|Reading Life Outback Tales Project|
The Reading Life Outback Tales Project Early Australian Stories-section seven
John Lang (1816 to 1864) is Australia's first native born novelist with Two Clever by Half (1859). Lang was born in Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. His father was English and his mother was native born. He attended Sydney College and while there produced a well respected translation of Horace's The First Satire. After leaving Sydney College he went to England to attend Cambridge but was expelled for writing an article considered inappropriate (all I can find on this). After Cambridge he studied law at The Middle Temple in London. He returned to Sydney after being admitted to the bar and married well. In 1842 he and his wife moved to Calcutta, India. He founded a very influential newspaper while there and later returned to England where he produced a good quantity of literary works, some of which were published in Charles Dickens's Household Words.
His only work of lasting fame (it is the only one found on Amazon) is Botany Bay; or, True Tales of Early Australia. This 1859 work is a collection of stories about the first convict colony in Australia. Women were in very short supply in the convict colonies and any transported woman was in great demand by Crown officers of the penal colony. "Kate Crawford" is a work of short fiction which reads like journalism. It is an exciting story of how Kate Crawford, a young English woman of 19 from a decent family got transported for 14 years for horse stealing, a hanging offense at the time. This part of the story is interesting enough but "Kate Crawford" gets much more exciting as we see how women were treated aboard the transport ships:
What Kate's sufferings must have been, when she was conscious of what was passing around her, it would, indeed, be difficult to describe. She had not only to bear the companionship of the three hundred degraded wretches who were her fellow--passengers, but to withstand the unseemly attentions of the Navy surgeon, who had charge of the convicts, and who had become enamoured of her extreme beauty. The captain of the vessel, also, fell desperately in love with her, and on several occasions proposed to marry her, abandon the sea, and settle in the colony
As a simple matter of fact, most of the women were from very impoverished backgrounds and many were prostitutes at one point in their lives. Kate is from a much higher social background than the average convict. Once Kate arrives at the colony we quickly are treated to a very well done and credible account of her rise to riches. In the process we learn a good bit about life in the early convict colonies.
As you can see from the passage I quoted, the story is written in a simple direct fashion. There are about ten other stories in the collection all of which can be read online at Project Gutenberg Australia. The best informational resource on John Lang seems to be the entry in the wonderful Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Anyone interested in learning more about Australian convict history really needs to read The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.
This is part of seven of The Reading Life Tales of the Outback Project-