Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

The real James Edward FitzGerald revealed

Clocktower clock

Friday 4 April 2014 2:29pm

FITZ book cover

FITZ: The colonial adventures of James Edward FitzGerald by Jenifer Roberts is the first book to fully explore the private life and multifaceted personality of James Edward FitzGerald.

‘As a direct descendant of FitzGerald, I was given access to several private collections containing previously unpublished letters and papers. Digging deep in the archives to unearth the real FitzGerald was a fascinating experience – and at times very moving,’ says author Jenifer Roberts.

FitzGerald (‘Fitz’ as he was known by his friends) played a major role in public life through fifty years of New Zealand history. Orator, writer, politician and journalist, he was the first Canterbury Pilgrim to set foot in New Zealand, first superintendent of the province of Canterbury, first leader of the general government, and founder of the Press newspaper. He was also an accomplished watercolourist. The book includes colour reproductions of his paintings and numerous quotations from his poetry and other writings. Much of this material has never before been published.

‘This book throws fresh light on Fitz’s personality and activities, and on his equally talented wife Fanny,’ says Roberts.

FitzGerald’s political drive towards universal equality was way ahead of its time. On 6 August 1862 he made an eloquent plea for equal civil and political rights for all New Zealanders. He castigated the land confiscation policy as an 'enormous crime', opposed colonisation by military settlers and called for the withdrawal of British troops.

Roberts concentrates on FitzGerald’s personality and family life. His wife Fanny spoke several languages and was an outstanding musician and singer (‘far above the average amateur’). Her marriage to Fitz was a love-match but also marred with tragedy: six of their children died at an early age (she gave birth to thirteen children in total). It is also evident through FitzGerald’s behaviour and letters that he suffered from what is known today as bipolar disorder – which gave rise to the contradictions in his character, to his passionate changeability.

Fitz is an intimate, riveting biography, revealing, as never before, the life and times of James Edward FitzGerald. Roberts is an acclaimed historian whose previous books have been widely celebrated in the UK. Her matchless narrative captures the excitement of the period and reads like a novel.

The Colonial Adventures of
James Edward FitzGerald

By Jenifer Roberts

Release Date: March 2014
ISBN 978-1-877578-73-1 $40

For further information, contact

Otago University Press
Tel 64 3 479 9094

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

Electronic addresses (including email accounts, instant messaging services, or telephone accounts) published on this page are for the sole purpose of contact with the individuals concerned, in their capacity as officers, employees or students of the University of Otago, or their respective organisation. Publication of any such electronic address is not to be taken as consent to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages by the address holder.