Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Boreham on Human Endeavor

F W Boreham’s editorials sometimes appeared humanistic, with their reflections on the possibilities and achievements of the human spirit in the quest for endeavor, exploration and the enjoyment of “the occult magic of human imagination.”[1] The attainment of such ideals often seemed to be for Boreham a matter of ongoing learning, reading and other forms of self-improvement.

It was only in his later editorials that he explicitly stated the Christian vision of “life in all its fullness” and the offer of divine power that enabled good character to emerge and fine ethics to be expressed.[2]

Geoff Pound

Image: “Reflections on the possibilities and achievements of the human spirit in the quest for … exploration.”

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 19 April 1938.
[2] Jn 10:10.

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.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

F W Boreham on Character and Conduct

F W Boreham’s theology of human living dealt extensively with matters of character and conduct. These issues could be viewed as personal matters, yet Boreham’s views about the characteristics of the British and the influence of the Empire revealed that he was interested in public and social transformation.

The virtues he lauded were not always ‘Christian’ traits as they often appeared to encapsulate the Homeric figure or the ideal English gentleman with the Victorian qualities of bravery, charm, chivalry, diligence, fidelity and valor.

While his storytelling method was a useful vehicle for expressing human character, Boreham’s editorial readers in Hobart and Melbourne might have found his editorials more valuable if he had focused more often on the distinctive character of Australian people and “their own constellation of virtues.”[1]

Geoff Pound

Image: “The virtues he lauded were … bravery…”

[1] John Carroll, ‘The blessed country: Australian dreaming 1901-2001’, The Alfred Deakin lectures: Ideas for the future of a civil society (Sydney: ABC Books, 2001), 103.

New Boreham Book Covered

Michael Dalton has posted on his blog site this beautiful cover for the forthcoming new Boreham book, All the Blessings of Life: The Best Stories of F W Boreham.

He has also written a story about the creation of this cover.

Do mark this blog site as a favourite so you can be kept informed about the arrival date of this new Boreham book.

The link to this site is here: F W Boreham Publishing News.

Geoff Pound

Image: The new cover of All the Blessings of Life.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Boreham and a Theology of Time and Place

A major theme in F W Boreham's newspaper articles was his theology of time and place.

Boreham’s reading of history cultivated his long view of human existence. His allusive style provided his readers with other perspectives and encouraged them to see how their era contrasted with a former age.

Dr Boreham, through his historical editorials, sought to be an interpreter of the times as he wrote about destiny, unchanging principles, elemental powers and providence. Hoping his love of history would be contagious, Boreham hinted at history as a medium of divine revelation. His human-centered approach encouraged readers to engage with the figures of history who, though dead, might become through books and monuments a “potent force” through which “our finest impulses are quickened and our highest aspirations inflamed.”[1]

Boreham also sought to connect history to the present day and his editorials that addressed seasons, religious festivals and civic commemorations took seriously the context of time and had important public dimensions.

Geoff Pound

Image: “Boreham also sought to connect history to … civic commemorations.” View of ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli. One of the most important commemorations in the Australia and NZ calendars is ANZAC Day on the 25 April of each year.

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 8 April 1933.

F W Boreham on a Theology of Human Living

One of F W Boreham’s major themes could be described as a theology of human living.

Boreham wrote human-centered editorials, not just because of the “insatiable passion for personalities”, which would make his writing popular but because he wanted to offer theological reflections on human living.[1] He shared Montaigne’s conviction that “our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately.”[2] Through many editorials, Boreham focused on the wide range of ordinary human experience, including worry, hardship and pleasure,[3] the broad spectrum of human responsibilities, including Henry Drummond’s triad of love, work and worship[4] and thoughts on the distinctiveness of the “human instinct” and the “human element.”[5]

While most of Boreham’s editorials struck a positive note, in the latter part of his life he occasionally discussed issues such as human suffering,[6] the “problems and perplexities of human life”[7] and the difficulties people faced during special periods like wars and the Great Depression.[8] His human-centered editorials often gave the impression that Boreham’s theology had only personal or private dimensions. Many of the personalities he discussed, however, were representative figures who served as symbols activities and values in different parts of the public domain.

Geoff Pound

Image: F W Boreham wrote articles on theology connecting with daily work.

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 8 September 1956.
[2] Montaigne, Michel de, The essayes of Michael Lord of Montaigne. Translated by John Florio (London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1891), 570.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 9 February 1957.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 22 January 1949.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 9 February 1957.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 16 November 1954.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 23 July 1955.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 18 October 1941.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Boreham on the Value of Storytelling

For most of F W Boreham’s writing career, he discovered, along with other exponents of the art, how the storytelling style frees a writer and speaker from “the tendency to be didactic.”[1]

Many times Boreham said, “Our best reformers often fail us because they rely too exclusively on the negative approach … they attack this; they condemn that; they denounce the other. They forget that the best way of showing that a stick is crooked is by laying a straight one beside it.”[2] This principle underlay Boreham’s stories about people who embodied the values and virtues he was seeking to commend. “The contemplation of a great heroic sacrifice,” Boreham wrote, “must produce in the beholder a profound ethical effect.”[3]

Instead of scolding or spelling out instructions, Boreham respected the intelligence of his readers and trusted them to draw their own implications. His metaphors of ‘holding up a mirror’, ‘pointing’ and ‘poking … the fire’,[4] suggested that his editorials were not intended to be ready-made for they required the contemplation of the reader to complete the circuit of communication.

Geoff Pound

Image: Story telling is about ‘poking … the fire.’

[1] Alan David Gold, Minyan (Sydney: Flamingo, 1999), 105.
[2] F W Boreham, Mercury, 4 August 1956.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 25 April 1925.
[4] F W Boreham, A reel of rainbow (London: The Epworth Press, 1920), 118.