Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

G. B. Lancaster

G. B. Lancaster. G. B. Lancaster's work spans the century up to 1943; her first stories, written for the Otago Daily Times, the old New Zealand Magazine, the Bulletin, and other periodicals which sheltered young writers in those far off days, were gathered into the volume Sons O' Men, published in England in 1904.

Her second New Zealand book, The Tracks We Tread, appeared in 1907. Both are South Island in setting, with amateurish workmanship owing a debt to Kipling and Jack London, and dealing with the raw world of droving, mustering, and endurance in the outback. Twenty-six years later, having in the interval made a name with a series of historical romances set in various parts of the Empire, G. B. Lancaster returned to the Pacific area, with Pageant, 1933. This family chronicle of Tasmanian pioneering was a literary sensation in Australia. In 1938 she produced a similar story with a New Zealand background, Promenade, which tells of three generations of the Lovel family, passing through early colonisation at Kororareka, the Maori Wars, politics, agricultural and pastoral development, and ending at the Boer War. The family fortunes mirror the fortunes of the country. The point of view is feminine and aristocratic, for the Lovels set off in 1839 from Lovel Old Hall. The novel is a "promenade", a "pageant", built about the "insatiable promenade of generations . . . two and two, looking into each other's eyes and never seeing where they were going ..." The writing has an artificial glitter which gives the story brilliance without depth.

Her last novel, set in Canada at the time of Napoleon, is of the same type, as its title, Grand Parade, shows.

G. B. Lancaster was the pen-name of Edith Lyttelton, daughter of one of the early runholders on the Rakaia River in Canterbury. With the upbringing of a "nice girl" in the 1880s, she had to keep her writing secret, especially at first when it was turgid, masculine, and page 49 rather frank about love, blood, and sweat. "Kipling," she wrote, "was such a change after years of Sundays at Home."10 If you consider what most of the women in her girlhood were writing about, it is no wonder that Edith Lyttelton used a disguising pseudonym.