Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Boreham on the Challenge of Drowned Hens

A man lived in a very comfortable house, with a large, light, airy cellar. The river ran near by.

One day the river overflowed, the cellar was flooded, and all the hens that he kept in it were drowned.

The next day he went off to see the landlord.

‘I have come,’ he said ‘to give you notice. I wish to leave the house.’

‘How is that?’ asked the astonished landlord. ‘I thought you liked it so much. It is a very comfortable, well-built house, and cheap.’

‘Oh, yes,’ the tenant replied, ‘but the river has overflowed into my cellar, and all my hens are drowned.’

‘Oh, don't let that make you give up the house,’ the landlord reasoned; ‘try ducks!’

F W Boreham unfolds some of the issues of this story in his essay, recognizing the fine art of putting up with nasty things but encouraging the creative juices to flow to see if there is a better way to be living under difficult circumstances.

F W Boreham, ‘Landlord and Tenant’, Mushrooms on the Moor (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 52-53.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Boreham Books to Make you Sing!

Psychologist, Dr Bruce L Thiessen has written an enchanting review of All The Blessings of Life: The Best Stories of F W Boreham and Second Thoughts, also by F W Boreham.

Read about the way these books have helped Dr Thiessen to compose a new song (which you can listen to) and assist him in his musical career.

Link: Bruce L Thiessen, A Book Review You Can Sing To.

Where You Can Purchase Boreham Books:

Dalton Books

COC Online Shop


Image: Cover of All the Blessings of Life.

Boreham on the New Year

New Year day marks both a burial and a birth. We stand reverently by the graveside of the past; we gaze curiously into the cradle of the year just born. It is at such moments that we exhibit, in full-orbed perfection, life's two monumental chivalries. A natural instinct restrains us from speaking ill of the dead; we are in honour bound to think as kindly as we can of the year that has passed, forgiving its blemishes and magnifying its benefits. And, as to the year that sprawls in its infancy before us, it becomes us to treat it as we ourselves were treated in similar circumstances.

Is there anything in the solar system more beautiful than the faith which on our first arrival, our parents reposed in us? They knew that we should be human, yet they idealised us until they thought of us as almost divine. They dreamed of all the good things we should do, and never for a moment suspected the bad. In their enraptured eyes, an aureole already encircled our brows. It is with some such rainbow-tinted chivalry that we extend our welcome to a newborn year.

Few things are more intriguing than our capacity for scraping together a presentable stock of glittering optimism at this particular season. We are subtly conscious of having turned a corner; entered upon a fresh phase, rounded a cape into warmer latitudes and sunnier seas. Something tells us that however unkind our yesterdays may have been, our tomorrows are unanimously and whole-heartedly on the side of the angels.

The High Art Of Self-Culture
In a sense, such mental processes and reactions are wholly illogical, perhaps a trifle absurd. After all, the year is a cycle. Nature recognises no day as its beginning; she indignantly scorns the thought of a close. To her, the succession of the seasons represents the inspired mechanism of perpetual motion. She knows no weariness, no monotony, no senility, no end. In spite of this, however, there is a modicum of sound sense in marking a certain point in the beginningless and endless circle, and in making that mystic point the theatre of a little discreet heart-searching. Are we on the right track? What progress are we making? Are we appreciably nearer our goal than when we last took our bearings ?

Obviously, the highest attainment in life consists in making the best of ourselves. But it is not easy. The outstanding fact in each man's pilgrimage is the terrifying fact of his own individuality. Each person is a pathfinder, blazing a trail through an unexplored continent. There are no maps or charts. Nobody else has ever had his life to live. Nobody else's experience, therefore, can serve him as a guide book for his own lonely trudge. By hook or by crook, he must find his way as he struggles on.

Wisdom Of Taking One's Bearings
It is all very well for metaphysicians and theorists to write books on "Life and How to Live It"; such a treatise is useless to the average man. He abhors the general; he craves the particular. He wants a book dealing distinctively with his own personal life. It must begin with his own birth; it must reach its climax with his own death; it must have his photograph as its frontispiece. And, because nobody on earth is competent to write it, and because nobody but himself would wish to read it, such a volume has never been published, and, in the nature of things, never will be.

It follows that if a man is to develop his personality and fulfil his mission in life at all successfully, he must stand occasionally on some lofty eminence, from the commanding heights of which he can survey the country that he has already traversed and map out for himself a path through the unknown territory that melts into infinity before him. Herein lies the rationale of our New Year celebrations. We arbitrarily fix a point in the circle as the beginning and the end of that circle; and on reaching that mysterious point, we pause to readjust ourselves to ourselves, to one another, to those around us, to God above us, and to the eternal scheme of things.

F W Boreham, This Day with F W Boreham, 1 January.

Image: “Each person is a pathfinder, blazing a trail through an unexplored continent.”

Monday, December 31, 2007

Boreham on the End of the Year

This is a time for contemplation. It is true that when a person is on a journey, the important thing is to keep going. Yet there come times when, pausing for a meal or taking breath on the summit of a picturesque knoll, it is convenient—and even profitable—to review the ground that he has already covered and to take his bearings in relation to the unfinished portion of his trudge. It is with some such sensations that we shall spend the present weekend. The end of a year is not, in reality, a point of any consequence; yet it seems to represent the end of one stage and the beginning of another.

This fondness of ours for rounding things off is one of our most characteristic human instincts. Who is there, among those who delight in books, who has not read a dozen times Gibbon's infamous postscript to his monumental "Decline and Fall," the postscript in which he describes the tumult of emotion with which, after a quarter of a century of intense application, he wrote the last sentence of his history? Sir Archibald Alison tells of a similar experience. He called his wife into the room to see the last line written, and both found moisture creeping to their eyes when the pen was finally lifted from the page. And we all like to think of Sir Christopher Wren, old, feeble but tremendously excited, being driven to the city to witness the very last touches being put to his noble cathedral. Such incidents are notable because typical.

Is Man a Squirrel In a Revolving Cage?
The end of a year, however, differs essentially and fundamentally from the end of other things, inasmuch as it is, in its very nature, not only an end, but a beginning. It is a case of: "The King is dead; long live the King!" If the speech of the orator is ill-conceived and ill-finished, he will suffer for it in days to come by being permitted to contemplate from the platform a paralysing array of empty benches. If the manuscript of the author represents scamped and slipshod work, he will meet his Nemesis in the shape of universal neglect. In each case the public will punish the offender for the delinquencies of the past by peremptorily denying him a future. But nothing can deprive us the new year. Whatever the old year has done or left undone, we start afresh. By an amazing distortion of human reasoning, this inevitable system of succession—year following year without respect to the behaviour of the years—has been tortured by unhealthy minds into an excuse for pessimism. Thus, to the gloomy broodings of Nietzsche, it seemed to place humanity in the position of a squirrel in a revolving cage or a convict on a treadmill. The insensate thing twirls round and round unceasingly without regard to any kind of progress. It turns man into a kind of recurring decimal that walks on and on and on indefinitely, but never by any chance works out. The philosophy is a frigid one. We prefer to view the position in the light of a fine story that Lowell tells in the narrative of his travels in Europe. When crossing the Alps with a friend, the pair suddenly reached a summit from which they commanded a magnificent view to east and west. As Lowell gazed eastward, the pageant of antiquity seemed to unroll before his eyes. Baring his head he cried, in a transport of veneration: "Glories for the past, I salute you!" He then turned to his friend who turned his face in the opposite direction. Thinking of all the pregnant potentialities stirring within the life of those younger and more aggressive peoples, he exclaimed, "Glories of the future, I salute you!" Lowell confesses that his friend had the better of him. It is some such reflection—the rapture of the forward look—that dispels pessimism and excites expectancy as we turn our faces to the year that is about to be.

A Philosophy Of Sunshine And Apple Blossom
The cheerfulness thus generated must, however, be curbed by certain necessary modifications. Year may succeed year with the regularity and reliability of the law of gravitation. But what of ourselves? Do the years leave us as they find us? Do they simply break sportively over us as the waves break over the happy bathers? "My hair," explained Mrs. Glover, the actress, to Douglas Jerrold, the humorist, "is turning grey through using essence of lavender." "Are you sure,” Jerrold replied, grimly, "that it is not due to essence of thyme?" We suspect that the subdued melancholy of which we are all conscious at this period is due, not to the substitution of one year for another, but to a secret and subconscious recognition of change within ourselves. Yet, happily, even this pensive mood is not lasting. As soon as the bells ring in the new year, we shake it from us, and, with the ageing Ulysses, we resolve to strive, to seek, to find, but not to yield.

We grow dreadfully old in December, but we are newborn babes in January. Longfellow's biographer has described a certain day on which the poet, his hair as white as snow but his cheeks as ruddy as a rose, was strolling in an orchard with a lady friend. "How is it," she asked, "that you are still so vigorous and that it is still possible for you to write so exquisitely?" "Look at that apple tree," replied Longfellow; "it is the oldest apple tree in the orchard and yet its blossoms this year are as beautiful as I have ever known them during the past fifty years. The secret is simply this: the tree makes a little new wood every year, and out of the new wood comes the wealth of blossom." It was merely a poet’s way of saying what, in his "Marius the Epicurean," Pater says of Cornelius Fronto. "The wise old man," he writes, "would seem to have carefully and consciously replaced each natural trait of youth, as it departed from him, by an equivalent grace of culture." Essence of thyme can never age or wither such heroic spirits. Though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. It is impossible to depress men in whose minds the passage of the years awakens no philosophy, but one of sunshine and apple blossom!

F W Boreham, This Day With F W Boreham, 31 December.

Image: "We grow dreadfully old in December."