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Observations placeholder

Gibbings, Robert - Sweet Thames run Softly



Type of Spiritual Experience



In 1940 Elisabeth and the two children were evacuated to Canada. They returned in summer 1945.  While Elisabeth was away Gibbings moved into Saint Patrick's Hall, an all male hall of residence at the university, and settled into a bachelor life that he found very congenial. The teaching and the extra-curricular life were very much to his liking, and there was one factor that led him inexorably into this next phase of his artistic life.

Gibbings had begun to take part in natural history trips to the Thames organised by the university. He later wrote:
'In the early days of 1939 there arose in me a great desire to find peace beside a river’.  

He built himself a boat, the Willow, and floated down the Thames. The result was Sweet Thames Run Softly (1940).


His observations and wood engravings of the countryside, the river and its natural history, were the fruits of gentle months spent on the Thames, accompanied by sketch pad and microscope. Written at a time of great insecurity, the book captivated readers, acutely aware that the world it portrayed was in imminent danger of being wiped out. Thomas Balston wrote of Gibbings:

Few readers in these harassing days escape the longing for a simpler life, and Gibbings is very much a modern Thyrsis.

 He had captured a moment shared by many other people at the time, and over 140,000 copies of the book were printed.

Coming down the Wye (1942) and Lovely is the Lee (1944) followed, based on the familiar pattern of personal encounter and anecdote, and historical and cultural research, all illustrated by his wood engravings.

A description of the experience


The source of the experience

Gibbings, Robert

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps