Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Boreham on the Baby

A baby spoils one for everything else. A baby is so delicious, so mysterious, so exquisite, that everything else seems horribly commonplace after the baby. There is simply nothing, either in the world or out of it that can hold a candle to a real live baby.

Carlyle never had any children. That explains a great deal. But I like to think of the stern old sage, in that last year of his life, nursing his cousin's baby. It opened a new world to the great man. Lecky tells us that he used to look down into its dimpled face with inexpressible amazement. He regarded it as a wonder of Nature. He used to speak of it as ‘our baby’, and said that it was ‘an odd kind of article’, and that it was ‘very strange that Shakespeare should once have been like that!’ I have a notion of my own that Shakespeare was Shakespeare just because he was once like that, and just because he kept the child-heart always with him….

A baby is a born leader. What a day that is in a woman's life when, pressing her very own baby to her breast, she feels the exquisite rapture of motherhood! What a day that is in a man's life when he takes into his arms for the first time the dear child of his own body! What happens on that day? The little child leads them out into a larger, ampler, richer, more glorious life; that is all. ‘A little child shall lead them’…

Now, the world is always woefully slow in recognizing the things that matter. Thackeray used to greatly amuse Macaulay by telling him of an incident which he actually witnessed at the London Zoo. A crowd had gathered around the enclosure in which the hippopotamus was confined. On one outskirt of the crowd stood Thackeray; on another stood Macaulay. Macaulay's History had just been published, and was the talk of the town. Two young ladies in the throng were admiring the hippopotamus when some one drew their attention to the presence of the historian. “Mr. Maucaulay!” cried the lovely pair. ‘Is that Mr. Macaulay? Never mind the hippopotamus!’ Precisely, it was the historian who was best worth looking at. Nobody knows now what became of the hippopotamus. The huge and ugly creature only emerges upon the history of the world through his chance association with that one incident. But Macaulay is immortal. Who would stare at a hippopotamus if he had the chance of seeing and hearing Macaulay? Yet the unseeing crowd at the Zoo went on admiring the thick-skinned amphibian, and only two elect souls left the crowd to gaze upon Macaulay! That is the way of the world. It never sees the things best worth seeing…

We fancy that God can only manage the world by big battalions abroad, when all the while God is doing it by beautiful babies at home. When a wrong wants righting, or a work wants doing, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby into the world to do it. That is why, long, long ago, a babe was born at Bethlehem...

There was a man who was always talking about the Empire. He attended every Empire meeting, and joined every Empire league. Every proposal for the expansion or aggrandisement of the Empire he applauded with enthusiasm and vigour. He enlarged upon the glories of Empire at breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper, and on every available opportunity in between. The only drawback about him was that, compared with his imperial visions, his home appeared to him a rather poky place, and he treated his poor little wife with some impatience. One day he arrived before dinner was ready. The baby had been fretful; the stove had been troublesome; and everything had gone wrong. The imperial brow clouded, and there was thunder and lightning. The poor wife winced and wept beneath the storm; and then, smiling through her tears, she went towards her lord, laid the peevish baby in his arms, and said: “There, now, you mind your little bit o f Empire, whilst I dish the potatoes!”

It is a fine thing to dream heroic dreams either of the future Empire or the future Church, but, in order to make those dreams come true, it is just possible that the first step towards it is to look well after the baby.

F W Boreham, ‘The Baby’ Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 160; 162-163; 164-165; 169-170.