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EDITION PUBLISHED BY SIR JOHN HAWKINS, 1760.
THE COMPLETE ANGLER having been written so long ago as 1653, although the last publication thereof in the life-time of the Author was in 1676, contains many particulars of persons now but little known, and frequent allusions to facts, and even modes of living, the memory whereof is in a great measure obliterated: a new edition, therefore, seemed to require a retrospect to the time when the authors lived, an explanation of such passages as an interval of more than an hundred years had necessarily rendered obscure, together with such improvements in the art itself as the accumulated experience of succeeding times has enabled us to furnish.
An Edition, undertaken with this view, is now attempted, and in a way, it is to be hoped, that may once again introduce the Authors to the acquaintance of persons of learning and judgment.
All that the Editor requests, in return for the pains he has taken, is, that the reader will do him the justice to believe that his only motives for the republication of this work were a desire to perpetuate the memory of a meek, benevolent, pious man, and to contribute something to the improvement of an art of which he professes himself a lover.
MR. ISAAC WALTON.
THE excellent Lord Verulam has noted it, as one of the great deficiencies of biographical history, that it is, "for the most part, confined to the actions of kings, princes, and great personages, who are necessarily few; while the memory of less conspicuous, though good men, has been no better preserved, than by vague reports, and barren elogies. I
It is not therefore to be wondered at, if little care has been taken to perpetuate the remembrance of the person who is the subject of the present enquiry; and, indeed, there are many circumstances that seem to account for such an omission; for neither was he distinguished by his rank, or eminent for his learning, or remarkable for the performance of any public service; but as he ever affected a retired life, so was he noted, only, for 'an ingenious, humble, good
However, to so eminent a degree did he possess the qualities above ascribed to him, as to afford a very justifiable reason for endeavouring to impress upon the minds of mankind, by a collection of many scattered passages concerning him, a due sense of their value and importance.
ISAAC, or, as he used to write it, IZAAK WALTON, was born at Stafford, in the month of August, 1593. The Oxford Antiquary, who has thus fixed the place and year of his nativity, has left us no memorials of his family, nor even hinted where or how he was educated; but has only told us, that before the year 1643, Walton was settled, and followed the trade of a sempster, in London.3
From his own writings, then, it must be, that the circumstances
(1) "De vitis cogitantem subit quædam admiratio, tempora ista nostra haud nôsse bona sua; cùm tam rara fit commemoratio et conscriptio vitarum, eorum, qui nostro seculo claruerunt. Etsi enim reges, et qui absolutum principatum obtineant, pauci esse possint; principes etiam in republicâ liberâ (tot rebuspublicis in monarchiam conversis) haud multi; utcunque tamen non defuerunt viri egregii (licet sub regibus) qui meliora merentur, quam incertam et vagam memoriæ suæ famam aut elogia arida et jejuna." De Augmentis Scientiarum, lib. II. cap. 7.
(2) By the register of St. Mary, Staford, it appears he was born August 9th, 1593,
(3) Athen. Oxon. Vol, I. 305.
attending his life must, in a great measure, come; and, as occasions offer, a proper use will be made of them; nevertheless a due regard will be paid to some traditional memoirs, which (besides that they contain nothing improbable) the authority of those to whom we stand indebted for them, will not allow us to question.
His first settlement in London, as a shop-keeper, was in the Royal Burse in Cornhill, built by Sir Thomas Gresham, and finished in 1567.1 In this situation he could scarcely be said to have had elbowroom; for the shops over the Burse were but seven feet and a half long, and five wide; 2 yet here did he carry on his trade, till some time before the year 1624; when "he dwelt on the north side of Fleet-street, in a house two doors west of the end of Chancery-lane, and abutting on a messuage known by the sign of the Harrow."3 Now the old timber-house at the south-west corner of Chancery-lane, in Fleet-street, till within these few years, was known by that sign: it is therefore beyond doubt that Walton lived at the very next door. And in this house, he is in the deed above referred to, which bears date 1624-said to have followed the trade of a Linen draper. It further appears by that deed, that the house was in the joint occupation of Isaac Walton, and John Mason, hosier; whence we may conclude, that half a shop was sufficient for the business of Walton.
A citizen of this age would almost as much disdain to admit of a tenant for half his shop, as a knight would to ride double; though the brethren of one of the most ancient orders in the world were so little above this practice, that their common seal was the device of two riding on one horse.+ A more than gradual deviation from that parsimonious character, of which this is a ludicrous instance, hastened the grandeur, and declension, of that fraternity; and it is rather to be wished than hoped, that the vast increase of trade of this country, and an aversion from the frugal manners of our forefathers, may not be productive of similar consequences to this nation in general
I conjecture, that about 1632 he married; for in that year I find him living in a house in Chancery-lane, a few doors higher up, on the left hand, than the former, and described by the occupation of a sempster or milliner. The former of these might be his own proper trade; and the latter, as being a feminine occupation, might probably be carried on by his wife: she, it appears, was Anne the daughter of Thomas Ken, of Furnival's Inn, and sister of Thomas, afterwards Dr. Ken, bishop of Bath and Wells, one of the seven that were sent to the Tower, and who at the Revolution was deprived, and died in retirement. Walton seems to have been as happy in the married state, as the society and friendship of a prudent and pious woman of great endowments could make him; and that Mrs. Walton was such a one, we may conclude from what will be said of her hereafter.
About 1643 he left London, and, with a fortune very far short of
(1) Ward's Life of Sir Thomas Gresham, p. 12. (2) Ibid.
(3) Ex vet. chartâ penes me.
(4) The Knights Templars. Ashmole's Instit. of the Order of the Garter, p. 55. See the seal at the end of Matt. Paris Hist. Anglicana, edit. 1640.
what would now be called a competency,1 seems to have retired altogether from business; at which time (to use the words of Wood) "finding it dangerous for honest men to be there, he left that city, and lived sometimes at Stafford, and elsewhere; but mostly in the families of the eminent clergymen of England, of whom he was much beloved."3
While he continued in London, his favourite recreation was angling, in which he was the greatest proficient of his time; and indeed, so great were his skill and experience in that art, that there is scarce any writer on the subject since his time, who has not made the rules and practice of Walton his very foundation. It is therefore with the greatest propriety that Langbaine calls him "the common father of all anglers."4
The river that he seems mostly to have frequented for this purpose was the Lea, which has its source above Ware in Hertfordshire, and falls into the Thames a little below Black-Wall; unless we will suppose that the vicinity of the New-River6 to the place of his habitation, might sometimes tempt him out with his friends, honest Nat. and R. Roe, whose loss he so pathetically mentions,7 to spend an afternoon there.
In the year 1662, he was by death deprived of the solace and comfort of a good wife, as appears by the following monumental inscription in the chapel of Our Lady, in the cathedral church of Worcester'.
HERE LYETH BURIED
so much as could dye of
ANNE, the Wife of IZAAK WALTON;
who was a Woman of remarkable Prudence,
her great, and general Knowledge
and blest with so much Christian Meekness,
as made her worthy of a more memorable Monument.
She dyed (alas that she is dead!)
the 17th of April, 1662, Aged 52.
Living, while in London, in the parish of St. Dunstan in the West, whereof Dr. John Donne, dean of St. Paul's, was vicar, he became of course a frequent hearer of that excellent preacher, and, at length, (as he himself expresses it,) his convert. Upon his decease in
(1) See his Will, at the end of the Life.
(2) He lived upon a small estate near the town of Stafford, where, according to his own account, he suffered during the time of the civil wars; having by his loyalty rendered himself obnoxious to the persons in
(3) Athen. Oxon. Vol. I. 305.
(4) Lives of the English Dramatic Poets, art. Cha. Cotton, Esq.
(5) See Chap. XIX. note, page 219.
(6) That great work, the bringing water from Chadwell and Amwell, in Hertfordshire, to London, by means of the trench called the New River, was completed on Michaelmas day, 1613. Stow's Survey, fol. 1633. p. 12., (7) Preface to Complete Angler.
(8) Verses of Walton at the end of Dr. Donne's Life.
1631, Sir Henry Wotton (of whom mention will be made hereafter) requested Walton to collect materials for a Life of the Doctor, which it seems Sir Henry had undertaken to write:1 but Sir Henry dying before he had completed the life, Walton undertook it himself; and in the year 1640 finished, and published it with a Collection of the Doctor's Sermons, in folio. As soon as the book came out, a complete copy was sent as a present to Walton, by Mr. John Donne, the doctor's son, afterwards doctor of laws; and one of the blank leaves contained his letter to Mr. Walton: the letter is yet extant, and in print, and is a handsome and grateful acknowledgment of the honour done to the memory of his father.
Doctor King, afterwards bishop of Chichester, in a letter to the author, thus expresses himself concerning this Life: "I am glad that the general demonstration of his [Doctor Donne's] worth was so fairly preserved, and represented to the world, by your pen, in the history of his life; indeed so well, that, beside others, the best critic of our later time, Mr. John Hales, of Eaton, affirmed to me, he had not seen a life written with more advantage to the subject, or reputation to the writer, than that of Doctor Donne."3
Sir Henry Wotton dying in 1639, Walton was importuned by bishop King to undertake the writing his Life also; and, as it should seem by a circumstance mentioned in the margin, it was finished about 1644.4 Notwithstanding which, the earliest copy I have yet been able to meet with is that prefixed to a Collection of Sir Henry's Remains, undoubtedly made by Walton himself, intitled Reliquiæ Wottoniana, and by him, in 1651, dedicated to Lady Mary Wotton and her three daughters; though in a subsequent edition, in 1685, he has recommended them to the patronage of a more remote relation of the author, namely, Philip earl of Chesterfield.
The Precepts of Angling-meaning thereby the Rules and Directions for taking Fish with a Hook and Line-till Walton's time, having hardly ever been reduced to writing, were propagated from age to age chiefly by tradition: but Walton, whose benevolent and communicative temper appears in almost every line of his writings, unwilling to conceal from the world those assistances which his long practice and experience enabled him, perhaps the best of any man of his time, to give, in the year 1653 published, in a very elegant manner, his Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation, in small duodecimo, adorned with exquisite cuts of most of the fish mentioned in it. The artist who engraved them has been so modest as to conceal his name: but there is great reason to suppose they are the
(1) See Reliquiæ Wottoniana, octavo, 1685. p. 360.
(2) In Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, Vol. I. lib. VI. p. 24. In the year 1714, the very book, with the original manuscript letter, was in the hands of the Rev. Mr. Borradale, rector of Market-Deeping, in the county of Lincoln.
(3) Bishop King's Letter to Walton before the Collection of the Lives, in
(4) It is certain that Hooker's Life was written about 1664; and Walton says, in his Epistle before the Lives, that "there was an interval of
twenty years between the writing of Hooker's Life and Wotton's, which fixes the date of the latter to 1644."