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 Communing With History's Figures

Encountering People
F W Boreham believed that good history writing should not only inspire people to good living as they read the stories of great people but also change readers through the direct encounter with history’s subjects.

This idea is expressed by romantic historians such as George Bancroft who wrote of “communing with antiquity”.[1] Thomas Carlyle affirmed Walter Scott’s contribution in reinterpreting the notion of ‘experience’ through reading when he said: “[History’s] faint hearsays of ‘philosophy by experience’ will have to exchange themselves everywhere for direct inspection and embodiment: this, and this only, will be counted as experience; and till once experience has got in, philosophy will reconcile herself to wait at the door. It is a great service, this that Scott has done; a great truth laid open by him”.[2]

Bringing People to Life
This goal of leading readers into the experience of ‘direct inspection and embodiment’ with people who were alive in history’s pages in turn influenced Boreham who sought to recreate scenes with imagination to heighten the power of the experience.

Boreham practised what he preached. Through the reading of books and visiting graves and other memorials he engaged in a deep communion with the subject.

Geoff Pound

Image: Grave of John Bunyan (one of FWB's favourite authors). Whenever in London, Frank Boreham would visit Bunyan's grave at Bunhill Fields Cemetery.

[1]George Bancroft, ‘Letter to Andrews Norton’, January 9, 1819, Bancroft papers (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society), 1819.
[2] Thomas Carlyle, ‘Sir Walter Scott’, Essays, 3 Thomas Carlyle’s collected works vol. V (London: Chapman and Hall, 1869), 275.