E. W. Hornung, 1866-1921


Biographical note

Ernest William Hornung (7 June 1866–22 March 1921), known professionally as E. W. Hornung, was a poet and English author, most famous for writing the A. J. Raffles series of novels about a gentleman thief in late 19th century London.

Hornung spent most of his life in England and France, but in December 1883 left for Australia, arrived in 1884 and stayed for two years where he worked as a tutor at Mossgiel station in the Riverina. Although his Australian experience was brief, it influenced most of his literary work from A Bride from the Bush published in 1899, to Old Offenders and a few Old Scores, which was published after his death. Nearly two-thirds of his 30 published novels make reference to Australian incidents and experiences.

Hornung returned to England in February 1886, and married Constance ("Connie") Aimée Monica Doyle (1868–1924), the sister of his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on 27 September 1893. Hornung worked as a journalist and also published the poems Bond and Free and Wooden Crosses in the newspaper The Times. The character A. J. Raffles, a "gentleman thief", was published first in Cassell's Magazine during 1898 and the stories were later collected as The Amateur Cracksman (1899). Other stories of the series include The Black Mask (1901), A Thief in the Night (1905), and the full-length novel Mr. Justice Raffles (1909). He also co-wrote the play Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman with Eugene Presbrey in 1903.

After Hornung spent time in the trenches with the troops in France, he published Notes of a Camp-Follower on the Western Front in 1919, a detailed account of his time there.

In addition to his novels and short stories Hornung wrote some war verse, and a play based on the Raffles stories was produced successfully. Hornung was much interested in the game of cricket, and was reportedly "a man of large and generous nature, a delightful companion and conversationalist".

The model for Raffles was George Cecil Ives, a Cambridge-educated criminologist and talented cricketer according to Lycett.

See also . . .


A.J. Raffles

Other works


  • Some Persons Unknown [1898]
  • The Young Guard [1919]
  • Old Offenders and a Few Old Scores [1923]
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