Ernest William Hornung Biography & Facts
Ernest William Hornung (7 June 1866 – 22 March 1921) was an English author and poet known for writing the A. J. Raffles series of stories about a gentleman thief in late 19th-century London. Hornung was educated at Uppingham School; as a result of poor health he left the school in December 1883 to travel to Sydney, where he stayed for two years. He drew on his Australian experiences as a background when he began writing, initially short stories and later novels.
In 1898 he wrote "In the Chains of Crime", which introduced Raffles and his sidekick, Bunny Manders; the characters were based partly on his friends Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, and also on the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, created by his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle. The series of Raffles short stories were collected for sale in book form in 1899, and two further books of Raffles short stories followed, as well as a poorly received novel. Aside from his Raffles stories, Hornung was a prodigious writer of fiction, publishing numerous books from 1890, with A Bride from the Bush to his 1914 novel The Crime Doctor.
The First World War brought an end to Hornung's fictional output. His son, Oscar, was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres in July 1915. Hornung joined the YMCA, initially in England, then in France, where he helped run a canteen and library. He published two collections of poetry during the war, and then, afterwards, one further volume of verse and an account of his time spent in France, Notes of a Camp-Follower on the Western Front. Hornung's fragile constitution was further weakened by the stress of his war work. To aid his recuperation, he and his wife visited the south of France in 1921. He fell ill from influenza on the journey, and died on 22 March 1921, aged 54.
Although much of Hornung's work has fallen into obscurity, his Raffles stories continued to be popular, and have formed numerous film and television adaptations. Hornung's stories dealt with a wider range of themes than crime: he examined scientific and medical developments, guilt, class and the unequal role played by women in society. Two threads that run through a sizeable proportion of his books are Australia and cricket; the latter was also a lifelong passion.
Early life: 1866–86
Hornung was born Ernest William Hornung on 7 June 1866 at Cleveland Villas, Marton, Middlesbrough; he was nicknamed Willie from an early age. He was the third son, and youngest of eight children, of John Peter Hornung (1821–86) and his wife Harriet née Armstrong (1824–96). John was christened Johan Petrus Hornung in the Transylvania region of Hungary and, after working in Hamburg for a shipping firm, had moved to Britain in the 1840s as a coal and iron merchant. John married Harriet in March 1848, by which time he had anglicised his name. At the age of 13 Hornung joined St Ninian's Preparatory School in Moffat, Dumfriesshire, before enrolling at Uppingham School in 1880. Hornung was well liked at school, and developed a lifelong love of cricket despite limited skills at the game, which were further worsened by bad eyesight, asthma and, according to his biographer Peter Rowland, a permanent state of generally poor health.When Hornung was 17 his health worsened; he left Uppingham and travelled to Australia, where it was hoped by his family that the climate would be beneficial. On his arrival he was employed as a tutor to the Parsons family in Mossgiel in the Riverina, south-western New South Wales. In addition to teaching, he spent time working in remote sheep stations in the outback and contributing material to the weekly magazine The Bulletin; he also began writing what was to become his first novel. Although he spent only two years in Australia, the experience was "the making of him and ... the making of his career as a writer", according to Rowland. Another biographer, Mark Valentine, wrote that Hornung "seems to have regarded this period as one of the most satisfying of his life".
Return to England: 1886–98
Hornung returned to England in February 1886, before the death of his father in November. From a position of relative prosperity, John's coal and iron business had encountered difficulties and he was in financially straitened circumstances by the time of his death. Hornung found work in London as a journalist and story writer, often publishing his work under a pseudonym, although in 1887 he published his first story under his own name, "Stroke of Five", which appeared in Belgravia magazine. His work as a journalist was during the period of Jack the Ripper and the series of five murders, which were undertaken against a background of rising urban crime in London; it was around this time that Hornung developed an interest in criminal behaviour.Hornung had worked on the novel manuscript he brought back from Australia and, between July and November 1890, the story, "A Bride from the Bush", was published in five parts in The Cornhill Magazine. It was also released that year as a book—his first. The story—described by Rowland as an "assured, graceful comedy of manners"—used Hornung's knowledge of Australia as a backdrop, and the device of an Australian bride to examine British social behaviour; the novel was well received by critics. In 1891 Hornung became a member of two cricket clubs: the Idlers, whose members included Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Barr and Jerome K. Jerome, and the Strand club.Hornung knew Doyle's sister, Constance ("Connie") Aimée Monica Doyle (1868–1924), whom he had met when he visited Portugal. Connie was described by Doyle's biographer, Andrew Lycett, as being attractive, "with pre-Raphaelite looks ... the most sought-after of the Doyle daughters". By December 1892, when Hornung, Doyle and Jerome visited the Black Museum at Scotland Yard, Hornung and Connie were engaged, and in 1893 Hornung dedicated his second novel, Tiny Luttrell, "to C.A.M.D." They were married on 27 September 1893, although Doyle was not at the wedding and relations between the two writers were sometimes strained. The Hornungs had a son, Arthur Oscar, in 1895; while his first name was from Doyle, who was also Arthur's godfather, the boy's middle name was probably after Doyle and Hornung's mutual friend Oscar Wilde and it was by his second name that he was known. In 1894 Doyle and Hornung began work on a play for Henry Irving, on the subject of boxing during the Regency; Doyle was initially eager and paid Hornung £50 as a down payment before he withdrew after the first act had been written: the work was never completed.Like Hornung's first novel, Tiny Luttrell had Australia as a backdrop and also used the plot device of an Australian woman in a culturally alien environment. The Australian theme was present in his next four novels: The Boss of Taroomba (1894), The Unbidden Guest (1894), Irralie's Bushranger (1896) and The Rogue's March (1896). In the last of these Hornung wrote of.... Discover the Ernest William Hornung popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Ernest William Hornung books.