Mazarine John Lang's 1845 novel.
Disraeli in his preface to Vivian Grey, says, by way of apology for Its republication, 'that books written by boys exhibit a total want of art, for it is a failing incident of all first efforts, and when writers of such books are not again heard of, the works, even if noticed, are soon forgotten and no harm done. But when authors have subsequently become more conspicuous in the literary world their earlier works are read with an interest irrespective of their merit.' Without any amount of vanity or conceit we may say that these remarks are applicable to Mazarine. It was written more than twenty years ago. Since then the author has written other works which have had their 'run', and are still having it with the reading public of Great Britain. To be candid with our subscribers, we owe our liberal publishers Messrs. Routledge, Warne and Routledge, a novel which we have not at present time to compose, and have agreed to give them instead, Mazarine, which we have hitherto refused to reprint, solely because we have concurred with Disraeli on the subject of Boy Books. To again to quote the author of Vivian Grey; 'it is to be hoped that it will be read with an indulgent recollection of the conditions under which it was produced.'
What these conditions were Lang does not say but when he went to India in 1842 he intended to practice as a barrister in Calcutta. There when briefs were in short supply he became editor of The Mofussilite which he founded and of which he eventually became the sole proprietor. His wife and family left him to return to England and he was left to cope with life with little or no money. Lang set out on a tour of the upland parts of northern India which he later published as Wanderings in India and other Sketches of Hindostan. These events are probably what he was referring to as his conditions at the time Mazarine was written.
Although he called this his 'boy book' he was sufficiently proud of it to publish it again in The Mofussilite and to offer it to his London publishers. As far as I can ascertain they did not publish Mazarine unless they did so under a different title. It is an unusual title and is the name of the hero and in a practice now long out of date the three friends in the story called each other by their surnames. In fact their Christian names only appear once. We do learn the name of the woman that Mazarine married, Anne Lindsay, but henceforth she is simply Mrs. Mazarine. When I first saw the name of the story I assumed it was about Cardinal Mazarin in 17th century France. He was the powerful Chief Minister of France under the Regent Catherine de Medici. The French 'Cardinal Mazarin', no 'e', made an enormous fortune in his years in power. But No! it was not so, the story is actually set in 19th century England in 1838, the date specifically noted in the text. At this time John Lang was in England and was still or had been a student at Cambridge University. The three young friends in the novel are students at University and plan a trip up the Rhine River to Heidelburg to improve their German. That is how the story begins and how the hero, Mazarine meets and falls in love with the beautiful Anne Lindsay.
Earlier novels written by Lang were Raymond published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine in 1840, The Legends of Australia Charles Frederick Howard in 1842. Mazarine (1845) was followed by Lucy Cooper in Sharpe's London Magazine in 1846. There were his four short novels of about 30,000 words, written between 1840 and 1846. Those are what Lang was referring to as his 'boy books'.
From the very first number of The Mofussilite John Lang commenced publishing his own works in the newspaper. Mazarine was not the first. Lang began with a series of sketches entitled Jack Weatherly by his brother Jeffrey. Lang was to use 'brother Jeffrey' as a pseudonym on later occasions. These sketches ceased after the seventh and Mazarine then commenced in August 1845. It was completed by the end of the year which was fortunate because Lang then moved the newspaper up country to Umballa and all of the 1846 numbers are missing. However Lang did not acknowledge his authorship of Mazarine or any of his other works in The Mofussilite in 1845.
Mazarine differs from the other three novels because in two of them the action it takes place in England and not Australia. The third is Raymond and although it is set in England the novel is really autobiographical about Lang's boyhood in Sydney but the action is transferred to England. Lang at the time of writing Raymond was in England studying at Cambridge and at The Middle Temple in London to become a barrister.
I call Mazarine a feminist novel because the chief character is not Frederick Mazarine but his wife Anne and I think the novel should have been called 'Mrs. Mazarine'. It is 'feminist' because it depicts Anne Mazarine as an intelligent and beautiful woman who is married to an attractive man very much in love with her. He is only moderately wealthy but gives her everything she wants. It should have been a happy marriage but Anne is bored with the life of 'a lady' with nothing to do to occupy her intelligence. There was nothing of an intellectual kind available to her. So what does she do? She gets into mischief and tries to destroy her husband's friendship with the narrator of the story and eventually runs away with another man. She thus became a 'fallen woman'.
The novel is written in the first person by the narrator who is in love with Anne but does not acknowledge that fact even to himself until near the end of the book. The trouble with writing in the first person by one of the characters is that it is difficult to explain the actions and thoughts of all the characters. This interior view of various actions is limited to one person.
The novel is an advance on Lang's earlier works. It is a more mature tale, Lang begins to display his satiric streak in Charles Frederick Howard the first of his Legends of Australia which shows his early comic mode. There is in Macarine a satirical character, Sir John Barleycorn, but it is a rather restrained example of Lang's sometimes biting satire. This was to later emerge especially in his depiction of older women. He is not satirical about Mrs. Mazarine.
John Lang had been recently separated from his wife who had returned to Europe. It is possible he was using the character of his own wife to compose the portrait of Anne Mazarine. She may also have been a discontented and beautiful woman who could find no satisfactory outlet for her brightness either in colonial Sydney or in nineteenth century India. Perhaps she also found compensation in using her beauty to occupy her time in one of the hill stations in northern India.
Although Lang refers to Mazarine as one of his 'boy books' the work does show his developing maturity in the depiction of character. As well as Anne and her husband there is the character of the narrator, Maxwell. He is not the sort of person to put forward his growing love for his friend's wife but steadfastly attempts to separate himself from her. The trick Anne uses to break up his friendship with Mazarine becomes a mini detective story leading to a possible court case.
There is in my opinion a fault in the ending of the novel although Lang does not fall into the trap of producing a romantic happy ending. He makes a tragedy of it all with both death and madness occurring in a very Byronic fashion. It follows the same ending pattern as Raymond. In spite of the ending the novel is an interesting story and very readable especially in its picture of an intelligent woman who fails to find a satisfactory outlet for her intellect in the social constraints of mid nineteenth century England. The only outlet available was perhaps to write novels like George Eliot. Anne Mazarine was not that sort of person although her skill in constructing anonymous letters might indicate that she could have been successful novelist. John Lang did not think up that occupation for her and if he had done so it would have changed the whole story.
Most important are the comic aspects of his work and the satire in looking at human foibles. This is demonstrated in this novel in the opening chapter when Mazarine takes on some of John Lang's joking attitude and his 'Botany Bay tricks'. In this we can see the early appearance of a certain larrikin trait at the time referred to as 'scampish'. It is amusing to read of the hero, Mazarine, telling the Cockney pawnbroker and his wife various made up tales and legends about the parts of Germany through which they were passing on their trip up the Rhine River. It is very much like John Lang the larrikin.
Thus we can now place Mazarine in the context of John Lang's early works all written long before any of his books were published as novels in London on and after 1853. He did not suddenly appear a fully fledged novelist at the age of thirty seven. He had many years of practice and publication behind him. Mazarine therefore becomes an important early work which includes many of the later aspects of Lang novels.
A note about John Lang's early novels
John Lang, born in Parramatta in 1816 ent to England in 1837 to further his education. He attended Trinity College Cambridge for a time but left 'under a cloud' for 'Botany Bay Wicks' or was 'rusticated' He eventually retreated to London to study law at the Middle Temple and was admitted as a Barrister in 1841. He attempted to continue a career as a writer having a serial Raymond published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1840. However funds were short and Lang returned to Sydney with the wife and daughter he had acquired in England. Back home in Sydney under the eye of his mother Elizabeth Underwood of Ashfield Park, Lang attempted to set up practice as a Barrister in depression ridden New South Wales. His convict background did not assist him in this enterprise and he attempted to capitalise on his writing skills by writing The Legends of Australia intended to be a series of tales about the early colony of New South Wales. Only the first tale, Frederick Charles Howard, was completed and published by James Tegg a Sydney bookseller. After a couple of legal and political gaffs and without any possibility of success as a Barrister or at best only a very distant prospect he packed his bags and with his wife and daughter as well as a newly born son he set sail for Calcutta.
Thus we have as his early works first in 1836 called Violet the Danseuse. A Portrait of Human Passion and Character. (Claimed by John Lang in my biography). Then in 1840 serial Raymond first published as a serial in Blackwood's Magazine followed by The Legends of Australia in 1842. A series of sketches of Jack Weatherly published in The Mofussilite in 1845 preceded the appearance of the complete serial Mazarine. Those are the ones we definitely know about. There are other possible early writings. Some of the stories in Tegg's Magazine 1836 published in Sydney were been written by him. Then in 1845 after the appearance of Mazarine another serial in The Mofussilite called Early Loves Friendships and Follies commenced. This was possibly continued in the lost 1846 issues of The Mofussilite because the first part of the next serial by Lang called Passages in the Life of an Undergraduate is also missing and only the second half appeared in the first issues of 1847.
Thus Mazarine is only one of the early novels by John Lang. They preceded those novels published in London from 1853 which have in the past been considered the commencement of Lang's novel writing career
John Lang Page
This will be a regular feature of Margin to keep you up to date about the reprinting of John Lang books and news about the on-going search for information about John Lang and his life and works.
A PLAQUE IN MEMORY OF JOHN LANG
In the Indian Hill town of Mussoorie where John Lang lies buried a plaque will be unveiled in Christ Church to his memory. The Anglican church is where he was married for the second time and where his funeral service was held in 1864 His grave is in the English cemetery where it is cared for by the group who have carried ot the recent restoration of the church. Rory Medcalf, who recently worked in the Australian High Commission's Office in Delhi has organised the plaque in co-operation with the officiating Clergyman and the Restoration committee
This is the first commemorative plaque to the memory of John Lang. There is not one in Australia--yet!
On the 15th September 2005 There will be held in the National Library of Australia the launch by the Director General of the National Library, Jan Fullerton AO of the biography of John Lang entitled JOHN LANG Australia's Larrikin Writer. Barrister, Novelist, Journalist and Gentleman. written by Victor Crittenden.
Subscribers to Margin are cordially invited to the launch if they are in Canberra at the time 5.30pm 15 September 2005
RSVP please to Margin Box 82 Jamison Centre ACT 2614 or telephone or Fax (02) 62512519
JOHN LANG PORTRAITS
The portrait of John Lang I have used is based on the illustration (frontispiece in his book Travels in India and sketches of life in Hindostan. The 1859 edition). In this picture Lang is seated in a carriage with Nana Sahib on of the leaders during the Indian Mutiny.
There is another portrait of John Lang published in the Mofussilite in 1845. Here he is shown relaxing in his bungalow in Calcutta. This portrait was recently published in Margin.
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|Publication:||M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2005|
|Previous Article:||A triumph of resurrected voices.|