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MADELY MANOR, IN THE COUNTY OF STAFFORD, ESQ.
MY MOST HONOURED FRIEND,
SIR, I HAVE made so ill use of your former favours, as by them to be encouraged to intreat that they may be enlarged to the patronage and protection of this book; and I have put on a modest confidence, that I shall not be denied, because it is a Discourse of Fish and Fishing, which you know so well, and both love and practise so much.
You are assured, though there be ignorant men of another belief, that Angling is an art; and you know that art better than others; and that this truth is demonstrated by the fruits of that pleasant labour which you enjoy when you purpose to give rest to your mind, and divest yourself of your more serious business, and, which is often, dedicate a day or two to this recreation.
At which time, if common Anglers should attend you, and be eye-witnesses of the success, not of your fortune, but your skill, it would doubtless beget in them an emulation to be like you, and that emulation might beget an industrious diligence to be so; but I know it is not attainable by common capacities. And there be now many men of great wisdom, learning, and experience, which love and practise this art, that know I speak the truth.
Sir, this pleasant curiosity of Fish and Fishing, of which you are so great a master, has been thought worthy the pens and practices of divers in other nations, that have been reputed men of great learning and wisdom; and amongst those of this nation, I remember Sir Henry Wotton, a dear lover of this art, has told me, that his intentions were to write a discourse of the art, and in praise of Angling: and doubtless he had done so, if death had not prevented him; the remembrance of which hath often made me sorry : for if he had lived to do it, then the unlearned Angler had seen some better treatise of this art, a treatise that might have proved worthy his perusal, which, though some have undertaken, I could never yet see in English.
But mine may be thought as weak, and as un
worthy of common view; and I do here freely confess, that I should rather excuse myself, than censure others, my own discourse being liable to so many exceptions; against which, you, Sir, might make this one, —that it can contribute nothing to your knowledge. And lest a longer Epistle may diminish your pleasure, I shall make this no longer than to add this following truth,—that I am really,
THE EPISTLE TO THE READER,
AS GIVEN IN THE FIFTH EDITION, BEING THE LAST PUBLISHED IN THE
LIFE TIME OF THE AUTHOR.
TO ALL READERS OF THIS DISCOURSE,
TO THE HONEST ANGLER.
I think fit to tell thee these following truths, that I did neither undertake, nor write, nor publish, and much less own, this Discourse to please myself; and having been too easily drawn to do all to please others, as I propose not the gaining of credit by this undertaking, so I would not willingly lose any part of that, to which I had a just title before I begun it; and do therefore desire and hope, if I deserve not commendations, yet I may obtain pardon.
And though this Discourse may be liable to some exceptions, yet I cannot doubt but that most readers may receive so much pleasure or profit by it, as may make it worthy the time of their perusal, if they be not too grave or too busy men. And this is all the confidence that I can put on, concerning the merit of what is here offered to their consideration and censure; and if the last prove too severe, as I have a liberty, so I am resolved to use it, and neglect all sour censures.
And I wish the reader also to take notice, that in writing of it I have made myself a recreation of a recreation ; and that it might prove so to him, and not read dull and tediously, I have in several places mixed, not any scurrility, but some innocent, harmless mirth; of which, if thou be a severe, sour-complexioned man, then I here disallow
thee to be a competent judge; for Divines say, there are offences given, and offences not given, but taken.
And I am the willinger to justify the pleasant part of it because, though it is known I can be serious at seasonable times, yet the whole Discourse is, or rather was, a picture of my own disposition, especially in such days and times as I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing with honest Nat. and R. Roe ;* but they are gone, and with them most of my pleasant hours, even as a shadow, that passeth away, and returns not.
And next let me add this, that he that likes not the book, should like the excellent picture of the Trout, and some of the other fish; which
may take a liberty to commend, because they concern not myself.
Next, let me tell the reader, that in that which is the more useful part of this Discourse, that is to say, the observations of the nature, and breeding, and seasons, and catching of Fish, I am not so simple as not to know, that a captious reader may find exceptions against something said of some of these ; and therefore I must entreat him to consider, that experience teaches us to know that several countries alter the time, and I think almost the manner, of fishes' breeding, but doubtless of their being in season; as may appear by three rivers in Monmouthshire, namely Severn, Wye, and Usk, where Camden (Brit. f. 633) observes, that in the river Wye, Salmon are in season from September to April ; and we are certain, that in Thames, and Trent, and in most other rivers, they be in season the six hotter months.
Now for the art of catching fish, that is to say, how to make a man that was none to be an Angler by a book; he that undertakes it, undertake a harder task than Mr. Hales, a most valiant and excellent Fencer, who in a printed
* These persons are supposed to have been related to Walton, from the circumstance of a copy, handed down, of his Lives of Donne, Sir H. Wotton, Hooker, and Herbert, wherein is written by the Author on the frontispiece, “For my cousin Roe."