Izaak Walton (born 9 August 1593) wrote one of the best goofing-off books ever. First published in 1653, the full title was: The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation, divided into two parts: I, “Being a Discourse of Rivers, Fish-ponds, Fish and Fishing”; II, “Being Instructions how to Angle for a Trout or Grayling in a Clear Stream”.
As Walton confessed in a preface, “…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 busie men…I have in several places mixt (not any scurrility, but) some innocent, harmless mirth; of which, if thou be a severe, sowre-complexion’d man, then I here disallow thee to be a competent judge; for Divines say, There are offences given, and offences not given but taken.”
Walton gives us first a chat between an Angler (Piscator), a Faulkner (Venator) and Hunter (Auceps) as to their respective recreations. But the honours are with the fruits of the water: “…those creatures that are bred and fed in the water, are not only more and more miraculous, but more advantagious to man, not only for the lengthening of his life, but for the preventing of sickness….remember that Moses (Lev. 11.9, Deut. 14.9) appointed Fish to be the chief diet for the best Common-wealth that ever yet was.”
in the final analysis, it has little to do with fish: though the Angler has convinced the Faulkner: “I will walk the Meadows by some gliding stream, and there contemplate the Lillies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures, that are not only created but fed (man knows not how) by the goodness of the God of Nature, and therefore trust in him“, Piscator merely ripostes: “And upon all that are lovers of Vertue; and dare trust in his providence, and be quiet, and go a Angling.”
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