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THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.
TO THE RIGHT WORSHIPFUL JOHN OFFLEY, OF MADELEY MANOR, IN THE COUNTY OF STAFFORD, ESQUIRE* MY MOST HONOURED FRIEND.
Sir,—I have made so ill use of your former favours, as by them to be encouraged to entreat, that they may be enlarged to the patronage and protection of this Book : and I have put on a modest confidence, that I shall not be denied, because it is a discourse of Fish and Fishing, which you know so well, and both love and practise so much.
You are assured, though there be ignorant men of another belief, that Angling is an Art: and you know that Art better than others ; 1 and that this is truth is demonstrated by the fruits of
Variation. J 1 than any that I know.—ist and ad edit.
* Son and heir of Sir Jobn Offley, of Madeley, in the county of Stafford, Knight' and great-grandson of Sir Thomas Offley, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1557. Mr Offley, to whom this work is dedicated, succeeded his father in 1646, and was twice married : first to Dorothy, daughter of Sir Jobn Lideott, of Mousley in Surrey; and secondly, to Mary, daughter of Thomas Broughton, of Broughton in Staffordshire. He died in 1658, leaving, by his second wife, Jobn, who wns thirteen vears old in 1663; Thomas, then aged twelve; and Mary, who became the wife of Sir Willoughby Aston, of Aston, in the county of Chester, Bart. Jobn Offley, the eldest son, acquired Crew, in Cheshire, in right of his wife, Ann, daughter and co-heiress of Jobn Crew, of that place, Esq., by whom he had, first, Jobn; second, Crew ; third, Mary, who married Robert, Viscount Kilmorrey. Jobn Offley, his son and heir, assumed the name of Crew, and died in 1749, leaving Jobn Crew, of Crew, Esq., his son and heir, who was living in 1751, three other sons, and three daughters. Crew Offley, of Wichner, in the county of Stafford, the second son, married Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Lawrence, of Chelsea; and dying^ in 1739, left, by her, two sons Jobn Offley, of Wichner, in the county of Stafford, living unmarried, and aged thirty-four, in 1751, and Lawrence Offley, who died in 1749, unmarried.—Records of the College of Arms, marked C 36 and 3 D 14. This Dedication is not the only evidence of a personal acquaintance between the families of Walton and Offley: a Jobn Offley proved the will of Agnes Walton, of the parish of Madeley, o11 the azd of April 1573.
that pleasant labour which you enjoy, when you purpose to give rest to your mind, and divest yourself of your more serious business, and, which is often, dedicate a day or two to this recreation. At which time, if common Anglers should attend you, and be eyewitnesses of the success, not of your fortune, but your skill, it would doubtless beget in them an emulation to be like you, and that emulation might beget an industrious diligence to be so; but I know it is not attainable by common capacities : and there be now many men of great wisdom, learning, and experience, which love and practise this Art, that know I speak the truth.2
Sir, this pleasant curiosity of Fish and Fishing, of which you are so great a master, has been thought worthy the pens and practices of divers in other nations, that have been reputed men of great learning and wisdom. And amongst those of this nation, I remember Sir Henry Wotton, a dear lover of this Art, has told me, that his intentions were to write a Discourse of the Art, and in praise of Angling; and doubtless he had done so, if death had not prevented him; the remembrance of which had often made me sorry, for if he had lived to do it, then the unlearned Angler3 had seen some better treatise of this Art, a treatise that might have proved worthy4 his perusal, which, though some have undertaken, I could never yet see in English.
But mine may be thought as weak, and as unworthy of common view; and I do here freely confess, that I should rather excuse myself, than censure others, my own discourse being liable to so many exceptions; against which you, Sir, might make this one, that it can contribute nothing to YOUR knowledge. And lest a longer epistle may diminish your pleasure, I shall make this no 4 longer than to add this following truth, that I am really, Sir, your most affectionate Friend, and most humble Servant,
* "and there be," &c., to "the truth," added in the adl.edit.
* of which I am one.—ist edit.
* some treatise of this art worthy.—Ihid.
6 shall not adventure to make this epistle any longer.—Firstfour edition*.
THE EP1STLE TO THE READER 1N THE F1RST ED1T1ON.
TO THE READER OF THIS DISCOURSE, BUT ESPECIALLY TO THE HONEST ANGLER.
I ThINK fit to tell thee these following truths; that I did not undertake to write, or to publish this Discourse of Fish and Fishing, to please myself, and that I wish it may not displease others; for I have confessed, there are many defects in it. And yet, I cannot doubt, but that by it, some Readers may receive so much profit or pleasure, as if they be not very busy men, may make it not unworthy the time of their perusal; and this is all the confidence that I can put on concerning the merit of this book.
And I wish the Reader also to take notice, that in writing of it, I have made a recreation of a recreation ; and that it might prove so to thee in the reading, and not to read dull and tediously, I have in several places mixed some innocent mirth; of which, if thou be a severe sour-complcxioned man, then I here disallow thee to be a competent judge. For divines say, there are offences given; and offences taken, but not given. And I am the willinger to justify this innocent mirth, because the whole Discourse is a kind of picture of my own disposition, at least of my disposition in such days and times as I allow myself, when honest Nat. and R. R. and I go a-fishing together; and let me add this, that he that likes not the Discourse, should like the pictures of the Trout and other fish, which I may commend, because they concern not myself.*
And I am also to tell the Reader, that in that which is the more useful part of this Discourse; that is to say, the observations of the nature and breeding, and seasons, and catching of fish, I am not so simple as not to think but that he may find exceptions in some of these; and therefore I must entreat him to know, or rather note, that several countries, and several rivers alter the time and manner of fishes' breeding ; and therefore if he bring not candour to the reading of this Discourse, he shall both injure me, and possibly himself too, by too many criticisms.
Now for the Art of catching fish; that is to say, how to make a man that was none, an Angler by a book : he that undertakes it, shall undertake a harder task than Hales, that in his printed book t undertook by it to teach the Art of Fencing, and was laughed at for his labour. Not but
* Sir Jobn Hawkins supposes the Fish to have been engraved upon silver: that the conjecture is erroneous, is proved by the fact that the same title-page and plates were used in Jive editions of this work, and also in five editions of Venables' " Experienced Angler ;" half the number of which impressions would have worn out a silver plate. It is probable they were engraved by Lombart, Faithorne, or Vaughan.
t Called the Private School of Defence.
that something useful might be observed dut of that book : but that Art was not to be taught by words ; nor is the Art of Angling. And yet, I think, that most that love that game, may here leam something that may be worth their money, if they be not needy : and if they be, then my advice is, that they forbear; for I write not to get money, but for pleasure; and this Discourse boasts of no more: for I hate to promise much, and fail.
But pleasure I have found both in the search and conference about what is here offered to thy view and censure; I wish thee as much in the perusal of it, and so might here take my leave; but I will stay thee a little longer by telling thee, that whereas it is said by many, that in fly-fishing for a Trout, the Angler must observe his twelve flies for every month, I say, if he observe that, he shall be as certain to catch fish, as they that make hay by the fair days in Almanaes, and be no surer: for doubtless, three or four flies rightly made, do serve for a trout all summer; and for winter-flies, all Anglers know, they are as useful as an Almanac out of date.
Of these (because no man is born an artist nor an Angler) I thought fit to give thee tins notice. I might say more, but it is not fit for this place ; but if this Discourse which follows shall come to a second impression, which is possible, for slight books have been in this age observed to have that fortune, I shall then, for thy sake, be glad to correct what is faulty, or by a conference with any to explain or enlarge what is defective: but for this time I have neither a willingness nor leisure to say more, than wish thee a rainy evening to read this book in, and that the east wind may never blow when thou goest a-fishing. Farewell.
THE EP1STLE TO THE READER 1N THE SECOND ED1TION.
TO THE READER OF THIS DISCOURSE, BUT ESPECIALLY TO THE HONEST ANGLER.
I ThINK fit to tell every Reader these following truths; that I did neither undertake, nor write, nor publish, and much less own this Discourse to please myself, and wish it may not displease others : for I have confessed there are many defects in it
And yet I cannot doubt, but that by it some Readers may receive so much pleasure or profit as may make it worthy the time of their perusal, if they be not very busy men. And this is all the confidence that I can put on concerning the merit of what is here offered to their consideration and censure.