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erally recognized realities ; and of pro- tem which has its attractive side to some pounding some quaint and utterly pre- persons of that persuasion), the singular posterous theory, as though it were a custom is so much a matter of course plain deduction from undeniable truths. that a village historian would not think The modern humorist is the old humor- of mentioning it. The man is only inist plus a consciousness of his own ec- duced to exhibit his humor to the world centricity, and the old humorist is the when, by some happy piece of fortune, modern humorist minus that conscious- he has started a hobby not sufficiently ness. The order of his ideas should appreciated by his neighbors. Then it not (as philosophers would have it) be may be that he becomes a prophet, and identical with the order of things, but in his anxiety to recommend his own pet be determined by odd arbitrary freaks fancy, unconsciously illustrates also the of purely personal association.
interesting social stratum in which it This is the kind of originality which sprung to life. The hobby, indeed, is we specially demand from an efficient too often unattractive. When a selfguide to the country; for the country taught philosopher airs some pet means a region where men have not been crotchet, and proves, for example, that ground into the monotony by the fric- the legitimate descendants of the lost tion of our social mill. The secret of tribes are to be found among the Ojibhis charm lies in the clearness with beways, he doubtless throws a singular which he brings before us some quaint, light upon the intellectual peculiarities old-fashioned type of existence. He of his district. But he illustrates chiefly must know and care as little for what the melancholy truth that a half-taught passes in the great world of cities and philosopher may be as dry and as barren parliaments as the family of Tullivers as the one who has been smoke-dried and Dodsons. His horizon should be according to all the rules of art in the limited by the nearest country town, and most learned academy of Europe. his politics confined to the disputes be- There are a few familiar books in tween the parson and the dissenting min- which a happy combination of circumister. He should have thoroughly ab- stances has provided us with a true sorbed the characteristic prejudices of country idyll, fresh and racy from the the little society in which he lives, till soil, not consciously constructed by the he is unaware that it could ever enter most skilful artistic hand. Two of into any one's head to doubt their ab- them have a kind of acknowledged presolute truth. He should have a share eminence in their own department. The of the peculiarity which is often so pa- man is not to be envied who has not in thetic in children-the unhesitating con- his boyhood fallen in love with Izaak viction that some little farnily arrange- Walton and White of Selborne. The ment is a part of the eternal and immu- boy, indeed, is happily untroubled as to table system of things, and be as much the true source of the charm. He surprised at discovering an irreverent pores over the “Compleat Angler" with world outside as the child at the discov- the impression that he will gain some ery that there are persons who do not hints for beguiling, if not the wily carp, consider his papa to be omniscient. who is accounted the water fox, at least That is the temper of mind which should the innocent roach, who “is accounted characterize your genuine rustic. As a the water-sheep for his simplicity or rule, of course, it condemns him to si- foolishness." His mouth waters as he lence. He has no more reason for sup- reads the directions for converting the posing that some quaint peculiarity of pike—that compound, of mud and neehis little circle will be interesting to the dles—into “a dish of meat too good for outside world than a frog for imagining any but anglers or very honest men," a that a natural philosopher would be in- transformation which, if authentic, is litterested by the statement that he was tle less than miraculous. He does not once a tadpole. He takes it for granted ask what is the secret of the charm of that we have all been tadpoles. In the the book even for those to whom fishing queer, outlying corners of the world is an abomination--a charm which inwhere the father goes to bed and is duced even the arch-cockney Dr. Johnnursed upon the birth of a child (a sys- son, in spite of his famous definition of angling, to prompt the republication of make allowance for the difference in this angler's bible. It is only as he Walton's views of domestic authority ; grows older, and has plodded through but we feel that his prejudice disqualifies other sporting literature, that he can at him from fairly estimating a character of all explain why the old gentleman's great intrinsic force. A portrait of gossip is so fascinating. Walton, un- Donne cannot be adequately brought doubtedly, is everywhere charming for within the lines accepted by the writer his pure simple English, and the unos- of orthodox and edifying tracts. tentatious vein of natural piety which In spite of this little failing, this rather everywhere lies just beneath the surface massive subservience to the respectaof his writing. Now and then, how- bilities, the “Lives” form a delightful ever, in reading the “ Lives,” we can- book ; but we get the genuine Walton not quite avoid a sense that this excel- at full length in his “ Angler.” It was lent tradesman has just a touch of the first published in dark days ; when the unctuous about him. He is given--it is biographer might be glad that his pious a fault from which hagiographers can heroes had been taken from the sight of scarcely be free—to using the rose-color the coming evil ; when the scattered sura little too freely. He holds toward his vivors of his favorite school of divines heroes the relation of a sentimental and poets were turned out of their wellchurch warden to a revered parish par- beloved colleges and parsonages, hiding son. We fancy that the eyes of the in dark corners or plotting with the preacher would turn instinctively to melancholy band of exiles in France and Walton's seat when he wished to catch Holland ; when Walton, instead of listan admiring glance from an upturned ening to the sound and witty discourses face, and to assure himself that he was of Donne, would find the pulpit of his touching the sacred fount of sympa- parish church profaned by some fanatithetic tears.” We imagine Walton lin- Cal Puritan, expounding the Westminster gering near the porch to submit a defer- Confession in place of the thirty-nine ential compliment as to the “ forid and articles. The good Walton found conseraphical” discourse to which he has solation in the almost religious pursuit been listening, and scarcely raising his of his hobby. He fortified himself with glance above the clerical shoe-buckles. the authority of such admirable and A portrait taken from this point of view orthodox anglers as Sir Henry Wotton is apt to be rather unsatisfactory. Yet, and Dr. Nowel, Dean of St. Paul's. in describing the “sweet humility” of a Dr. Nowel had,“ like an honest angler, George Herbert or of the saintly Mr. made that good, plain, unperplexed Farrer, the tone is at least in keeping, Catechism which is printed with our and is consistent even with an occasional good old service-book ;" for an angler, gleam of humor, as in the account of it seems, is most likely to know that the poor Hooker, tending sheep and rock- road to heaven is not through “hard ing the cradle under stringent feminine questions." The Dean died at the age supremacy. It is less satisfactory when of ninety-five, in perfect possession of we ask Walton to throw some light upon his faculties ; and 'tis said that angthe curiously enigmatic character of ling and temperance were great causes of Donne, with its strange element of mor- those blessings." Evidently Walton bid gloom, and masculine passion, and had somehow taken for granted that there subtle and intense intellect. Donne is an inherent harmony between angling married the woman he loved in spite of and true religion, which, of course, for her father and to the injury of his own him implies the Anglican religion. He fortunes. “His marriage, however, does not trust himseif in the evil times observes the biographer, "was the re- to grumble openly, or to indulge in more: markable error of his life- an error than an occasional oblique reference to which, though he had a wit able and the dealers in hard questions and metavery apt to maintain paradoxes, yet he physical dogmatism. He takes his rod, was very far from justifying it.” From leaves the populous city behind him, our point of view, the only error was in and makes a day's march to the banks the desire to justify an action of which of the quiet lea, where he can meet a he should have been proud. We must like-minded friend or two; sit in the NEW SERIES.VOL. XXXIII., No 2
sanded parlor of the country inn and combed before they could present themlisten to the milkmaid singing that selves before an aristocratic audience ; "smooth song made by Kit Marlow, now and plain English hills and rivers to be at least fifty years ago," before English provided with tutelary gods and goddessfields had been drenched with the blood es, fitted for the gorgeous pageantry of of Roundheads and Cavaliers ; or lie a country masque.
Far be it from me under a tree, watching his float till the with the fear of æsthetic critics before shower had passed, and then calling to my eyes—to say that very beautiful poems mind what "holy Mr. Herbert says of might not be produced under these consuch days and flowers as these." Sweet ditions. It is proper, as I am aware, day, so cool, so calm, so bright! but to admire Browne's, "Britannia's Paseverybody has learned to share Walton's torals," and to speak reverently of admiration, and the quotation would Fletcher's “ Faithful Shepherdess, now be superfluous. It is nowhere so
It is nowhere so and Ben Jonson's "Sad Shepherd." I effective as with Walton's illustrations. only venture to suggest here that such We need not, indeed, remember the work is caviare to the multitude ; that it background of storm to enjoy the quiet requires a fine literary sense, a happy susunshine and showers on the soft Eng- periority to dull realistic suggestion, and lish landscape, which Walton painted so a power of accepting the conventional lovingly. The fact that he was living in conditions which the artist has to accept the midst of a turmoil, in which the ob- for his guidance. Possibly I may go so jects of his special idolatry had been so far as to hint without offence that the ruthlessly crushed and scattered, may necessity of using this artificial apparatus help to explain the intense relish for the was not in itself an advantage. A great peaceful river-side life. His rod was the master of harmony, with a mind overmagic wand to interpose a soft idyllic flowing with majestic imagery, might mist between his eyes and such scenes as achieve such triumphs as “ Comus" and were visible at times from the windows of “ Lycidas,” in which even the Arcadian Whitehall. He loved his paradise the pipe is made to utter the true organbetter because it was an escape from a tones. We forgive any incongruities or pandemonium. But whatever the cause artificialities when they are lost in such of his enthusiasm, its sincerity and in- a blaze of poetry. The atmosphere of tensity is the main cause of his attract- Arcadia was not as yet sickly enough to iveness. Many poets of Walton's time asphyxiate a Milton ; but it was ceasing loved the country as well as he ; and to be wholesome ; and the weaker singshowed it in some of the delicate lyrics ers who imbibed it suffered under diswhich find an appropriate setting in his tinct attacks of drowsiness. pages. But we have to infer their ex- Walton's good sense, or his humility, quisite appreciation of country sights and or, perhaps, the simple ardor of his devosounds from such brief utterances, or tion to his hobby, encouraged him to from passing allusions in dramatic scenes. deal in realities. He gave the genuine Nobody can doubt that Shakespeare sentiment which his contemporaries loved daffodils, or a bank of wild thyme, would only give indirectly, transfigured or violets, as keenly as Wordsworth. and bedizened with due ornaments of When he happens to mention them, his classic or romantic pattern. There is voice trembles with fine emotion. But just a faint touch of unreality, a barely none of the poets of the time dared to perceptible flavor of the sentimental, make a passion for the country the main about his personages; but only enough theme of their more pretentious song. to give a permissible touch of pastoral They thought it necessary to idealize and idealism. Walton is painting directly transmute; to substitute an indefinite from the life. The “honest alehouse, Arcadia for plain English fields, and to where he finds“ a cleanly room, lavenpopulate it with piping swains and der in the windows, and twenty ballads nymphs, Corydons and Amorets and stuck about the wall,” was standing Phyllises. Poor Hodge or Cıs were only then on the banks of the Lea, as in quiet allowed to appear when they were mind- country nooks, here and there, occaed to indulge in a little broad comedy. sional representatives of the true angler's The coarse rustics had to be washed and rest are still to be found, not entirely
corrupted by the modern tourist. The and tearing out his eyes, after "expressgood man is far too much in earnest to ing malice or anger by swollen cheeks be aiming at literary ornament; he is a and staring eyes.' Even Walton cannot genuine simple-minded enthusiast, re- forbear a quiet smile at this quaint narvealing his kindly nature by a thou- rative. But he is ready to believe, in sand unconscious touches. The com- all seriousness, that eels,“ like some mon objection is a misunderstanding. kinds of bees and wasps, are bred out Everybody quotes the phrase about of dew, and to confirni it by the parallel using the frog “as though you loved case of young goslings bred by the him;" and it is the more piquant as sun “from the rotten planks of an old following one of his characteristically ship and hatched up trees." Science pious remarks. The frog's mouth, he was not a dry museum of hard facts, but tells, grows up for six months, and he a quaint storehouse of semi-mythical lives for six months without eating, curiosities ; and therefore excellently
sustained, none but He whose name is fitted to fill spare hours, when he could Wonderful knows how." He reverently not meditatively indulge in “ the conadmires the care taken of the frog by templative man's recreation." Walton Providence, without drawing any more found some queer texts for his pious inference for his own conduct than if he meditations, and his pursuit is not withwere a modern physiologist. It is just out its drawbacks. But his quaintness this absolute unconsciousness which only adds a zest to our enjoyment of his makes his love of the sport attractive. book ; and we are content to fall in with He has never looked at it from the his humor, and to believe for the nonce frog's point of view. Your modern that the love of a sport which so fasciangler has to excuse himself by some nates this simple, kindly, reverent nature, scientific hypothesis as to feeling in the must be, as he takes for granted, the lower animals, and thereby betrays cer- very crowning grace of a character tain qualms of conscience which had not moulded on the principles of sound yet come to light in Walton's day. He Christian philosophy. Angling becomes is no more cruel than a schoolboy, synonymous with purity of mind and he grows to pity." He is simply dis- simplicity of character. charging his functions as a part of na- Mr. Lowell, in one of the most charnıture, like the pike or the frog; and con- ing essays ever written about a garden, vinced, at the very bottom of his heart, takes his text from White of Selborne, that the angler represents the most emi- and admirably explains the charm of that nent type of enjoyment, and should be worthy representative of the Waltonian the humble inheritor of the virtues of spirit. “It is good for us now and the fishers of Galilee. The gentlest and then,” says Mr. Lowell, “ to converse most pious thoughts come naturally into in a world like Mr. White's, where his mind while his worm is wriggling on man is the least important of animals ;' his hook to entice the luckless trout. It to find one's whole world in a garden, is particularly pleasant to notice the beyond the reach of wars and rumors of quotations, which give a certain air of
White does not give a thought to learning to his book. We see that the the little troubles which were disturbing love of angling had become so ingrained the souls of Burke and George IId. The in his mind as to direct his reading as “natural term of a hog's lite has more well as to provide him with amusement. interest for him than that of an emWe fancy him poring on winter evenings pire ;" he does not trouble his head over the pages of Aldrovandus and Ges- about diplomatic complications while he ner and Pliny and Topsell's histories of is discovering that the odd tumbling of serpents and four-footed beasts, and hum- rooks in the air is caused by their turnbly accepting the teaching of more ing over to scratch themselves with one learned men, who had recorded so many claw. The great events of his life are strange facts unobserved by the simple his making acquaintance with a stilted angler. He produces a couple of bish- plover, or his long--for it was protracted ops, Dubravius and Thurso, as eye-wit- over ten years—and finally triumphant nesses, to testify to a marvellous anec- passion for an old family tortoise. dote of a frog jumping upon a pike's head White of Selborne is clearly not the ideal
parson of George Herbert's time ; nor In rambling through the lanes sacred the parson of our own day—a poor atom to the memory of White, you may in whirled about in the distracting eddies fancy, at least) meet another figure not of two or three conflicting movements. at first sight quite in harmony with the He is merely a good, kindly, domestic clerical Mr. White. He is a stalwart, gentleman, on friendly terms with the broad-chested man in the farmer's dress, squire and the gamekeeper, and ready even ostentatiously representing the old for a chat with the rude forefathers of British yeoman brought up on beer and the hamlet. His horizon, natural and beef, and with a certain touch of pugunnatural, is bounded by the soft round nacity suggestive of the retired prizehills and the rich hangers of his beloved fighter. He stops his horse to chat Hampshire country. There is some- with a laborer breaking stones by the thing specially characteristic in his taste roadside, and informs the gaping rustic for scenery. Though “I have now that wages are made bad and food dear travelled the Sussex Downs upward of by the diabolical machinations of the thirty years," he says, “I still investi- Tories, and the fundholders, and the gate that chain of majestic mountainsboroughmongers, who are draining away with fresh admiration year by year ; and all the fatness of the land to nourish the he calls “Mr. Ray'' to witness that portentous “ wen" called London. He there is nothing finer in any part of Eu- leaves the man to meditate on this sugrope. “For my own part, he says, “I gestion, and jogs off to the nearest think there is somewhat peculiarly sweet country town, where he will meet the and amusing in the shapely-figured as- farmers at their ordinary, and deliver a pects of chalk hills in preference to ranting radical address. The squire or those of stone, which are rugged, bro- the parson who recognizes William Cobken, abrupt, and shapeless." I, for my bett in this sturdy traveller will mutter part, agree with Mr. White-so long, at a hearty abjurgation, and wish that the least, as I am reading his book. The disturber of rustic peace could make a downs have a singular charm in the ex- closer acquaintance with the neighborquisite play of long, gracefully undulat- ing horse-pond. Possibly most readers ing lines which bound their gentle who hear his name have vaguely set edges. If not a ' majestic range of down Cobbett as one of the demamountains," as judged by an Alpine gogues of the anti-reforming days, and standard, there is no want of true sub- remember little more than the fact that limity in their springing curves, especial- he dabbled in some rather questionable ly when harmonized by the lights and squabbles, and brought back Tom shadows under cloud-masses driving be- Paine's bones from Arnerica. But it is fore a broad south-westerly gale ; and worth while to read Cobbett, and eswhen you reach the edge of a great pecially the “ Rural Rides," not only to down, and suddenly look down into one enjoy his fine homespun English, but to of the little hollows where a village with learn to know the man a little better. a gray church tower and a grove of no- Whatever the deserts or demerits of ble elms nestles amid the fold of the Cobbett as a political agitator, the true hills, you fancy that in such places of man was fully as much allied to modern refuge, there must still be relics of the Young England and the later type of quiet domesticities enjoyed by Gilbert conservatism as to the modern radical. White. Here, one fancies, it must be He hated the Scotch “ feelosophers"good to live ; to discharge, at an easy as he calls them--Parson Malthus, the rate, all the demands of a society which political communists, the Manchester is but a large family, and find ample ex- men, the men who would break up the citement in studying the rambles of a old social system of the country, at the tortoise, forming intimacies with moles, bottom of his heart; and, whatever crickets, and field mice, and bats, and might be his superficial alliances, he brown owls, and watching the swifts and loved the old quiet country life when the night-jars wheeling round the old Englishmen were burly, independent church tower, or hunting flies at the yeomen, each equal to three frog-eating edge of the wood in the quiet summer Frenchmen. He remembered the relics evening.
of the system in the days of his youth ;