Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Monday, May 28, 2007

Boreham’s Literary Style and Consistency

F W Boreham wrote editorials every week for 47 years and must win a prize for longevity. But would he receive an award for consistency?

Consistent Style?
The quality of consistency has sometimes been identified as an important criterion for assessing the contribution of a public theologian. An earlier posting addressed Boreham’s inconsistency in maintaining a lively connection with his context. Furthermore, from 1943 onward, without any explanation, Dr Boreham changed his style when adopting the habit of concluding most of his editorials with a religious moral. This shift was more dramatic as it was inverse to the general decline of religiosity and biblical knowledge in the Australian populace in general. While Boreham’s mood had been consistently bright and optimistic his failing health and his acquaintance with grief in the last decade of his career were factors that caused many of his editorials to take on a dismal tone.

Consistent Addressing of Public Issues?
While in the first year of the First World War Boreham vigorously discussed this public issue, the breakdown of his health early in 1916 contributed to an almost total silence on matters to do with the war (a practice of neglect that he also adopted during the Second World War). He justified this change by drawing attention to the example of Jane Austen and other writers who ignored international wars, promoted a ‘literature of escape’ and refused to become captive to a particular age.

In reflecting on this shift, some consideration must be made for the value of newspaper articles that might alleviate war news fatigue. Boreham’s turn-about and avoidance of discussion about the war represented an inconsistency in his editorial ideals and, some measure of failure in his theological responsibility.

In Conclusion
Throughout his career, F W Boreham maintained a remarkable evenness in the quality of his writing and the attractiveness of his expression. His gradual disconnection from his local context, the emergence of a moralistic style and the adoption of a more sombre tone represented inadequacies and inconsistencies in his editorial role.

Geoff Pound

Image: Today’s front page of the Hobart Mercury online.