Frank Sargeson’s life may be conveniently divided into two parts, his life as Norris Frank Davey, which lasted from March 23, 1903, until 1931; and his life as the writer Frank Sargeson, the name he assumed and retained until his death in 1982. Born in Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand, Davey was the victim of parental influences that shaped his literary themes. Edwin John Davey, his father, served as town clerk but his primary interest was in the Methodist Church, and his “puritan” beliefs and moralistic views made him unpopular with the townspeople and a source of embarrassment to his son. His mother, Rachel, was not as religious as her husband, but her concern for middle-class respectability made her his ally in promoting conformity to the status quo. As a result, young Davey experienced a conflict between the puritan conscience inculcated by his parents and what he came to regard as the life of the senses.
During the time Davey attended Hamilton High School, his mother, who was somewhat more liberal than his father regarding literature, took him to evening meetings of the local Shakespeare Club, where he was also introduced to the dramatic works of George Bernard Shaw and Euripides. She even encouraged him to learn how to act on the stage. In 1920 he began sitting for the Auckland University College extramural examinations in law and had a somewhat mediocre record. In 1921 he made his first visit to his uncle Oakley Sargeson’s farm,...
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