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The Compleat Angler: or, The Contemplative Man's Recreation (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – May 26, 1998
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To say "evocative of simpler, happier times" is to barely hint at the near-mystical fragrance of this enchanting volume. Three high-spirited protagonists ("Piscator", "Venator", and "Auceps"), devoted to three rival outdoor avocations (fishing, hunting, and falconing, respectively), meet on a "fine, fresh May morning"; ramble across the countryside in search of lively fishing and hearty times; sing, banter, and versify; recount ancient wisdom (of often dubious validity) regarding the habits and temper of over a dozen local fish species; and encounter a classic sampling of innkeepers, milkmaids, gypsies, and various other idealized rural types. This is a refuge book for quiet evenings, one of those unaccountably transporting narratives of which no charmed reader has ever wanted to reach the end.
Some history: stolen in parts from precedents written as far back as 1450, Walton's work is nearly as early as it could be and still be readable without a line-by-line explanatory gloss ("compleat" is about as arcane as it gets). First published in 1653, there have been well over 100 editions in print. Some of the earlier ones contain Lang's sensitive and informative 28-page introduction to the author's life, the structure of the work, and its publishing history.Read more ›
The first thing to be said about Izaak Walton's book, is that it is a play followed by a text book. The second thing, is that it's in a foreign language even to the English, because it was first published in 1653 when the author was 60. A ripe old age in England in those days.
Walton was essentially a biographer. He got paid for it - often commissioned as a good artist might. He wrote 'The Life of Donne' - a poet who even I've heard of. He's alleged to have been a prosperous merchant, but it doesn't really matter. Great angling writers like Richard Walker were engineers. Old school writers like George Skues, were public school educated solicitors in London practices who took the train to the chalk streams of Winchester in Hampshire at weekends, tying flies as they went.
The play concerns three people who meet by chance and get into conversation about their interests. They're travelling at a walk, and so they lighten their journey with convoluted conversation. Before long, it develops into a bit of a competition. Walton is the angler (Piscator). Another gentleman is keen on falconry (Venator) and yet another is keen on hunting (Auceps).
If you tire of 17th century banter, skip forward to the chapters on each particular species of fish, which will ring true immediately. To me it's a revelation that these friendly old fish will still fall for the same tricks as Walton was playing on their ancestors over 350 years ago.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An absolute classic! How could anyone give less than 5 stars? Over 300 years after it was written, it still has some of the best observations ever made about why we fish. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Daniel J. Worth
As a member of the IWLA, I thought I should read this classic. It is almost to fishing what "Toxophilus" is to Archery. GREAT!!!Published 6 months ago by retiredsgt
A hard and long read, but then it is 300 years ago that it was writtenPublished 7 months ago by George Suedkamp
This is the famous treatise on fly fishing. This was written along time ago so has "flowery" language so not an easy book to read. Read morePublished 9 months ago by AstroBob
This is a pretty good recording to listen to in the car on a long trip by yourself if you like it. It's pretty interesting and put you back in a simpler time of the world.Published 9 months ago by geoff corris