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It would probably never have occurred to any mind, but one so chastely and purely constituted as that of old Izaak Walton, to make instructions in the Art of Angling a vehicle for inculcating the doctrines of rational piety and the purest morality: and yet this he has done. His book comprises a course of Moral Philosophy, and while its principles are laid down in the most convincing manner, they are enforced with an irresistible gentleness. The agreeable simplicity of the style, its colloquial ease, and the innocent mirth which pervades it, form a combination of the useful and the agreeable, which is equally rich and
If that axiom of the Epicurean School be true, that it is the business of man on earth to pursue happiness, then is Izaak Walton the first of philosophers, and the best, because he improves upon that system by adding to it the benevolent principles of the Christian Religion. He leads his readers and disciples to the purest gratification, but he never fails to prove to them, chemin faisant, that it can only be attained by the exercise of patience and humility. He persuades to the paths of virtue, by shewing that they are those of pleasantness and peace; and, in this respect alone, his illustrations are 66 worth a thousand homilies."
Our venerable author has been more than usually fortunate in the persons to whom the task of editing his favourite book has fallen. Sir John Hawkins, who stands by far the most eminent among them, seems to have been urged to his labours by a feeling of affectionate respect for the author, which was inspired by the work, and which gathered strength as he pursued it. It is impossible to praise, too highly, the intelligence and pains which he has bestowed, and by dint of which he has succeeded in making his notes nearly as amusing as the text.
To render the work worthy of public patronage, the whole of the old plates have been discarded, from an idea that they tended very little to illustrate the text; and, in their execution, could hardly be considered any embellishment, while their insertion was a very material enhancement of the price of the work.
The Publisher of the present edition has, therefore, substituted other plates, which he trusts will, to the lovers of the Art of Angling, prove no small recommendation to the work; while, to collectors and admirers of the arts, their execution will yield equal pleasure. The situations delineated are such as "Angler's love;" and, it is hoped, the present
embellishments will be generally considered as more "germain to the matter," than the antiquated representations of the previous editions, which seem to have been retained, in the case of Walton's excellent Book, without any attempt at improvement, whilst almost every other work has been undergoing the changes attendant upon the advancement of the arts, and the refinement of taste.
In consequence of the death of the former Editor, since the publication of the fourth edition of this work in 1784, the revision of the present has devolved upon me, his son. For the execution of this office he had left behind him some corrections and additions, inserted in the margin of his copy of the fourth edition; which, though not many, have been all made use of on this occasion, from a wish that the book might receive the advantage of his last corrections. Such of them as he had completed have been silently adopted; but such as were nothing more than mere hints, I have reduced into form, and distinguished them by the initials J. S. H.; and where these latter are continuations of former notes, have precisely marked where they stopped in the fourth edition, by placing the initials J. H. I have, however, in no instance varied from the last of the editions, published in his life, excepting where it was warranted by some memorandum of my father's, or by communications from intelligent friends since his decease, being myself wholly unacquainted with the subject.
As the plates have, in consequence of the number of impressions furnished from them for the preceding editions, become so worn as to be no longer any ornament to the work, it has been found necessary to omit them. Such of them, however, as represent the materials for fishing (and which fortunately had sustained less injury) have been retained; and for the omission of the rest all possible amends have been made, by printing the book with a better type, and on better paper than could otherwise have been afforded.
J. S. H.
EDITION PUBLISHED BY SIR JOHN HAWKINS, 1760.
THE COMPLETE ANGLER having been written so long ago as 1653, although the last publication thereof in the life-time 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 an 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 introduce 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 lover.