Read by Christopher Ragland (Unabridged: 1hr 22mins)
William Austin was born on 2nd March 1778 in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.
After being educated at Harvard College, Austin served as the Unitarian chaplain onboard the USS Constitution from 1799 but resigned a year later after they captured a French ship and his share of salvage proceedings was $200. He now gained the acquaintance of one of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who helped him begin his legal studies at London’s Lincoln’s Inn. Whilst there he began his literary career by producing a well-regarded series of ‘Letters from London’, which described and detailed the politics and personalities of the times.
Returning to America, Austin was active in local Boston politics and served in the state senate representing Middlesex during the early 1820s.
Although he was a frequent contributor to local periodicals on various subjects from Unitarian theology to chemistry to legal history, nothing quite approached the popularity of ‘Peter Rugg: The Missing Man’. This story and its sequels, constructed as long letters, were originally published in the New England Galaxy periodical between 1824 and 1827. So credible was his writing premise that they were accepted as a factual recounting of local legends rather than Austin’s fiction.
William Austin died on 27th June 1841.