Sketches by Boz HTML version

10. The River
'Are you fond of the water?' is a question very frequently asked, in hot summer weather,
by amphibious-looking young men. 'Very,' is the general reply. 'An't you?' - 'Hardly ever
off it,' is the response, accompanied by sundry adjectives, expressive of the speaker's
heartfelt admiration of that element. Now, with all respect for the opinion of society in
general, and cutter clubs in particular, we humbly suggest that some of the most painful
reminiscences in the mind of every individual who has occasionally disported himself on
the Thames, must be connected with his aquatic recreations. Who ever heard of a
successful water-party? - or to put the question in a still more intelligible form, who ever
saw one? We have been on water excursions out of number, but we solemnly declare
that we cannot call to mind one single occasion of the kind, which was not marked by
more miseries than any one would suppose could be reasonably crowded into the
space of some eight or nine hours. Something has always gone wrong. Either the cork
of the salad-dressing has come out, or the most anxiously expected member of the
party has not come out, or the most disagreeable man in company would come out, or a
child or two have fallen into the water, or the gentleman who undertook to steer has
endangered everybody's life all the way, or the gentlemen who volunteered to row have
been 'out of practice,' and performed very alarming evolutions, putting their oars down
into the water and not being able to get them up again, or taking terrific pulls without
putting them in at all; in either case, pitching over on the backs of their heads with
startling violence, and exhibiting the soles of their pumps to the 'sitters' in the boat, in a
very humiliating manner.
We grant that the banks of the Thames are very beautiful at Richmond and
Twickenham, and other distant havens, often sought though seldom reached; but from
the 'Red-us' back to Blackfriars- bridge, the scene is wonderfully changed. The
Penitentiary is a noble building, no doubt, and the sportive youths who 'go in' at that
particular part of the river, on a summer's evening, may be all very well in perspective;
but when you are obliged to keep in shore coming home, and the young ladies will
colour up, and look perseveringly the other way, while the married dittos cough slightly,
and stare very hard at the water, you feel awkward - especially if you happen to have
been attempting the most distant approach to sentimentality, for an hour or two
Although experience and suffering have produced in our minds the result we have just
stated, we are by no means blind to a proper sense of the fun which a looker-on may
extract from the amateurs of boating. What can be more amusing than Searle's yard on
a fine Sunday morning? It's a Richmond tide, and some dozen boats are preparing for