Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Boreham and His Changing Writing Roles

Changes to Editorials
F W Boreham did journalistic training before becoming a pastor. Alongside his work for the church he secured opportunities to supply editorials to major newspapers, the Otago Daily Times, when he lived in New Zealand, the Hobart Mercury when he lived in Tasmania and later the Melbourne Age, when he crossed the Bass Strait..

In his early writing career his editorials often addressed issues that were happening locally or in international affairs. In recent postings I have written about the way Boreham’s preaching and publishing affected his editorial writing. Of special note is the way his newspaper articles increasingly lost their connection with daily events and concentrated on ‘eternal themes’ that could be written at any time.

The Role of an Essayist
In 1931, Frank Boreham wrote an essay to mark his sixtieth birthday that revealed some insights into his self-understanding as an essayist:

"An essayist is a privileged scribe: he is under no obligation to explain his choice of a theme. A serious journalist must write on current events and open his article with a dignified reference to the recent happening. But an essayist scorns such restrictions: his work is apropos de rien: it has no connexions or relationships. He may open his lips whenever he likes on any subject that takes his fancy. Nobody, therefore, has any right to ask my reason for selecting my present subject. And certainly nobody will guess it."[1]

This disclosure contrasted the journalist with the essayist and, claiming the latter role, he explained his freedom from having to address current topics, issues and people. The appearance of this statement in a published work soon after his retirement as a pastor and his growing reputation as an essayist may help to explain the increased detachment from current issues observed in Boreham’s editorial writing after this date.

Geoff Pound

Image: “He may open his lips whenever he likes on any subject that takes his fancy.” Largest lips, spotted from satelite by Google Earth.

[1] F W Boreham, A witch’s brewing, 14-15. An example of the essayist Montaigne and a reflection on his freedom from restrictions are offered by Emerson who said, “The Essays… are an entertaining soliloquy on every random topic that comes into his head”. Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Montaigne; or, the sceptic’, The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson comprising his essays, lectures, poems, and orations vol. 1 (London: Bell & Daldy, 1866), 335.