« AnteriorContinuar »
than those derived from this truly felicitous achievment.
In both instances he became an author by mere chance. Sir Henry Wotton had undertaken to write the life of Dr. Donne, and had requested Walton to assist him in collecting materials for that purpose, but Sir Henry dying, before it was completed, Walton undertook it himself, and succeeded so fully to the satisfaction of the most learned men of his time, that it was to be attributed to their importunity, rather than to his own ambition, that he performed the same office for his "dear friend Sir Henry" himself, and those other eminent men whose names have just been enumerated.
Sir Henry Wotton too, as it appears from the Dedication of the Complete Angler, to John Offley, Esq., had intended "to write a discourse of the Art and in praise of Angling, and," continues Walton, "doubtless he had done so, if death had not prevented him; the remembrance of which hath often made me sorry; for if he had lived to do it, then the unlearned angler had seen some better treatise of this art, a treatise that might have proved worthy his perusal, which, though some have undertaken, I could never yet see in English."
Here again our modest author finds an excuse for the undertaking of a work, of which it seems almost too weak a praise to say, that it's parallel could scarcely have been hoped for, even from the elegant mind of Sir Henry Wotton himself.
Our author, who was born at Stafford in 1593, but who lived the greatest part of his time in London, published the first edition of this celebrated work in 1653, and lived to see it go through no less than five editions; the last of which, in 1676, was accompanied by a Second Part, written by his intimate friend, and adopted son, Charles Cotton, of Beresford Hall, in the County of Stafford, Esq. This Second Part, in which Mr. Cotton, from his local opportunities, was enabled to treat more at large on Fly-fishing, than Walton had proposed to do, forms an important part of the work, in more than one point of view; but, chiefly, as conveying the fullest evidence of that reverence, and almost homage, which it's accomplished author entertained for the character of Walton.
The Fishing-house on the banks of the Dove, seems to have been built expressly to perpetuate the memory of their friendship; the motto over it's door was "Piscatoribus sacrum," with the initials of Walton and Cotton interwoven in a cypher upon the keystone of the building, and the same cypher, was, by Mr. Cotton's desire, placed in the Title-page of the first edition of his portion of the work, and has been continued in all those since published.
This part of our history will be fully illustrated by the following short epistles which passed on the occasion; and the opportunity is taken of giving the signatures in the genuine autographs of the authors,—that of Walton being also introduced with a more enlarged specimen of his hand-writing in another place.
To my most worthy Father and Friend, Mr. Izaak Walton, the Elder.
Being you were pleased, some years past, to grant me your free leave to do what I have here attempted; and observing you never retract any promise, when made in favour even of your meanest friends, I accordingly expect to see these following particular directions for the taking ofaTrout,to wait upon your better and more general rules for all sorts of Angling: and, though mine be neither so perfect, so well digested, nor indeed so handsomely couched, as they might have been, in so long a time as since your leave was granted; yet I dare affirm them to be generally true: and they had appeared too in something a neater dress, but that I was surprised with the sudden news of a sudden new edition of your Complete Angler; so that, having but a little more than ten days' time to turn me in, and rub up my memory, for, in truth, I have not, in all this long time, though I have often thought on't, and almost as often resolved to go presently about it, I was forced upon the instant to scribble what I here present you: which I have also endeavoured to accommodate to your own method. And, if mine be clear enough for the honest Brothers of the Angle readily to understand, which is the only thing I aim at, then I have my end, and shall need to make no further apology; a writing of this kind not requiring, if I were master of any such thing, any eloquence to set it off, or recommend it: so that if you, in your better judgment, or kindness rather, can allow it passable, for a thing of this nature, you will then do me honour, if the Cypher, fixed and carved in the front of my little fishing-house, may be here explained: and to permit me to attend you in public, who, in private, have ever been, am, and ever resolve to be, Sir,
Your most affectionate Son and Servant,
Betes ford, 10fA of March, 167$.
To my most honoured Friend, Charles Cotton, Esq. Sir,
You now see I have returned you your very pleasant and useful discourse of the Art of Fly-fishing, printed just as it was sent me: for I have been so obedient to your desires, as to endure all the praises you have ventured to fix upon me in it. And, when I have thanked you for them, as the effects of an undissembled love; then, let me tell you, Sir, that I will really endeavour to live up to the character you have given of me; if there were no other reason, yet, for this alone, that you, that love me so well, and always think what you speak, may not, for my sake, suffer by a mistake in your judgement.
And, Sir, I have ventured to fill a part of your margin, by way of paraphrase, for the reader's clearer understanding the situation, both of your Fishing-house, and the pleasantness of that you dwell in. And I have ventured also to give him a copy of verses that you were pleased to send me, now some years past; in which he may see a good picture of both; and so much of your own mind too, as will make any reader, that is blest with a generous soul, to love you the better. I confess, that for doing this you may justly judge me too bold: if you do, I will say so too; and so far commute for my offence, that, though I be more than a hundred miles from you, and in the eighty-third year of my age, yet I will forget both, and next month begin a pilgrimage to beg your pardon; for I would die in your favour; and till then will live, Sir,
Your most affectionate Father and Friend,
With this enlarged edition also, appeared, for the first time, the following beautiful verses, exhibiting, probably, a more favourable specimen of Cotton's poetical powers, than his whole works could supply.
THE RETI REMENT
MR. IZAAK WALTON
Farewell thou busy world 1 and may
We never meet again: Here I can eat, and sleep, and pray. And do more good in one short day, Than he, who his whole age out wears Upon the most conspicuous theatres, Where nought but vanity and vice appears.
Good God! how sweet are all things here! How beautiful the fields appear I
How cleanly do we feed and lie!
What peace I what unanimity!
Oh, how happy here's our leisure!