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And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
5 APR 938
Printed at the Shakspeare Press, by W. Nicol,
Ir there were a single circumstance by which the fame of those "honourable men," the effigies of whom now face the reader, could possibly be enhanced, it was that of having for their biographer one, who, with the soundest judgment, possessed a sweetness of disposition ever inclining to the bright side of things;-a veracity not to be questioned, and a felicity of expression peculiarly his own: thus gifted, like the skilful artist, at once both flattering and faithful, he brought to the task of delineation, that delicacy due to family feeling, combined with the justice demanded by strict impartiality the existence, and the application therefore, of such rare qualities, are equally the subject of exultation.
On the other hand, that Izaak Walton should have been deemed by his contemporaries, the fittest of all persons to perform so important a task, were sufficient by reflection alone, to ensure to himself an imperishable name; the pictorial allusion, there
fore, at the head of this Introductory Essay, will probably be deemed particularly appropriate :-it contains the Portraits of Dr. John Donne, Mr. George Herbert, Bishop Sanderson, Mr. Richard Hooker, and Sir Henry Wotton, whose lives, at different times, were written by Walton.
The praise bestowed on the Life of Dr. Donne, by Dr. King, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, in a letter to Walton himself, is equally applicable to the -"I am glad that the general demonstration of his 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 Dr. Donne.".
The posthumous fame of these lives so well accords with this contemporary applause, that they are to be found in almost every respectable library: yet it were unpardonable on the occasion of this attempt to give additional popularity to our author's inimitable work of the Complete Angler,* not to remind the reader that he has other claims to literary reputation,
The attempt has been so eminently successful, that many persons of taste, and even authors of repute, have acknowledged that they owe their first acquaintance with Izaak Walton to the highly-favoured reception of this edition. The Publisher now feels himself imperatively called upon to bring forward these delightful pieces of Biography, not doubting but that their fame and usefulness will be equally extended, by appearing in a volume forming a suitable Companion to the present work..
than those derived from this truly felicitous achievment.
In both instances he became an author by mere chance. Sir Henry Wotton had undertaken to write the life of Dr. Donne, and had requested Walton to assist him in collecting materials for that purpose, but Sir Henry dying, before it was completed, Walton undertook it himself, and succeeded so fully to the satisfaction of the most learned men of his time, that it was to be attributed to their importunity, rather than to his own ambition, that he performed the same office for his "dear friend Sir Henry" himself, and those other eminent men whose names have just been enumerated.
Sir Henry Wotton too, as it appears from the Dedication of the Complete Angler, to John Offley, Esq., had intended " to write a discourse of the Art and in praise of Angling, and," continues Walton, " doubtless he had done so, if death had not prevented him; the remembrance of which hath often made me sorry; for if he had lived to do it, then the unlearned angler had seen some better treatise of this art, a treatise that might have proved worthy his perusal, which, though some have undertaken, I could never yet see in English.".
Here again our modest author finds an excuse for the undertaking of a work, of which it seems almost too weak a praise to say, that it's parallel could scarcely have been hoped for, even from the elegant mind of Sir Henry Wotton himself.
Our author, who was born at Stafford in 1593,
but who lived the greatest part of his time in London, published the first edition of this celebrated work in 1653, and lived to see it go through no less than five editions; the last of which, in 1676, was accompanied by a Second Part, written by his intimate friend, and adopted son, Charles Cotton, of Beresford Hall, in the County of Stafford, Esq. This Second Part, in which Mr. Cotton, from his local opportunities, was enabled to treat more at large on Fly-fishing, than Walton had proposed to do, forms an important part of the work, in more than one point of view; but, chiefly, as conveying the fullest evidence of that reverence, and almost homage, which it's accomplished author entertained for the character of Walton.
The Fishing-house on the banks of the Dove, seems to have been built expressly to perpetuate the memory of their friendship; the motto over it's door was "Piscatoribus sacrum," with the initials of Walton and Cotton interwoven in a cypher upon the keystone of the building, and the same cypher, was, by Mr. Cotton's desire, placed in the Title-page of the first edition of his portion of the work, and has been continued in all those since published.
This part of our history will be fully illustrated by the following short epistles which passed on the occasion; and the opportunity is taken of giving the signatures in the genuine autographs of the authors, that of Walton being also introduced with a more enlarged specimen of his hand-writing in another place.