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blet; but it puts him, (ever and anon) in mind of repairing: his breeches are in the fashion, not so much for pride, as to save cloth : but how bare soever be his backe, and belly thinne, his bagge is well lined, and he keeps it warme: there's not a hole in his hose, and yet not a place where there hath not beene a hole: his shooes have cost him more the maintaining, than would provide him shuoes: he keepes a free house-you may as soone breake your necke as your fast; and a cleane withall-you may as readily wet your shoos as your lips. The man is oft-times so melancholy at home, that he is glad when he may cheare up himselfe at his neighbour's board : and, upon many occasions, growes so desperate, that hee cares not what becomes of him; only he is loth to be at the charges of making himselfe away.”
Art. IV. Thealma and Clearchus. A Pastoral History in
smooth and easie Verse. Written long since by John Chalkhill, Esq. an Acquaintant and Friend of Edmund Spenser. London, 1683.
This poem was published by the venerable patriarch of anglers, Izaak Walton, as the production of a deceased friend. The only information he has communicated respecting the author, is contained in the intimation on the title-page, that he was “ an acquaintant and friend of Edmund Spenser,” and in the following brief préface.
“ The reader will find in this book, what the title declares, a pastoral history, in smooth and easie verse; and will in it find many hopes and fears finely painted, and feelingly expressed. And he will find the first so often disappointed, when fullest of desire and expectation; and the latter, so often, so strangely, and so unexpectedly relieved, by an unforeseen Providence, as may beget in him wonder and amazement. ... And the reader will here also meet with passions heightened by easie and fit descriptions of joy and sorrow; and find also such various events and rewards of innocent truth and undissembled honesty, as is like to leave in him.(if he be a good natured reader) more sympathizing and virtuous impressions, than ten times so much time spent in impertinent, critical, and needless disputes about religion: and I heartily wish it may do so.
And, I have also this truth to say of the author, that he was in his time a man generally known, and as well beloved; for he was humble, and obliging in his behaviour; a gentleman, a scholar, very innocent and prudent; and indeed his whole life was useful, quiet, and virtuous. God send the story may meet with, or make, all readers like him.
When we add, that there are two songs, with the name of Chalkhill attached to them, introduced in The Complete Angler, we believe we have placed the reader in possession of every thing that is known respecting the supposed author of Thealma and Clearchus. It is not easy to conceive, that a gentleman of his taste and talents, who enjoyed the friendship of Spenser, should wholly escape the panegyrics or censures of his contemporaries, and the industrious researches of poetical biographers.* Had he been any thing more than a fictitious personage, honest Izaak would hardly have dismissed him with such a brief and unsatisfactory notice: “the narrative old man" would have treated us with some of the delightful garrulous details in which he has commemorated so many of his literary friends. The author of Thealma, the friend of Spenser, .and a brother-angler, certainly deserved and would have received a much more ample allowance of biographical gossip. The conclusion appears to us inevitable, that Chalkhill was merely a nomme de guerre, like Peter Pindar or Barry Cornwall.- Whether Walton was himself the author of the poem before us may admit of more controversy: we are ourselves strongly convinced that he was, and we think any person who takes the trouble we have done in investigating the circumstances, and in comparing the Thealma with the acknowledged productions of Walton, will come to the same conclusion. We confess, that our wish may, in some measure, be “ father to the thought:”. we have read this delightful poem' with redoubled pleasure since we persuaded ourselves that it was an emanation of the same amiable spirit, which put forth the most delightful and genuine pastoral in the English language, and we should feel proud to add another sprig to the verdant wreath which encircles the venerable brow of old Izaak Walton. We shall briefly state the principal reasons on which we found our opinion as to the unity of Chalkhill and Walton, but we fear, unless the reader is
; * Mr. Todd, in his life of Spenser, enumerates Chalkhill among the friends and admirers of the English Ariosto, but it is solely on the strength of Walton's assertion; as this industrious commentator evidently knew nothing more of the author of Thealma and Clearchus, than was to be found in the scanty notice of its editor. Ritson has introduced Chalkhill among the authors of the sixteenth century, in his Bibliographia Poetica, but he merely copies Walton. Mr. Campbell overlooked Chalkhill in his Specimens of the British Poets; but to make him amends, he has introduced him into his Introductory Essay, where he had no manner of business. Mr. Singer was the first to question the authenticity of Walton's statement, and his researches satisfied him that Chalkhill was altogether a fictitious personage.
VOL. IV. PART II.
lose some have already to his friend he gives this.“
mohet me lived espectadverted to
already conversant with their (or his) works, our arguments will lose some portion of their weight.
We have already adverted to the mysterious silence of Walton with respect to his friend's life: he neither tells us where he lived nor when he died—he gives this "airy nothing" .. no “ local habitation.” Another circumstance worthy of re- mark is, the guardedness of his praise, contrasted with the ·boundless eulogies of the editors and « wit-insuring friends” of that period, and with the spirit of Walton's own commendatory verses on Donne, Cartwright, Herbert, &c. He bestows his applause with the modest consciousness of an ingenuous man, who, in his assumed character, felt himself obliged, yet almost afraid, to commend. The two songs introduced in The
Complete Angler with the name of Chalkhill attached to them, · bear a very close resemblance, in thought and style, to those
confessedly the production of Walton, and, like them, are introduced without any allusion to the author or any comment on - their peculiar merits, while all of the many songs introduced as the compositions of other writers are honoured with a particular commendation of themselves or their authors. One of Chalkhill's songs is in praise of a country life, and the other is an enthusiastic eulogy on the delights of angling.
“Oh, the gallant fisher's life,
It is the best of any;
Other joys .
Breeds no ill,
The Complete Angler, 1653. It may be considered improbable, that Walton, if he were himself the author of Thealma, would have given it to the world in its present unfinished state, but it should be borne in mind, that he was in his ninetieth year when he published it; a time of life when, in the common course of things, he had little chance of being able to bestow much attention and labour on it. It is very possible, that he might adopt the innocent stratagem of producing it as the work of a deceased friend, as an excuse for publishing an unfinished tale, and as a method of disarming the severity of criticism. The juvenile effusion which
he had probably long kept back in the hope of being able to complete it, he might naturally be unwilling to destroy, yet afraid to hazard his established reputation by its publication. He died the same year the book was published: had he lived a little longer, the success of the work and the applauses of his friends might have induced him to lay aside his disguise ; and John Chalkhill might have been expunged from the list of authors. · The following commendatory lines, by Thomas Flatman, are prefixed to Thealma and Clearchus.
:“ To my worthy Friend, Mr. Izaak Walton, on the publication of
- this poem.
If these lines have any meaning, we must infer from them,
borativeertised the kindlinger
charative of ternal appositelton
that Walton had some inheritance in the fame of Thealma. If applied merely to the writer of the scanty preface which we have extracted, they are little better than absurd; but, if written in the belief that Walton was the real, but concealed author, if not very apposite, they are, at least, intelligible.
The internal evidence in the poem itself is strongly corroborative of our opinion. The simplicity and bon-hommie which characterised the life and writings of Walton are every where perceptible. The kindliness, the pastoral taste, the keen enjoyment of rural sights and sounds, the tolerant piety, of the author of the Angler, pervade equally the Thealma and Clearchus. It is just such a poem as Walton might be expected to write: it has no turbulent energy of thought or action-it has no strongly marked characters—it displays no insight into the darker passions of the soul-it is modest, gentle, unambitious
—and glides along as calmly and unobtrusively, as one of those placid streams by which old Izaak loved to sit and ruminate
- " with his Bryan and his book.”
To prove that Walton had enough of the poet in him to produce the Thealma, we need only appeal to his Angler, a work instinct with the pure spirit of unconscious poetry, and which “ scents all the year long of June, like a new-made haycock;" a work which has delighted thousands who never handled a fishing-rod, imparting dignity and interest to the minutest details of a pursuit, singularly barren of excitement, and clothing it with “ an ineffable charm which cannot be effaced.”
The data on which we have founded our opinion of the identity of Chalkhill and Walton, it may be said :
are all Supposures hypotheticall"
but, taken together, we think they almost amount to demonstration. The non-existence of the author of Thealma, distinct from Walton; the mysterious silence of his editor, and the guardedness of his praise; the exact similarity of their tastes, feelings, and sentiments; their mutual extravagant passion for angling; altogether—in the absence of even a shadow of proof to the contrary—satisfy us, that Chalkhill is no other than our old piscatory friend incognito.
But to escape from controversy to the more refreshing part of our task, the examination of the poem itself. As the story is without a conclusion, we shall not enter at much length into its details, but content ourselves with giving a slight outline, which may serve to connect and explain the extracts we intend