Sunday, April 30, 2006

10 May: Boreham on Antoine Lavoisier

Tragedies of Science
Amidst the raging delirium of the French Revolution, Mme. Defarge and her ghoulish knitting women counted the heads of the wretched victims as they fell from the guillotine. If, going a step farther, Mme. Defarge had possessed the genius to assess the value of those heads, she would have discovered that they contained some of the finest brains in Europe. Antoine Lavoisier, the anniversary of whose death we mark today, is a case in point. With the restless and insatiable curiosity that distinguished such men as Galileo, Newton, Wren, Lister, and his compatriot Pasteur, Lavoisier's hungry mind insisted on finding ever new worlds to conquer, and once he found his world, every continent and island in it had to be penetrated and explored.

A titanic cosmopolite, he made the universe his laboratory. His triumphs were as innumerable as they were sensational. In his researches into the prerogatives and potentialities of earth, air, and water, he gave a new interpretation and a new orientation to the entire material world. He insisted on knowing everything about everything. There was nothing in the heavens above or on the earth beneath that eluded his investigations. As Lalande said of him: "Go where you will, Lavoisier is everywhere." He poked his finger into everybody's pie, not for the gratification of his own palate, but in order to help the housewife to make her next confection still more appetising and with a smaller outlay of labour and material.

New Look For Industry And Commerce
Holding with Bacon that nothing can be too insignificant for the attention of the wisest which is capable of giving satisfaction to the meanest, he applied his powerful intellect to the most mundane and practical affairs. He took for his province every phase of commerce and industry. At the age of 23 he was decorated by the Academy of Sciences for an essay on the best way of lighting the streets of Paris. In order to render his eyes sufficiently sensitive to make the experiments involved in this inquiry, he spent six weeks in a dark room. Turning his attention to agriculture, he took over a farm near Blois, and, in a very short time, doubled its production. Applying himself to gunpowder, he added one third to its explosive force, giving the arms of his country an immediate advantage over those of her prospective enemies.

Eminence, however, has its perils and its penalties. The dazzling successes of Lavoisier excited the jealousy of his rivals. He enjoyed the distinction of having his effigy borne through the streets of Berlin and publicly burned. But his most dangerous foes were those whose faces he saw every day. At the age of 26 he was placed in charge of the Department of Taxation. Later, he became Commissary to the Treasury, and, later still, Minister for Armaments. His handsome figure and charming manners enabled him to add lustre to every office to which he was elevated. He became, whilst still in his prime, one of the most commanding personalities in France.

Greeting The Scaffold With A Smile
This proved fatal. To play any part in French politics at that moment was like taking one's seat on a keg of dynamite. Men like Marat, Danton, and Robespierre were turning the country into a seething cauldron of unrest and insurrection. The consequence was that when the Reign of Terror broke out, Lavoisier constituted himself one of the tall poppies. He was one of the hated aristocrats. Conveniently forgetting that he had been born rich, his enemies alleged that his wealth resulted from the exploitation of the masses and the misappropriation of the taxes.

He was 52 on the day of his arrest, "I have had a fairly long life," he wrote, "and a very happy one. I shall I think, be remembered with regret and I leave some reputation behind me. What more could I ask? I shall be saved the sorrows of old age; I shall die in the possession of all my faculties, and I have the gratification of knowing that my work is done and done as well as I was capable of doing it." For some inscrutable reason, the revolutionists spared his beautiful and talented wife, although they bundled her father on to the tumbril; and for the 42 years that remained to her, she was haunted by the memory of the dreadful moment in which she embraced her husband and father as they were dragged away to execution. And Mme. Defarge, looking on, added two more heads to her tally.

F W Boreham

Image: Antoine Lavoisier

9 May: Boreham on James Barrie

The Creator of Peter Pan
On this, the anniversary of the birth of Sir James Barrie, it is pleasant to review his life and work in the light of the revealing biographies publicised since his death. In some of these, especially Mr. Denis Mackail's, we catch, as in a mirror, a vivid portrayal of the man. The scintillating gem of Barrie's brilliant personality presents innumerable facets. Dramatist, novelist, humorist, poet, and pioneer of the kailyard school of Scottish literature, he was also a scholar, philosopher, and much besides. But, above all, Barrie was everlastingly Barrie, the most distinctive, most whimsical, most astonishing, and most loveable figure of his time.

"Never in my life," wrote Capt. Scott as, amid polar snows, he seized a pen for the last time, "have I met a man whom I admired and loved as I admire and love you; but I could never show you how much your friendship meant to me for you had much to give, and I had nothing." Everything about Barrie was magnetic, superlative, extraordinary.

Born in a modest little cottage at Kirriemuir, he lived to become the intimate friend of the King and Queen; while the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose were never more excited than when they could coax him into spending an hour with them. His unique quality is revealed in the circumstance that he was able to engage, as his secretary, the Countess Cynthia Asquith, whose father was a peer of the realm, and whose husband was the son of a Prime Minister. Many of the most palatial drawing-rooms in London boast upon their ceilings a postage stamp placed there by Barrie. With his nimble fingers he could place a wet stamp upon a coin and then spin the coin in such a way that it left the stamp adhering to the ceiling. Hundreds of titled hostesses begged him to leave, in this form, a memento of his visit, and to this day they proudly point to it. No tour of an Australian cricket team was complete without a day with Barrie. "You have no slow bowlers nowadays," he told Don Bradman. "Why, when I played cricket I bowled so slowly that, if I did not like the look of a ball as I watched its flight, I ran up the pitch, retrieved it before it reached the batsman, and delivered it again!"

Climbed By Sheer Merit to Fame
In practical matters Barrie was the despair of all who knew him. For years he stubbornly declined to open a bank account. He would post the cheques that he received to a friend, sometimes at the other end of the country, asking him to cash them and send him the money by registered post. It was only when one of his intimates took him practically by the scruff of the neck and marched him off to a bank that this fantastic system was eventually terminated. When, soon after his marriage, his wife insisted on his giving away an enormous stack of old clothes she found in one of the pockets a forgotten cheque for nearly £2,000. And when the Countess Cynthia became his secretary she discovered cheques and bank notes stuffed away in every dusty hole and corner. No literary man ever earned money in such quantities as did he. His royalties were fabulous, but nobody grudged him his good fortune. He is one of the few men who by sheer merit and tireless industry climbed to the dizzy eminence he occupied and adorned.

Barrie has himself told us of his unromantic start. As a young fellow in Scotland his fingers itched to write. He hankered after a journalistic or literary career. At length he pulled himself together, sat down, wrote an article entitled "The Northern Community," and posted it to London. To his unbounded exultation it was accepted. He at once sat down and wrote two more, which, however, came back to him. The editor explained that the first article was only accepted because of its quaint delineation of Scottish character. The youthful aspirant took the hint and, returning to his desk, wrote "An Auld Licht Funeral." This also appeared, and Barrie wrote to the editor saying that he thought that the time had arrived for him to come up to London. The editor, somewhat alarmed, replied by return post urging him for heaven’s sake to do nothing of the kind.

Delightfully Human and Natural
Barrie went to London, however, and on emerging from St. Pancras railway station beheld what he described as "the most beautiful sight in the world." It was simply the placard of the previous night’s "St. James' Gazette." The big black letters read: "The Rooks Begin to Build." It was the title of a manuscript that he had posted to the editor just before leaving Scotland. From that hour he never looked back. At the age of 28 he published "Auld Licht Idylls" and "When a Man's Single." The following year "A Window in Thrums" appeared, securely establishing his fame. He was one of the few fortunates who could do nothing badly and nothing wrong. He had the genius to create a most excellent plot without allowing it, for a single moment, to run away with him. He handles it with such firmness and such daintiness that you scarcely know which to admire the more, his ease or his restraint. He has a fine sense of subtle pathos, and, with unerring instinct, knows when the time has come for a dramatic situation.

But neither the pathos nor the drama is overdone. There is nothing maudlin, nothing gaudy, nothing loud. Everything is delightfully human and delightfully natural. While never scolding, lecturing or preaching, he nevertheless startles us by his searching and penetrating thrusts. He is a master moralist, yet never allows us to suspect that he is moralising. Let a young husband and wife, who are finding it difficult to attune their personalities to each other, see Barrie’s "What Every Woman Knows." They will spend a couple of hours as pleasantly as it is possible to spend them, but on their return to their clouded home they will find themselves nearer to a solution of their complex and delicate problem than any sermon or lecture could have taken them. As a boy he vowed that he would be an explorer. He became one, though not in the sense that then obsessed his fancy. And whether he is exploring the mixed motives of a man or thridding the entangled intricacies of a woman's heart, he swings off along each tortuous track with a confident stride and returns with the most surprising treasure.

F W Boreham

Image: James Barrie

Saturday, April 29, 2006

8 May: Boreham on John Stuart Mill

Evolution of an Economist
It is just three years and ten since John Stuart Mill passed from us.[1] He died on May 8, 1873. The extraordinary thing about him is that he combined in his own person two virtues seldom found in unison. He cherished a profound respect for hoary precedent, and at the same time was ever on the look-out for some means of improving upon existing customs and advancing beyond the rigid frontier of accepted thought. He was both a conservative and a rebel. The story of his education, as told by himself, will probably stand for all time as one of literature's most amazing revelations. He had the most remarkable father by whom any man was ever blessed—or cursed.

The elder Mill believed that if you want a thing well done you should do it yourself. He desired above all things that his boy should be well-educated, and therefore appointed himself his son's instructor and set about the responsible duties of that high office in a way peculiarly his own. As soon as the child could lisp the first broken syllables of baby speech he was compelled to tackle subjects usually reserved for a secondary or higher education. At the age of three, under his father's stern tuition, Mill was hard at work on Greek idioms. "My earliest recollection," he says, "is that of committing to memory what my father termed vocables, being lists of Greek words with their signification in English, which he wrote out for me on cards." By the time the boy was eight he had read most of the Greek classics and was grinding away at Latin. Such studies occupied his daylight hours. In the evening he was allowed, as a recreation, to amuse himself with mathematics!

The Triumph Of A Benevolent Despotism
When, under this severe regime, Mill reached the mature age of 13, he deliberately selected as his life work the study of political economy. It is always a difficult realm to conquest but Mill's position was made the more embarrassing by the circumstance that the field was strongly held by two illustrious and authoritative predecessors. Adam Smith and Ricardo were then truly Homeric figures. They bestrode the narrow world of contemporary thought like a pair of colossi. The magic of their names was a thing to conjure with. A citation from their work was hailed as the last word that wisdom was able to utter. Mill can have had little hope, when he first essayed such an abstruse and unalluring study, of making for himself a name that would carry even greater weight than the names of these old masters.

In nine cases out of 10 discipline as severe as that which the elder Mill imposed on the budding economist would have issued in intellectual revolt. In this instance no such disaster occurred. The boy marvelled at his father's enthusiasm, while the elder man's patience awoke his ceaseless admiration. The two sat on opposite sides of the same desk. John was under the necessity, every few minutes, of appealing to his mentor on some point that puzzled him. This incessant fusillade of troublesome questions," he says, "he endured with unruffled serenity, and in such trying conditions wrote several volumes of his famous 'History of India.'" It is significant, too, that when, for his health's sake, the father took his daily walk across the fields and down the lanes that surrounded their home, the son invariably accompanied him, not by compulsion but from choice and, to his dying day, remembered pleasurably this communion with his taskmaster in the open air. And when, at the age of 14, the son passed from beneath the father's hands, he voluntarily continued the studies to which his father had introduced him and maintained them unabated to the end.

Man Who Set Political Economy To Music
It has to be recognised, too, that if the old man made the boyhood of his son a little difficult, he made easy the life work of the years that followed. For when, at the age of 40, John Stuart Mill sat down to write his "Principles of Political Economy," he wrote, not slowly and laboriously, but swiftly and with the facility that was made possible to him by a richly-stored and overflowing mind. His whole personality saturated in the subjects that he had so endlessly discussed with his father, he wrote as rapidly and with as easy a flow as if he had been writing a novel, the web of which he was weaving entirely from the tissue of his own imagination. The facts were all at his fingers' end. The arguments were the commonplaces of his daily reflections. His scheme of thought was mature. He penned his pages with the utmost readiness and fluency. The public, on opening a volume of his works, found in it nothing stilted, involved, or intricate. The skein was never tangled, the thread easily unwound. Here was a massive mind talking familiarly on massive subjects and making the most obscure points crystal clear.

Later Mill broadened the scope of his activities. Haunted doubtless by the memory of those primrosed walks in his father's company, he wrote essays on Nature, poetry, and many lighter and more popular subjects. He refused to allow the arteries of his fancy to harden. His mind never shrivelled. When nearly 60 he entered Parliament but, with all his learning, he had failed to acquire the art of ingratiating himself with the crowd and of accommodating his judgment to the will of party leaders. His extreme candour soon lost him his seat and he retired, with an amused smile, to a flowery retreat specially prepared for him in the south of France. There, just 70 years ago today, he died, bequeathing to his country the memory of a singularly honest man who, thinking clearly and speaking simply, would rather die a thousand deaths than utter one single word that did not accurately reflect his secret and most profound convictions.

[1] This editorial appeared in the Hobart Mercury on 8 May 1943.

F W Boreham

Image: John Stuart Mill

7 May: Boreham on Robert Browning

An Impatient Laureate
Robert Browning, whose birthday we observe today, is one of the few men who deliberately set out in life with the intention of becoming a poet. The son of a banker at Camberwell, London, he determined from his very childhood to devote his powers to poesy, and was in a desperate hurry to achieve distinction. At fourteen he was heartbroken because the laurels for which he longed were so slow in coming! We catch a glimpse of him, kneeling before a fire, tearing to tatters a huge pile of manuscripts and committing the fragments to the flames. "I really thought," he says to himself, as he watches the soulful labour of so many lonely hours curl up, crackle, and vanish in the devouring element, "I really thought that I was sent into the world to be a poet, but the publishers will not look at my verses, so here they go!" And, with a heart as heavy as lead, he remains on his knees on the hearthrug until the last sheet has been destroyed!

Whether, by this youthful incendiarism, the boy inflicted on the world an irreparable deprivation, or rendered it a valuable service, nobody will ever know. He rose to his feet vowing never to perpetrate another verse, but ,happily the strength of his resolve was no match for the ardour of his inspiration. Falling once more under the influence of the muse, he found silence impossible. He sang as the birds sing, because it is in their nature so to do. On coming of age, he sent "Pauline" to the publishers, and this time his work found acceptance. Whilst scintillating with rare flashes of beauty, it was, as one might expect, disfigured by obvious betrayals of immaturity, and, as a consequence, it attracted a very limited measure of attention. But its success was sufficient to convince him that there was, as he had hoped, something in him, and he mustered courage to strike his lyre again.

Novels In Poesy Are Still Novels
After an interval of two years, "Paracelsus" appeared. It elicited the admiration of men like Wordsworth and Carlyle; and it unmistakably announced that the impatient young minstrel had at last arrived. If Browning had held to his fireside resolution, and had abstained for the rest of his days from the seductions of poetry, he would have written some of the most powerful novels in the English language. He had a genius for historical romance of the most stately and impressive kind. The bewildering variety of his characters has seldom, if ever, been surpassed. It represents one of the most amazing portrait galleries in our literature; and entitles his crowded canvases to stand side by side with those of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott. Mr. Chesterton used to say that Browning was rather a novelist than a poet. Every phase of human agony, human ecstasy, human villainy, human comedy, and human triumph is vividly portrayed in his throbbing pages.

Mr. A. C. Benson tells us that, of all the celebrities that it was his privilege to meet, he thought Browning the most disappointing. He had expected to see a kind of demigod, a creature who would look like a saint and talk like an archangel. But, to his disgust, there swept into the room a short, sturdy man, with wavy white hair, a short beard and moustache, his cheeks shaven, and presenting a fresh and sanguine complexion. He had no pontifical airs, made no attempt to say witty and startling things, but just chatted away as any well-informed and sensible man might do. This morsel of personal testimony is very valuable. It confirms Macaulay's contention that the average man expects to find the poet a creature of emaciated physique, lantern jaws, stooping shoulders and dreamy eyes that seem perpetually fixed on things remote, and to ordinary men, invisible. It is even possible that the qualities that so startled men like Mr. Benson—the manliness, the robustness and the commonsense of the poet—retarded his popularity and delayed his triumph.

The Poet Becomes The Prophet
It is indisputable, too, that the public likes its poets to flavour their melodious stanzas with a piquant spice of pessimism, a faint suspicion of that lovely melancholy that is calculated to move the susceptible reader to pensive reflections, secret anguish, and delicious tears. There was no such nonsense about Browning. He believed implicitly in the day after tomorrow. A thorough-going optimist, he regarded this as the best of all possible worlds. He treated earth's shadows as the indisputable proof that there is sunshine somewhere, and, turning lustrous and challenging eyes to a rose-tinted future, he greeted the unseen with a cheer, certain that the best was yet to be. "What's life?" he asks,

". . . . . . . . What's life to me?
Where'er I look is fire; where'er I
Music; and where I tend, bliss evermore."

In those words the unconquerable temper of the poet's personality becomes articulate.

Robert Browning was a prophet proclaiming in pages of lyrical magnificence the ultimate victory of love over hate, of good over ill, of truth over error, of life over death. He radiated calm confidence and high hope. His moral passion, like his physical energy, was contagious. The magic by which he transformed the frail invalid whom he bore from her couch to the altar into a vivacious woman, capable of travel, responsibility and motherhood, was characteristic of his entire life and minstrelsy.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the eminent painter, attended Browning's funeral at Westminster Abbey. It made him angry, the dirge seemed so incongruous. "I would have given something for a banner or two," he said, "and much would I have given if a chorister had emerged from the triforium and rent the air with a trumpet!" That trumpet-blast, tearing to shreds the depressing atmosphere of that midwinter burial, would have constituted itself an ideal climax and an exquisitely fitting one; for, as Mr. Benson finely said, Browning's supreme achievement lies in his having lifted to his lips a glorious trumpet of noble emotion and blown huge melodious blasts that, gladdening the soul of the generation that he adorned, will echo about the world till earth's last sun shall set.

F W Boreham

Image: Robert Browning

6 May: Boreham on James Simpson

A Century of Chloroform
Who, reviewing the records of two world wars, and conjuring up a vision of the hospitals of the world, can suppress a shudder as he asks himself what it would have been like without anaesthetics? Chloroform was introduced by Sir James Simpson just a century ago.[1] With unutterable gratitude the story will this year be recalled and recited in every corner of the earth. It is, on its purely personal side, a romance in itself. Sir James Barrie and others have familiarised us with the heroic way in which, a few generations back, the poorest families in Scotland would cheerfully make the most heartbreaking sacrifices, and endure the most humiliating privations, in order that one boy in the family—a lad o' pairts—might go to the university and take his place in one of the learned professions. It was by an act of domestic devotion of this fine kind, on the part of a village baker and his seven sons, that James Simpson was enabled to take his medical course and to become one of humanity's most illustrious benefactors.

Ridiculously young, painfully shy and horribly lonely, James entered the arts classes at Edinburgh at the age of 14. For the sake of his father and brothers, who had stinted themselves every day of their lives for his sake, he determined to succeed or perish. He completed his medical course in the year in which he came of age; was made senior president of the Royal Medical Society at Edinburgh at 24 and, at the age of 28, was appointed Professor of Midwifery. It must not be assumed, however, that it was all plain sailing. There were days in the early part of his career in which neither he nor his friends were at all sure that his disposition and temperament would permit him to follow the course upon which he had so promisingly embarked.

The Recoil From Pain Inspires An Ideal
His nephew and successor, Sir Alexander Simpson, tells us that all who met his uncle were impressed, from the very beginning, by his gentle and sympathetic nature. In his student days the cries of a poor Highland woman under the knife of Dr. Robert Liston so unmanned him that he rushed from the operating theatre to Parliament House with some vague notion of finding less distressing work in a lawyer's office. But, on reflection, retreat seemed cowardly. If pain was such a dreadful thing, he ought to face, and conquer, it. He was powerfully influenced at this crucial stage by the creation-story in the book of Genesis. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh thereof." Would it not be possible, he asked himself, to work along similar lines?

He set to work. First dabbling in mesmerism and then experimenting with sulphuric ether, he found himself dissatisfied, and yet detected in his failures crepuscular hints of ultimate success. He was absolutely convinced that, although as yet far from his destination, he was at least travelling along the right road. He diligently pursued his self-appointed path until, one evening in 1847, he discovered, not altogether pleasantly, the possibilities of chloroform. Every medical student has chuckled, at some time or other, at the story of that epoch-making escapade. Dr. George Keith and Dr. Matthew Duncan were Simpson's guests. After dinner, the three gentlemen withdrew and went downstairs to make experiments. Later on, the ladies whom they had forsaken were astonished, first by hearing noisy altercations and, after a spell of silence, by the sound of crashing glass. Rushing downstairs, they found all three gentlemen stretched on the floor in a state of stupefaction. Their prostration had been caused, not by inebriety, but by inhaling Simpson's new drug.

Painless Surgery Overcomes Silly Prejudice
The startling innovation was eventually recognised as the greatest discovery in a century of astounding discoveries. But, at the time, it awoke a storm of hostile criticism. The relief was so great that many people thought it positively uncanny and protested vigorously against its application. The abolition of pain, they argued, was an outrage on natural law. Especially violent was the opposition to the use of anaesthetics in obstetric surgery. Even the sanctions of holy writ were enlisted under the banner of the objectors. Was not anguish the natural heritage of woman in the hour of childbirth? Did not the Bible refer to such travail-pangs as the inevitable curse of Eve? Simpson stood undismayed. To the Bible his critics had appealed; by the Bible should they be discomfited! "My opponents forget," he retorted, "the sacred narrative in the second chapter of Genesis. If they turn to it they will find the record of the first surgical operation ever performed; and the inspired passage explicitly states that, before He took the rib from Adam's side, the Master of the universe caused a deep sleep to fall upon him." Queen Victoria lent her regal authority to the innovation; Her Majesty herself underwent chloroform at the birth of her next child.

Sir James Simpson cut a striking figure in his day "His head," says the Duke of Argyll, "was enormous, like the classical busts of Jupiter. Whilst his features were most attractive, he possessed a smile of ineffable sweetness and benevolence. It was a most noble and spiritual countenance." His title was conferred upon him in 1866; and, remembering the resolve with which he had returned to his profession after his youthful flight, he took, as the legend for his coat-of-arms, the words Victo Dolore, the Conqueror of Pain. He is still remembered in Scotland as a very great doctor, a very great gentleman and a very great Christian. "My greatest discovery, which I made one Christmas Day, that Christ is able to save to the uttermost any man who implicitly trusts Him." That simple but sublime confession expresses the spirit of his the entire life.

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury on January 18, 1947.

F W Boreham

Image: Sir James Simpson

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

5 May: Boreham on Bret Harte

An Epic of the West
The life story of Bret Harte, the anniversary of whose death, in 1902 we mark today, represents a pilgrimage from the softest of carpets to the rockiest of roads. Born in New York in 1839, he was so puny, so delicate, so frail, that he looked as if a puff of wind would blow him away. From the sports and pastimes of other boys he was sternly excluded, lest any undue exertion should exhaust his slender stock of physical energy. His father, fearful of submitting his fragile treasure to the rough and tumble of ordinary school life, personally undertook his education. He was essentially a hot-house plant. But a worm will turn. As Bret passed into his teens, he became restless and dissatisfied. He resented all the coddling and the cossetting. At the age of 15, he left home, made his way to California—which was then the end of the world—and entered upon that hazardous and variegated life in the wild and woolly West which stands faithfully mirrored in his stirring pages.

His presence, at so tender an age, among scenes so crude and so savage may seem to argue precocity and overweening self-confidence. Such a conclusion would be utterly false. No boy could have been more bashful or shrinking. On one occasion, impelled by curiosity, he entered a brightly-lit gambling saloon and took a chair at the tables. Fascinated by the spectacle, he was suddenly startled by a gruff voice behind him: "If you don't want to try your luck, boy, I do!" Rather than confess that he was too cautious to speculate, Bret tossed his only coin upon the wheel. A moment later he beheld such a pile of gold in front of him as took his breath away. Too timid to touch it, he allowed the croupier to assume that he desired to stake it all on another desperate throw. He lost the lot and smiled laconically as he left the saloon. Easy come, easy go! Bret Harte's life was crowded with such adventures—adventures of which he made good use in the famous days that followed.

The Comradeship Of The Quill
Among the shining romances of his extraordinary career were the romances that linked his name first with that of Mark Twain and afterwards with that of Charles Dickens. It was in 1864 that Mark Twain and Bret Harte were thrown together. Bret Harte was editor of the "Californian." Mark Twain, four years his senior, became a member of the staff. Both were young and ambitious; each had a vague consciousness of his own ability, and each recognised the talents of the other. Mark Twain went out among the mines, and, on his return, sat chatting one evening with Bret Harte. All at once a whimsical mood overtook him and he told the story that afterwards made him famous—the story of the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Bret Harte insisted that his friend should sit down and write out the ludicrous tale as a contribution to the "Californian," and, by that act, he initiated the illustrious career of the greatest humorist of modern times.

Into the relationship between Bret Harte and Charles Dickens there enters an element of poignant pathos. The two men never met; and it was not until the death of Dickens had made a meeting impossible, that the revelation was made of the profound admiration that each cherished for the other. Bret Harte was a young fellow of 31 when, in June, 1870, the melancholy news was flashed found the world that Charles Dickens, the most creative genius of his time, had laid aside the pen for ever. It never occurred to Bret Harte that that great master who was being borne by a weeping nation to an honoured grave in Westminster Abbey had ever so much as heard his name.

A Voice Speaks From The Tomb
Bret Harte knew, however, that among the vast woods and rolling prairies of the West, the loss would be deeply mourned as beneath the window of St. Paul's. Out of the fullness of his own sad heart, he crept away to his desk and penned one of his choicest and most tuneful elegies. It depicts a rough mining camp out among the lonely Sierras. The men are gathered in the gloaming around a crackling fire. Suddenly, one bronzed youth draws from his pocket a copy of "The Old Curiosity Shop." Cards are tossed aside and every strident voice is hushed:

And then, while round them
shadows gathered faster,
And as the firelight
He read aloud the book wherein the Master
Had writ of Little

Eyes unaccustomed to tears glistened suspiciously in the light of the dying flame. Forster, the friend and biographer of Dickens, confesses that, of all the eloquent and powerful tributes that were paid to the immortal memory of Dickens, none more deeply affected him than these lyrical verses from the far West.

It then transpired that the admiration of the American for the Englishman was fully reciprocated. "For," adds Forster, "not many months before my illustrious friend passed from us, he sent me two magazines containing sketches by Bret Harte—"The Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outposts of Poker Flat"—in which he had discovered genius of a really transcendental character. On the very day on which amidst such scenes of sorrow as even the Abbey has seldom witnessed, the body of Dickens was being lowered into its historic tomb in Poets' Corner, a letter in his handwriting was crossing the Atlantic expressing to Bret Harte the warmest appreciation of his work, asking him to contribute to the journal that Dickens then edited, and begging him, when he came to England, to be the guest of Dickens at Gad's Hill.

The emotions of Bret Harte when he read that letter from the dead master were so profound that, when he himself passed away in 1902, he still regarded the receipt of that letter as the most memorable event of his colourful life.

F W Boreham

Image: Bret Harte

Monday, April 24, 2006

4 May: Boreham on Thomas Huxley

Granite and Moss
On this, the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Huxley, an interesting question emerges. How many Huxleys were there? To the world at large he conveyed one impression: to his intimates he gave quite another. Those who know Beachy Head, on the lovely Sussex coast, will remember that it turns towards the sea a massive frowning face, grim as granite, that may well terrify any approaching mariner. But, on the landward side, it is a paradise of gently-undulating grassy downs, studded with poppies and buttercups. The personality of Huxley is very similar. He stands as one of those dominating and commanding figures in life and in literature that simply cannot be ignored. You may love him or hate him; you may applaud him or criticise him; but you are compelled to recognise him. He took a great deal of knowing; but those who possessed the patience to cultivate his friendship were abundantly rewarded for their pains.

He himself had a gruff habit of belittling his own discoveries. He glossed over them; made them appear insignificant; and engineered his self-depreciation so cleverly that even the elect were deceived. But, in his "Life of Huxley," Mr. Edward Clodd devotes thirty pages to the fruits of Huxley's own personal researches and concludes by apologising for the brevity of the summary. It would be easy, Mr. Clodd assures us, to fill a volume with an abbreviated account of Huxley's original work in biology alone. The secret behind the enigma is that Huxley was soured by the hardships and privations which tinged with bitterness his early days.

As Mr. Clodd makes clear, his boyhood was a bleak experience. He once told Charles Kingsley that he was kicked into the world, a boy without a guide or training, or with worse than none. He had, he said, two years of a pandemonium of a school, and, after that, neither help nor sympathy in any intellectual direction till he reached manhood. And, even in those maturer days, sympathy was strangely coy.

The Bludgeonings Of Circumstance
Can history produce a love story more tantalising than his? When visiting these Southern lands as assistant surgeon on the Rattlesnake, Huxley fell in love with Miss Henrietta Heathorn of Sydney. But never did the course of true love run less smoothly. He won fame in England, but it brought him no money. Many years passed with all the oceans of the world rolling between him and his Australian sweetheart. And when, at long last, he was able to send for her, the doctors reported that she had not six months to live. "Six months or no," exclaimed Huxley, "she is going to be my wife!"

They were married; she lived to be nearly 90; surviving her illustrious husband by about 20 years. The years of storm and stress, of rankling bitterness and of cruel disappointment, left their scars upon his soul. To the end of his life—he died at 70—he appeared to superficial observers to be frigid and austere. He was said to be as cold as ice and as inflexible as steel. But those who really knew him smiled at such hasty judgments. For they had discovered that, behind that stern and forbidding exterior, there beat a heart that was singularly human.

His diary proves it. Take, for example, the entries concerning the brief life of his first boy. Huxley spent the last night of the year 1858 waiting to be told that he was a father. During those anxious hours he framed a characteristic resolution. In his journal he pledges himself, "to smite all humbugs, however big; to give a nobler tone to science; to set an example of abstinence from petty personal controversies and of toleration for everything but lying; to be indifferent as to whether the work is recognised as mine or not so long as it is done. It is half-past ten at night. Waiting for my child, I seem to fancy it the pledge that all these things shall be." And the next entry runs: "Born five minutes before twelve: thank God!" Four years later, he makes another notable entry. He and little Noel had a great romp together: a few days afterwards the child died of scarlet fever. "On Saturday night I carried his cold, still body here into my study. Here, too, on Sunday, came his mother and I to that holy leavetaking. My boy is gone; but the dreams that filled my fancy at his birth have been fulfilled. I say heartily and without bitterness—Amen, so let it be!" It is the last entry in the diary: he had no heart to open it again.

Plea For Understanding And Reconciliation
These entries from the journal, and especially the closing phrase of each, prove conclusively that, deep in the soul of Huxley, there dwelt a wealth of feeling and of faith that very few people suspected. On one occasion, while engaged in a furious controversy with Mr. Gladstone, he startled all his readers by making a passionate plea for a better understanding between Religion and Science. "The antagonism between the two," he said, "appears to me to be purely fictitious. It is fabricated, on the one hand, by shortsighted religious people, and on the other, by shortsighted scientific people." And he declared that, whatever differences may arise between the exponents of Nature and the exponents of the Bible, there can never be any real antagonism between Science and Religion themselves.

All this goes to show that those who thought Huxley as cold as ice and as inflexible as steel had never taken the trouble to know him. For, as his biographer affirms, nobody could know him without loving him, and those who knew him best loved him most. Generous, therefore, as was the contribution that Huxley made to every department of scientific research, he best deserves to be remembered as a singularly pure minded and chivalrous man who was prepared to make any sacrifice to promote the happiness and wellbeing of his fellows.

F W Boreham

Image: Thomas Huxley

3 May: Boreham on Mothers' Day

The White Flower
Her Majesty the Queen has set the seal of her royal approval on the celebration of Mothers' Day, which will be observed tomorrow.[1] Last year, in commemoration of an ancient custom, the promoters of the movement sent Mothering Cakes to the Queen and received a courteous acknowledgment from Buckingham Palace. At different periods and in different places, Mothers' Day has been celebrated in many different ways. It obviously meets a profound human instinct. Herbert Spencer would have said that, keep it in any way you will, it is a survival of ancestor-worship. Spencer was never tired of arguing that ancestor worship, in some form or other, is an essential ingredient in the religious consciousness of the race, and that, however far man may travel from the faiths that satisfied his infancy, he will never shake off all traces of the primitive instinct. The obvious reason is, of course, that the instinct is true. The sentiment that saturated the grotesque cults of a hoary antiquity; the sentiment that expressed itself in the domestic images which, on festive occasions, the Romans arranged about their hearthstones and crowned with wreaths and garlands; the sentiment that perpetuates itself in the spirit-tablets which, believed to be tenanted by the souls of departed ancestors, are treasured as sacred in every Chinese home, enshrines, beneath all that is fantastic and superstitious, a substantial and valuable deposit of truth.

For this reason, as Spencer pointed out, it can never really die. Discarded in one form, it reappears in another. As we have already suggested, it asserted itself in a new and beautiful form in "the spacious days of great Elizabeth," when the youth of England gave itself up once a year to the sacred pastime of going a-mothering. With bunches of violets—emblems of the lovely modesty and fragrant influence of England's noblest womanhood—these young people greeted once a year, the mothers who had guarded their earliest infancy and moulded their plastic characters. Employers of labour cheerfully liberated their apprentices that they might visit their homes and pay their mothers this annual act of homage, whilst the young people themselves thought no journey too long, in days when travelling facilities were unknown, if, by undertaking the trudge, they might join in the beautiful tribute which affection and custom alike dictated. This romantic and picturesque practice, if it added a fresh poignancy to the grief of those whose mothers had passed beyond the reach of such felicitous ministries, deepened the reverence and heightened the appreciation of those who were happy enough to be able to make the annual pilgrimage. In our own time, the celebration has taken a new form. The ancient ritual of violets and simnel-cake having fallen into disuse, it occurred to the ingenious minds of some Americans to revive the custom in a modern garb. A certain Sunday is set aside each year as Mothers' Day, and, on that Sunday, all preachers are asked to dilate on the world's incalculable debt to motherhood, and all men are requested to wear in their buttonholes a white flower as a silent tribute to the purity of that maternal character to which they owe so much. But whether the festival is kept with blue flowers or with white ones; whether it is commemorated as it was commemorated in Shakespeare's time or as it is commemorated in Chicago and New York today; the external drapery of the thing is immaterial. The self same spirit permeates both; and in the persistence of that spirit, expressing itself in different ways in different periods, Herbert Spencer would recognise a striking enforcement of his familiar contention.

The mothers of the ages may have many grounds for complaint. But they cannot justly complain at any lack of recognition of the debt under which the world rests regarding them. There is a sense, and an intensely vital sense, in which our whole literature may be said to represent one vast tribute to the value that we set upon motherhood. It is usual, in this connection, to quote freely from history, from biography, and from the eager testimonies of our greatest men. But is the literature of imagination any less eloquent? Miss Jane Ramsay-Kerr recently declared that all the great heroines of fiction are the creations of man. She cannot recall one really satisfying feminine figure that has been drawn by a woman's hand. This is significant in itself. And when we turn to the work of the great masters, it is instructive to inquire what qualities those are which have endeared their heroines to the millions who have made their acquaintance. And the simplest answer is that, whilst few of those heroines were actually mothers, they are all of them intensely motherly and it is their essential motherliness that wins all our hearts. The maternal instinct is evidenced as clearly in the spectacle of a little girl anxiously nursing her doll as in that of a woman caring for the members of her family. For a pair of illustrations of this amiable quality—the one in prose and the other in poetry—we need not wander beyond Dickens and Shakespeare. The heroines of Dickens are invariably homely and motherly women. Esther, of "Bleak House," may be cited as a fitting representative of them all. She is always looking after something or somebody; a fond solicitude is the normal expression of her countenance; she bustles about to the accompaniment of the jingle of her bunch of household keys. "You are the good little woman of our lives, my dear," said Mr. Jarndyce, "the little old woman of the child's rhyme:
'Little old woman, oh, whither so high?
To sweep the cobwebs out of the sky!’

You will sweep the cobwebs out of our sky, Esther!" "This," adds Esther herself, "was the beginning of my being called Old Woman, and Little Old Woman, and Cobweb, and Mrs. Shipton, and Mother Hubbard, and Dame Durden, and so many names of that sort that my own name soon became quite lost among them." Anybody can see at a glance that it is by the stress that the author lays on the motherly qualities of his heroine that he makes her so lovable.

The same is true of his other creations; and, in a slightly modified sense, the same principle holds good of Shakespeare. It was Ruskin who first pointed out that Shakespeare's fame rests entirely upon his faculty for portraying noble women. So far as his male characters are concerned, there is not, Ruskin affirms, one entirely heroic figure in all his plays. But on the other hand, "there is hardly a play that has not a perfect woman in it, steadfast in grave hope and ceaseless purpose. Cordelia, Desdemona, Isabella, Hermione, Imogen, Queen Catherine, Perdita, Sylvia, Viola, Rosalind, Helena, and, at last, but perhaps loveliest, Virgilia; all are faultless; their characters are conceived in the highest heroic type of humanity." And when Ruskin descends to psychological analysis and detailed criticism, he makes it clear that the elements that impart to these women so much charm are the very characteristics that we instinctively associate with the grace of motherliness. Ruskin is impressed by the fact that Shakespeare's women are "infallibly faithful and wise counsellors—incorruptibly just and pure examples—strong always to sanctify even when they cannot save. The catastrophe of every play," he adds, "is caused always by the fault or folly of a man; the redemption, if there be any, is brought about by the wisdom and virtue of a woman; and, failing that there is none." Dr. Harold Ford, one of our most discerning Shakespearean students, recently pointed out that, of all the poet's heroines, the least satisfactory is Juliet. "Of a beautiful and passionate nature," he says, "love's fever ran riot in her blood, and made the sweet-natured girl a deceitful scheming liar; and the play becomes, in consequence, a tragedy." Speaking generally, the great heroines of literature are homely, lovable, motherly women; women of the stamp that wins all our hearts; and such women we all unite to honour on the return of Mothers' Day.

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury on Saturday, May 7, 1932.

F W Boreham

Image: White Flower

2 May: Boreham on John Speke

The Riddle of the Ages
It is just a hundred years since a young British officer, in his early twenties, whose birthday it happens to be tomorrow, began to dream, not of military exploits in India, but of exploratory triumphs in Africa. John Hanning Speke was only 17 when, serving under Sir Colin Campbell in the Punjab campaign, he earned for himself an enviable reputation both as a sportsman and as a naturalist. When his furloughs fell due, he invariably spent them in climbing about the untrodden slopes of the Himalayas or in invading the mysterious territories of Tibet. It was inevitable that a young fellow of so inquisitive and audacious a temper should fall under the spell of the African continent. Its unread riddles teased his fancy and challenged all his powers.

It is in Africa that his rugged but eloquent monument now stands. It consists of a huge rock, embedded near the Ripon Falls at Uganda, bearing the brief but proud inscription: "Speke discovered the source of the Nile on July 28, 1862." That monument perpetuates the memory of one of the most splendid achievements in our Imperial history, and immortalises on African soil one of the most heroic and moving records in the entire epic of British pioneering. Addressing the Royal Geographical Society in the year in which Speke died at the age of 37, Sir Roderick Murchison declared that this gallant young officer had solved the greatest problem of the ages. It was no mere figure of speech, no mere rhetorical flourish. If we search the records of the centuries away back beyond the time of Herodotus to the hieroglyphics of earth's primitive peoples, we find traces of a restless curiosity as to the remote sources from which the fountains of the Nile were first fed.

A Pageant Of British Valour
It was not until Great Britain applied herself with zest to the ancient problem that the mists began to rise. With the advent of Mungo Park a new day dawned. His descriptions of the wealthy spaciousness of the jungles and plateaus of the new continent fired the fancy of Europe. Shortly afterwards the enthusiasm of Livingstone, and of others who had perused Park's journal, was kindled, and the doors of the great closed land swung open to the pathfinders of the world. From the moment of his landing on African soil, Livingstone was haunted, night and day by the visions and voices that came to him out of the untrodden and unknown. The lure of the wilds fascinated him. And, in the delirium of death, at old Chilambo's village, he was still babbling about the waters of which he had dreamed so fondly but which he had never been able to find. But, by this time, the source of the Nile had been discovered by Speke, although for a long while, the claims of that youthful explorer were treated with suspicion and resentment. In 1854, and again in 1856, Speke had been attached to Burton's African expeditions. Although they failed to satisfy the scientists that they had actually discovered the fountains that formed the cradle of the Nile, they were able to report that, after enduring the most excruciating privations, they had sighted some of those immense inland seas—Tanganyika, Nyanza, and the rest—from among which the head waters of the great river must flow.

There were times in the course of their travels in which Speke became totally blind, and Burton semi-conscious, as a result of the hardships and sufferings to which climate and fever subjected them. On the shores of Tanganyika, Burton was prostrated by illness. Speke seized the opportunity of going off by himself to examine the Victoria Nyanza, a lake with a coastline of 2,000 miles, more carefully. He suddenly came on a torrent issuing from the lake, and now known as the Ripon Falls. He felt in his very bones that he had struck the fountainhead of the Nile. He had. That was his finest hour. Quivering with excitement, he hurried back to tell Burton of his good fortune. Burton scouted the idea and laughed aloud in his young comrade's face. Speke passed from wild excitement to abject misery at a bound.

A Drama That Ended In Tragedy
The two men returned to England divided in opinion as to the success of their venture. The following year, however, Speke revisited Africa with Capt. James Grant, and, by tracing the waters from the spot that he had found 12 months before, it was demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the world's most antique and most persistent puzzle had been conquered at last. It was arranged that to clear the air, Burton and Speke should submit their conflicting arguments to the arbitrament of the Royal Geographical Society. The case was to have been heard at Bath on the afternoon of September 16, 1864. But, on assembling, the peers and princes of English learning were shocked to hear that Speke had been found shot.

What happened nobody will ever know. It may have been an accident; it may have been that the nervous strain had become intolerable, and that he could not bring himself to face the ordeal awaiting him, aggravated by the derision of his old comrade. The programme on which he had set his heart for his life work was shattered at one tragic blow. He did not even live to see his proud claim officially vindicated. Death cruelly cheated him of the enjoyment of the fame that would have been heaped upon the man who had solved a mystery that had kept a hundred centuries guessing. He has, however, left a name that shines with singular lustre on our scroll of honour, and it is pleasant to reflect that both England and Africa possess monuments to his prowess that will always be contemplated with gratitude and pride. Combining in his own person the knightly audacity of the adventurer with the scientific accuracy of the explorer, the engaging personality of John Hanning Speke has, quite naturally, captured the imagination and secured the admiration of the British peoples.

F W Boreham

Image: John Speke

1 May: Boreham on Joseph Addison

A May Day Memory
If ever a man wore the white flower of a blameless life, it was Joseph Addison, whose name stands immemorially associated with May Day. No man made a greater impression on his own age, and a smaller impression on subsequent ages than did he. How is this to be explained? Everything conspired to make Addison an outstanding figure at the beginning of the 18th century. His very birth was tinged with romance. The merry month of May had broken upon England with blue skies and sparkling sunshine. In the tiny hamlet of Milston the May Day revels were at their height when it was whispered among the happy villagers that a baby had just been born in the thatched old parsonage nearby. The young men and maidens who danced around the maypole on that Wiltshire green never guessed that the child just born in the dreamy old rectory among the elms was destined to effect a transformation in English life and literature.

Less than fifty years later, the baby who was born amidst the laughter of those May Day frolics was buried at dead of night amidst a nation's lamentations. By the ghostly light of torches and tapers he was borne to his resting place in the stately Abbey:

How silent do his old companions tread
By midnight lamps the mansions of the
Through breathing statues, then unheeded things,
Through rows of
warriors and through walks of kings.

Thus, in 1719, Addison bade farewell to a world that was every way the better for his passage through it.

The Man Made To The Mould Of The Moment
A quiet, thoughtful boy, as reflective as Milton and as timid as Cowper, Addison had the genius to perceive that there was a great work waiting to be done in the world, and he had the practical sagacity and intellectual energy to brace himself for the enterprise. At the dawn of the 18th century English standards and English manners were at their lowest ebb. Politics had degenerated into an undignified squabble; society, like Parliament, was as corrupt as it could very well be; music, art, and literature were all degraded; the sports and pastimes of the people were universally squalid and usually obscene; religion itself had become formal, sanctimonious, and largely hypocritical. Addison saw clearly that the moment was made for him, and, like the architect of a new era, he carefully drafted his plans. Since our little race began, many men have embarked upon an attempt to straighten a perverse and crooked world; but very few have had the satisfaction of reviewing their enterprise with any marked degree of satisfaction. Addison's ideal was, however, realised in its entirety.

Twelve years before his birth, the Restoration had swept Puritanism into oblivion, and Milton, in "Paradise Lost," had chanted its requiem. Addison determined to recapture some, at least, of the priceless treasure that had been abandoned in the general overthrow; he resolved to rescue and re-establish something of the golden tradition that had been blurred in the devastating reaction. He did it. By all that he wrote, by all that he did, and especially by the knightly character that he developed, he attained his goal. He lived a life of stainless integrity; by his courtesy, his chivalry, and his modesty he endeared himself to the most eminent leaders of his time; he held, through evil report and through good, to his early resolves and aspirations; and he won for himself a name which all men
delighted unfeignedly to honour.

Combination Of Bravery And Bashfulness
Addison achieved his triumph in defiance of the heaviest possible handicap. His agonising nervousness paralysed him. Although a member of Parliament and a Cabinet Minister, he could not muster courage to address the House. If he could have talked at Westminster as he talked at Button's coffee house, he would have bequeathed to posterity a reputation for oratory that would have eclipsed the shining records of Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, and Burke. But it was impossible. Just once he rose; stammered out one or two broken, confused and incoherent sentences; blushed, coughed, apologised; sat down and never ventured a second attempt. He owed his amazing authority to two causes. His literary gift was so outstanding that Dr. Johnson urged all young writers to model their style on that of Addison. In days in which parliamentary speeches were not reported, and in which the orator could hope to influence none but those who actually heard his voice, a Prime Minister was glad to have in his Cabinet a man in whose unimpeachable integrity everybody trusted and who could lay the case for the Government before the people in pamphlets so cogent and persuasive as to make their perusal a delight.

A man of transparent sincerity and crystalline simplicity, Addison cherished a faith that matched the quality of his manhood. None of his literary productions is better known today than his familiar paraphrase of the Twenty-third Psalm: "The Lord my pasture shall prepare, and feed me with a shepherd's care." The psalm was his solace and his stay all through his pure, courageous life, and it poured its deathless music into his ear at the last. As he lay dying, his generous heart and sensitive conscience led him to crave the forgiveness of his friends for wrongs which they had never noticed or had long since forgotten. And then, at peace with all the world, he abandoned himself to the enjoyment of those boons and benedictions which his favourite psalm had so melodiously promised him. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," he murmured, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." He taught us, says Tickell, in his "Elegy":

He taught us how to live and (oh, too high
The price of knowledge) taught us
how to die.

Macaulay thought Addison incomparable. When he himself was borne to the Abbey for burial, he was interred at the foot of the Addison statue. He would have coveted no resting place more honourable.

F W Boreham

Image: Joseph Addison

Saturday, April 22, 2006

30 April: Boreham on Hammer and Nails

Hammer and Nails
In certain villages of East Anglia, the last day of April was always put aside for odd jobs and miscellaneous repairs. The record is suggestive. For the one who takes the trouble to analyse the universe in which they live will discover that it consists of four classes of things—four and no more. There are the things that never get out of repair; there are the things that, given a fair chance, will repair themselves; there are the things that are incapable of repair; and there are the things that will rapidly go from bad to worse unless somebody undertakes to repair them. As to the first class, the minds of thoughtful men have, since the world began, been filled with wonder at the contemplation of those things—the biggest things of all—that never get out of repair. The masterly mechanism of the universe—the rising and the setting of the sun; the phases of the moon; the persistence in their orbits of the stars; the revolution of the earth; the cycle of the seasons; the round of the year; the exact adjustment of sunshine to rainfall, of heat to cold and of storm to calm—all this machinery, which must of necessity be extremely complicated, keeps in perfect repair, year in and year out, age after age. It is never overhauled and never lubricated. If a bolt flew out or a crank got jammed, it would be the end of all of us. There are no engineers, on this planet or on any other, capable of effecting such repairs if the need arose.

The phenomena of the second division are no less marvellous—the things that repair themselves. The most sensational revolution effected in medical and surgical science during the nineteenth century was the revolution led by Lord Lister and Louis Pasteur. As a result, the surgeon now knows that it is not in his power to heal a wound. The wound must heal itself. The surgeon's duty is to render it so clean from foreign substances and so immune from malignant bacteria, that the injured limb is able to bring about its own restoration. The same is true of disorders of another kind. In cases for which, a generation or two ago, the doctor would have prescribed a plethora of drugs, he now orders his patient away for a change. He recognises that it is not in the power of any physician to repair damaged tissues and shattered nerves. Nature must be given her superb opportunity.

The Pathos Of Cracked Vases And Fallen Idols
Of life's irreparable things—the things of the third category—there is little to be said. The philosophers will tell us that such calamities must be regarded stoically. Why weep, they ask, over spilt milk? This morsel of sophistry sounds well; but if tears are not to be shed over the things that are broken, and that cannot be mended, one wonders why tears were ever invented. When there is a crash in the kitchen, there is nothing for it but to sweep up the pieces; but it is by no means exhilarating work. The housewife has never yet been born who could gaze with perfectly dry eyes on the scattered fragments of her choicest china.

One has but to call to mind the Hon. John Collier's famous painting, "The Fallen Idol," representing the beautiful wife in tears at her husband's feet, in order to remind himself that human experience, at every point, is subject to heartbreaking catastrophes that are incapable of repair. Our idols fall; they are dashed to shivers; they lie in fragments about us. They can never be lifted to their pedestals again. It is sorrow's crown of sorrow. The vacant pedestals remain as outward and visible emblems of empty and aching hearts. It is of little use to tell us that we are not to grieve over such things. There is a wiser and happier philosophy. At a Jewish wedding, a wineglass is held aloft, dropped and dashed to pieces, and, whilst their eyes are fastened upon the fragments, the young people are exhorted jealously to guard the sacred and beautiful relationship into which they have just entered, since, once it is fractured, it can never be repaired.

The Challenge Of A Crumbling Universe
But the section of the universe that holds the most challenging significance for most of us consists of those things that, falling into disrepair, must go from bad to worse unless we ourselves repair them. We are living in a world in which everything gets out of order. Our clothes wear out or are destroyed by moths. Our tables and chairs fall to pieces in time. Even our most majestic buildings crumble and decay. It would almost seem that we have been placed in a world in which everything is falling to pieces in order that we may be ceaselessly engaged upon a ministry of repair. The principle applies, not only to clothing and furniture and buildings, but to everything under the sun. Our friendships, for example. Life knows no wealthier enrichment than the enrichment represented by the linking of other lives with our own. We are made for each other; we become part and parcel of each other; and life becomes like a flower in full bloom when soul responds to soul. But, like most rare and precious things, this treasure is exceedingly fragile. It must be guarded, cherished and kept in constant repair. There must be letters and meetings and the free flow of sympathy from heart to heart. If too much be taken for granted, friendship goes the way of the furniture and falls to pieces. Friendship is a sensitive plant growing in a stony patch. In the rough-and-tumble of this workaday world, it is perilously easy to misconstrue, to misinterpret, to misunderstand. No pathos is more common.

Nor does the loftiest friendship of all lie beyond the danger zone. The crisis in one of Florence Barclay's best known novels is reached when the hero, Rodney Steele, gazes upon a picture that hangs in a little church in an English fishing village. The painting represents the church before its restoration—an ivy-covered ruin, useless and desolate. Inscribed beneath the picture are two of Charles Wesley's familiar lines:

"The ruins of my soul repair
And make my heart a house of prayer."

Rodney Steele recognises in a flash that the decay of the old church is symbolic of a certain moral and spiritual deterioration in his inner life; he makes the prayer on the picture his own; and the renewal of the finest qualities in his character begins from that hour.

F W Boreham

Image: Hammer and Nails

29 April: Boreham on Mahatma Gandhi

Evolution of a Mahatma
Exactly sixty years ago this week,[1] a young Indian student, having satisfactorily completed his course at the Inner Temple, was called to the Bar. He was immediately enrolled in the High Court, and, on the very next day he embarked on the return voyage to his own country. A sprightly young fellow of 21, there was nothing in the appearance of Mohandas Gandhi in those days to indicate the part that he was to play in the shaping of world politics. In his "Life of Mahatma Gandhi," Louis Fischer presents us with a portrait of Gandhi as London then knew him. A thorough-paced young dandy, he is strutting along Piccadilly wearing a highly burnished top hat that literally glitters in the sunlight, a stiff and beautifully starched Gladstonian collar, a flashy tie that dazzlingly displays all the colours of the rainbow, a striped silk shirt, an exquisitely tailored morning coat, striped trousers, patent leather shoes and—spats!

In one hand he flourishes a silver-mounted cane, and in the other, a pair of kid gloves. And this, believe it or not, is Gandhi; a Gandhi with a past from which he has learned little; a Gandhi with a future from which the world will learn much. As to his past, the less said, the better. It was probably no better and no worse than that of the average young Hindu of the day. It was a blind, pitiful struggle towards a goodness that he faintly glimpsed. In accordance with tradition, he and his wife were married by their respective parents when they were thirteen. The life that followed, outlined by Gandhi with brutal frankness, makes up a sordid and revolting story. The wonder is that, after long separations and cruel ordeals, it eventually developed into an almost idyllic union. In their mature years, Mohandas and Kasturbai were pathetically devoted to one another.

A Hero And His Headgear
For this dark-faced young fop in Piccadilly had a future, a future that was to change the world. At the age of 24, Gandhi, now a brilliant advocate, went to South Africa to represent the Indians of that country in their legal contest with the authorities. He wore a turban. Indeed, the evolution of Gandhi can be traced by the stages of his headgear. There is the top-hat phase, the turban phase, the skull-cap phase, and the more familiar phase in which, a world-renowned figure, he goes bareheaded, wearing only a self-woven loincloth. It was the turban phase that made him. He remained in South Africa, off and on for 21 years, and, during that period, the iron entered into his soul. He became convinced that his compatriots in South Africa were being oppressed and victimised. He fought for their emancipation, not as a counsel pleads for his client, but as a fearless and passionate leader fights in a great cause.

He hazarded health, wealth, reputation and even life itself. Once at least he was picked up in the streets after a brutal attack, apparently dead. The struggle awoke the very soul of the man; and when, in 1915, he returned to India for the skull-cap phase of his career, he returned as a reformer, almost a saint. During the war, Mr. Churchill indicated his purpose in life by holding up to the crowds two outstretched fingers in the shape of the letter V. Gandhi was accustomed to raise his hand with all five digits extended.

Eloquence Of Extended Fingers
The first of the five represented the redemption of the Untouchables. "If," says Louis Fischer, "if Gandhi had done nothing else but shatter the structure of untouchability, he would have deserved a place in history as a great social reformer." His second purpose was to render India free from British domination, and independent of British patronage, and yet in friendly and inalienable alliance with Britain. It was for this reason that he wove his own clothing and bade all other Indians do the same. Why should India be dependent upon the mills of Lancashire? His third finger represented the necessity for sobriety among the people—abstinence from alcohol and opium. His fourth denoted the equality of women, and the fifth—and perhaps the most important—stood for friendship and co-operation between the Hindus and the Moslems. This is the very essence of Gandhi-ism. When the great day dawned, and the new India emerged, Gandhi rejoiced in the realisation of his dream of self-government but the idea of the division of India into two parts was like sand in his eyes or gravel in his teeth. He called it vivisection and sometimes even blasphemy. Gandhi's supreme achievement, his biographer declares, lay in creating in Britain a conviction that Britain must no longer rule India, and in creating in India a stubborn refusal to be ruled.

Gandhi's use of the weapon of fasting is interesting. When he realised that he was held in almost superstitious veneration by hundreds of millions of people, he saw the possibilities that a fast presented. The most powerful governments dreaded his death under such conditions. But, on the whole, he used this potent weapon with moderation. He never employed it for personal or party ends. His last fast was undertaken when the streets of the Indian cities were running red. He announced that nothing should cross his lips until the bloodshed ceased. The riots promptly ended, and he ate again. As a great religious figure, he is something of an enigma. A beautiful picture of Christ hung in his room and he loved such hymns as "Lead Kindly Light" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"; but he revelled also in the poetry of the ancient Oriental sages. Like Lincoln, he stands as one of humanity's real heroes. The one was slain in Washington, in 1865, by the maddest pistol shot ever fired in the West; the other was slain in New Delhi, in 1948, by the most maniacal shot ever fired in the East.

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury on June 16, 1951.

F W Boreham

Image: Mahatma Gandhi

28 April: Boreham on What Might Have Been

What Might Have Been
Humanity has no quality more attractive than its insistence on attributing superlative virtues to the unknown. The fish that gets away is invariably the finest piscatorial specimen with which the angler has had to do. The good man proudly displays the trophies that he has actually landed; but you instinctively feel that the recital of his adventures will not conclude until he has gone into raptures over the bite that came to nothing. The glorious creature escaped.

The cynic will sneer; it is the prerogative of cynics. Of a bite, however exciting, the cynic takes no cognisance at all. What on earth, he asks, is the good of a bite? A bite is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. A bite is of no use for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Bites can neither be fried nor boiled, measured nor weighed. By this ill-tempered outburst the cynic only proves the essential superficiality of cynicism. The cynic does not know everything; he certainly does not know everything about fish. If he did, he would realise that a fish seldom looks as well on the bank, or in the boat, as it appears to the excited imagination of the angler when he first feels the flutter on the line. And the fish that gets away grows more and more handsome, and more and more delectable, as the hours and days go by.

The Finest Pictures Ever Painted
This propensity of ours to visualise something particularly enchanting in the unattained, represents a species of philosophic chivalry. It is a courtesy that we pay to the things that might have been. We cannot tell whether the felicities that never visited us were really great or small; so we gallantly accord them the benefit of the doubt. The geese that come waddling over the hill are geese, all of them, and as geese we write them down; but the geese that never come over the hill are swans, every one, and no swans that we have fed beside the lake glide hither and thither with such exquisite grace.

Here is a prospective bride whose bride-groom has been snatched from her just as the marriage bells were about to peal. The gallery of her feminine fancy is hung with the most idealistic paintings. The joyous wedding with its mingled nonsense and solemnity, its echoing laughter and its secret tears; the home of her dreams, with his chair of honour, almost like a throne, facing hers; his homecoming, evening by evening, the welcome she would give him; the children, too, the boys so handsome and the girls so fair! What art gallery in the world contains pictures so perfect? They represent our engaging human faculty of idealising the things of which destiny deprived us.

Golden Tomorrows Replace Yesterdays
And what of the parents who have lost a child? Are there no masterpieces adorning the inner sanctuary of these stricken souls? As we pass through these chambers of imagery, and view with reverence these delicately etched canvases, we behold the whole splendid career mapped out before us. These good people are decking with an aureole of splendour the invisible temples of the unrealised. It is an integral part of life's beneficent programme of consolation and compensation.

Everything depends upon the angler's mental attitude to the fish that escaped him. He may pack up his rod in disgust and angrily leave the river. Miss Havisham behaved in that way. Dickens tells how, jilted on her wedding day, she refused to remove her bridal attire, spending the rest of her life with the withered dress draping her withered form, and with the faded flowers crumbling in her bleaching hair. She allowed her loss to spoil her; those who saw her were appalled at the ghastly spectacle she presented.

Our pensive moods must not be allowed to last too long. The sensible sportsman argues that the fish that got away only proves that there are splendid specimens awaiting his conquest. At any cost, he must resist the temptation to be embittered by disappointment. Let him minimise the attractions of the fish that eluded him; let him magnify the value of those that await his cunning; and he will soon be rejoicing in triumphs that will force him to smile at the memory of the misfortunes which, at the time, he was inclined to exaggerate.

F W Boreham

Image: The Fish That Got Away

27 April: Boreham on Samuel Morse

Pioneer of Telegraphy
This is the birthday of Samuel Morse. It is well over a hundred years since the first telegram was sent. The idea was not quite new. There had been dreamers and experimenters long before that, but it was reserved for Samuel F. B. Morse, in 1842, to bring the idea to fruition. It is not easy for us, circumstanced as we are today, to project the imagination back to the days before the first submarine cables were laid. And, for that very reason, it is difficult for us adequately to appreciate, the boon that novel and sensational enterprise conferred upon humanity. We take it as a matter of course that we should receive vivid descriptions of events taking place on the other side of the planet almost before the actual echoes of those distant happenings have subsided into silence.

Contrast this state of things with the conditions prevailing before the days of Samuel Morse. From Cape Trafalgar to London is about as far as from Brisbane to Hobart. The greatest naval battle in the history of the world—the battle in which Lord Nelson so gloriously fell—was fought on October 21, 1805, yet news of the epoch-making encounter did not reach London until November 6—16 days after the world-shaking event! Again, when King William the Fourth died, it took four months to convey the intelligence of his decease from London to Hobart. During a third of a year loyal subjects on this side of the globe were singing "God Save the King" in sublime ignorance of the fact that the King was in his grave and that a young Queen had ascended the throne. The next British king—Edward the Seventh—passed away in the night, and Australians were lamenting his death before the average Englishman had awakened from their slumbers to receive the mournful tidings. These are but two illustrations of the dramatic change inaugurated by Samuel Morse, and those who co-operated with him, a hundred years ago.

The High Art Of Annihilating Distance
Literature possesses very few records in which the sterling virtues of courage and patience were more strikingly exhibited than in the characters of Morse and his collaborators. While he was puzzling out the details of his intricate invention, Morse was often compelled by the sheer logic of necessity to pass 24 hours without a meal. The idea of a submarine cable was born of his homesickness. He was in Europe; his parents in America. It took at least a month to send a letter. A sentence that he had once memorised at Yale haunted him night and day: "If the circuit of electricity be interrupted, the fluid will become visible, and when it passes, it will leave an impression on any intermediate body." Morse found it impossible to resist the conviction that, this being so, the visibility of the fluid might be turned into a code of signals. The visibility would take the form of a spark. Why not make that spark represent a part of speech, a letter, a number? Why not make the absence a part of speech, the duration of the absence a part? In short, why not have an alphabet and make the sparks click it?

The idea occurred to him on a certain moonlight night on board the ship on which he was returning to America. He paced the deck all night and by dawn the alphabet was complete. It was, as Mr. E. T. Reid declares, a miracle of ingenuity and simplicity. "Men can wink it with their eyes," he says, "they can beat it with their feet, and dying men have used it when the powers of speech have failed them. The prisoner can tap it on the wall or grating of his dungeon. Lovers in distant rooms can converse by it on the floor or the gas-pipe." The most thrilling moment in the career of Samuel Morse came on a certain Summer night in 1842. Insulating a wire two miles long and covering it with indiarubber, he and a friend rowed across the bay from Castle Garden to Governor's Island, unreeling the wire as they went. He then tapped out the words: "What hath God wrought!" The signals were perfectly deciphered at the other end, and thus the first actual telegram in the history of the world had been despatched and received.

Stringing The Wires Round The World
It is, however, one thing to lay a wire temporarily across a bay and another thing to lay a cable permanently round the globe. At this point the work of Cyrus Field supplemented that of Samuel Morse. The story of Cyrus Field reads like a volume of fiction. In some respects it is unique. As a boy he conceived the idea of spending his life in doing some magnificent deed that should make his name immortal. He was poor and, as though it were the merest detail, he calmly resolved that the first item on his programme must be the making of a fortune. Going into business, he retired, immensely wealthy, at the age of 32. With all his best years before him, he was then free to look for his life work and to perform it. By a happy dovetailing of events, it chanced that, just at this time, Samuel Morse was demonstrating the possibility of despatching transatlantic telegrams, but was being baulked at every turn by the mechanical difficulty.

In his initial enterprises he had contrived to send messages from town to town by means of wires hung upon posts. But how was the wire to be carried across the ocean? Cyrus Field saw at a glance the immense possibilities of the scheme, and he determined to make the laying of the cable his personal concern. This should be the life work of which he had dreamed. The wiseacres on both continents shook the hemispheres with their laughter. The cable could not be laid, and, even if it could, the current would not travel so far. But it is pleasant to reflect today, as we look back across the intervening century, that, after patiently enduring the withering scorn and pitiless derision everywhere heaped upon their scheme, Samuel Morse and Cyrus Field both lived to see their work applauded by all mankind as a most valuable contribution to the creation of a new era in human progress and achievement.[1]

[1] This editorial appears in the Hobart Mercury on December 12, 1942.

F W Boreham

Image: Samuel Morse

Monday, April 17, 2006

26 April: Boreham on the Garden

Green Fingers
At this time of the year, most people are busy with their gardens.[1] Why, one wonders, does the average man, in selecting a home, insist that it must have a garden? And why, having secured his garden, does he devote to it so much time and energy? It is not a matter of money. It may or may not pay a man to cultivate his little plot; he cannot be certain; he keeps no account; he does not dig and weed and plant and perspire as a mere matter of domestic economy. Again, the exercise is probably very good for him; the open air, the manual labour and the smell of the upturned soil are all of them wholesome things; but he does not take his gardening as he takes his meals and his medicine. In nothing else that he does, in fact, is he actuated by such a medley of motives. Jack London would probably write it down as an instance of race memory. Just as the domesticated dog occasionally harks back to the wolfish youth of his breed, so humanity amidst its highest culture and intensest civilisation swings back to the garden in which its existence began.

The average man spends nine-tenths of his waking moments among things so modern that his grandfather would have regarded their very existence as ludicrously impossible. He steps from the plane in which he has made a business trip, commits a few urgent letters to a dictaphone, drives to his home in a streamlined car, and, whilst enjoying his evening meal, listens to distant voices on the radio. He spends practically all his time amidst contrivances of which his forefathers never dreamed. But when he dons an old suit and seizes his spade, he escapes from the isolation of a period and gets into touch with all the ages. Ever since his earliest ancestor tore down the limb of a tree and began to scratch the virgin soil, all his forbears have been gardeners, and, as he potters about with his rake and hoe, the instincts of a thousand generations leap to vigorous life within his blood.

The Garden As A Garrison Incessantly Besieged
Darwin says that life consists of a fight against fate, a fight against foes, and a fight against friends. Darwin's axiom is certainly true of life in the garden. The gardener fights against fate in the form of the weather and seasonal conditions. He fights against foes that invade his little plot from every point of the compass. The sentimentalist speaks ecstatically of a garden as though the only thing one had to do was to put things into it. The very reverse is the case. One's main business is to keep things out of it. A gardener is in a state of perpetual seige. All the vegetation of the world is marching towards his precious beds, and he is valiantly engaged in resisting the invaders. Thistle and dock, sorrel and couch, chickweed and dandelion; they come from everywhere. Then there are the slugs and the snails, the beetles and the caterpillars, the starlings and the blackbirds, the tits and the sparrows; the gardener's enemies are innumerable. They advance upon him from all the surrounding acres; they spring up mysteriously from the ground beneath his feet; they swoop down upon him from the air above. They come from everywhere—and nowhere. Through the four seasons of the year they allow him not a moment's truce.

Then comes the fight with friends. One can have too much of a good thing or, at any rate, he can have too many good things. "Civilised man," says Filson Young, "has ransacked the earth for the embellishment of his garden. The tender flowers that grow on Alpine heights, the stately orchids from the jungles of the Amazon and Borneo, have paid their toll alike." It would be a revelation, even to many a gardener, were he suddenly to learn from what lands his fruit and flowers and vegetables originally came, and to discover how all the continents and islands of the world are represented in his narrow plot. Here they are, the growths of a thousand climes, all clamouring to be admitted to a man's small garden. The seedsman presses them upon him; the magazines almost persuade him to open the gate and admit them every one. But he must steel his heart against the insidious temptation.

Best Literature And Best Life Born In Gardens
In "Les Miserables," Victor Hugo vividly describes the Bishop who, showing such kindness to Jean Valjean, has captivated all our hearts. The good old man spent half his spare time in his study and half in his garden. "It is all the same," he used to say, "it is all gardening, for the mind is a garden." It is of course, perfectly true. Milton lived in many houses in the course of his chequered career but, although blind, he would take no house that could not show a pleasant garden. He loved to sit where, inhaling the fragrance of the thyme and the lavender, the musk and the mignonette, he could hear the bees humming in the beds beside him.

Nor is Milton alone. In "The Task," Cowper tells of the innumerable back-aching tasks in which his garden involved him yet we know how much of his best work was done in the pretty old summer-house down in the corner. "Here," he says, "I write all that I write in Summertime." And, in Winter, he consoled himself with a seat in the greenhouse! The most pleasing description that has been given us of Chaucer, too, is of an elderly man, of gracious bearing, carrying a bunch of red and yellow roses in his hands. "The word garden," he observed, "is ever a music to my soul. I love flowers more than all things else. See how beautiful these roses are!" It is because some vague awareness of all this is at the back of our minds that we insist on a house with a garden, and, having obtained it, are willing to labour there. With a modern poet we feel that:

"A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot.
Fring'd pool,
Fern'd grot—
The veriest school
Of peace and yet the fool
Contends that God is not!
Not God! in gardens, when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
'Tis very sure God walks in mine."

And in this we recognise a musical echo of that garden in which our little race began.

[1] This editorial about gardens and change appears in the Hobart Mercury on March 17, 1945.

F W Boreham

Image: Flowers from our garden, GP.

25 April: Boreham on ANZAC

The Glory of ANZAC
The outstanding feature of Anzac Day is that it is so typically Australian. The dominant characteristics of Australian life are inextricably woven into its observance. The breath of the bush is on it. In no other country is there anything exhaling the same atmosphere and marked by the same spirit. The entire pageant of Australian history is reflected, as in a cameo, in that memorable episode at Anzac Cove. The average Australian thinks of Gallipoli much as the average American thinks of Gettysburg. "We cannot," exclaimed Lincoln, as, standing on that blood-drenched soil, he delivered the most famous oration of all time, "we cannot dedicate, cannot consecrate, this ground. The brave men who struggled here have consecrated it for ever. It is for us to dedicate ourselves to the cause to which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; it is for us to resolve that these men shall not have died in vain." That responsive quality in human hearts which has immortalised that presidential utterance is the very quality that will lead us all to honour today the sufferings and sacrifices of the Anzacs.

These young stalwarts gave all that it is possible for men to give, and gave it gladly. As Mr. John Masefield, the Poet Laureate, has finely said: "To the Anzacs, in the blazing sun, or the frost of the Gallipoli night, death seemed a relaxation and a wound a luxury. These were the end they asked, the reward they had come for, the unseen cross upon the breast. They went like kings in a pageant to the imminent sacrifice. All was beautiful in that gladness of men about to die; but the most moving thing was the greatness of their generous hearts." The landing on those splintered hillsides and wind-swept beaches will always be remembered with pride as having demonstrated the fact that Australia cherishes all those traditions of selflessness, of chivalry, of knightliness, and of passionate patriotism that we associate with the British spirit; whilst the reverent commemoration of its deathless renown by succeeding generations proves that the Australian people are resolved to maintain the same lustrous ideals as long as time endures.

Australian Annals Sanctified By Sacrifice
It is in keeping with the entire epic of Australian history that the stately records of the first Anzac Day should be tinted with the crimson hue of sacrifice. Those who have stood beside Mr. Gladstone's monument in the Strand, gazing up at the noble entrance-hall of Australia House, must have been impressed by a magnificent group of statuary, the work of Mr. Harold Parker, the Queensland sculptor. It is entitled "The Awakening of Australia," and its fine conception and faultless execution have arrested he attention and excited the admiration of many thousands of passers-by. Australia is represented as a female figure stretching herself as she rises from her long, deep slumber. At her feet, carved in the pedestal of the main statue, are two male figures. One represents the explorer—fresh, robust, eager, and alert—about to embark on his high adventure. The other represents the same explorer, utterly exhausted, committing his bones to the trail that he has blazed.

Mr Parker probably intended these striking figures as emblems of that subtle but inescapable and persistent element of sacrifice that marks the entire Australian saga. Rudyard Kipling has reduced the epic to nervous and telling rhyme:

As the deer breaks, as the steer breaks, from the herd where they graze,
the faith of little children, we went on our ways.
Then the wood failed, then
the food failed, then the last water dried;
In the faith of little children
we lay down and died:
In the sand drift, on the veldt side, in the fern scrub
we lay,
That our sons might follow after by the bones on the way.

From its very dawn, the whole of Australian history has been consecrated by the shedding of valiant blood. Will Longstaff has skilfully portrayed "The Ghosts of Menin Gate"; but, to those who have eyes to see, every Australian highway is haunted by the gallant ghosts of the pioneers. In the centre of each crowded street there stands an invisible altar on which has been offered a hecatomb of noble victims, a holocaust of sacrificial blood. The Anzac story is the crowning incident in that affecting pageant.

As soon as the exploit was achieved, four and thirty years ago, Sir Owen Seaman penned the famous poem in he characterised the Anzac as "the bravest thing God ever made," and, whilst the years have enabled us to view the stirring episode in a calm perspective that was impossible three decades ago, they have by no means lessened the just pride that Australia takes in the poet's generous and lyrical tribute. The immortal happenings at Anzac Cove must be viewed against the spacious background of the centuries. The history of the evolution and development of the British Empire is, far and away, the most imposing and variegated romance that has ever been written. In that impressive and colourful drama the epic of Anzac takes its fitting place, and its glory is all the greater when viewed as an integral part of that stately and magnificent whole.

Novelty Keeps Tryst With Antiquity
The story is familiar but can never become threadbare. In the hour of the world's crisis, in 1914, the youth of this great Commonwealth sprang to arms, sinewy young Australian stalwarts camped under the shadow of the Pyramids, where sixty centuries frowned curiously down upon these strange warriors from lands lying beneath the Southern Cross. They sailed among the storied isles of Greece, hoary antiquity being startled by this singular invasion of historic novelty. It was a fresh version of the contrast between Dignity and Impudence—the grandeur of antique civilisations seeming to sniff at the impertinence of nations still in their swaddling clothes. And there, at length, on Gallipoli, the Anzac faced the Turk—the youngest nation on the face of the earth confronting a nation for whose long-forgotten annals one must turn to the crumbling monuments, archaeological urns and deeply-burned tablets of a dim and distant yesterday.

The moral of all this is crystal clear. It rests as a solemn obligation upon those who can recall the thrilling events of 1915 to mingle the recital of that deathless story with the heroic records of our more recent struggle. The two noble odyssies must be blended, and presented in unison, for the benefit of those who are too young to recall the drama and tragedy of Anzac Cove. Neither the epic of 1914 nor that of 1939 need be rehearsed as a glorification of war. If the accent be rightly placed it will make the rising generation realise the frightful toll that war exacts. It ruthlessly destroys the finest and the best—the men of whose splendid progeny the future is cruelly deprived. The most sublime sacrifice ever made was made to bring peace and goodwill into the hearts and homes of men; and the sacrifices of the Anzacs will have been well worth while if they lead subsequent generations to adjust their differences in a spirit of brotherhood rather than by a reckless resort to the agonising arbitrement of the sword.

F W Boreham

Image: ANZAC Cove