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John Lang

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Published : 34 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 19/12/1816
Death : 20/8/1864
Views : 1451

Barrister, journalist, novelist. Born in Parramatta, New South Wales. Student at Sydney College; matriculated at Cambridge, 1838. Admitted at Middle Temple, 1838; called to the bar, 1841. Returned to Sydney. In 1842 went to India, where for the most part he lived thereafter, though he spent some time on the Continent (The Forger's Wife is dated from Vienna) and in England. Practised as barrister; according to Vizetelly (Glances Back through Seventy Years, II, 8-9), his success in pleading the suit of "some millionaire begum" against East India Co. brought him munificent recompense and spread his fame among native princes. In 1845 established the Mofussilite at Meerut; later, for a short time edited the Optimist in Calcutta. Died in Mussoorie, having ruined his health (according to Vizetelly) by yielding to "insatiable craving for champagne". Contributed to Fraser's and Welcome Guest. Author of Wanderings in India, 1859, and ten works of fiction (or semi-fiction). His Anglo-Indian novels include The Wetherbys and Too Clever by Half, both published 1853. His writings connected with Australia were based on actual persons and incidents, usually with names disguised: The Forger's Wife, 1855; Botany Bay, 1859. Among his books with neither India nor Australia as setting was The Secret Police; or, Plot and Passion, 1859. Stated that he was joint author with Tom TayIor of the play Plot and Passion and that that play was dramatized from The Secret Police; Taylor denied both statements (Athenaeum, May 13, May 27, 1871). Some of Lang's books were very popular. Too Clever by Half went through twelve editions by 1878. Botany Bay (below) was frequently reprinted; one London edition was titled Clever Criminals; others were titled Remarkable Convicts; a Melbourne edition (reprinting only ten of the thirteen stories that constitute the book) was titled Fisher's Ghost and Other Stories of the Early Days of Australia.


Lang's "Starting a Paper in India", wrote Dickens to Wills, March 10, 1853 "is very droll—to us," but he objected to the many printers' terms in the article—terms "that the public don't understand, and don't in the least care for". Wills was to revise the article and strengthen it if he could. As it appeared in H.W., the article contained few technical terms; those that were used were paraphrased to make their meaning clear.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Australian Dictionary of Biography

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