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Izaak Walton
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Stafford, Staffordshire
Born on 9th of August 1593
Died on 15th of December 1683

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Though he is today remembered almost exclusively for The Compleat Angler, Walton was an accomplished author of several works of biography equally celebrated in their time: of John Donne, whom he knew as vicar of St Dunstan’s in London; of Sir Henry Wotton, the great traveller and diplomat who was a personal friend via their shared interest in fishing; and of theologian Richard Hooker.
It was perhaps surprising that the son of an innkeeper should have mixed in such circles in his age. Born in Stafford on August 9 1593 Walton’s early career was far from literary. He moved to London and became an ironmonger, though was enterprising enough to take a shop in The Royal Exchange. He married well, however, his first wife a relative of Thomas Cranmer, his second of another senior cleric Thomas Ken.
Having already published his works on Donne and Wotton, and being comfortable (and well-connected) enough to retire in 1644, Walton turned to writing about his passion, fishing. In 1651 he published The Compleat Angler, a work he added to and revised for years to come – he died at the then extraordinary age of 90, having enjoyed decades of angling during his long retirement, mainly on the River Dove dividing Staffordshire and Derbyshire.
There are few duller subjects than fishing techniques, few more interesting than fishing. Walton writes well enough about the former (the fly-fishing details were provided by a friend), but wonderfully about the latter. He explores in sometimes whimsical, sometimes philosophical fashion matters touching upon his great pastime; he includes anecdotes, songs, descriptions of fish and their habitats, and most beautifully the countryside where he fished. In the spirit of the age there is what now seems a heavy-handed use of interlocutors to help his explorations, but the work is still required reading for serious literary anglers, its alternative title – The Contemplative Man’s Recreation - a clue as to why.
Walton died in Winchester on December 15 1683.

The Compleat Angler was printed here

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1 Response to Izaak Walton

From Nina on 30th April 2009
Son of alehouse keeper. Settled in London and became friends with John Donne. Best known work is The Compleat Angler (1653). Wrote biographies including those of John Donne, Sir Thomas Wotton and Richard Herbert. Later life spent in Winchester.

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