Izaak Walton, 1593–1683

Portrait

Biographical note

Biographer, and author of The Compleat Angler, son of a yeoman, was born at Stafford. Of his earlier years little is known. He carried on business as a hosier in London, in which he made a modest competence, which enabled him to retire at 50, the rest of his long life of 90 years being spent in the simple country pleasures, especially angling, which he so charmingly describes. He was twice married, first to Rachel Floud, a descendant of Archbishop Cranmer, and second to Ann Ken, half-sister of the author of the Evening Hymn.

His first book was a Life of Dr. Donne [1640], followed by Lives of Sir Henry Wotton (1651), Richard Hooker (1662), George Herbert (1670), and Bishop Sanderson (1678). All of these, classics in their kind, short, but simple and striking, were collected into one volume.

His masterpiece, however, was The Compleat Angler, the first edition of which was published in 1653. Subsequent editions were greatly enlarged; a second part was added by Charles Cotton. With its dialogues between Piscator (angler), Venator (hunter), and Auceps (falconer), full of wisdom, kindly humour, and charity, its charming pictures of country scenes and pleasures, and its snatches of verse, it is one of the most delightful and care-dispelling books in the language.

His long, happy, and innocent life ended in the house of his son-inlaw, Dr. Hawkins, Prebendary of Winchester, where in the Cathedral he lies buried.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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