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IZAAK WALTON (1593-1683)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 301 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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IZAAK WALTON (1593-1683), English writer, author of The Compleat Angler, was born at Stafford on the 9th of August 1593; the register of his baptism gives his father's name as Jervis, and nothing more is known of his parentage. He settled in London as an ironmonger, and at first had one of the small shops, 71 ft. by 5 ft., in the upper storey of Gresham's Royal Burse or Exchange in Cornhill. In 1614 he had a shop in Fleet Street, two doors west of Chancery Lane. Here, in the parish of St Dunstan's, he gained the friendship of Dr John Donne, then vicar of that church. His first wife, married in December 1626, was Rachel Floud, a great-great-niece of Archbishop Cranmer. She died in 1640. He married again soon after, his second wife being Anne Ken—the pastoral " Kenna " of The Angler's Wish—step-sister of Thomas Ken, afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells. After the Royalist defeat at Marston Moor, he retired from business. He had bought some land near his birthplace, Stafford, and he went to live there; but, according to Wood, spent most of his time " in the families of the eminent clergymen of England, of whom he was much beloved "; and in 165o he was again living in Clerkenwell. In 1653 came out the first edition of his famous book, The Compleat Angler. His second wife died in 1662, and was buried in Worcester cathedral church, where there is a monument to her memory. One of his daughters married Dr Hawkins, a prebendary of Winchester. The last forty years of his long life seem to have been spent in ideal leisure and occupation, the old man travelling here and there, visiting his " eminent clergymen " and other brethren of the angle, compiling the biographies of congenial spirits, and collecting here a little and there a little for the enlargement of his famous treatise. After 1662 he found a home at Farnham Castle with George Morley, bishop of Winchester, to whom he dedicated his Life of George Herbert and also that of Richard Hooker; and from time to time he visited Charles Cotton in his fishing house on the Dove. He died in his daughter's house at Winchester on. the 15th of December 1683, and was buried in the cathedral. It,is characteristic of his kindly nature that he left his property at Shalford for the benefit of the poor of his native town. Walton hooked a much bigger fish than he angled for when he offered his quaint treatise, The Compleat Angler, to the public. There is hardly a name in English literature, even of the first rank, whose immortality is more secure, or whose personality is the subject of a more devoted cult. Not only is he the sacer vales of a considerable sect in the religion of recreation, but multitudes who have never put a worm on a hcok—even on a fly-hook--have been caught and securely held by his picture of the delights of the gentle craft and his easy leisurely transcript of his own simple, peaceable, lovable and amusing character. The Compleat Angler was published in 1653, but Walton continued to add to its completeness in his leisurely way for a quarter of a century. It was dedicated to John Offley, his most honoured friend. There was a second edition in 1655, a third in 1661 (identical with that of 1664), a fourth in 1668 and a fifth in 1676. In this last edition the thirteen chapters of the original have grown to twenty-one, and a second part was added by his loving friend and brother angler Charles Cotton, who took up " Venator " where Walton had left him and completed his instruction in fly-fishing and the making of flies. Walton did not profess to be an expert with the fly; the fly-fishing in his first edition was contributed by Thomas Barker, a retired cook and humorist, who produced a treatise of his own in. 1659; but in the use of the live worm, the grasshopper and the frog " Piscator " himself could speak as a master. The famous passage about the frog—often misquoted about the worm—" use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer "—appears in the original edition. The additions made as the work grew were not merely to the technical part; happy quotations, new turns of phrase, songs, poems and anecdotes were introduced as if the leisurely author, who wrote it as a recreation, had kept it constantly in his mind and talked it over point by point with his numerous brethren. There were originally only two interlocutors in the opening scene, " Piscator " and " Viator "; but in the second edition, as if in answer to an objection that " Piscator " had it too much in his own way in praise of angling, he introduced the falconer, " Auceps," changed " Viator " into " Venator " and made the new companions each dilate on the joys of his favourite sport. Although The Compleat Angler was not Walton's first literary work, his leisurely labours as a biographer seem to have grown out of his devotion to angling. It was probably as an angler that he made the acquaintance of Sir Henry Wotton, but it is clear that Walton had more than a love of fishing and a humorous temper to recommend him to the friendship of the accomplished ambassador. At any rate, Wotton, who had intended to write the life of John Donne, and had already corresponded with Walton on the subject, left the task to him. Walton had already contributed an Elegy to the 1633 edition of Donne's poems, and he completed and published the life, much to the satisfaction of the most learned critics, in 1640. Sir Henry Wotton dying in 1639, Walton undertook his life also; it was finished in 1642 and published in 165r. His life of Hooker was published in 1662, that of George Herbert in r67o and that of Bishop Sanderson in 1678. All these subjects were endeared to the biographer by a certain gentleness of disposition and cheerful piety; three of them at least—Donne, Wotton and Herbert—were anglers. Their lives were evidently written with loving pains, in the same leisurely fashion as his Angler, and like it are of value less as exact knowledge than as harmonious and complete pictures of character. Walton also rendered affection-ate service to the memory of his friends Sir John Skeffington and John Chalkhill, editing with prefatory notices Skeffington's Hero of Lorenzo in 1652 and Chalkhill's Thealma and Clearchus a few months before his own death in 1683. His poems and prose fragments were collected in 1878 under the title of Waltoniana. The best-known old edition of the Angler is J. Major's (2nd ed., 1824). The book was edited by Andrew Lang in 1896, and various modern editions have appeared. The standard biography is that by Sir Harris Nicolas, prefixed to an edition of the Angler (1836). There are notices also, with aduitional scraps of fact, annexed to two American editions, Bethune's (1847) and Dowling's (1857). An edition of Walton's Lives, by G. Sampson, appeared in 1903. See also Izaak Walton and his Friends, by S. Martin (1903). WALTON-LE-DALE, an urban district in the Darwen parliamentary division of Lancashire, England, on the S. bank of the Ribble, immediately above Preston. Pop. (1901) 11,271. The church of St Leonard, situated on an eminence to the east of the town, was originally erected in the 11th century. The earliest portions of the present building are the Perpendicular chancel and tower, the nave having been rebuilt in 1798, while the transepts were erected in 1816. There are a number of interesting old brasses and monuments. Cotton-spinning is carried on, and there are market-gardens in the vicinity. Roman remains have been found here, and there was perhaps a roadside post on the site. The manor of Walton was granted by Henry de Lacy about 1130 to Robert Banastre. It afterwards passed by marriage to the Langtons, and about 1592 to the Hoghtons of Hoghton. Walton was the principal scene of the great battle of Preston, fought on the 17th of August 1648 between Cromwell and the duke of Hamilton. In 1701 the duke of Norfolk, the earl of Derwentwater and other Jacobites incorporated the town by the style of the " mayor and corporation of the ancient borough of Walton." In 1715 the passage of the Ribble was bravely defended against the Jacobites by Parson Woods and his parishioners of Atherton (q.v.). WALTON-ON-THAMES, an urban district in the Epsom parliamentary division of Surrey, England, pleasantly situated on the right bank of the Thames, 17 M. W.S.W. from London by the London & South-Western railway. Pop. (1901) 10,329. The church of St Mary has late Norman portions, and contains numerous memorials, including examples of the work of Chantrey and Roubiliac. A verse inscribed upon a pillar is reputed to be Queen Elizabeth's profession of faith as regards transubstantiation. The queen was a frequent resident at Henry VIII.'s palace of Oatlands Park, which was destroyed during the civil wars of the 17th century. The property subsequently passed through various hands, and the park is reduced in extent by the modern growth of villas surrounding it. It contains, however, a remark-able grotto built of mineral and stalactitic rock, shells and other similar materials, by one of the earls of Lincoln when owner. Ashley Park, a Tudor mansion (in the main modernized), attributed to Cardinal Wolsey, was at times the residence of Cromwell; while John Bradshaw, who, as lord president of the court, sentenced Charles I. to death, occupied the old manor house of Walton. Walton is a favourite resort of anglers and boating parties. WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE (or WALTON-LE-SOKEN), a watering-place in the Harwich parliamentary division of Essex, England, the terminus of a branch of the Great Eastern railway from Colchester, 712 M. E.N.E. from London. Pop. of urban district (1901) 2014. This portion of the coast has suffered from encroachment of the sea, and a part of the old village of Walton, with the church, was engulfed towards the end of the 18th century. A prebendary stall at St Paul's Cathedral, London, was endowed with the lands thus consumed (praebenda consumpia per mare). On the E. side of the town is the open North Sea, with a fine stretch of sand and shingle, affording good bathing. To the west is an irregular inlet studded with low islands, known as Hanford Water. The Naze is a promontory 2 M. N. by E. of the town, and in the vicinity of Walton are low cliffs exhibiting the fossiliferous red crag formation. The church of All Saints is a brick building dating mainly from 1804. Walton has a public hall, several hotels and a small theatre; and iron foundries and brick works. Services of passenger steamers in connexion with Harwich, Clacton-on-Sea, and London are maintained in the summer.
End of Article: IZAAK WALTON (1593-1683)
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