Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 8: Rutherford

This posting is part of a series on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced his literary style. This article looks at the author, Mark Rutherford[1]:

Affinity With Rutherford
Frequently throughout Boreham’s writing career, he referred to the fondness that he had for the journalist, novelist and critic, Mark Rutherford (1831-1913).[2] Boreham imbibed many of the ideas of this “unjustly neglected writer”[3] including the value of respectability,[4] the ethics of friendship[5] and the tragedy of losing touch with reality by “luxuriating among the cowslips”.[6]

Love of Nature
It was, however, Rutherford’s nature themes that most significantly shaped Boreham’s thinking and behaviour. The comfort of strolling under the stars[7] and the therapy of the ocean waves were part of Rutherford’s prescription for loneliness and little-mindedness that Boreham consistently applied to himself, especially in the troubled later years of his life.[8] The value of regular contact with ‘life’s immensities’ is a Rutherfordian theme that Boreham developed in different ways.[9]

Shy English Author
An element that impressed Boreham was the authentic way Rutherford “reduced his personality to paper”.[10] Perhaps Boreham enjoyed Rutherford because he saw much of his own personality mirrored in this man who “hated formality and fuss” and was extremely shy.[11] Mark Rutherford lived in a secluded village near Tunbridge Wells and “concealed his identity behind an inscrutable nom-de-plume” (his real name was William Hale White). Reflecting on his own upbringing in Tunbridge Wells, Boreham wrote, “I hate to think I passed Mark Rutherford on the street without knowing his identity”.[12] While admitting that Australians may not like his hero, Boreham revealed the source of his admiration when describing William Hale White as “geographically intensely English, historically intensely mid-Victorian and temperamentally intensely introspective”.[13] Rutherford reminded Boreham of his roots and the English values that he prized. As seen earlier, Boreham concealed his thinking behind the guise of ‘John Broadbanks’ and particularly in his editorials he displayed a Rutherford-like restraint in refraining from references to himself. An example of authorial disclosure is found in an editorial about Catherine Booth when Boreham implies that he had attended her funeral.[14]

Fresh and Clear Style
Regarded by an early reviewer as “the highest imaginative art”,[15] Boreham’s most glowing tribute to Mark Rutherford was to describe his writing as “the supreme example of all the best English composition ought to be”.[16] Boreham held Rutherford up to young writers as a model because he saw his diction was “as fresh and as modern as this morning’s sunshine”.[17] According to Boreham no one wrote more simply than Rutherford for “every word is the right word and every sentence is crystal clear”.[18] J J North judged Boreham’s early literary ventures to be “long-worded” because “the terse Boreham had not arrived”.[19] Amid the many admiring reviews, it was said of Boreham’s Whisper of God that “if illustrations and incidents did not jostle so thickly on the pages and the poetical quotations were remorselessly reduced the sermons would gain much in value”.[20] Boreham’s work in modelling his writing on Rutherford became evident through the removal of wordy clutter and the emergence of a simple and flowing expression.

One might conclude that Boreham lauded Mark Rutherford merely because the latter “placed a consistent emphasis on the need for developing the faculty of admiration”.[21] Boreham retained a geographical and a temperamental affinity with this writer from Kent and adopted many of his major ideas. However, it was the simplicity of Rutherford’s art which “touches the imagination [and] does not strike it dumb with over-explanatory detail” which provided the most formative influence on Boreham’s writing style.[22]

Geoff Pound

Image: Mark Rutherford

[1] William Hale White was an English writer who adopted the pseudonym, ‘Mark Rutherford’. His first two novels are autobiographical and are concerned with the subject of loss of faith. More information on William Hale White can be found in the Bloomsbury guide to English literature, 1016.
[2] F W Boreham, The luggage of life (London: The Epworth Press, 1912), 125; F W Boreham, Mushrooms on the moor (London: The Epworth Press, 1915), 27.
[3] James A Michie, ‘The wisdom of Mark Rutherford’, London Quarterly 184 (1959): 126.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 31 October 1931.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 10 August 1957; Age, 30 April 1949.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 24 September 1955.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 8 June 1935.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 10 September 1949.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 28 May 1955.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 12 March 1938.
[11] Rosemary Beresford, ‘Mark Rutherford and hero-worship’, Review of English studies 23 (1955): 264.
[12] Boreham, Cliffs of opal, 161.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 2 April 1932.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 4 October 1947.
[15] Frances Low, ‘Mark Rutherford: An appreciation’, Fortnightly Review 84 (1908): 460.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 12 March 1938.
[17] Boreham, Cliffs of opal, 161.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 12 March 1938.
[19] J J North, New Zealand Baptist, April 1943.
[20] Review of Whisper of God, (n.p., n.d.). This review appears in a cutting that Boreham kept in his own copy of his book, Whisper of God.
[21] Low, ‘Mark Rutherford: An appreciation’, 126.
[22] Low, ‘Mark Rutherford: An appreciation’, 124.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 7: Gibbon

This posting is part of a series on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced his literary style. This article is the third instalment on the historian, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794):[1]

Predictable Structure
While Boreham became adept at using colorful images, his editorial framework, like Gibbon’s structures, was often predictable and monotonous.[2] The first editorial Boreham wrote in which he compared the British Empire with the Roman Empire is an indication not only of the way Boreham drew on Gibbon for content but also of the way he came to be formed by Gibbon in “the use of parallel situations, literary and historical”,[3] a stylistic device that is common in many of Boreham’s writings.

Human-Centred History
Boreham applauded the human-centredness of the Decline and fall and its author who half-jokingly described history “as nothing but a record of the crimes and follies of mankind.”[4] Many of Boreham’s biographical editorials betrayed hints of Gibbon’s style of characterisation, especially in his use of balance between “a character’s virtues and vices, his strengths and his weaknesses, his magnanimous actions with his petty concerns”.[5]

Clarity of Expression
For Boreham, part of “the glory of Gibbon”[6]was derived from the historian’s measured prose and his economy of words and lucid diction, which meant that “no sentence needs to be read twice in order to be understood”.[7] As Gibbon was committed “to eliminate vagueness from his writing” so Boreham often expressed concern about the ‘leakage’ of an author’s meaning in even the clearest expression:[8]

The most brilliant writer cannot so arrange his phraseology as to make it a perfect vehicle for his thought. Something is lost in communicating his meaning to his manuscript. And even the best of readers sometimes nods. All that the author thought is not written: and all that is written is not read: so that at both stages, leakages appear.[9]

Boreham’s lament led him to admire authors who demonstrated clarity in expression and it bolstered his resolve to polish his writing to achieve for his readers the clearest communication of meaning.

Summary of Gibbon's Marks on Boreham
The formative influences of Gibbon on Boreham were significant. The historian whose massive work was the result of self-education was to be a major inspiration to the young writer in his own reading programme. The initial “wild excitement of his magnificent adventure with Gibbon” continued with Boreham throughout his life and found expression in the many essays and editorials that extolled the value of history and the importance of venerating one’s heroes.[10]

From Gibbon, Boreham developed an eye for detail yet he painted with a ‘broad brush’ that yielded a colourful and vivid historical drama. However, Boreham was too often simplistic, general and deficient in analysing the philosophical issues.

Consciously or unconsciously, Boreham came to acquire many stylistic features that characterised Gibbon’s writings, especially to do with structure and techniques, to help readers to visualise events and to experience good aural effects. Edward Gibbon wrote with concreteness, precision and lucidity—important elements that Boreham believed contributed to all good writing and qualities that he aimed to express in his own writing.

Geoff Pound

Image: Edward Gibbon

[1] Gibbon was born in England and, while he served as a member of parliament, is best remembered for his historical writings. Further biographical details may be found in the Bloomsbury guide to English literature, 391-392.
[2] de Beer, ‘A reading of Gibbon’, 366.
[3] Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon, 76.
[4] Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon, 89.
[5] Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon, 105.
[6] Boreham, The ivory spires, 30.
[7] de Beer, ‘A reading of Gibbon’, 366-367.
[8] Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon, 78.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 6 December 1941; Age, 18 January 1947.
[10] Boreham, The ivory spires, 30.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 6: Gibbon

This posting is part of a series on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced his literary style. This article is the second instalment on the historian, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794):[1]

Boreham declared that Gibbon’s magnum opus was “probably the greatest history ever written” and he underlined the distinctive contribution of Gibbon’s work when he wrote, “Instead of merely raking among dead men’s bones, Gibbon electrified the past and made dead men live again”[2] Boreham’s tribute recognised the drama in Gibbon and the sense of immediacy in his writing. As Boreham developed a love for history he believed that many historians lacked “the vital element” which was “the human side”[3] Even when addressing major themes, Boreham argued that writers must be attentive to the human “passion for trifles”:

Nothing appeals to men like the picturesque. We are inveterate sightseers. We love to see things ... did they wear red breeches or gray? The reader likes to have some vivid detail graphically exhibited to his fancy. As soon as the orator passes from the concrete to the abstract, his audience becomes listless and languid. Let him describe a scene or narrate an incident and they are all attention again.[4]

It was Gibbon’s narrative style, his use of “the vocabulary of perception” and his “seeing that infiltrates nooks and crannies of the history”[5] that caused Boreham to say that he “actually witnessed the gorgeous pageants” and that such writing “preserves the ecstasy and rapture of reading all through the years”.[6] As in many of the writers that Boreham admired, Gibbon possessed not only the artist’s eye but the poet’s ear. De Beer says that history for Gibbon required “sumptuous and stately utterance” and that he wrote as if he “expected that his book would be read aloud”.[7] Gibbon also demonstrated for Boreham that an important subject “required a dignity of tone worthy of the greatness” of the person or event.[8]

As has been observed in Charles Dickens and Boreham, commentators have noted that Gibbon “was helped by his extraordinary memory”. De Beer said, “He could construct a paragraph in his mind, repeat it orally, memorise it, revise and polish it, and then, and not until then, write it. There were no written drafts”.[9] His retentive memory gave him an amazing “command of antiquarian detail” and his imaginative memory enabled him to ‘see’ the events and express them in such a way that his readers could visualise them.[10]

In what ways was New Zealand contemporary J J North correct when he said that Boreham’s editorials were “fashioned on Gibbon”?[11] It is true that there was a heavy reliance on Gibbon for theme and illustration when Boreham commenced writing editorials for the Otago Daily Times. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century there was much discussion in Australasian society about the popular Gibbon themes—the past, the future, the progress of society, the empire and the monarchy. Later, Boreham wrote about many different themes and developed his own unique style.

Geoff Pound

Image: Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

[1] Gibbon was born in England and, while he served as a member of parliament, is best remembered for his historical writings. Further biographical details may be found in the Bloomsbury guide to English literature, 391-392.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 23 September 1933.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 20 November 1920.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 20 November 1920.
[5] Carnochan, Gibbon’s solitude: the inward world of the historian, 60.
[6] Boreham, Ships of pearl, 172-3.
[7] de Beer, ‘A reading of Gibbon’, 366. Harold Bond also notes how Gibbon wrote for aural reception in Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon, 136.
[8] Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon, 61.
[9] de Beer, ‘A reading of Gibbon’, 366.
[10] Burrow, Gibbon, 25.
[11] J J North, New Zealand Baptist, April 1943.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 5: Gibbon

This posting is part of a series on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced his literary style. This article is the first instalment on the historian, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794):[1]

Reference has already been made to “the wild excitement” F W Boreham experienced when he first read Edward Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire in “the most hectic month that I had ever known”.[2] His excitement was intensified because this book marked, what Boreham called, his “initial venture into serious reading” and the commencement of his self-education programme.[3]

Perhaps Boreham was heartened by the knowledge that Gibbon was himself “largely self-educated” and one who, through his own study, “had to make good the deficiencies of his own schooling”.[4] Boreham’s resolve to begin a disciplined reading programme may have been bolstered by knowing Gibbon’s assertion that “the first step towards freedom is a liberating education”.[5] Writing in 1940 about the value of books, Boreham testified to “the enlargement and enrichment that must come to the mind of the man who reads Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire”.[6] The excitement came not only “at the splendour of the discoveries that he was daily making” but in the sharing of these discoveries as they stimulated his preaching and influenced the writing of his first editorial.[7]

What made Boreham feel that he had “burst upon a new planet” was that Gibbon had introduced him to the delights of history.[8] Gibbon was not primarily motivated by the need to instruct or be polemical for he was primarily “a lover of history” who tried to convey that same love to his readers.[9] If Charles Dickens encouraged Boreham to write of the little, everyday things of life, it was Edward Gibbon who enabled Boreham to see the grand panorama of history and who inspired him with the audacity to tackle the great themes of the ages.

Gibbon’s “prodigious talent for assimilating data” and expressing it succinctly was a gift that Boreham came to possess.[10] The ability to synthesize the life of a person or tell the story of a movement was essential if he was writing editorials of 1,000 to 1,500 words. Boreham avoided getting swamped in great themes or drowning his readers by learning from Gibbon the ability to pursue evidence, to marshal the facts and to argue these around a central conviction.

Highlighting this important quality in historical writing, modern day scholar, David Bebbington stated, “The historians whose names are remembered are those who argue a striking case with marked ability. Gibbon is once more a good example .… As a general rule, the more cogent the argument, the greater the historian”.[11] However, Boreham’s editorials often suffered from the dangers that imperilled Gibbon’s work—the sweeping generalisations, “the want of analytical profundity”[12] and the tendency “to lose sight of the complexity of events”.[13]

From Gibbon, Boreham received two related convictions that formed a major theme in his own writing. The first was the danger facing nations that were indifferent toward antiquity.[14] The second was the peril of nations that failed to venerate their heroes.[15]

Geoff Pound

Image: Edward Gibbon

[1] Gibbon was born in England and, while he served as a member of parliament, is best remembered for his historical writings. Further biographical details may be found in the Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, 391-392.
[2] Boreham, Ships of pearl, 172.
[3] Boreham, Ships of pearl, 172.
[4] E S de Beer, ‘A reading of Gibbon’, Landfall 19 (1965): 363.
[5] Harold L Bond, The literary art of Edward Gibbon (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), 29.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 31 August 1940.
[7] F W Boreham, The ivory spires (London: The Epworth Press, 1934), 30.
[8] Boreham, The ivory spires, 30.
[9] J W Burrow, Gibbon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 25.
[10] W B Carnochan, Gibbon’s solitude: The inward world of the historian (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1987), 32.
[11] David W Bebbington, Patterns in history: A Christian perspective on historical thought (Leicester: Apollos, 1979), 13
[12] R Porter, Edward Gibbon: Making history (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988), 3.
[13] de Beer, ‘A reading of Gibbon’, 366.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 10 October 1925.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 28 January 1950.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 4: Dickens

We have spent a lot of time and words in the last few postings discussing the ways that Charles Dickens influenced the writing and preaching of F W Boreham. This has been intentional because of the immense love that Boreham had for the books of Dickens (he read them all twice), the number of references to Dickens in Boreham’s books, the way Boreham saw many aspects of himself mirrored in Dickens’s life and the fact that Charles Dickens was the greatest shaper of Boreham’s literary approach. Here is the final posting on this literary model of F W Boreham:

Retentive Memory
Mention has often been made of “the extraordinary and capacious memory”[1] that Dickens possessed which astonished people “to note how at a first glance Dickens was able to assimilate and remember all the details of even a complicated scene”.[2] This gift aided his mental organisation and heightened his ability to express an image in words with freshness so that readers felt they were seeing it for the first time. Boreham similarly possessed an unusually retentive memory that enabled him to speak for a long time without notes, dispense with filing cabinets[3] and replay entire cricket matches in his mind.[4]

Power of Observation
He expressed admiration for Edmund Burke’s ability to paint a scene with words, when he wrote, “It seemed incredible that one who would speak with such picturesque realism had never actually witnessed the scenes that he so vividly and tellingly described.”[5] This power of observation was not only affirmed in others but became richly developed in Boreham, for his writing consistently revealed a fertile imagination and the rare ability not only to visualise a scene but to portray it as a skilled photographer or artist.[6] In an article about Boreham’s excellence in photography, religious editor, Laurence Rowston, says, “He really saw life. It was as if he saw life through a camera lens which concentrates on its subject and ignores the rest”.[7]

Love of Detail
While Walter Bagehot expressed amazement at the amount of detail in the novels of Charles Dickens, believing that “laughter-causing detail is Mr Dickens’ most astonishing peculiarity”,[8] other critics like George Orwell have written about Dickens’ “unnecessary detail”.[9] Boreham appreciated interesting detail in literature and sought to make this a feature of his own writing. He argued that attention to detail was a talent often found in skilful journalists, like the journalist and novelist, Daniel Defoe:

Why do boys take Robinson Crusoe so warmly to their hearts? It is because, in a journalistic way, Defoe is always giving us the small details; he tells us the very things that a boy is curious to know. He explains how many biscuits Crusoe ate, how he built his raft, and what the parrot talked about.[10]

Quaint and Whimsical
Boreham’s vivid imagination, whimsical mind and adventurous expression led him to write things to startle his readers and this approach caused reviewers to describe his writing as “unconventional and full of originality”.[11] His passion for unusual detail was also an important technique that made his stories arresting and often quaint. This was evident in his editorials about the successful Member of Parliament who could not muster the courage to address the House,[12] the worshipper so bored with church music that he wrote his own hymns[13] and the famous botanist who wore a thick scarf around his neck in Melbourne’s scorching heat.[14] It is interesting to note the modern American historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, Barbara Tuchman, pleading that historians and journalists might learn the discipline of supplying “corroborative detail” or writing “history by the ounce”. Her views amplify Boreham’s contention that such detail not only ensures that writers “cleave to the truth” but is often the element that makes writing “excel, [makes it] vivid and memorable”.[15]

Summary of Dickens’ Influence on F W Boreham
The spell cast by Dickens upon Boreham in his childhood convinced the emerging writer of the magical powers of stories to entertain and instruct. Sharing a shy temperament and training in journalism strengthened the affinity that Boreham felt toward Dickens. The master modelled a passion and a discipline for writing, an experimentation in a variety of genre and an enormous output that inspired Boreham in his career. Dickens’ popularity, which arose from his resolve to address the everyday things of life, shaped Boreham’s decision to address ordinary matters and to give to humdrum issues a certain dignity and to his writing a sense of reality. Dickens and Boreham both possessed a retentive and imaginative memory that was reflected in similar writing styles that were dramatic, filled with concrete images and a journalistic detail that was fascinating and sometimes quaint.

One cannot overestimate the influence of Charles Dickens on Boreham’s writing style.

Geoff Pound

Image: Charles Dickens

[1] Peter Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens, 4.
[2] Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens, 5.
[3] T Howard Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 91.
[4] Boreham, The last milestone, 7.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 12 January 1946.
[6] Boreham writes about his ‘dabbling in photography’ in F W Boreham, The nest of spears (London: The Epworth Press, 1927), 176.
[7] Laurence F Rowston, ‘Life through a lens’, Tasmanian Advance, March 1993.
[8] Bagehot, ‘Charles Dickens’, 85, 91.
[9] George Orwell, ‘Charles Dickens’, in The collected essays, journalism and letters of George Orwell, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, vol. 1 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), 450.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 26 April 1947.
[11] Australian Baptist, 6 May 1913.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 1 May 1948.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 25 November 1944.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 6 October 1946.
[15] Barbara Tuchman, Practising history (London: Papermac, 1981), 33-34.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 3: Dickens

This is the third in a series of articles on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced him greatly. This posting looks at the way the English author, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) left his imprint on F W Boreham.

We have seen in an earlier posting that one of Boreham’s famous fictional characters was the enigmatic, John Broadbanks,[1] In Boreham’s development of John Broadbanks it is possible to see traces of the Dickensian “tendency toward multiple projection”[2] and the way Dickens developed “sides of himself in all the major figures in his moral and social spectrum, male and female, young and old”.[3] Many of their works display a monotonous habit of writing in absolutist terms.[4] Furthermore, like Dickens, Boreham shared the journalistic consciousness of how his writings would be received and he practised the appropriate use of the entertainment factor.[5] They both cultivated the creative faculty of finding the right word.[6]

Boreham perceived that Dickens achieved popularity through choosing not to deal with life’s profound issues, preferring instead to weave “a most entrancing literature out of phases of human experience that very few writers would have deigned to touch”.[7] This undoubtedly inspired Boreham to write editorials on such mundane topics as, ‘The roadside rest’,[8] ‘The pros and cons of insomnia’,[9] ‘Tin tacks’[10] and ‘The sweetening of the peach’.[11] Addressing the everyday matters of life, with a humble regard for his readers[12] and at a level most could understand,[13]

Boreham hailed Dickens as “the great storyteller of the common lives of the common people”.[14] He believed that Dickens’ greatness was “though dealing continually with little worries, little hardships, little pleasures, he made the dullest of lives in the drabbest of streets as enchanting as a fairy tale”.[15] Boreham found it remarkable that Dickens “established so stupendous a business on so small a capital”.[16] He said that readers “felt that Dickens understood them”[17] which was a quality that made “his pages ... ring with reality”.[18]

Boreham regarded Dickens as the type of writer who was “much enjoyed”[19] by his readers while giving them the feeling that the author was “thoroughly enjoying himself”.[20] It is interesting that amid the “fusillade of compliments” that Boreham received in his lifetime, the one that pleased him the most was from a man who stated that he “always enjoyed my lectures because it was so evident that I thoroughly enjoyed them myself!”[21] It was this enjoyment of the writing task, this resonation between author and readers, that made the readers feel “a personality behind the pages”, that was a feature that accounted for much of the appeal that Dickens and Boreham gained.[22] The enjoyment of the writing task by Dickens appeared to Boreham as if “his pen seems to romp across the pages”.[23] Critics such as Garrett Stewart found this tendency towards overflow akin to George Eliot’s phrase of “thoughts being entangled in metaphors” or words “tripping up” the author.[24] Stewart denounced this as a form of indulgence and bordering at times on “dangerously negligent loquacity”—traits that Boreham often exhibited because of his over exuberance with the writing task.[25]

Geoff Pound

Image: Charles Dickens

[1] For examples of the way Boreham developed the Broadbanks figure see Boreham, Ships of pearl, 163, 223. An analysis of the Broadbanks phenomenon is found in Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 98, 74, 225.
[2] A Welsh, From copyright to Copperfield: The identity of Dickens (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1987), 28, 45.
[3] M Golden, Dickens imagining himself: Six novel encounters with a changing world (Lanham: University Press of America, 1992), 4.
[4] Peter Ackroyd comments, “With Charles Dickens everything was the best or the worst,” in Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens, 23. Similarly Boreham often introduced characters or their work this way as in “the greatest history ever written” (Boreham, Mercury, 23 September 1933) or “the greatest interpreter of natural phenomena” (Boreham, Mercury, 17 November 1934) and “the greatest diarist of all time” (Boreham, Mercury, 27 February 1954).
[5] F R Leavis, writing of Dickens says his “genius was that of a great entertainer”, in F R Leavis, The great tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (London: Chatto & Windus, 1950), 29. An example of an instance when Boreham wrote of the constructive uses of literature to entertain can be found in the Mercury, 4 March 1944.
[6] Walter Bagehot made reference to Dickens’ ‘creative taste’ that expressed itself in concern to find ‘le mot juste’ in Walter Bagehot, ‘Charles Dickens’, The collected works of Walter Bagehot, ed. Norman St John-Stevas, vol. 2 (London: The Economist, 1965), 103.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 1 September 1928.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 24 March 1928.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 21 November 1931.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 11 February 1933.
[12] G K Chesterton said, “Dickens never talked down to the people. He talked up to the people. He approached the people like a deity and poured out his riches and his blood”. G K Chesterton, Charles Dickens (London: Methuen, 1906), 20.
[13] George Saintsbury amplifies Dickens’ broad appeal in saying “No author in our literary history has been both admired and enjoyed for such different reasons; by such different tastes and intellects; by whole classes of readers unlike each other”. In George Saintsbury, ‘Dickens’, in The Cambridge history of English literature, eds. A W Ward and A R Waller, vol. 13. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967 [1916]), 304.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 9 June 1945.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.
[19] Boreham, Mercury, 18 May 1935.
[20] Boreham, Mercury 28 March 1936; Mention is made of Dickens’ ‘exuberance’ in Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens, 7.
[21] F W Boreham, The fiery crags (London: The Epworth Press, 1928), 74.
[22] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.
[23] Boreham, Mercury, 28 March 1936.
[24] G Stewart, Dickens and the trials of imagination (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1974), 121.
[25] Stewart, Dickens and the trials of imagination, 136.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Boreham and His Literary Models Part 2: Dickens

This is the second in a series of articles on F W Boreham and the authors who influenced him greatly. This posting looks at the way the English author, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) left his imprint on F W Boreham.

F W Boreham had a great love for the writings of Charles Dickens. This passion which was sparked in his childhood had been heightened by a “personal link between us” forged through a memorable hour that Boreham's mother spent with Dickens at Canterbury Cathedral.[1]

On an anniversary of Dickens’ death, Boreham reminded his readers that “the most conspicuous group of books upon my shelves ... is the collection of the master’s works”[2] He read and reread everything that Dickens wrote until he discovered what he called “the author’s magic”[3] Boreham referred to Dickens more than to any other author, both as the main theme of an editorial and as one whose stories and characters were cited as illustrative material.[4]

While Boreham has been called the successor to the essayist J B Brierley[5] and was noted for writing stories about Mosgiel as J M Barrie did with the ‘Thrums’[6] and Ian Maclaren did with ‘Drumtochty’,[7] Boreham has most often been compared with Charles Dickens.[8] Parallels abound between Dickens and Boreham in such things as their reserved temperament,[9] their lack of a university education, their venture into working life at the age of fifteen as an office clerk,[10] their love for the theatre,[11] their passion for travel,[12] their commitment to generous philanthropy,[13] their commencement in a literary career as an unpaid contributor to magazines and papers[14] and their common proficiency in shorthand.[15] Historian Peter Ackroyd elaborated on the importance of the journalistic training on Charles Dickens, insights which are also applicable to Boreham who acquired this art:

That training was of help in more ways than one; he learnt how to produce “copy” to a deadline with a punctiliousness that would prove invaluable for his novels in later life but, more importantly, it is significant that the greatest novelist of the English language should have been trained as a journalist and reporter. He was at once made aware of an audience which he had to address, and whose tastes he would need to satisfy, if he were to be taken seriously at all.[16]

Boreham and Dickens displayed versatility in the breadth of literary genre they pursued which included that of diary writer,[17] magazine editor,[18] magazine contributor,[19] serial storywriter[20] and author of Christmas Books.[21] Their writings similarly exuded a sense of forward progress which was characteristic of the Victorian age.[22] Boreham was surely inspired to become one of the most prolific religious writers in his country[23] by the prodigious output of Dickens for he developed the Dickensian discipline of not waiting for inspiration but writing without a disturbance most mornings from 8:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M.[24] This was not a drudgery, for Boreham provided an insight into his own motivation for writing when he said that Dickens was “consumed with a thirst ... not a theory”.[25]

This study on Charles Dickens and his impact on F W Boreham will be continued, GP.

Geoff Pound

Image: Charles Dickens

[1] F W Boreham, Arrows of desire (London: The Epworth Press, 1951), 175.
[2] Boreham, Arrows of desire, 124.
[3] F W Boreham, Ships of pearl (London: The Epworth Press, 1935), 124.
[4] Among these are Boreham, Mercury 12 June 1920; Mercury, 24 July 1920; Mercury, 19 June 1930; Mercury 28 March 1936; Mercury, 10 June 1939; Mercury 1 February 1941; Age, 3 January 1945; Mercury 9 June 1945; Mercury 9 June 1951.
[5] Australian Baptist, 25 January 1919. ‘JB’ Jonathan Brierley (1843-1914) was a Congregational minister and newspaper columnist serving in London. More information can be found about Brierley in H Jeffs, ‘JB’ J Brierley: His life and work (London: James Clarke & Co., nd [1915]).
[6] See later posting for biographical detail on J M Barrie.
[7] J J North, New Zealand Baptist, April 1943, 81. Ian Maclaren was the pseudonym for John Watson (1850-1907), a Presbyterian minister and author who lived and worked in Scotland and England. His first parish was in Logiealmond, Scotland, a town that he called ‘Drumtochty’ in his first book, Beside the bonnie brier bush (1894), which made Watson a popular author in Britain and America. Watson wrote several other books containing sketches of Scottish rural life and later wrote, under his own name, several books of theology, including his Lyman Beecher Lectures, The cure of souls (1896). Further biographical details may be found in the DNB 1901-1911 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1920), 605-607.
[8] Irving C Benson, ‘Dr Frank W Boreham—the man and the writer’, in F W Boreham, The last milestone (London: The Epworth Press, 1961), 7; R G Turnbull, A history of preaching, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Book House, 1974), 424. Ackroyd notes that, “Charles Dickens also developed ‘Dickens land,’ particularly of Kent, which is half-real and half-fictional”, in P Ackroyd, Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990), 260.
[9] Ackroyd remarked that while Dickens’ writing “testifies to the virtues of cheerfulness and sociability” he was “a man, who ... always stood apart.” See Ackroyd, Dickens, 157, 353.
[10] Dickens worked in a legal office, Ackroyd, Dickens, 115; Boreham began his working career in the office of the High Brooms Brick Company, in Boreham, My pilgrimage, 40.
[11]Dickens’ love of theatre is described in Ackroyd, Dickens, 35, 111; Boreham’s love of theatre is referred to in such editorials as the Mercury, 19 February 1921; 4 November 1922; 29 May 1926; 8 January 1927; 11 May 1929; 3 May 1941; 4 November 1950; 16 January 1954.
[12] Ackroyd, Dickens, 156; Boreham writes of his love for travel in F W Boreham, I forgot to say, 230; F W Boreham, The passing of John Broadbanks (London: The Epworth Press, 1936), 195; F W Boreham, The prodigal (London: The Epworth Press, 1941), 55; F W Boreham, Boulevards of paradise (London: The Epworth Press, 1944), 80.
[13] Reference to Dickens’ generosity is made in, P Ackroyd, Dickens, 533. Indications of Boreham’s philanthropy are found in T Howard Crago, The story of F W Boreham (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1961), 227.
[14] Dickens began by submitting a sketch to the Monthly Magazine in 1833, in K Chittick, Dickens and the 1830’s (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), ix; Boreham’s first article was published in the Associate in 1889, in Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 35.
[15] Ackroyd, Dickens, 124, 157; Chittick, Dickens and the 1830’s, 9; Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 25.
[16] Ackroyd, Dickens, 158.
[17] Ackroyd, Dickens, 243; F W Boreham kept a diary through most of his life. He wrote of the importance of this practice in Boreham, The last milestone, 39-43.
[18] Dickens’ work as an editor for magazines and papers such as Bentley’s Miscellany and The Daily News from 1846-48 is described in Charles Dickens as editor being letters written by him to William Henry Wills his sub-editor, ed. R C Lehmann (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1912) and Ackroyd, Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990), 214-215. Ackroyd said of Dickens “in some ways he was too peculiar ... to make a good editor,” in Ackroyd, Dickens, 480-81. The same inference was made about Boreham by J J North, in the New Zealand Baptist, April 1943.
[19] Evidence for the many pieces Dickens was contributing to magazines and papers is seen in Ackroyd, Dickens, 180.
[20] The Pickwick papers is an example of Dickens’ involvement in serialisation, see Ackroyd, Dickens, 180; Boreham’s books of essays are refinements of editorials that appeared on a weekly basis. Two books that first appeared in serialised form were F W Boreham, Loose leaves, (Dunedin: H H Driver, 1902) and F W Boreham, From England to Mosgiel, (Dunedin: H H Driver, 1903).
[21] Ackroyd, Dickens, 413, 508. Many of Boreham’s Christmas stories were produced in Christmas booklets and have been collected in the book F W Boreham, My Christmas book (London: The Epworth Press, 1953).
[22] Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1991), 7.
[23] R C Croucher, F W Boreham (1871-1959). Croucher compares Boreham’s output with other Australian writers.
[24] References to Dickens’ ‘disciplined’ manner, ‘stamina’ and ‘energy’are found in Ackroyd, Introduction to Dickens, 5, 7. While the starting and finishing times changed throughout his life, Boreham’s discipline is described in Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 228 and in Benson, ‘Dr Frank W Boreham—the man and the writer’, 3-4.
[25] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1920.