Page images

by a hundred pages of new matter, and the dialogue is mainly carried on by three persons, a huntsman, a falconer, and an angler, Venator (who takes the place of Viator), Auceps, and Piscator. The arrangement is also changed, much for the better. The first form was simply divided into thirteen chapters without headings; which insufficiency he himself felt, for he prefixes a table of contents, "because," as he says, "in this discourse of Fish and Fishing I have not observed a method, which (though the discourse be not long) may be of some inconvenience to the Reader" in "his finding out of some particular things which are spoken of." In this second edition there are twenty-one chapters, with headings giving the substance of each.

The third edition came out in 1661 (some titles are dated 1664, but clearly of the same impression, as there is no other variation). The Postscript on the Laws of Angling, written by some friend of the author, was now first added. Some few alterations may be detected, but they are too slight to need particular notice here, except in the Address to the Reader, which he re-wrote, adding to the clause where he speaks of possible "censure:" "which if it prove too severe, as I have liberty, so I am resolved to use it, and neglect all sour censures." From this we may infer that he had been censured for the style, or the skill, with which he had written, and suppose (though other editors have overlooked the coincidence) that he alludes to a conversation which Richard Franck says that he held with him in Staffordshire some time before 1658.

This RICHARD FRANCK wrote in that year (though it was not published until 1694) a work entitled, "Northern Memoirs, Calculated for the Meridian of Scotland, &c., to which is added The Contemplative and Practical Angler: Writ in the year 1658, by RICHARD* FRANCK, Philanthropus.

* Sir Harris Nicholas, by a slip of memory, calls him Robert Franck;

Plures necat Gula quam Gladius ;" a new edition of which was published at Edinburgh in 1821, with preface and notes, by Walter Scott, who does not append his name, but signs himself,

"No Fisher, But a well-wisher To the game."

From his excellent antiquarian authority we learn that Franck was a Cromwellian Trooper, and an Independent, though upon a mystical system of his own, who, for some time after the Restoration, had found refuge in America, as he published a "Philosophical Treatise of the Original and Production of Things, writ in America in a Time of Solitude," the head title of which was "RABBI MOSES." He was born, and for a great part of his life lived, at Cambridge, and speaks of himself as a person of slender education, though one would think (with Scott) that "some degree of learning was necessary to have formed so very uncommon and pedantic a style." We have taken thus much notice of him because he enjoys the bad notoriety of being the only author who has spoken unkindly of the kindly Walton,* and also because he certainly proves

but in Pickering's Ellis Catalogue there is a worse error, in the statement that he was a Captain in the Royal army, which is sufficiently refuted by Scott, and indeed by the book itself.

There is another exception, Lord Byron, who, in the thirteenth canto of Don Juan, says of Walton,

"The quaint old coxcomb in his gullet

Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it;"

and then in a note calls him "a sentimental savage," and angling "the cursedest, coldest, and the stupidest of sports," and adds, that "no angler can be a good man," though he makes an exception in favor of "one of the best men he ever knew; as humane, delicate-minded, generous, and excellent a creature as any in the world, who was an angler: true, he angled

himself to have been an admirable fly-fisher, "whose contests with salmon are painted to the life." Absurd as he is, there are many pages in his grandiloquent work worth reading, and though but two hundred and fifty of the edition were printed, copies are sometimes to be met with, which deserve a place in an angler's library. The following passages, in which he speaks of Walton, will give the reader some idea of his style, and justify our supposition that it was he who so ruffled the meek spirit of our father Walton:

[ocr errors]

You may dedicate your opinion to what scribbling practitioner you please: the Compleat Angler if you will, who tells you a tedious fly-story extravagantly collected from antiquated authors, such as Gessner, Dubravius, &c. . Some will be solicitous to puzzle themselves about baits and seasons; so that I foresee it will aggravate and fret their intoxicated patience; where, note, each may search (as already noted) in the mouldy records of Aldrovandus, Dubravius, Gessner, or Isaac Walton (whose authority to me seems alike authentick, as is the general opinion of the vulgar prophetic." (Preface.)

"Arnoldus. Indeed, the frequent exercise of flyfishing, 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

with painted flies, and would have been incapable of the extravagancies of I. Walton."

Truly a most worthy judge of morality, and a most worthy book in which to record his ethical condemnation of a man as notorious for keeping the commandments as his lordship was for breaking them.

Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas!

As a contrast to this, read Wordsworth's (the author of Hartleap Well, whose happy lot it is to fish the Dove) Sonnet to

"Meek WALTON's heavenly memory,"

on his "Lives."

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 impracticable. 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 when he prefers the trencher before the trolling-rod; who lays the stress of his argument 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 that they bring them honey.

"Theophilus. I remember the book, but you inculcate his erratas; however, it may pass muster among common muddlers.

"Arnol. No, I think not, for I 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. Gessner, Dubravius, and Androvandus. Which I readily opposed, and offered my reasons to prove the contrary; asserting, that pickerels have been fished out of ponds. where that weed (for aught I knew) never grew since the nonage of time, nor pickerel ever known to shed their spawn there. This I propounded from a rational conjecture of the heronshaw, who to commande herself with a fry of fish, because in a great measure part of her maintenance, probably might lay some spawn about her leg in regard adhering to the segs and bull-rushes 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. When, note, the next pond she happily arrives at, possibly she may leave the spawn behind her, which my Compleat Angler no sooner deliberated, but drop'd his argument, and leaves Gessner to defend it, and so huff'd away: which renders him rather a formal opinionist than a reform'd and practical artist, because to celebrate such antiquated records, whereby to maintain such an improbable assertion.


Theophl. This was the point, I confess : pray, go on. "Arn. In his book, intituled The Compleat Angler, you may read there of various and diversified colors, as also the 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 adults and minority of youth into the slender margin of his uncultivated art, never made practicable by himself, I'm convinc'd. When, note, the true character of an industrious angler more deservedly falls upon Merrill and Faulkener, or rather upon Isaac Owldham, a man that fish'd salmon with three hairs at hook, whose collections and experiments were lost with himself."

These extracts show the spleen of Franck against our author; and the fact of his having a conversation with him before the third edition of the Complete Angler, of a character well calculated to draw out the remark, alluded to, in Walton's preface.

The fourth edition, in 1668, Ellis describes as "a paginary reprint from the third;" though it is said on the titlepage to have been "much corrected and enlarged," meaning, probably, from the first. The list of errata is corrected, but in the Address to the Reader the expression "this third impression" remains.

In 1676, when Walton had reached his eighty-third year, the fifth, and last edition during his life, appeared, with not a few additions and improvements, though it


« PreviousContinue »