« PreviousContinue »
IT is the design of these volumes, to display a succession of picturesque scenery on the banks of the Thames. Some account of the river itself, will be naturally expected to form an introductory part, and that expectation we shall endeavour to gratify.
This river takes it rise from a copious spring, called the Thames head, near Cirencester in the county of Gloucester, which is particularly described in a succeeding page. It has been very erroneously named Isis, till it is joined by the Thame or Tame, about fifteen miles below Oxford, when those who have supported this idle notion, allow it to assume the name of the Thames, supposed to be formed from a combination of the titles of these conjoined streams. It does not appear that the origin of this popular error can now be traced; it has, however, been adopted by poetical fiction, and has thereby acquired a kind of classical sanction. The authorities are all against it, neither can it be recon
ciled to any rational opinion that the Thames head, a denomination by which from a very remote period it has been distinguished, should give rise to a river called Isis, and after having run a very large proportion of its course, should re-assume the name of the Thames.
From its source it flows on in a rivulet character, till it reaches Cricklade in Wiltshire, where being increased by the contribution of several inferior streams, it assumes a more attractive appearance. Approaching Kemsford, it re-enters its native country, dividing it from Berkshire at Inglesham. The river enlarges as it approaches Letchlade, a town in Gloucestershire, situated on the confines of Berkshire and Oxfordshire, and receiving the waters of the Lech and the Coln, it becomes capable of navigating vessels from ninety to an hundred tons burthen; and at the distance, according to the river admeasurement, of one hundred and thirtyeight miles from London.
The river now divides the counties of Berks and Oxford, passing by Buscot, Farringdon, Stanton, Harcourt, and Ensham, till after a succession of beautiful meanders it reaches Oxford. It then proceeds by Ifley, and flowing beneath
the redundant swells and rich scenery of Nuneham, it approaches Abingdon. In the course of a few miles it receives the waters of the Thame, an insignificant stream, and at no great distance flows beneath the ancient bridge of Wallingford. The country through which it now runs is replete with beauty. The Streatly Hills, the sweet village of Goring, the splendid seat of Basildon, the woods of Hardwick, the ancient magnificence of Maple-Durham, and the pretty village of Caversham, succeed each other, till the river approaches the vicinity of Reading.
The Thames now continues its course to Henley, and after washing the foot of that brow, which acknowledges the fine improvements of Park Place, it flows through the arches of Henley Bridge, one of the most elegant of the many structures that stretch across it, when its northern bank at Fawley is in the county of Buckingham.
We now come to the most beautiful part of a river that abounds in beauties. From Henley to Maidenhead bridge there is a most delightful succession of them. The Thames, before it
reaches Marlow serpentines through its vale in a variety of pleasing curves, as if it lingered to reflect the richness of the scenery on either side of it. The small remains of Medmenham, the ancient figure of Bisham Abbey, HarleyfordHouse and its woody uplands, are succeeded by the town of Marlow, whence through various scenes of sylvan attraction, Hedsor and Cliefden appear in the near horizon, when the stream continues its course till it flows beneath them and the heights of Taplow to Maidenhead, and in a few miles reaches Windsor. The magnificence of Windsor Castle, appearing on its brow on one side, and the Academic groves of Eton College on the other, form a scene of contrasted interest and contrasted beauty. The stately towers of the former long continue to give splendour to the prospect, and they scarce cease to be visible when the river reaches Runnymede, where was obtained by our ancestors by threatened arms the charter of those liberties, which every Briton now enjoys beneath his own vine and his own fig-tree, in peace and security. Here Cowper's Hill rises in the view, and here we shall pause in our course, and give those
beautiful lines, in which the poet of the spot gives a description of the river, which will enliven and add importance to our own.
My eye, descending from the hill, surveys
Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
The mower's hopes, or mock the plowman's toil;
But Godlike his unwearied bounty flows,
First loves to do, then loves the good he does.
So that to us, nothing, no place is strange,
My great example as it is my theme!