In this perfect companion to London: The Biography , Peter Ackroyd once again delves into the hidden byways of history, describing the river's endless allure in a journey overflowing with characters, incidents, and wry observations. Thames: The Biography meanders gloriously, rather like the river itself. In short, lively chapters Ackroyd writes about connections between the Thames and such historical figures as Julius Caesar and Henry VIII, and offers memorable portraits of the ordinary men and women who depend upon the river for their livelihoods. The Thames as a source of artistic inspiration comes brilliantly to life as Ackroyd invokes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Turner, Shelley, and other writers, poets, and painters who have been enchanted by its many moods and colors.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Thames|
|Release Date: 11-04-2008|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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Chapter OneThe River as Fact
It has a length of 215 miles, and is navigable for 191 miles. It is the longest river in England but not in Britain, where the Severn is longer by approximately 5 miles. Nevertheless it must be the shortest river in the world to acquire such a famous history. The Amazon and the Mississippi cover almost 4,000 miles, and the Yangtze almost 3,500 miles; but none of them has arrested the attention of the world in the manner of the Thames.
It runs along the borders of nine English counties, thus reaffirming its identity as a boundary and as a defence. It divides Wiltshire from Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire from Berkshire; as it pursues its way it divides Surrey from Middlesex (or Greater London as it is inelegantly known) and Kent from Essex. It is also a border of Buckinghamshire. It guarded these once tribal lands in the distant past, and will preserve them into the imaginable future.
There are 134 bridges along the length of the Thames, and forty-four locks above Teddington. There are approximately twenty major tributaries still flowing into the main river, while others such as the Fleet have now disappeared under the ground. Its "basin," the area from which it derives its water from rain and other natural forces, covers an area of some 5,264 square miles. And then there are the springs, many of them in the woods or close to the streams beside the Thames. There is one in the wood below Sinodun Hills in Oxfordshire, for example, which has been described as an "everlasting spring" always fresh and always renewed.
The average flow of the river at Teddington, chosen because it marks the place wher...