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'I envy no body but him, and him only, that catches more fish than I do.'
A unique celebration of the English countryside and the most famous book on angling ever published, Walton's Compleat Angler first appeared in 1653. In 1676, at Walton's invitation, his friend Charles Cotton contributed his pioneering exploration of fly-fishing. The book is both a manual of instruction and a vision of society in harmony with nature. It guides the novice fisherman on how to catch and cook a variety of fish, on how to select and prepare the best bait and make artificial flies, and on the habits of freshwater fish. It also promotes angling as a communal activity in which the bonds of friendship are forged through shared experience of the natural world.
Anecdotes, poetry, music, and song intersperse the rural descriptions, which promote conservation as well as sport. This new edition highlights the book's continuing relevance to our relationship with the environment, and explores the turbulent history from which it came.
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Izaak Walton (1593-1683) was born in Stafford. He was a biographer of the poet John Donne, and wrote lives of other notable Anglicans, including George Herbert and Richard Hooker. He was a Royalist, and during the Civil War participated in a royalist conspiracy after the battle of Worcester. In TheCompleat Angler he expressed his political and religious allegiances while exploring humanity's relationship to the natural world. He is buried in Winchester Cathedral, where he is commemorated by a stained-glass window in the Fishermen's Chapel.
Charles Cotton (1630-87) was a country gentleman, poet, and translator, who built a fishing house for himself and Walton at his birthplace, Beresford Hall in Staffordshire. In 1676, at Walton's invitation, he wrote the second part to The Compleat Angler.
Marjorie Swann, editor, grew up fishing for perch and pike on St Joseph Island, Ontario. She subsequently earned degrees at Queen's University and Oxford. She is the author of Curiosities and Texts: The Culture of Collecting in Early Modern England (2001) and is writing a book about Walton's Angler and its post-seventeenth-century afterlives.