Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Antiquaries > Izaak Walton
  His “wit” and style The Compleat Angler  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

X. Antiquaries.

§ 12. Izaak Walton.

Except in regard to Reliquiae Wottonianae, and, perhaps, even to this in most points beyond its title, the work of Izaak Walton, by which he is almost universally known, may not seem to “intrude him upon antiquaries” as Browne has it; but he was no mean example of the temperament, then common, which creates the antiquarian tendency. Born in East Gate street, Stafford, on 9 August, 1593, he represented, through his father James, a family of yeomen; but he was early sent to London to be apprenticed to Thomas Grinsell and became a freeman of the Ironmongers’ company on 12 November, 1618, having previously settled down in the neighbourhood of Fleet street and Chancery lane. His residence near St. Dunstan’s brought him into contact with Donne. Jonson, Drayton, bishops Hall and King, Sir Henry Wotton and others were, also, his friends; and, by 1619, his connection with literature is, to some extent, shown by the dedication to him of the poems of a certain “S.B.” For a long time, we hear nothing of him; but, in 1640, he published his life of Donne, and, four years later, left London, though he was back at the time of Laud’s execution. In 1650, he is found living at Clerkenwell, and, next year, published Reliquiae. In an unobtrusive way, he seems to have been a trusted member of the royalist party; and he had Charles II’s “lesser George” confided to his care after Worcester. In 1653, The Compleat Angler (not yet complete) appeared; five years later, he wrote his name on Casaubon’s tablet in Westminster abbey; and, in 1662, took up his abode, after the hospitable fashion of great households in those days, with his friend bishop Morley of Winchester. His other Lives followed at intervals. In 1683, he published Chalkhill’s Thealma and Clearchus,  8  and he died at the house of his son-in-law Hawkins (a Winchester prebendary who had married his daughter Anne) on 15 December, 1683. He had been twice married: first, in 1626, to Rachel Floud (a collateral descendant of archbishop Cranmer), who died in 1640; then, in 1646, to Anne Ken, half and elder sister to the future bishop who wrote Walton’s epitaph. His second wife died twenty years before him.   32
  Walton’s long life was thus divided into two periods; and it was only in the later of these that he had full leisure. But this was a leisure of forty unbroken years; and it is not likely that the work of the earlier time was very severe or strenuous. That his tastes, his avocations, his associations were thoroughly literary, there is no doubt; but they do not seem to have prompted him to any extensive or frequent literary exercise. The world-famous Compleat Angler and the widely known Lives go together in one moderate-sized volume (even with Cotton’s part of the firstnamed). There is no valid reason whatever for crediting him with the authorship of Thealma and Clearchus. And the minor works and anecdota, which the diligence of R. H. Shepherd collected some thirty years ago, are of little importance and less bulk.   33

Note 8. See ante, Chap. IV. [ back ]

  His “wit” and style The Compleat Angler  

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