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Reading Trivia

Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Reading (HM Prison) from 1895 to 1897. While he was there he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905. After his release he lived in exile in Paris and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, published in 1908.

Jane Austen attended Reading Ladies Boarding School, based in the Abbey Gateway, in 1784-86.

Thomas Hardy painted a rather disparaging picture of the town, lightly disguised as Aldbrickham, in his 1895 novel Jude the Obscure.

T. E. Lawrence lost the first draft of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Reading railway station.

Thomas Noon Talfourd, the judge and dramatist was born in Reading and later became MP for the town.

Mary Russell Mitford lived in Reading for a number of years and then spent the rest of her life just outside the town at Three Mile Cross and Swallowfield.

Charles Dickens was asked to stand as MP for Reading, but declined. He became president of the Reading Athenaeum. In his Bleak House, Esther Summerson goes to school in Reading. His great-granddaughter Monica Dickens died in Reading in 1992.

Jerome K. Jerome did not warm to the town on his famous journey up the Thames in Three Men in a Boat (1888): "The river is dirty and dismal here. One does not linger in the neighbourhood of Reading". He does, however, recognise the historical significance of Reading in local history.

Jasper Fforde set his series of Jack Spratt novels in this town.

The comic novel A Melon For Ecstasy by John Fortune and John Wells is set in and around Reading.

The 1992 radio serialisation of Mark Wallington's Boogie Up The River by the BBC (a modern-day Three Men in a Boat) includes a spoof lament entitled O Caversham Man.

A Reading edition of Monopoly is available (see Localized versions of the Monopoly game). Perhaps surprisingly, given its size and status in the South East, Reading is not yet officially a city, having missed out during the millennium celebrations when the Queen instead granted Brighton & Hove city status in 2000.

The interview show As It Happens, which airs on CBC Radio One in Canada, is notable for its mention of Reading. Frequently, after concluding an interview with someone in the UK, the host will describe the individual in relation to how far they live from Reading. For example, one might hear "That was professional bagpiper William J. Tweed from Biggleswade, which is about 81 miles north of Reading."

In 1974, the BBC filmed The Family in the town. The show, considered to one of the first reality television shows, followed the lives of the Wilkins family.

The roadside chain of restaurants Little Chef began in the town back in 1958. Its first branch was a small eleven-seater venue.

When Ricky Gervais (who comes from Reading) used to perform a stand-up comedy segment on the British TV show The 11 O'Clock Show, he would often (comically) describe the residents of the Reading suburb Whitley as the lowest members of society. This turned Whitley into a household name for the duration of the series.

Reading in Pennsylvania and Reading in Massachusetts are both named after Reading.

It was reported that Reading has 127 different spoken languages within its population, and therefore (for its population size) unrivalled in the world with regards to number of languages spoken in one town.

Summer assizes were moved from Abingdon in 1867, effectively making Reading the county town. However, the Home Office informed the county's court of quarter sessions that in moving the court they had acted ultra vires, and that they were required to petition the privy council to make the change. The petition was duly submitted and the change was officially approved with effect from the summer of 1869.

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