Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, May 11, 2007

F W Boreham Covered

When Michael Dalton first proposed the idea of including in a new Boreham book a story about the creation of the book’s cover I thought, “That’s interesting.”

Then later when he suggested that it would be good to have a book about the covers of Boreham books I thought, “Where does he get these ideas from?”

As I have read Mike’s ‘Cover Story’ (9 May 2007) I have come to realize that his emphasis is absolutely Borehamesque. F W Boreham was entranced by the covers of things.

Excelling in Envelopes
Take for instance Boreham’s fixation with envelopes. It is natural to tear open the envelope and dispose of it as we study the letter but F W Boreham wrote of the ‘eloquence of envelopes.’[1] He exclaimed, “Nature is an expert in envelopes.” He went on to extol the architecture of an orange. He then asked, “Is there anything on earth more delicate and ingenious than the wrappings of a maize-cob? The husks and rinds and pods and shells that we toss upon the rubbish-heap are masterpieces of design and execution.”

In a variation of this theme, entitled ‘Peels and Pods’, Boreham wrote, “Nature takes great pride in wrapping up her goods.”[2] Do you see why Boreham believed that covers were so important?

Index to the Invisible
F W Boreham, in ‘Peels and Pods’ then considers the role of covers in the realm of literature. He wrote:

“Nobody better understood the philosophy of envelopes than Charles Dickens. Indeed, his critics have as good as said that he never gives you the orange; he politely offers you the peel. Instead of the kernel he hands you the husk; in place of the letter he gives you the envelope. He presents us, not with the barrister, but with his wig; not with the beadle, but with his cocked hat; not with the bishop but with his apron; and so on. The fault, if it be a fault, arises from the subtle way in which orange and peel, kernel and nut, letter and envelope, become part and parcel of each other.” Boreham concluded his discussion on his hero by saying, “If it be conceded that Dickens was a little too fond of the outward wrappings of his characters, it must be confessed that he knew how to make good use of them.”

For F W Boreham, husks and pods or in story telling, the outward trappings are not rubbish to be thrown away or ignored. Dr. Boreham believed that the covers and the peels are “an index to the invisible.” When in communication one attempts to ‘explain the inexplicable’ or ‘unscrew the inscrutable’ the best in the art simply tell the truth in symbols, signs and stories.

Hear Frank Boreham in his own words: “It is an old story, ‘Bring Forth the Best Robe and Put It on Him!’ A sublime evangel is epitomized here. The poets and prophets and seers of the ages have found it impossible to express within the limits of human speech the felicities and raptures of which they have dreamed. They have sung therefore of robes and diadems and crowns—mere outward symbols—and have left it at that, assured that the wise would understand.”

Brown Paper and String
When F W Boreham wrote his popular Christmas editorials he concentrated not only on the gifts but upon the gift wrapping. He believed the Christmas covers had relevance to the Christmas gift. In his 1956 Christmas editorial he wrote:

“Like many others things that are pregnant with romance, brown paper and string look commonplace enough; yet, in reality, they embody all the wistfulness, the tenderness, and the sacredness of Christmas-tide. The emotions that, in the hearts alike of givers and receivers, will attend the opening of the parcels, represent the condensed essence of that peace on earth and goodwill among men of which the angels caroled; whilst the rustlings of all those tons of paper, properly heard and accurately interpreted, is itself an essential fragment of the ecclesiastical melodies. Indeed, the brown paper and string with which we are so familiar at this season may justly claim to be regarded as an emblem of the exalted event that Christmas celebrates. For Bethlehem represents the presentation to the world of deity enfolded in humanity.

‘Wrapped in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity.’

Lifted to this high level, the symbolism of the brown paper and string becomes positively sublime.”[3]

Telling a Book by its Cover
The husks and envelopes, parcels and string can be wonderfully expressive of deep truth. If nature takes such great pride in its covers so should we. Our countenance and demeanor can form the attractive cover that draws people to listen to the tantalizing story.

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘The eloquence of envelopes.’

[1] F W Boreham, ‘Experts in Envelopes’, Hobart Mercury, 15 January, 1921.
[2] F W Boreham, ‘Peels and Pods’, Hobart Mercury, 4 September, 1954.

[3] F W Boreham, ‘Burdens of Christmas’, Hobart Mercury, 22 December, 1956.