Modern Literature

In 1600 appeared John Taverner's Certaine Experiments concerning Fish and Fruite, and after this the period of angling literature proper begins. The Secrets of Angling (1613), by J(ohn) D(ennys). Esq., is one of the most important volumes in the angler's library, both on account of the excellence of the verse in which it is written and also on account of its practical value. Gervase Markham, "the first journalist," as he has been called, published his first book of husbandry at the same date, and, as in most of his many books on the same subject, devoted a certain amount of space to fishing. But Markham gathered his materials in a rather shameless manner and his angling passages have little originality. Thomas Barker's The Art of Angling (1st ed., 1651) takes a more honourable position, and received warm commendation from Izaak Walton himself, who followed it in 1653 with The Compleat Angler. So much has been written about this treasured classic that it is only necessary to indicate its popularity here by saying that its editions occupy some twenty pages in Bibliotheca Piscatoria (1883), and that since that work was published at least forty new editions have to be added to the list.

During Walton's life-time the book ran through five editions, and with the fifth (1676) was incorporated Charles Cotton's second part, the "instructions how to angle for a trout or grayling, in a clear stream." In some cases too there was added a third book, the fourth edition of The Experienced Angler, by Robert Venables (1st ed., 1662). The three books together bore the title of The Universal Angler. Venables's portion was dropped later, but it is worth reading, and contained sound instruction though it has not the literary merit of Walton and Cotton.

A few other notable books of the century call for enumeration, The Gentleman's Recreation by Nicholas Cox (1674), Gilbert's The Angler's Delight (1676), Chetham's Vade-Mecum (1681), The Complete Troller by Robert Nobbes (1682), R. Franck's Northern Memoirs (1694), and The True Art of Angling by J. S. (1696). Of these Chetham, Nobbes, Franck and J. S. have the merit of considerable originality. Franck has gained some notoriety by his round abuse of Walton. In the 18th century among others we find The Secrets of Angling by C. G. (1705), Robert Hewlett's The Angler's Sure Guide (1706), The Whole Art of Fishing (1714), The Compleat Fisherman by James Saunders (1724), The Art of Angling by R. Brookes (1740), another book with the same title by R. and C. Bowlker (Worcester, c. 1750), The Complete Sportsman by Thomas Fairfax (c. 1760), The Angler's Museum by T. Shirley (1784), and A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling by Thomas Best (1787). Of these only Saunders's, Bowlker's and Best's books are of much importance, the rest being for the most part "borrowed." One volume of verse in the 18th century calls for notice, Moses Browne's Piscatory Eclogues (1729). Among greater names we get angling passages in Pope, Gay and Thomson; the two last were evidently brothers of the angle.

With the 19th century angling literature becomes too big a subject to be treated in detail, and it is only possible to glance at a few of the more important books and writers. Daniel's Rural Sports appeared in 1801; it is a treasure-house of odd facts. In 1828 Sir Humphry Davy published his famous Salmonia, which was reviewed in the Quarterly by Sir Walter Scott. At about this time too were appearing the Noctes Ambrosianae in Blackwood's Magazine. Christopher North (Professor Wilson) often touched upon angling in them, besides contributing a good many angling articles to the magazine. In 1835 that excellent angling writer Thomas Tod Stoddart began his valuable series of books with The Art of Angling as Practised in Scotland. In 1839 he published Songs and Poems, among which are pieces of great merit. During this period, too, first appeared, year by year, the Newcastle Fishers' Garlands, collected by Joseph Crawhall afterwards and republished in 1864. These border verses, like Stoddart's, have often a genuine ring about them which is missing from the more polished effusions of Gay and Thomson. Alfred Ronalds's The Fly-Fisher's Entomology (1st ed., 1836) was a publication of great importance, for it marked the beginning of the scientific spirit among trout-fishers. It ran through many editions and is still a valuable book of reference.

A step in angling history is also marked by George Pulman's Vade-Mecum of Fly-fishing for Trout (1841), for it contains the first definite instructions on fishing with a "dry fly." Another is marked by Hewett Wheatley's The Rod and the Line (1849), where is to be found the earliest reference to the "eyed" hook. Yet another is marked by W. C. Stewart's The Practical Angler (1857), in which is taught the new doctrine of "up-stream" fishing for trout. This is a book of permanent value. Among the many books of this period Charles Kingsley's Miscellanies (1859) stands out, for it contains the immortal "Chalk-Stream Studies." The work of Francis Francis begins at about the same time, though his A Book on Angling, which is still one of the most valuable text-books, was not first published till 1867. Another well-known and excellent writer, Mr. H. Cholmondeley Pennell, began in the early 'sixties; it is to him that we owe the admirable volumes on fresh-water fishing in the "Badminton Library." Among other English writers mention must be made of Messrs William Senior, John Bickerdyke and F. M. Halford, who have all performed signal services for angling and its literature. (See further bibliography ad fin.) In America the latter half of the 19th century produced a good deal of fishing literature, much of it of a high standard.

I go a-Fishing by Dr. W. C. Prime (1873), Fishing with the Fly by C. F. Orvis, A. Nelson Cheney and others (1883), The American Salmon Fisherman and Fly Rods and Fly Tackle by H. P. Wells (1886 and 1885), Little Rivers and other books by the Rev. H. Van Dyke - these are only a few specially distinguished in style and matter. Germany and France have not contributed so largely to the modern library, but in the first country we find several useful works by Max von dem Borne, beginning with the Handbuch der Angelfischerei of 1875, and there are a good many other writers who have contributed to the subject, while in France there are a few volumes on fishing by different hands. The most noticeable is M. G. Albert Petit's La Truite de rivière (1897), an admirable book on fly-fishing. As yet, however, though there are many enthusiastic anglers in France, the sport has not established itself so firmly as to have inspired much literature of its own; the same may be said of Germany.