Advice from Walton

Isaac Walton wrote and published The Compleat Angler in an England that bears some resemblance to the contemporary United States. The nation–and other parts of Great Britain–were ripped apart by division between what some might view as populists and somewhat more liberal (religiously, at least) “establishment” parties. In mid-seventeenth century England, this division was manifested in the bloody English Civil Wars.

For all its turmoil, America is not at war internally, but the division is great. Therefore, we might find useful wisdom in Walton’s work (obviously, an obsessed fly fisher such as myself would think so). To that end, I offer the following words from Walton to those who blindly support “ostentatious” leaders (and there are many of them). The spelling, style, and punctuation are Walton’s.

I would rather prove myself to be a Gentleman, by being learned and humble, valiant and inoffensive, virtuous and communicable, than by any fond ostentation of riches; or (wanting
these Vertues my self) boast that these were in my ancestors.

Isaac Walton, The Compleat Angler, or The Contemplative Man’s Recreation, 1st ed. (1653) 13.

4 Responses to “Advice from Walton”

  1. Jack Wallingford Says:

    It becomes increasingly apparent that today’s voter, or person, values something other than learned scholarly discourse, humility and other virtues mentioned above. We love the salacious, the offensive and somehow feel this will represent us in a Washington DC few of us know, want to know, or have the power to fight. Instead of voting for a valiant man, a man who might actually change the system and prevent money, electoral colleges and powerful lobby groups from controlling the rights of all individuals, we instead vote for the opposite of what we like in the friends we have. We think that this less than man will change a Washington that we don’t know and feel helpless to fight. Or he will restore what used to be the greatest generations claim to fame, unchecked and unfettered capitalism that is not wrong in itself, but has spawned the effluvia of its rapaciousness: global warming, pollution, population explosions and greed. These are things we deny while we try to embrace evangelical gods, retirement, and good will while creating separatism, exclusivity, and more unfettered growth in the hopes we can capture manufacturing that we sold out for the sale of money. No wonder we want a billionaire to represent us.
    Why can’t we ever get the McCarthy’s, the Naders, the Sanders when that leads us to the true answer, the Compleat Angler’s choice.


    • Kenov Says:

      I agree. You raise points that are painful to realize and you pose questions that are painful to ask, but you do so beautifully. Not that beauty matters much in the current political discourse ….


  2. Jeff Says:

    I’m sure Isaac would say, politics and fishing are like oil and water.


    • Kenov Says:

      I hear you. No doubt, the last thing he wanted on the stream was a heated discussion.

      That said, the Angler is largely a religious text, written while a war was being waged along largely religious lines. During its writing, it is hard to even imagine that Walton would have spent much time on a stream with someone of different political views (especially given the common Puritan opposition to sport).


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