Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Boreham on Nature's Contribution

There was a great interest and a rich tradition in Australian papers of articles on nature themes when Boreham wrote his many editorials on the contribution that nature made to life.[1] This post and those over the next few days consider the various roles of nature addressed in Boreham’s editorials.

Banquet of Life
In an article published as the First World War was commencing its destructive work, Boreham asserted that, “the relationship between beauty and civilization has never been defined”.[2] His frequent discussions about beauty and the role of aesthetics to the human condition[3] reveal his agreement with Fyodor Dostoevsky’s high claim that “beauty will save the world”.[4] Boreham announced, “Beauty is the banquet of life,” and was swift to declare that nature was the major sphere at which humanity might sumptuously dine.[5] He did not regard beauty as a nutritional supplement but as an indispensable element for the survival and well-being of society. On another occasion he stated, “Health and beauty go together … they are life’s inseparables”.[6]

Beauty in the Eye…
Boreham compared statements from early explorers who had written glowingly of Australia’s beauty with those who concluded that the country was ugly and uninteresting to illustrate the different views that people have about beauty. If health and beauty go together, Boreham’s health card for Australians in the mid-1920s was grim. Writing about the neglect of the local landscape by Australian artists and their preference for the English landscape, Boreham said, “Australians are blind to beauty … The Australian public is as yet unprepared to realize the beauty of the land of its adoption”.[7]

Impatience With Definitions
While he asked, “What is beauty?” Boreham had difficulty in answering the question in great detail.[8] Confessing his impatience with definitions and his preference for experiencing nature and beauty with all his senses, Boreham said, “How can I set down in words the pleasure that I find in the perfume of a violet, in the song of a thrush, or in the graceful poise of a deer”.[9]

Sight was the major avenue by which Boreham experienced nature and he often remarked on its beauty in “the restfulness of a green lawn”[10] or “the pageantry of autumn [in its] gorgeous colour scheme”.[11] His sensitivity towards beauty was heightened by the places where he had lived—Tunbridge Wells, which he said that for “sheer, downright prettiness ... stands without a rival in the wide, wide world”,[12] that New Zealand was “a land of luxurious vegetation ... broad and fertile plains ... sky-piercing summits glistening with eternal snows; a land of rushing rivers and thunderous cataracts”[13] and of Australia he wrote that “no continent can offer to the eyes of men a fauna so wealthy and so varied”.[14] As well as celebrating the predictable sources, Boreham urged people to contemplate beauty in the dullness of rocks,[15] the drabness of mud[16] and the starkness of midwinter.[17]

Geoff Pound

Image: “the pageantry of autumn.”

[1] Drew Hutton and Libby Connors, A history of the Australian environmental movement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 30-31.
[2] F W Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1926.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 21 February 1920.
[4] Fyodor Dostoevsky, The idiot (1869; reprint, New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001), 382. These words are expressed by Dostoevsky’s characters Ippolit and Aglaya Epanchin.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 6 March 1954.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 24 April 1926.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 24 April 1926.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 21 February 1920.
[9] F W Boreham, Casket of cameos (London: The Epworth Press, 1924), 285.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 17 February 1934.
[11] F W Boreham, A witch’s brewing (London: The Epworth Press, 1932), 18.
[12] F W Boreham, Loose leaves: From the journal of my voyage round the world (Mosgiel: Taieri advocate, 1902), 44.
[13] F W Boreham, My pilgrimage (London: The Epworth Press, 1940), 134.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 15 July 1933.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 27 June 1925.
[16] F W Boreham, The other side of the hill, (London: The Epworth Press, 1917), 152.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 21 June 1941.