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MY MOST WORTHY FATHER' AND FRIEND,
MR. IZAAK WALTON, THE ELDER.
SIR, Being you were pleased, some years past, to grant me your free leave to do what I have here attempted; and observing you never retract any promise when made in favour even of your meanest friends; I accordingly expect to see these following particular Directions for the taking of a Trout, to wait upon your better and more general Rules for all sorts of Angling. And though mine be neither so perfect, so well digested, nor indeed so handsomely couch'd, as they might have been, in so long a time as since your leave was granted, yet I dare affirm them to be generally true and they had appeared too in something a neater dress, but that I was surprized with the sudden news of a sudden new edition of your Complete Angler ; so that, having but a little more than ten days time to turn me in, and rub up my memory, (for in truth, I have not, in all this long time, though I have often thought on't, and almost as often resolv'd to go presently about it), I was forced, upon the instant, to scribble what I here present you: which I have also endeavoured to accommodate to your own method. And, if mine be clear enough for the honest brothers of the angle readily to understand, (which is the only thing I aim at,) then I have my end; and shall need to make no further apology; a writing of this kind not requiring, (if I were master of any such thing), any eloquence to set it off, or recommend it; so that if you, in your better judgment, or kindness rather, can allow it passable, for a thing of this nature, you will then do me honour if the Cypher fix'd and carv'd in the front of my little fishing-house, may be here explained: and to permit me to attend you in public, who, in private, have ever been, am, and ever resolve to be,
(1) It was a practice with the pretended masters of the Hermetic science, to adopt favourite persons for their sons, to whom they imparted their secrets. Ashmole, in his Diary, p. 25, says, “ Mr. Backhouse told me, must now needs be his sou, because he had communicated so many secrets to me.' And a little after, p. 27. “ My father Backhouse, lying sick in Fleet-street, told me, in syllables, the true matter of the philosopher's stone, which he bequeathed to me as a legacy.” See more of this practice, and of the tremendous solemnities with which the secret was communicated, in Ashniole's Theat. Chem. Brit.
And, in imitation of this practice, Ben Jonson adopted several persons his sons, to the number of twelve or fourteen; among whom were, Cartwright, Randolph, and Alexander Brome. And it should seem, by the text, that Walton followed the above-mentioned examples, by adopting Cotton for his son.
MY MOST HONOURED FRIEND,
CHARLES COTTON, Esq.
You now see I have returned you your very pleasant and useful Discourse of The Art of Fly-fishing, printed just as it was sent me; for I have been so obedient to your desires, as to endure all the praises you have ventured to fix upon mé in it. And when I have thank'd you for them, as the effects of an undissembled love, then, let me tell you, Sir, that I will really endeavour to live up to the character you have given of me, if there were no other reason, yet for this alone, that you, that love me so well, and always think what you speak, may not, for my sake, suffer by a mistake in your judgment.
And, Sir, I have ventured to fill a part of your margin, by way of paraphrase, for the reader's clearer understanding the situation both of your fishing-house, and the pleasantness of that you dwell in. And I have ventured also to give him a Copy of Verses that you were pleased to send me, now, some years past, in which he may see a good picture of both; and so much of your own mind too, as will make any reader, that is blest with a generous soul, to love you the better. I confess, that for doing this you may justly judge me too bold: if you do, I will say so too; and so far commute for my offence, that, though I be more than a hundred miles from you, and in the eighty-third year of my age, yet I will forget both, and next month begin a pilgrimage to beg your pardon; for I would die in your favour, and till then will live,
MR. IZAAK WALTON. .
We never meet again;
Than he who his whole age out-wears
How quietly we sleep!
How innocent from the lewd fashion
Oh, how happy here's our leisure !
How I love, at liberty,
And all his Maker's wonders t'intend :
With thee I here converse at will,
And would be glad to do so still, For it is thou alone that keep'st the soul awake.
Is it, alone,
By none offended, and offending none?