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an illustrious exemplar of the private and social virtues, and upon the whole a wise and good man.
To these remarks, respecting the moral qualities of Walton, I add, that his mental endowments were so considerable as to merit notice; it is true, that his stock of learning properly so called, was not great; yet were his attainments in literature far beyond what could be expected from a man bred to trade, and not to a learned profession; for let it be remembered, that–besides being well versed in the study of the holy scriptures, and the writings of the most eminent divines of his time he appears to have been well acquainted with history, ecclesiastical, civil, and natural; to have acquired a very correct judgment in poetry ; and by phrases of his own combination and invention, to have formed a style so natural, intelligible, and elegant, as to have had more admirers than successful imitators.
And although in the prosecution of his design to teach the contemplative man the art of angling, there is a plainness and simplicity of discourse, that indicates little more than bare instruction,—yet is there intermingled with it wit and gentle reprehension; and we may in some instances discover, that though he professes himself no friend to scoffing, he knew very well how to deal with scoffers, and to defend his art, as we see he does, against such as attempted to degrade it; and particularly against those two persons in the dialogue, Auceps and Venator, who affected to fear a long and watery discourse in defence of his art—the former of whom he puts to silence, and the other he converts and takes for his pupil.
What reception in general the book met with, may be naturally inferred from the dates of the subsequent editions thereof; the second came abroad in 1655, the third in 1664, the fourth in 1668, and the fifth and last in 1676. It is pleasing to trace the several variations which the author from time to time made in these subsequent editions, as well by adding new facts and discoveries, as by enlarging on the more entertaining parts of the dialogue : And so far did he indulge himself in this method of improvement, that, besides that in the second edition he has introduced a new interlocutor, to wit, Auceps, a falconer, and by that addition gives a new form to the dialogue; he from thence takes occasion to urge a variety of reasons in favour of his art, and to assert its preference as well to hawking as hunting. The third and fourth editions of his book have several entire new chapters; and the fifth, the last of the editions published in his lifetime, contains no less than eight chapters more than the first, and twenty pages more than the fourth.
Not having the advantage of a learned education, it may seem unaccountable that Walton so frequently cites authors that have written only in Latin, as Gesner, Cardan, Aldrovandus, Rondeletius, and even Albertus Magnus; but here it may be observed, that the voluminous history of animals, of which the first of these was author, is in effect translated into English by Mr. Edward Topsel, a learned divine; chaplain, as it seems in the church of St. Botolph, Aldersgate -tó Dr. Neile, dean of Westminster. The translation was published in 1658, and containing in it numberless particulars concerning frogs, serpents, caterpillars, and other animals, though not of fish, extracted from the other writers above-named, and others with their names to
the respective facts—it furnished Walton with a great variety of intelligence, of which in the later editions of his book he has carefully availed himself: it was therefore through the medium of this translation alone, that he was enabled to cite the other authors mentioned above; vouching the authority of the original writers, in like manner as he elsewhere does Sir Francis Bacon, whenever occasion occurs to mention his Natural History, or any other of his works. Pliny was translated to his hand by Dr. Philemon Holland, as were also Janus Dubravius De Piscinis & Piscium Natura, and Lebault's Maison Rustique, so often referred to by him in the course of his work.
Nor did the reputation of the Complete. Angler subsist only in the opinions of those for whose use it was more peculiarly calculated ; but even the learned, either from the known character of the author, or those internal evidences of judgment and veracity contained in it, considered it as a work of merit, and for various purposes referred to its authority: Doctor Thomas Fuller in his Worthies, whenever he has occasion to speak of fish, uses his very words. Doctor Plot, in his History of Staffordshire, has, on the authority of our author, related two of the instances of the voracity of the Pike, mentioned Part I. Chap. 8.; and confirmed them by two other signal ones, that had then lately fallen out in that county.
These are testimonies in favour of Walton's authority in matters respecting fish and fishing. And it will hardly be thought a diminution of that of Fuller, to say, that he was acquainted with, and a friend of, the person whom he thus implicitly commends : a fact which the following relation of a conference between them sufficiently proves.
Fuller, as we all know, wrote a Church History, which, soon after its publication-Walton-having: read-applied to the author for some information touching Hooker, whose Life he was then about to write. Upon this occasion Fuller, knowing how intimate Walton was with several of the bishops and ancient clergy, asked his opinion of it, and what reception it met with among his friends ? Walton answered, that “ he thought it would be acceptable to all tempers, because there were shades in it for the warm, and sunshine for those of a cold constitution : that with youthful readers, the facetious parts would be proper to make the serious more palatable, while some reverend old readers might fancy themselves in his History of the Church as in a flower-garden, or one full of evergreens.”_And why not,' said Fuller,' the Church History so decked, as well as the Church itself at a most holy season, or the Tabernacle of old at the feast of boughs. “ That was but for a season," said Walton: “ in your feast of boughs, they may conceive, we are so overshadowed throughout, that the parson is more seen than his congregation,--and this, sometimes, invisible to its own acquaintance, who may wander in the search till they are lost in the labyrinth.”—Oh,' said Fuller,
the very children of our Israel may find their way out of this wilderness.'-" True," replied Walton, “ as, indeed, they have here such a Moses to conduct them.” 1
(1) From a manuscript Collection of diverting sayings, stories, characters, &c. in verse and prose, made about the year 1686, by Charles Cotton, Esq.
To pursue the subject of the Biographical Writings-about two years after the Restoration, Walton' wrote the Life of Mr. Richard Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity. He was enjoined to undertake this work by his friend Doctor Gilbert Sheldon, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury; who, by the way, was an angler. Bishop King, in a letter to the author, 2 says of this Life: “ I have often seen Mr. Hooker with my father, who was after bishop of London ; from whom, and others at that time, I have heard most of the material passages which you relate in the history of his life.” Sir William Dugdale, speaking of the three posthumous books of the Ecclesiastical Polity, refers the reader“ to that seasonable historical discourse, lately compiled and published, with great judgment and integrity, by that much deserving person, Mr. Isaac Walton.” 3 In this Life we are told, that Hooker, while he was at college, made a visit to the famous Doctor Jewel, then bishop of Salisbury, his good friend and patron: An account of the bishop's reception of him, and behaviour at his departure—as it contains a lively picture of his simplicity and goodness, and of the plain manners of those times—is given in the note. 4
The Life of Mr. George Herbert, as it stands the fourth and last in the volume wherein that and the three former are collected, seems to have been written the next after Hooker's : it was first published in duodecimo, 1670. Walton professes himself to have been a stranger as to the person of Herbert;s and though he assures us his
some time in the library of the Earl of Halifax. Vide Biographia Britannica, 2061, note P. in margine.
The editors of the above work have styled this colloquy a witty con. fabulation, but it seems remarkable for nothing but its singularity, which consists in the starting of a metaphor and hunting it down.
(1) Walton's Epist. to the reader of the Lives, in 8vo. 1670.
(4) “ As soon as he was perfectly recovered from this sickness, he took a journey from Oxford to Exeter, to satisfy and see his good mother ; being accompanied with a countryman and companion of his own college, and both on Toot; which was, then, either more in fashion-or want of money, or their humility made it so: but on foot they went, and took Salisbury in their way, purposely to see the good bishop, who made Mr. Hooker and his companion dine with him at his own table; which Mr. Hooker boasted of with much joy and gratitude, when he saw his mother and friends. And at the bishop's parting with him, the bishop gave him good counsel, and his benediction, but forgot to give him money, which, when the bishop had considered, he sent a servant in all haste to call Richard back to him : and at Richard's return, the bishop said to him : Richard! I sent for you back to lend you a horse, which hath carried me many a mile, and, I thank God, with much ease; and presently delivered into his hands a walking staff, with which he professed he had travelled through many parts of Germany; and he said, Richard? I do not give, but lend you my horse; be sure you be honest, and bring my horse back to me at your return this way to Oxford. And I do now give you ten groats to bear your charges to Exeter ; and here is ten groats more, which I charge you to deliver to your mother; and tell her, I send her a bishop's benediction with it, and beg the continuance of her prayers for me. And if you bring my horse back to me, I will give you ien groats more to carry you on foot to the college: and so God bless you, good Richard?' Life of Hooker, in the Collection of Lives, edit. 1670.
(5) Introd. to Herbert's Life.
life of him was a free-will-offering, 1 it abounds with curious information, and is no way inferior to any of the former.
Two of these Lives; viz. those of Hooker and Herbert, we are told, were written under the roof of Walton's good friend and patron, Dr. George Morley, bishop of Winchester;? which particular seems to agree with Wood's account, that, " after his quitting London, he lived mostly in the families of the eminent clergy of that time.”3 And who that considers the inoffensiveness of his manners, and the pains he took in celebrating the lives and actions of good men, can doubt his being much beloved by them ?
In the year 1670, these Lives were collected and published in octavo; with a Dedication to the above bishop of Winchester; and a Preface, containing the motives for writing them :—this preface is followed by a Copy of Verses, by his intimate friend and adopted son, Charles Cotton, of Beresford in Staffordshire, Esq. the author of the Second Part of the Complete Angler, of whom further mention will hereafter be made; and by the Letter from bishop King, so often referred to in the course of this Life.
The Complete Angler having, in the space of twenty-three years, gone through four editions,—Walton, in the year 1676, and in the eighty-third of his age, was preparing a fifth, with additions, for the press; when Mr. Cotton wrote a second part of that work: It seems Mr. Cotton submitted the manuscript to Walton's perusal, who returned it with his approbation,4 and a few marginal strictures: And in that year they came abroad together. Mr. Cotton's book had the title of the Complete Angler ; being Instructions how to angle for a Trout or Grayling, in a clear stream; Part II. and it has ever since been received as a Second Part of Walton's book.
In the title-page, is a cipher composed of the initial letters of both their names; which cipher, Mr. Cotton tells us, he had caused to be cut in stone, and set up over a fishing-house, 5 that he had erected near his dwelling, on the bank of the little river Dove, which divides the counties of Stafford and Derby.
Mr. Cotton's book is a judicious supplement to Walton's ; for it must not be concealed, that Walton, though he was so expert an angler, knew but little of fly-fishing; and indeed he is so ingenuous as to confess, that the greater part of what he has said on that subject was communicated to him by Mr. Thomas Barker, and not the result of his own experience. This Mr. Barker was a good-humoured gossiping old man, and seems to have been a cook; for he says, “ he had been admitted into the most ambassadors' kitchens, that had come to England for forty years, and drest fish for them;" for which, he says, “ he was duly paid by the Lord Protector.” He spent a
(1) Epistle to the Reader of the Collection of Lives. (2) Dedication of the Lives.
(3) Zouch says that apartments for Walton and his daughters were reserved both in the house of the bishop of Winchester, and in that of the bishop of Salisbury.
(4) See Walton's Letter to Cotton, before the Second Part.
great deal of time, and, it seems, money too, in fishing; and in the latter part of his life, dwelt in an alm,shouse near the Gatehouse, Westminster. In 1651, two years before the first publication of Walton's work, he published a work in 12mo. called the Art of Angling, to which he affixed his name:1 he published in 1653 a second edition, in 4to. under the same title, but without his name : and in 1659 he published the third edition of it, under the enlarged title of Barker's Delight, or the Art of Angling. And, for that singular vein of humour that runs through it, a most diverting book it is. The Dedication of this performance to Edward lord Montague, general of the navy, is given in the margin;? and the reader will meet with some further specimens of the author's style and manner of writing, in the notes on the present edition.
And of Cotton it must be said, that living in a country were flyfishing was, and is, almost the only practice, he had not only the means of acquiring, but actually possessed more skill in the art, as also in the method of making flies, than most men of his time.
(1) Walton, in the first edition, pa. 108, says, “I will tell you freely, I find Mr. Thomas Barker a gentleman that has spent much time and money in angling, deal so judiciously and freely in a little book of his of angling, and especially of making and angling with a fly for a trout, that I will give you his very directions without much variation, which shall follow." In his fifth edition, he again mentions the use which he had made of Barker's book, but in different words: “I shall give some other directions for fly. fishing, such as are given by Mr. Thomas Barker, a gentleman that haih spent much time in fishing, but I shall do it with a little variation."
(2)“ Noble Lord ! “I do present this my book as I have named it, Barker's Delight, to your honour, I pray God send you safe home, to your good ludy and sweet babes. Amen, Amen. If you shall find any thing delightful in ihe reading of it, I shall heartily rejoice ; for I know you are one who takes delight in that pleasure, and have good judgment and experience,-as many noble persons and gentlemen of true piety and honour do, and have. The favour that I have found from you, and a great many more, that did and do love that pleasure, shall never be bury'd in oblivion by me. I am now grown old, and am willing to enlarge my little book. I have written no more but any own experience and practice; and have set forth the true ground of angling, which I have been gathering these threescore years; having spent many pounds in the gaining of it, as is well known in the place where I was born and educated, which is Bracemeale, in the liberty of Salop; being a freeman and burgess of the same city. If any noble or gentle angler, of what degree soever he be, have a mind to discourse of any of these ways and experiments, 1 live in Henry the VIlth's Gifts, the next door to the Gatehouse in Westminster: my name is Barker; where I shall be ready, as long as please God, to satisfy them and maintain my art during life, which is not like to be long; that the younger fry may have my experiments at a smaller charge than I had them : for it would be too heavy for every one that loveth that exercise, to be at the charge as I was at first in my youth, the loss of my time, with great expenses. Therefore, I took it in consideration; and thought fit to Let it be understood, and to take pains to set forth the true grounds and ways, that I have found by experience both for fitting of the rods and tackles, both for ground-baits, and flies; with the directions for the making thereof; with observations for times and seasons for the ground-baits, and flies, both for day and night, with the dressing; wherein I take as much delight as in the taking of them; and to shew how I can perform it, to furnish any lord's table only with Trouts, as it is furnished with flesh, for sixteen or twenty dishes. And I have a desire to preserve their health, (with the help of God) to go dry in their boots and shoes in angling ;* for age taketh the pleasure from me."
* See his recipe for this purpose, in the Notes on Chap. XVII.