Martin Boyd Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Martin à Beckett Boyd’s major work traces the discordant lives of those caught between two hemispheres, Australia and Europe. The subtitle of his 1965 autobiography, An Anglo-Australian Memoir, reveals much about Boyd and his writing. Most contemporary Australians find the term “Anglo-Australian” offensive, and this may account for the neglect of Boyd’s fiction, even though his books were once well received in Australia and overseas.{$S[A]Mills, Martin;Boyd, Martin}{$S[A]Beckett, Walter;Boyd, Martin}

Boyd was born into a distinguished Australian family from Melbourne, whose Irish founder emigrated to Australia in 1825 as a military secretary to the governor of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Content with the wealth from the new country, the family members still saw themselves as bridging the two hemispheres. Although owing allegiance to Australia, they embraced European culture, tradition, and values. Boyd’s acceptance of this duality is reflected in his aristocratic and antibourgeois attitudes, fixation on the past, commitment to tradition, and regard for heredity—all key elements in his fiction. In fact, Boyd’s novels carry an air of snobbery.

After giving up his early theological studies, he turned to architecture. World War I interrupted this pursuit, and he served in France with an English regiment from 1915 to 1918. Following the war he returned to Australia but in 1921 went to England, where he first worked on a...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. Martin Boyd. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1963. Calling Boyd “a delightful minor novelist,” Fitzpatrick sees his fiction as a kind of regionalism that records how the Australian leisure class once lived, torn between their physical home in Australia and their European cultural home. A limited view of Boyd’s work but an interesting one.

Goodwin, Kenneth. “Martin Boyd.” In A History of Australian Literature. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. A succinct survey and evaluation of Boyd’s fiction and career.

Niall, Brenda. Martin Boyd: A Life. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988. Re-creates the upper-class Melbourne world in which Boyd grew up, then follows him through his expatriate years. Stresses his time in the French trenches during World War I and how that experience led to his pacifist beliefs and how it influenced his fiction.

Stewart, Annette. “The Search for the Perfect Human Type: Women in Martin Boyd’s Fiction.” In Who Is She?, edited by Shirley Walker. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983. Traces the way Boyd’s women characters develop and change through the course of his writing career, as he attempted to embody his values into their characters.