Jones, Sydney R. (1943) Thames Triumphant Studio Publications
Sydney R. Jones had, before the war, written London Triumphant, and Thames Triumphant, first published in 1943, is a companion volume. Given it’s publication at a time of paper shortages and crisis, it’s an understandable embodiment of wartime sentiment. It argues for tradition and continuity, it encapsulates a bulldog spirit and it celebrates a timeless and essential Englishness. Through a blend of description, anecdote, history and local lore, Jones works to bring alive the River Thames as a symbol of the story of England and of the essential character of the English.
Over six chapters, each lavishly illustrated by Jones’ own very fine etchings and pen and pencil line drawings, the book charts a journey from the source of the Thames to Greenwich.
It concludes with a reflection on the impact of war on a river he’d so vividly described in peacetime in the previous five chapters. The last paragraph pretty much encapsulates the, to modern ears, somewhat overblown language of the book:
With the ruins of war in view from the bridge, I wondered – what of the future? But no- that was not for old parties like me. The Thames had known such times before, again and again, and the Great Fire as well, and had outlived them all. To-morrow awaited the young men and women who were fighting the battles, risking their lives, and making victory certain. When the fighting had ended in triumph, and war’s years were over, to them the future belonged. They would make a new and better world. Then Old Father Thames, still flowing along and remembering ages and ages gone by, will wrinkle his old smile, and wag his old head, and call to his banks in his new and old way, “Welcome, my youngsters, another new age for every young and Old Father Thames.”
However, if you can find a copy, stick with it, there are gems to be had in every chapter of this book. It’s definitely one for the bookshelf if you’re planning a trip up or down the Thames in 2012, and it will provide an Arcadian, lyrical, and historical commentary to supplement any dry 21st century map or guide-book.