« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
NEW SERIES.-No. 6.
CHARLES READE, D.C.L.
The subject of this memoir is the youngest of seven His father, the late John Reade, of Ipsden, was in his day perhaps the most popular and not the least respected of Oxfordshire squires. This Mr. Reade was educated at Rugby, in the days before Rugby obtained intellectual eminence, and at Oriel when the silk gown and velvet cap meant nothing better than unlimited extravagance and positive idleness. Consequently, it is not a matter of wonder that he should have somewhat underrated the value of public school and academical education ; indeed of his septett of sons, albeit he lived within a long drive of the University, and was on terms of friendship with many of its leading members, the last only was permitted to follow intellectual pursuits, and this perhaps was mainly owing to maternal influence. Mr. Charles Reade's earlier impressions, in fact, were, beyond those of most boys, derived from home, and that home, though rural, and perhaps homely, was in every respect highly cultured and elevating. His father had inherited an estate, which was originally a younger son's portion, the elder branches of the House being the Reades of Brockett Hall, Herts, whereof the last Baronet died in Rome in the suite of the Pretender, and the Reades of Shipton Court, also baronets, represented by the present Sir Chandos Reade. The Ipsden property, however, although it was merely a provision for a junior, happens to be of considerable acreage, and is situate in a lovely corner of Oxfordshire, on the Chiltern Hills, the very spot to nurture a great artist. It is a land not only of fallow and meadow, but of grand beech woods--forest would be the truer term—wherein the sportsman can, as the seasons revolve, find inexhaustible delight. The old Squire entertained no higher ambition than to shoot as his forefathers had shot before him. He was cavalier to the backbone, and the descendant of cavaliers, yet paradoxically enough suffered a graft of Puritanism to be inserted on a stock so singularly uncongenial. It was the old story of the attraction of opposites. Shortly after attaining his majority he married a very clever and very earnest woman. The mother of Mr. Charles Reade was the elder daughter of the Major Scott Waring, M.P. for Stockbridge, who played so conspicuous a part in the historical Hastings trial, and immortalised himself—after a fashion-by styling Edmund Burke “that reptile.” This Major, the fidus Achates of a very equivocal Æneas, was profligate not only politically, but morally, and his daughter, distressed by his Bohemianism, found a refuge in the straitest sect of our religion. Grattan called her “ my pretty Methodist," and in her younger days, when she was in the vortex of a type of a society which subsequently culminated in the excesses of the Regency, she had to stand quite enough badinage to indurate her opinions. Hence, after wedding her country Squire, and having abandoned an oppressive gaiety for the scarcely less oppressive solitude of rusticity, she inflicted a mild Calvinism on husband and home. It would be impertinent to intrude so much of mere personal detail in a memoir of a distinguished man were it not that sympathetic natures cannot fail to be influenced by their environment, and that it is not hyperbolical to affirm concerning an author whose handiwork is indelibly connected with the literary history of the century, that he owes much to the atmosphere of home, and especially to the ennobling associations of his ripening life. If among contemporary authors Charles Reade stands almost alone in respect of a gift of intellectual muscularity, it is, doubtless, because he is the blende of a manly father and a brilliant mother. Certainly the society of his earlier hours was the reverse of invertebrate. His mother was perhaps over-appreciative of bishops, and too devoted to dignitaries, yet among her intimes might be reckoned two such opposite thinkers as George Grote and Frederick Faber; above all—more precious than rubiesCharles Reade
blessed with elder sister of almost surpassing virtues, who besides being as' handsome her father and as spirituelle as her mother, exercised a singular fascination upon all who came in contact with her. One may, with safety, hazard a surmise that whenever the subject of this memoir has set to work to delineate the character of a pre-eminently large-souled woman, he must have had in his mind's eye that elder sister of his. This lady married Captain Allen Gardiner, R.N.--the Captain Gardiner who perished of starvation on the shores of Terra Del
Fuego, when endeavouring to establish a mission to the natives, and the legend runs that when the goodly company, consisting of the whole county side, were waiting for the bride, she could nowhere be found. They sought high, they sought low, through straggling old Ipsden House, and at last they discovered her, orange blossoms and all, in the nursery, dressing her little brother Charles, an animosus infans, to whom she was devotedly attached.
Five elder sons having been despatched to India, of whom three clied-one, a cavalry officer, in action, two from the effects of the climate—the mother's son, as Charles emphatically was, received a reprieve from Juggernaut, and after picking up what scholarship could be culled from Evangelical and expensive private tutors, was entered at Magdalen College, Oxford, as Demy, alias Scholar, and in 1835 graduated in the third class in classics, being then twenty-one years of age. Immediately after graduation he obtained his Fellowship, which he has retained to the present date, being now third senior on the list. He has also taken the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. Among his more distinguished contemporaries in the Magdalen Common Room must be enumerated Lord Selborne, Mr. Robert Lowe, Dr. Daubeny, the celebrated chemist and botanist, Professors Mozley and Hansell, and his old and very sincere friend, the President of the College. Mr. Charles Reade, however, although in addition to his College Fellowship, he held for the statutable period the Vinerian Law Fellowship, open to the University at large, never took part in the life of Oxford save and except in the year 1851, when he served the office of Vice-President of Magdalen, and rendered his Society no small service in treating with Lord Russell's Commissioners. His years, in effect, were spent in self-education. At one period he might be found in Scotland, gleaning from observation the material which subsequently was shaped so tenderly and gracefully in “Christie Johnstone." Another period he passed in Paris--he was all through the 1848 Revolution-acquiring the arts of construction and condensation, wherein he possesses no parallel, save Mr. Wilkie Collins, and also in laying the lines of his dramatic celebrity. Then he served an apprenticeship as a connoisseur of violins and pictures, and finally, brimming over with the riches of experience and study-he has always been
model of patient labour, as his loaded shelves of common-place books prove-he poured forth a little of his acquired and natural wealth in “Peg Woffington,”.yet a little more in “Christie Johnstone," and one fine day awoke to discover himself