Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Boreham on a Drop of Ink

My whole earthly fortune, my entire bag and baggage, my complete stock-in-trade, may consist of this tiny drop of ink that now trembles at the point of my pen, and of this sheet of white paper that lies spread out before me as I write. But that matters little. Think of the possibilities that lie before a sheet of paper and a drop of ink!

A poet could set the world singing with that sheet of paper and that drop of ink, and could impart to the fluttering folio a high commercial value. A millionaire could scribble a few words upon that sheet of paper with that drop of ink that would make the page of equal value with all his hoarded millions. A statesman could, with that piece of paper and that drop of ink, write a declaration of war that would turn the world into a shambles. ‘What a strangely potent, Protean thing a drop of ink may grow to be!’ wrote Mr. George Wilson in a very early number of Macmillan’s Magazine.

‘Think of a Queen's first signature to a death-warrant, where tears tried to blanch the fatal blackness of the dooming ink! Of a traitor's adhesion to a deed of rebellion, written in gall! Of a forger's trembling imitation of another's writing, where each letter took the shape of the gallows! Of a lover's passionate proposal, written in fire! Of a proud girl's refusal, written in ice! Of a mother's dying expostulation with a wayward son, written in her heart's blood! Of an indignant father's disinheriting curse on his first-born, black with the lost colour of the grey hairs which shall go down in sorrow to the grave—think of these, and of all the other impassioned writings to which every hour gives birth, and what a strangely potent, Protean thing a drop of ink grows to be!’

… The trembling drop of ink simply became the instrument by means of which the characters of the poet, the millionaire, the statesman, the monarch, the traitor, the forger, and the lover expressed themselves. The ink becomes part of the life and soul and history of the person whose ink it is. That is always so. Mine becomes me.

F W Boreham, ‘A Bush Philosopher’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 60-63.

Image: Drops of ink and paper under the microscope.