William Pember Reeves

New Zealand statesman, lawgiver and poet

Ask most New Zealanders if they know who William Pember Reeves is and the reply is likely to be "Never heard of him", yet this politician was a major influence in New Zealand politics in the 1880s and 1890s and in 1896 was appointed agent general for New Zealand in the United Kingdom, and is also one of New Zealand's better-known early poets. Allen Curnow in his introduction to The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse fittingly describes him as New Zealand's first eminent statesman and law giver, and her first native-born poet worth the name.

William Pember Reeves' father, William Reeves, was a politician and a newspaper editor. After working in a bank and becoming a member of the London Stock Exchange he and his wife Ellen Pember emigrated to New Zealand in 1857 and settled in Canterbury. He worked as a customs clerk, farmed at Rangiora, managed Charles Torlesse's run at Fernside, and then bought a share in the Lyttelton Times, became manager and later editor.

He entered politics in 1867, but was not an outstanding politician, and his career successes came in his role as editor of the Lyttelton Times. From covering the concerns of the Canterbury province in the 1870s it expanded its focus and became the voice of liberal thinkers and politicians.

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