Billeder på siden



ISAAC, or as he used to write it, Izaak Walton, was born at Stafford, on the ninth of August, 1593. The Oxford antiquary, (Ant. a-Wood) who has 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; we are only told that before the year 1643, Walton was settled, and followed the trade of a sempster, in London. But Sir Harris Nicolas has added to this information that his father was Jervis Walton, likewise of Stafford, who is presumed to have been the second son of George Walton, sometime bailiff of Yoxhall.

Walton's first settlement in London, as a shopkeeper, was at the Royal Exchange in Cornhill, built by Sir Thomas Gresham, and finished in 1567. In this situation he could scarcely be said to have had elbow-room; for the shops round the Exchange were but seven feet and a half long, and five wide: yet here he carried 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." Now the old timber-house at the south-west corner of Chancery-lane, in Fleet-street, was then, and for many years after, 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. At a later period (from 1628 to 1644) he appears, according to the parish books of St. Dunstan, to have resided in the seventh house from the corner.

Walton was twice married. In 1626, on the 22nd of December



(at the church of St. Mildred, Canterbury,) he married his first wife, Rachel Floud, who was maternally descended from Archbishop Cranmer. Of seven children by this marriage, he had the misfortune to lose every one, either in infancy or at a very early age; and on the 22nd of August, 1640, six weeks after the birth of a daughter (who died in her second year) he underwent the calamity of also losing his wife.

His second wife, to whom he was married about 1646, was Anne, daughter of Thomas Ken, of Furnival's-inn, and sister of 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 this marriage as the society and friendship of a prudent and pious woman of great endowments could make him; and that Mrs. Walton was such, we have every reason to believe.

About this period (the exact date is uncertain) he left London, and with a fortune very far short of what would now be called a competency, 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,1 and elsewhere; but mostly in the families of the eminent clergymen of England, by whom he was much beloved."

While he resided in London, his favourite recreation was angling, in which he was the greatest proficient of his time; and indeed so great was 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. "2

The river 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 Blackwall; unless we suppose that the vicinity of the New River 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,* to spend an afternoon there.

1 He retired to a small estate in Staffordshire, not far from the town of Stafford. His loyalty made him obnoxious to the ruling powers; and we are assured by himself, in his "Life of Sanderson," that he was a sufferer in the civil wars.-ZOUCH.

2 Lives of the English Dramatic Poets, art. Charles Cotton, Esq.

3 That great work, the bringing of water from Chadwell and Amwell, in Hertfordshire, to London, by means of the trench called the New River, was completed on Michaelmas Day, 1613.-Stowe's "Survey," Fol. 1633, p. 12.-H.

Preface to "Complete Angler."

In the year 1662, he was for the second time deprived of the solace and comfort of a wife, as appears by the following monumental inscription in the chapel of Our Lady, in the cathedral church of Worcester :


M. S.

Here lyeth buried so much as could dye

of ANNE, the wife of IZAAK WALTON; Who was a Woman of remarkable prudence, and of the Primitive Piety;

her great, and general, Knowledge

being adorned with such true Humility,

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.
Study to be like her.

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 a frequent hearer of that excellent preacher, and, at length, his convert. Upon his decease1 in 1631, Sir Henry Wotton requested Walton to collect materials for a "Life of the Doctor," which it seems Sir Henry had undertaken to write : 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,2 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]

1 Walton attended Dr. Donne in his last sickness, and was present when he consigned his sermons and numerous papers to the care of Dr. Henry King, who was promoted to the see of Chichester in 1641.-ZOUCH.

2 In Peck's "Desiderata Curiosa," vel. 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.-H.

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."

Sir Henry Wotton dying in 1639, Walton was importuned by Bishop King to undertake the writing his life also; and it seems that it was finished about 1644.1 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, entitled "Reliquiæ Wottonianæ," 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 having, till Walton's time, hardly ever been reduced to writing, were transmitted 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 that information which his long practice and experience enabled him, perhaps the best of any man of his time, to give, published in the year 1653, 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 modestly concealed his name, but there is great reason to suppose they are the work of Lombart, and on steel.

And let no man imagine that a work on such a subject must necessarily be unentertaining, or trifling, or even uninstructive : for the contrary will most evidently appear, from a perusal of it. Whether we consider the elegant simplicity of the style, the ease and unaffected humour of the dialogue, the lovely scenes which it delineates, the enchanting pastoral poetry which it contains, or the fine morality it so sweetly inculcates, it is without parallel in any of the modern languages.

Before the Reformation, the clergy, as well regular as secular -on account of their leisure, and because the canon-law forbade them the use of the sanguinary recreations of hunting, hawking, and fowling-were the great proficients in angling. Yet none of its precepts were committed to writing; and from the introduction

1 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."-H.


of printing into this kingdom, to that of the first publication of Walton's book, in 1653, an interval of more than one hundred and fifty years, only five books on this subject had been given to the world. Of the four latest, some mention is made in the margin; but the first of that number, as well on account of its quaintness as antiquity, and because it is not a little characteristic of the age when it was written, deserves to be particularly distinguished. This tract, entitled "The Treatyse of Fyshynge wyth an Angle," makes part of a book, like many others of that early time, without a title; but which, by the colophon, appears to have been printed at Westminster, by Wynkyn de Worde, 1496, in a small folio, containing a treatise “On Hawking; another, "On Hunting," in verse (taken, as it seems, from a tract on that subject, written by old Sir Tristram, an ancient forester); a book wherein is determined the "Lygnage of Cote Armures; the above-mentioned treatise on Fishing; and the method of "Blasynge of Armes."


The book printed by Wynkyn de Worde is, in truth, a republication of one known, to the curious, by the name of the "Book of St. Alban's," which appears by the colophon was printed, there, in 1486, with Caxton's letter.2 Wynkyn de Worde's impression has the addition of the treatise of fishing; of which only it concerns us to speak.

1 "A booke of fishing with hooke and line, and of all other instruments thereunto belonging. Another of sundrie engines and traps to take polecats, buzzards, rats, mice, and all other kinds of vermine and beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all warriners, and such as delight in this kind of sport and pastime. Made by L. M. 4to. London, 1590, 1596, 1600."

It appears by a variety of evidence, that the person meant by these initials was Leonard Mascall, an author who wrote on planting and grafting, and also on cattle.


'Approved Experiments touching Fish and Fruit, to be regarded by the lovers of Angling." By Mr. John Taverner. In 4to. 1600.

"The Secrets of Angling," a poem, in three books. By F. D., Esq. 8vo. 1613. Mention is made of this book in a note on a passage in the ensuing dialogues; and there is reason to think that it is the foundation of a treatise entitled "The whole Art of Angling," published in 4to. 1656, by the well-known Gervase Markham, as part of his "Country Contentments, or Husbandman's Recreations," since he confesses that the substance of his book was originally in rhyme.

"Barker's Art of Angling," printed in 12mo. in 1651, and again in 4to. in 1653. A third edition was published in 1659, under the altered title of "Barker's Delight, or the Art of Angling."-H.

2 Vide "Biographia Britannica," art. Caxton, note L, wherein the author, Mr. Oldys, has given a copious account of the book, and a character of the lady who compiled it.-H.

« ForrigeFortsæt »