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A Floating Home by J. B. Atkins and Cyril Ionides

A FLOATING HOME

[Illustration: A BARGE PASSING THE MAPLIN LIGHT]

A FLOATING HOME

BY

CYRIL IONIDES AND J. B. ATKINS

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

ARNOLD BENNETT

PHOTOGRAPHS, APPENDIX, GLOSSARY, ETC.

LONDON

CHATTO & WINDUS

1918

_All rights reserved_

To THE MATE

PREFACE

The authors owe to their readers an explanation of the manner of their collaboration. The owner of the Thames sailing barge, of which the history as a habitation is written in this book, is Mr. Cyril Ionides. 'I' throughout the narrative is Mr. Cyril Ionides; the 'Mate' is Mrs. Cyril Ionides; the children are their children. Yet the other author, Mr. J. B. Atkins, was so closely associated with the events recorded--sharing with Mr. Ionides the counsels and discussions that ended in the purchase of the barge, prosecuting in his company friendships with barge skippers, and studying with him the Essex dialect, which nowhere has more character than in the mouths of Essex seafaring men--that it was not practicable for the book to be written except in collaboration. The authors share, moreover, an intense admiration for the Thames sailing barges, to which, so far as they know, justice has never been done in writing. Mr. Atkins, however, felt that it would be unnecessary, if not impertinent, for him to assume any personal shape in the narrative when there was little enough space for the more relevant and informing characters of Sam Prawle, Elijah Wadely, and their like.

The book aims at three things: (1) It tells how the problem of poverty--poverty judged by the standard of one who wished to give his sons a Public School education on an insufficient income--was solved by living afloat and avoiding the payment of rent and rates. (2) It offers a tribute of praise to the incomparable barge skippers who navigate the busiest of waterways, with the smallest crews (unless the cutter barges of Holland provide an exception) that anywhere in the world manage so great a spread of canvas. Londoners are aware that the most characteristic vessels of their river are 'picturesque.' Beyond that their knowledge or their applause does not seem to go. It is hoped that this book will tell them something new about a life at their feet, of the details of which they have too long been ignorant. (3) It is a study in dialect. It was impossible to grow in intimacy with the Essex skippers of barges without examining with careful attention the dialect that persists with a surprising flavour within a short radius of London, where one would expect everything of the sort--particularly in the _va-et-vient_ of river life--to be assimilated or absorbed.

As to (1) and (3) something more may be said.

One of the authors (J. B. A.) published in the _Spectator_ before the war a brief account of Mr. Cyril Ionides' floating home, and was immediately beset by so many inquiries for more precise information that he perceived that a book on the subject--a practical and complete answer to the questions--was required. Neither of the authors is under any illusion as to the determination of those who have made such inquiries. Most of the inquirers no doubt are people who will not go further with the idea than to play with it. But that need not matter. The idea is a very pleasant one to play with. The few who care to proceed will find enough information in this book for their guidance. The items of expenditure, the method of transforming the barge from a dirty trading vessel into an agreeable home, a diagram of the interior arrangements, are all given. The castle in Spain has actually been built, and people are living in it.


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