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moralize upon her features and presentments. To consider, for instance, this balmy air which is gently waving the branches of a chesnut-tree before my eyes—what a mysterious element it is! Powerful enough to shipwreck navies, and tear up the deep-grappling oak, yet so subtle as to be invisible, and so delicate as not to wound the naked eye. Naturally imperishable, who can imagine all the various purposes to which the identical portion may have been applied, which I am at this instant inhaling? Perhaps at the creation it served to modulate into words the sublime command, "Let there be light," when the blazing sun rolled itself together, and upheaved from chaos:-perhaps impelled by the jealous Zephyrus, it urged Apollo's quoit against the blue-veined forehead of Hyacinthus ;-it may perchance have filled the silken sails of Cleopatra's vessel, as she floated down the Cydnus; or have burst from the mouth of Cicero in the indignant exordium-" Quousque tandem, Catilina, abutêre patientiâ nostrâ ?" or his still more abrupt exclamation, "Absit-evasit-excessit-erupit!" It may have given breath to utter the noble dying speeches of Socrates in his prison, of Sir Philip Sidney on the plains of Zutphen, of Russell at the block. But the same inexhaustible element which would supply endless matter for my reflections, may perhaps pass into the mouth of the reader, and be vented in a peevish-"Psha! somewhat too much of this,”and I shall therefore hasten to take my leave of him, claiming some share of credit, that when so ample a range was before me, my speculations should so soon, like the witches in Macbeth, have "made themselves air, into which they vanished.” H.
WHAT to the maid is left below,
When he is gone, she held most dear?
She oft has found delight before?-
All speak of me, who oft was there!
To gain her bosom's former peace?—
ON ANGLING; WITH REMARKS ON ISAAC WALTON'S WORK. "I mortally hate cruelty, both by nature and judgment, as the very extreme of all vices."-Montaigne.
"The savages do not so much offend me in roasting and eating the bodies of the dead, as they do who torment and persecute the living."-Ibid.
"NERO is an ANGLER in the lake of darkness.”—Shakspeare.
WALTON'S "Complete Angler" is a singular work, which has been singularly over-praised. It contains a few descriptive and sentimental passages of extreme beauty, on account of their entire simplicity and truth; and the poetry with which it is interspersed gives, to those who were previously unacquainted with it, a pleasant relief, which in part takes off from the puerile and tedious common-place of the narrative. But, as a whole, the book is much more admired and talked of than read; and it is read more than it deserves.
But the reason which has induced me to ask the reader's attention to this work at present is, that it exhibits the most striking individual example I have ever met with of the power of habit and education in creating a second nature, which shall, under particular circumstances, put aside for a while, and take the place of, the first, without in any manner changing or deteriorating its general character, or even that particular department of it which has thus occasionally been usurped upon and rendered dormant. Isaac Walton was, generally speaking, the most good-hearted, and, in the very best sense of the term, the most honest of mankind: that is to say, the man who would, least of all others, feel justified in depriving his fellow-creatures of their natural right, merely to benefit himself. And yet Isaac Walton was the most devoted and enthusiastic of anglers! This is nothing less than a con
tradiction in terms; and yet so it was.
It is not my intention to offer any arguments shewing that angling, as a mere amusement, is not to be justified. I will, for the sake of human nature, suppose that no one will ever attempt to justify it. I even question if any one ever seriously set his wits to seek an excuse for it. It has been attempted, with a specious appearance of success, to palliate and excuse the various other field sports, as they are called, on the score of health, exercise, mental excitation, the sacrifice of the few to the many, the extirpation of noxious animals, &c.; but the sophistry of the most cold-blooded of casuists never attempted to apply these arguments to angling. Still less does the angler himself think of bringing them forward. He is, generally speaking, disposed to think of nothing but the best means of accomplishing his object, and if you were to tell him that he is keeping one animal in lingering torments, in order to compass the death of another animal, on which he wantonly inflicts pain and death, he would either stare at you in blank amazement, or laugh in your face, and turn away to put another worm on his hook, and proceed in his sport. And if, when he returned home at the end of it, he should happen to find his little boy spinning a cockchafer, he would, perhaps, be very angry with him, and beat him for being so cruel." deed, for the angler himself I can always find an excuse in Dean Swift's jest on the subject, which describes the whole process as consisting of a stick and a string, with a fly at one end, and a fool at the other." But this excuse of folly will not apply to some amateurs of angling, and least of all to Isaac Walton. He was not "a fool;" but,
on the contrary, a sensible and meditative man, and, in the main, an extremely kind-hearted one. He had also a deep and unaffected love for the beauties of external nature, and an eye quick to discriminate them, when they were placed before it-an eye not weakened or jaundiced even by his dwelling in that spring of all mental discase—a large and vicious city. What then shall we say to him?
Let us first look into this celebrated work of his, and see of what it chiefly consists; and then, after having contrasted together the traits of its cruelty with what may by some be considered as its redeeming parts, let us inquire whether these latter do not aggravate the former, instead of extenuating them. It makes us doubt the goodness of our common nature, and look with fear and suspicion on all around useven the best. The reader, who may not have previously thought on this subject, must abstain from accusing or suspecting me of expressing myself extravagantly, till he has seen what I have to lay before him in justification of my feelings. But if, when I shall have done this, he be not ready to confess that it is he, and not I, who has all along been practising a self-deceit, I may safely promise that I will, as the greatest and most appropriate penance that can be inflicted on my folly, turn angler myself.
The reader is to understand, that "The Complete Angler" is written in the form of dialogues, and chiefly consists of the conversations which are supposed to take place between an accomplished angler and his pupil, while they are out together on a fishing-excursion. In the course of these dialogues, the author, under the name of Piscator, lays before his young friend all the advantages and pleasures attendant on his favourite pursuit, and the rules and remarks necessary for him to attend to, if he would follow it with success.
That I may, as well on the reader's account as my own, get over the unpleasant part of my task as soon as possible, I shall at once place before him a few of the directions which Walton gives relative to live baits, &c. After telling his pupil that, if he cannot easily find a live grasshopper, "a black snail, with his belly slit to shew his white, will usually do as well,"— or a beetle, with its legs and wings cut off,”he adds, more in detail, and with reference to the baits for another fish, "First, for your live bait of a fish, a roach or dace is, I think, most tempting, and a pearch is longest-lived upon the hook; and having cut off his fin on his back, which may be done without hurting him, you must take your knife, which cannot be too sharp, and betwixt the head and the fin on the back, cut or make an incision, or such a scar as you may put the arming wire of your hook into it, with as little bruising or hurting the fish as art and diligence will enable you to do; and so carrying your arming wire along his back, unto or near the tail of your fish, betwixt the skin and the body of it, draw out that wire or arming of your hook at another scar near his tail: then tie him about it with thread, but no harder than of necessity, to prevent hurting the fish; and the better to avoid hurting the fish, some have a kind of probe to open the way, for the more easy entrance and passage of your wire or arming."- Again, of frogs-" And thus use your frog, that he may continue long alive. Put your hook into his mouth, which you may easily do from the middle of April till August, and then the frog's mouth grows up, and he continues so for at least six months without
eating, but is sustained, none but He whose name is Wonderful knows how I say, put your hook, I mean the arming wire, through his mouth, and out at his gills, and then, with a fine needle and silk, sew the upper part of his leg with only one stitch to the arming wire of your hook, or tie the frog's leg, above the upper joint, to the armed wire; and, in so doing, use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly"-(why-does the reader think?from pity of his sufferings?—No, but)" that he may live the longer!" -Once more. "These live baits may make sport, being tied about the body or wings of a goose or duck, and she chased over a pond: and the like may be done with turning three or four live baits thus fastened to bladders, or boughs, or bottles of hay or flags, to swim down a river, whilst you walk quietly on the shore, and are still in expectation of sport!" Is the reader satisfied? or does he desire a few more morsels in the following taste? "Take a carp, alive if possible, scour him, and rub him clean with salt and water; then open him, and put him with his blood and his liver, &c." Is it conceivable that these atrocities can proceed from the really kind, simple-hearted, and benevolent Isaac Walton ?-so sincere a lover of the calm delights of the country-so happy a wanderer "by hedge-row elms, on hillocks green"- so enraptured a listener to the nightingale's song or the cuckoo's voice-in short, with altogether so pure a taste, and so unaffected a feeling for all the best sources of mental pleasure? How strangely do the foregoing details appear in contrast with the following passage. "How do the blackbird and throssel, with their melodious voices, bid welcome to the cheerful spring, and in their fixed months warble forth such ditties as no art of instrument can reach to!-Nay, the smaller birds also do the like in their particular seasons, as, namely, the laverock, the tit-lark, the little linnet, and the honest robin, that loves mankind both living and dead. But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think that miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, Lord, what music hast thou provided for the saints in heaven, when thou affordest bad men such music on earth!" Again :-"When I would beget content, and increase confidence in the power and wisdom and providence of God, I will walk the meadows by some gliding stream, and there contemplate the lilies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures, that are not only created but fed, man knows not how, by the goodness of the God of Nature, and therefore trust in him. This is my purpose; and so let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord." This is his purpose, he says; and in pursuance of it he forthwith impales upon a barbed hook one of these "little living creatures" that are "created and fed by the goodness of the God of Nature" to be swallowed by another of them, as a means of draging the latter out of the "gliding stream," in which, according to Milton's own opinion, the "goodness of God" had placed it-and all purely and avowedly for the sport's sake! "And so," he concludes, "let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord," including the frog
that has just been sewed to his hook by the leg, with the wire run "through his mouth and out at his gills"— and the fish that has thus been enticed to "gorge" the said hook and wire, and has had them torn up from out his quivering vitals, and is put on one side to die in lingering torments! Surely, there never was, or will be, such another example of pure and heartfelt kindliness and piety, united to such a heart-sickening and selfish want of feeling and consistency-so sincerely delighted a sense of the beauty and happiness that are every where scattered about us, joined to so callous a habit of wilfully destroying that beauty and happiness, for pure sport! For my part, I could more easily solve the riddle of the sphinx, than give a rational and satisfactory explanation of the following short passage, with which this most singular and unaccountable book closes. The pupil, in return for the instructions that Walton has been giving him about "live baits," &c. calls for "the blessing of Peter's master" upon his master; and this latter adds, " And upon all that are lovers of virtue, and dare trust in his Providence, and be quiet, and go an angling."
However much I may wish to engender in the reader a hatred for this execrable" sport," I would willingly leave him impressed with the same respect and affection that I myself feel towards the honest Isaac Walton. I shall, therefore, close this slight notice with a few specimens of his exquisite naïveté, simplicity, and enthusiasm ;-all of which would be perfectly delightful, if they were not worse than cast away on such a subject. I have said that he is unaffectedly kindhearted. He is so much so, that he cannot bring himself to hate any thing-not even the worst things, except otters. But these he abuses in set terms, calling them" villainous vermin," and "base otters;" and he assures us that he "hates them perfectly, because they love fish so well; or rather, because they destroy so much." Next to otters, he dislikes scoffers, because he has heard that they rail at his beloved pursuit. He makes it a point of conscience to dislike them, "because I account them enemies to me, and to all that love virtue and angling!" With him the terms are convertible;-see what he says afterwards to the same effect: "It (angling) will prove like virtue, a reward to itself." Again, he describes his deceased friend, Sir George Hastings, as "an excellent angler, and now with God," as if he believed, which he undoubtedly did, that the one is the surest and shortest road to the other. Hear, also, what he says of Dr. Nowel, Dean of St. Paul's: "And the good old man, though he was very learned, yet knowing that God leads us not to heaven by many nor by hard questions, like an honest angler,"-did what, does the reader think?-why," made that good, plain, unperplexed catechism which is printed with our good old service-book!" Describing the same person, he continues-" his custom was to spend, besides his fixed hours of prayer, (those hours which by command of the church were enjoined the clergy, and voluntarily dedicated to devotion by many primitive Christians,) I say, besides those hours, this good man was observed to spend a tenth part of his time in angling," which he (Walton) considers as, par excellence, "a recreation that became a churchman." And then he goes on to describe his picture in Brazen Nose college; " in which picture he is drawn leaning on a desk, with his Bible before him, and on the one