# 16352

[LANG, John, 1816-64]

[FISHER’S GHOST] Une cause célèbre en Australie. L’esprit.

$750.00 AUD

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IN: L’ami de la maison, Paris : Paulin et Le Chevalier, vol. 1 no 11, March 20 1856, pp161-67 and vol. 1 no. 12, March 27 1856, pp177-82, each part with 3 engraved illustrations; contained within a bound volume of nos. 1-25 (the complete first volume), January-June 1856, quarto, contemporary quarter calf over marbled papered boards (rubbed), spine with gilt lettering and rule, pp 1-404 (last 2 leaves with staining and loss), illustrated, scattered foxing.

The legend of Fisher’s Ghost is based on a true story, the murder of Frederick Fisher by George Worrell in western Sydney in 1827. Worrell was hanged for the crime. The introduction of Fisher’s ghost into the narrative – a plot device which transforms the story into a successful work of fiction – is first evidenced in 1832, when an anonymous version of the story in verse form appeared in the Sydney journal Hill’s Life, under the title The sprite of the creek. In 1836 a second version was published in Tegg’s Monthly Magazine. It was titled Fisher’s Ghost : a legend of Campbelltown, but again the identity of the author remains uncertain. In 1845 John Lang, a barrister considered to be the first Australian-born novelist, published his first version of the story in his Calcutta journal, The Mofussilite, with the simple title A ghost story. Lang’s work was later exposed to a much wider reading audience when it appeared in Charles Dickens’ literary periodical Household Words, in 1853, although it was published anonymously. The unauthorized French version of Lang’s story, Une cause célèbre en Australie : L’esprit, which appeared over two consecutive issues of the Parisian weekly literary magazine, L’ami de la maison, in March 1856, changes the names of the characters and several details in Lang’s storyline. It is accompanied by illustrations of Aboriginal trackers, Sydney Harbour, the Blue Mountains, and the ghost of Fisher himself, leaning against (rather than sitting on) the rail. (The most definitive version of the story of Fisher’s Ghost is John Lang’s slightly later The ghost upon the rail, which appeared in print in 1859 in Botany Bay; or True Stories of the Early Days of Australia). Curiously, authorship of the first part of the French adaptation is credited to ‘E. Jonveaux’, and that of the second to ‘Davésieux’.

L’ami de la maison was a shortlived French literary magazine which was in publication for only a year (volume 1, nos. 1-25, January-June 1856; volume 2, nos. 26-52, July-January 1857). Although the French version of Lang’s work constitutes a significant stage in the evolution of this very early Australian story, the only copy in Australian collections is contained in the set of L’ami de la maison held in the State Library of New South Wales.