By Eric H. McCormick
Eric McCormick was once, from approximately 1940 until eventually his dying in 1995, one in all New Zealand's such a lot exclusive writers and students. He pioneered the appreciation and examine of the painter Francis Hodgkins, and he wrote numerous biographies. The autobiographical fragments accrued the following were edited to make a coherent quantity, tracing his origins in Taihape, to varsity and college in Wellington, to schoolteaching in Nelson, to Cambridge and during his wartime reviews and position as editor of Centennial guides. It comprises his wise observations of social behaviour, recorded with a dry wit.
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The solitary, observant Eric is fifth from right in the front row of this class photograph. ERIC MCCORMICK COLLECTION, ATL, F-95067½. At this school I acquired not only lifelong preoccupations but also the basic skills of my literary calling. As far as I know, I learned to read and write without much trouble but otherwise got off to a bad start. I had barely settled into the primers when I caught cold at celebrations held in the Triangle to mark the crowning of King George and Queen Mary. The cold developed into tonsillitis, the first in a succession of illnesses that plagued me for years.
They called themselves the Canterbury Pilgrims and the advance party, of whom my father was one, became known as the First Four Settlers. After initial birth pangs, which involved the discarding of ideals, the township was established and grew with the approach of the railway. The main trunk line reached Taihape two years before I was born and was completed in 1908. The population was then about 1200. Expectations were that business would expand and the town grow even to the size of such a metropolis as Palmerston North.
They lacked, however, the final spark that distinguished the early stories of Sargeson or Roderick Finlayson, whose superiority Eric was among the first to recognize. He continued to attempt fiction for many years after that, never to his own satisfaction; but he stumbled upon his true metier almost by accident, when Oliver Duff asked him to write Letters and Art in New Zealand in the centennial survey series. Maurice Shadbolt has quoted Dan Davin as exclaiming, in conversation, ‘Eric had the makings of a magnificent novelist.
An Absurd Ambition by Eric H. McCormick