In the Court of the Ranee of Jhansi

June 12, 2015

Novelist, intrepid traveller, barrister-at-law, newspaper editor and uninhibited gossip, John Lang lived for a number of years in pre- and post-Mutiny British India, and his writings constitute some of the most vivid records of the time.

Lang describes his meeting with the Ranee of Jhansi—soon to become the focal point of the rebellion—as well as his counsel to her; he also chronicles the wondrous and tragic life of ‘Black and Blue’, a boy of mixed British and Indian parentage, and his claims to a peerage in England. And, narrating a march in the Upper Provinces, Lang provides an eyewitness account of eight thousand monkeys, gathered in Deobund for a clan meeting.

Written with a historian’s sense of detail, a raconteur’s delight in the unexpected, and a keen sense of the absurd, John Lang’s travel diary is a riveting read.

The Himalaya Club

May 6, 2015

‘Mrs Merrydale went off with Lieutenant Maxwell, leaving her children under the care of the servants, until her husband came to take them away. Mrs Hastings, who used to bore us about
the duties of a wife, carried off that silly boy Stammersleigh. These elopements led to two actions in H.M. Supreme Court of Calcutta…’

Born in Australia in 1816, John Lang—novelist, newspaper editor and barrister, now best known for having defended the Rani of Jhansi in court against the British East India Company—spent a large part of his life in India, and died in Mussoorie in 1864. A keen traveller and observer of human nature, Lang was also a raconteur par excellence.

The Himalaya Club and Other Entertainments from the Raj brings together a selection of Lang’s sketches of life in nineteenth-century British India—the scandals of the summer season in Mussoorie; a farcical court-martial conducted in the sweltering Indian summer; the curious case of an inebriated valet occupying Lord Jamleigh’s bed in Bijnore; sundry diversions in Kussowlie and Simlah; and a hilarious account of Lang’s drunken travels in the interiors of Kumaon with a party of Europeans.

Writing with a storyteller’s flair, extraordinary attention to detail, and with a waspish sense of humour, John Lang brings to life the early years of the British Raj as few other writers have.

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