St John’s College W.124

Alfred Domett (1811-1887) and family, Poetical commonplace book. English, predominantly 1861-69.

Alfred Domett studied at St John’s from 1829-32. A life-long friend of Robert Browning, he published his first poetry collections in the 1830s. In 1842 he emigrated to New Zealand, where he became a skilled administrator. He served in both the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council before taking office as Colonial Secretary [i.e. Prime Minister] from August 1862 to October 1863. He returned to England in 1871 and resumed a literary career.

This album was compiled in New Zealand by friends, family and associates of Alfred Domett, and includes poems by Domett (some published in Blackwoods, some apparently unpublished). The first page is inscribed to  ‘Bessie Domett from her affec. cousin Fred. Cox Dowson’.  The date is crossed through, but is probably ‘March 1861’. The Bessie in question was Sarah Elizabeth (Bessie) St George, Alfred Domett’s step-daughter. Bessie married Charles John Taylor in 1862. Entries in the volume are mostly poetry:  Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, both the Brownings, Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Tennyson and Shakespeare all feature strongly. There are a couple of prose extracts, one on Catholic emancipation and another on the liberty of the press. The final section of the volume is taken up with lists of favourites: virtues, vices, colours, etc. contributed by friends and family.  The literary part of the volume was compiled between 1861 and 1869. The lists appear to date primarily from 1868, with a couple of later additions in 1873 and 1885. Entries throughout the volume are in several different hands, some being signed or initialled and dated, the most common being by Bessie Taylor and her half-brother, Alfred Domett’s son, Alfred Nelson Domett. Pages 501 onwards contain a contents listing for the volume. There are some blank pages towards the end.

Manuscript extra information

234 x 193 mm. 544 pages, with a few pages missing. 1 volume quarto, half calf, rebacked rather crudely in red calf, binding rather worn, especially at corners. Marbling to edges. Pages feint ruled.

Purchased from Blackwell Rare Books in 2017.