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Biography John Lang (1816-1864)

John Lang was the first Australian born novelist and the writer of the first Australian international best seller.

John Lang was born in Parramatta New South Wales in 1816, the second son of Walter Lang a Scottish trader and his wife Elizabeth Harris, the Australian born daughter of the First Fleeter John Harris. John Lang was brought up and educated in Sydney at Cape's School and Sydney College. He was a brilliant scholar and won a gold medal for his facility in Latin and Greek. He became fluent in not only these two languages by also in French, German, Persian and Hindustani among other languages. He had an excellent memory and was known for his many tales as well as for his 'Botany Bay tricks.'

Lang published his first poems, novel and stories in 1835-36 while living in Sydney. He travelled to England in 1837 and spent a time at Trinity College, University of Cambridge and then attended the Middle Temple to study law and was admitted to the Bar as a Barrister. He returned to Sydney in an attempt to establish himself as a Barrister. In 1842 he left for Calcutta in India where he worked for the following few years, writing and running his newspaper The Mofussilite.

Masthead of the second issue of the Mofussilite

As a Barrister John Lang achieved fame in India for conducting the defence case for Jottee Persuad, a wealthy Indian banker and organiser of supplies during the Sikh Wars. The East India Company sued Jottee Persuad for fraud in an attempt to avoid paying for his essential services. John Lang's defence case was successful. He also advised and assisted the Rani of Jhansi in her attempt to reverse the East India Company's take over of the state of Jhansi.

Lang spent a few years in England in the 1850s and saw a number of his works published as books and his stories printed in various well known magazines. He retained ownership of The Mofussilite while in England and continued to have his works published in its pages He returned to India in 1859 and resumed editorship of The Mofussilite. He died in 1864 in Mussoorie in northern India where he was buried.


(Self?)Portrait of the 'Mofussilite', aka John Lang reproduced in The Mofussilite in 1845


A full biography of John Lang, written by Victor Crittenden, was published by Mulini Press in 2005.

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Mulini Press, PO Box 82, Jamison Centre ACT 2614, Australia