Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Monday, October 30, 2006

Boreham on Books as Literary Monuments

Worth of the Bookworm
Of all the repositories of history, F W Boreham believed that books have been the most valuable in dispelling the ignorance that has blocked the path of progress. In an editorial in which Boreham made this point and advocated the worth of ‘the bookworm’, he spelt out the uses of books and why their reading was superior to other ways of ‘encountering’ the author. He explained:

“But by means of books, the ordinary mind establishes direct contact with the master-mind. People love to visit the scenes amid which Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Dickens once moved. They feel that, in paying pilgrimage to Stratford and Grasmere and Gads Hill, they are getting in touch with these deathless saints. But the sentiment is ephemeral compared with the real contact established with these commanding personalities when, taking into our hands the books that they themselves actually wrote, we allow them to pour into our minds the opulent treasures of their own. It is not simply that we imbibe their ideas and are infected by their philosophy. We come into personal touch with themselves and bear the impress of their magnetic personalities for ever afterwards.”[1]

Citizens of the Ages
Boreham continued to assert the supremacy of books by imagining playfully that even if Shakespeare were still alive, interviews would be difficult to secure and even if successful, interviewers would find the conversation degenerating into “a handful of platitudes and commonplaces”. Not only did Boreham consider that the reading of books was the most effective way to benefit from the personalities of the authors but also he concurred with Macaulay’s assertion that “the invention of printing was the most notable event that took place during a thousand years of history”.[2] The invention of the printing press enabled people to become “citizens of all ages” as they availed themselves of the increasing number of books that were published.[3]

Geoff Pound

Image: Literary monuments

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 31 August 1940.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 25 November 1922.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 6 September 1941; Age, 25 October 1941.