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Isaac Walton was born in 1593, at Loindon, where he followed the trade of a sempster. But on account of the dangers of the times, and having probably acquired a decent competence, he retired in 1643 from business and from London; and afterwards lived sometimes at Stafford, but for the most part in the families of eminent clergymen, by whom he was much respected and beloved. He died in 1683, in his ninetieth year, exhibiting a strikr ing proof how much calm pursuits, with 3 mind pure and at ease, contribute to prolong the period of liuman existence.
Walton is celebrated as a biographer, and particularly as an angler.
1, His first work was a Life of Dr. Donne,
dean of St. Paul's, undertaken at the request of sir Henry Wotton. It was published in 1640, prefixed to a collection of Donne's Sermons in folio. *
2. On the death of sir Henry Wotton in 1639, Walton published a collection of his works, entitled Reliquis Wottoniana, with his life prefixed.
3. His next Life was that of the celebrated Hooker, which he undertook at t,he request of his friend Dr. Gilbert Sheldon, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury.
4. While under the roof of his friend and patron, Morley, bishop of Winchester, he wrote the Life of Mr. George Herbert. The above were collected and published in a small octavo volume, in 1675, with a dedication to Winchester.
5. In 1677, he published several pieces of Dr. Robert Sanderson, bishop of Lincoln, together with -a sermon of Hooker, in an octavo volume, with a life of the bishop prefixed.
6. But the work-by which he is probably most known, is, "The complete Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation;" published in 1653, 12mo, adorned with cuts of most of the fish mentioned in it. This is written in the form of dialogue. The first is between an angler, a huntsman, and a falconer, of whoui the latter thus speaks in praise of his favourite recreation.
And first for the. element I used to trade in, which is the air, an element of more worth than weight, an element that doubtless exceeds both the earth and water: for though I sometimes deal in both, yet the air is most properly mine. I and my hawks use that, and it yields us most recreation. It stops not the high soaring of my noble, generous falcon. In it she ascends to such a height as the dull eyes of beasts and fish are not able to reach to ; their bodies are too gross for such high elevations. In the air, my troops of hawks soar up on high, and when they are lost in the sight of men, then they attend upon and converse with the Gods. Therefore I think jny eagle is so justly staled Jove's servant in ordinary; and that very falcon, that I am now going to see, deserves no meaner a title, for she usually in her flight endangers herself, like the son of Dasdalus, to have her wings scorched by the sun's heat, she flies so near it. But her mettle makes her careless of danger; for then she heeds nothing, but makes her nimble pinions cut the fluid air, and so makes her highway over the steepest mountains and deepest rivers, and in her glorious career looks with con> tempt upon those high steeples and magnificent pa« laces which we adore and wonder at; from which height I can make her to descend by a word from my mouth, which she both knows and obeys, to accept of meat from my hand, to own me for her master, to go home with me, and be willing the next day to afford me the like recreation. * * * *
Nay more, the very birds of the air, those that be not hawks, are both so many, and so useful and pleasant to mankind, that I must not let 'them pass without some observations. * * * * As first the lark, when she means to rejoice; to cheer herr self and those that hear her, she then quits the earth, and sings as she ascends higher into the air; and Jiaving ended her heavenly employment, grows then mute and sad to think she must descend to the dull earth, which she would not touch but from necest fity.
How do the blackbird and thrassel with thein melodious voices bid welcome to the cheerful spring, and in their fixed months warble, forth such ditties, as no art or instrument can reach to!
Nayn the smaller birds also dp the like in their particular seasons, as, namely, the leverock, the tit-lark, the little linnet, and the honest robin, that; loves mankind bath alivaand dead.
But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures* breathes such sweet loud music, out of, her little, in-> Strumehtal, that it may make mankind to think miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear as I have, very often, the clear airs, the sweet descants^ the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, Lord) what music hast thou provided for the saints in heaven, when thou affordest bad men such music on earth I * * *
There is also a little contemptible winged creature, an inhabitant of my aerial element, namely, the laborious bee, of whose prudence, policy, and regular government of their own commonwealth, I might say much, as also of their several kinds, and how useful their honey and wax is, both for meat and medicines to mankind; but I will leave them to their sweet labour, without the least disturbance, believing them to be all very busy at this very time amongst the herbs and flowers that we see nature puts forth this May-morning.
Chap, or Dialogue 4,th.—The Angler speaks.
Look, under that broad heech-tree, I sat down, when I was last this way a-fishing, and the birds in the adjoining groves seemed to have a friendly contention with an echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow tree, near to the brow of that