Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Boreham on Boots and Shoes

Teaching Through Things
F W Boreham’s use of metaphors and parables is worthy of detailed study as it illustrated George Drummond’s statement, “Truth can be borne into the soul only through the medium of things”.[1] The movement from ‘things’ to ‘truth’ was evident in Boreham’s editorial entitled, ‘Boots and shoes’[2] which deserves a more detailed study.

Frank Boreham commenced this essay by establishing a connection with his readers as he highlighted both the prosaic nature and the essential importance of one’s footwear. He also noted that Thomas Carlyle, whose Sartor resartus exhaustively probed the inner meaning of garments and hats, had ignored Boreham’s theme. In rapid succession, Boreham told stories from history (footwear in the Napoleonic army), human nature (the perils of bare-footedness) and literature (Bunyan), each illustrating the significance of his subject. His climactic paragraph presented the biblical image of armory and, after establishing the stupidity of a soldier going into battle without wearing boots, Boreham encouraged his readers to put on the shoes of peace.

Boreham the Barrister
It has been noted that F W Boreham modeled his historical writing on Edward Gibbon’s example of arguing a case like a skilful lawyer. However, Boreham’s parabolic method also appeared to be shaped by what he had learned in the law courts. Offering a helpful link between philosophy and jurisprudence, Friedrich Waismann said, “An effective philosopher first makes you see all the weaknesses, disadvantages, shortcomings of a position; he brings to light inconsistencies in it or points out how unnatural some of the ideas underlying the whole theory are by pushing them to their farthest consequences .… On the other hand, he offers you a new way of looking at things, like a barrister, all the facts of his case, and you are in the position of the judge”.[3]

Commenting further on Waismann’s analogy, Nicholas Lash pictured a barrister resting his case, “only when he has reason to believe that he has adduced sufficient evidence, and patterned that evidence into a sufficiently compelling narrative, to persuade the jury to reach the same conclusion”.[4]

Readers in the Witness Box
Many of Boreham’s editorials adopted this legal reasoning, as he led readers through his picturesque case, calling people into the witness box and identifying evidence from everyday life, nature, history, literature and religion and compelling his readership, like Lash’s description, “not by terrorizing, or ... by manipulating the emotions ... not by steamrolling, but by eliciting responsible free acts of judgment, evaluation, and decision”.[5]

Geoff Pound

Image: Truth in Boots

[1] George Drummond, The ideal life and other unpublished addresses, 131.
[2] F W Boreham, Mercury, 10 July 1954.
[3] Friedrich Waismann, 'How I see philosophy', Contemporary British philosophy, (London: H D Lewis, 1956), 480-481.
[4] Nicholas Lash, Easter in ordinary: Reflections on human experience and the knowledge of God (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1988), 286-287.
[5] Lash, Easter in ordinary, 286-287.