Alfred Domett

The Honourable
Alfred Domett
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
Died 2 November 1887(1887-11-02) (aged 76)
Political party None
Spouse(s) Mary George
Children one son; two stepsons[1]
Religion Non-conformist

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

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. 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. An account of the friendship between the two men appeared in The Contemporary Review for January 1905, by W. H. Griffin.[4]

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.

Decadent poet Ernest Dowson was his great-nephew.

New Zealand politics

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
18551860 2nd Town of Nelson Independent
18601866 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,[5] secretary for the colony in 1851, and the fourth Premier of New Zealand from 1862 to 1863.[6] He represented the electorate of Nelson, first as the Town of Nelson 1855–1860 and then City of Nelson 1860–1866 (retired).[7] 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."[8] He returned to England in 1871 and became a CMG in 1880.

Domett was a member of the New Zealand Legislative Council from 19 June 1866 until 3 July 1874, when his membership lapsed through absence.[9]


  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). "Wikisource link to Domett, Alfred". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
  3. "Domett, Alfred (DMT829A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. Robert Browning and Alfred Domett, edited by Frederic G. Kenyon, 1906)
  5. Scholefield 1950, p. 18.
  6. Scholefield 1950, p. 30.
  7. Scholefield 1950, p. 104.
  8. Phillip Temple: Wellington Yesterday
  9. Scholefield 1950, p. 76.


External links

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Alfred Domett
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
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