Frank Sargeson Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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,...

(The entire section is 586 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Frank Sargeson was the creator, and one of the finest exponents, of a distinctly New Zealand tradition of fiction. He was born Norris Frank Davey to middle-class parents with strong religious convictions. After attending Hamilton High School, he enrolled in 1920 at Auckland University College, where he prepared for a law career as a solicitor. For a time he worked in a Hamilton law office before breaking with his puritanical family and moving to Auckland. There he was employed briefly as a solicitor. In 1927 he left for a tour of Europe. The highlight of the trip was his extended stay in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, but his European travels convinced him that he was a displaced person when abroad. He returned to New Zealand in 1928 and entered on a government career in Wellington. Unfitted temperamentally for that life, he suffered a breakdown and went for refuge to the farm of his uncle Oakley Sargeson. He began to use his uncle’s last name and never returned to the conventional life and society that he subsequently satirized in his fiction. In 1931 Frank Sargeson moved to a small cabin that his father owned at Takapuna, on Auckland’s north shore.

During the 1930’s he wrote many articles and sketches, some of which began appearing in Tomorrow. In 1936 he published the autobiographical Conversation with My Uncle, and Other Sketches, the first of many literary successes. His growing popularity and literary stature were such that in 1953 he was honored in Landfall on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday by sixteen other New Zealand writers. He was also the subject of a collection of critical essays The Puritan and the Waif (1954), whose title reflects the primary conflict in Sargeson’s fiction. Drawing on his own position...

(The entire section is 732 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Frank Sargeson was born on March 23, 1903, in Hamilton, New Zealand. His father was a storekeeper and later the town clerk, and Frank was the...

(The entire section is 493 words.)