Charles, an English novelist, born at Ipsden, Oxfordshire, in 1814. He graduated in 1835 at Magdalen college, Oxford, where he was elected to one of the Vinerian fellowships in 1842. In 1843 he was called to the bar by the society of Lincoln's Inn, but soon after gave his attention wholly to literature. In 1847 he received the degree of D. C. L. from his university. Among his earliest literary efforts was a drama in five acts, entitled "Gold," which appeared in 1850. In 1852 he published his first story, "Peg Woffington," which immediately gave him rank as a writer of fiction, and in the following year "Christie Johnstone," which met with still greater favor. These stories are simple in plot and unpretentious in design, but are full of dramatic force, rich in incident, and marked by a peculiar tenderness and pathos. In 1854, in conjunction with Mr. Tom Taylor, he published a volume of plays, containing "Masks and Faces," the plot of which is identical with that of "Peg Woflington," "Two Loves and a Life," and "The King's Rival." "Clouds and Sunshine" and "Art, a Dramatic Tale," two novel-lettes, appeared in 1855. All these works were received with a flattering welcome, and in 1856 he published a more ambitious novel, entitled "It is Never too Late to Mend," in which he aimed to show the possibility of the reformation of a criminal.
This, which was the first of a series of romances, each written to illustrate some social or public wrong, aroused attention to the brutalities of the English prison system, and was instrumental in effecting their amelioration. His later works are: "The Double Marriage, or White Lies," "The Course of True Love never did run Smooth," "Propria Quae Maribus, and the Box Tunnel" (1857); "Cream: Jack of all Trades," and the "Autobiography of a Thief" (1858); "Love me Little, Love me Long," and "A Good Fight and other Tales" (1859); "The Eighth Commandment" (1860); "The Cloister and the Hearth, or Maid, Wife, and Widow" (1861); "Hard Cash" (1863); "Griffith Gaunt, or Jealousy" (1866); "Foul Play," in connection with Dion Boucicault (1868); "Put Yourself in his Place" (1870); "A Terrible Temptation" (1871); "The Wandering Heir" (1872); "A Simpleton: a Story of a Day" (1874); and "A Hero and a Martyr" (1875). Of these, "The Cloister and the Hearth" incorporates the greater part of a previous story, "A Good Fight," but the plot soon changes and justifies the secondary title of "Maid, Wife, and Widow." The chief characters, Gerard and Margaret, are the parents of Erasmus. "Hard Cash" was written with the object of calling attention to the abuses of lunatic asylums; and so forcibly did he put the facts which he had gathered that it awakened official investigation and led to a change in the English lunacy laws. "Put Yourself in his Place" is an exposure of the system of terrorism, vulgarly called "rattening," practised by the trades unions in English manufacturing towns for the intimidation of independent workmen.
Many of Mr. Reade's stories have been successfully dramatized, and nearly all of them have been translated into the different languages of Europe. Mr. Reade's style is characterized by great terseness and vigor, and by a wealth of incident which few writers of fiction have possessed; and though marred by occasional peculiarities, which in some instances degenerate into literary trickery, it has won him great popularity and a place among the foremost novelists of the age.
William Winwood, an English traveller, nephew of the preceding, born at Ipsden, Oxfordshire, in 1839, died at Wimbledon, April 24, 1875. He visited the west coast of Africa first in 1862-'3, and on his return published "Savage Africa: a Narrative of a Tour in Equatorial, Southwestern, and Northwestern Africa" (1863). In 1868-'70 he again visited the west coast, penetrated inland by a new route from Sierra Leone to the source of the Niger, established friendly relations between that colony and the native powers 450 m. from the coast, and proved that the Niger has its rise in the same range of mountains as the Senegal and the Gambia. (See Niger.) He soon after published "The Martyrdom of Man " (1872) and "The African Sketch Book" (1873). In 1873-'4 he accompanied the Ashan-tee expedition as special correspondent of the London "Times," and incurred the disease which resulted in his death. His "Story of the Ashantee Campaign" was published in 1875. Mr. Reade was also the author of several novels: "Charlotte and Myra" and "Liberty Hall, Oxon." (1859); "The Veil of Isis, or the Mysteries of the Druids" (1861); "See-Saw, by Francesco Abati, edited by W. W. Reade" (1865); and "The Outcast" (1875).