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Science
THE PHILOSOPHER, FISH AND THE DOVE
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Celebrating the Anniversary of The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton
Sundays 27 July to 24 August 2.45-3.00pm

O Sir, doubt not but that Angling is an Art: is it not an Art to deceive a Trout with an artificial Flie? A Trout! That is more sharp sighted than any Hawk .. , and more watchful and more timorous than your high mettled Marlin is bold? …. doubt not therefore, Sir, but that Angling is an Art, and an art worth your learning: the Question is rather, whether you are capable of learning it? ” so says the Piscator, in The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton, published in 1653.

Lover's Leap, River Dove, Dovedale
Lover's Leap on the River Dove in Dovedale

It's 350 years since The Compleat Angler, the most famous fishing manual ever to have been written, was first published, and since its publication, this angler’s manual, has sold more copies than the bible and only been out of print once.

In this five-part series, passionate fly fisherman, Geoffrey Palmer, presents a celebration of the life and work of Izaak Walton a portrait of the River Dove, where Izaak Walton spent so much of his time angling, (often in the company of his friend, Charles Cotton), and a guide to angling and to the lives and habits of the fish which provided Walton with so much entertainment, enjoyment and fascination.

Each of the five programmes focuses on a different fish, namely trout, barbel, barbel, grayling, salmon, and chub and drawing on extracts from The Compleat Angler, and interviews with fishermen, historians and naturalists, the series offers an insight into the mind and spirit of the angler, and an appreciation of the river habitat.

As the series unfolds, listeners will gain an insight into the beauty of the River Dove, the Peak District, and the sounds of the river and its wildlife. The series presents a fascinating, reflective and, at times, amusing look at a great thinker’s view of the river and the world around him, and compares and contrasts it with the River habitat today.

Programme Pages:

1: Trout - 27 July - More information >>>

2: Barbel - 3 August- More information >>>

3: Grayling - 10 August- More information >>>

4: Salmon - 17 August- More information >>>

5: Chub - 24 August- More information >>>


Brief History of Izaak Walton
Izaak Walton, was born on 9th August, 1593 in Stafford, the son of an alehouse keeper. We know little of his early life but around 1611, he was apprenticed to Thomas Grinsell, of the Ironmonger’s Company. Walton completed his apprenticeship in 1617 and by 1624 had his own business a linen draper’s shop in Fleet, Street, London. In 1636, he married Rachel Flood and they had seven children. Rachel died in 1640, preceeded by six of their children. The seventh child died two years later. Izaak married again in 1647 to Anne Ken and they had three children, two of whom lived into their sixties. After acquiring the draper’s shop, Walton held several public posts in his parish of St Dunstan’s in the West and became a senior member of the Ironmongers Company.

Whilst Izaak Walton was born of fairly humble origins, he had friends and contemporaries of social distinction. His first book was published in1640 and was a biography of John Donne, the churchman and poet. In May 1963, The Compleat Angler or The Contemplative Man’s Recreation was published which has become the third most published book in the English language. It was re-issued four times during his life and the final edition in 1676 included a supplement on fly fishing written by his very close friend, Charles Cotton. Walton and Cotton spent many hours together, fishing on the River Dove.

Walton’s wealth increased during his lifetime, and he bought Halfhead Farm at Shallowford, where the Izaak Walton Cottage stands today. Walton never lived in the cottage but rented it out. Today, the cottage is a museum where the life and times of Izaak Walton is depicted. The museum also contains many items relating to the history of angling.

Izaak Walton died on 19 December, 1683, aged 90 years. He is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

The Compleat Angler or The Contemplative Man's Recreation
by Izaak Walton

The book was originally published in 1653 and first appeared with additions by Charles Cotton in 1676. No book, apart from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, has been more often re-printed.

The book is something of a bible to many anglers, but its more than a fishing manual on how to catch and cook fish it’s also an affectionate portrait of the English countryside and an insight into the heart and soul of the angler. On occasions, the pastoral drama is also a cover for subversive political comments by its Royalist author, but at its heart, the book is a celebration of the art of angling and the fish of England’s rivers … from the king of freshwater, the Salmon, to the fearfullest, and so easily caught of them all, the Chub.

The book not only contains information about fishing for the angler but also, poetry, music and engravings… and there are many descriptive passages about the English countryside and the way of life, with references to linen sheets, meals, ale houses, and milkmaids!

The subtitle hints at the fact that angling was the only sport allowed to the clergy and for many anglers (as the series reveals), angling is as much about escaping the hurly burly of life and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and an opportunity for contemplation, as it is about hooking a fish.

The Compleat Angler
Published by Oxford University Press
Reissued as an Oxford World’s Classic Paperback 2000
ISBN 0-19-283786-9

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