Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hallmarks of the Boreham Literary Style

What would you say were the hallmarks of F W Boreham’s writing? How would you describe his signature style?

In the next few postings I will seek to describe Boreham’s characteristic style and show how effective this style was for his newspaper editorials as he expressed theology in appropriate ways for a public audience.

Invitational Style
Frank Boreham’s journalistic training and his experience as a preacher sharpened his consciousness of his editorial readership. The brief period of open-air preaching on Clapham Common and his early practice of observing successful politicians and barristers developed a writing style that aimed to grab and hold the reader’s attention.

This invitational style was also evident in Boreham’s predictable editorial structure. He tantalized the reader with a surprising title, presented a startling introduction to keep people reading, continued the article in a narrative style with stories to build drama and intrigue and concluded with a call for the reader’s response.

Dr Boreham developed his subjects and described his characters in lifelike ways to hold his reader’s interest and build a rapport. His diction had a “tang of originality” and was simple, clear and intended to be universally intelligible.[1] Depending on the word limit, Boreham added illustrations and commendations from different spheres of life to strengthen his argument and persuade his readers to make their verdict.

The desire to capture the reader’s attention and stir the reader to respond sometimes led to Boreham making global claims such as, “No man did more …”,[2] or, “No name shines with a richer luster …”,[3] and, “No other book …”[4]

Related to this was his frequent use of superlatives, as in “the most charming…”[5] or “the most idyllic …”[6] and “the most striking ...”[7] While each editorial was a unit in itself, Boreham’s long-term readers may have tired of his use of hyperbole and questioned his judgment. His overstatements were often borne of exuberance for his subject but they also created doubts about his critical capacities.

In an editorial in which he mentioned that Charles Dickens was “the victim of a constant tendency to gross exaggeration”, Boreham said of his literary mentor, “He immensely enjoyed everybody in his books; and, as an inevitable consequence, everybody else has enjoyed everybody in those books ever since.”[8]

Geoff Pound

Image: “His early practice of observing successful politicians.” PM Gladstone was one politician F W Boreham observed in his London days.

[1] Harold Bloom, The western canon: The books and schools of the ages (London: Papermac, 1995), 6.
[2] F W Boreham, Mercury, 30 June 1951.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 24 November 1951.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 17 March 1951.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 13 March 1948.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 13 March 1948.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 11 September 1943.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 17 March 1951.