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THE LIFE OF
MR. ISAAC WALTON.
I PRESENT not to the reader a history of a wise statesman, an adventurous soldier, or a profound philosopher. Yet I trust, that he will experience no small degree of satisfaction from contemplating the virtues of a private citizen; who, though he arrogates not to himself the splendour of high descent, or the pride of superfluous wealth, deserves our approbation and regard. Isaac, or as he usually wrote his name, Izaac Walton, adorned with a guileless simplicity of manners, claims from every good man the tribute of applause. It was his ambition (and surely a more honourable ambition cannot be excited in the human breast) to commend to the reverence of posterity the merits of those excellent persons, whose vastly comprehensive learning and exalted piety will ever endear them to our memories.
The important end of historical knowledge is a prudent application of it to ourselves, with a view to regulate and amend our own conduct. As the examples of men strictly and faithfully
discharging their professional duties must obviously tend to invigorate our efforts to excel in moral worth, the virtuous characters, which are so happily delineated in the following pages, cannot fail, if considered with serious attention, of producing the most beneficial and lasting impressions on the
The Life of the Author of this biographical collection was little diversified with events. He was born of a respectable family, on the ninth day of August, 1593, in the parish of St. Mary's, in the town of Stafford. Of his father no particular tradition is extant. From his mother he derived an hereditary attachment to the Protestant religion, as professed in the Church of England. She was the daughter of Edmund Cranmer, Archdeacon of Canterbury, sister to Mr. George Cranmer the pupil and friend of Mr. Richard Hooker, and niece to that first and brightest ornament of the Reformation, Dr. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. No vestiges of the place or manner of his education have been discovered: Nor have we any authentic information concerning his first engagements in a mercantile life. It has indeed been suggested, that he was one of those industrious young men, whom the munificence of Sir Thomas Gresham, the founder of the Royal
September 1593. Baptiz. fuit Isaac filius Jervis Walton, "XX° die mensis et anni prædict." (Register of St. Mary's, in the town of Stafford.)
Exchange, had placed in the shops, which were erected in the upper building of his celebrated Burse. However this may be, he soon improved his fortune by his honesty, his frugality, and his diligence. His occupation, according to the tradition still preserved in his family, was that of a wholesale linen-draper, or Hamburgh merchant".
Walton was settled at London before the year 1643. The writers of "The Life of Milton" have with the most scrupulous attention, regularly marked out the different houses successively inhabited by the poet, " as if it was an injury to neglect any place, that he honoured by his presence." The various parts of London, in which Isaac Walton resided, have been recorded with the same precision. It is sufficient to intimate, that he was for some years an inhabitant of St. Dunstan's in the West. With Dr. John Donne, then Vicar of that parish, of whose sermons he was a constant hearer, he contracted a friendship, which remained uninterrupted to the period of their separation by death. This his parishioner
"Sir John Hawkins's Life of Walton," p. xiii.-The economy observed in the construction of the shops over the Burse scarce allowed him to have elbow-room. They were but seven feet and a half long, and five wide.-(See Ward's Life of Sir Thomas Gresham, p. 12.)
According to Anthony Wood, he followed the trade of a sempster. (Ath. Ox. Vol. I. col. 305. See also Sir John Hawkins's Life of Walton, p. xiii. xv.)