Tag Archives: Posthumous compilations

Review: Nuggets of Romance

Author: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of 49 books and thousands of articles. He spent most of his life pastoring in New Zealand and Australia. (See our article “Who Is F. W. Boreham?”)

Overview:

Nuggets of Romance (2016) is a collection of never-before-published articles by F. W. Boreham. During his lifetime, Boreham published thousands of newspaper articles, many of them biographical. In putting together his books, he focused on drawing together the longer articles and sermonic materials that would be edifying to believers.

The articles here are mostly biographical, not devotional. There is a change in audience; we get to hear Boreham addressing a different crowd than he did on Sundays. Nonetheless, we still have here the classic voice of Boreham—a man keenly interested in bringing eternal truth out the histories and destinies of famous people.

Nuggets of Romance is a relaxing read. The essays are short and cover a litany of famous persons: Samuel Johnson (lexicographer), William Caxton (printing press), Thomas Carlyle (historian), Charles Darwin (naturalist), Edward Gibbon (historian), Christopher Wren (architect), Jules Verne (science fiction novelist), Lord Lister (surgeon, innovator of antiseptics), Victor Hugo (novelist), and many others. My favorites were those about Harriet Beecher Stowe, Victor Hugo, Lord Lister, and William Caxton.

Lord Lister, for instance, practically invented modern medicine by working towards sanitizing operation rooms to prevent infections. Wikipedia says that he “revolutionised surgery throughout the world” and calls him “the father of modern surgery”. Obviously, he eventually received a peerage for his contributions to public health. But this was an honor granted to him after many years of his ideas being generally rejected. Few believed that something invisible or infinitesimal was the cause of post-surgical infections; at the time, there were a variety of incorrect ideas about how these infections occurred and spread. This is an important story with bearing on our present day, seldom mentioned.

Many of the famous people covered here had important contributions all but forgotten by modern readers. Some of them, like Jules Verne or Lord Lister, experienced long periods of failure or obscurity before finally being recognized for their work. Boreham briefly and compellingly brings out these ironies.

A few articles are purely devotional, like “Pastels of Sound,” which was wonderfully reminiscent of the old sermon “The Whisper of God.”

Review: God in the Dock

Rating: ★★★★

Who: C. S. Lewis, British scholar and lay theologian.

Overview: God in the Dock: Essays in Theology and Ethics (1970) is a smorgasbord of Lewis’ short articles, mostly on theological topics. Many of them are responses to theological or literary controversies of the day, but they are written with the same cleverness and care for detail that he put into his other writings.

Meat: The strength of this book is that we can hear Lewis at length on topics that he loved, but were unworthy of a full book. Topics scattered throughout his writings come into full focus here. The essay, for example, on “Reading Old Books” is still particularly relevant and quoted often as an antidote to the worship of the “Idol of the Age.”

My favorite parts of the book, though, were Lewis’ thoughts on mythology scattered throughout. In short, Lewis believed that in Jesus’ resurrection was, in a sense, “myth became fact.” He mentions this in Perelandra, but he expounds it much more clearly in God in the Dock, especially in “The Grand Miracle” and “Myth Became Fact.” These two essays are the kernel of the book and are central to understanding to Lewis’ theology as a whole.

Bones: Some of the essays—a long-winded argument against ‘naturalism’ for example—may be opaque to modern readers. As the book goes on, some of the essays on ethical and critical topics, are for the most part yawn-inducing. (Some of the topics also have little or nothing to do with religion, by the way.) As a whole, it is definitely a book worth having, but I wouldn’t worry about reading it cover to cover.

An abridged collection, The Grand Miracle: And Other Selected Essays might be a quicker, more palatable alternative for less patient readers (and it looks like it has a closer focus on the Christian topics too).

Quotes: “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another a new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” (“On Reading Old Books”)

“The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.” (“The Grand Miracle,” p. 80)

Related: Several similar (though shorter) compilations of Lewis’ articles have sprung up. Confusingly, there is a compilation called God in the Dock that is shorter than this full book; The Grand Miracle is also a kind of “best of” taken completely from God in the Dock. Lewis’ other books of essays and speeches, such as The Weight of Glory and The World’s Last Night, are unrelated to this one and do not overlap.

This book is available in print, digital, and audio formats.