is a thing I never could do in my life. My success in literature is owing to my throwing my whole soul into the one thing I am doing. And at present I am over head and ears in the story for Dickens" ("Very Hard Cash"). "Write to me often. The grand mistake of friends at a distance is not corresponding frequently enough. Thus the threads of business are broken, as well as the silken threads of sentiment. Thanks about the drama" ("It is Never Too Late to Mend"). "I have but faint hopes. It is the best thing I ever wrote of any kind, and therefore I fear no manager will ever have brains to take it."

On June 20, 1862, he wrote of his forthcoming story, "Between ourselves, the story" ("Very Hard Cash") "will be worth as many thousands as I have asked hundreds. I suppose they think I am an idiot, or else that I have no idea of the value of my works in the United States. I put 6 Bolton Row" (the usual address on his letters) "because that is the safest address for you to write to; but in reality I have been for the last month, and still am, buried in Oxford, working hard upon the story. My advice to you is to enter into no literary speculations during this frightful war. Upon its conclusion, by working in concert, we might do something considerable together."

On August 5, 1862, he wrote from Magdalen College, where he was to remain until the 1st of October, "I shall be truly thankful if you postpone your venture till peace is re-established. I am quite sure that a new weekly started now would inevitably fail. You could not print the war as Leslie and Harper do, and who cares for the still small voice of literature and fiction amongst the braying of trumpets and the roll of drums? Do the right thing at the right time, my boy: that is how hits are made. If you will postpone till a convenient season, I will work with you and will hold myself free of all engagements in order to do so. I am myself accumulating subjects with a similar view, and we might do something more than a serial story, though a serial story must always be the mainspring of success."

He wrote on September 6, 1862, "I am glad you have varied your project by purchasing an established monthly" ("The Knickerbocker Magazine") "instead of starting a new weekly. I will form no new engagements nor promise early sheets without first consulting you. I will look out for you, and as soon as my large story is completed will try if I cannot do something for you myself."

On the 29th of June, 1863, he wrote, "I am much pleased with your 'Knickerbocker Magazine,' and cannot too much admire your energy and versatility. Take notice, I recommended you Miss Braddon's works while they were to be had for a song. 'Lost and Saved,' by Mrs. Norton, will make you a good deal of money if you venture boldly on it and publish it. It is out-and-out the best new thing, and rather American. If you hear of any scrap-books containing copious extracts from American papers, I am open to purchase at a fair price, especially if the extracts are miscellaneous and dated, and, above all, if classified. I shall, also be grateful if you will tell me whether there is not a journal that reports trials, and send me a specimen. Command me whenever you think I can be of an atom of use to you."

Charles Reade's letters were always highly characteristic of him. In these he mentally photographed himself, for he always wrote with candid unreserve, whether to friend or foe, and he liked to talk with the pen. Both by nature and education he was fitted for a quiet, studious, scholarly life, and with pen and paper and books he was always at home. He liked, too, at intervals the cloister-like life he led at Magdalen College. With nothing to disturb him in his studies and his work, with glimpses of bright green turf and umbrageous recesses and gray old buildings with oriel windows that were there before England saw the Wars of the Roses, his environment was picturesque, and his bursar's cap and gown became him well, yet seemed to remove him still further from the busy world and suggest some ecclesiastical figure of the fifteenth century. He was a D.C.L., and known as Dr. Reade in the college, just as if he had never written a novel or a play and had been untrumpeted by fame.

There, in his rooms on "Staircase No. 2," with "Dr. Reade" over the door, he labored con amore. Indeed, he was amid more congenial surroundings and more truly in his element in the atmosphere of the ancient university than in London or anywhere else. By both nature and habit he was more fitted to enjoy the cloister than the hearth, although he by no means undervalued the pleasures of society and domestic life. The children of his brain—his own works—seemed to be the only ones he cared for; and, loving and feeling proud of his literary family, he was mentally satisfied. Yet no man was a keener observer of home-life, and his portraiture of women and analysis of female character, although unvarying as to types, were singularly true and penetrating. His Fellowship was the principal cause of his never marrying, the next most important one being that he was always wedded to his pen; and literature, like law, is a jealous mistress. He had some idea of this kind when he said, "An author married is an author marred,"—an adaptation from Shakespeare, who was ungallant enough to say, "A young man married is a man that's marred." But a good and suitable wife would have given éclat to his social life.

His splendid courage and the manliness of his character always commanded admiration, and his hatred of injustice and wrong, cant and hypocrisy, was in harmony with the nobility and passionate earnestness of his nature. He was the friend of the workingman, the poor, and the oppressed; and he exposed the abuses of jails and lunatic-asylums and trades-unions, and much besides, in the interest of humanity and as a disinterested philanthropist. He fought, too, the battles of his fellow-authors on the copyright questions with the same tremendous energy that he displayed in his struggles for practical reform in other directions; and as a practical reformer through his novels he, like Dickens, accomplished a great deal of good. When moved by strong impulses in this direction, he seemed indeed to write with a quivering pen, dipped not in ink, but in fire and gall and blood, and to imbue what he wrote with his own vital force and magnetic spirit.

Measuring his literary stature at a glance, it must, however, be admitted that, notwithstanding his high average of excellence, he was a very uneven writer, and hence between his worst and his best work there is a wide distance in point of merit. But the best of his writings as well deserves immortality as anything ever penned in fiction. Although inferior to them in some respects, he was superior in epigrammatic descriptive power to the most famous of his English and French contemporaries, and particularly in his descriptions of what he had never seen or experienced, but only read about. Take, for instance, his Australian scenes in "It is Never Too Late to Mend," where the effect of the song of the English skylark in the gold-diggings is told with touching brevity and pathos. Yet all his information concerning Australia had been gained by reading newspaper correspondence and books on that country. He made no secret of this, and said in substance, as frankly as he spoke of his scrap-books, "I read these to save me from the usual trick of describing a bit of England and calling it the antipodes." He could infuse life into the dry figures of a blue-book; but in the mere portraiture of ordinary conventional society manners, free from the sway of strong passions and emotions, he did not greatly excel writers of far inferior ability. He had the graphic simplicity and realism of De Foe in describing places he had never seen; and as the historian of a country or a period in which he felt interested he would have been unusually brilliant, for he was an adept in picturesque condensation, and knew how to improve upon his originals and use them without copying a word. He was a master of vigorous English.