HUME, Fergus (1859-1932)

HUME, Fergus (1859-1932)
was born in England on 8 July 1859, the second son of Dr James Hume. Always known as Fergus Hume, his name is sometimes given as Fergus William Hume, but the obituary notice in the Otago Daily Times gave his Christian names as Fergusson Wright. As it also mentioned that a sister of Hume was then on a visit to Dunedin, the paper was in a position to get correct information. Hume was brought to Dunedin when very young by his father, and was educated at the Otago Boys' High School and the university of Otago. He was admitted to the New Zealand bar in 1885, and immediately went to Melbourne, intending to practise his profession. He began writing plays, but found it impossible to persuade the managers of the Melbourne theatres to accept or even read them. Finding that the novels of Gaboriau were then very popular in Melbourne, he obtained and read a set of them and determined to write a novel of a similar kind. The result was The Mystery of a Hansom Cab which had an immediate success when it was published in 1886. In 1888 Hume went to England, settled in Essex, and remained there for the rest of his life, except for occasional visits to France, Italy and Switzerland. For more than 30 years a constant stream of detective novels flowed from his pen. He continued to be anxious for success as a dramatist, and at one time Irving was favourably considering one of his plays, but he died before it could be produced. Hume did not court publicity and little is known of his personal life. The writer of the obituary notice in The Times stated that he was a deeply religious man who in his last years did much lecturing to young people's clubs and debating societies. He died at Thundersley, Essex, on 12 July 1932.
Hume never repeated the success of his first book, of which something like half a million copies were sold in his lifetime, but he had a public for his other books; as many as seven were sometimes published in one year. He was a capable writer of mystery stories, and may be looked upon as one of the precursors of the many writers of detective stories whose work has been so popular in the twentieth century.
Otago Daily Times, 13 July 1932; The Times, 14 July 1932; Introduction to later editions of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab; Who's Who, 1932; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature, which records about 140 books by Hume.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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