Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Boreham on Biographies

No History, Only Biography
F W Boreham possessed a bias towards Disraeli’s decree, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory”[1] and Emerson’s variation, “There is properly no history; only biography”.[2] Boreham wrote of the means by which readers might experience the personalities of significant people who had died and asserted, “The biographies of the noble dead are among the most stimulating volumes in our libraries. By means of their pages we come in touch with the richest and rarest spirits of the past: and in the process, our finest impulses are quickened and our highest aspirations inflamed”.[3]

Return to Biography
F W Boreham remarked in 1912 that there were indications that there was a return to the reading of biographies, a trend that he applauded and explained was due to a protest against modern fiction and a return to real life.[4] In this editorial entitled, ‘The return to biography’, Boreham explained how the functions of historian and biographer were quite distinct, yet renewed his appeal for the element of human interest in biography as he had with the writing of history: “Happily, the biographer is coming to recognise that real life is never prosy or dull, and that the man who produces a dull or prosy book has but proclaimed his failure as a biographer”.[5]

Remembering Unsung Heroes
F W Boreham not only wrote many biographical editorials about heroes who dazzled with their brilliance but also selected “minor” characters, “second-rate poets”,[6] “first mates”[7] and “makeweights”,[8] to encourage his readers to see the best in lives that were mediocre or flawed. Valuing the stories of superstars as well as the unsung heroes, Boreham paid tribute to ‘the romance of obscurity’, saying: “If the life of the man in the street is capable of artistic and attractive biographical treatment, how much more so is the life of the man who moved the millions, discovered the poles or saved his country in the day of crisis. If the life of the ordinary man is a nugget of romance, what a literary goldmine the life of the extraordinary man should prove”![9]

Geoff Pound

Image: FWB wrote a biography on this man, George Augustus Selwyn. It is hard to pick up a copy of this book. If you do you will be paying at least $US500.00!! It is because of such ridiculous prices that John Broadbanks Publishing has been formed.

[1] Benjamin Disraeli, Contarini Fleming: An autobiography (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1870), 34.
[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘History’, The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson comprising his essays, lectures, poems, and orations vol. 1 (London: Bell and Daldy, 1866), 4.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 8 April 1933.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 5 October 1912.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 5 October 1912.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 8 August 1953.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 13 August 1949.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 28 September 1946.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 9 December 1933.