A set of essays about life, the world, and living. About fishing, too (Henry Van Dyke had a passion for fishing). Here's the start of the eponymous essay: A river is the most human and companionable of all inanimate things. It has a life, a character, a voice of its own, and is as full of good fellowship as a sugar-maple is of sap. It can talk in various tones, loud or low, and of many subjects, grave and gay. Under favorable circumstances it will even make a shift to sing, not in a fashion that can be reduced to notes and set down in black and white on a sheet of paper, but in a vague, refreshing manner, and to a wandering air that goes "Over the hills and far away." For real company and friendship, there is nothing outside of the animal kingdom that is comparable to a river. I will admit that a very good case can be made out in favor of some other objects of natural affection. For example, a fair apology has been offered by those ambitious persons who have fallen in love with the sea. But, after all, that is a formless and disquieting passion. It lacks solid comfort and mutual confidence. The sea is too big for loving, and too uncertain. It will not fit into our thoughts.
It has no personality because it has so many. It is a salt abstraction. You might as well think of loving a glittering generality like "the American woman." One would be more to the purpose. Van Dyke was a fine writer, and a man of careful thought; this book is as much a pleasure as it was when he wrote it generations ago.