Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, June 09, 2006

Blog Break

Thanks for taking the time to read the postings on this blog.

I am having a break from blogging over the northern hemisphere summer.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boreham's Editorial Purposes

Motivation and Purpose
This posting seeks to identify the aims that Boreham possessed in writing editorials. What motivated his editorial writing and what was he trying to do?

Delivering Literary Delight
In reflecting on the genre of the essay, literary critic Robert Aswan says: “An essay is a thing of the imagination. If there is information in an essay, it is by-the-by, and if there is an opinion in it, you need not trust it for the long run. A genuine essay has no educative, polemical, or sociopolitical use; it is the movement of a free mind at play”.[1]

Boreham’s acknowledgment of playful delight in the writing and reading of literature is captured well in one of his Mercury articles: “He reads the books as he eats strawberries; not to attempt the creation of a record but for the sheer enjoyment of the thing”.[2] The examination of Boreham’s writing style has revealed the personal pleasure he experienced from the appearance and the sound of words in an editorial. While Boreham’s editorials bore evidence of a ruminative, playful imagination, Aswan’s summation is insufficient to describe Boreham’s editorial goals. His editorials neither lacked a purpose not conveyed a free mind at play. Boreham agreed with Crago’s statement that “he had never written an article for the sake of writing an article. Unless a topic could convey a message it never tempted his pen”.[3]

Editorials to Enlarge and Enrich
Boreham’s aim that his writing might both inform and provide relief and consolation is summed up when he expressed the function of drama “to broaden life’s horizon, to tint it with bright colours and to provide busy people pressed by many cares with an escape from the swords and the common place”.[4] His fondness for editorials that introduced literary figures arose from his contention that “all through the ages, ignorance has blocked the path of progress” but “books, more than anything else, have tended to dispel that ignorance”.[5] Writing in his restrained style, one detects an autobiographical confession and yearning that readers might connect fully with life in all times and places when he stated, “By means of books we escape, live in all lands, sail over all seas and become the citizens of the ages. Enlargement and enrichment must come to the mind of the man who reads Gibbon’s Decline and fall”.[6]

Awakening to the Treasures of History
In the editorials that developed historical themes, Boreham was seeking to awaken his readers to an appreciation of history. His editorials that captured the history of Australia and the British Empire were written in the hope that readers could grow to appreciate their ‘citizenship of the ages’. Boreham believed that telling of the beginnings and the significant chapters in the Australian story would develop social cohesion, national identity and patriotism. The concentration on biographical editorials sprang from Boreham’s view that readers would receive stimulation and inspiration from heroes, not simply by imbibing the ideas of his subjects but by being infused by their philosophy for “we come into personal touch with themselves and bear the impress of their magnetic personalities for ever afterwards”.[7]

Holding a Literary Mirror
Moreover, Boreham believed that readers and congregations “resent the didactic tone, the hortatory attitude” yet “yield instinctively to the suggestive and persuasive touch ... that leads them to answer their own questions, and talks, rather than orates”.[8] Rather than ‘preaching at’ his readers, Boreham’s editorial style was better understood as holding up a mirror to life. Explaining this with examples, Boreham wrote, “By his story of the ewe lamb, Nathan held a mirror to the face of David and brought that monarch to his knees. Shakespeare told us how Hamlet did the same thing by means of the travelling players, for King Claudius”.[9] Recognising that “the Divine voice, wherever and whenever heard, is invariably marked by softness, calmness and restraint ... [and] the most convincing and compelling exhibitions of super human power come to men not in the earthquake nor in the fire, but in a still small voice”, Boreham communicated in undertones.[10] He described this understated style as “poking the fire”[11] and on another occasion he likened his writings to the stars acting as pointers to the Southern Cross saying, “The papers that I have written possess no value or importance of their own; but they point to things that no man can afford to miss: that is their only glory”.[12]

Editorial Writing as Storytelling
Whether Boreham was seeking to inculcate some value or urge readers towards some commitment, he invariably adopted the storytelling method. Stories, Boreham believed, were more likely to hook and hold the attention of readers if they were about life. Of good novels Boreham wrote, “We love them for the sake of the life that is in them”.[13] He maintained that “the best illustrations of conversion are to be found, not in theology, nor even in religious biography, but in fiction”.[14] In a word directed to preachers but containing insight into Boreham’s view of the most effective style he wrote:

"I would, if I could only muster up the courage, say a word to preachers before laying down my pen. Is there any better way of preaching than by storytelling? Indeed, is there any other way of preaching? As soon as the terminology of the pulpit becomes technical and abstract, the tired mind declines to follow; only so long as a picture is being painted or a story told will the hearer maintain an eager pursuit. And, after all, has not the preacher been called to the service of the Most Sublime Story-teller of all the ages?"[15]

This statement is another expression of Boreham’s advocacy for pictures and stories and his abhorrence of technical, abstract thought which he believed was unhelpful for ordinary people seeking to understand ideas. While this assessment may have come from Boreham’s own experience, other writers who promulgated this view included the influential Thomas Macaulay who said, “Logicians may reason about abstractions. But the great mass of men must have images…. Doctrines … must generally be embodied before they can create a strong public feeling”.[16]

Geoff Pound

Image: High Street, the main street of Armadale, Melbourne. A stone's throw from the Armadale Baptist Church. Photo taken through car window at 30 mph!

[1] Robert Aswan, ‘Introduction’, The best American essays ed. Cynthia Ozick (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1998), xv.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 21 March 1942.
[3] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 248.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 4 November 1950.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 31 August 1940.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 31 August 1940.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 31 August 1940.
[8] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 167.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 23 July 1949.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 19 February 1949.
[11] F W Boreham, Rubble and roseleaves (London: The Epworth Press, 1923), 118.
[12] Boreham, The crystal pointers, 8.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 13 August 1955.
[14] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 180.
[15] F W Boreham, The ivory spires (London: The Epworth Press, 1925), 113.
[16] Thomas B Macaulay, “Milton,” in Critical and historical essays by Lord Macaulay (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1874), 10-11.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Boreham and Controversy

While Boreham’s decision to distance himself increasingly from the issues of his time weakened the prophetic dimension of his editorial writing, his fear of controversy further diminished his ability to address the difficult issues of his day.

Fresh and Fearless
The first eight years of Boreham’s ministry in New Zealand were characterised by a fearless outspokenness on theological doctrine and issues of national and international importance. Within six months of arriving in Mosgiel Boreham preached a sermon in which he launched a stinging attack on a Presbyterian minister, the Rev McKerrow. In this sermon (later published in the local newspaper and subsequently printed as a booklet), Boreham condemned the Presbyterian practice of infant baptism and drew on the insights of biblical scholars to set forth the case for believers’ baptism.[1]

Boreham advocated the reading of the Bible in New Zealand schools,[2] led a vigorous temperance campaign,[3] attacked city leaders whose policy led to a desecration of the Sabbath[4] and advocated compulsory military training.[5] During the Boer War, he slammed those of the anti-militarist school and countered their influence by writing, “The nervous politicians of the present day who nurse this nightmare [the tendency towards militarism] should be able to estimate the real difference between the military necessity of a great empire and the foundation of that empire itself”.[6] On the enemy itself, Boreham wrote, “When the deluded Boers come to discern that life is more tolerable under the British rule than under the corrupt Boer oligarchy, they will very soon become fit to participate in self-government”.[7] In this early phase of Boreham’s career, he exhibited courage and engaged in a range of public questions with apparent effectiveness.

Once Bitten
In a letter to the Otago Daily Times, Boreham was criticised for a statement that he had made in his capacity as President of the Baptist Union. The criticism, made by the Rev J T Hinton, a friend and retired Baptist minister, concerned the exact wording and extent of the support for a motion considered by the Baptist Union at its previous assembly on the subject of Bible reading and “ethical and religious instruction” in schools.[8] For the next week Boreham and Hinton exchanged letters through the paper, at first pleasantly until Boreham called Hinton’s misrepresentation of him “criminal”.[9] When after a week the matter had not been resolved, a reader William Hutchinson wrote to the paper about this feud between “two of our reverend gentlemen” saying, “What can ordinary folks think when the minister of the gospel writes of another that he has convicted him of ‘gross misrepresentation of vital and fundamental facts, in order to mislead public opinion on a grave moral issue at an important crisis daring to contribute the utterly, admittedly and unpardonably false assertion?”[10] He then concluded, “The Bible is sometimes as conspicuous by its absence from the pulpit as from the public school”.

Reflecting on this “bitter experience which left its mark upon the whole of my ministry”, Boreham acknowledged how his attack had “mortally offended” this senior minister and had resulted in a breakdown of their friendship.[11] Eventually reconciliation was made but Boreham said, “I secretly vowed that I would never again allow myself to become entangled in public controversy. During the years, I have often listened to animated debates in which I longed to intervene, and have followed newspaper discussions into which my pen itched to plunge”.[12] Boreham was not always faithful to his vow. He was vociferous in denouncing George Bernard Shaw and his disciples who were critical of the British involvement in the First World War,[13] he was filled with anti-German sentiment during the Great War[14] and he was scathing in his criticism of the proposals by “workers” and unionists to get a “higher education”.[15] On only one other occasion did Boreham become embroiled in a public feud, when in 1915, he attacked the Roman Catholic church in its bid to gain State aid for Roman Catholic schools.[16]

Controversy Within Limits
In writing about controversy, Boreham recognised the spirit of conflict as “a sign of health” and he encouraged people not to denounce controversy as an unqualified evil but “to define the limits within which it might be utilized to national ends”.[17] He stated that reformers “often fail us because they rely too exclusively on the negative approach ... they attack this; they condemn that; they denounce the other”. Many times Boreham was to summarise his approach to criticism and controversy by saying, “The best way of showing that a stick is crooked is by laying a straight one beside it”.[18]

Peace at all Costs
Boreham was praised in many quarters for his irenic spirit and was well known as “the friend of all and the enemy of none”.[19] J J North acknowledged that Boreham “clashed with the Presbyterians in his callow days [but] we have not seen his name associated with a controversy since. With Fundamentalist and Modernist, with High Church and Low, with Catholic and Protestant, he has no discernible quarrel”.[20] Boreham’s positive and diplomatic style marked his editorial writing to such an extent that only a handful of published letters to the editor regarding his articles were written, most of which were letters of appreciation[21] with only two questioning Boreham’s interpretation of literary figures.[22]

Through the pages of the Mercury and the Age, Boreham was not critical of the government nor did he provoke theological controversy as contemporary editorialist, Edward Kiek, did through the pages of the Advertiser.[23] Boreham lacked the provocative, pugnacious style of the Rev Alan Walker who, in a later era, wrote editorials for the Sydney Morning Herald and whose active campaigns against apartheid, the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, alcohol and gambling embroiled him in regular controversy.[24] Boreham’s personality was of a more peaceful kind and earned him enormous public respect across all parties. However, his decision in 1902 to avoid controversy and write benign editorials severely limited his effectiveness as an interpreter of public issues, a public theologian and a conscience to his constituency. Boreham knew this, for reflecting on this decision thirty-three years later he wrote, “I think I have been wrong. I think ... I may have shirked my duty”.[25]

Geoff Pound

Image: Mosgiel Train Station. A photo of a postcard in FWB’s memorabilia.

[1] Frank W Boreham, Christian baptism (Dunedin : H H Driver, 1895).
[2] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 5 July 1899.
[3] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 30 August 1899.
[4] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 30 August 1900; 12 April 1901.
[5] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 18 March 1901.
[6] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 7 September 1901.
[7] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 29 October 1901.
[8] J T Hinton and F W Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 25 August 1902; 29 August 1902; 30 August 1902; 1 September 1902; 2 September 1902; 3 September 1902; 4 September 1902; 5 September 1902.
[9] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 2 September 1902.
[10] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 12 September 1902.
[11] Boreham, Ships of pearl, 154-155.
[12] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 171.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 5 December 1914.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 13 February 1915; 20 February 1915.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 17 April 1915.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 8 April 1915; 13 April 1915; 14 April 1915; 21 April 1915.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 30 June 1934.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 4 August 1956.
[19] Australian Baptist, 29 April 1941.
[20] Australian Baptist, 16 February 1926. It would appear that North’s mention of Boreham’s ‘clash with the Presbyterians’ is a reference to the baptismal controversy mentioned earlier.
[21] Letter to the editor by H R N, Mercury, 4 August 1934; Letter to the editor by J H R, Age, 26 October 1940. Letter to the editor by W J R, Mercury, 5 September 1949.
[22] Letter to the editor by J S D, Age, 6 July 1940. This relates to Boreham’s article on Richard Blackmore in the Age, 23 June 1940; Letter to the editor by ‘M L E’, Age, 28 September 1940. This relates to Boreham’s article on the Bronte sisters in the Age, 21 September 1940.
[23] Walter Phillips, Edward S Kiek: Liberal churchman his life and thought (Adelaide: Uniting Church Historical Society, 1981), 18. Phillips gives an example of Kiek’s criticism of the welfare state in Advertiser, April 1945.
[24] Don Wright, Alan Walker: Conscience of the nation (Adelaide: Open Book Publishers, 1997), 114, 134, 162, 163, 165. Walker wrote Christmas and Good Friday editorials for the Sydney Morning Herald from the early 1970s.
[25] Boreham, Ships of pearl, 160.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Boreham's Writing During His Retirement: 1928-59

Retired From Obligations
At his retirement in 1928 Boreham absolved himself from the obligation of preparing new material, and, while he wrote some new sermons and editorials, the last thirty-one years saw Boreham drawing largely upon the great fund of manuscripts he had produced in his working life.[1] In 1929, the first year of his retirement, thirty-four percent of Boreham’s editorials were new but by 1939 only seventeen percent of his manuscripts were being submitted to his readers for the first time. J T Soundy’s words to his minister that “you’ll have very few fresh ideas after you’re forty” proved prophetic if not entirely accurate.[2] Writing his autobiography at sixty-nine years of age, Boreham confessed that the diminution of his creative powers came when he was “well past fifty” thus requiring a more regular requisition of manuscripts written in his “livelier years”.[3] His literary output was great until the early 1950s only because of the wealth of the manuscripts from which he was able to draw.

Arrested Progress
Throughout these last thirty years of his life Boreham’s editorials revealed a paucity of fresh ideas and a repetition of old examples and illustrations. He was criticised for constantly referring to old books and appearing to ignore the new ones being written.[4] Boreham had repeatedly warned his readers about the peril of settling down, citing Pitt, Macaulay and Chesterton as examples of significant people who in their latter years displayed “no evidence of mental growth”.[5] When in 1957 he recycled an editorial for the third time under the title ‘Arrested progress’, it appeared that Boreham had unknowingly succumbed to that same danger.[6]

Editorial Stockpiling
A practical matter that affected Boreham’s subject matter was his tendency to stockpile material. He commenced this practice in 1903 when preparing for a six-month trip to England during which he continued his literary commitments with the Otago Daily Times. In the 1920s, F W Boreham made three long overseas trips and prior to the first in 1924 he despatched a year’s supply of editorials to the Mercury. The other reason for stockpiling material was J T Soundy’s comment in 1907 about a person becoming creatively sterile around the age of forty. These words stung Boreham into action for he said, “I began to write as if my very life depended on the number of manuscripts I produced .… I despatched, week by week, the articles needed for that week’s use, and the balance I packed away in boxes .… In spite of my regular output these superfluous screeds accumulated amazingly until there were hundreds of them!”[7] While the stockpiling of editorials enabled Boreham to maintain his literary commitments for a long time this practice meant he increasingly developed an essay style rather than writing editorials that were closely related to time and place.

Writing During WWII
Boreham’s emotional strain and “shattered nerves” in 1916, brought on by stress and anxiety about the war, resulted in him rarely addressing war issues again in his editorials.[8] The articles that did address wartime subjects were mainly recycled editorials.[9] Evidence of “nerves so severely shattered” appeared again during Boreham’s demanding overseas tour in 1928.[10]

In 1942, during the Second World War, Boreham showed further signs of personal stress in editorials on the ‘Art of worrying wisely’[11] and his references to “nature’s shock absorbers in times of stress”.[12] Continuing this theme two months later he wrote, “Never, since this world began, have so many people sought some sort of sanctuary from the pressure of life as at this moment”.[13] A year later he wrote, “Never since the world began have so many people groped frantically for a sane and satisfying philosophy in relation to life’s losses as today .… What is a man to say to himself in the hour of his desolation?”[14] While Boreham’s silence was understandable in view of his emotional frailty and the horrors of war, it was not acceptable in terms of his responsibility as a theologian. Had Boreham been able to voice the questions, the loss, the disempowerment and the desolation of war, he might have better helped the many of whom he spoke who were seeking ‘a sane and satisfying philosophy in relation to life’s losses’ and he might have also found more solace and meaning for himself.

Wounded Editor
While the 1950s were for many Australians a time of growth and hope, but for Boreham this was a despondent time in which he was coping with the death of his daughter, the conclusion of his preaching ministry and the ill health of his wife and himself. Boreham’s mental state affected his editorial writing. The only topical matters he addressed in this decade were the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II,[15] the scaling of Mount Everest (‘Everest conquered a gift to the Queen’),[16] the visit to Hobart of the Queen and Duke[17] and Princess Anne’s love of puppets.[18]

Important news in the Mercury that did not rate a mention in Boreham’s editorials included the installation of the automatic telephone exchange,[19] the emergence of the atomic bomb and the protest movements (which received extensive coverage in the Mercury and the Age in 1954),[20] the federal elections,[21] John Landy’s record running of the mile (28 June 1954),[22] the Korean War,[23] the Empire Games,[24] the waterfront strike[25] and the Olympic Games in Australia, an event which dominated Australian newspapers in November 1956.[26] These examples lead to the impression that Boreham was getting increasingly out of touch.

An inordinate number of Boreham’s editorials in 1955 were written in the minor key in which he spoke about worry,[27] growing old,[28] the need for sanctuary,[29] the loss of children,[30] the pressure of life,[31] healing,[32] death[33] and heaven.[34] It was obvious that Boreham was projecting many of his personal burdens into his writing.

The books that Boreham constantly referred to in his columns were mainly those written prior to or during the Victorian era. It was not that Boreham was living ‘off the overflow’ for he continued to read voraciously, but these were mainly what his biographer called ‘classical novels’. In 1947, he read a vast number of classical novels he had not read before including many by Joseph Conrad. Crago writes, “He had turned to some of the modern novelists, such as Lloyd Douglas—but found little that appealed to him. This was unfortunate, for a remark was now occasionally heard that Boreham’s literary articles were obviously the work of an ageing author, quoting the writers of a past generation little read by the present”.[35]

There are references in his editorials in this later period to events, means of transport and objects that were peculiar to an earlier period. While there is no record of negative responses from his editorial readers such references caused some of Boreham’s published writings to become dated and evoked warnings by homiletical historian Warren Wiersbe to potential readers of Boreham books that they “may consider him sentimental; others may feel he is a relic of a vanished era”.[36]

Geoff Pound

Image: Fellows Street, the street of Boreham’s retirement home in Kew, Melbourne

[1] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 102.
[2] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 198.
[3] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 199.
[4] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 239.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 14 March 1925.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 16 November 1957.
[7] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 199.
[8] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 164-165.
[9] In 1939 Boreham wrote one article with a war theme, Mercury, 23 December 1939; in 1940 there were five articles; two in 1941, none in 1942 (with only three brief references); two in 1943; none in 1944; one oblique reference in 1945.
[10] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 211-213.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 15 August 1942.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 22 August 1942.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 31 October 1942.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 28 August 1943.
[15] Mercury, 30 May 1953.
[16] Mercury, 3 June 1953.
[17] Mercury, 20 February 1954.
[18] Mercury, 13 August 1955.
[19] Mercury, 5 December 1953.
[20] This dominated the news in 1954 and received special coverage in the Mercury, 5 December 1953.
[21] Mercury, 29 May 1954.
[22] Mercury, 28 June 1954.
[23] Mercury, 24 July 1954.
[24] Mercury, 7 August 1954.
[25] Mercury, 6 November 1954.
[26] Mercury, 22 November to 6 December 1956.
[27] Boreham, Mercury, 9 July 1955.
[28] Boreham, Mercury, 3 December 1955.
[29] Boreham, Mercury, 12 March 1955.
[30] Boreham, Mercury, 2 July 1955.
[31] Boreham, Mercury, 21 May 1955; 28 May 1955.
[32] Boreham, Mercury, 19 February 1955; 21 May 1955.
[33] Boreham, Mercury, 1 January 1955.
[34] Boreham, Mercury, 26 February 1955.
[35] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 241.
[36] Warren W Wiersbe, Moody Monthly, October 1974, 83-87.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Boreham's Writing During the Armadale Period: 1918-28

Changing literary priorities
By 1922 only two percent (one article) of Frank Boreham’s writing in the Mercury was addressing issues of the day and a marked increase of editorials dealt with what he called “unchanging values”.[1] At this stage Boreham was no longer exercising leadership in Tasmania, a public role that had earlier bolstered his forthrightness in addressing current issues in his columns. Furthermore, writing from Melbourne increased his remoteness from the local issues in ‘the apple isle’. The dramatic increase in his published books which were enjoying popularity with an international readership appeared to be a factor in Boreham writing Mercury editorials that would neither date nor be parochial—editorials that could easily be transformed into essays for his books.[2] By 1936 (eight years into his retirement) this trend had increased with Boreham showing little interest in addressing current issues in his Mercury editorials. His new commission to write for the Literary Supplement of the Age affected his Mercury editorials with an increase of articles taking a literary theme.[3]

While such factors as his remoteness from Hobart, his growing withdrawal from religious leadership and the increasing demands of publishing books led to his editorials becoming more detached from the context, Boreham developed convictions to justify the distancing of an author relatedness to the time in which they lived. Contrasting diarist John Evelyn, who was “immersed in the spirit of his age”, with Izaak Walton, who “kept free from it”,[4] Boreham sided with Walton, who “lived through some of the most turbulent years of British history” but did not refer to these events in his writing and “never for a moment caught the spirit of the storm”.[5]

The views he expressed in 1924 about Victorian poet Sydney Dobell signalled the direction Boreham was seeking to avoid in his own literary career:

“He found it difficult, if not impossible, to keep cool amidst such bewildering excitements. His spirits rose and fell with the tide of each day’s happenings. Classical poetry should be marked by a certain detachment; the poet must dwell in his own age, but he must be a citizen of all the ages. It was here that Dobell failed. He was a child of his own day. There is always something precarious about the fame of the literature that catches and embalms the spirit of a particular period.[6]

The increasing detachment from his age that Boreham displayed in his editorial writing was influenced by his increasing popularity as a published essayist who was intent on achieving for all his writing a high degree of timelessness.

Geoff Pound

Image: FWB's house in Munro Street, Armadale.

[1] Editorials in 1922 dealing with ‘unchanging issues’ jumped to twenty-four percent compared with sixteen percent in 1913. There was an increase in historical/biographical articles (thirteen percent to twenty-one percent) as well as those dealing with literature and the arts (seventeen percent to twenty-one percent).
[2] The decade of the 1920s was the most prolific in terms of the publication of Boreham books. In this decade, he published sixteen books compared with nine between 1910-1919, nine in the 1930s, six in the 1940s and seven (four of which were small) in the 1950s.
[3] In 1936 Boreham wrote no articles dealing with current Tasmanian or global issues. This same year forty percent of his articles focussed on literary themes (this compares with seventeen percent in 1913 and twenty-one percent in 1922).
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 5 May 1934.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 7 August 1943.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 5 April 1924.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Boreham's Writing During the Hobart Period: 1912-18

This posting looks at the way Boreham’s writing changed through his time at Hobart. As David Enticott addressed Boreham’s preaching and writing during the First World War, this article will not cover comprehensively this period.

The span of time within which Boreham wrote suggests significant changes in the society that he was addressing. He had left the northern hemisphere as a patriotic Englishman. The element of distance, his regular return visits and a diligent reading of English history developed his enchantment with the motherland. Many times Boreham reflected on the changes he had witnessed in his lifetime. In 1945, on the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination, he “indulged in a mental contrast” by saying, “Fifty years is not a huge slice of history, yet I remind myself today that, when I settled at Mosgiel, Queen Victoria was at the height of her tremendous popularity. Since then four kings have reigned over us. Three wars have been fought, each more terrible and more devastating than its predecessor”.[1] The changes that occurred across this wide time span raise questions as to whether Boreham stayed in touch with the times and to what extent his writings related to his readership over these years. While Boreham was keen to link people with the events and personalities that had dominated the broad sweep of history, in what way were his editorials addressing the important issues of his time?

Changing times
A survey by the author of the subjects that Boreham selected reveals some interesting changes of emphasis concerning his role in tackling the news items of his day and addressing the perennial concerns of every age. Following his initial stint in 1912 as a daily editor for the Mercury when his editorials were topical and related to the news, the first full year of Saturday articles in 1913 reveal his themes can be categorised in the following way:

Unchanging values 16%
History/Biography 13%
Arts (literature, theatre, painting) 17%
Anniversaries (New year) 9%
Nature (seasons) 17%
Science & exploration 7%
Religion 1%
Sport 0%
Topical issues (current social concerns) 20%

The popularity of his preaching series (and subsequently the books of sermons) that commenced in 1911 and ran for 125 Sunday nights on Texts that made history was repeated in Armadale in the 1920s and led to an increase of editorials taking a historical or biographical theme. It is interesting to note that only thirteen percent (seven articles) of the editorials he wrote for the Mercury in 1913 had a reference to Tasmania or Australia; the rest had a distinctly British focus in the treatment of personalities and events. Boreham often referred to British newspapers and quoted from northern hemisphere journals such as the Edinburgh Review and Harper’s Magazine. While Boreham’s British bias could explain the paucity of Australian related editorials, he wrote in 1913, “We have overseas news but not much Australian news. Why? The bottom has fallen out of everything Australian”.[2]

Geoff Pound

Image: FWB and a group of six of his leaders. Elders? Deacons?

[1] Australian Christian World, 9 March 1945.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 18 October 1913.