Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Boreham on Nature As Educator

Educator Par Excellence
In a statement reminiscent of Benjamin Disraeli, Boreham viewed nature as one of the greatest educational influences in life,[1] and in an editorial he wrote, “We have the trees as teachers and preachers, and many a man has learned the deepest lessons of his life at the feet of these shrewd and silent philosophers”.[2]

Free Education
Boreham paid numerous tributes to nature as his teacher,[3] saying, “All we have learned has increased our reverence for nature”.[4] In writing of the “maxims of the mud”,[5] the “stones articulate”,[6] the “rhetoric of the rocks”,[7] rocks as “the manuscripts of God”[8] and the universe as “the archives of the ages”,[9] Boreham reinforced the educational role of nature for those who were keen to be its students.

Use of Imagery
In writing of the “magpie habit of collecting”[10] or “the mimicking behaviour of the lyrebird”,[11] Boreham was demonstrating ways that nature had taught him to use its imagery. His writings were replete with nature’s parables, including nature’s camouflage,[12] lessons in adapting and adjusting,[13] the way to break bad news,[14] the principle of the undertow[15] and the ‘dead’ Easter-like kernel that “has the latent genius for resurrection”.[16] Moreover, Boreham was discriminating about nature’s teaching style. He encouraged his readers to discover the value of nature’s unattractive features saying, “It is by vipers as well as by violets that God reveals His wondrous ways to men”,[17] but Boreham did not commend nature’s propensity to ignore the weak[18] or its unsympathetic brutality.[19]

Regular Exposure
Boreham often attributed his inspiration to a renewed exposure to nature.[20] Nature had taught him to wonder[21] and to ask questions[22] yet, despite all the learning and resources of religion, he concluded, “We are only on the fringes of things”.[23] The importance of nature’s teaching role for the world was underscored when, in writing about the impact of the trade winds and the way they had compelled human beings to move, Boreham stated that, “It is only by dancing to the tune that Nature plays that civilization can advance and humanity continue its triumphant march”.[24]

Geoff Pound

Image: “the mimicking behavior of the lyrebird”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 6 October 1923. Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Beaconsfield said, “Nature is more powerful than education”. Benjamin Disraeli, Contarini Fleming: An autobiography (New York: D Appleton & Co, 1870), 19.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 11 June 1932.
[3] Boreham, A tuft of comet’s hair, 63.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 5 May 1917.
[5] Boreham, The other side of the hill, 152.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 5 July 1952.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 25 May 1957.
[8] Boreham, When the swans fly high, 63.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 26 October 1957; Age, 5 September 1953.
[10] F W Boreham, The nest of spears (London: The Epworth Press, 1927), 10.
[11] Boreham, Rubble and roseleaves, 181.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 27 July 1918.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 15 November 1919.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 16 September 1922.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 17 April 1915.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 11 April 1941.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 3 April 1954.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 27 May 1922.
[19] Boreham, Mercury, 21 June 1941.
[20] Boreham, When the swans fly high, 7, 187.
[21] Boreham, Mercury, 9 February 1946.
[22] Boreham, When the swans fly high, 87.
[23] Boreham, Mercury, 28 June 1941.
[24] Boreham, Mercury, 1 August 1925.