Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, May 26, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 14: Robert Louis Stevenson

We are considering a range of the authors who left their mark on the development of F W Boreham’s literary style. In this article we look at the influence of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)[1]:

Nurtured on Bible and Adventure Stories
The essayist and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson hailed from Edinburgh but some of his best writing emerged when he was based in the Pacific islands. Perhaps the affinity that Boreham felt with Stevenson may be explained by the way they both had had their childhood imaginations fired by a rich diet of Bible and adventure stories,[2] and by their experiences of a strong bond with their homeland despite having lived many years away from it.[3] Those who knew them commented on their astonishing memories, not only of things, but of thoughts and emotions.[4]

Lover of Life
Boreham sought to emulate what T M MacCallum described as Stevenson’s “optimistic sunniness”,[5] a quality made all the more striking when one considers the long periods of sickness that Stevenson endured. Boreham owed one of his major themes to what Stevenson called “the essential livableness of life”[6] and remarked that despite life’s vicissitudes Stevenson “loved life; loved it passionately and devotedly, loved it from first to last”.[7]

Oozing Personality
While many who met Stevenson remarked on his “personal magnetism”,[8] Boreham was greatly influenced by the way that Stevenson’s writing oozed personality, a quality that led one critic to say, “No Victorian writer is so powerfully present in his work”.[9] It was this “subtle magic that can be felt but not explained”[10] that led Boreham to imitate Stevenson’s disciplined approach to writing and to class him within a select circle of writers in English who made their readers very fond of them.[11]

Geoff Pound

Image: R L Stevenson

[1] Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born in Scotland but spent much of his time abroad. He is remembered as a novelist, especially for his historical romances and adventure stories (Treasure Island), an essayist and a poet. More information on Robert Louis Stevenson can be found in the Bloomsbury guide to English literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1989), 931-932.
[2] Charles J Guthrie, ‘“Cummy, I was just telling myself a story”’, in Robert Louis Stevenson: Interviews and recollections, ed. R C Terry (Hampshire: MacMillan, 1996), 11.
[3] R C Terry, ‘Introduction’, in Robert Louis Stevenson: Interviews and recollections, xiv.
[4] H B Baildon, ‘Quick and bright but somewhat desultory scholar’, in Robert Louis Stevenson: Interviews and recollections, 23.
[5] T M MacCallum, ‘Always eager for excitement’, in Robert Louis Stevenson: Interviews and recollections, 144.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 2 November 1946.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 21 May 1932.
[8] MacCallum, ‘Always eager for excitement’, 144.
[9] Terry, ‘Introduction’, xxi.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 21 May 1932.
[11] R C Terry et al., ‘Patriarchal relations’, in Robert Louis Stevenson: interviews and recollections, 183.