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The Reverend Lal Behari Dey (Bengali: লাল বিহারী দে) (1824-12-18-1892-10-28) was a respected Bengali Indian journalist, who converted to Christianity, and became a missionary himself.

He was born to a poor banker caste family at Sonapalasi near Bardhaman on December 18, 1824, and died at Calcutta on October 28, 1892. After his primary education in the village school, he came to Calcutta with his father and was admitted to Reverend Alexander Duff’s General Assembly' Institution (now Scottish Church College) where he studied from 1834 to 1844. He received the gold medals for his brilliant academic performances. Under the tutelage of Rev. Duff, he formally embraced Christianity on July 2, 1843. A year before his baptism in 1843, he published a tract The falsity of the Hindu Religion in 1842, which won a prize for the best essay.

From 1855 to 1867, Dey was a Missionary and Minister of the Free Church of Scotland. He worked as professor of English in Government administered colleges at Berhampore and Hooghly from 1867 to 1889. After having served in several churches in the prime of his career, he joined the Berhampore Collegiate School as Principal in 1867. Later he became Professor of English and Mental and Moral Philosophy in Hooghly Mohsin College and stayed with it from 1872 to 1888. Though a devout Christian and pro-Raj in his attitude, he vehemently protested against any discrimination practised by the ruling class against the natives.

Known for his profound knowledge of the English language and literature, he wrote two books in English, Govinda Samanta (1874, later renamed Bengal Peasant Life) and Folk Tales of Bengal (1883) both of which were widely acclaimed. Like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Peary Chand Mitra and Dinabandhu Mitra, Lal Behari also felt very passionately for the poor and oppressed peasantry of Bengal. He garnered the limelight in 1874 when his Govinda Samanta won the prize of Rs 500 offered by Baboo Joy Kissen Mookerjea of Uttarpara, one of the most enlightened zamindars in Bengal, for the best novel, written either in Bengali or in English, illustrating the “Social and Domestic Life of the Rural Population and Working Classes of Bengal”. Charles Darwin wrote a letter on April 18, 1881 to the publishers saying,

I see that the Reverend Lal Behari Day is Editor of the Bengal Magazine and I shall be glad if you would tell him with my compliments how much pleasure and instruction I derived from reading a few years ago, this novel, Govinda Samanta.

Though Lal Behari’s writings were mostly in English, he edited a Bengali monthly magazine, Arunaday (1857) and penned a Bengali narrative, Chandramukhee. He was also the editor of three English magazines, Indian Reformer (1861), Friday Review (1866) and Bengal Magazine (1872). Apart from writing in these magazines, Lal Behari also contributed articles to Calcutta Review and Hindu Patriot. He was a member of many associations like the Bethune Society and the Bengal Social Science Association.

He was made a Fellow of the University of Calcutta from 1877.

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