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John George Lang was born at Parramatta, New South Wales, in 1816, the grandson of emancipists. He was educated at Sydney College and matriculated to Trinity College, Cambridge, but was sent down for writing a blasphemous litany. Lang proceeded to read law at the Middle Temple and was called to the bar in 1841. That year Lang returned to Sydney with his wife, Lucy Peterson, whom he had married in 1839, and was admitted as a barrister to the Supreme Court. But Lang's convict ancestry made it difficult to pursue a career in Sydney, and he left for India in 1842. Lang continued to practise law there, and he is remembered for supporting Indian people during British rule. He mastered both Hindi and Persian languages, translating some poetry from Urdu to English, and founded the Mofussilitenewspaper. As it carried anti-government reports, its file copies were destroyed, but more recently it has been re-established by writer/journalist Jai Prakash Uttarakhandi as an English/Hindi weekly to keep Lang's name alive. Lang died under 'mysterious circumstances' at Mussoorie, India, in 1864.
Lang is best known for his volume of stories, Botany Bay, or, True Tales of Early Australia(1859), containing he frequently anthologised 'The Ghost Upon the Rail', which Colin Roderick considers the first account of the story of Fisher's Ghost. Authorship of Legends of Australia (1842) has also been attributed to Lang, making him the first Australian-born novelist. His 1855 novel The Forger's Wife (Assigned to His Wife) draws on his knowledge of the convict assignment system and makes him a forerunner of Caroline Leakey and Marcus Clarke. Most of Lang's writing, however, is not set in Australia. Altogether he published nine novels, a travel book and one collection of stories. He was also a frequent contributor to several periodicals and newspapers.