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“Such the amusement of your hours,
“Or while we see combined in one
In this volume of “The Complete Angler,” which will be always read with avidity, even by those who entertain no strong relish for the art which it professes to teach, we discover a copious vein of innocent pleasantry and good humor. The scenes descriptive of rural life are inimitably beautiful. How artless and unadorned is the language! The dialogue is diversified with all the characteristic beauties of colloquial composition. The songs and little poems, which are occasionally inserted, will abundantly gratify the reader, who has a taste for the charms of pastoral poesy. And, above all, those lovely lessons of religious and moral instruction, which are so repeatedly inculcated throughout the whole work, will ever recommend this exquisitely pleasing performance. It was first printed in 1653, with the figures of the fishes very elegantly engraved, probably by Lombart, on plates of steel; and was so generally read as to pass through five editions during the life of the author. The second edition is dated in 1655, the third in 1661; and in 1668 the fourth appeared with many valuable additions and improvements. The lovers of angling, to whom this treatise is familiar, are apprized, that the art of fishing with the fly is not discussed with sufficient accuracy; the few directions that are given, having been principally communicated by Mr. Thomas Barker, who has written a very entertaining tract on the subject. To remedy this defect, and to give lessons how to angle for a trout or grayling in a clear stream, a fifth and much improved edition was published in 1676, with a second part, by Charles Cotton, of Beresford, in Staffordshire, Esq. This gentleman, who is represented as the most laborious trout-catcher, if not the most experienced angler for trout and grayling that England ever had, to testify his regard for Mr. Walton, had caused the words,
with a cipher underneath, comprehending the initial letters of both their names, to be inscribed on the front of his fishing-house. This little building was situated near the banks of the river Dove, which divides the two counties of Stafford and Derby. Here Mr. Walton usually spent his vernal months, carrying with him the best and choicest of all earthly blessings, a contemplative mind, a cheerful disposition, an active and a healthful body. So beauteous did the scenery of this delightful spot appear to him, that, to use his own words, “the pleasantness of the river, mountains, and meadows about it, cannot be described, unless Sir Philip Sidney, or Mr. Cotton's father were again alive to do it.” In the latter years of the reign of Charles the Second, the violence of faction burst forth with renovated fury. The discontents of the Nonconformists were daily increasing; while Popery assumed fresh hopes of reëstablishing itself by fomenting and encouraging the divisions that unhappily subsisted among Protestants. A tract, entitled “The Naked Truth, or the True State of the Church,” was published in 1675, and attributed to Dr. Herbert Croft, Bishop of Hereford. Eager to accomplish a union of the Dissenters with the Church of England, and to include them within its pale, this prelate hesitated not to suggest the expediency of proposing several concessions to them, with respect to the rites and ceremonies then in use, and even to comply with their unreasonable demand of abolishing Episcopacy. It may be easily presumed, that these proposals met with no very favorable reception. They were animadverted upon with much spirit and ability, in various publications. In the mean time, animosities prevailed without any prospect of their termination. From fanaticism on one side, and from superstition on the other, real danger was apprehended. Those who exerted themselves in maintaining the legal rights and liberties of the established church, were denominated “Whigs.” Most of them were persons eminent for their learning, and very cordially attached to the established constitution. Others, who opposed the Dissenters, and were thought to be more in fear of a republic, than a Popish successor, were distinguished by the name of “Tories.” At this critical period, Izaak Walton expressed his solicitude for the real welfare of his country, not with a view to embarrass himself in disputation, — for his nature was totally abhorrent from controversy, but to give an ingenuous and undissembled account of his own faith and practice, as a true son of the Church of England. His modesty precluded him from annexing his name to the treatise, which he composed at this time, and which appeared, first, in 1680, under the title of “Love and Truth, in two modest and peaceable Letters, concerning the Distempers of the present Times; written from a quiet . and conformable Citizen of London, to two busy and factious Shopkeepers in Coventry. “But let none of you suffer as a busy-body in other men's matters.” 1 Pet. iv. 15. 1680.” The style, the sentiment, the argumentation, are such as might be expected from a plain man, actuated only by an honest zeal to promote the public peace. And if we consider that it was written by him in the 87th year of his age, a period of life when the faculties of the mind are usually on the decline, it will be scarce possible not to admire the clearness of his judgment, and the unimpaired vigor of his memory. The real purport of this work, which is not altogether unapplicable to more recent times, and which breathes the genuine spirit of benevolence and candor, is happily expressed in the author's own words to the person whom he addresses in the second letter.