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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)

Literary Associations

Literary Associations.

Domett had already won a place, though a minor one, in literary England when he decided to abandon the familiar ties and see for himself what manner of life it was in New Zealand, then beginning to figure enticingly in the English world's news. In the year he left St. John's College, Cambridge, 1833—he did not take a degree—he published a volume of verse, and later he published a second volume. He was born in 1811, the son of an English naval officer who had fought against the Dutch in the battle of the Dogger Bank in 1781, and who later was in the merchant service. He could afford to travel; he went to Canada and the United States, and toured Europe. In 1841 he was called to the Bar, but London did not hold him long. His greatest friendship was that with Robert Browning. The two earnest and enthusiastic young poets began, in 1840, an association which endured for life, though the width of the globe separated them for thirty years.

In Sir Frederic Kenyon's book on “Robert Browning and Alfred Domett,” published by Smith, Elder and Co. in 1906, there is a portrait (in the possession of Domett's son) which seems to reflect the romantic soul of the young poet. It is a water-colour drawing by George Lance, R.A., with the date 1836. The drawing (here reproduced, with acknowledgments to the publishers) shows Domett at the age of twenty-five, five years before he sailed for New Zealand. Kenyon's book is curiously one-sided in its material; it consists almost wholly of letters from Browning to Domett in New Zealand; there is nothing from Domett in return. The letters from Browning had been preserved carefully; the return correspondence, which must have been voluminous, has vanished. There is, therefore, as the author observes, only a reflex representation of the friend with whom Browning's poem of “Waring” is associated, seeing him in the light of letters written to him.