Reading Man not quite the stranger
The Stranger in Reading is a 2005 Two Rivers Press edition of an original 1810 book. It contains 7 letters written, supposedly anonymously, by Reading long-time resident John Man. The book documents Man writing as if a stranger in Reading to a friend in London and includes a modern preface and editorial provided by Adam Sowan. Despite painting a not-quite desirable-place-to-live view of Reading Borough two centruies hence, the book is a thoroughly enjoyable read that has lead to the Wendy House strapline being updated.
The orginal book is prefaced by Sowans description of John Man and then by light, within-letter, explanatory annotations. The main text maintains the original creative punctuation and spelling. Sowan cites one example sentence as containing:
three colons, five semi colons and no fewer than thirty-two commas; yet it is surprisingly readable.
A theme throughout the book is the poor state of the contemporary paving, depite the Reading paving act providing the following penalities:
ten shillings, by every person leaving any carriage in the street, except whilst loading or unloading; driving a wheelbarrow on the footways; throwing dust, dirt, or rubbish in the streets. Five shillings, by all persons neglecting to sweep the foot-paths before their houses every morning (Sundays excepted) before 10 O’clock. pxxx
An enjoyable glimpse into history that has value beyond people who may be interested in Reading’s history alone. I discovered how MP’s were renumerated and elected to parliaiment and how ‘the corporation’ helped run Reading Borough.