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scholar's attention to the appearance of the fields, and introduced Herbert's poem, which is scarcely exceeded in beauty and pathos by any similar composition in our language, commencing—
"Sweet day, so cnol, so calm, so bright,
Venator's praise of these verses induces him to repeat others by Christopher Harvie, on the Book of Common Prayer, which he says his scholar will like the better because the author " is a friend of mine, and I am sure no enemy to Angling/' Their rods during this time are "left in the water to fish for themselves," which, he says, is "like putting money to use, for they work for the owners when they do nothing but sleep, or eat, or rejoice." "You know," he observes, "that we have during this last hour, sat as quietly and as free from cares under this sycamore, as Virgil's Tityrus and his Meliboeus did under their broad beech-tree: no life, my honest scholar, no life so happy and so pleasant, as the life of a well-governed angler; for when the lawyer is swallowed up with business, and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, we sit on cowslip banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silver streams which we now see glide by us."
Piscator then enlivens their conversation by relating an anecdote of some gipsies, and recites a song that was written about forty years before by Francis Davison, which he says he heard sung by one of the said gipsies, "the youngest and veriest virgin of the company." They afterwards go to their rods, and fish until the rain again drives them to the sycamore-tree; when Piscator continues his observations on his art, and adverts to the prevalent fashion of women placing patches on their faces, of which custom he does not seem to disapprove: he says that "when the trout or salmon is in season, they have at their first taking out of the water (which continues during life) their bodies adorned, the one with such red spots, and the other with such black or blackish spots, which gives them such an addition of natural beauty, as I (that am yet no enemy to it) think, was never given to any woman by the artificial paint or patches in which they so much pride themselves in this age."
After a protracted dissertation Piscator becomes somewhat exhausted, as " he had almost spent his spirits with talking so long ;" and apprehending that his discourse " grows both tedious and tiresome," asks his scholar if he has nothing to relieve it? "Shall I," he demands, "have nothing from you that seem to have both a good memory and a cheerful spirit?" Venator offers to repeat Dr Donne's verses," " Come live with me and be mj love :" and it is evident that Walton was aware of the general ruggedness and want of harmony of Donne's poems, for he makes Venator say, " I will speak you a copy of verses that were made by Dr Donne, and made to show the world that he could make soft and smooth verses, when he thought them fit and worth his labour; and I love them the better because they allude to rivers, and fish, and fishing."
As it " rains still," and because the angles were, as Venator h remarked, "as money put to use, that thrive when we play,: Piscator says he will requite his scholar for these verses by some observations on the eel, which are followed by others on the barbel. They then take up their rods, and Piscator proposes that they shall proceed "towards their lodging, drink a draught of red cow's milk as they go, and give pretty Maudlin and her mother a brace of trouts for their supper." After meeting the milk-women, Piscator describes the method of fishing for gudgeon; but their conversation is interrupted by Peter and Condon; and Piscator promises that, as he and his scholar fish and walk the next day towards London, he will tell him anything which he might have forgotten. The party compare their success, but Peter says that during the rain he and Coridon had taken shelter in an alehouse, where they played at shovel-board half the day. The evening was spent like the preceding; and after supper they had what Venator calls " a gentle touch at singing and drinking, but the last with moderation." Piscator's song, beginning "Oh, the gallant fisher's life," was, it appears, partly composed by Walton; for Venator says, " Gentlemen, my master left me alone for an hour this day, and I verily believe he retired himself from talking with me, that he might be so perfect in this song; was it not, master?" to which Piscator replies, " Yes, indeed, for it is many years since I learned it, and having forgotten a part of it, I was forced to patch it up by the help of my own invention, who am not excellent at poetry, as my part of the song may testify."
Venator's remarks on the blessing of a contented mind and on the beauties of nature are peculiarly pleasing, and are a faithful reflection of Walton's disposition: "But, Master, first let me tell you, that that very hour which you were absent from me, I sat down under a willow-tree by the water-side, and considered what you had told me of the owner of that pleasant meadow in which you then left me, that he had a plentiful estate, and not a heart to think so, that he had at this time many lawsuits depending, and that they both damped his mirth, and took up so much of his time and thoughts, that he himself had not leisure to take the sweet content that I, who pretended no title, took in his fields, for I could there sit quietly, and looking on the water, see fishes leaping at flies of several shapes and colours; looking on the hills, could behold them spotted with woods and groves; looking down the meadows, could see here a boy gathering lilies and ladysmocks, and there a girl cropping culverkeys and cowslips, all to make garlands suitable to this pleasant month of May; these and many other field-flowers so perfumed the air, that I thought this meadow like the field in Sicily (of which Diodorus speaks) where the perfumes arising from the place make all dogs that hunt in it, to fall off and to lose their hottest scent. I say, as I thus sat joying in mine own happy condition, and pitying the rich man's, that ought this, and many other pleasant groves and meadows about me, I did thankfully remember what my Saviour said, that the meek possess the earth; for indeed they are free from those high, those restless thoughts and contentions which corrode the sweets of life."
The party agree to sing over again a catch, which Venator says he had converted from "a piece of an old catch, and added more to it fitting them to be sung by us Anglers ; " and he then says, "Come, Master, you can sing well; you must sing a part of it as it is in this paper; * whence it may, perhaps, be concluded that Walton had acquired some reputation by his vocal powers. Another cup concludes their festivities, and they retire to rest.
On the Fifth and last day the four friends rise early, settle their hostess's moderate bill, " drink a pot for their morning's draught," and separate. Peter goes with Coridon; and Venator accompanies Piscator on his return to London. During their walk Piscator continues his instructions; and on describing where the best tackling might be purchased, Venator proposes to meet him on the 9th of May at Charles Brandon's, near the Swan in Golden Lane, as it was nearest to his residence, for the purpose of equipping himself as an angler. When they reach Tottenham, "they turn into an arbour," because it was a "clean and cool place," where Venator "requites a part of his master's courtesies with a bottle of sack, and milk, and oranges, and sugar, which all put together make," he says, "a drink like nectar; indeed too good for anybody but us Anglers; and so, master, here is a full glass to you of that liquor, and when you have pledged me, I will repeat some verses which I have promised you," and which were printed among Sir Henry Wotton's poems. A doubt seems to be expressed as to the authorship of these verses, as Venator observes that they were "doubtless made either by Wotton or by a lover of Angling," which remark is repeated by Piscator, who in return repeats a poem written "some say by Dr Donne," called a " Farewell to the Vanities of the World." The Master and Scholar then take leave of each other with mutual expressions of esteem, and promise to fulfil their engagement of meeting again four days afterwards, at Charles Brandon's, in Golden Lane.
There cannot possibly be a doubt that Walton meant to identify himself with Piscator; for not only does that person express his feelings and opinions, but he adopts his personal acquaintances, and alludes to many circumstances in his own life. To some extent, therefore, Piscator's remarks, and the allusions which Venator and the other interlocutors make to Piscator's disposition and acquirements, may be considered as autobiographical sketches, which are of great value as illustrations of Walton's feelings, disposition, and character. It is also probable that "Venator," "brother Peter," "the Scholar," and "Coridon," had an actual identity in the persons of some of his piscatory friends; but it is impossible to state whom they represented. "Brother Peter" may have been either Nat. or R. Roe, who, he says, generally accompanied him a-fishing; and the residence of Venator is stated to have been near Golden Lane, which is not far from Clerkenwell. The sentiments and language attributed to them, are, however, so similar to those of Piscator, that it is, in fact, he alone who speaks throughout the whole dialogue; and it is, consequently, impossible to trace any of the others by those allusions to circumstances and individuals which so completely identify Piscator with Walton.
With one exception, Walton's treatise appears to have given universal satisfaction to his contemporaries. The hostile critic was Robert Franck, who wrote a curious work, entitled " Northern Memoirs; calculated for the meridian of Scotland, wherein most or all of the cities, citadels, sea-ports, castles, forts, fortresses, rivers, and rivulets, are compendiously described" in a dialogue between Theophilus and Arnoldus. Though written in 1658, the book was not published until 1694, and a new edition of it appeared in 1821, with a preface by Sir Walter Scott. Franck appears to have been acquainted with Walton; and the passages in which he alludes to him are the following :—
"arnoldus. Indeed, the frequent exercise of fly-fishing, though painful, yet it's delightful, more especially when managed by the methods of art, and the practical rules and mediums of artists. But the ground-bait was of old the general practice, and beyond dispute, brought considerable profit ; which happened in those days, when the curiosity of fly-fishing was intricate and unpracticable. However, Isaac Walton (late author of the 'Compleat Angler') has imposed upon the world this monthly novelty, which he understood not himself; but stuffs his book with morals from Dubravius and others, not giving us one precedent of his own practical experiments, except otherwise where he prefers the trencher before the trolling-rod; who lays the stress of his arguments upon other men's observations, wherewith he stuffs his indigested octavo; so brings himself under the angler's censure, and the common calamity of a plagiary, to be pitied (poor man) for his loss of time, in scribbling and transcribing other men's notions. These are the drones that rob the hive, yet flatter the bees they bring them honey.
"Theofhilus. I remember the book, but you inculcate his erratas; however, it may pass muster among common muddlers.
"ARNOLDUS. No, I think not; for 1 remember in Stafford, I urged his own argument upon him, that pickerel weed of itself breeds pickerel. Which question was no sooner stated, but he transmits himself to his authority, viz., Gesner, Dubravius, and Aldrovanus, which I readily opposed, and offered my reasons to prove the contrary ; asserting, that pickerels have been fished out of pools and ponds, where that weed (for aught I knew) never grew since the nonage of time, nor pickerel ever known to have shed their spawn there. This I propounded from a rational conjecture of the heronshaw, who to commode herself with the fry of fish, because in a gTeat measure part of her maintenance, probably might lap some spawn about her legs, in regard adhering to the segs and bulrushes, near the shallows, where the fish shed their spawn, as myself and others without curiosity have observed. And this slimy substance adhering to her legs, &c, and she mounting the air for another station, in probability mounts with her. Where note, the next pond she happily arrives at, possibly she may leave the spawn behind her, which my Compleat Angler no sooner deliberated, but dropped his argument, and leaves Gesner to defend it ; so huffed away, which rendered him rather a formal opinionist, than a reformed and practical artist, because to celebrate such antiquated records, whereby to maintain such an improbable assertion.
"theophilus. This was to the point, I confess; pray go on.
"arnoldus. In his book, intituled the 'Compleat Angler,' you may read there of various and diversified colours, as also th<; forms and proportions of flies. Where, poor man, he perplexes himself to rally and scrape together such a parcel of fragments, which he fancies arguments, convincing enough to instruct the adult and minority of youth, into the slender margin of his uncultivated art, never made practicable by himself I'm convinced. Where note, the true character of an industrious angler, more deservedly falls upon Merril and Faulkner, or rather Isaac Owldham, a man that