Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Boreham on Fostering Wonder

Dwindling Globe
The capacity of nature to surprise, to create wonder and to search beyond the known and familiar led to many editorials by F W Boreham that commended the fostering of these qualities. He wrote numerous articles about Australia’s early explorers and noted the exploits of Ernest Shackleton and Douglas Mawson to the Southern Pole but by 1919 Boreham declared that with the large number of exploratory expeditions to previously unknown countries, including the poles, “We are living on a dwindling globe”.[1]

In 1922, he cited the advances in locomotive travel as contributing to the contraction of the world and as examples of the human achievements that had brought about “the relativity of the impossible”.[2] In 1933, he wrote that the aerial conquest of Everest was “an appealing foretaste of ultimate victory” which illustrated that “the dominant triumph of humanity has consisted in the gradual elimination of the impossible”.[3] Many times, in view of the human conquests in so many spheres of the earth, Boreham had asked, “Is the age of exploration past?”[4]

Exploration Days not Over
Nevertheless, Boreham contended that, “the great days of exploration are not behind us”.[5] Drawing up an agenda for exploration, he wrote in 1921 that “our [geological] knowledge amounts to a certainty of ignorance”,[6] in 1931, he declared that the ocean “remains one realm on the planet, the exploration of which has been scarcely begun”,[7] and in 1942, he noted that there were continents such as South America that were relatively unexplored.[8] Furthermore, following earthquakes in Sicily (1914), Japan (1923) and New Zealand (1931)[9] and after reporting that, “Mt Etna has again lost its temper”,[10] Boreham suggested that in seismology and volcanology “we have still much to learn”[11] and that “the world in which we live is a packet of illusions”.[12] In 1951, on the one-hundredth anniversary of the survey proving Mt Everest to be the world’s highest mountain, Boreham said, “It would be simply crushing if we were assured that nothing remained to be discovered”.[13]

Telescope and Microscope
F W Boreham was enamored with Leonard Darwin’s view about there being two classes of explorers, those who explored new continents and those who made detailed and systematic studies of smaller areas.[14] While recognizing the large spheres still to be explored and affirming that the telescope had offered an important consciousness of the universe, Boreham stated in 1935 that “the era of the telescope had had its day” and that now it was the turn for “the triumph of the microscope”.[15] Gilbert White, the eighteenth-century naturalist who spent most of his life in the English village of Selbourne, was hailed by Boreham as the type of explorer whose time had come.[16] Boreham regarded himself as an explorer of this variety when he wrote of Wedge Bay, “There is just one spot on God’s fair earth that I fancy I know better than anyone else .… I have spent about six months of my life poking about this solitary place trying to woo its favor and win its golden secrets”.[17]

Surprise and Wonder
In pictorial language, Boreham distinguished between momentary experiences of surprise that come from discovering the new and the enduring quality of wonder. He reflected: “When as a small child, I was first permitted to go outdoors at night, I was astonished to see the stars glittering in the skies above me. When, nowadays, I leave home of an evening, the stars fail to surprise me. But, as I observe their movements, admire their arrangement, and contemplate their multitude and immensity, I am filled with wonder such as in infancy”.[18]

Spectacles Without Eyes
Boreham recognized that the tendency in growing older was to lose the childlike capacities for being surprised and astonished. Quoting Carlyle in Sartor resartus, he said, “The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder ... is but a pair of spectacles behind which there is no eye”.[19] Boreham was terrified by the thought of the world being “shorn of its surprise-power”, believing that “we only exist by being continually startled; we are kept alive by the everlasting bursting of bombshells”.[20] He relished the hungry curiosity of Dickens’ Paul Dombey whose questions typified the spirit that led to explorations and inventions that had advanced the world’s progress.[21]

Nearing his retirement and with a touch of autobiographical reflection, Boreham wrote in 1927, “When a man looks back across the years, his mind is haunted by a variety of vain regrets. And among those futile sorrows there figures conspicuously the thought of the questions that he never asked and the questions that he never answered”.[22] Concerned more at his own capacity to be surprised than the world’s ability to offer thrills, Boreham mourned the tragedy that “in the midst of marvels we tend to be blase”.[23] Later, reflecting on the importance of wonder for other spheres of life, he wrote, “If only I can renew the romance of my childhood, and recapture that early sense of wonder, the world will suddenly become as marvelous as the prince’s palace in the fairy stories, and the ministry of the Church will become life’s most sensational sensation”.[24]

Sensational World
Boreham’s remedies for increasing one’s capacity for wonder included a regular contact with nature whose contagious effect would exert its enlivening powers.[25] While he believed that an experience of wonder “eludes analysis”,[26] he also recognized that “ignorance does not create wonder; it destroys it .… The more I learn, the more sensational the world will become”.[27] In addition to encouraging learning from the arts and history, he commended the study of sciences asking, “Has science done anything at all to eliminate from life the element of mystery?”[28]

Nature and Wonder
While encouraging the advances of science and exploration, Boreham highlighted the mystical relationship between nature and wonder. His vivid descriptions of nature’s delights and his mystical references to nature’s ‘magic’ are reminiscent of the romantic nature writers. In assessing the current challenges of the conservation movement, Michael Mulligan says, “A heavy reliance on scientific expertise and rational arguments for conservation … has blinded the movement to the aesthetic appeal of the romantic philosophical tradition in ecology and the importance of sensuous, embodied experiences of the ‘more than human world’”.[29] According to Mulligan, a stress on the experience of wonder in nature is relevant to contemporary efforts to the new field of ecopsychology that is seeking to motivate the conservation spirit not by guilt but by the opportunity that nature affords in giving pleasure and passion.[30]

Fostering the Pilgrim Spirit
F W Boreham often advocated the value of travel in increasing one’s knowledge and wonder of the world[31] so long as it was not for its own sake in a gipsy-like manner but directed toward the search for truth[32] and undertaken with the pilgrim spirit.[33] During the World Wars, when most people were being deprived of the pleasures of travel, Boreham loved to quote Richard Jeffries who said, “the real secret of sightseeing lies in standing still”.[34]

Geoff Pound

Image: “a pair of spectacles behind which there is no eye.”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 28 June 1919.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 18 March 1922.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 1 July 1933.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 14 March 1942; Age, 19 June 1948.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 23 June 1923.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 29 January 1921.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 3 October 1931.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 14 March 1942.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 23 May 1931.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 4 August 1923.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 16 May 1914.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 6 October 1923.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 1 September 1951.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 6 November 1920. Leonard Darwin (1850-1943) was a son of Charles Darwin and was an engineer, economist, eugenist and author. More biographical detail about Leonard Darwin can be found in the Webster’s biographical dictionary 1st edition (Springfield, Mass., USA: G & C Merriam Co. Publishers, 1953), 390.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 28 September 1935.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 17 July 1937.
[17] Boreham, The golden milestone, 109.
[18] F W Boreham, Arrows of desire (London: The Epworth Press, 1951), 47.
[19] Boreham, A witch’s brewing, 242.
[20] Boreham, Faces in the fire, 16.
[21] Boreham, Mercury, 12 August 1933.
[22] Boreham, Mercury, 14 May 1927.
[23] Boreham, Faces in the fire, 16.
[24] Boreham, Faces in the fire, 23.
[25] Boreham, Mercury, 9 February 1946; Age, 16 December 1950.
[26] Boreham, Mercury, 14 October 1944; Age, 5 March 1949.
[27] Boreham, Faces in the fire, 19.
[28] Boreham, Mercury, 28 June 1941; Age, 27 September 1947.
[29] Mulligan, Re-enchanting conservation work, 1.
[30] Mulligan, Re-enchanting conservation work, 5.
[31] Boreham, Mercury, 23 March 1935; Age, 2 May 1953.
[32] Boreham, Mercury, 13 July 1935.
[33] Boreham, Mercury, 15 February 1947.
[34] Boreham, Mercury, 17 October 1942.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Boreham on Cultivating Beauty

Jumboism of Cities
F W Boreham’s appreciation of nature’s ‘banquet’ corres-ponded with his scathing comments about the vanda-lisation of nature’s beauty. Mindful of the British experience, he was critical of the spoliation of the countryside due to the “jumboism of cities”,[1] the senseless felling of trees in the name of progress and the emergence of ugliness and pollution due to rapid industrialisation.[2]

War on Beauty
During the Second World War, Boreham asked, “Is Civilisation at war with beauty?” Reflecting on the ravages waged upon the environment, he lamented, “Ugliness is the price we must pay for progress. We made our bargain with Nature and we paid our price”. Boreham recognized the tension between preservation and progress when he wrote that “in our enthusiasm for the new order, we sacrificed too much” but “there is no real reason why the new should perpetuate an outrage on the old. A hurricane of progress need not be a cataract of ugliness”.[3]

Arresting Exit From Eden
Attempting to arrest “the exit from Eden”, Boreham declared that the preservation of nature was a human duty and he named as “culprits” collectors of flowers, agriculturalists who needlessly felled all trees and country councilors who allowed the damage to occur. He called for greater public awareness by attending to the study of nature in schools and an investigation into the relationship between beauty and civilization.[4] Writing in 1947 on ‘The revival of beauty’, Boreham was heartened by “the insistence of the people on the substitution of beauty for ugliness” which was notable in the architecture used in the reconstruction of post-war Europe.[5]

As the Derwent and Gordon River valleys were opening up the scenic state of Tasmania,[6] Boreham said, “From every point of view—scientific, aesthetic, commercial—it is desirable that where novel and magnificent scenery exists, it should be made reasonably accessible to all comers”.[7]

Enlarge Capacity for Beauty
In addition to opening up new scenic tracts and national parks to public view, Boreham wrote of the need to enlarge the human capacity to perceive and appreciate nature’s beauty. In so doing, he observed:

"I never yet walked a pathway that did not sparkle with diamonds. The dustiest track is littered with precious stones. The old road is a wonderfully wealthy place. Its very soil is auriferous. Nuggets are strewn everywhere, and no man can stroll a single mile along its winding way without adding immensely to his shining hoard .… Be sure, if the road leaves me as poor as it found me, it is not because of the road’s incapacity to impart but because of my own incapacity to receive."[8]

Geoff Pound

Image: the ‘jumboism’ of Dubai.

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 13 October 1928.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1926.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 4 October 1941.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 12 June 1926.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 20 December 1947.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 21 February 1914.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 11 March 1916.
[8] Boreham, The passing of John Broadbanks, 194.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Boreham on Partnering With Nature

Encouraging Health
F W Boreham’s belief in the therapeutic role of nature through exposure to its charms extended to the human commitment to work with nature in the cause of health and wholeness. Boreham expressed his commitment as a regular encourager of medical science and he wrote numerous editorials to raise the public awareness of the improvements of child health[1] and to report advances in the reduction of heart disease,[2] leprosy,[3] consumption[4] and malaria.[5]

Nature’s Yearning
Heeding nature’s yearning for wholeness translated into a regular call for greater noise control in industry,[6] extolling a simplicity of life,[7] drawing attention to races such as the North American Indians who were facing extinction,[8] calling upon Australian politicians to accept refugees of war[9] and highlighting the “growing mania for suicide”.[10]

Geoff Pound

Image: “extolling a simplicity of life.”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 25 November 1913.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 9 January 1932.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 16 November 1929.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 8 January 1921.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 10 December 1932.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 16 February 1935.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 19 October 1935.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 11 April 1914.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 30 January 1915.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 15 April 1922.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Boreham on Leisure

Specializing in Margins
Advancing the concept that ‘Nature specializes in margins’, Boreham clothed this principle in compelling imagery before offering the punch line. For example, in 1952, he penned: “She [Nature] wants a bird, so a dozen are hatched. She knows perfectly well that eleven out of the twelve are merely margin .… She wants a tree, so she plants a hundred. Ninety-nine are mere margin; but she wants to make sure of one. It is the margin that makes all the difference”.[1]

Broadening the Margins
In an editorial entitled ‘The broadening of the margin’ Boreham stated his argument particularly for politicians and employers that “work must leave us with a reasonable margin” for leisure.[2] In a climate of employment legislation defining reasonable work hours and the wartime measure of the 6 o’clock closing of hotels, Boreham asserted that “leisure is a national asset” which must be valued by society but “as the hours of labour contract ... the imperative need for some force that shall shape the conscience and behaviour of the people becomes greater and greater”.[3] Recognizing the trend towards more free time, Boreham stated (a view also held by Thomas Macaulay)[4] that “one of the highest arts in life is the wise use of leisure. Leisure is the supreme test of character. A man is what he is in his leisure hours”.[5]

If the House were on Fire
As examples of what a person’s leisure hours might contain, Boreham commended “the habit of reading aloud”[6] and watching cricket, the later of which was such an irresistible fascination for Boreham that his wife declared that “if the house were on fire, [Frank] would leave it to burn if there happened to be a cricket match in progress within twenty miles”.[7]

Find Time for Yourself
Commending leisure and exposure to nature, Boreham said to a new minister at his ordination service:

Find time for yourself. Feel it no shame at proper periods to be doing nothing. Make seasons for leisure and for recreation. Climb the hills; scour the valleys; row on the river; stroll along the beach. Cultivate the friendship of the fields and the ferns and the flowers. Laugh with the young folk and romp with little children. Be at your ease. Let the mind swing into an easy balance, a natural poise, an attitude of perfect repose. The restless soul, eternally doing something, never accomplishes anything. It is the man who can sometimes be at rest who produces the finest work in the long run. Find time for yourself![8]

Geoff Pound

Image: “row on the river…”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 22 March 1952; Boreham, The last milestone, 132-134.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 10 April 1937; Age, 8 December 1945.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 7 August 1920; 22 March 1952; The last milestone, 132-134.
[4] Boreham, The luggage of life, 90.
[5] Boreham, When the swans fly high, 192.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 7 August 1920.
[7] F W Boreham, The drums of dawn (London: The Epworth Press, 1933), 168; also quoted in Who’s who in Australia 8th edition 1933-34, ed. Errol G Knox, (Melbourne: The Herald Press, 1934), 62, which says of F W Boreham that he “never misses a cricket match unless the house happens to be on fire”.
[8] Boreham, The drums of dawn , 62.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Boreham on Retreat

Mirroring Nature
At a personal level F W Boreham recommended a lifestyle that mirrored the rhythm of nature. Mindful that those in public life are more apt to commit “the high crime of doing things”, Boreham said that “half the art of life lies in being able on occasions to do nothing and to do it easily ... to smoke a pipe of tobacco ... to develop the capacity for idleness ... to ruminate like a cow”.[1] He commended the “science of sleep”,[2] the enrichment of dreams,[3] the art of relaxation,[4] and the practice of withdrawal[5] akin to the way that “nature herself provides most of her furry and feathered clients with places of refuge”.[6] When Boreham wrote about “the psychology”[7] and “the mysticism of a holiday”, he had in mind the regular break from one’s routines, responsibilities and familiar surroundings so that “by contact with Nature our spent and flagging frames are thrilled by a glorious inrush of new life”.[8]

Law of Sanctuary
In the writings of Boreham there are glimpses that he diligently observed “the law of sanctuary”[9] through his early afternoon sleep,[10] his evening recourse to the armchair for his “scallop-shell of quiet”[11] and his retreat to Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens “under the shadow of a noble old cypress on a seat to which I make it a practice to repair once a week or so”.[12] Boreham’s many references to the beach at Taieri Mouth,[13] the vista from Mt Wellington,[14] the flora and fauna of Wedge Bay[15] and the delights of the Dandenongs[16] revealed a man whose holidays gave him “a vision of life [that] ... stimulated his own vitality”.[17]

Geoff Pound

Image: Taieri Mouth, FWB’s favorite sanctuary when at Mosgiel.

[1] Boreham, The other side of the hill, 248.
[2] Boreham, Age, 3 April 1948; Mercury, 14 May 1949.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 9 June 1956.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 20 January 1940.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 28 February 1925.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 31 October 1942; Age, 8 February 1947.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 22 December 1934; Age, 3 January 1948.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 18 January 1941; Age, 12 January 1946.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 31 October 1942; Age, 8 February 1947.
[10] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 225.
[11] Boreham, The passing of John Broadbanks, 11.
[12] F W Boreham, The three half moons (London: The Epworth Press, 1929), 43.
[13] F W Boreham, The heavenly octave (London: The Epworth Press, 1935), 63-64.
[14] Boreham, The luggage of life, 242.
[15] Boreham, The nest of spears, 165.
[16] Boreham, A witch’s brewing, 62.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 18 January 1941; Age, 12 January 1946.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Boreham and His Philosophy of Play

Legislation and Leisure
In an era when labor strikes were common and Australian parliaments were transacting labor legislation concerning workers’ wages and hours, Boreham’s articles about the importance of play in society were a variation on nature’s principle of rest, rhythm and retreat.[1]

Game of Life
His editorials addressing ‘A philosophy of play’ were pitched not only towards politicians but teachers and parents to encourage them to realize that toys and play were equipping children with the skills for “the game of life”.[2]

Education for Play
As an interesting development of this theme in a later editorial, Boreham suggested that teaching children to play well was preparing them “to enjoy to the utmost the majestic merriments of the eternities”.[3] In one of his earliest Tasmanian editorials, Boreham expressed the “need for more parks and reserves in Hobart” and called upon politicians to ensure that further playgrounds were provided for its people.[4]

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘…need for more parks.”

[1] The miners’ strike for maximum daily working hours in 1916 was an example of turbulence in the labour scene. The NSW parliament passed the Eight Hour Act in April 1916.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 10 March 1913; 28 July 1923; 16 May 1936.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 7 December 1946.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 10 March 1913.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Boreham the Conservationist

Replenish the Soil
Boreham repeatedly called for the conserv-ation and replenish-ment of the soil,[1] the care of the world’s rivers[2] and the conserv-ation of water in the dryness and heat of Australia,[3] particularly in the 1930s and 1940s when drought and overuse of the land in many states caused severe erosion. In describing the intellectual conflict over land use, Drew Hutton and Libby Connors write, “Wise resource use and nature protection were thus two strands of early conservation that capitalized on nationalistic progressivism. On the other hand, the mastery of those resources by human scientific and technical skills was doubly praised”.[4] Boreham’s encouragement of the nation’s greatness through increasing the population and markets indicated that he sometimes resolved this tension by arguing in favor of production rather than protection.

All People not Fanatics
While Boreham applauded the establishment of National Parks and wilderness areas by government, he also called all his readers to care for the properties where they lived. This was and continues to be an important combination as Sydney ecologist Martin Mulligan, in reflecting on the issues facing conservationists in Australia in the twenty-first century, says: “The concern for preservation of wilderness … sets up a conceptual separation between people living mainly in cities and towns and the remote ‘pristine’ areas deemed worthy of preservation. This helped create a perception that nature conservation is a matter for fanatics, eccentrics and experts; not a concern for ‘ordinary’ people”.[5]

Priority for Politicians
Boreham called politicians to exercise respect and responsibility towards the land but his view “that we are all naturalists” highlights that he understood that the tasks of conserving and replenishing nature were incumbent on every citizen in their locality.[6]

Geoff Pound

Image: “replenishing the soil.”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 5 March 1914; Mercury, 11 October 1941; Age, 20 September 1947.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 23 November 1940; Age, 15 March 1941.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 29 May 1914.
[4] Hutton and Connors, A history of the Australian environmental movement, 21.
[5] Martin Mulligan, Re-enchanting conservation work: Reflections on the Australian experience, February, 2001, 2.
[6] Boreham, A witch’s brewing, 197.