We have marked World Book Day before with references to our neighbourhood in literature.

This time here is a passage from writer and essayist Charles Lamb. Best known for his Essays of Elia Lamb, along with his sister Mary, lived for a short time on Gentleman's Row Enfield Town - overlooking the New River. They were in Enfield in the early part of the nineteenth century before they settled in Edmonton where Charles died- (Mary survived for a further ten years) they are buried alongside each other at All Saints Church.

This passage recounts an episode in Charles Lamb's young life when he set out from Christ's Hospital School with an accomplice to explore the upper reaches of the New River and trace it back to it's source.


It is soothing to contemplate the head of the Ganges; to trace the first little bubblings of a mighty river;

With holy reverence to approach the rocks,
Whence glide the streams renowned in ancient song.

Fired with a perusal of the Abyssinian Pilgrim's exploratory ramblings after the cradle of the infant Nilus, we well remember on one fine summer holyday (a "whole day's leave" we called it at Christ's Hospital) sallying forth at rise of sun, not very well provisioned either for such an undertaking, to trace the current of the New River—Middletonian stream!—to its scaturient source, as we had read, in meadows by fair Amwell. Gallantly did we commence our solitary quest—for it was essential to the dignity of a DISCOVERY, that no eye of schoolboy, save our own, should beam on the detection. By flowery spots, and verdant lanes, skirting Hornsey, Hope trained us on in many a baffling turn; endless, hopeless meanders, as it seemed; or as if the jealous waters had dodged us, reluctant to have the humble spot of their nativity revealed; till spent, and nigh famished, before set of the same sun, we sate down somewhere by Bowes Farm, near Tottenham, with a tithe of our proposed labours only yet accomplished; sorely convinced in spirit, that that Brucian enterprise was as yet too arduous for our young shoulders.


The full text of The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 featuring this extract is available at the Project Gutenburg Website

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Excellent extract! Reminds me of our adruous labours walking the New River Path last year ;)

Charles Lamb and his sister also lived on the New River in Islington for a time. 


Connecting the communities of Bowes Park and Bounds Green in north London.

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