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?

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.

Lithograph of Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas The ‘curse’ in the title of the book refers to selfishness and greed, and Brisbane’s downfall is attributed to this curse. Politicians, pastoralists and the citizens of Brisbane were all guilty of succumbing to greedy, self-centred lifestyles.

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.