LANG, John (1817-1864)


LANG, John (1817-1864)
first native-born Australian novelist
was born at Parramatta, probably in 1817. He was educated at Sydney College, and is mentioned in the chapter "My School Days" in Rolf Boldrewood's In Bad Company and Other Stories. Lang could hardly, however, have been at the school with T. A. Browne ("Rolf Boldrewood") (q.v.), as Browne was not born until 1826. Lang went to Cambridge in 1838 and after qualifying as a barrister returned to Australia. In 1842 at a public meeting he seconded a motion proposed by W. C. Wentworth (q.v.), that the Crown be petitioned to grant the colony a representative assembly. A few months later he went to India and was successful as a barrister. He became a journalist and in 1845 established a paper, the Mofussilite, at Meerut. He also wrote some novels which appeared serially in the Mofussilite and in Fraser's Magazine. These began to be published in book form in 1853, The Wetherbys and Too Clever by Half appearing in that year, followed by Too Much Alike (1854), The Forger's Wife (1855), Captain Macdonald (1856), Will he Marry Her (1858), The Ex-Wife (1858), My Friend's Wife (1859), The Secret Police (1859), and Botany Bay; or True Stories of the Early Days of Australia (1859). Some of these were very popular and were often reprinted, the twelfth edition of Too Clever by Half appearing in 1878. Botany Bay has been reprinted several times, sometimes under the titles of Clever Criminals, or Remarkable Convicts. Fisher's Ghost reprints 10 of the 13 stories of Botany Bay. Lang also published Geraldine, A Ballad in 1854, and in 1859 Wanderings in India and other Sketches reprinted from Household Words. He visited London in 1859, and was for a short time at Calcutta where he issued the Optimist. He died at Mussoorie, India, on 20 August 1864.
Author's preface to Botany Bay; Rolf Boldrewood, In Bad Company, p. 365; The Dictionary of Indian Biography; Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; British Museum Catalogue.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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