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Viat. In earnest, sir, I am ravished to meet with a friend of Mr. Izaak Walton's, and one that does him so much right in so good and true a character: for I must boast to you, that I have the good fortune to know him too, and came acquainted with him much after the same manner I do with you; that he was my master who first taught me to love angling, and then to become an angler; and, to be plain with you, I am the very man deciphered in his book under the name of Venator; for I was wholly addicted to the chace, till he taught me as good, a more quiet, innocent, and less dangerous, diversion.
Pisc. Sir, I think myself happy in your acquaintance; and before we part shall entreat leave to embrace you. You have said enough to recommend you to my best opinion; for my father Walton will be seen twice in no man's company he does not like, and likes none but such as he believes to be very honest men; which is one of the best arguments, or at least of the best testimonies I have, that I either am, or that he thinks me, one of those, seeing I have not yet found him weary of me.
Viat. You speak like a true friend; and, in doing so, render yourself worthy of his friendship. May I be so bold as to ask your name?
Pisc. Yes surely, sir, and if you please a much nicer question: my name is and I intend to stay long enough in your company, if I find you do not dislike mine, to ask yours too. In the mean time, because we are now almost at Ashbourn, I shall freely and bluntly tell you, that I am a brother of the angle too; and, peradventure, can give you some instructions how to angle for a trout in a
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 Ashmole's "Theat. Chem. Brit.," p. 440. 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. In the English translation of the Scriptures, the disciples of the Prophets are called "the Sons of the Prophets," with the same signification.-H.
clear river, that my father Walton himself will not disapprove; though he did either purposely omit, or did not remember, them, when you and he sat discoursing under the sycamore tree. And, being you have already told me whither your journey is intended, and that I am better acquainted with the country than you are; I will heartily and earnestly entreat you will not think of staying at this town, but go on with me six miles further to my house,2 where you shall be extremely welcome; it is directly in your way; we have day enough to perform our journey, and, as you like your entertainment, you may there repose yourself a day or two, or as many more as your occasions will permit, to recompense the trouble of so much a longer journey.
Viat. Sir, you surprise me with so friendly an invitation upon so short acquaintance: but how advantageous soever it would be to me, and that my haste, perhaps, is not so great, but it might dispense with such a divertisement as I promise myself in your company; yet I cannot, in modesty, accept your offer, and must therefore beg your pardon : I could otherwise, I confess, be glad to wait upon you, if upon no other account but to talk of Mr. Izaak Walton, and to receive those instructions you say you are able to give me for the deceiving a trout; in which art I will not deny, but that I have an ambition to be one of the greatest deceivers: though I cannot forbear freely to tell you, that I think it hard to say much more than has been read to me upon that subject.
Pisc. Well, sir, I grant that too; but you must know that the variety of rivers require different ways of angling: however, you shall have the best rules I am able to give, and I will tell you nothing I have not made myself as certain of, as any man can be in thirty years experience, for so long I have been a dabbler in that art; and that, if you please to stay a few days, you shall in a very great measure
1 See Part I., chap. V., p. 144.
2 Beresford-hall, situate a little to the north of Dovedale. In 1838 it was a large farm-house (in the occupation of Mrs. Hannah Gibbs), and the property of the Marquis of Beresford; and the interior arrangements, as we are told, are pretty much the same as in the time of Cotton. Between it and the river-side is Cotton's fishing-house, still standing.-ED.
3 i. e. allow.
see made good to you. But of that hereafter: and now, sir, if I am not mistaken, I have half overcome you; and that I may wholly conquer that modesty of yours, I will take upon me to be so familiar as to say, you must accept my invitation; which, that you may the more easily be persuaded to do, I will tell you that my house stands upon the margin of one of the finest rivers for trouts and grayling in England: that I have lately built a little fishing-house upon it, dedicated to anglers, over the door of which, you will see the two first letters of my father Walton's name and mine, twisted in cypher;' that you shall lie in the same bed he has sometimes been contented with, and have such country entertainment as my friends sometimes accept; and be as welcome, too, as the best friend of them all.
The Walton Chamber in Beresford Hall.
Viat. No doubt, sir, but my Master Walton found good reason to be satisfied with his entertainment in your house; for you, who are so friendly to a mere stranger, who deserves so little, must needs be exceeding kind and free to him who deserves so much.
As in the title-page.-WALTON.
2 Mr. Bagster has, in his edition of Cotton, given an engraving of the carved mantelpiece of a bedroom, "which," he observes, 66 may be the very room that Walton slept in; many circumstances unite to lead to that conclusion."
Pisc. Believe me, no: and such as are intimately acquainted with that gentleman, know him to be a man who will not endure to be treated like a stranger. So that his acceptation of my poor entertainments, has ever been a pure effect of his own humility and good nature, and nothing else. But, sir, we are now going down the Spittle Hill' into the town, and therefore let me importune you suddenly to resolve, and most earnestly not to deny me.
Viat. In truth, sir, I am so overcome by your bounty, that I find I cannot; but must render myself wholly to be disposed by you.
Pisc. Why that's heartily and kindly spoken, and I as heartily thank you: and, being you have abandoned yourself to my conduct, we will only call and drink a glass on horseback at the Talbot, and away.
Viat. I attend you. But what pretty river is this, that runs under this stone bridge? Has it a name?
Pisc. Yes, 'tis called Henmore, and has in it both trout and grayling; but you will meet with one or two better And so soon as we are past through the town, I will endeavour, by such discourse as best likes you, to pass away the time till you come to your ill quarters.
Viat. We can talk of nothing with which I shall be more delighted, than of rivers and angling.
Pisc. Let those be the subjects then. But we are now come to the Talbot.3 What will you drink, sir, ale or wine?
1 "Before entering Ashbourn, we took the old road (to the left of the turnpike) down Spittle Hill, which was discontinued about four years since, for the present improved one. The view from this hill is highly picturesque, the town below, and the hill of Thorpe-cloud, &c., forming the vicinity of Dove Dale, make such a composition as I have seen from the hands of Gaspar Poussin."-Alexander's Journey, Sept. 9, 1815.
2 At that time it was commonly so called, because it flowed through Henmoor; but its proper name is Schoo Brook. See a singular contest regarding the right of fishing in this brook, as reported in Burrows, 2279. Richard Hayne, Esq. of Ashborn v. Uriah Corden, Esq. of Clifton.-H. It has now neither trout nor grayling in it, and is a mere ditch of running water, in which the boys of Ashbourn commence their angling career by fishing for minnows.-ED.
3 The Talbot stood in the market-place, and was the first hostelry in the town. About the year 1705, a wing of the building being divided off for a private dwelling, the far-famed inn was reduced to an inferior pot-house;
Viat. Nay, I am for the country liquor, Derbyshire ale, if you please; for a man should not, methinks, come from London to drink wine in the Peak.
Pisc. You are in the right: and yet, let me tell you, you may drink worse French wine in many taverns in London, than they have sometimes at this house. What, ho! bring us a flagon of your best ale. And now, sir, my service to you, a good health to the honest gentleman you know of; and you are welcome into the Peak.
Viat. I thank you, sir, and present you my service again, and to all the honest brothers of the angle.
Pisc. I'll pledge you, sir: so, there's for your ale, and farewell. Come, sir, let us be going: for the sun grows low, and I would have you look about you as you ride; for you will see an odd country, and sights that will seem strange to you.
and it was totally demolished in 1786.-H. [The present handsome structure was erected on its site by Mr. Langdale.]