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brother-in-law to the amiable Bishop Ken; whilst his direct consanguinity with Archbishop Crammer himself is erroneously insisted on :—by extraordinary ingenuity, therefore, mystery has been created out of the very circumstances calculated to afford elucidation; for what is this but presenting Walton to us in the midst of his own relations and family friends? proving him to have been in a walk of life, whatever it exactly was, consistent even with their alliance, as well as countenance and protection!
That he was bred to trade may be accounted for, either from the circumstance of his father's dying when he was only two years old, or even from his own choice: and that there existed no necessary incompatibility between the character he held and that of a gentleman, surely he may be said to have demonstrated, of whom that which is most certainly known, would do honour to any station whatever: his " only son Isaac" we find bred to the church, seemingly as a matter of course; and that his only daughter was married to a dignified clergyman, Dr. Hawkins of Winchester, strengthens all the foregoing arguments.
All these particulars we are enabled to collect, notwithstanding that history and tradition are equally parsimonious respecting this extraordinary man; wherever conjecture, therefore, supplies of necessity, the place of fact, let us in the name of goodness, (which were but synonymous with saying in the name of Izaak Walton I) regulate our decisions with one constant view to his immortal honour! There is, at least, one delightful reflection to be drawn from the internal evidence of his own work;—he did really and substantially enjoy, in his own person, that true happiness which he would teach us all to acquire: with that genuine, philosophical spirit which is worthy of universal imitation, he sought his beloved independence, in the limitation of his wants, rather than by aiming at the acquirement of large possessions; his book, as he himself tells us, is a picture of his own mind, and had that book been called " The Divine Art of Contentment," or "the True Christian Philosopher," it's principal contents would have justified either of those titles, equally with that in which his modesty dictated it's setting forth.
Thus has this delightful work, notwithstanding it's unassuming title, excited from the first a most commanding attention; and may be said to have risen in public estimation, even to this very hour.
The selection of a few passages from his various editors and disinterested eulogists, will best prove the assertion; a slight glance, however, at the earliest English work on Angling, seems to be first necessary, for the sake of those of our readers who may have been, hitherto, totally unacquainted with Waltonian lore. We allude to a tract, written by Dame Juliana Barnes, Prioress of the Nunnery of Sopewell, near St. Alban's, andentituled The Treatyse of Fysshinge with an Angle, being part of a book "known to the curious in typographical antiquities by the title of the Book of St. Albans. Enprented at Westmeslre by Wynkyn de Worde, in 1496, in small Folio; the book consists of a treatise on Hawking, another on Hunting, which is all in verse; a book wherein is determined the Lygnage of Cote Armures, the above-mentioned treatise of Fishing, and the method of Blasynge of Armes."
The work is now of the most extreme rarity, yet it was, doubtless, well known to Walton, some of whose descriptions may be considered as paraphrastic of the following beautiful passage, setting forth those incidental pleasures of the Angler, which exist quite independently of his taking fish, he having,
"Atte the leest his holsom walke, and mery at his ease, a swete ayre of the swete savoure of the meede floures that makyth him hungry; he hereth the melodyous armony of fowles; he seeth the yonge swannes, heerons, duckes, cotes, and many other foules, wyth their brodes; whyche me semyth better than alle the noyse of houndys, the Wastes of hornys, and the scrye of foulis, that hunters, fawkeners, and foulers can make. And if the angler take fysshe, surely then is there noo man merier than he is in his spyryte."
It is also probable that Walton might borrow from " Barker's Art of Angling," first published in 1651, the idea of making his work humorous and entertaining; but how fine is the contrast between