Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boreham on ‘My Life: What Shall I Do With It?’

It is a great moment when a person stands, not over a log of cedar, or a drop of ink, or a bag of gold, but with his very life in his hand, saying to himself, ‘What shall I do with it?’

[David] Garrick, in Sir Joshua Reynolds' famous picture, torn between tragedy and comedy, is nothing to it.

Who has not felt sorry for Goethe, strolling in agony among the willows on the banks of the Lahn, struggling vainly to decide whether to be a lawyer or an artist?

Or Lord Dufferin as a young man in direst perplexity as to whether to devote his life to poetry or politics?

Or Alfred Ringer, gazing wistfully at the beckoning fingers of stage and law and church, and at his wits' end as to which to follow?

Or Frederick W. Robertson, of Brighton, embarrassed between the conflicting claims of the army and the pulpit?

In each case the person’s course may seem clear enough to us. It is so easy to be wise after the event. But in each case it was a veritable Gethsemane to the man himself. It is impossible to deny admiration to the man who deliberately takes his life in his hand, and asks himself the question. So many of us are content to drift.

F W Boreham, ‘A Bush Philosopher’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 64-65.

Image: Joshua Reynolds, ‘David Garrick Between Tragedy and Comedy’, 1760-1761.

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.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Boreham on Giving it Time

F W Boreham tells how he was at the crossroads in his life and wondering which direction he should take. He records and ruminates upon the advice of his mentor:

‘Can a person be quite sure,’ I asked, ‘that, in the hour of perplexity, he will be rightly led? Can he feel secure against a false step? I shall never forget his reply. He sprang from his deck chair and came earnestly towards me. ‘I am certain of it,’ he exclaimed, ‘if he will but give God time! Remember that as long as you live,’ he added entreatingly—‘GIVE GOD TIME!’

More than ten years later I found myself face to face with a crisis. I had to make a decision on which my whole life's work depended, and I had to make the decision by five o'clock—the hour at which the telegraph office closed—on a certain Saturday evening. It chanced once more that a minister was my guest. But he could not help me. He thought it vastly improbable that God could concern Himself about individual trivialities. ‘The Lord has so much to see to, such a lot of beds in the ward!’ He was inclined to think that a certain element of chance dominated our mortality, that a person was bound to take certain risks, and that life was very much like a lottery. ‘And if a person makes a mistake at a critical juncture like this?’ I asked anxiously. He shrugged his shoulders. ‘And after that the dark.’ I remember with a shudder how my faith winced and staggered under that blow.

But I thought of the sunny morning on the verandah ten years before, and clutched desperately and wildly at my old faith. Saturday came. I positively had not the ghost of a notion as to what I ought to do. At five minutes to five I was at the telegraph office, still in hopeless confusion. At three minutes to five a man rode up on a bicycle. So far as I knew, he was absolutely ignorant of the crisis through which I was floundering. But he told me something that relieved the entire situation, and made my course as clear as noonday, and by five o'clock the message had been dispatched.

Dr. Jowett, of New York, says that he was once in the most pitiful perplexity, and consulted Dr. Berry, of Wolverhampton. ‘What would you do if you were in my place?’ he entreated. ‘I don't know, Jowett, I am not there, and you are not there yet! When have you to act?’ ‘On Friday,’ Dr. Jowett replied. ‘Then,’ answered Berry, ‘you will find your way perfectly clear on Friday! The Lord will not fail you!’ And, surely enough, on Friday all was plain.

One of the very greatest and wisest of all Queen Victoria's diplomatists has left it on record that it became an inveterate habit of his mind never to allow any opinion on any subject to crystallize until it became necessary to arrive at a practical decision.

Give God time, and even when the knife flashes in air the ram will be seen caught in the thicket! Give God time, and even when Pharaoh's host is on Israel's heels a path through the waters will suddenly open! Give God time, and when the bed of the brook is dry Elijah shall hear the guiding voice.

F W Boreham, ‘Lead, Kindly Light’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 52-53.

Image: ‘Ram caught in the thicket’.

This statue of a Ram in the Thicket was found Mesopotamian, ca. 2650-2550 B.C. More information at this Link.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Boreham on Decision-Making

We have all known the torture of indecision. To buy or not to buy? To accept or to decline? To go or to stay? To turn this way or that? It is dreadful! Now, the question is: Are we justified, in our seasons of perplexity, in expecting to hear a guiding voice, or to discern a shining light, or to see a beckoning hand ? Must we plunge into the gloom, or may we follow the gleam? Is there a Kindly Light that leads?

If we reply in the negative, a hundred exceeding great and precious promises become instantly unintelligible, and, in consequence, all Scripture falls under suspicion of being disingenuous and insincere. And yet, on the other hand, it is so difficult, in our distraction, to hear that voice, to discern that light, to see that beckoning hand.

Think of that memorable day in the life of Goethe. ‘A delicious sadness subdued his thoughts,’ his biographer tells us, ‘as he wandered dreamily along the banks of the Lahn. The lovely scenes which met his eye solicited his pencil, awakening once more the ineffectual desire, which from time to time haunted him, of becoming a painter. The desire, often suppressed, now rose up in such serious shape that he resolved to settle for ever whether he should devote himself to art or not.

The test was curious. The river glided beneath, now flashing in the sunlight, now partially concealed by willows. Taking a knife from his pocket, he flung it with his left hand into the river, having previously resolved that, if he saw it fall, he was to become an artist; but if the sinking knife was concealed by the willows, he was to abandon the idea. No ancient oracle was ever more ambiguous than the answer now given him. The willows concealed the sinking knife; but the water splashed up like a fountain, and was distinctly visible. So indefinite an answer left him still in doubt.’

It is thus that our wayward will-o'-the-wisps torment us. There must be a more excellent way. There is! [FWB writes about this in the rest of his essay]

F W Boreham, ‘Lead, Kindly Light’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles Kelly, 1914), 50-51.

Image: “Taking a knife from his pocket, he flung it…”

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Boreham on Martin Luther’s Best Preacher

I came, too, upon Luther's tribute to his robin.

‘I have one preacher, he says, ‘that I love better than any other upon earth; it is my little tame robin, which preaches to me daily. I put his crumbs upon my window-sill, especially at night. He hops on to the sill when he wants his supply, and takes as much as he desires to satisfy his need. From thence he always hops on to a little tree close by, and lifts up his voice to God and sings his carol of praise and gratitude, tucks his little head under his wing, and goes fast to sleep, and leaves to-morrow to look after itself. He is the best preacher that I have on earth.’

F W Boreham, ‘The Minor Prophets’ Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly1914), 33.

Image: ‘He is the best preacher that I have on earth.’