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And thus they shall sit,
This dangerous dowsipere,
And sets not by it a mite;
for all that
Dispenseth with his demensy." This is certainly a sufficient specimen of this extraordinary versifier-both as to matter and manner. The talents of John Skelton are easily estimated. With strong sense, a vein of humour, and some imagination, he had a wonderful command of the English language. His rhymes are interminable, and often spun out beyond the sense in the wantonness of power. In judging of this old poet, we must always recollect the state of poetry in his time and the taste of the age, which being taken into the account, we cannot help considering Skelton as an ornament of his own time, and a benefactor to those which came after him. Let him be compared to a fine old building, which once glittered in a wanton lavishment of ornament, and revelled in the profusion of its apartments, and in the number of its winding passages, is now grown unfit for habitation, and only remains as a model of the architecture of past times, and a fit subject for the reverence and the researches of the antiquarian.
Art. X.- The complete Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recre
ation; being a Discourse on Rivers, Fish-ponds, Fish, and Fishing: in two Parts; the first written by Mr. Isaac Walton; the second by Charles Cotton, Esq., with the Lives of the Authors, and Notes historical, critical, and explanatory. By Sir John Hawkins, Knt. 1764. First edition, 1653.
Our nation, from the earliest times, has been remarkable for a fondness for field sports. Hunting and hawking formed the chief recreation of our kings and barons; and if the equipments of our ancient nobles, when on a hunting expedition, were inferior in splendour to the pavilioned field and turbaned array of an eastern Omrah, or even to the half-martial appointments of our European neighbours, yet in enthusiastic love of these sports, in the skill and intelligence displayed in conducting them, in the breeding and training of our hawks and dogs, in the completeness of our sporting implements, and in our
adroitness in using them, we have unquestionably excelled them all.
As the choice of games and modes of playing at them strongly indicate the dispositions and capacities of children, so the sports and exercises of a people are equally illustrative of their national characteristics. Our field sports strikingly exhibit that energizing union of action and thought—that quick sense of fair play, and independent self-reliance, which, when directed to higher objects, have exalted and established the moral character of our nation. Much of the parade of the chace, we undoubtedly derived from our Norman ancestors; but all those feudal regulations, not essential to the success and conduct of the sport, have disappeared with the system which produced them. Our sportsmen assemble not merely to swell the train of the leader of the day, but each for his own exercise and recreation. Every one is equally interested in the success of the business before him; and although the huntsman is, ex officio, the most important and obstinate personage in the field, and his veto is always definitive against any casual votes of the democracy, nevertheless each member of known experience delivers his opinion, with a consciousness that its weight will be duly appreciated by his compeers, and if, when in council at a fault, he carry the majority with him—or, better still, if he be seconded by the sure double of old Rockwood—the cry of That's good! carries the motion by acclaim, and the sovereignty of the huntsman merges constitutionally in the decision of the general voice. Thus, in doubtful cases, opinion has its due authority; but the fundamental code of the chace is inviolable. The creature pursued must be allowed its fair lawthe destruction of the animal is never the sole object contemplated: its wiles and powers of escape are nicely balanced with the skill and sagacity of its pursuers. We do not defend the humanity of this equilibrium of exertion and suffering; but, as the object of the hunter is to prolong the chace to the utmost possible extent, without diminishing its spirit, and as his pleasure consists in surmounting, by his skill and the sagacity of his dogs, the impediments opposed to him, we adduce it as exemplary of that just adaptation of means to their end, of that hardihood and perseverance which courts and delights in difficulty and danger, and that love of method and order, which even in their sports is prevalent in the minds of our countrymen, and which, when exerted on nobler occasions, has enabled them to rival whatever human nature hath ever achieved, either of physical or mental energy. Our less vehement rural recreations are governed by rules as exact, and discover as much of system, of natural knowledge, and of mechanical contrivance and application, as hunting. If a philosopher of an unknown world were presented with a fowling-piece, the work of one of our best gun-makers, the inferences to be drawn from it alone would certify him that it could only be the production of a highly intelligent nation. In the just proportion of its parts, equally accommodated to elegance and utility ; in its strength, nicely combined with the requisite degree of lightness; in the mechanism of the lock, and in the simplicity and good taste of the general ornaments, he would discover indubitable evidence of patient thought, united to the highest mechanical ability, and both admirably and exclusively directed to the particular purpose of the instrument. He would as certainly not draw similar conclusions from the inspection of a Chinese bow, or a Persian scymitar. These, though gorgeously adorned and highly wrought, in parts, he would discover to be infinitely less complete: they are “ rich with gems and barbaric gold,” but the essentials, the rivets, the screws, and whatever does not at first meet the eye, are negligently and inefficiently, executed. From the inspection of the three instruments, the bow, the scymitar, and the gun, their several uses being considered, our philosopher would form no contemptible hypothesis of the intellectual rank of the people which produced them.
The pleasures of the angler are equally well aided by the fitness of his particular implements, and his art has been improved by as much observation, experience, and thought, as characterize any of the sports to which we have alluded ; and all of them have been celebrated by men of genius, whose works on these subjects are a valuable addition to the literature of our country. Somerville's Chace has been censured as a futile endeavour to elevate a mean subject to the dignity of poetry. There may be some justice in this censure, but an acs complished hunter will reluctantly admit it. He may deny. that subject to be mean which constitutes one of the most árdent and characteristic recreations of a great nation, and which gives to posterity a vivid picture of the manly amusements, polished manners, and cultivated mind of a British country gentleman. The work before us, which has led us to these observations, has been the delight of every “ brother of the angle,” and of every man of taste, since its first appearance. The simplicity of its style, the genuine love of nature which it displays, the purity and philanthropy of its sentiments, that true politeness, the result of a sound understanding and of an amiable sensibility, beautifully exhibited in every page, and heightened in effect, rather than obscured, by the somewhat quaint language of the age in which it was written, give it a spell so powerful, as to have charmed the dragon of criticism. But the book is itself a portrait of its venerable author, này, it presents him to you alive-you walk with him, reflect with
him, dwell with him on the peaceful beauties of the landscape, and silently and gently sink into the calm and amiable temper of mind and heart, which dictated this most innocent of books. His first address displays the amenity of his character; and the milk-maid, who sings her simple song to.oblige him, and the mistress of the little inn, who is so anxious to attend to every wish of her respected guest, convince you, that all who know the good old man own an affectionate esteem for him. Before you have enjoyed his society an hour, you are his fast friend, and perhaps" an honest angler" for ever.
But let our apostle of angling speak for himself. “ A conference betwixt an Angler, a Hunter, and a Falconer, each
commending his recreation.
Piscator, Venator, Auceps. “ Pisc. You are well overtaken, gentlemen; a good morning to you both. I have stretched my legs up Tottenham hill to overtake you, hoping your business may occasion you towards Ware, whither I am going this fine, fresh May morning.
“ Venat. Sir, I, for my part, shall almost answer your hopes; for my purpose is to drink my morning's draught at the Thatched-house in Hodsden; and I think not to rest till I come thither, where I have appointed a friend or two to meet me: but for this gentleman that you see with me, I know not how far he intends his journey; he came so lately into my company, that I'have scarce had time to ask him the question.
Auceps. Sir, I shall, by your favour, bear you company as far as Theobald's, and there leave you ; for then I turn up to a friend's house, who mews a hawk for me, which I now long to see.
“ Venat. Sir, we are so happy as to have a fine, fresh, cool morning; and I hope we shall each be the happier in the others' company. And, gentlemen, that I may not lose yours, I shall either abate or amend my pace to enjoy it; knowing that, as the Italians say, good company in a journey makes the way to seem shorter.
Auceps. It may do so, Sir, with the help of good discourse, which methinks we may promise from you that both look and speak so chearfully; and, for my part, I promise you, as an invitation to it, that I will be as free and open-hearted, as discretion will allow me to be with strangers.
“ Venat. And, Sir, I promise the like.
“ Pisc. I am right glad to hear your answers, and in confidence you speak the truth, I shall put on a boldness to ask you, Sir, whether business or pleasure caused you to be so early up, and walk so fast; for the other gentleman hath declared he is going to see a hawk that a friend mews for him.
“ Venat. Sir, mine is a mixture of both, a little business and more pleasure; for I intend this day to do all my business, and then bestow