Alfred Domett

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Alfred Domett

Alfred Domett c1870-1887.jpg
4th Premier of New Zealand
In office
6 August 1862 – 30 October 1863
GovernorGeorge Grey
Preceded byWilliam Fox
Succeeded byFrederick Whitaker
Personal details
Born(1811-05-20)20 May 1811
Camberwell, Surrey, England
Died2 November 1887(1887-11-02) (aged 76)
London, England
Political partyNone
Mary George
(m. 1856)
Children1 son[1]
FatherNathaniel Domett

Alfred Domett CMG (20 May 1811 – 2 November 1887) was an English colonial statesman and poet. He was New Zealand's fourth Premier.

Early life[edit]

Domett was born at Camberwell Grove, Surrey; the fourth son of Nathaniel Domett,[2] a ship-owner. He entered St John's College, Cambridge,[3] but left the university in 1833.[4] He entered at the Middle Temple, 7 November 1835, and was called to the bar on 19 November 1841.[2]


Domett published one or two volumes of poetry from 1833, and contributed several poems to Blackwood's Magazine, one of which, A Christmas Hymn, attracted attention. He was called to the bar, but for ten years he lived a life of ease in London, where he became the intimate friend of Robert Browning, of whose poem Waring he was the subject. 'How much I loved him, I find out now I've lost him'. In the poem Browning asks what has become of his friend, but is sure he will gain some fame in far-off lands: I saw the last
 Of Waring! ... Oh, never star
 Was lost here but it rose afar!

An account of the friendship between the two men appeared in The Contemporary Review for January 1905, by W. H. Griffin.[4] Thereafter, with the approval of Browning's son, Frederick G. Kenyon edited correspondence between and relating to Browning and Domett, after the 1904 auction purchase of the letters by Reginald Smith, head of publishing firm Smith Elder and Co.[5]

Among his books of poetry, Ranolf and Amohia, a South Sea Day Dream (1872), about Māori life, is the best known, and Flotsam and Jetsam (1877) is dedicated to Browning.[4] He continued to write poetry all his life, in the style of rhyming panegyrics such as An Invitation, with its allusions to the sub-tropical flora and threatened inhabitants of countries such as New Zealand:

 And if weary of mists you will roam undisdaining 
 To a land where the fanciful fountains are raining 
 Swift brilliants of boiling and beautiful spray 
 In the violet splendour of skies that illume 
 Such a wealth of green ferns and rare crimson tree-bloom; 
 Where a people primeval is vanishing fast, 
 With its faiths and its fables and ways of the past: 
 O with reason and fancy unfettered and fearless, 
 Come plunge with us deep into regions of Day—Come away—and away! --

Decadent poet Ernest Dowson was his great-nephew.

New Zealand politics[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1855–1860 2nd Town of Nelson Independent
1860–1866 3rd City of Nelson Independent

In 1842 Domett emigrated to New Zealand, where he filled many important administrative posts, being Colonial Secretary for New Munster Province in 1848,[6] secretary for the colony in 1851, and the fourth Premier of New Zealand from 1862 to 1863.[4][7] He represented the electorate of Nelson, first as the Town of Nelson 1855–1860 and then City of Nelson 1860–1866 (retired).[8] Unusually, as electorates at this time returned multiple members, Domett shared representation of Nelson with Edward Stafford, who had also served as Premier.

The most noteworthy change Domett brought about during his tenure in office was the moving of New Zealand's capital from Auckland to Wellington in 1865. In November 1863 he moved a resolution before Parliament that "it has become necessary that the seat of government... should be transferred to some suitable locality in Cook Strait."[9] He returned to England in 1871 and became a CMG in 1880.[4]

Domett was a member of the New Zealand Legislative Council from 19 June 1866 until 3 July 1874, when his membership lapsed through absence.[10]


  1. ^ Graham, Jeanine. "Domett, Alfred". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b Mennell, Philip (1892). "Domett, Alfred" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ "Domett, Alfred (DMT829A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Domett, Alfred". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 399.
  5. ^ Robert Browning and Alfred Domett, edited by Frederic G. Kenyon, 1906, Preface, pp v, vi
  6. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 18.
  7. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 30.
  8. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 104.
  9. ^ Phillip Temple: Wellington Yesterday
  10. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 76.


  • Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Edward Stafford
Premier of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Frederick Whitaker
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
James Mackay
Samuel Stephens
Member of Parliament for Nelson
Served alongside: Edward Stafford
Succeeded by
Oswald Curtis