« AnteriorContinuar »
Lane in Fleet Street, till within these few years, was known by that sign : it is therefore beyond doubt that Walton lived at the very next door. And in this house he is, – in the deed above referred to, which bears date 1624,-said to have followed the trade of a linen-draper. It further appears by that deed, that the house was in the joint occupation of Izaak Walton, and John Mason, hosier ; whence we may conclude, that half a shop was sufficient for the business of Walton. 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 in the world were so little above this practice, that their common seal was the device of two riding on one horse. A more than gradual deviation from that parsimonious character, of which this is a ludicrous instance, hastened the grandeur and declension of that fraternity; and it is rather to be wished than hoped, that the vast increase of trade of this country, and an aversion from the frugal manners of our forefathers, may not be productive of similar consequences to this nation in general. I conjecture, that about 1632 he married; for in that year I find him living 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 probably be carried on by his wife. She, it appears, was Anne, the daughter of Thomas Ken, of Furnival's Inn, and sister of Thomas, afterwards Dr. Ken, bishop of Bath and Wells, one of the seven that were sent to the Tower, and who at the Revolution was deprived, and died in retirement. Walton seems to have been as happy in the married state, as the society and friendship of a prudent and pious woman of great endowments could make him; and that Mrs. Walton was such a one, we may conclude from what will be said of her hereafter. About 1643 he left London, and, with a fortune very far short of what would now be called a competency, seems to have retired altogether from business; at which time (to use the words of Wood), “finding it dangerous for honest men to be there, he left that city, and lived sometimes at Stafford, and elsewhere; but mostly in the families of the eminent clergymen of England, of whom he was much beloved.” While he continued in London, his favorite 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 scarce 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 Precepts of Angling, — meaning thereby 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 the year 1653 published, in a very elegant manner, his “Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation,” in small duodecimo, 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. And let no man imagine, that a work on such a subject must necessarily be unentertaining, or trifling, or even uninstructive; for the contrary will most evidently appear, from a perusal of this excellent piece, which, whether we consider the elegant simplicity of the style, the ease and unaffected humor of the dialogue, the lovely scenes which it delineates, the enchanting pastoral poetry which it contains, or the fine morality it so sweetly inculcates, has hardly its fellow in any of the modern languages. The truth is, that there are few subjects so barren as not to afford matter of delight, and even of instruction, if ingeniously treated. Montaigne has written an essay on Coaches, and another on Thumbs; and our own nation has produced many men, who, from a peculiar felicity in their turn of thinking and manner of writing, have adorned, and
even dignified, themes the most dry and unpromising. Many would think that time ill-employed, which was spent in composing a treatise on the art of shooting in the long bow; and how few lovers of horticulture would expect entertainment from a discourse of Sallads ! and yet the “Toxophilus ” of Roger Ascham, and the “Acetaria” of Mr. Evelyn, have been admired and commended by the best judges of literature. But that the reader may determine for himself, how much our author has contributed to the improvement of piscatory science, and how far his work may be said to be an original, it will be necessary for him to take a view of the state of angling at the time when he wrote ; and that he may be the better able to do this, he will consider, that, till the time of the Reformation, although the clergy, as well regular as secular, -on account of their leisure, and because the canon law forbad them the use of the sanguinary recreations of hunting, hawk
ing, and fowling, — were the great proficients in .
angling, yet none of its precepts were committed to writing ; and that, from the time of the introduction of printing into this kingdom, to that of the first publication of Walton's book, in 1653, an interval of more than one hundred and fifty years, only five books on this subject had been given to the world. The first of that number, as well on account of its quaintness as antiquity, and because it is not a little characteristic of the age when it was written, deserves to be particularly distinguished. This tract, intitled “The Treatyse of Fysshynge
wyth an Angle,” makes part of a book, like many others of that early time, without a title; but which, by the colophon, appears to have been printed at Westminster, by Wynkyn de Worde, 1496, in a small folio, containing a treatise on hawking; another on hunting, in verse, – the latter taken, as it seems, from a Tract on that subject, written by old Sir Tristram, an ancient forester, cited in the “Forest Laws” of Manwood, chapter iv. in sundry places; a book wherein is determined the “Lygnage of Cote Armures;” the above-mentioned treatise “of Fishing; ” and the method of “Blasynge of Armes.”
The book printed by Wynkyn de Worde is in truth a republication of one known, to the curious, by the name of the “Book of St. Alban's,” it appearing by the colophon to have been printed there, in, 1486, and, as it seems, with Caxton's letter. Wynkyn de Worde's impression has the addition of the treatise “Of Fishing”; of which only it concerns. us to speak.
The several tracts contained in the abovementioned two impressions of the same book, were compiled by Dame Julyans (or Juliana) Berners, Bernes, or Barnes ; prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell, near St. Alban's ; a lady of a noble family, and celebrated, for her learning and accomplishments, by Leland, Bale, Pits, Bishop Tanner, and others. And the reason for her publishing it, in the manner it appears in, she gives us in the following words: “And for by cause that this present treatyse sholde not come to the hondys of eche ydle persone whyche wolde desire it, yf it were enprynt