Recognized in his own day as a controversial author of the first rank, Charles Reade produced fourteen novels, twenty-six plays, and over two dozen stories in a career that spanned four decades. Authors of the Victorian era published, according to John Sutherland’s estimate, some 50,000 novels (160). Many of these authors gained little notice at the time and less from posterity. Reade is one of many authors whose work sold in the hundreds of thousands and whose names were known throughout the English-speaking world, but who are now forgotten, their works long out of print.I Yet, so singular were Reade’s achievements and so individual his voice that both his champions and his detractors compared him to George Eliot. Although Henry James referred to him as a “distant kinsman of Shakespeare” (207) and Swinburne felt that his work should “live as long as the English language” (346), the decline in Reade’s critical standing was complete by the end of the nineteenth century.
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- 3.For an excellent discussion of Man and Wife, see Lisa Surridge, “Unspeakable Histories: Hester Dethridge and the Narration of Domestic Violence in Man and Wife” (Victorian Review 22.2, Winter 1996:161–85).Google Scholar
- 4.4. I have not consulted first-hand the critical biography by Leone Rives, Charles Reade: sa vie, ses romans (Paris: Imprimerie Toulousaine, 1940).Google Scholar