Imágenes de páginas

accomplishments of her sex. The enlightened piety of the latter, her native humility, her truly christian charity, exhibit her as a perfect model of every thing good and praiseworthy, while her marriage with Mr. Herbert, though attended with some unusual circumstances, proves incontestably, that an union, originating from “good sense, from inclination, and from an equality of age, of dignity, and of fortune,” can seldom fail of being attended with happiness.

It is said of Socrates, that all who knew him loved him; and that if any did not love him, it was because they did not know him. May we not affirm the same of that worthy person, who is the subject of this memoir? Such was the sweetness of his temper, so affectionate was the regard which his friends professed for him, that, in their epistolary correspondence, though they were far superior to him in rank and condition of life, they usually addressed him in the language of tenderness and soothing endearment, styling him, “Good Mr. Walton;” “Honest Isaac”; “Worthy Friend”; “Dear Brother”; “ Most Ingenious Frierd.” No one better deserved these kind appellations. Let it always be recorded to his honor, that he never retracted any promise, when made in favor even of his meanest friend. Neal, in his “History of the Puritans," introduces an erroneous quotation from “Walton's Life of Mr. Hooker.” Dr. Warburton, in his notes on that history (Warburton's Works, Vol. VII. p. 895,) commenting upon this quotation, speaks of “the quaint trash of a fantastical life-writer.” Is it pos

sible to suppose that an epithet, more adapted to the asperity of fastidious censure, than to the cool and deliberate judgment of candid and equitable criticism, should be justly applied to a man of real merit, who strenuously exerted himself in promoting the cause of religion, as well by his writings as by his exemplary conduct?

The corporation of Stafford have publicly pronounced him their worthy and generous benefactor. Of his singular munificence to the poor inhabitants of this his native town, we find several instances in his life-time: And, at his death, he consigned some bequests of considerable value to be appropriated to

their use.

In an ancient inscription yet extant, it is said of a Roman citizen, that he knew not how to speak injuriously, “ Nescivit maledicere." We may observe of Izaak Walton, that he was ignorant how to write of any man with acrimony and harshness. This liberality of disposition will ever recommend him to his readers. Whatever are the religious sentiments of the persons, whom he introduces to our notice, how widely soever they differ from his own; we discover not, in his remarks, the petulance of indiscriminate reproach, or the malignancy of rude invective. The mild spirit of moderation breathes almost in every page.

I can only lament one instance of severity, for which, however, several pleas of extenuation might readily be admitted.

He is known to have acquired a relish for the fine arts. Of paintings and prints he had formed a small, but valuable collection. And we may presume, that

he had an attachment to and a knowledge of music. His affection for sacred music may be inferred from that animated, I had almost said, that enraptured language which he adopts, whenever the subject occurs to him. It will be easily recollècted, that Ken, his brother-in-law, whose morning, evening, and midnight hymns, endear his memory to the devout Christian, began the duties of each day with sacred melody. And that between men perfectly congenial in their sentiments and habits of virtue, a similarity of disposition in this instance should prevail, is far from being an unreasonable suggestion. That he had an inclination to poetry, we may conclude from his early intimacy with Michael Drayton, “the golden-mouthed poet”; a man of an amiable disposition, of mild and modest manners, whose

poems are much less read than they deserve to be. It is needless to remark, that on the first publication of a work it was usual for the friends of the author to prefix to it recommendatory verses. Izaak Walton, whose circle of friends was very extensive indeed, often contributed his share of encomium on these occasions. To his productions of this kind no other commendations can be allowed, than that they were sincere memorials of his grateful and tender regard. It must however be added, that he never debased his talents by offering the incense of adulation at the shrine of infamy and guilt. The persons, whom he favored with these marks of his attention, were not undeserving of praise. Such, for instance, was William Cartwright, who, though he died in the thirtieth year of his age, was the boast


and ornament of the university of Oxford, as a divine, a philosopher, and a poet. Dr. Fell, Bishop of Oxford, declared him to be, “the utmost man can come to”; and Ben Jonson was wont to say of him, My son Cartwright writes all like a man.” And here an opportunity presents itself of ascertaining the author of “The Synagogue, or the Shadow of the Temple," a collection of sacred poems, usually annexed to Mr. George Herbert's “Temple.” Mr. Walton has addressed some encomiastic lines to him, as his friend; and in “The Complete Angler," having inserted from that collection, a little poem, entitled “The Book of Common Prayer,” he expressly assigns it, and of course the whole work, to a reverend and learned divine, Mr. Christopher Harvey, · " that professes to imitate Mr. Herbert, and hath indeed done so most excellently ;” and of whom he adds pleasantly, “you will like him the better, because he is a friend of mine, and I am sure no enemy to angling."

Faithfully attached to the church of England, he entertained the highest veneration for her discipline and doctrines. He had not been an inattentive spectator of the rapid progress of the sectaries, hastening from one degree of injustice to another, until a universal anarchy consummated the ruin of our ecclesiastical constitution. In his last will he has announced an ingenuous and decided avowal of his religious principles, with a design, as it has been conjectured, to prevent any suspicions that might arise of his inclination to Popery, from his very long and very true friendship with some of the Roman

communion. But a full and explicit declaration of his Christian faith, and the motives which enforced his serious and regular attendance upon the service of that church in which he was educated, are delivered with great propriety and good sense, in his own words.

For thus he writes in a letter to one of his friends. “I go so constantly to the church service to adore and worship my God, who hath made me of nothing, and preserved me from being worse than nothing. And this worship and adoration I do pay him inwardly in my soul, and testify it outwardly by my behaviour ; as, namely, by my adoration, in my forbearing to cover my head in that place dedicated to God, and only to his service ; and also, by standing up at profession of the creed, which contains the several articles that I and all true Christians profess and believe ; and also my standing up at giving glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, and confessing them to be three persons, and but one God.

“ And, secondly, I go to church to praise my God for my creation and redemption; and for his many deliverances of me from the many dangers of my body, and more especially of my soul, in sending me redemption by the death of his Son, my

and for the constant assistance of his holy spirit: a part of which praise I perform frequently in the Psalms, which are daily read in the public congregations.

“ And, thirdly, I go to church publicly to confess and bewail my sins, and to beg pardon for them, for his merits who died to reconcile me and all mankind unto God, who is both his and my Father; and,


« AnteriorContinuar »