Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Boreham and His Passion for Nature

Reverence for Life
Readers of F W Boreham’s books of essays, many of which bear titles drawn from the realm of nature, would not be surprised to learn that one of the major themes of his editorials and essays was ‘Reverence for nature’.[1] In the development of Boreham’s flexible cycle of editorial themes, a nature topic was often prompted by an anniversary (of an explorer, naturalist, scientist, geologist or nature poet), seasonal changes and events (including holiday periods, Arbor Day and Wattle Day), celebrations of nature (annual flower show, agricultural show) and news (of explorations or natural disasters). However, Boreham never needed an excuse to indulge his passion for writing about nature and many of his nature editorials did not seem to be related to any particular event. Aspects of nature were used in abundance by Boreham to illustrate a principle or to buttress an argument.

Young Naturalist
Recalling the early impact of nature upon him, Boreham said, “As a small boy, I found among my treasures three things that filled me with ceaseless wonder and admiration—the skin of my horse-chestnuts, the cocoons of my silkworms and the shells of the birds’ eggs that I brought home from the lane”.[2] The role of Boreham’s parents was crucial in developing this sense of wonder by introducing their son to nature books and taking him on walks around the beauty trails of Tunbridge Wells.

Shaped by Romantic Spirit
Boreham’s numerous references to nature reflect the age in which he was raised, a period that was imbued with the Romantic spirit, which gained momentum because it represented a protest movement against “the far reaching thrusts of modernization”.[3] In tracing the influence of Romanticism upon English evangelicalism in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, David Bebbington writes, “It was as though Wordsworthian pantheism had become an additional article of the evangelical creed .… The educated public was turning to Romantic sensibilities as an escape-route from the urban, industrial present and the holiness movement was part of the process”.[4] Christians like Boreham resonated with the Romantic writers who fostered an appreciation of nature, challenged the despoliation of the environment and cultivated a contemplation of the relationship between the natural and spiritual realms.

A Lifelong Enchantment
As an old man, Boreham testified to the intensification of his love of nature when saying, “The longer we live, the more [nature’s] loveliness enchants us”.[5] Boreham read widely in naturalism and natural science but the two whom he acknowledged as his special teachers were Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Richard Jeffries (1848-1887).[6] His involvement with the Royal Society of Tasmania, which had a long and rich history in environmental preservation and political lobbying for national parks, was a further context for Boreham to learn and refine his thinking about nature.

Geoff Pound

Image: Tunbridge Wells Common

[1] Boreham’s books with titles drawn from nature include Loose leaves, Mountains in the mist, Mushrooms on the moor, The silver shadow, The uttermost star, A reel of rainbow, A handful of stars, Rubble and roseleaves, Wisps of wildfire, The crystal pointers, A tuft of comet’s hair, The fiery crags, The three half-moons, The blue flame, When the swans fly high, A late lark singing, In pastures green and The tide comes in.
[2] F W Boreham, Rubble and roseleaves (London: The Epworth Press, 1923), 19.
[3] Karl-Werner Brandt, ‘New social movements as a meta-political challenge: The social and political impact of a new historical type of protest’, Thesis eleven, no. 15, 1986, 66-7.
[4] David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in modern Britain: A history from the 1930's to the 1980's (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 168.
[5] F W Boreham, When the swans fly high (London: The Epworth Press, 1931), 244.
[6] F W Boreham, The crystal pointers (London: The Epworth Press, 1925), 163. For more information on the famous naturalist Charles Robert Darwin, see Dictionary of National Biography eds. Leslie Stephen & Sidney Lee vol. V (London: Oxford University Press, 1921), 522-534. For more information on Richard Jeffries see Bloomsbury guide to English literature ed. Marion Wynne-Davies (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1989), 633-634. Sometimes the name ‘Jeffries’ is spelt as ‘Jefferies’.