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
Monarch Victoria
Governor George Grey
Preceded by William Fox
Succeeded by Frederick 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
Signature Alfred Domett Signature.jpg

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

Prime Minister of New Zealand head of the New Zealand government

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017.


Early life

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]

Camberwell Grove

Camberwell Grove is a residential street in Camberwell, London, England, in the Borough of Southwark. It follows the line of a grove of trees, hence the name. The street once led from a Tudor manor house south to the top of a hill, which afforded a view of the City of London, approximately three miles to the north. Today, the grove is part of Camberwell Grove Conservation area.

St Johns College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort. In constitutional terms, the college is a charitable corporation established by a charter dated 9 April 1511. The aims of the college, as specified by its statutes, are the promotion of education, religion, learning and research.

Middle Temple one of the four Inns of Court in London, England

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, commonly known simply as Middle Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It is located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London.


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>Blackwoods Magazine</i> British magazine

Blackwood's Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. It was founded by the publisher William Blackwood and was originally called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The first number appeared in April 1817 under the editorship of Thomas Pringle and James Cleghorn. The journal was unsuccessful and Blackwood fired Pringle and Cleghorn and relaunched the journal as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine under his own editorship. The journal eventually adopted the shorter name and from the relaunch often referred to itself as Maga. The title page bore the image of George Buchanan, a 16th-century Scottish historian, religious and political thinker.

Robert Browning English poet and playwright of the Victorian Era

Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of the dramatic monologue made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax. 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:

Māori culture culture of the Māori people of New Zealand

Māori culture (Māoritanga) is indigenous to New Zealand and originated from, and is still part of, Eastern Polynesian culture. Māori culture also forms a distinctive part of New Zealand culture and is found throughout the world, due to a large diaspora and incorporation of motifs into popular culture. Within the Māori community, and to a lesser extent throughout New Zealand as a whole, the word Māoritanga is often used as an approximate synonym for Māori culture, the Māori suffix -tanga being roughly equivalent to the qualitative noun ending "-ness" in English.

 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

New Zealand Parliament
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.

New Munster Province

New Munster was an early original European name for the South Island of New Zealand, given by the Governor of New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, in honour of Munster, the Irish province in which he was born.

Nelson (New Zealand electorate) New Zealand Parliamentary electorate

Nelson is a New Zealand parliamentary electorate, returning one Member of Parliament to the House of Representatives of New Zealand. From 1853 to 1860, the electorate was called Town of Nelson. From 1860 to 1881, it was City of Nelson. The electorate is the only one that has continuously existed since the 1st Parliament in 1853.

Edward Stafford (politician) Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Edward Stafford served as the third Premier of New Zealand on three occasions in the mid 19th century. His total time in office is the longest of any leader without a political party. He is described as pragmatic, logical, and clear-sighted.

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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, 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.

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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