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The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation [Paperback]

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Item description for The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation by Izaak Walton...

Walton's popular classic treatise on fishing goes far beyond techniques, as it embraces a life that values serenity and appreciation for creation. Some of the natural history lore is antiquated, but keen intelligence and good humor express themselves in a readable and enjoyable manner.

Outline Review
For a book to stay in print for nearly 350 years, its merits must continually entice and allure. The Compleat Angler satisfies that on two counts. On the most obvious level, it remains as good a primer on fishing as any angler would want. But its most enduring distinction--what's raised an essential sporting how-to to the level of literary classic--is the one cast off by its subtitle; 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.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 6" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2005
Publisher   Coachwhip Publications
ISBN  1930585209  
ISBN13  9781930585201  

Availability  64 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 09:44.
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More About Izaak Walton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Izaak Walton, one of the earliest English biographers who is best remembered as the author of The Compleat Angler, was born in the parish of St. Mary's, at Stafford, on August 9, 1593. His father, Gervase Walton, was an innkeeper who died when the boy was five. By the time Walton was twenty he was living in London, apprenticed to his brother-in-law, a prosperous clothier. His marriage to Rachel Floud, a relative of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, in 1626 allied him with a prominent clerical family, and as a parishioner at St. Dunstan's Church Walton became a close friend of its vicar, John Donne.
Among Walton's earliest surviving literary efforts is an elegy written in 1633 for the initial collection of Donne's poems. The poet-clergyman was the subject of the first of Walton's great biographical essays: "Life of Donne served as the preface to the 1640 edition of the minister's sermons and was filled with anecdotes and personal impressions. Over the years Walton's loyalty to the Church of England, coupled with his genius for friendship, inspired him to write biographies of four other eminent theologians: "Sir Henry Wotton (1651), "Richard Hooker (1665), "George Herbert (1670), and "Dr. Robert Sanderson (1678). Each is distinguished by the intimacy and vivacity characteristic of the "Life of Donne. It is little wonder that Samuel Johnson rated Walton's five "Lives among 'his most favourite books.'
Walton's reputation as a biographer is overshadowed by the enduring popularity of "The Compleat Angler. First published in 1653, during the Civil War that forced Walton and other royalists to flee London, the work is more than an engaging discourse on the art of fishing. It reflects athoughtful, sensitive Englishman's abiding concern with leading a contemplative life. Indeed, many have read Walton's unique celebration of angling throughout the English countryside as a veiled satire against Cromwell and the Puritans. Four revised editions appeared in the author's lifetime, and "The Compleat Angler has enjoyed a wide following ever since. Samuel Johnson praised the book in the eighteenth century as did the Scottish philosopher Lord Home. Later, Charles Lamb recommended
>The Compleat Angler to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 'It breathes the very spirit of innocence, purity, and simplicity of heart, ' he noted. 'It would sweeten a man's temper at any time to read it; it would Christianise every angry, discordant passion; pray make yourself acquainted with it.'
Walton remained active well into old age. "The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 returned many of his friends in the Anglican clergy to positions of influence, and they were quick to reciprocate the acts of goodwill he had displayed during Cromwell's reign. Following the death of his second wife in 1662, Walton was employed as steward to the bishop of Worcester. At the bishop's residence of Farnham Castle in Wincester Walton continued to write and revise his published works.
In 1676 Walton asked a young follower, the poet Charles Cotton, to furnish a supplement on fly-fishing for the fifth edition of "The Compleat Angler, and the two pursued the project at a cottage on the banks of the Dove River in Derbyshire. On August 9, 1683, the inveterate angler marked his ninetieth birthday by drafting a will and securing it with a seal given him by John Donne. Izaak Walton died three months later on December 15, 1683and was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

Izaak Walton was born in 1593 and died in 1683.

Izaak Walton has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Library (Paperback)
  2. Oxford World's Classics (Paperback)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Hunting & Fishing > Fishing > General
2Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Outdoor Recreation > Fishing
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Science & Religion
4Books > Subjects > Science > Nature & Ecology > General
5Books > Subjects > Sports > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation?

A necessary addition to an library of angling classics  Apr 25, 2008
The Complete Angler - Izaak Walton and Chalres Cotton

This book deserves a place in a collection of great angling books, such as those of John Geirach, Henry Middleton and Scott Waldie. It is really two books and an odd sort of middle section on property rights and fishing (funny how some issues have not changed much since the late 17th century). It has some wonderful discourses on not just fishing but the lifestyle and philosophy of fishing. There are some sections and descriptions that can be tedious but they minor compared to the overall wonderful dialogue of the majority of the book.

The first section is written by Izaak Walton and, to me, was Canterbury Tales-esque, is it's older English language (which is entertainingly preserved) and its format. Three travelers - a fisherman (angler), hunter and falconer meet. In the course of discussing the merits of their activities the angler convinces the hunter to come along fishing with him (after seeing a hunt with hounds). Over the course of a few days on the rivers of England, the angler turns the hunter to the quiet joys of angling. He goes through the fish in England and all the baits and methods of fishing for them as well as how to prepare each of them. I had never through of carp of chubs and fish to eat, but after some of the descriptions in this book, I may have to give the a second look someday. The first book is as much of a celebration of the social and contemplative nature of angling as it is descriptions and methods of fishing. Interspersed are encounters with the local farmers, milker and inn-keepers as well as the talking over of the days activities among friends. But the highlight of this first section, and in my opinion the entire book, is the parting words of the angler to the hunter of how angling is a life philosophy that departs sharply from the hustle and bustle of the capitalist life. The first book is replete with references to early Christianity and its admonitions against looking to wealth for happiness.

There is an odd middle section about property rights and fishing which serves as a rather odd bridge to Charles Cotton's section. This book focuses on fishing for trout and graylings in a small section of England. If found the wordy descriptions of the flies by month to be tedious and the lack of philosophical discussion of fishing to be a little disappointing of an end.
Splendid conversation  May 27, 2007
Five days of fishing along the river Lea which joins the Thames near London is the background on which the cheerful narrative of The Compleat Angler is laid. The splendid civil conversation of Latin named Piscator, Venator, Auceps, Viator, and Piscator Junior is a joy to hear. Shakespeare was just publishing his first work when Izaak Walton was born in 1593 in Stafford. Walton retired in his early fifties and traveled about rural England visiting friends, fishing, and writing in his easy-going fashion. After publication of The Compleat Angler in 1653 he continued to add to it in his leisurely way for the next quarter century. Samuel Johnson praised the book in the eighteenth century and later Charles Lamb recommended The Compleat Angler to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 'It breathes the very spirit of innocence, purity, and simplicity of heart,' he noted. 'It would sweeten a man's temper at any time to read it; it would Christianise every angry, discordant passion; pray make yourself acquainted with it.'
The Compleat Angler is a true classic of English literature that owes it's esteem not to advice about fishing but to Izaak Walton's pre-occupations and exquisite manner. Subtitled The Contemplative Man's Recreation the pages glow with delight in the hills and dales, woods and streams of the beloved countryside. Walton conveys a message of meek thankful fellowship and peace to all "honest, civil, quiet men". 'The Compleat Angler is not about how to fish but about how to be,' said novelist Thomas McGuane. 'Walton spoke of an amiable mortality and rightness on the earth that has been envied by his readers for three hundred years.'
Anciet fish for modern anglers  Dec 1, 2006
This is surely one of the earliest books available to the modern angler. But it's worth distinguishing 'anglers' from 'fishermen'. I take 'anglers' to be people who go after fish for fun or sport or pleasure and 'fishermen' to be people who go after fish for work.

The first thing to be said about Izaak Walton's book, is that it is a play followed by a text book. The second thing, is that it's in a foreign language even to the English, because it was first published in 1653 when the author was 60. A ripe old age in England in those days.

Walton was essentially a biographer. He got paid for it - often commissioned as a good artist might. He wrote 'The Life of Donne' - a poet who even I've heard of. He's alleged to have been a prosperous merchant, but it doesn't really matter. Great angling writers like Richard Walker were engineers. Old school writers like George Skues, were public school educated solicitors in London practices who took the train to the chalk streams of Winchester in Hampshire at weekends, tying flies as they went.

The play concerns three people who meet by chance and get into conversation about their interests. They're travelling at a walk, and so they lighten their journey with convoluted conversation. Before long, it develops into a bit of a competition. Walton is the angler (Piscator). Another gentleman is keen on falconry (Venator) and yet another is keen on hunting (Auceps).

If you tire of 17th century banter, skip forward to the chapters on each particular species of fish, which will ring true immediately. To me it's a revelation that these friendly old fish will still fall for the same tricks as Walton was playing on their ancestors over 350 years ago.
How The "Brotherhood of the Angle" Invites a Trout to Dinner  Dec 4, 2005
Three hundred fifty years ago Izaak Walton wrote of the curious blend of inner peace and giddy excitement which the amateur naturalist finds at streamside. He invites us to stroll with him through the countryside, discussing the mythology, superstition, and the science of England's aquatic fauna. It is an unrushed journey, though we often arise at sunrise, and the author introduces us to many of the local inhabitants. Indeed, if our fishing is successful, we might exchange our catch for the song of a pretty milkmaid. The Compleat Angler is a brief book, and Walton's intent is to hook the reader, and encourage him to try fishing for himself: "I do not undertake to say all that is known...but I undertake to acquaint the Reader with many things that are not usually known to every Angler; and I shall leave gleanings and observations enough to be made out of the experience that all that love and practise this recreation, to which I shall encourage them." Interestingly, Walton starts off on the defensive, since the fisherman's passion was even then caricatured. By the end the reader has joined the "Brotherhood of the Angle," making artificial flies and enjoying the poetry of fishing: "The jealous Trout, that low did lie, Rose at a well-dissembled fly." To the modern ear Walton's literal belief in naturalists' old wives tales may seem humorously anachronistic, and it comprises a remarkably large part of his affection for his subject. We are also frequently reminded of the book's timeline with comments such as "...the Royal Society have found and published lately that there be thirty and three kinds of Spiders," while we now know that there are thirty thousand species of Arachnids. And the Brotherhood of the Angle is a genuine fraternity to Walton, "...I love all Anglers, they be such honest, civil, quiet men." The prospective reader must also be disabused of the misconception that Walton was a purist for artificial lures; he strongly recommends worms, minnows, and live flies. In Walton's watery world there is no dry humor, only fresh. Following his description of the twelve most effective artificial flies he says, "Thus you have a jury of flies likely to betray and condem all the Trouts in the river." And here he compares the beautiful coloration of a living trout to...well, you'll see: "Their bodies [are] adorned with such red spots, and...with black or blackish spots, as give them such an addition of natural beauty as, I think, was never given to any woman by the artificial paint or patches in which they so much pride themselves in this age." At the risk of taking some of the surprise out of the book, I here present a sample of Walton's fishing secrets: "Take the stinking oil drawn out of Polypody of the oak by a retort, mixed with turpentine and hive-honey, and anoint your bait therewith, and it will doubtless draw the fish to it." I would guess that Walton wasn't much of a cook, however, and I do not recommend his recipe for eel (partially skinning it, packing the viceral cavity with nutmeg and anchovy, cutting off the head, slipping the skin back over the body, and sewing it together where the head formerly was, then barbecuing it on skewers). Walton's affection for fish and fishing extends beyond the aquatic nobility of trout and salmon, to the often ignored commoners: gudgeons, sprats, bleaks, herns, tench, roach, umber, loach, and sticklebag. And as for the importance of fishing in Walton's world: "I envy not him that eats better meat than I do, nor him that is richer, or that wears better clothes than I do; I envy nobody but him, and him only, that catches more fish than I do."
Worth a space on your fishing/philosophy bookshelf  May 2, 2005
Walton uses the perspective of an enthusiastic angler to promote a lifestyle of reflectiveness, gentle humor, and appreciation for nature. The book is easy to read, despite being first published in the 1600s.
The Coachwhip Publications reprint edition (ISBN 1930585209) is inexpensive and contains Cotton's "Part 2," written at Walton's request for the fifth published edition of "The Compleat Angler."

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