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THE LIFE OF
MR. ISAAC WALTON.
I Present not to the reader a history of a wise ftatesman, an adventurous soldier, or a profound philosopher. Yet I trust, that he will experience no small degree of satisfaction from contemplating the virtues of a private citizen; who, though he arrogates not to himself the splendour of high descent, or the pride of superfluous wealth, deferves our approbation and regard. Isaac, or as he usually wrote his name, Izaac Walton, adorned with a guileless fimplicity of manners, claims from every good man the tribute of applaufe. It was his ambition (and surely a more honourable ambition cannot be excited in the human breast) to commend to the reverence of pofterity the merits of those excellent persons, whose vastly compre. henlive learning and exalted piety will ever endear them to our memories.
The important end of historical knowledge is a prudent application of it io ourselves, with a view to regulate and amend our own conduct. As the examples of men ftriatly and faithfully discharging lheir professional duties must obviously tend to invigorate our efforts to excel in moralworth, the virtuous characters, which are so happily delineated in the following pages, cannot fail, if confidered with lerious attention, of producing the most beneficial and lasting im. pressions on the mind.
The Life of the Author of this biographical collection was little diverfified with events. He was born of a respectable family, on the ninth day of August, 1593, in the parish of St. Mary's, in the town of Stafforda. Of his father no particular tradition is extant. From his mother he derived an hereditary attachment to the Protes. tant religion, as professed in the Church of England. She was the daughter of Edmund Cranmer, Archdeacon of Canterbury, fister to Mr. George Cranmer the pupil and friend of Mr. Richard Hooker, and niece to that first and brightest ornament of the Reformation Dr. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. No vestiges of the place or manner of his education have been discovered : Nor have we any authentic information concerning his first engagements
* " September 1593. Baptiz. fuit Ifaac filius Jervis Walton, XXR die menfis et anni prædiat." (Register of St. Mary's, in the town of Soufford.)
In 1643 the Covenanters came back into England, marching with the Covenant gloriously upon their pikes and in their hats, with this motto, " FOR THE CROWN AND COVENANT OF BOTH KINGDOMs." " This,” he adds, “I law, and fuffered by it. But when I look back upon the ruine of families, the bloodthed, the decay of common honefty, and how the former piely and plain dealing of this now fintul nation is turned into cruelty and cunning; when I consider this, I praise God, that he prevented me from being of that party which helped to bring in this Covenant, and thole fad confufions that have followed it.” He persevered in the most inviolable attachment to the royal cause. In many of his writings he pathetically laments the afflictions of his Sovereign, and the wretched condition of his beloved country involved in all the miseries.of intestine dissentions. The incident of his being instrumental in preserving the lesser George, which belonged to Charles 11. is related in " Animole's History of the Order of the Garter.”
We may now apply to him what has been said of Mr. Cowley ; “ some few friends, a book, a cheerful heart, and innocent conscience were his companions.” In this scene of rural privacy he was not unfrequently indulged with the company of learned and good men. Here, as in a safe and peaceful asylum, they met with the most cordial and grateful reception. And we are informed by the Oxford Antiquary, that, whenever he went from home, he rea forted principally to the houses of the eminent clergymen of the Church of England, of whom he was much beloved. To a man defirous of dilating his intellectual improvements, no conversation could be more agreeable, than that of those Divines, who were known to have distinguished him with their personal regard.
The Roman Poet, of whom it has been remarked that he made the happiest union of the courtier and the scholar, was of plebeian. origin. Yet luch was the attraction of his manners and deportment, that he classed among his friends the first and most illustrious of his contemporaries, Plotius and Varus, Pollio and Fufcus, the Visci and the Messalæ. Nor was Isaac Walton less fortunate in his social connexions. The times in which he lived were times of gloomy fufpicion, of danger and distress, when a severe fcrutiny into the public and private behaviour of men established a rigid dita crimination of character. He must therefore be allowed to have pofsessed a peculiar excellency of difpofition, who conciliated to himself an habitual intimacy with Usher the Apostolical Primate of Ireland, with Archbishop Sheldon, with Morton, Bishop of Durham, Pearson of Chester, and Sanderson of Lincoln, with ihe ever mea morable Mr. John Hales of Eton, and the judicious Mr. Chilling,
e The account is also preserved, by tradition, in the family. "Col. Blague re. mained at Mr. Barlow's house at Blore-Pipe, in Staffordshire, where; with Mr. Baras low's privity and advice, he hid his Majelty's George under a heap of dust and chips, whence it was conveyed through the irufty hands of Mr. Robert Milward of Stafford, ro Mr. Isaac Walion, who conveyed it to London, io Col. Blague, then in the Tower ; whence escaping not long after, he carried it with him beyond feas. and restored it to his Majetty's own hands." (Plot's Hist. of Staffordshire Ch. V111. Sect. 77. See also Asbmole's History of the Order of tbe Garler, p. 228.)
24o. June, 1640.
Dr. DONNE affects the metaphysics, not only in his fatires, but in his amo. rous verses, where nature only should reign, and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softnefes of love. In this, if I may be pardoned for so bold a truth, Mr. Cowley has copied him to a fault, so great a one in my opinion
that it throws his " Mistress" infinitely below his Pindariques and his laurer * compofitions, which are undouhredly the best of his poems, and the most correct. - Mr. Dryden's Dedication prefixed to the Translation of Juvenal aud Persius,
i Mr. Pope has classed the English Poets by their school. First, School of Provence. Second, School of Chaucer. Third, School of Petrarch. Fourth School of Dante. Fitch, School of Spenser. Sixth, School of Donne. In die latter School be has very injudiciously placed Michael Drayton, who wrote before Donne, and not in the lead in his manner of Dr. Donne's (poetical) writings are " like a voluntary or prelude, in which a man is not tied to any particular defixa "of air, but may change his key or mood ar pleasure ; to his compofitione feein "10 have been written without any particular scope." (Butler's Remains, Vol. II. P. 498.)