Wevers, Lydia

Wevers, Lydia



In Brief

Lydia Wevers was a literary critic and historian, editor and reviewer. Her area of scholarship was New Zealand and Australian literature, and several of her books focused on early New Zealand travel writing and writers. She also edited a huge range of literary anthologies, including Goodbye to Romance: Stories by Australian and New Zealand Women 1930s –1980s. Wevers was a great supporter of New Zealand letters and her involvement with literary organisations and groups was considerable.


Wevers, Lydia (1950 - 2021) was a critic, English language literary historian, editor, and book reviewer.

Wevers was born in the Netherlands and came to New Zealand in 1953 – she couldn’t speak any English.

A self-described compulsive reader, Wevers was an accomplished scholar who specialised in New Zealand and Australian literature. She taught at universities in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Europe.

From 1998-2001 she was the principal researcher for the History of Print Culture Project and also a Senior Associate/Research Associate at the School of English, Film and Theatre at Victoria University. Out of that research, Wevers published Country of Writing: Travel Writing About New Zealand 1809-1900 (Auckland University Press, 2002), and edited the companion volume Travelling to New Zealand: An Oxford Anthology (2000).

Country of Writing examines the vast literature of travel that brought New Zealand into the newsstands, libraries and smoking rooms of Europe, and connected the new colony to the interests of the Empire. By the time Anthony Trollope arrived in Otago in 1872, more than 400 books had been written about New Zealand.

This interesting and original book shows how the cultural effects of European expansionism are expressed through travel and travel writing, from the pages of the Sydney Gazette to journals of adventure, scientific papers, published diaries, guidebooks and long numbered letters read over breakfast tables in the Home Counties. Visual impressions of various kinds played a role too and the book is well illustrated with contemporary pictures.

Other books Wevers edited include Goodbye to Romance: Stories by Australian and New Zealand Women 1930s –1980s (1989); Happy Endings: Stories by Australian and New Zealand Women, 1850s-1930s (1987); Selected poems/Robin Hyde (1984); Yellow Pencils: Contemporary Poetry by New Zealand Women (1988); and Tabasco Sauce and Ice Cream: Stories by New Zealanders (1990). She also wrote 'The Short Story' in the Oxford History of New Zealand in English edited by Terry Sturm (1991, Second Edition 199) which was the first historical discussion of the short story in New Zealand.

Wevers had a long association with New Zealand letters. As part of her commitment to supporting the language arts, Wevers was for a time Vice-President of the New Zealand Book Council (now Read NZ Te Pou Muramura) and chaired the Trustees of the National Library. She was a member of the 2001 selection panel for the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Awards and was a member of the Arts Board of Creative New Zealand.

Lydia Wevers was the Director of the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, where she created an exciting focus for New Zealand cultural and literary studies. She also reviewed books for ‘Nine to Noon’ on RNZ as well as for major newspapers, journals, and magazines.

Her On Reading (2004) is one of twelve titles in the Montana Estates essay series published by Four Winds Press. The press was established by Lloyd Jones to encourage and develop the essay genre in New Zealand.

In the 2006 Queen's Birthday Honours, Wevers was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature.

Lydia Wevers was awarded the Pou Aronui Award by the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2014. The award recognises those who have provided distinguished service to the humanities-aronui and was gifted to Wevers for her long dedication to promoting the study and enjoyment of New Zealand’s literature, history, arts and culture.

Wevers died in Wellington in September 2021.

Updated September 2021.