Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 2: Dickens

This is the second in a series of articles on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced him greatly. This posting looks at the way the English author, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) left his imprint on F W Boreham.

F W Boreham had a great love for the writings of Charles Dickens. This passion which was sparked in his childhood had been heightened by a “personal link between us” forged through a memorable hour that Boreham's mother spent with Dickens at Canterbury Cathedral.[1]

On an anniversary of Dickens’ death, Boreham reminded his readers that “the most conspicuous group of books upon my shelves ... is the collection of the master’s works”[2] He read and reread everything that Dickens wrote until he discovered what he called “the author’s magic”[3] Boreham referred to Dickens more than to any other author, both as the main theme of an editorial and as one whose stories and characters were cited as illustrative material.[4]

While Boreham has been called the successor to the essayist J B Brierley[5] and was noted for writing stories about Mosgiel as J M Barrie did with the ‘Thrums’[6] and Ian Maclaren did with ‘Drumtochty’,[7] Boreham has most often been compared with Charles Dickens.[8] Parallels abound between Dickens and Boreham in such things as their reserved temperament,[9] their lack of a university education, their venture into working life at the age of fifteen as an office clerk,[10] their love for the theatre,[11] their passion for travel,[12] their commitment to generous philanthropy,[13] their commencement in a literary career as an unpaid contributor to magazines and papers[14] and their common proficiency in shorthand.[15] Historian Peter Ackroyd elaborated on the importance of the journalistic training on Charles Dickens, insights which are also applicable to Boreham who acquired this art:

That training was of help in more ways than one; he learnt how to produce “copy” to a deadline with a punctiliousness that would prove invaluable for his novels in later life but, more importantly, it is significant that the greatest novelist of the English language should have been trained as a journalist and reporter. He was at once made aware of an audience which he had to address, and whose tastes he would need to satisfy, if he were to be taken seriously at all.[16]

Boreham and Dickens displayed versatility in the breadth of literary genre they pursued which included that of diary writer,[17] magazine editor,[18] magazine contributor,[19] serial storywriter[20] and author of Christmas Books.[21] Their writings similarly exuded a sense of forward progress which was characteristic of the Victorian age.[22] Boreham was surely inspired to become one of the most prolific religious writers in his country[23] by the prodigious output of Dickens for he developed the Dickensian discipline of not waiting for inspiration but writing without a disturbance most mornings from 8:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M.[24] This was not a drudgery, for Boreham provided an insight into his own motivation for writing when he said that Dickens was “consumed with a thirst ... not a theory”.[25]

This study on Charles Dickens and his impact on F W Boreham will be continued, GP.

Geoff Pound

Image: Charles Dickens

[1] F W Boreham, Arrows of desire (London: The Epworth Press, 1951), 175.
[2] Boreham, Arrows of desire, 124.
[3] F W Boreham, Ships of pearl (London: The Epworth Press, 1935), 124.
[4] Among these are Boreham, Mercury 12 June 1920; Mercury, 24 July 1920; Mercury, 19 June 1930; Mercury 28 March 1936; Mercury, 10 June 1939; Mercury 1 February 1941; Age, 3 January 1945; Mercury 9 June 1945; Mercury 9 June 1951.
[5] Australian Baptist, 25 January 1919. ‘JB’ Jonathan Brierley (1843-1914) was a Congregational minister and newspaper columnist serving in London. More information can be found about Brierley in H Jeffs, ‘JB’ J Brierley: His life and work (London: James Clarke & Co., nd [1915]).
[6] See later posting for biographical detail on J M Barrie.
[7] J J North, New Zealand Baptist, April 1943, 81. Ian Maclaren was the pseudonym for John Watson (1850-1907), a Presbyterian minister and author who lived and worked in Scotland and England. His first parish was in Logiealmond, Scotland, a town that he called ‘Drumtochty’ in his first book, Beside the bonnie brier bush (1894), which made Watson a popular author in Britain and America. Watson wrote several other books containing sketches of Scottish rural life and later wrote, under his own name, several books of theology, including his Lyman Beecher Lectures, The cure of souls (1896). Further biographical details may be found in the DNB 1901-1911 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1920), 605-607.
[8] Irving C Benson, ‘Dr Frank W Boreham—the man and the writer’, in F W Boreham, The last milestone (London: The Epworth Press, 1961), 7; R G Turnbull, A history of preaching, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Book House, 1974), 424. Ackroyd notes that, “Charles Dickens also developed ‘Dickens land,’ particularly of Kent, which is half-real and half-fictional”, in P Ackroyd, Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990), 260.
[9] Ackroyd remarked that while Dickens’ writing “testifies to the virtues of cheerfulness and sociability” he was “a man, who ... always stood apart.” See Ackroyd, Dickens, 157, 353.
[10] Dickens worked in a legal office, Ackroyd, Dickens, 115; Boreham began his working career in the office of the High Brooms Brick Company, in Boreham, My pilgrimage, 40.
[11]Dickens’ love of theatre is described in Ackroyd, Dickens, 35, 111; Boreham’s love of theatre is referred to in such editorials as the Mercury, 19 February 1921; 4 November 1922; 29 May 1926; 8 January 1927; 11 May 1929; 3 May 1941; 4 November 1950; 16 January 1954.
[12] Ackroyd, Dickens, 156; Boreham writes of his love for travel in F W Boreham, I forgot to say, 230; F W Boreham, The passing of John Broadbanks (London: The Epworth Press, 1936), 195; F W Boreham, The prodigal (London: The Epworth Press, 1941), 55; F W Boreham, Boulevards of paradise (London: The Epworth Press, 1944), 80.
[13] Reference to Dickens’ generosity is made in, P Ackroyd, Dickens, 533. Indications of Boreham’s philanthropy are found in T Howard Crago, The story of F W Boreham (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1961), 227.
[14] Dickens began by submitting a sketch to the Monthly Magazine in 1833, in K Chittick, Dickens and the 1830’s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), ix; Boreham’s first article was published in the Associate in 1889, in Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 35.
[15] Ackroyd, Dickens, 124, 157; Chittick, Dickens and the 1830’s, 9; Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 25.
[16] Ackroyd, Dickens, 158.
[17] Ackroyd, Dickens, 243; F W Boreham kept a diary through most of his life. He wrote of the importance of this practice in Boreham, The last milestone, 39-43.
[18] Dickens’ work as an editor for magazines and papers such as Bentley’s Miscellany and The Daily News from 1846-48 is described in Charles Dickens as editor being letters written by him to William Henry Wills his sub-editor, ed. R C Lehmann (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1912) and Ackroyd, Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990), 214-215. Ackroyd said of Dickens “in some ways he was too peculiar ... to make a good editor,” in Ackroyd, Dickens, 480-81. The same inference was made about Boreham by J J North, in the New Zealand Baptist, April 1943.
[19] Evidence for the many pieces Dickens was contributing to magazines and papers is seen in Ackroyd, Dickens, 180.
[20] The Pickwick papers is an example of Dickens’ involvement in serialisation, see Ackroyd, Dickens, 180; Boreham’s books of essays are refinements of editorials that appeared on a weekly basis. Two books that first appeared in serialised form were F W Boreham, Loose leaves, (Dunedin: H H Driver, 1902) and F W Boreham, From England to Mosgiel, (Dunedin: H H Driver, 1903).
[21] Ackroyd, Dickens, 413, 508. Many of Boreham’s Christmas stories were produced in Christmas booklets and have been collected in the book F W Boreham, My Christmas book (London: The Epworth Press, 1953).
[22] Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1991), 7.
[23] R C Croucher, F W Boreham (1871-1959). Croucher compares Boreham’s output with other Australian writers.
[24] References to Dickens’ ‘disciplined’ manner, ‘stamina’ and ‘energy’are found in Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens, 5, 7. While the starting and finishing times changed throughout his life, Boreham’s discipline is described in Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 228 and in Benson, ‘Dr Frank W Boreham—the man and the writer’, 3-4.
[25] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.