born at Selkirk, was educated at St Andrews University and became a fellow of Merton College, Oxford. In 1875 he settled in London, becoming one of the most prolific and versatile writers of his day.
His first book of verse, Ballads and Lyrics of Old France (1872), was followed by several others, including Ballades in Blue China (1880, 1881). Many of his poems were written in the old French forms of rondeau, triolet, etc. Discouraged by the poor reception of his ambitious narrative poem Helen of Troy (1882), his verse became increasingly lightweight. His Collected Poems (4 vols) was published in 1923. Lang appears to have valued himself most as an anthropologist, and he published various volumes on mythology and folklore.
As a Greek scholar Lang devoted himself largely to Homer. He was one of the joint authors (with S. H. Butcher) of prose versions of the Odyssey (1879, preceded by his well‐known sonnet, ‘The Odyssey’), and (with W. Leaf and E. Myers) of the Iliad (1883). He wrote three books on the Homeric question, arguing the unity of Homer. He also took part in the Baconian controversy in Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown (1912).
His many works of belles‐lettres and reminiscences are now largely forgotten as are his melodramatic novels, which include The Mark of Cain (1886). As a critic he showed a distinct preference for romantic and adventurous works such as those of Haggard, A. Hope (Hawkins), and A. C. Doyle.
He is now perhaps best remembered for his own fairy tales, which include The Gold of Fairnilee (1888, set in Scotland), and Prince Prigio (1889, set in Pantouflia), and for his collections of fairy tales, each volume named after a different colour; the first was The Blue Fairy Book (1889).