Izaak Walton.

The complete angler, or, Contemplative man's recreation : being a discourse on rivers, fish-ponds, fish, and fishing online

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THE Complete Angler having been written so long ago as
1653, although the last publication thereof in the lifetime
of the Author was in 1676, contains many particulars of
persons now but little known, and frequent allusions to
facts, and even modes of living, the memory whereof is
in a great measure obliterated : a new edition, therefore,
seemed to require a retrospect to the time when the Authors
lived, an explanation of such passages as an interval of more
than a hundred years had necessarily rendered obscure,
together with such improvements in the art itself as the
accumulated experience of succeeding times has enabled us
to furnish.

An Edition, undertaken with this view, is now attempted,
and in a way, it is to be hoped, that may once again intro-
duce the Authors to the acquaintance of persons of learning
and judgment

All that the Editor requests, in return for the pains he
has taken, is, that the reader will do him the justice to
believe that his only motives for the republication of this
work were, a desire to perpetuate the memory of a meek,
benevolent, pious man, and to contribute something to the
improvement of an art of which he professes himself a

Twickenham, April 10, 1760.

[The Notes to this edition by Professor Rennie, con-
sisting chiefly of the correction of the errors of the original
in Natural History, are marked by his initials, J. R.]


in.*fntf A\>r row. and fhort as a f>uf>bfe,' Tif a

pain,,lnd s or. row. and short as a bubble ,' Tis a

* /iin/i/f fi<i,/</i- nf bits' ness, and mo. net/, and care.-and

' ' r i f * i* i r r ^ i ? i


tje pod<je of business, and Tno.ney.eaid care; and

I J . / i J ill -i

care, and nw nty. and trcu ble



care, and rrw n^i/, and treu ble

/> '// ////> //<> </> , W%^ tne wea. ther proves

',>//-/. \;>r will we vex now Ao' it rain i We II

banifh all sorrow, and fina 'till to, mor.rvw.and

anifh all sorrow, iind sing till to .msr. . row. and

and an ale a . train



THE excellent Lord Verulam has noted it as one of the
great deficiencies of biographical history, that it is, for the
most part, confined to the actions of kings, princes, and great
personages, who are necessarily few ; while the memory of less
conspicuous, though good men, has been no better preserved
than by vague reports and barren elogies.

It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, if little care has been
taken to perpetuate the remembrance of the person who is the
subject of the present inquiry ; and, indeed, there are many
circumstances that seem to account for such an omission ; for
neither was he distinguished by his rank, or eminent for his
learning, or remarkable for the performance of any public
service ; but as he ever affected a retired life, so was he noted
only for an ingenious, humble, good man.

However, to so eminent a degree did he possess the qualities
above ascribed to him, as to afford a very justifiable reason
for endeavouring to' impress upon the minds of mankind, by a
collection of many scattered passages concerning him, a due
sense of their value and importance!

ISAAC, or, as he used to write it, IZAAK WALTON, was born
at Stafford, in the month of August, 1593. The Oxford
Antiquary, who has thus fixed the place and year of his nativity,
has left us no memorials of his family, nor even hinted where
or how he was educated ; but has only told us, that before
the year 1643, Walton was settled, and followed the trade of
a sempster, in London.*

* Athen. Oxon. vol. i. C5.


From his own writings, then, it must be that the circum-
stances attending his life must, in a great measure, come ; and,
as occasions offer, a proper use will be made of them : never-
theless, a due regard will be paid to some traditional memoirs,
which (besides that they contain nothing improbable) the
authority of those to whom we stand indebted for them, will
not allow us to question^

His first settlement in London, as a shopkeeper, was in the
Royal Burse in Cornhill, built by Sir Thomas Gresham, and
finished in 1567.* In this situation he could scarcely be said
to have elbow-room ; for the shops over the Burse were but
seven feet and a half long, and five wide ;-f yet here did he
carry on his trade, till some time before the year 1624 ; when
" he dwelt on the north side of Fleet Street, in a house two
doors west of the end of Chancery Lane, and abutting on a
messuage known by the sign of the Harrow.":}: Now, the old
timber house at the south-west corner of Chancery Lane in
Fleet Street, till within these few years, was known by that
sign : it is therefore beyond doubt that Walton lived at the
very next door. And in this house he is, in the deed above
referred to, which bears date 1624, said to have followed the
trade of a linen-draper. It farther appears by that deed,
that the house was in the joint occupation of Isaac Walton,
and John Mason, hosier ; whence we may conclude, that half
a shop was sufficient for the business of Walton.

A citizen of this age would almost as much disdain to admit
of a tenant for half his shop, as a knight would to ride double j
though the brethren of one of the most ancient orders in the
world were so little above this practice, that their common
seal was the device of two riding on one horse. A more
than gradual deviation from that parsimonious character, of
which this is a ludicrous instance, hastened the grandeur and
declension of that fraternity j and it is rather to be wished
than hoped, that the vast increase of trade of this country,
and an aversion from the frugal manners of our forefathers,
may not be productive of similar consequences to this nation
in general.

I conjecture, that about 1632 he married; for in that year
I find him living in a house in Chancery Lane, a few doors

* Ward's Life of Sir Thomas Gresham, p. 12. f Ibid.

J Ex vet. charta pents me.

The Knights Templars. Ashmole's Inst.ofthe Order of the Garter,
p. 55. See the seal at the end of Matt. Paris Hist, Anglicana, edit.


higher up,- on the left hand, than the former, and described by
the occupation of a sempster, or milliner. The former of these
might be his own proper trade ; and the latter, as being a
feminine occupation, might probably be carried on by his wife :
she, it appears, was Anne, the daughter of Thomas Ken, of
Furnival's Inn, and sister of Thomas, afterwards Dr Ken,
Bishop of Bath and Wells, one of the seven that were sent to
the Tower, and who, at the Revolution, was deprived, and
died in retirement. Walton seems to have been as happy in
the married state, as the society and friendship of a prudent
and pious woman of great endowments could make him ; and
that Mrs Walton was such a one, we may conclude from what
will be said of her hereafter.

About 1643 he left London, and, with a fortune very far
short of what w r ould now be called a competency,* seems to
have retired altogether from business ; at which time, (to use
the words of Wood,) " finding it dangerous for honest men to
be there, he left that city, and lived sometimes at Stafford,f
and elsewhere ; but mostly in the families of the eminent
clergymen of England, of whom he was much beloved.

While he continued in London, his favourite recreation was
angling, in which he was the greatest proficient of his time ;
and indeed, so great were his skill and experience in that art,
that there is scarce any writer on the subject since his time,
who has not made the rules and practice of Walton his very
foundation. It is, therefore, with the greatest propriety that
Langbaine calls him " the common father of all anglers." $

The river that he seems mostly to have frequented for this
purpose was the Lea, which has its source above Ware, in
Hertfordshire, and falls into the Thames a little below Black
Wall ; |j unless we will suppose that the vicinity of the New
River 1 to the place of his habitation, might sometimes tempt
him out with his friends, honest Nat. and R. Roe, whose loss
he so pathetically mentions, ** to apend an afternoon there.

* See his Will, at the end of the Life.

f He lived upon a small estate near the town of Stafford, where,
according to his own account, he suffered during the time of the Civil
Wars ; having by his loyalty rendered himself obnoxious to the persons in

{ Athcn. Oxon. vol. i. J305.

Lives of the English Dramatic Poets, art. Cha. Cotton, Esq.

|| See chap six.

\ That great work, the bringing water from Chadwell and Amwell, in
Hertfordshire, to London, by means of the trench called the New River, was
completed on Michaelmas day, 1613. Stow's Survey, fol. 1633, p. 12.

** Preface to Complete Angler.


In this year, 1 662, he was, by death, deprived of the solace
and comfort of a good wife, as appears by the following
monumental inscription in the chapel of Our Lady, in the
cathedral church of Worcester :



M. S.


so much as could dye of

who was a Woman of remarkable Prudence,

and of the Primitive Piety ;

her great and general knowledge

being adorned with such true Humility,

and blessed with so much Christian Meekness,

as made her worthy of a more memorable Monument.

She dyed (alas that she is dead !)

the 17th of April, 1662, Aged 52.

Study to be like her.

Living, while in London, in the parish of St Dunstan in the
West, whereof Dr John Donne, dean of St Paul's, was vicar, he
became, of course, a frequent hearer of that excellent preacher,
and, at length, (as he himself expresses it,*) his convert.
Upon his decease in 1631, Sir Henry Wotton (of whom men-
tion will be made hereafter) requested Walton to collect
materials for a Life of the Doctor, which it seems Sir Henry
had undertaken to write :f but Sir Henry dying before he had
completed the life, Walton undertook it himself ; and, in the year
1640, finished and published it, with a Collection of the Doctor's
Sermons, in folio. As soon as the book came out, a complete
copy was sent as a present to Walton, by Mr John Donne,
the Doctor's son, afterwards Doctor of Laws ; and one of the
blank leaves contained his letter to Mr Walton : the letter
is yet extant, and in print, J and is a handsome and grateful
acknowledgment of the honour done to the memory of his

Doctor King, afterward Bishop of Chichester, in a letter to
the author, thus expresses himself concerning this Life " I am
glad that the general demonstration of his [Doctor Donne's]
worth was so fairly preserved, and icpresented to the world by

* Verses of Walton at the end of Dr Donne's Life.

f See jReliquicB Wottoniana, octavo, 1683, p. 60.

| In Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, vol. i. lib. vi. p. 24. In the year
1714, the very book, with the original manuscript letter, was in the hands
of the Rev. Mr Eorradale, rector of Market-Deeping, in the county of


your pen, in the history of his life ; indeed, so well, that, beside
others, the best critic of our later time, Mr John Hales, of
Eaton, affirmed to me, he had not seen a life written with more
advantage to the subject, or reputation to the writer, than that
of Doctor Donne." *

Sir Henry Wotton dying in 1639, Walton was importuned
by Bishop King to undertake the writing his life also ; and, as
it should seern by a circumstance mentioned in the margin, it
was finished about 1644. -j- Notwithstanding which, the ear-
liest copy I have yet been able to meet with is that prefixed
to a collection of Sir Henry's Remains, undoubtedly made by
Walton himself, entitled Reliquue Wotionianae, and by him, in
1651, dedicated to Lady Mary Wotton and her three daughters ;
though in a subsequent edition, in 1685, he has recommended
them to the patronage of a more remote relation of the author,
namely, Philip, Earl of Chesterfield.

The precepts of angling, meaning thereby the rules and
directions for taking fish with a hook and line, till Walton's
time, having hardly ever been reduced to writing, were propa-
gated from age to age chiefly by tradition : but Walton, whose
benevolent and communicative temper appears in almost every
line of his writings, unwilling to conceal from the world those
assistances which his long practice and experience enabled him,
perhaps the best of any man of his time, to give, in the year
1653 published, in a very elegant manner, his Complete Angler y
or Contemplative Man's Recreation, in small duodecimo,
adorned with exquisite cuts of most of the fish mentioned in
it. The artist who engraved them has been so modest as to
conceal his name : but there is great reason to suppose they
are the work of Lombart, who is mentioned in the Sculptura
of Mr Evelyn ; and also that the plates were of steel.

And let no man imagine, that a work on such a subject must
necessarily be unentertaining, or trifling, or even uninstructive ;
for the contrary will most evidently appear, from a perusal of
this excellent piece, which, whether we consider the elegant
simplicity of the style, the ease and unaffected humour of the
dialogue, the lovely scenes which it delineates, the enchanting
pastoral poetry which it contains, or the fine morality it so

* Bishop King's Letter to Walton before the Collection of the Lives, in

f It is certain that Hooker's Life was written about 1664 ; and Walton
ays, in his Epistle before the Lives, that " there was an interval of twenty
years between the writing of Hooker's Life and Wotton's," which fixes the
date of the latter to 1644.


sweetly inculcates, has hardly its fellow in any of the modern

The truth is, that there are few subjects so barren as not to
afford matter of delight, and even of instruction, if ingeniously
treated : Montaigne has written an essay on Coaches, and
another on Thumbs ; and our own nation has produced many
men, who, from a peculiar felicity in their turn of thinking, and
manner of writing, have adorned, and even dignified, themes
the most dry and unpromising. Many would think that time
ill employed which was spent in composing a treatise on the
art of shooting in the long bow : and how few lovers of horti-
culture would expect entertainment from a discourse of Salads !
and yet the Toxophilus of Roger Ascham, and the Acetaria of
Mr Evelyn, have been admired and commended by the best
judges of literature.

But that the reader may determine for himself, how much
our author has contributed to the improvement of piscatory
science, and how far his work may be said to be an original, it
will be necessary for him to take a view of the state of angling
at the time when he wrote ; and that he may be the better able
to do this, he will consider, that, till the time of the Reforma-
tion, although the clergy,' as well regular as secular, on
account of their leisure, and because the canon law forbade them
the use of the sanguinary recreations of hunting, hawking, and
fowling, were the great proficients in angling, yet none of its
precepts were committed to writing ; and that, from the time
of the introduction of printing into this kingdom, to that of the
first publication of Walton's book, in 1653, an interval of more
than one hundred and fifty years, only five books on this sub-
ject had been given to the world ; of the four latest, some
mention is made in the margin ; * but the first of that number,

* A. Booke of fishing with hooke and line, and of all other instruments
thereunto belonging. Another ofsundrie engines and traps to take pole-
cats, buzzards, rats, mice, and all other kinds of vermine and beasts
whatsoever, most profitable for all warriners, and such as delight in this
kind of sport and pastime, made by L. M. 4to. London, 1590, 1596,

It appears by a variety of evidence, that the person meant by these
initials was one Leonard Mascall, an author who wrote on planting and
grafting, and also on cattle. Vide infra, chap. ix.

Approved Experiments touching Fish and Fruit, to be reaarded by
the Lovers of Angling, by Mr John Taverner, in quarto, 1600.

The Secrets of Angling, a poem, in three books, by J. D. [Davors,]
Esq. octavo, 1613. Mention is made of this book, in a note on a passage
in the ensuing dialogues : and there is reason to think that it is the founda-
tion of a treatise, entitled The whale Art ofAnuling, published in quarto,


as well on account of its quaintness as antiquity, and because
it is not a little characteristic of the age when it was written,
deserves to be particularly distinguished. This tract, entitled
The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, makes part of a
book, like many others of that early time, without a title ; but
which, by the colophon, appears to have been printed at
Westminster, by Wynkyn de Worde, 1496, in a small folio,
containing a treatise On Hawking ; another, On Hunting, in
verse, the latter taken, as it seems, from a tract, on that
subject, written by old Sir Tristram, an ancient forester, cited
in the Forest Laws of Manwood, chap. iv. in sundry places ; a
book wherein is determined the Lygnage of Cote Armures ; the
above mentioned treatise Of fishing ; and the method of Blasynge
of Armes.

The book printed by Wynkyn de Worde is, in truth, a
ropublication of one known to the curious by the name of the
Book of St Allan's, it appearing by the colophon to have been
printed there, in 1486, and, as it seems, with Caxton's letter.*
Wynkyn de Worde's impression has the addition of the treatise
Of Fishing ; of which only it concerns us to speak.

The several tracts contained in the above mentioned two
impressions of the same book, were compiled by Dame Julyans
(or Juliana) Berners, Bernes, or Barnes, prioress of the
nunnery of Sopwell, near St Alban's ; a lady of a noble family,
and celebrated for her learning and accomplishments, by
Leland, Bale, Pits, Bishop Tanner, and others. And the
reason for her publishing it, in the manner it appears in, she
gives us in the following words : " And for by cause that
this present treatyse sholde not come to the hondys of eche
ydle persone whyche wolde desire it, yf it were enprynted
allone by itself and put in a lytyll ^plaunflet ; therefore I have
compylyd it in a greter uolume, of dyuerse bokys concernynge
to gentyll and noble men, to the entent that the forsayd'ydle
persones whyche sholde haue but lytyll mesure in the sayd

1656, by the well known Gervase Markham, as part of his Country Con-
tentments, or Husbandman's Recreations, since he confesses, that the
substance of his book was originally in rhyme. Of Markham's book, a
specimen is given in chap. i.

Barker's Art of Angling, printed in 12mo. in 1651, and again in 4to. in
1653. A third edition was published in 1659, under the title of Barker's
Delight, or the Art of Angling. For an account of this book and ita author,
vide infra. -J. S. H.

Vide Biographica Britannica, art. Caxton, note L. wherein the
author, Mr Oldys, has given a copious account of the book, and a character
of the lady who compiled it.


dysporte of fysshynge, sholde not by this meane utterly dys-
troye it."

And as to the treatise itself, it must be deemed a great
typographical curiosity, as well for the wooden sculpture
which in the original immediately follows the title, as for the
orthography and the character in which it is printed. And,
with respect to the subject matter thereof, it begins, With a
comparison of fishing with the diversions of hunting, hawking,
and fowling, which, the authoress shews, are attended with
great inconveniences and disappointments ; whereas in fishing,
if his sport fail him, " the angler," says she, " atte the leest,
hath his holsom walke, and mery at his ease, a swete ayre of
the swete sauoure of the mede floures, that makyth him
hungry ; he hereth the melodyous armony of fowles ; he seeth
the yonge swannes, heerons, duckes, cotes, and many other
fowles, wyth theyr brodes ; whyche me semyth better than
alle the noyse of houndys, the blastes of hornys, and the
scrye of foulis, that hunters, fawkeners, and fowlers can make.
And if the Dangler take fysshe; surely, thenne, is there noo
man merier than he is in his spyryte."

At the beginning of the directions, " How the angler is to
make his harnays, or tackle," he is thus instructed to provide
a rod : " And how ye shall make your rodde craftly, here I
shall teche you. Ye shall kytte betweene Myghelmas and
Candyhnas, a fayr staffe, of a' fadom and an halfe longe, and
arme-grete, of hasyll, wyllowe, or aspe ; and bethe hym in an
hote ouyn, and sette him euyn ; thenne, lete hym cole and
drye a moneth. Take thenne and frette* hym faste with a
coekeshote corde ; and bynde hym to a fourme, or an euyn
square grete tree. Take, thenne, a plummer's wire, that is
euen and streyte, and sharpe at the one ende ; and hete the
sharpe ende in a charcole fyre till it be whyte, and brenne the
staffe therwyth thorugh, euer streyte in the pythe at bothe
endes, till they mete : and after that brenne him in the nether
end wyth a byrde brochef and with other broches, eche
gretter than other, and euer the grettest the laste ; so that ye
make your hole, aye, tapre were. Thenne lete hym lye styll,
and kele two dayes; unfrettej hym thenne, and lete hym
drye in an hous roof, in the smoke, till he be thrugh drye. In
the same season, take a fayr yerde of green hasyll, and bethe

* t. e. Tie it about : the substantive plural, frets of a lute, is formed
of this verb,

f A bird spit. t Untie it.


Jiim euen and streyghte, and lete it drye with the staffe ; and
whan they ben drye, make the yerde mete unto the hole in
the staffe, unto halfe the length of the staffe ; and to perfourme
that other half of the croppe, take a fayr shote of blacke
thornn, crabbe tree, medeler, or of jenypre, kytte in the same
season, and well bethyd and streyghte, and frette theym
togyder fetely, soo that the croppe maye justly entre all into
the sayd hole ; thenne shaue your staffe, and make him tapre
were ; then vyrell the staffe at bothe endes with long hopis
of yren, or laton, in the clennest wise, wyth a pyke at the
nether ende, fastynd with a rennynge vyce, to take* in and out
your croppe ; thenne set your croppe an handfull within the
ouer ende of your staffe, in suche wise that it be as bigge
there as in ony other place about : thenne arme your eroppe
at the ouer ende, downe to the frette, wyth a lyne of vj heeres,
and dubbe the lyne, and frette it faste in the toppe wyth a
bowe to fasten on. your lyne ; and thus shall ye make you a
rodde so prevy, that you may walke therwyth ; and there shall
noo man wyte where abowte ye goo."

Speaking of the Barbel, she says : " The Barbyll is a
swete fysshe; but it is a quasy mete, and a peryllous for
mannys body. For, comyuly, he yeuyth an introduxion to the
febres : and yf he be eten rawe, ne may be cause of mannys
dethe, whyche hath oft be seen." And of the Carp, " that it
is a deyntous fysshe, but there ben but fevve in Englonde.
And therefore I wryte the lasse of hym. He is an euyll
fysshe to take. For he is so stronge enarmyd in the mouthe,
that there maye noo weke harnays hold hym.

" And as touchynge his baytes, I have but lytyll knowledge
of it. And me wereloth to wryte more than I knowe and have
prouyd. But well I wote, that tl^e redde worme and the
menow ben good baytes for hym at all tyraes, as I have herde
saye of persones credyble, and also founde wryten in bokes of

For taking the Pike, this lady directs her readers in the
following terms, viz. :

" Take a codlynge hoke; and take a Roche, or a fresshe
Heeryng ; and a wyre with an hole in the ende, and put it in
at the mouth, and out at the taylle, downe by the ridge of
the fresshe Heeryng ; and thenne put the lyne of your hoke

Online LibraryIzaak WaltonThe complete angler, or, Contemplative man's recreation : being a discourse on rivers, fish-ponds, fish, and fishing → online text (page 1 of 36)