Fergusson Wright Hume (8 July 1859 – 12 July 1932), known as Fergus Hume, was a prolific English novelist.
Fergus Hume (c.1882)
Hume was born in England, the second son of James Hume. When he was three the family emigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand, where he was educated at Otago Boys' High School and studied law at the University of Otago. He was admitted to the New Zealand bar in 1885. Shortly after graduation Hume relocated to Melbourne, Australia, where he obtained a job as a barristers' clerk. He began writing plays, but found it impossible to persuade the managers of Melbourne theatres to accept or even to read them.
Rise to fame
Finding that the novels of Émile Gaboriau were then very popular in Melbourne, Hume obtained and read a set of them and determined to write a novel of the same kind. The result was The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, set in Melbourne, with descriptions of poor urban life based on his knowledge of Little Bourke Street. It was self-published in 1886 and became a great success. Because he sold the British and American rights for 50 pounds, however, he reaped little of the potential financial benefit. It became the best-selling mystery novel of the Victorian era; in 1990 John Sutherland called it the "most sensationally popular crime and detective novel of the century". This novel inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write A Study in Scarlet, which introduced the fictional consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. Doyle remarked, "Hansom Cab was a slight tale, mostly sold by 'puffing'."
After the success of his first novel and the publication of another, Professor Brankel's Secret (c. 1886), Hume returned to England in 1888. His third novel was titled Madame Midas and it was based on the life of the mine and newspaper owner Alice Ann Cornwell. This book became a play and her estranged husband, John Whiteman, sued over its content.
Hume resided in London for a few years and then moved to the Essex countryside where he lived in Thundersley for 30 years. Eventually he produced more than 100 novels and short stories.
Hume did not seek publicity and little is known of his personal life. The writer of the obituary notice in The Times stated that he was a very religious man who during his last years did much lecturing to young people's clubs and debating societies. He died at Thundersley on 12 July 1932, shortly after completing his last book, The Last Straw.
^Griffiths, D. (2004-09-23). Cornwell [other married names Whiteman, Robinson], Alice Ann (1852–1932), goldmining industrialist and newspaper proprietor. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 9 Dec. 2017, see link
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