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The Compleat Angler
by Izaak Walton
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For a book to stay in print for nearly 350 years, its merits must continually entice and satisfy. The Compleat Angler qualifies on both counts. On the most obvious level, it remains as good a primer on fishing as any angler would want. But its most enduring distinction is hinted at in the subtitle--"the Contemplative Man's Recreation." Izaak Walton's sometimes convoluted 17th-century grammar can still reel in our imaginations with his graceful evocations of a life free from hurly-burly in the company of friends intent on physical and moral sustenance. "He that hopes to be a good Angler must not only bring an inquiring, searching, observing wit," suggests the master, "but he must bring a large measure of hope and patience.... Doubt not but Angling will prove to be so pleasant, that it will prove to be like a virtue, a reward to itself." Just like Walton's magnificent literary catch. --Jeff Silverman
Piscator. You are well overtaken, Gentlemen! A good morning to you both! I have stretched my legs up Tottenham Hill to overtake you, hoping your business may occasion you towards Ware whither I am going this fine fresh May morning.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
(in full The Compleat Angler; or, the Contemplative Man's Recreation) A pastoral discourse on the joys of fishing by Izaak Walton, first published in 1653. A much enlarged edition appeared in 1655, and the last edition supervised by the author, published in 1676, included additional material by Charles Cotton. The complete book, including Cotton's additions, has been among the most often reprinted books in English literature. The book opens on the first day of May, as three sportsmen--Auceps the fowler, Venator the hunter, and Piscator the fisherman--compare their favored pastimes while traveling through the English countryside along the River Lea. The discourse is enlivened by more than 40 songs and poems, country folklore, recipes, anecdotes, moral meditations, quotes from the Bible and from classic literature, and lore about fishing and waterways. The Compleat Angler is based in part on 15th- and 16th-century fishing manuals, and the sections on fly fishing and the making of artificial flies are by Cotton.
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