Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, September 01, 2006

Boreham on Being Yourself

Boreham asserted the need for each person to value and grow in our sense of our uniqueness.

He said, “He sees as nobody else sees. He must therefore paint or preach or pray or write as nobody else does. He must be himself: must see with his own eyes and utter that vision in the terms of his own personality”.[1] It is likely that this theme had been impressed on Boreham by F B Meyer who championed this thought, and, in turn, had learned from D L Moody that “to do good work in the world he must be himself, not becoming a mere copy of somebody else”.[2]

In calling his readers to become themselves, Boreham was aware of the pressure of expectations saying, “The truth is that man, like a fly in a cobweb, has become entangled in a perfect network of artificialities and affectations. He is continually victimized by custom, habit and precedent. He is a child of fashion. He feels that he must do as everybody does.”[3] Boreham was short on explaining ways that people might overcome the power of conventions, choosing rather to tell inspirational stories of people who had overcome timidity in the quest to become themselves.

Becoming oneself, according to Boreham, involved three main things. First, it involved “seeing through [one’s] own eyes”.[4] In pleading for the development of the individual view, Boreham contended that “most of us do our seeing through other men’s eyes”. Judging paintings by the critics and books by their reviewers, people become like fish that “have lived in the dark so long that they have lost their sight”.[5]

The second component of becoming oneself was to form one’s own opinions. In the practice of seeing with one’s own eyes, Boreham defended his readers against any charge of egotism and encouraged his readers to form their own opinions reckoning that “the most vital opinion a man ever forms is the opinion of himself”.[6] He bolstered the faith of his readers in their unique opinions with the encouragement that each person’s “view of God, Man and of the universe is essentially an individualistic view, he sees as nobody else sees”.[7]

The final step in becoming oneself was that a person seeing through their own eyes and developing their own views “must therefore express himself with the technique of his craft”.[8] Boreham sought to instill within his readers the understanding that because a person’s expression was unique it was, therefore, vital, and even a duty, that it be expressed as only that person can do.[9]

Many of the biographical editorials that Boreham wrote were stories that gave flesh to this truth of a person giving their individuality full expression. He commended Walt Whitman,[10] Thomas Hardy[11] and Hendrik Ibsen[12] for being “outstanding originals”, he lauded Thomas De Quincy whose “every phrase bore originality”[13] and he attributed the popularity of the art of John Constable to the way he “insisted on seeing every object through his own eyes and in depicting it as he himself saw it”.[14]

Boreham also developed the implications of this theme vocationally, as he wrote editorials about the novelist,[15] the biographer,[16] the artist,[17] the botanist,[18] the scientist,[19] the inventor[20] and the explorer.[21] In all these areas Boreham challenged those who thought that the chances of a return to the golden age in their particular sphere were poor by expressing a confidence that if people trusted and exercised their individual talents, then the world would witness an advance on all that has come before.

Always urging people to seize fresh, brighter possibilities for the common good Boreham wrote: “There is a thrill in feeling that the dizziest pinnacles have yet to be climbed; the sweetest songs have yet to be sung; the stateliest poems have yet to be penned; the finest books have yet to be written, the most heroic exploits have yet to be achieved. The peaks still beckon, the top-most crags are calling, a golden age has yet to be ushered in.”[22]

Geoff Pound

Image: Blind Cave Fish--"like fish that have lived in the dark so long that they have lost their sight"...

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 9 September 1950.
[2] W Fullerton, F B Meyer: A biography, 32.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 24 April 1920.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 20 April 1940.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 21 January 1922.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 24 July 1937.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 9 September 1950.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 9 September 1950.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 9 September 1950.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 2 July 1938.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 5 June 1920.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 23 May 1936.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 9 July 1921.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 6 March 1937.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 27 March 1926.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 9 December 1933.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 3 July 1920.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 29 June 1940.
[19] Boreham, Mercury, 10 January 1948.
[20] Boreham, Mercury, 19 November 1921.
[21] Boreham, Mercury, 1 September 1951.
[22] Boreham, Mercury, 1 September 1951.