[Scanned, edited, and linked by George P. Landow.]

Charles Reade, whose pugnacity of spirit led him more than once into controversy, was no less an impassioned partisan than Kingsley, and not less interested in the conditions which evoked Yeast and Alton Locke. He believed that fiction should be written not merely to entertain and please, but to instruct and edify as well. All of his novels, therefore, even the historical one . . . deal with social questions in a strongly assertive tone. The world of his novels of reform ranged between simple pastoral scenes and the horrors of English prisons and asylums. It is Never Too Late To Mend travels from the Australian gold mines to the prisons of Birmingham. The people of his novels are usually simple folk enough. So far as his reforms go, however, character is subordinate to purpose, though it is woven skilfully enough into his narrative.

The most prominent of his novels of reform consider the most flagrant evils of his time: In the novel mentioned, it is the prison system and the greed of gold; in Hard Cash, the abuses of English asylums; in Put Yourself in His Place, the corruption of the trade unions and the hostility of capital and labor; and in A Woman-Hater, the rural insanitation of which Kingsley had written.

The remarkable feature of these novels was that they were based very largely upon facts. He conducted enormous research in preparation for his writing, and his novels are heavily documented. It is now common knowledge that he gathered all his data into huge commonplace books, and wrote his stories with these before him. His own preface to Hard Cash bears this out, and invites investigation of his notebooks:

Hard Cash, like The Cloister and The Hearth, is a matter-of-fact romance; that is, the fiction built on truths; and these truths have been gathered by long, severe, systematic labor, from a multitude of volumes, pamphlets, journals, reports, blue books, manuscript narratives, letters to living people. [118]


Burris, Quincy Guy. Richard Doddridge Blackmore: His Life and Novels. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1930.

Victorian Web Charles Reade

Last modified 24 June 2004