Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Boreham on the Hunger for the World

The aching hunger of the human heart for the whole wide world! It is a positively fearsome thing. Many illustrations rush to memory, but the most clear and the most classical is that of David Livingstone. What a day that was when, after his long seclusion in the forests of Central Africa, he was at last found by Stanley! Let Stanley himself tell the great story:

‘The doctor asked me to tell him the news. “No, doctor,” said I, “read your home letters first; you must be impatient for them!”
“Ah,” said Livingstone, “I have waited for years for letters. I can wait a few hours longer. No, tell me general news: how’s the world getting on?”

And then, buried in that African jungle, the two men sat for hours whilst the one told the other of the completion of the great Pacific railroad, of Grant's election to the Presidency, of the realization of electric cables, of the Franco-German war, of the siege of Paris, of the Cretan rebellion, of the sensational developments in Egypt, of the Spanish revolution which had driven Isabella from the throne, of the assassination of General Prim, and of a hundred other historic transformations. Even as Stanley told the story, Livingstone became a changed man. Fresh tides of vitality rushed into his frame; his appetite strangely returned to him; his haggard face simply shone with the glow of human enthusiasm. “You have brought me new life! You have brought me new life! You have brought me new life,” he repeated again, and again, and again.

What did it all mean? It meant this. The heart of a person cries out for the world, the whole wide world; and it is starved if you confine it to the African forest or the Australian bush.

F W Boreham, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 14-15.

Image: ‘Dr.Livingstone, I presume.’

Boreham on the Need for a Challenge

In this excerpt F W Boreham is distilling important principles from the account of the expedition led by Robert Peary to the North Pole in 1908:

Commander Peary tabulates his difficulties. Speaking generally, these coincided with Amundsen's [who went to the South Pole], and they were three:

(1) There was the difficulty, sometimes almost insuperable, of conveying heavy baggage over steep, ragged, slippery mountains of ice;

(2) There was the difficulty presented by the piercing, penetrating, paralysing cold;

(3) And there was the difficulty of the dense, depressing darkness—the long polar night.

In relation to the first of these, however, we must confess that the thought that has haunted us, as we have followed our intrepid voyager, is that, really and truly, these were not the things that deterred, but the things that drove him. Their propelling power was infinitely greater than their repelling power. It is quite certain that if the Poles could have been reached in a sumptuous Pullman car, neither Peary nor Amundsen would have made the trip. It was the stupendous difficulty that lured them on.

We make an egregious blunder when we try to persuade people that the way to heaven is easy. The statement is false to fact in the first place; and, in the second, there is no responsive chord in human nature which will vibrate to that ignoble note. Hardship has a strange fascination for human beings.

Pizarro knew what he was doing when he traced his line on the sands of Panama, and cried: ‘Comrades, on that side of the line are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side ease and pleasure. Choose, every man! For my part, I go to the south.’

Garibaldi knew what he was doing when he exclaimed: ‘Soldiers, what I offer you is fatigue, danger, struggle, and death; the chill of the cold night in the free air; the intolerable heat beneath the blazing sun; no lodgings, no munitions, no provisions, but forced marches, perilous watch-posts, and the continual struggle with the bayonet against strong batteries. Those who love freedom and their country may follow me.’

Humans love to be challenged and taunted and dared. Six thousand eagerly volunteered to join Captain Scott's expedition to the South Pole. Some holding high and remunerative positions craved to be permitted to swab the decks of the Terra Nova. A captain in a crack cavalry regiment, with five clasps on his uniform, a hero of the South African war, counted it an honour to perform the most menial duties at a salary of a shilling a month.

Yes, Pizarro and Garibaldi, Peary and Scott knew what they were doing. They were obeying the surest instinct in the genius of leadership; for they were following Him who said: ‘If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me; for whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.’

On the road to Golgotha, the Saviour challenged the daring among men, and the heroes of all the ages have in consequence trooped to His standard.

F W Boreham, ‘The Conquest of the Poles’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 227-229.

Image: Robert Peary

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Boreham’s Mentor: The Man Who Saved Gandhi

In the recently republished book, Lover of Life, Frank Boreham tells this amazing story about his mentor, J. J. Doke who befriended Mahatma Gandhi when Doke left New Zealand and arrived in South Africa:

It was after he left New Zealand—to the great sorrow of us all—that he made history. And, characteristically, he did it in such a way that, to this day, very few people realize the effect of his behaviour on world affairs.

He settled as minister at Johannesburg; and it so happened that, shortly afterwards, Mr. Gandhi went to South Africa as the legal representative of the Indian population, who, just then, were involved in a serious clash with the authorities. Mr. Doke's sympathies were with the Indians, and he immediately got into touch with Mr. Gandhi. Each were astonished at the other's diminutive stature. They did not look like a pair of champions. Mr. Doke says that he is expected to see ‘a tall and stately figure and a bold masterful face’. Instead of this, ‘a small, little, spare figure stood, before me, and a refined, earnest face looked into mine. The skin was dark, the eyes dark, but the smile which lighted up the face, and that direct, fearless glance, simply took one's heart by storm. I judged him to be about thirty-eight years of age, which proved correct. But the strain of his work showed its traces in the sprinkling of silver hairs on his head. He spoke English perfectly, and was evidently a man of great culture.’

On the wall of Mr. Gandhi's office hung a beautiful picture of Jesus; and the moment that Mr. Doke's eyes rested upon it, he felt that he and his new friend were bound by a most sacred tie.
‘I want you,’ he said to Mr. Gandhi, ‘to consider me your friend in this struggle. If,’ he added, with a glance at the picture on the wall, ‘if I have learned any lesson from the life of Jesus it is that one should share and lighten the load of those who are heavenly laden.’
The days that followed were full of anxiety and even of peril. Indeed, they almost culminated in a tragedy that would have shocked the world.

‘I distinctly remember,’ Mr. Doke says, ‘that, as I went through the streets that morning, I was led to pray that I might be guided completely to do God's will; but I little thought what the answer would be.’ A few minutes later, a young Indian dashed up, gesticulating excitedly: ‘Come quick!’ he cried. ‘Coolie, he hit Mr. Gandhi!

Following the Indian's footsteps, Mr. Doke found Mr. Gandhi lying in a pool of blood, looking half dead. It turned out that a party of Pathans, taking it into their heads that Mr. Gandhi was seeking to betray the Indian cause, had plotted to destroy him. After bathing and bandaging his wounds, Mr. Doke asked the wounded man whether he would prefer to be taken to a hospital or to the manse. Mr. Gandhi gratefully accepted the latter alternative.

‘Mr. Doke and his good wife,’ writes Mr. Gandhi, in telling the story, ‘were anxious that I should be perfectly at rest. They therefore removed all persons from near my bed. I made a request that their daughter, Olive, who was then only a little girl, should sing for me my favourite English hymn, Lead kindly Light.

Mr. Doke liked this very much. He called Olive and asked her to sing in a low tone. The whole scene passes before my eyes as I recall it. How shall I describe the service rendered me by the Doke family?’

‘Every day marked an advance in our mutual affection and intimacy. Naturally, after I was injured, all classes of Indians flocked to the house, from the humblest street-hawker, with dirty clothes and dusty boots, to the highest Indian officials.

‘Mr. Doke would receive them all in his drawing-room with uniform courtesy and consideration. The whole family gave their time, either to nursing me or else receiving the hundreds of Indian visitors who came to see me. Even at night Mr. Doke would twice or thrice tiptoe into my room to see if I wanted anything.’

Some years later, J.J.D. having died in the interval, Mr. Gandhi revisited South Africa in the company of the Rev. C. F. Andrews. ‘As we approached Johannesburg,’ says Mr. Andrews, Mr. Gandhi turned to me and said: “Charlie, I want to take you on a pilgrimage.”’'

“What do you mean?” I asked him, not following his line of thought.

“I want you,” he said, “to go with me to the house of Mrs. Doke, where I was nursed back to life.”

When we came to the house it was difficult for him to restrain his emotion, as he for the first time saw Mrs. Doke in her widow's dress and tried to comfort her. She, on her part, treated him with all the tenderness of a mother, forgetting her own sorrow in her anxiety about his health and that of Mrs. Gandhi, who was very ill.

F W Boreham, Lover of Life: F W Boreham’s Tribute to His Mentor (Eureka: John Broadbanks Publishing, 2007), 25-28.

Check this link to discover the distributors of this new book.

Images: Mahatma Gandhi resting at the Doke home; Cover of Lover of Life.

Boreham Encounters Captain Roald Amundsen

I have just been over the Fram. Captain Amundsen, with his lieutenants, Messrs. Hassel and Wisting—both of whom accompanied their chief to the Pole—were as courteous and attentive as mortals could possibly be. They showed us all that there was to be seen, told us all that there was to be told, and assisted us in snapping everything that tempted our cameras. Nothing could have been more beautiful than the grace and modesty with which they were receiving, in the form of a perfect stream of congratulatory cablegrams, the plaudits of the world. It was good to walk the decks of the sturdy little vessel that holds the extraordinary record of having penetrated to the farthest north with Nansen and to the farthest south with Amundsen. We raise our hats to the heroic achievements of these hardy Norsemen. What memories rush to mind! What tales of dauntless courage and dogged endurance !

Our thoughts quit all their ordinary grooves and plunge into fresh realms. We seem to leave the solar system far behind us, and to invade a new universe as we lean against these beaten bulwarks and give ourselves to retrospection. And here, at least, there are no more worlds to conquer. Here, at any rate, progress has reached finality. There are no more poles! None! It is so very rarely that we can cry Ne plus ultra! that we must enjoy the sensation when we can. Peary and Amundsen hold a distinct monopoly. They are entitled to make the most of it.

The magnificent achievement of Captain Amundsen has set us all thinking of Arctic and Antarctic exploits. We have been transported in fancy to those lofty and jagged ranges of mountainous ice that have been the despair of adventurers since exploration began. We have shivered in imagination as we have caught glimpses of innumerable ice-floes and of stretching plains of frozen snow. Of Captain Amundsen's success in the south we know only the bare fact. His book, with graphic detail and description, is a treat with which the future tantalizes us.

But Amundsen has reminded us of Peary, and we have picked up the Commander's book once more. He tells a great tale. It is good to see that the world cannot withhold its sounding applause from the man who knows exactly where he wants to go and who never dreams of resting till he gets there. Peary's book is a classic of excellent leadership.

Nansen told us long ago that the obstacles that intervened between civilization and the Pole, terrific as they were, were too frail for the dogged and indomitable determination of Peary. That prediction has been magnificently vindicated. Commander Peary has taught us that the really successful person is the person who knows how to keep on failing. Failure is life's high art. He who knows how to fail well will sweep everything before him. Peary kept on failing till the silver crept into his hair; and then, when well over fifty years of age, on stepping-stones of his dead self, he climbed to higher things. Through what Disraeli would have called ‘the hell of failure,’ he entered the heaven of his triumph.

It is ever so. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the persistent take it by storm. The conqueror is, as Wellington said, the man who never knows when he is beaten. The dust of defeat stings the face of the victor at every step of his onward march. 'The arms of the Republic,' writes Gibbon, 'often defeated in battle, were always successful in war.' ‘As for Gad,’ exclaimed the dying Jacob, ‘a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last.’

The Cross is the last word in the grim record of the world's most ghastly failures; it is at the same time the emblem of a victory which shall shame our most radiant dreams. Those whose ears have never heard a paean, and whose brows have never felt the laurel, should ponder well this great romance of Arctic exploration.

When God writes ‘Success’ on any person’s life He often begins to spell it with an ‘f’.

F W Boreham, ‘The Conquest of the Poles’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 224-227.

Image: Captain Amundsen on the Fram.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Boreham on Our Better Halves

MARRIAGE is simply an obvious and outstanding illustration of one of life's cardinal laws. The world is made up of pairs, and, like the sexes, those pairs are supplementary and complementary.

I have two eyes. They are not in rivalry; each has its function. It is difficult for my right eye to discern the danger that approaches from the opposite direction. My left eye, therefore, stands sentinel on that side of my face. Each member of my body holds in charge powers that it is under obligation to exercise for the good of all its fellow members. The world is built on that plan….

Every man holds in sacred charge certain gifts and graces which he is under solemn obligation to use for the general good. My next-door neighbour is my better half; I cannot do without him….

The best possible illustration is, of course, Commander Verney L. Cameron's story of the two men with leprosy that he met in Central Africa. One had lost his hands, the other his feet. They established a farm together. The leprosy victim who had no hands, and who could not therefore scatter seed, carried his legless brother, who could not else have stirred, upon his back; and thus, each supplying the other's lack, they broke their ground, and sowed their seed, and reaped their crop.

Or go to Scotland. Everybody who has read that wealthiest of all northern biographies will remember the storm scene on the Highland loch. Dr. Norman Macleod was in a small boat with a boatman, some ladies, and ‘a well-known ministerial brother, who was as conspicuous for his weak and puny appearance as Dr. Macleod was for his gigantic size and strength.’ A fearful gale arose. The waves tossed the boat sky-high in their furious sport. The smaller of the two ministers was frightened out of his wits. He suggested that Dr. Macleod should pray for deliverance. The women eagerly seconded the devout proposal. But the breathless old boatman would have none of it. He instantly vetoed the scheme. 'Na, na!’ he cried; 'let the wee mannie pray, but the big one maun tak' an oar if ye dinna a' want to be droned!’ The shrewd old Highlander was simply stating, in a crude way of his own, life's great supplementary law….

Those who have studied carefully the story of the Reformation know how the powers of Luther and Melanchthon dovetailed into each other, and how beautifully each supplemented each. Differing from each other as widely as the poles, each seemed to supply precisely what the other lacked; and neither was quite sure of the wisdom of his own proposal until the sanction of the other had been obtained.

Macaulay has told us, concerning Charles Fox and Sir James Macintosh, that when Fox went to the desk and wrote, and Macintosh took to the platform and spoke, the cause they espoused seemed pitifully impotent; but when Macintosh seized the pen, and Fox mounted the platform, they were simply irresistible. They brought the whole country to their feet. Which, of course, is the story of the big minister and the wee minister over again. The gifts of each exactly supplemented those of the other. Each was the other's better half.

And has not Lord Morley made us familiar with the fine record of Cobden and of Bright? ‘They were,’ he says, ‘the complements of each other. Their gifts differed, so that one exactly covered the ground which the other was predisposed to leave comparatively untouched.’

F W Boreham, ‘Our Better Halves,’ The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 216-219.

Image: “I have two eyes. They are not in rivalry; each has its function.”

Boreham on Conducting One’s Own Funeral

MARK TWAIN more than once makes merry at the lugubrious and fantastic conception of a man mourning at his own funeral. In these passages the genial humorist is not at his best.

He misses the true inwardness of things. There is nothing in actual experience more common and nothing more pathetic than for a man to occupy the position of chief mourner at his own burial.

We have often read the touching records of missionaries on the islands, who are compelled to act as grave-diggers and chaplains at the funerals of their own wives and children. And quite recently we heard of a stricken and lonely woman, in an ocean solitude, who was called to nerve herself to perform the same melancholy offices at the burial of her husband.

But life holds an even deeper pathos. It is the tragic experience of every manwho rightly reads the riddle of life to preside, perhaps more than once, at his own obsequies. He looks tearfully down upon the plate upon which his own name and age are inscribed, and says, deliberately and bravely, ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’

Lord Dufferin has told us that he owes his very life to a vivid dream in the course of which he seemed to be a mourner at his own funeral. Many a man owes far more than life itself not to a mere dream, but to the actual experience…

That is a great story which Professor Herkless tells us in his Life of Francis d'Assisi. On the one hand Francis longed to be a friar and to dedicate himself to poverty and pilgrimage. On the other hand he loved a sweet and noble and gracious woman. He wrestled with his alternatives, and at length, through an agony of tears, he chose the cloak and the cowl.

But still the lovely face haunted him by cloister and by shrine. And one radiant moonlit night, when the earth was wrapped in snow, the brethren of the monastery saw him rise at dead of night. He went out into the grounds, and, in the silvery moonlight, fashioned, out of the snow, images of wife and children and servants. He arranged them in a circle, and sat with them, and, giving rein to his fancy, tasted for one delicious hour the ecstasies of hearth and home, the joys of life and love. Then, solemnly rising, he kissed them all a tearful and a final farewell, renounced such raptures for ever, and re-entered the convent. That night Francis the friar buried himself. He read his own funeral service. He had made his choice; and, in order that his life might not be clogged by the haunting images of dead possibilities, the man who had decided to be a friar buried everything except the friar….

We have all read the affecting and informing and heart-searching correspondence of Dr. Marcus Dods. No man sounded the very depths of life's innermost experiences more terribly than did he. He felt called to be a minister. He buried every other inclination and possibility. Then came years of neglect and rejection. No congregation would call him. But, with a courage never excelled on a battle-field, he held on. He looked wistfully at the graves in which he had buried his earlier fancies. But he would allow no resurrection. And at last came recognition and reward. And out of that agonizing experience he wrote on the economy of life, and he deserves to be listened to with bated breath, ‘Every man,’ the doctor says, ‘as he grows into life, finds he must employ such an economy on his own account. He is pressed to occupy positions or to engage in work which will prevent him from achieving the purpose for which nature has fitted him. He is offered promotion which seems attractive and has its advantages; but he declines it, because it would divert him from his chosen aim.

Continually people spoil their life by want of concentration. They are greatly tempted to do so, for the public foolishly concludes that, because a person does one thing well, they can do everything well; and the one who has written a good history is straightway asked to sit in Parliament, or the person whose scholarship and piety have been conspicuous is offered preferment which calls for the exercise of wholly different qualities.

F W Boreham, ‘On Conducting One’s Own Funeral’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 209-214.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Boreham’s Prescription: ‘See a Few Big Things’

Immensity is magnificent medicine. That is one reason—if we may let the cat out of the bag—why the doctors send us to the seaside. We forget the tiddley-winking in the contemplation of the tremendous. We lose life's shallow worries in the vision of unplumbed depths.

Those who have read Mrs. Barclays Rosary will remember that, in the crisis of her life, the heroine, the Hon. Jane Champion, determined to consult her physician, Sir Deryck Brand. And, after having realized the fearful strain to which his poor patient's nerves had been subjected, he exclaimed: ‘Here is a prescription for you! See a few big things!' He urged her to go out west, and see the stupendous Falls of Niagara, to go out east and see the Great Pyramid. ‘Go for the big things,’ he said; ‘you will like to remember, when you are bothering about pouring water in and out of tea-cups, "Niagara is flowing still!"'

…The tendency of life is to drift among small things—small anxieties, small pleasures, small ideas, and small talk. He is a very wise physician indeed who can prescribe for us a tonic of big things.

F W Boreham, ‘A Tonic of Big Things,’ The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 178-179.

Image: The wonderful Iguazu Falls.

Boreham on Laughter in the Face of Pain

F W Boreham writes an Australian-flavoured essay entitled, ‘The Jackass and the Kangaroo’ in which he cites the juxtaposition of a dead kangaroo that has been killed on the road and a kookaburra (laughing jackass), ‘laughing’ in the face of such tragedy. Boreham takes these two images to say that this often happens in life:

We are for ever and ever discovering, with a shock of surprise, that the laughing jackass is never far away from the dead kangaroo. At every turn of our pilgrimage we see comedy stand grinning cheek by jowl with tragedy. The world is made up of the most discordant and incongruous juxtapositions.

Among the treasures in the Sydney Art Gallery is Sir Luke Fildes' famous painting entitled ‘The Widower.’ On the right-hand side of the picture sits the poor toiler, with his sick child on his knee. One overwhelming bereavement has already overtaken him, and another stares him in the face. His brow is clouded with uttermost sorrow and perplexity. He looks at his child and seems to say, 'If only she were here!’ And on the left-hand side of the picture are the younger children playing on the floor, laughing and crowing in their merriment.

They are not old enough to understand; but their delight seems cruelly to mock his despair. Have we not here the story of the laughing-jackass and the dead kangaroo over again? The thing occurs hourly.

…Who is there that, passing through some deep valley of weeping, has not been stabbed to the quick by the laughter on the hills?

I shall never forget the day on which I left the Homeland. I was about to set sail for lands in which I should be the eeriest stranger. I passed, on my way to the ship, through the crowded London streets, every one of which was endeared to me by old associations and enriched by fond memories. I was accompanied by those who were all the world to me, those who, like myself, were calling up all the reserve powers of the will to nerve them for the wrench of parting. And I remember how I was mocked by the sounds of the city streets. My soul was in tears; but who cared? People were chattering; crowds were jostling; newsboys were shouting; all London was sunlit and gay. It seemed as though the old haunts were glad to see me go. The laughter tore and lacerated my spirit. The jackass seems a hideous incongruity in the presence of the dead kangaroo.

F W Boreham, ‘The Jackass and the Kangaroo’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 142-144.

Image: The Widower.