First novel to feature Brisbane as the setting

Did you know that the first published novel set in Brisbane was the futuristic tale, The Curse and Its Cure by Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas?

'The Curse and its Cure' by Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas

This two volume set was published in Brisbane in 1894. In the first volume, The Ruins of Brisbane in the Year 2000, the story begins with the narrator, an Australian, sailing up the Brisbane River in his motorised yacht, sometime after the year 2000. The Brisbane he sees is overgrown with rampant vines and foliage and is the home to many species of birds and wild animals – including tigers! On the way, he links up with an American couple, Mr and Mrs West, and shares with them his knowledge of Brisbane history and the circumstances that led to its ruin. The reader learns of local catastrophes that occurred prior to the Year 2000, including:

  • a civil war between Queensland and the southern colonies. The place of battle was Fort Lytton. The southern colonies – ably led by the experienced General Churchill – crushed Queensland. Afterwards a Colonial Convention was held, resulting in the formation of the United States of Australia;
  • the massacre of all but a few of Australia's Aboriginal people.

The cure to this curse is love, and in the second volume, Brisbane Rebuilt in the Year 2200, the reader learns how the city is rebuilt and transformed into a Christian utopia of peace, prosperity and good health.

Good health was an ongoing concern of this author, because as well as writing prose and poetry, Dr Lucas was also a medical practitioner and scientist. He published a range of medical articles and books, many of them held in the John Oxley Library's collection.

Dr Lucas was particularly interested in the tropical fruit, the pawpaw or papaya. He owned a sixteen hectare farm at Acacia Ridge where he grew them and conducted experiments into their remedial properties. During the course of his experimentation, Dr Lucas developed a special ointment, which he called Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. It is still produced today by the family business at Acacia Ridge.

The Curse and its Cure can be viewed online via our One Search catalogue.


Lucas' Papaw Ointment: Always in the family


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I'm not sure if Lucas's novel was actually the first set in Brisbane.William Lane published (serially, in the Boomerang) a novel about Brisbane called "White or Yellow?" in 1888. And Austin South (a pen-name) published "The Land and the People", a novel set in Brisbane, in 1891. There is no complete version of this novel still in existence, so whether the segments that do exist qualify or not, I don't know. And Rosa Praed published a novel set in Brisbane about that time, but I'm not sure of the date...But the important thing is that many writers were writing about Brisbane from earlier than most of us would have imagined. Brisbane has forgotten its own literary history.

HelloThanks for this interesting information. Is anyone aware of other earlier work set in Brisbane?

Thanks for this interesting information.

My grear grand uncle Rev James Stewart was Lucas's minister and personal friend. They worked on health remedies together. Lucas's Papaw ointment is sold everywhere today. Rev James Stewart was the protagonist in Lucas's novel.

Yes Errol and there was a novel called "The Land Grabbers or The Land Stealers", I forget which, by an author who also wrote at least one other novel of colonial Brisbane. Melissa Lucashenko

Lucas is also remembered as a butterfly collector. He often clashed with William H. Miskin on entomological matters. More of Miskin's species survive as valid but there are some Lucas species too.