(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Lucinda Brayford is an expansive novel spanning the lives of two families over four generations. It follows the movements of the Vanes and the Brayfords across England, France, and Australia. The novel begins in the mid-1800’s, in an England ruled by tradition and a proud aristocracy, and concludes in England during World War II, with tradition replaced by expediency and pragmatism and the aristocracy besieged in their rather depleted manors by businessmen and industrialists.

In a sense, the novel is the biography of Lucinda Brayford; descriptions of the generations preceding hers serve to establish the context of her life. As well, various social conflicts are expressed in her life when she marries into a titled family and her wealth and prestige give way to the changing times.

Lucinda’s grandfather, William Vane, was expelled from Oxford for various breaches of honor. Faced with disrepute in England, he sailed to Australia, where he became a well-to-do landowner. After his death, his son, Frederick, discovered that much of the family’s wealth had been lost to his father’s return to dissolute living. Frederick, then, set about rebuilding the family holdings in the new world. In so doing, he became an effective, if heartless, businessman. His drive for respectability through hard work and wealth was, on one level, so successful that his wife, who had been soft-spoken and sensitive, became infected in like manner, parading through social circles and using her wealth to re-create an aristocratic life-style meant to restore, however falsely, that which had been lost and left back in England. In fact, all of Melbourne social life, it seems, was built to re-create in the new world, however disreputable family origins may have been, an aristocracy of form (if not of blood) based on the English model. Unfortunately, although the trappings were correct, there was no sense of social responsibility or personal morality. These would-be aristocrats were parvenues, nouveaux riches brought to their station by ambition rather than by...

(The entire section is 842 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Green, Dorothy. “The Fragrance of Souls: A Study of Lucinda Brayford,” in Southerly. XXVIII (1968), pp. 110-126.

Hope, A. D. “Knowing When to Stop: Martin Boyd’s Lucinda Brayford,” in Native Companions: Essays and Comments on Australian Literature, 1936-1966, 1974.

The New Yorker. Review. XXIV (February 28, 1948), p. 86.

Ramson, W. S. “Lucinda Brayford: A Form of Music,” in The Australian Experience: Critical Essays on Australian Novels, 1974. Edited by W. S. Ramson.

Reynolds, Horace. Review in The New York Times. February 22, 1948, p. 6.