STRUTT, William;

Hooky Walker

c.1855
Ink and wash on paper
190 x 130mm

Inscriptions: Wm Strutt ; Wm [Strutt's] life / [Henui?] River, Hooky Walker's trousers floated away

This drawing might have been intended as an illustration for a memoir by William Strutt. The subject is Hooky Walker, perhaps more properly Horatio Walker. The inscriptions on the work appear to have been cut short; however, the phrase ‘Hooky Walker’s trousers floated away’ can be discerned. A similar drawing, captioned ‘Hooky Walker’s experiences on the Mangorei River, N.Z. – Wm Strutt’s life’, is in the National Library of Australia (1207326). Both images likely relate to an incident recounted in The Australian Journal of William Strutt, A.R.A., 1850–1862, which concerns a man whom Strutt calls ‘Horatio Blank Verse’:

‘Sometimes the [Henui] River, one of the streams which, with the [Mangorei], flows from the foot of Mount Egmont and which we had to cross on the way to New Plymouth, was very much swollen, through several days’ continued rain, so as to be almost impassable.’

‘My late employee, Horatio Blank Verse, who now lodged with my neighbour, the sailor, whose accommodation being very limited the only room he could spare him was under his bed; there however, Blank Verse spread out his mattress and bedding, and there he lay, day after day, during the continued rains, reading the novels which he devoured, meanwhile waiting, and always waiting, like Mr Micawber, for something to turn up; and this actually did, but not in the way he dreamed of, for with the continued and almost unceasing rains the water kept rising so as almost to touch his very bed, which, as seen, was on the ground, when he finally, but very reluctantly, decided to move a little out of its way.’

‘Nevertheless his stock of food being at length exhausted, the pangs of hunger compelled him to rise and try to make his way to town, there to renew his supply, when, fortunately for him, he was joined by a friend on the same errand; then the two went on together. The River [Henui] being reached, which here and there with extreme caution might be forded, Blank Verse prepared very prudently for the risky operation, then holding his nether garments aloft to keep them dry, he took to the water, but apparently unconscious of the strength of the current he was very quickly carried off his feet and was being swept down the torrent to certain destruction, had not his friend, a courageous young fellow, rushed to his rescue.’

‘Of course poor Horatio had lost the clothes he carried, and was now in a most pitiable condition, to town he could not proceed in the state he now found himself; as a temporary expedient, however, his valiant and generous friend lent him his jumper, when thrusting his legs into the sleeves thereof, and tying up the body round his waist, he was compelled sadly to retrace his steps, without provisions and minus part of his wardrobe, to his friend the old sailor’s lonely hut!’[1]

 

[1] William Strutt, The Australian Journal of William Strutt, A.R.A., 1850–1862, vol. 2 (Sydney: Privately printed, 1958), 16–17.

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