George Augustus Sala was born in born in New Street, London, on 24th November 1828.
He was a precocious child. Having learnt French he wrote a French tragedy ‘Fredegonde’ before he turned 10. From 1839 to 1842 he studied in Paris alongside fellow pupil Alexandre Dumas.
At 15, now a capable draughtsman and an insatiable reader, he was allowed to follow his own path.
Stints as a clerk were followed by an engagement to draw railway plans during the railway mania of 1845. His mother and brother then introduced him to the Princess's Theatre, where they were professionally engaged, and he was given occasional work as a scene-painter.
He began his literary career in 1848 with articles to a struggling weekly paper called ‘Chat.’ They were eagerly accepted, and he was appointed editor on a miniscule salary.
In 1850 came his first publication; a comic illustrated guidebook for continental tourists; ‘Practical Exposition of J. M. W. Turner's Picture, Hail, Rain, Steam, and Speed.’
In 1851 a rather more promising opportunity offered itself. Charles Dickens accepted ‘The Key of the Street,’ for his periodical ‘Household Words.’ For the next 5 years Sala would write an essay or story every week.
Sala published his first novel in 1860, ‘The Baddington Peerage: A Story of the Best and Worst Society’.
He was eager to build on the thriving periodical market and followed in the footsteps of Dickens and Thackeray with the founding of ‘Temple Bar.’ The first issue was December 1860 and in the second he began a serialization of ‘The Seven Sons of Mammon’, followed by perhaps his best work ‘The Strange Adventures of Captain Dangerous’.
In 1863 Sala undertook his first tour as a ‘special’ foreign correspondent of the ‘Daily Telegraph.’ He was in America from November 1863 to December 1864, reporting on the progress of the civil war.
A long series of expeditions followed across Europe and the United States before Australia and India.
During Sala's last years his energies were slowed by frequent illness. While continuing work for the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and his ‘Echoes of the Week,’ he lived mainly in Brighton.
George Augustus Sala died from nervous exhaustion, after a long illness, at Brighton on 8th December 1895.