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For some years past I have been turning over in my mind the possibility, having been long clearly convinced of the necessity, of publishing, a new, a cheap, a pleasantly and profusely and profitably illustrated edition of the “ COMPLETE ANGLER,” with what I will call “modernizing" notes and additions. I have ever found all things reasonable in desire, possible of execution: and happily, the thorough fulfilment of this last aspiration of mine has proved no exception to my experience.
Having been not altogether a silent observer of the successful progress through the reading world of the cheap series of books, old and new, published by Messrs. Ingram, Cooke, & Co., under the general and appropriate title of “ The Illustrated National Library,” I resolved to try and add one more to the number. To the above firm, full of public spirit and intelligent energy, I communicated my intentions and projects. They were approved of; and the offer on my part to carry them into effect, under certain conditions and with aid specified, was as freely accepted and ratified by the gentlemen named, as it was conscientiously and hopefully proposed. Hence Walton and Cotton in a modern dress, ornamental and useful.
Reader, fear not. I have touched with no profaning pen the sacred text of those venerable writers. You have it here in its primitive purity-word after word, as it was printed in the fifth and last edition, published in the year 1676, under the eyes and hands of the authors. What more have I done? A great deal—which I will briefly tell you.
The first edition of the “COMPLETE ANGLER" appeared in 1653, exactly two hundred years ago, and though during Walton's lifetime four subsequent editions were published, with additions and improvements, original errors in the natural history of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and insects, not only remained, but were augmented. Those errors must be imputed to the general ignorance of the time in which Walton wrote, in matters of natural history, and not to his specifically. The most glaring and dangerous of those errors I have cleared away by means of foot-notes.
If any candid reader of apprehensive mind will peruse the “ComPLETE ANGLER” he must agree with me that it lacks the instructive element-it amuses far more than it teaches-it talks more of fish and of catching them than it shows by detailed practical directions how to catch them. Occasionally directions are given ; but they are not always correct, and, except in a few instances, they are antiquated and not unfrequently erroneous. At least I think so; and have endeavoured to apply a remedy. Wherever I have found the piscatorial directions of Walton and Cotton right I have said so, and not interfered. Where I have found them contrariwise, I have pointed it out and written new instructions, frequently at great length-more lengthened than the original chapters to which they stand appended.
I will not encroach upon the reader's time by stating minutely all that I have done. In a word, I will once and fearlessly predicate that I have written, by means of foot-notes and complementary essays to chapters, a complete modern treatise on the different branches of angling-on bottom-fishing, spinning, and trolling, on fly-fishing with the artificial fly, and on daping or dibbing with the natural one. I have written succinctly the natural history of each of our river-fish-that of the salmon rather lengthily than succinctlyI have shown their habits, pointed out their haunts, named the best baits for them, and shown how they are to be used. I have taught how the rod and line are to be handled, and how the artificial fly is to be thrown and worked in the water, as far as a long-practised pen can teach it. I have described the best sorts of angling gear ; and to Cotton's instructions for making artificial flies I have added my own, elucidated with drawings of the natural fly and of the artificial one its finished state and in the incipient and progressive stages of its fabrication.
Of what I have done, enough. The book will tell its own tale -one I trust that will not dim, by even a passing shade, the reputation of him who, for more than fifteen years, has been the piscatory preacher of Bell's Life, who has written A Hand-book of Angling, and The Book of the Salmon, and more besides-in fine, reader, of your tutor, brother and friend, LONDON, March, 1853.
N.B.-The notes signed “H.” are from Sir John Hawkins's edition of Walton : those with “Ed." attached are original.