Walton, Isaac

, a celebrated writer on the art of angling, and the author of some valuable lives, was born at Stafford in August 1593. His first settlement in London, as a shopkeeper, was in the Royal Burse in Cornhill, built by sir T. Gresharn, and finished in 1567. In this situation he could scarcely be said to“have had elbow-room; for, the shops over the Burse were but seven feet and a half long, and five wide; yet he carried on his trade till some time before 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;“by which sign the old timber -house at the south-west corner of Chancery-lane, in Fleet-street, till within these few years, was known. 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 of the world were so little above this practice, that their common seal was the device of two riding one horse. He married probably about 1632; for in that year he lived 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 be carried on by his wife: she, it appears, was Anne, the daughter of Mr, Thomas Ken, of Furnival’s-inn, and sister of Thomas, afterwards Dr. Ken, bishop of Bath and Wells. About 1643 he left London, and, with a fortune very far short of what would now be called a eompetencv, seems to have retired altogether from business. 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 scarcely 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." The river that he seems mostly to have frequented | for this purpose was the Lea, which has it source above Ware in Hertfordshire, and falls into the Thames a little below Blackwall; unless we will 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. In 1662 he was by death deprived of the solace and comfort of a good wife, as appears by a monumental inscription in the cathedral church of Worcester.

Living, while in London, in the parish of St. Dunstan in the West, of which 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 1631, sir H. Wotton requested Walton to collect materials for a life of the doctor, which sir Henry had undertaken to write; but, sir Henry dying before he had completed the life, Walton undertook it himself; and in 1640 finished and published it, with a collection of the doctor’s sermons, in folio. Sir H. Wotton dying in 1639, Walton was importuned by King to undertake the writing of his life also and it was finished about 1644. The precepts of angling, that is, 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 1653 published in a very elegant manner his K Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man’s Recreation,“in small 12mo, 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 work of Lombart, who is mentioned in the” Sculptura“of Mr. Evelyn; and also that the plates were of steel.” The Complete Anglercame into the world attended with en. comiastic verses by several writers of that day. What reception in general the book met with may be naturally inferred from the dates of the subsequent editions; the second came abroad in 1655; the third in 1664; the fourth in 1668, and the fifth and last in 1676, Sir John Hawkins | bad traced the several variations which the author from time to time made in these suhsequent editions, as well by adding new facts and discoveries as by enlarging on the more entertaining parts of the dialogue. The third and fourth editions of his book have several entire new chapters; and the fifth, the last of the editions published in his life-time, contains no less than eight chapters more than the first, and twenty pages more than the fourth. Not having the advantage of a learned education, it may seem unaccountable that Walton so frequently cites authors that have written only in Latin, as Gesner, Cardan, Aldrovandus, Rondeletius, and even Albertus Magnus; but it may be observed, that the voluminous history of animals, of which the first of these was author, is in effect translated into English by Mr. Edward Topsel, a learned divine, chaplain, as it seems, in the church of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, to Dr. Neile, dean of Westminster: the translation was published in 1658, and, containing in it numberless particulars concerning frogs, serpents, caterpillars, and other animals, though not of fish, extracted from the other writers above-named, and others, with their names to the respective facts, it furnished Walton with a great variety of intelligence, of which in the later editions of his book he has carefully availed himself: it was therefore through the medium of this translation alone that he was enabled to cite the other authors mentioned above; vouching the authority of the original writers, as he elsewhere does sir Francis Bacon, whenever occasion occurs to mention his natural history, or any other of his works. Pliny was translated to his hand by Dr. Philemon Holland; as were also Janus Dubravius” de Piscinis & Piscium natura,“and Lebault’s” Maison Rustique,“so often referred to by him in the course of his work. Nor did the reputation of” The Complete Anglersubsist only in the opinions of those for whose use it was more peculiarly calculated; but even the learned, either from the known character of the author, or those internal evidences of judgment and veracity contained in it, considered it as a work of merit, and for various purposes referred to its authority. Dr. Thomas Fuller, in his” Worthies,“whenever he has occasion to speak of fish, uses his very words. Dr. Plot, in his” History ofMaffordshire,“has, on the authority of our author, related two of the instances of the voracity of the pike, and confirmed them by two other signal ones, that had then lately fallen out in | that county. These are testimonies in favour of Walton’s authority in matters respecting fish and fishing; and it will hardly be thought a diminution of that of Fuller to say, that he was acquainted with, and a friend of, the person whom he thus implicitly commends. About two years after the restoration, Walton wrote the life of Mr. Richard Hooker, author of the” Ecclesiastical Polity:“he was enjoined to undertake this work by his friend Dr. Gilbert Sheldon, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, who, by the way, was an angler. Bishop King, in a letter to the author, says of this life,” I have often seen Mr. Hooker with my father, who was afterwards bishop of London, from whom, and others at that time, I have heard of the most material passages which you relate in the history of his life.“Sir William Dugdale, speaking of the three posthumous books of the” Ecclesiastical Polity,“refers the reader” to that seasonable historical discourse lately compiled and published, with great judgment- and integrity, by that much-deserving person Mr. Isaac Walton."

The life of Mr. George Herbert, as it stands the fourth and last in the volume in which that and the three former are collected, seems to have been written the next after Hooker’s: it was first published in 1670. Walton professes himself to have been a stranger to the person of Herbert; and though he assures us his life of him was a free-will offering, it abounds with curious information, and is no way inferior to any of the former. Two of these lives, viz. those of Hooker and Herbert, we are told, were written under the root of Walton’s good friend and patron Dr. George Morley, bishop of Winchester; which seems to agree with Wood’s account, that, after his quitting London, he lived mostly in the families of the eminent clergy of that time;" and none who consider the inoffensiveness of his manners and the pains he took in celebrating the lives and actions of good men, can doubt his being much ‘ beloved by them.

In 1670, these lives were collected and published in octavo, with a dedication to the above bishop of Winchester, and a preface, containing the motives for writing them; this preface is followed by a copy of verses, by his intiniate friend and adopted son, Charles Cotton, of Beresford in Staffordshire, esq. the author of the second part of the Complete Angler.“The” Complete Angler’‘ having, in the space of twenty. three years, gone through four | editions, Walton, in 1676, and in the eighty-third year of his age, was preparing a fifth, with additions, for the press; when Cotton wrote a second part of that work. Cotton submitted the manuscript to Walton’s perusal, who returned it with his approbation, and a few marginal strictures; and in that year they were published together. Cottons book had the title of “The Complete Angler; being instructions how to angle for a trout or grayling, in a clear stream, Part II.” and it has ever since been received as a second part of Walton’s book. In the title-page is a cipher, composed of the initial letters of both their names; which cipher, Cotton tells us, he had caused to be cut in stone, and set up over a fishing- house that he had erected near his dwelling, on the bank of the little river Dove, which divides the counties of Stafford and Derby.

Cotton’s book is a judicious supplement to Walton’s; for, it must not be concealed, that Walton, though he was so expert an angler, knew but little of fly-fishing; and indeed he is so ingenuous as to confess, that the greater part of what he has said on that subject was communicated to him by Mr. Thomas Barker, and not the result of his own experience*. And of Cotton it must be said, that, living in a country where fly-fishing was, and is, almost the only practice, he had not oply the means of acquiring, but actually possessed, more skill in the art, as also in the method of making flies, than most men of his time. His book is in fact a continuation of Walton’s, not only as it teaches at large that branch of the art of angling which Walton had but slightly treated on, but as it takes up Venator, Walton’s piscatory discipline, just where his master had left him.

Walton was now in his eighty-third year, an age, which, to use his own words, " might have procured him a writ of ease f, and secured him from all farther trouble in that

* This Mr. Barker was a good hu- Westminster. A few years after the

tnoured gossiping old man, and seems first publication of Walton’s book, viz.

to have been a cook; for he says, "he in 1659, he published a book, entitled

had been admitted into the most am- “Barker’s Delight, or the Art of Abassadors kitchens that had come to giiug.” And, for that singular veia,of

England for forty years, and ’drest fish humour that runs through it, a most

for them;“for which he says,” he diverting book it is. was duly paid by the Lord Protector." + A discharge from the office of a

he spent a great deal of time, and, it judge, or vhe state and degree of a

seems, money too, in fishing; and, in Serjeant at law. Dugdale, Oiig. Jurid.

the latter part of his life, dwelt in an p. 139. alms-house near the Gatehouse, at | kind;“when he undertook to write the life of bishop Sanderson, which was published, together with several of the bishop’s pieces, and a sermon of Hooker’s, 1677, in 8vo. It was not till long after that period when the faculties of men begin to decline, that Walton undertook to write this life; yet, far from being deficient in any of those excellences that distinguish the former lives, it abounds with the evidences of a vigorous imagination, a sound judgment, and a memory unimpaired; and for the nervous sentiments and pious simplicity displayed in it, let the concluding paragraph, pointed out by Dr. Samuel Johnson, be considered as a specimen:” Thus this pattern of meekness and primitive innocence, changed this for a better life. It is now too late to wish that mine may be like his, for I am in the eighty-fifth year of my age, and God knows it hath not; but I most humbly beseech Almighty God that my death may: and I do earnestly beg, that, if any reader shall receive any satisfaction from this very plain and as true relation, he will be so charitable as to say, Amen!“Such were the persons, whose virtues Walton was laudably employed yi celebrating; and it is observable, that not only these, but the rest of Walton’s friends *, were eminent royalists; and that he himself was in great repute for his attachment to the royal cause will appear by a relation which sir John Hawkins has quoted from Ashmole’s” History of the Garter."

Besides the works of Walton above-mentioned, there are extant, of his writing, verses on the death of Dr. Donne, beginning, “Our Donne is dead;” verses to his reverend friend the author of the “Synagogue,” printed together with Herbert’s “Temple;” verses before Alexander Brome’s “Poems,1646, and before Cartwright’s “Plays and Poems,1651. He wrote also the lines under an engraving of Dr. Donne, before his “Poems,1635.

Dr. Henry King, bishop of Chichester, in a letter to Walton, dated in Nov. 1664, says, that he had done much for sir Henry Savile, his contemporary and familiar friend; which fact connects very well with what the late Mr. Des Maizeaux, some years since, related to Mr. Oldys, that

* In the number of his intimate Edwin Sandys, sir Edward Bysh, Mr.

friends, we find Abp. Usher, Abp. Sbel- Cramner, Dr. Hammond, Mr. Chilclon. Bp. Morton, B p. King, Up. Bar- lingworth, Michael Drayton, and lhat

l.mr, Dr. Fuller, Dr. Price, Dr. Wood- celebrated scholar and critic Mr. John

ford, Dr. Featly, Dr. Holdsworth, sir Hales of Eton. | there were then several letters of Walton extant, in the Ashmolean Museum, relating to a life of sir Henry Savile, which Walton had entertained thoughts of writing. He also undertook to collect materials for a life of Hales. Mr. Anthony Farringdon, minister of St. Mary Magdalen, Milkstreet, London, had begun to write the life of this memorable person, but, dying before he had completed it, his papers were sent to Walton, with a request from Mr. Fulman, who had proposed to himself to continue and finish it, that Walton would furnish him with such information as was to his purpose. Fulman did not live to complete his design; but a life of Mr. Hales, from other materials, was compiled by the late Mr. Des Maizeaux, and published by him in 1719, as a specimen of a new “Biographical Dictionary.” In 1683, when he was ninety years old, Walton published “Thealma and Clearchus, a pastoral history, in smooth and easy verse, written long since by John Chalkhil, esq. an acquaintance and friend of Edmund Spenser:” to this poem he wrote a preface, containing a very amiable character of the author. He lived but a very little time after the publication of this poem for, as Wuod says, he ended his days on the 15th of Dec. 1683, in the great frost, at Winchester, in the house of Dr. William Hawkins, a prebendary of the church there, where he lies buried.

In the cathedral of Winchester, on a large black flat marble stone, is an inscription to his memory, the poetry of which has very little to recommend it. Of the various editions of Walton’s Angler, and other works on the same subject, an accurate catalogue is given in the British Bibliographer, vol. II. Of his “Lives” a much improved edition was published by Dr. Zouch in 1796, 4to, reprinted since in 8vo. The life of Walton followed in the preceding sketch, is principally that by sir John Hawkins, in his edition of the Angler. Dr. Zouch’s is perhaps more elegant, but has few additional facts. "1