Izaak Walton.

The lives of Doctor John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Knight, Mr. Richard Hooker, Mr. George Herbert, and Doctor Robert Sanderson online

. (page 1 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO






3 1822 00705 4315



^M*l\ LIBRARY 1

UK.
CALIFORNIA

SAN DIEGO rj



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. SAN DIEGO



llll!

3 1



822 00705 43 1 5 10LLA, CAU^'ni^ ° /fG0



<&%*$*^



T>4

377



ENGLISH CLASSICS

EDITED BY W. E. HEXLEY

WALTON'S LIVES OF
DONNE, WOTTON, HOOKER,
HERBERT, SANDERSON
WITH AN INTRODUCTION
BY VERNON BLACKBURN




"■■/'•



/it/A/. . ■/„



■/f/// //,/■///■//



THE LIVES OF

DOCTOR JOHN DONNE
SIR HENRY WOTTON
MR. RICHARD HOOKER
MR. GEORGE HERBERT
AND DOCTOR ROBERT
SANDERSON, BY

IZAAK WALTON

IN ONE VOLUME



METHUEN AND CO.

36 ESSEX STREET : STRAND

LONDON

1895



Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable, Printers to Her Majesty



CONTENTS



DR. JOHN DONNE
SIR HENRY WOTTON
MR. RICHARD HOOKER
MR. GEORGE HERBERT
DR. ROBERT SANDERSON



PAGE
1

59
107
177
231



INTRODUCTION

Izaak Walton was born at Stafford in 1593, and died at Lon-
don in 1683. Of his life there is little eventful to chronicle.
He belonged to that noble class of men which seems to
have been indigenous in no other country save England, and
whose peculiarity is to be distinguished by that engrossing
commingling of qualities, the trader's craft and the art of
the man of letters. Trade and art have so long accepted
different lodgings that the mention of one is, in these faded
times, the necessary exclusion of the other. But, in Walton's
day, such a mutual repulsion had no sympathy with common
thought. Such a man as he might give his business hours
to merchandise and ledgers and his leisure to art and polite
learning without betraying his caste, and even with the chance
of pleasing a difficult posterity. It was a chance which, in
Walton's case, proved a happy one. Though not exactly con-
structed by nature for classic literary work, he belonged,
nevertheless, to that curious rank of literary men who are
destined to persuade, to amuse, and to entertain succeeding
generations by exceptionally engaging gifts of character. Of
such — though his character was vastly different, and was
engaging, too, for very different reasons — was Boswell, the best
of his kind. Walton's gifts came, so far as character was
concerned, from the metal of the strong and sturdy mint of
seventeenth-century England : he belonged essentially to the
middle classes of his time ; his religion was convinced, he had
no doubts nor fears ; mystery and all the burden of this unin-
telligible world had their pigeon-holes in his mind with their



viii INTRODUCTION TO

solutions, marked as it were by the letters of the alphabet,
and docketed for immediate reference. His love of gossip
and of ghosts, his profound belief in the supernatural, his
unswerving honesty, his sentiment of hero-worship, his model
humility of speech rather than of meaning, all are pieces in the
making of as transparent and simple a personality as litera-
ture reveals. Walton's fortune was to possess an inimitable
manner, by which he summed himself up with a thousand
others of his class through one channel of expression.

Shortly after his coming of age he started his career as a
small draper in a tiny shop on the Exchange ; and there, in his
quiet way, he must have pi-ospered, for a decade of years later
he moved thence to Fleet Street, where he rented a shop within
three paces of the south end of Chancery Lane. A little later
in life he moved again to within a very few yards of his second
home, whither in the year 1626 he brought his wife from Canter-
bury, one Rachel Floud, descended on the side of her mother
from Archbishop Cranmer. This lady became the sad mother
of seven children who all died in early childhood, she herself
following her grief to the grave in the year 1 640, after fourteen
years of married life. Six years after his first wife's death
Walton married Anne Ken, sister of that famous Bishop whose
uprightness and piety have long been, as they deserve to be,
part of the glory of the Church of England. He was one of the
seven who resisted James the Second's notorious claim to the
dispensing power, and whose handiwork is familiar in the
Hymnody of his Church. Walton outlived, too, his second
spouse, and spent the last twenty years of his life a widower,
comforted by a son and a daughter, and busy with his literary
labours.

He was one of those whose literary work is identified with
maturity of life and ripeness of years. His first published
Life, that of Donne, did not appear until the year of his first



WALTON'S LIVES ix

wife's death when he himself was forty-seven years of age.
The Compleat Angler did not see light until ^e was sixty;
and not until he had well passed his seventieth year did he
publish that which is perhaps the most admirable of all his
writings, the life of Richard Hooker ; the Wotton appeared still
later, and the life of Dr. Sanderson was written when Walton
was actually in his eighty-fifth year. He died at Winchester,
the contemporary of Shakespeare and Spenser in youth and of
Sir Isaac Newton in eld.

It is a little difficult to appraise quite at its natural merit
Walton's English manner. Of the style which makes literature
stately which orders its words in grand cycles and marshals its
thoughts with something of the rhythm of the inevitable
motions of nature, he had but little. He wrote out his
charming little ideas just as they occurred to him. There is
something engrossingly minor about nearly everything that
he ever produced. He is little, not as a small man is little
to the eyes of his greater fellows, but as a beautiful insect is
little to the eyes of man. He potters — 'tis the only word for
his pervasive manner ; but he potters with delicious ease and
unconsciousness. Few writings are so conversational as his ;
and there would seem to be few men whose conversation
was better worth attending. There are greater, far greater,
writers than he, with whom, nevertheless, the reader is
never taken, within a very long span, into a confidence so
intimate. Barrow, Hooker, and, above all, Jeremy Taylor
stand before you as it were in a magisterial array, and utter
great words which take up all your admiration and engross to
the full your sense of wonder and zeal for the House of
Letters; but Walton just throws himself into an arm-chair, and
chatters, chatters, without ceasing, without much construction,
and occasionally with somewhat personal grammar. Of the
Bishop of Durham he remarks, for example, that he is 'one that



x INTRODUCTION TO

God hath blessed with perfect intellectuals and a cheerful heart
at the age of ninety-four years, and is yet living : ' so wonderful
an achievement was God's ! But into more than ungrammati-
cal profanity does his garrulousness sometimes lead him. ' It
hath been observed/ he declares, ' by wise and considering
men, that wealth hath seldom been the portion and never the
mark to discover good people, but that Almighty God, who
disposeth all things wisely, hath of His abundant goodness
denied it — He only knows why — to many whose minds . . !'
It would not be easy to discover in or out of the complaints of
disbelieving writers, a more delicate insinuation against the
justice of Heaven than that elusive parenthesis. 'He only
knows why : ' it is a thousand times funnier, because so much
less conscious, than Lord Durham's record of a fire in his diary,
in which Almighty God is said to have caused the conflagra-
tion, ' for reasons best known to Himself.' Walton, who would
have shuddered from Lord Durham's wit, accomplished a saying
infinitely more delicate, and more pointed, in precisely the same
order of impiety.

The peculiar charm, then, of Walton's style is that in it, while
writing of others, he reveals himself — a delightful self — with
a completeness and an unconsciousness that have very few
parallels, at all events in English literature. Even where
revelations as complete have been made, as in Walpole's letters,
or in Pepys, they have not the same charm of unconsciousness.
Walton is admirable for the very reason that his instinctive
art, the art of garrulous autobiography, is perfected, be it
said, without any conscious knowledge of it on the part
of Walton. One likes to learn, too, all his own beauty of
character, since it was a chai'acter quite beautiful in itself:
a character old-fashioned enough, in all conscience, old-
fashioned in the simplicity of its creeds, in its habitual
attitude of reverence, and in its contented explanations of the



WALTON'S LIVES xi

difficulties of things. It was humble, too, in its own personal
way, and of an attractively clinging disposition. These men
of whom he wrote were, in fact, true heroes in his estimation,
the salt of the earth, whom it behoved him to admire from afar.
He was not even worthy to record their acts ; and thousands
of his casual phrases imply that he had no thought, or little
thought, of erecting a perennial monument in literature. ' I
have not the time to explain,' ' I must leave the chronicle to
heavier pens : ' of such are many phrases that lie scattered up
and down his pages. In paying tribute to the memory of
others, he chiefly thought to entertain himself without swerving
from his principles of reverence and gravity.

At the same time it must not be supposed that he was
deficient in a fine sense of words merely because his most sympa-
thetic quality happened to be his charming conversation. This
quality is most conspicuous in the last and in the two earlier
lives, while the quality of a greater style is rather to be found in
the life of Hooker. I confess that, although I prefer Walton the
gossip when administered in large quantities, my admiration is
far more complete for chosen passages from the life of Hooker.
The concluding portions of that work rise to a height of true
and even grand eloquence, from the words : ' More he would
have spoken,' down to the last solemn ' Amen.' Nor, because
I have said that he had but little thought of erecting a
perennial monument in literature, should it be understood
that he had no care at all for futurity. 'I have not so
much confidence in the relation as to make my pen fix on
him a scandal to posterity' is a remarkable phrase from his
Hooker : remarkable as much for its stateliness of rhythm as
for its assurance of dignity and its quiet confidence.

In the art of recording the conversation of others, the very
simplicity of Walton's method inspires it with its own particular
charm. He apportions to his characters not so much the



xii INTRODUCTION TO

common utterances of everyday speech as set orations and —
at any rate for conversation — grandiose phrase. The preface
of a 'He said,' or a 'To which the good man's reply was to
this purpose,' invariably foreruns an equipoised and theatrical
paragraph, in the fashion of a completely dramatic monologue.
Herein is to be found, in an easily recognisable paradox, pro-
bably that which constitutes the charm of Walton's personal
manner. As I have already maintained, much of his de-
lightful personality is revealed in the facility, even in the
laxity, with which he pursues the art of narration. In re-
counting incident and fact he is never himself but when he
is completely at his ease. Where nearly all other writers, by
a special instinct, incline somewhat to stiffen their everyday
manner, Walton, with unconscious deliberation, makes a point
of contradicting this general tendency, and, by a piquant
reversal of the general custom, just there where other writers
study naturalness and reality, or at any rate verisimilitude,
he deliberately chose to stiffen his manner and to deliver
himself in set speeches. If there had been no inner justi-
fication for it in art itself, if such a reversal had been nothing
but a novelty, a rebellion against the natural order of things,
the surprise of his own generation would have sufficed for
applause and remembrance. But his double style is very subtly
justified by obviously true principles of art. When Walton
himself speaks, you may see him and hear him exactly as
he is : knowing himself, he is not confused that you should
know him also with his own precision of knowledge, and with
his own charming self-deceits. But when it is his characters
that speak, their historian frankly disguises his own acquaint-
ance with their most intimate emotions by giving to them a
stately and uncharacteristic method of utterance. Donne and
Hooker, Wotton, Herbert and Sanderson, all converse in the
same style, and, but for the variety of distinguishing occasions,



WALTON'S LIVES xiii

it would be impossible to detect which was which, or to
discover any personal note in any of their speeches. This
fact might doubtless have reflected upon Walton's capacity
as a delineator of character, were it not for the peculiar and
acute appreciation which he elsewhere shows for character-
istic points, even subtler than the swing of a man's conver-
sation.

Having thus taken a general view of his personality and
style, it might be well to illustrate that view by particular
reference to the lives of which he was the author. Let me
introduce him therefore with the earliest of his biographies, the
life of Dr. John Donne. The first very curious and interesting
matter to note in connexion with that artless composition
is the deliberate — I had almost written the sinful — suppres-
sion of Donne's secular career. Donne, the literary artist,
the poet of high - sounding phrase, scarcely exists in these
prattling pages. 'It is a truth,' writes Walton, 'that in his
penitential years, viewing some of those pieces that had been
loosely — God knows, too loosely — scattered in his youth, he
wished they had been abortive, or so short-lived that his eyes
had witnessed their funerals.' And it is accordingly to Pseudo-
martyr and to the Book of Devotions that diffuse reference
is made in demonstration of how heavenly a creature the
Dean of St. Paul's contrived to become. The early years of
poetic inspiration are to this unscrupulous biographer a matter
for gloomy silence ; or, if for casual speech, serve as a foil against
the devout and pure lapse of the 'penitential years.' The
reader, therefore, is prepared to find a ' penitential ' rather than
a poetic Donne ; and he is forced to confess that Walton's
admirable success in this rather dreary undertaking must all
be put to the credit of his accomplishment, if not of his im-
partiality. Donne's life, as everybody knows, mildly paralleled
the life of St. Augustine, in so far as it was divided into two



xiv INTRODUCTION TO

portions, one given to the things of this world, the other
given to the things of the next. Now, the peculiar in-
terest of St. Augustine's Confessions lies in the subtle and
masterly analysis of that which he regarded as the sinful
half of his career. Walton's life of Donne is, on the other
hand, remarkable for the portrait of the man in the spiritual
and staid passages of his life. A most venerable divine, poig-
nantly conscious of sin, exact, learned, laborious, and, so far as
mere words go, very humble and self-accusing ; a preacher, in
and out of season, of the Word of the Gospel, earnest, eloquent,
hard-headed, and withal not lacking in a certain tendency
towards intrigue; an occasional writer of 'high and heavenly
verse,' finding, somewhat artlessly, in the mere production
of poetry, a relief to his oppression of sinfulness; a demure,
friendly, careful, somewhat pompous, very meritorious, extremely
accomplished invalid : this is the picture which Walton is at
pains to draw for you, and to impress with infinite persistence
upon the charmed intelligence. This is not the full, ripe Donne,
the Donne that uttered his youth in various literature, who is
here painted for our appreciation. The Donne that wrote

Send my long-stray 'd eyes to me,
Which O ! too long have dwelt on thee :
But if from you they've learnt such ill,

To sweetly smile,

And then beguile,
Keep the deceivers, keep them still :

that Donne, I say, takes no part nor character in these pages,
save behind the romantic curtain of the penitent sinner. All
Walton's sympathy went out to meet the reverend divine, and
paused with shame upon the threshold of his hero's youthful
fervours. Still, we must be content to have our Donne as
Walton listeth to serve him up ; and, we may remember that
if there was only one poet, but many clerics, who might have



WALTON'S LIVES xv

borne the name of John Donne, there is only one Izaak Walton,
and that he, in the instance, is our host.

Sir Henry Wotton, the subject of his second biography, was,
for the sake of his whole career, even better in sympathy with
Walton's inclination. Wotton was born with a pious and con-
scientious disposition : he was one of those rare productions
of nature to whom sin is an effort, virtue a pleasing occupa-
tion. Nevertheless, it is not to be inferred from such a descrip-
tion that he was lacking in any of the elegant or liberal
accomplishments of his period ; and this combination, the
Aristocratic Saint, was precisely what Walton most loved, if
perhaps it never occurred to him to acknowledge the secret
magnetism. One or two little traits recorded by him are quite
sufficient to reveal, as it were by a flash of summer lightning,
much of Wotton's staid and reverential manner, which, in its
formalism and propriety, one is used to associate with the good
boy who eventually grows into the good man. Sir Henry, for
example, never mentioned his father without some ' reverential
expression : as " That good man, my father," or " My father, the
best of men."' Cannot you hear him saying it, with suave,
ambassadorial politeness, with a certain ripeness of voice ?
For Sir Henry Wotton was renowned for the elegance of his
manner and the wit of his conversation. But he was a good
man, and as such Walton loved him. That charming trifler,
whose inquiries into the airy mysteries of angling, whose
delicate observation and tiny intensity of sport have built
him into something of a classic, cannot seemingly endure that
his heroes should ever condescend to triviality or to a forgetful-
ness of the high, serious thoughts of life. Wotton composed at
an early period of his life the tragedy of Tancredo, and it is
excused with much ceremony by his biographer : he actually
considers it worth his while to adduce the opinion of ' that
wise knight, Baptista Guarini,' who ' thought it neither an



xvi INTRODUCTION TO

uncomely nor an unprofitable employment ! ' But he, with
divine scorn : ' I pass to what will be thought more serious.'
It is, if nothing else, an engrossing pose, and one is not
unnaturally entertained to find that the crowning act of
Wotton's life, his entrance into Holy Orders, is that which
found him the greatest favour in the eyes of his biographer.
Sir Henry, the Provost of Eton, is clearly the Sir Henry
whom Walton likes best. Wotton's incapacity for handling
money, his unfortunate debts, which 'wrinkled his face with
care/ are treated with a masterly insinuation by his biographer,
who complains, with that artless, delightful sense of grievance
common to all very innocent hero-worshippers, of the cruelty
and forgetfulness of the world, in this respect, rather than
of his hero's own possible lack of business capacity. It is
with a generous triumph, however, that he approaches the
religious climax of Wotton's career, and deals with the sacred
calling in which Wotton chose to finish his failing days. Let
me not depreciate Walton's merits. His enthusiasm is very
sincere, and if it had had no more profitable fruit than his im-
mortal phrase of those infirmities that accompany age — they
were ' wont to visit him like civil friends, and, after some short
time, to leave him ' — it was not in vain. Yet it is worthy of
note that any references to Wotton's secular poems have but
the smallest place in Walton's life, and that, although these
unhappy lines are sedulously quoted :

O my unhappy lines ! you that before
Have served my youth to vent some wanton cries,
And now, congealed with grief, can scarce implore
Strength to accent, ' Here my Albertus lies ' :

no mention is made anywhere of such verses as ' On his Mis-
tress, the Queen of Bohemia,' despite the exquisite beauty of
its first stanza. For Izaak Walton wished us, first of all, to
understand that Wotton was a good man. The poet was



WALTON'S LIVES xvii

thrown in afterwards for what he was worth. And the joy of
it all is that Walton succeeds to admiration in his endeavour.

In Mr. Richard Hooker, if not in Sir Henry Wotton — for
Hooker never wrote verses even to any Queen of Bohemia —
Walton found the complete realisation of his ideal. Here
was a man who grew up from the root of, not mere common
youthful goodness but, a goodness that was positively por-
tentous. He was born grave : ' his motion was slow even
in his youth, and so was his speech, never expressing an
earnestness in either of them, but a humble gravity suited to
the aged.' Here was the very man for Walton's peculiar
literary disposition. Here was the hero of no guile, whose
innocence was the primary and patent fact of his life, and who
combined with that innocence extraordinary mental powers
of logic and of stately and dignified expression. No need, in
this instance, to insinuate pleasing and gentle excuses for
conduct, tinged, perhaps, with a colour of worldliness ! Here
was a subject to revel in ; and Izaak Walton revels.

As I have said, it is this Life which appears to me the
finest of the series in point of mere literary style. Hooker
was a little remote from Walton's own generation ; and
Walton, who had therefore no opportunity of visiting his
faults with any certitude of knowledge, writes of him with
a more elaborate, a statelier sense of English than that which
he is used to employ in his arm-chair style when he converses
of acquaintances. This would, perhaps, not be very much of
an advantage if it did not at the same time reveal that Walton
had a statelier manner worth the trouble of cultivation. This
is more or less literature where the other was pure — Walton.
One does not rank it indeed with such contemporary work as
Religio Medici, Holt/ Dying, or Urn-Burial. Yet the little less
of literature which it contains is sufficiently delightful (represent-
ing Walton himself at his ease) to make the Life of Mr. Richard



xviii INTRODUCTION TO

Hooker as judicious a mixture as that judicious man could ever
himself have contrived to be. And, apart from the general
defect of possessing no vices, there can be no doubt that
Hooker was a man of rare qualities, and that Walton did well
to love him dearly. It is impossible, under Walton's guidance,
not to entertain some personal affection for this tenderly
solemn, wisely grave, meekly but keenly controversial man ;
as innocent as man well can be, and as industrious as very
few men ever become. He had somewhere hidden in his
nature a vein of that poignant feeling which gives the tone
to so much of the compassion of modern times. ' Our best
actions,' he sorrowfully writes, ' have somewhat in them to be
pardoned.' And it is this unsullied humility, this sincerity of
unworthiness — very different from the merely literary humilities
with which that age abounded, and which are conspicuous
in Walton's own work — that make one happy in his
company and attracted by his character. Here, as Walton
shows him to us, was a genuine man, but with perhaps an
extravagantly narrow outlook in life. It could not indeed be
otherwise. Hooker's every tendency was towards the formal-
ism of religion, although it is certain that he had profounder
religious sentiments, and lived rather according to the spirit
of his creed than according to any of those laws of ecclesiastical
polity, which were to him the life and breath of his secondary,
his academic, his literary existence. Yet indeed, poor man, his
natural life was something of a burthen to him ; and his long
suffering under petty domestic persecution deserves to rank
among the historic instances of sweetness and patience in great
men. Walton's recital of that suffering is among the most
charming passages he ever penned. It has a hidden humour,
indeed; but it paints with unerring strokes, and within the
compass of a very few words, more of Hooker's character than
one is able to derive from all those stately volumes, those



WALTON'S LIVES xix

dignified periods, which make up his literary work. There is
a serenity, too, a shining peacefulness, brooding over the whole
biography which I am ready and anxious to consider part of