Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Boreham on John 3: 16

It has been lovely to reconnect with a friend from Melbourne via the Internet. Bill Merriweather is a ninety year old blogger whose blog, Bill’s Thoughts and Comments, has a link to this site.

Bill made a suggestion of posting the following Boreham excerpt and I am very happy to include it.

If other readers have got a favorite Boreham excerpt they would love to see posted, please send me the statement with a note and an accompanying digital photo if you have one (this is only optional). Here is F W Boreham on the text that means so much to so many:

There are scores of tribes and people on the face of the earth whose very names would surprise us if we heard them. How can we love them? But God loves them because He knows them. We always love people if we know them. It is always safe to conclude, if we do not love a man, that it is because we do not know him. I like to think, as I walk down the crowded street, that every soul I meet, however commonplace or unattractive, is all the world to somebody. Somebody loves him because somebody knows him. And, to that somebody, heaven would be no heaven without him. The world is a very lovable place, and its people are very lovable people. We do not know the world, and therefore we do not love the world. But “God so knows the world” …and therefore…“God so loved the world . . .” I love God the more because He loves the world I live in; and I love the world the more because it is transfigured by the love of God.

There is no world, among all the worlds, to be compared with this world. I am sure of that. The most pressing and unanimous call to Jupiter or Venus or Mars or Saturn will not tempt me to go if I can, by any frantic argument or artifice or maneuver, induce my fellow mortals to allow me to remain here a little longer. This is the world; there can be no possible doubt about that. “God so loved the world” —that is to say, He loved this one. That is lovely! I revel in that thought. God has sprinkled the world with beautiful and gracious women; but, whilst He has given each of us the power to admire them all, we are each of us able to love only one of them supremely. May not this also be a reflection, an echo, an indication that we are fashioned after the image and similitude of the Most High? For God has sprinkled His universe with beautiful worlds, as He has sprinkled this world with beautiful women. There are millions upon millions of them. And when God gazed upon the galaxies of worlds that He had made, He saw that they were very good. He looked admiringly upon worldhood, as we men gaze admiringly upon womanhood. And then with one of His worlds He fell in love. He loved it supremely, loved it with a love so fond, and so awful, and so deep, and so eternal, that we catch our breath as we think of it! He loved it with a love that led to the inexpressible mystery of Bethlehem, to the unutterable anguish of Gethsemane, to the unspeakable tragedy of Calvary. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” In the light of that stupendous declaration the world seems a terrible place. It seems a solemn and a sacred thing to be living in that one world towards which God Himself felt so tenderly! The place whereon we stand is holy ground! And yet, after all, it is not the place. It is the people. It is ourselves. It is you. It is I. That is the rapture of it. “He loved me, and gave Himself for me!” As Faber sings:
All this God is all for me,
A Saviour all my own.

True love is always the uttermost simplicity to the lover, and it is always the profoundest mystery to the loved. “God so loved the world.” “He loved me.” It may be all as plain as plain can be to Him; but to the world, to us—to you, to me—there must always abide a concentrated infinity of mystery in such amazing words as these.

F. W. Boreham, ‘The Pageant Through the Bush’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 17-19.

Image: “I like to think, as I walk down the crowded street…”

Friday, October 19, 2007

Boreham and that Benediction

I cherish amongst my richest treasure-trove the memory of my first visit to Granny. She had been recently widowed. Her sons and her grandsons farmed the fertile hill-sides all around her. And they had built for her special comfort a dainty little cottage at the back of the old homestead. The picture is indelible. There she stands in the rose-covered doorway of the quaint little cabin, like a pretty old painting, exquisitely framed! I can still see her wrinkled face buried in the wavy depths of her lilac sun-bonnet. Her little plaid shawl is neatly crossed over her breast and fastened behind her back. Her Scottish accent was so pronounced and her brogue so broad that I cannot pretend to have caught every word that she uttered; but for all that it was a treat to hear her. There is music in the murmur of the waves, though we know not what they are saying. And at any rate, if poor Granny's speech was too subtle for prosaic southern ears, her eyes were always eloquent enough. They seemed to glow with the very joy of living; and as she stands there, framed in her cottage portal, her hands seem always outstretched to welcome her minister. I wish that every man could share my rare privilege in passing straight from college to such a school as Granny kept for me ! When, nowadays, I find sleep coy and difficult to woo, I just lie still and think of Granny as I used to see her at her cabin-door in those first days of my ministry in Maoriland.

What times they were! What tales she told me as we sat together in her wee but cosy ‘but and ben’! The pathos of her early exile; her insufferable home-sickness as she sat, on quiet and lonely Sabbaths, her face in her hands and her elbows on her knees, peering over the wilds and the waters, dreaming fondly of the auld land and the auld kirk. How tenderly she told of the patient struggles of those first days of colonization: the infinite labour of building their home on the summit; the long and perilous tramps in search of every simplest requisite; the heavy burdens that had to be carried on their own backs in the days before horses and cattle were to be had; the prosperity that responded to toil; and the case that came with the years! Of all these she chatted easily, cheerfully, gratefully.

And when, after awhile, I saw her tall young grandson pass the open door on his way to the stable to harness the horses to my sledge, I used to reach for her old Bible. It had accompanied her through all the days of her pilgrimage. The covers had been more than once repaired. Every page was brown with age and wear. How fondly she eyed it as I opened its mellow leaves! I read to her passages that were like music to her soul. She always chose them, and her face simply gleamed as I read. She had learned every word of those stately chapters by heart before I was born, and, had I stumbled, would have instantly detected the slip; but she enjoyed the passage none the less on that account. And then we kneeled together in the Presence that was very real; and somehow I always felt that prayer was wonderfully easy in the perfumed atmosphere of that little room.

I heard one day that Granny was dying! It was raining in torrents! There was no way of arranging for the mountain-sledge. I drove to the foot of the track, and then commenced the ascent. It was the only time that I ever walked it. And I even felt glad that it was raining. It would have seemed a horrid incongruity if the sun had been shining and the birds singing when old Granny was dying!
To my joy, I arrived in time! Granny was lying dreadfully still and perfectly prostrate in her tiny room. The watchers thoughtfully slipped out and left us, as we had so often been, alone together. I stroked the wrinkled brow about which the snowy curls were tumbled now. Her eyes spoke to me in reply, and I understood. For the last time I reached for her Bible. I knew what to read. If for her great countryman there was 'only one Book' at such a time, for Granny there was only one chapter. ‘In my Father's house are many mansions.’ Even as I gave utterance to the beautiful and rhythmic cadences, the rain ceased to beat upon the little window-pane, and I read on amidst a silence that was like the threshold of another world. It was like the hush of the Presence-chamber, the anteroom of the Eternal. I could see that Granny drank in every syllable, and it was as the wine of the kingdom of heaven to her taste. And then I prayed—or tried to—for the last time! When I rose from my knees by her bedside, the setting sun had struggled through the rain-clouds. It streamed gloriously through her little western window. It transfigured her wan face and wandering hair as it fell upon her snowy pillow. I quietly rose to leave. I was about to take her hand in mine when a thing happened that I think I shall remember when all things else have been forgotten.

To my amazement, Granny rose, and sat bolt upright! In the glory of the setting sun, she seemed almost more than human. ‘Doon!’ she exclaimed, ‘doon!' and motioned me to kneel once more by her bedside. I obeyed her. And, as I knelt, I felt her thin, worn hands on my head, and I heard her clear Scotch accent once more. ‘The Lord bless ye,’ she said in slow and solemn tones; ‘the Lord bless ye and keep ye! The Lord bless ye in your youth and in your auld age! The Lord bless ye in your basket and in your store! The Lord bless ye in your kirk and in your hame! The Lord bless ye in your guid wife and in your wee bairns! The Lord bless ye in your gaeings out and in your comings in frae this time forth and even for evermair!’ I have bowed my head to many benedictions, but I have never known another like that. The frail form was completely exhausted, and poor Granny sank back heavily upon her pillow. In a very little while she had passed beyond the reach of my poor ministries. But I often feel her thin fingers in my hair; and that last benediction will abide, like the breath of heaven, upon my spirit till I shall see her radiant face once more.

F W Boreham ‘Granny’ Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 205-210.

Image: “the setting sun had struggled through the rain-clouds.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boreham: The Whole is Unequal to the Sum of all its Parts.

‘The whole is equal to the sum of all its parts.’ Could anything be more absurd? Take Paradise Lost or Hamlet or In Memoriam to pieces on this principle, and you will find that the great classic simply consists of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet in an endless variety of juxtaposition. And would Euclid have us believe that the whole of Hamlet is only equal to the twenty-six letters of the alphabet?

It has often been pointed out that in Gray's Elegy there is scarcely a thought that rises above mediocrity, and yet the combination and sequence and rhythm of the whole are such that we have all recognized it as one of the choicest gems of our literature. The entire poem is infinitely greater than the sum of all its parts. Or think of Tennyson's brook, with its deeps and its shallows, its whirls and its eddies, its song and its chatter, its foamy flake and its silvery flash, its graceful windings among ferns and forget-me-nots, its haunts of trout and of grayling. Now, the analyst who has not been warned of the peril of dissection will take all this to pieces. And he will tell you that it consists of two parts of hydrogen to sixteen parts of oxygen If you hear the wildest statement often enough, you will come at last to believe it. And this young analyst has read Euclid's axiom so frequently that he has really come at last to fancy that it is true! The whole of the brook equal to the sum of all its parts! The whole equal to hydrogen and oxygen! Let our analyst read the poem and see!

Does a lovely tune consist merely of so many notes? We are irresistibly reminded of Balthazar, the infatuated chemist in Balzac's Quest for the Absolute. His poor wife is in an agony of apprehension on his account, and she frets and worries about his perilous experiments. She seeks with passionate entreaty to dissuade him. As he looks into her face he notices that her beautiful eyes are swimming in tears. ‘Ah!’ exclaimed the analyst, 'tears! tears! Well, I have decomposed them. They contain a little phosphate of lime, a little chloride of sodium, a little mucus, and a little water!’ Now, I happen to know for certain that neither Euclid, nor Balzac's chemist, nor all the cold-blooded philosophers in the universe, could ever persuade any husband or lover in the wide, wide world that a woman's tears contain nothing more than these constituent elements! It is another of those common cases in which the whole is greater, beyond all calculation, than the sum of all its parts.

I wonder that it never occurs to such analysts as these to ask themselves this pertinent question: If a whole contains no more than the sum of all its parts, why should either God or man take the trouble to transform the parts into a whole? It would be love’s labour lost, with a vengeance.

F W Boreham, ‘The Analyst’ Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 186-188.

Image: Water

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.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Boreham on the World as a Mirror

In the days of the Maori War [1860s] some hostile natives resolved to insult Bishop Selwyn. They arranged to offer him a pigsty for his accommodation. The Bishop accepted; drove out the pigs; gathered some fern from the bush for his bed; and occupied his lowly residence with such charm and dignity that the Maoris exclaimed: ‘You cannot degrade that man!’ Precisely! He politely declined to identify himself with his environment.

The other story is from John Wesley's Journal. John Nelson, one of Wesley's original helpers, was arrested and thrust into a horrible dungeon. His record of the experience makes good reading: ‘When I came into the dungeon, that stank worse than a hog-sty, by reason of the blood and filth that ran into it from the slaughter-house above, my soul was so filled with the love of God that it was a paradise to me!’ Now, I ask again, what is the good of putting people like these into pigsties and prisons?

This is a wonderful thing—perhaps the most wonderful of all wonderful things. It means that the world through which I move is simply a reflection of my own inmost self. It is a mirror, as George Eliot said. ‘Laugh, and it laughs back; frown, and your gloom is recast.’ If I have a princely soul, every prison or pigsty that I enter flashes by this wondrous magic into a palace. If I am a felon, I may live in a palace, but the palace will be as gloomy as a jail.

That is a tremendous saying of Maeterlinck's: ‘Nothing befalls us that is not of the nature of ourselves. Whether you climb up the mountain, or go down to the valley, none but yourself shall you meet on the highway of fate. If Judas go forth tonight, it is towards Judas that his steps will tend, nor will chance for betrayal be lacking; but let Socrates open his door, he shall find Socrates asleep on the threshold before him, and there will be occasion for wisdom.’

Wordsworth was once asked why he wrote of ‘dancing daffodils’. Daffodils do not dance. He reflected for a long time, and then replied that he could only suppose that, since the sight of the daffodils set his soul dancing with delight, he had unconsciously transferred the inward sensation to the outward object. Of course!

F W Boreham, ‘The Dainties in the Dungeon’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 125-127.

Image: “the world as a mirror.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Boreham on Dreaming of Fairylands

The scene is laid in the villainous old prison at Marseilles. In one of its most loathsome and repulsive dungeons lay two men. For one of them, Monsieur Rigaud, a sumptuous meal had been provided. The other, John Baptist Cavalletto, had a hard, black crust. ‘Rigaud soon dispatched his delicate viands,’ Dickens tells us, ‘and proceeded to suck his fingers as clean as he could. Then he paused in his drink to contemplate his fellow prisoner.
“How do you find the bread?”
“A little dry, but I have my old sauce here,” returned John, holding up his knife.
“How sauce?”
“I can cut my bread so—like a melon. Or so—like an omelette. Or so—like a fried fish. Or so—like a Lyons sausage,” said John, demonstrating the various cuts on the bread he held, and soberly chewing what he had in his mouth.

Now, I am not sure whether this should be called magic. It certainly is a kind of magic. The happy prisoner waves his hand over his crust and cries “Presto!” and straightway it is transformed into melon, omelette, fried fish, or sausage at his will.

I am not writing an article on criminology or prison management, but certainly the passage I have quoted from Little Dorrit could be made the text for such a screed. It is a wicked waste of public money to support a man in a jail, when, by some wondrous witchery within him, he can transform his prison into a palace, and convert his frugal fare into fried fish.

A very wonderful witchery this. By means of it Charles Lamb turned all the streets of London into pavements of pure gold. “I know,” the gentle Elia says, “an alchemy that turns her mud into that precious metal. I know!”

Alchemy, witchery, magic—what is it? Yes, it is magic, I feel sure; the most magical of all magic—what Richard Jefferies felicitously called ‘wood magic.’

We remember the two boys, the pond a few yards across, and the raft made out of a packing-case. Suddenly, by this wild and wondrous magic that transforms a dry crust into fried fish and sausage, the pond becomes the ‘New Sea,’ and they are explorers and adventurers.

“Let us go round it. We have never been quite round it,” said Bevis. “So we will,” said Mark, “but we shall not be back to dinner.”
“As if travellers ever thought of dinner! Of course we shall take our provisions with us.”
“Let's go and get our spears,” said Mark.
“Oh, yes; and the compass and the maps; wait a minute. We ought to have a medicine chest; the savages will worry us for medicine and very likely we shall have dreadful fevers.”
“Yes, and we must keep a diary,” said Mark, and when we go to sleep, who shall watch first, you or!?”
“Oh, we'll light a fire,” said Bevis, “that will frighten the lions; they will glare at us, but they can't stand fire. You hit them on the head with a burning stick.”
Now, here we have a dirty puddle and a dusty packing-case suddenly transformed, by what the genial naturalist calls 'wood magic,' into an uncharted sea with desert islands, savage tribes, and ferocious beasts. It is clearly the same species of alchemy by which our poor prisoner at Marseilles turned his dry crust into fried fish and sausage. And I confess that, of the two, I scarcely know which to admire the more. For if some superficial critic remonstrates with me, and points out that with Bevis and Mark the whole thing was a furious frolic, whilst with the French prisoner it was a fine philosophy, I am bound to answer that it is by just such furious frolics that we have won the world.

It is true that Bevis and Mark were only having a game; but it is also true that your Columbuses and Cooks, your Tasmans and Dampiers, your Raleighs and Drakes, were all playing exactly the same game. It was because their fancy built up strange continents across the unsailed seas that they set out in search of the fairylands of which they dreamed. The triumphs of scientific discovery all follow the sane law. When you have mastered the magic by which the crust became a fish, and by which the packing-case became a stately ship in full sail, you at once understand Newton's flight of fancy from a falling apple to a falling moon.

F W Boreham, ‘The Dainties in the Dungeon’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 120-123.

Image: “Bevis and Mark were only having a game….”