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I remember a story told in some forgotten | little for what passes in the great world book of travels, which haunted my dreams, of cities and parliaments as the family of and still strikes me as terribly impressive. Tullivers and Dodsons. His horizon I see a traveller benighted by some acci- should be limited by the nearest country nent in a nullah where a tiger has already town, and his politics contined to the supped upon his companion, and listening disputes between the parson and the Dis. to mysterious sounds, as of fiendish senting minister. He should have thorlaughter, which he is afterwards cruel oughly absorbed the characteristic prejuenough to explain away by some rational- dices of the little society in which he izing theory as to gases. How or why the lives, till he is unaware that it could ever traveller got into or emerged from the enter into any one's head to doubt their scrape, I know not; but some vague as- absolute truth. He should have a share sociation of ferocious wild beasts and of the peculiarity which is often so wood-demons in ghastly and haunted soli- pathetic in children the unhesitating tudes, has ever since been excited in me conviction that some little family arrangeby the mention of a nullah. It is as redo- ment is a part of the eternal and immutalent of awful mysteries as the chasm in ble system of things, and be as much " Kubla Khan." And it is painful to surprised at discovering an irreverent reflect that a nullah may be a common world outside as the child at the discovplace phenomenon in real life; and that|ery that there are persons who do not the anecdote might possibly affect me no consider his papa to be omniscient. That more, could I now read it for the first is the temper of mind which should chartime, than one of the tremendous adven-acterize your genuine rustic. As a rule, tures recorded by Mr. Kingston or Cap- of course, it condemns him to silence. tain Mayne Reid.
He has no more reason for supposing As we become less capable of supplying that some quaint peculiarity of his little the magic for ourselves, we require it circle will be interesting to the outside from our author. He must have the art world than a frog for imagining that a
the less conscious the better - of plac- natural philosopher would be interested ing us at his own point of view. He by the statement that he was once a tadshould, if possible, be something of a pole. He takes it for granted that we “humorist,” in the old-fashioned sense of have all been tadpoles. In the queer, the word; not the man who compounds outlying corners of the world where the oddities, but the man who is an oddity; father goes to bed and is nursed upon the the slave, not the master, of his own ec- birth of a child (a system which has its centricities; one absolutely unconscious attractive side to some persons of that that the strange twist in his mental vision persuasion), the singular custom is so is not shared by mankind, and capable, much a matter of course that a village therefore, of presenting the fancies dic- historian would not think of mentioning tated by his idiosyncrasy as if they corre. it. The man is only induced to exhibit sponded to obvious and generally recog- his humor to the world when, by some nized realities; and of propounding some happy piece of fortune, he has started a quaint and utterly preposterous theory, as hobby not sufficiently appreciated by his though it were a plain deduction from un- neighbors. Then it may be that he bedeniable truths. The modern humorist is comes a prophet, and in his anxiety to the old humorist plus a consciousness of recommend his own pet fancy, unconhis own eccentricity, and the old humorist sciously illustrates also the interesting is the modern humorist minus that con- social stratum in which it spruny to life. sciousness. The order of his ideas The hobby, indeed, is too often unattracshould not (as philosophers would have it) tive. When a self-taught philosopher airs be identical with the order of things, but some pet crotchet, and proves, for exam. be determined by odd, arbitrary freaks of ple, that the legitimate descendants of the purely personal association.
lost tribes are to be found amongst the This is the kind of originality which we Ojibbeways, he doubtless throws a singuspecially demand from an efficient guide lar light upon the intellectual peculiarities to the country; for the country means a of his district. But he illustrates chiefly region where inen have not been ground the melancholy truth that a half-taught into monotony by the friction of our philosopher may be as dry and as barren social mill. The secret of his charm lies as the one who bas been smoke-dried in the clearness with which he brings according to all the rules of art in the before us some quaint, old-fashioned type most learned academy of Europe. of existence. He must know and care as There are a few familiar books in which
a happy combination of circumstances has | of a George Herbert or of the saintly Mr. provided us with a true country idyll, Farrer, the tone is at least in keeping, fresh and racy from the soil, not con- and is consistent even with an occasional sciously constructed by the most skilful gleam of humor, as in the account of poor artistic hand. Two of them have a kind Hooker, tending sheep and rocking the craof acknowledged pre-eminence in their dle under stringent feminine supremacy. own department. The man is not to be It is less satisfactory when we ask Walenvied who has not in his boyhood fallen ton to throw some light upon the curiously in love with Izaak Walton and White of enigmatic character of Donne, with its Selborne. The boy, indeed, is happily strange element of morbid gloom, and untroubled as to the true source of the masculine passion, and subtle and intense charm. He pores over the Compleat intellect. Donne married the woman he Angler” with the impression that he will loved in spite of her father and to the gain some hints for beguiling, if not the injury of his own fortunes. “ His marwily carp, who is accounted the water-fox, riage," however, observes the biographer, at least the innocent roach, wlio “is ac- was the remarkable error of his life; an counted the water-sheep for his simplicity error which, though he had a wit able and or foolishness." His mouth waters as he very apt to maintain paradoxes, yet he reads the directions for converting the pike was very far from justifying it." From
that compound of mud and needles our point of view, the only error was in into “a dish of meat too good for any but the desire to justify an action of which he anglers or very honest men,”. a trans- should have been proud. We must make formation which, if authentic, is little less allowance for the difference in Walton's than miraculous. He does not ask what views of domestic authority; but we feel is the secret of the charm of the book that his prejudice disqualifies him from even for those to whom fishing is an fairly estimating a character of great inabomination - a charm which induced trinsic force. A portrait of Donne cannot even the arch-cockney Dr. Johnson, in be adequately brought within the lines spite of his famous definition of angling, accepted by the writer of orthodox and to prompt the republication of this an- edifying tracts, gler's bible. It is only as he grows older, In spite of this little failing, this rather and has plodded through other sporting massive subservience to the respectabililiterature, that he can at all explain why ties, the “ Lives ” form a delightful book; the old gentleman's gossip is so fascinat- but we get the genuine Walton at full ing. Walton, undoubtedly, is everywhere length in his “Angler." It was first charming for his pure, simple English, published in dark days; when the biograand the unostentatious vein of natural pher might be glad that his pious heroes piety which everywhere lies just beneath had been taken from the sight of the the surface of his writing. Now and coming evil; when the scattered survive then, however, in reading the “ Lives,” we ors of his favorite school of divines and cannot quite avoid a sense that this ex- poets were turned out of their well-becellent tradesman has just a touch of the loved colleges and parsonages, hiding in unctuous about him. He is given - it is dark corners or plotting with the melana fault from which hagiographers can choly band of exiles in France and Holscarcely be free - to using the rose-color land; when Walton, instead of listening a little too freely. He holds towards his to the sound and witty discourses of heroes the relation of a sentimental Donne, would find the pulpit of his parish church warden to a revered parish parson. church profaned by some fanatical PuriWe fancy that the eyes of the preacher tan, expounding the Westminster Confeswould turn instinctively to Walton's seat sion in place of the Thirty-nine Articles. when he wished to catch an admiring The good Walton found consolation in glance from an upturned face, and to the almost religious pursuit of his hobby. assure himself that he was touching the He fortified himself with the authority of “sacred fount of sympathetic tears.' We such admirable and orthodox anglers as imagine Walton lingering near the porch Sir Henry Wotton and Dr. Nowel, dean to submit a deferential compliment as to of St. Paul's. Dr. Nowel had, “like an the “florid and seraphical” discourse to honest angler, made that good, plain, un. which he has been listening, and scarcely perplexed Catechism which is printed raising his glance above the clerical shoe- with our good old service-book ;" for an buckles. A portrait taken from this point angler, it seems, is most likely to know of view is apt to be rather unsatisfactory: that the road to heaven is not through Yet, in describing the “sweet humility : “hard questions." The dean died at the
age of ninety-five, in perfect possession | tion. But none of the poets of the time of his faculties; and “o'tis said that an- dared to make a passion for the country gling and temperance were great causes the main theme of their more pretentious of those blessings.” Evidently Walton song. They thought it necessary to idealhad somehow taken for granted that there ize and transmute; to substitute an inis an inherent harmony between angling definite Arcadia for plain English fields, and true religion, which of course for him and to populate it with piping swains and implies the Anglican religion. He does nymphs, Corydons and Amorets and not trust himself in the evil times to Phyllises. Poor Hodge or Cis were only grumble openly, or to indulge in more allowed to appear when they were minded than an occasional oblique reference to to indulge in a little broad comedy. The the dealers in hard questions and meta- coarse rustics had to be washed and physical dogmatism. He takes his rod, combed before they could present themleaves the populous city behind him, and selves before an aristocratic audience; makes a day's march to the banks of the and plain English hills and rivers to be quiet Lea, where he can meet a like provided with tutelary gods and goddessminded friend or two; sit in the sanded es, fitted for the gorgeous pageantry of a parlor of the country inn, and listen to country masque. Far be it from me the milkmaid singing that "smooth song with the fear of asthetic critics before made by Kit Marlow, now at least fifty my eyes — to say that very beautiful poyears ago," before English fields had ems might not be produced under these been drenched with the blood of Round-conditions. It is proper, as I am aware, heads and Cavaliers; or lie under a tree, to admire Browne's “Britannia's Pastowatching his float till the shower had rals,” and to speak reverently of Fletchpassed, and then calling to mind what er's “Faithful Shepherdess, and Ben 'boly Mr. Herbert says of such days and Jonson's “Sad Shepherd.” I only venflowers as these.” “Sweet day, so cool, ture to suggest here that such work is so calm, so bright!” — but everybody has caviare to the multitude; that it requires learned to share Walton's admiration, and a fine literary sense, a happy superiority the quotation would now be superfluous. to dull, realistic suggestion, and a power It is nowhere so effective as with Wal- of accepting the conventional conditions ton's illustrations. We need not, indeed, which the artist has to accept for his remember the background of storm to guidance. Possibly I may go so far as enjoy the quiet sunshine and showers on to hint without offence that the necessity the soft English landscape, which Walton of using this artificial apparatus was not painted so lovingly. The fact that he in itself an advantage. A great master was living in the midst of a turmoil, in of harmony, with a mind overflowing with which the objects of his special idolatry majestic imagery, might achieve such trihad been so ruthlessly crushed and scat- umphs as “Comus” and “ Lycidas," in tered, may help to explain the intense which even the Arcadian pipe is made to relish for the peaceful, riverside life. His utter the true organ tones. We forgive rod was the magic wand to interpose a any incongruities or artificialities when soft, idyllic mist between his eyes and they are lost in such a blaze of poetry. such scenes as were visible at times from The atmosphere of Arcadia was not as the windows of Whitehall. He loved his yet sickly enough to asphyxiate a Milton; paradise the better because it was an but it was ceasing to be wholesome; and escape from a pandemonium. But what the weaker singers who imbibed it sufever the cause of his enthusiasm, its sin- fered under distinct attacks of drowsi. cerity and intensity is the main cause of ness. his attractiveness. Many poets of Wal- Walton's good sense, or his humility, ton's time loved the country as well as or perhaps the simple ardor of his devohe; and showed it in some of the delicate tion to his hobby, encouraged him to deal lyrics which find an appropriate setting in realities. He gave the genuine sentiin his pages. But we have to infer their ment which his contemporaries would exquisite appreciation of country sights only give indirectly, transfigured and beand sounds from such brief utterances, dizened with due ornaments of classic or or from passing allusions in dramatic romantic pattern. There is just a faint scenes. Nobody can doubt that Shake touch of unreality — a barely perceptible speare loved daffodils, or a bank of wild flavor of the sentimental about his perthyme, or violets, as keenly as Words- sonages; but only enough to give a worth. When he happens to mention permissible touch of pastoral idealism. them, his voice trembles with fine emo- | Walton is painting directly from the life.
The honest alehouse,” where he finds “a frog jumping upon a pike's head and tearcleanly room, lavender in the windows, and ing out his eyes, after " expressing malice twenty ballads stuck about the wall," was or anger_by swollen cheeks and staring standing then on the banks of the Lea, as eyes.' Even Walton cannot forbear a in quiet country nooks, here and there, quiet smile at this quaint narrative. But occasional representatives of the true an- he is ready to believe, in all seriousness, gler's rest are still to be found, not en- that eels, “like some kinds of bees and tirely corrupted by the modern tourist. wasps,” are bred out of dew, and to conThe good man is far too much in earnest firm it by the parallel case of young gosto be aiming at literary ornament; he is a lings bred by the sun “from the rotten genuine, simple-minded enthusiast, reveal- planks of an old ship and hatched up ing his kindly nature by a thousand uncon- trees.” Science was not a dry museum of scious touches. The common objection hard facts, but a quaint storehouse of is a misunderstanding. Everybody quotes semi-mythical curiosities; and therefore the phrase about using the frog as excellently fitted to fill spare hours, when though you loved him; " and it is the he could not meditatively indulge in the more piquant as following one of his char. contemplative man's recreation.” Walacteristically pious remarks. The frog's ton found some queer texts for his pious mouth, he tells, grows up for six months, meditations, and his pursuit is not withand he lives for six months without eating, out its drawbacks. But his quaintness "sustained, none but He whose name is only adds a zest to our enjoyment of his Wonderful knows how.” He reverently book; and we are content to fall in with admires the care taken of the frog by his humor, and to believe for the nonce Providence, without drawing any more that the love of a sport which so fasciinference for his own conduct than if he nates this simple, kindly, reverent nature were a modern physiologist. It is just must be, as he takes for granted, the very this absolute unconsciousness which crowning grace of a character moulded makes his love of the sport attractive. on the principles of sound Christian phiHe lias never looked at it from the frog's losophy. Angling becomes synonymous point of view. Your modern angler has with purity of mind and simplicity of charto excuse himself by some scientific hy- acter. pothesis as to feeling in the lower animals, Mr. Lowell, in one of the most charın. and thereby betrays certain qualıns of ing essays ever written about a garden, conscience which had not yet come to takes his text from White of Selborne, light in Walton's day. He is no more and admirably explains the charm of that cruel than a schoolboy, ere he grows to worthy representative of the Waltonian pity.” He is simply discharging his spirit. " It is good for us now and then,” functions as a part of nature, like the pike says Mr. Lowell, “ to converse in a world or the frog; and convinced, at the very like Mr. White's, where man is the least bottom of his heart, that the angler repré-. important of animals; to find one's sents the most eminent type of enjoyment, whole world in a garden, beyond the reach and should be the humble inheritor of the of wars and rumors of wars. White does virtues of the fishers of Galilee. The not give a thought to the little troubles gentlest and most pious thoughts come which were disturbing the souls of Burke naturally into his mind whilst his worm is and George Ill. The "natural term of wriggling on his hook to entice the luck- a bog's life has more interest for him less trout. It is particularly pleasant to than that of an empire ;" he does not notice the quotations, which give a certain trouble his head about diplomatic compliair of learning to his book. We see that cations whilst he is discovering that the the love of angling had become so in odd tumbling of rooks in the air is caused grained in his mind as to direct his read. by their turning over to scratch theming as well as to provide liiin with amuse- selves with one claw. The great events ment. We fancy him poring on winter of his life are his making acquaintance evenings over the pages of Aldrovandus with a stilted plover, or his lony – for it and Gesner and Pliny and Topsell's his was protracted over ten years — and tories of serpents and four-footed beasts, finally triumphant passion for “an old and humbly accepting the teaching of more family tortoise.” White of Selborne is learned men, who had recorded so many clearly not the ideal parson of George strange facts unobserved by the simple Herbert's time; nor the parson of our own angler. He produces a couple of bishops, day — a poor atom whirled about in the Dubravius and Thurso, as eye-witnesses, distracting eddies of two or three conflict. to testify to a marvellous anecdote of a ling movements. He is merely a good,
kindly, domestic gentleman, on friendly breaking stones by the roadside, and interms with the squire and the gamekeeper, forms the gaping rustic that wages are and ready for a chat with the rude fore- made bad and food dear by the diabolical fathers of the hamlet. His horizon, natu- machinations of the Tories, and the fund. ral and unnatural, is bounded by the soft holders, and the boroughmongers who are round hills and the rich hangers of his draining away all the fatness of the land beloved Hampshire country. There is to nourish the portentous
"' called something specially characteristic in his London. He leaves the man to meditate taste for scenery. Though “ I have now on this suggestion, and joys off to the travelled the Sussex Downs upwards of nearest country town, where he will meet thirty years," he says, “I still investigate the farmers at their ordinary, and deliver that chain of majestic mountains with a ranting Radical address. The squire or fresh admiration year by year;” and he the parson who recognizes Williain Cobcalls " Mr. Ray” to witness that there is bett in this sturdy traveller, will mutter a nothing finer in any part of Europe. hearty objurgation, and wish that the dis"For my own part,” he says, “I think turber of rustic peace could make a closer there is somewhat peculiarly sweet and acquaintance with the neighboring horseamusing in the shapely figured aspects of. pond. Possibly most readers who hear chalk hills in preference to those of stone, his name have vaguely set down Cobbett which are rugged, broken, abrupt, and as one of the demagogues of the anti-reshapeless.” I, for my part, agree with Mr. forming days, and remember little more White – so long, at least, as I am read-than the fact that he dabbled in some rathing his book. The downs have a singu- er questionable squabbles, and brought lar charm in the exquisite play of long, back Tom Paine's bones from America. gracefully undulating lines which bound But it is worth while to read Cobbett, their gentle edges. If not a "majestic and especially the “Rural Rides," not
a range of mountains," as judged by an only to enjoy his fine homespun Englishi, Alpine standard, there is no want of true but to learn to know the man a little bet. sublimity in their springing curves, espe- ter. Whatever the deserts or demerits of cially when harmonized by the lights and Cobbett as a political agitator, the true shadows under cloud-masses driving be- man was fully as much allied to modern fore a broad, south-westerly gale; and Young England and the later type of Conwhen you reach the edge of a great down, servatism as to the modern Radical. He and suddenly look down into one of the hated the Scotch "feelosophers” little hollows where a village with a grey calls them Parson Malthus, the politichurch tower and a grove of noble elms cal cominunists, the Manchester men, the nestles amidst the fold of the hills, you men who would break up the old social fancy that in such places of refuge there system of the country, at the bottom of must still be relics of the quiet domestici- his heart; and, whatever might be bis ties enjoyed by Gilbert White. Here, superficial alliances, he loved the old quiet one fancies, it must be good to live; to country life when Englishmen were burly, discharge, at an easy rate, all the de- independent yeomen, each equal to three mands of a society which is but a large frog-eating Frenchmen. He remembered family, and find ample excitement in the relics of the system in the days of his studying the rambles of a tortoise, form- youth; he thought that it had begun to ing intimacies with moles, crickets, and decay at the time of the Reformation, field-mnice, and bats and brown owls, and when grasping landlords and unprincipled watching the swifts and the night-jars statesmen had stolen Church property on wheeling round the old church tower, or pretence of religion ; but ever since, the hunting flies at the edge of the wood in growth of manufactures, and corruption, the quiet summer evening.
and stockjobbing had been unpopulating In rambling through the lanes sacred the country to swell the towns, and broken to the memory of White, you may (in up the old, wholesome, friendly, English fancy, at least) meet another figure not at life. That is the text on which he is first sight quite in harmony with the cleri- always dilating with genuine enthusiasm, cal Mr. Wbite. He is a stalwart, broad- and the belief, true or false, gives a pleaschested man in the farmer's dress, evenant flavor to his intense relish for true ostentatiously representing the old Brit- country scenery: islı yeoman brought up on beer and beef, He looks at things, it is true, froin the and with a certain touch of pugnacity point of view of a farmer, not of a landsuggestive of the retired prize-fighter. scape-painter or a lover of the picturesque. He stops his horse to chat with a laborer He raves against that “accursed hill"