Izaak Walton Criticism - Essay

R. B. Marston (essay date 1894)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Marston, R. B. “Introductory.” In Walton and Some Earlier Writers on Fish and Fishing. London: Elliot Stock, 1894.

[In the essay which follows, Marston relates his affection for Walton's Compleat Angler and considers its importance among texts about fishing.]

Have you read The Compleat Angler? If you have, and are also acquainted with the Author's other writings, then these pages may perchance refresh your remembrance of them; but their object and the hope of the writer is to make Walton and a few earlier angling writers known to some to whom they are only names.

Looking back through a life, a never-failing delight of which...

(The entire section is 2146 words.)

H. J. Oliver (essay date 1949)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Oliver, H. J. “Izaak Walton as Author of Love and Truth and Thealma and Clearchus,” in Review of English Studies, 21, No. 97 (January, 1949): 24-37.

[In the following essay, Oliver considers the evidence that Walton wrote Love and Truth and Thealma and Clearchus, arguing that similarities in style and language between these works and his known writings suggest Walton is the author.]

The attribution to Izaak Walton of the tract Love and Truth and the narrative poem Thealma and Clearchus has been common enough in the history of Walton scholarship; the weight of authority is, if anything, for his authorship of the...

(The entire section is 6130 words.)

Margaret Bottrall (essay date 1955)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bottrall, Margaret. “Izaak Walton.” In Izaak Walton, pp. 7-35. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1955.

[In the following excerpt, Bottrall offers an overview of Walton s work, praising him as a writer with continual appeal.]


The mention of Izaak Walton's name immediately suggests The Compleat Angler, the contemplative man's recreation, the peaceful fisherman, book in hand, depicted in the memorial window in Winchester Cathedral. It seems almost treasonable to allege that the extraordinary popularity of the book has resulted in a distorted picture of its author; but extraordinary is the mildest word that can be applied to...

(The entire section is 10170 words.)

Marcus Selden Goldman (essay date 1958)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Goldman, Marcus Selden. “Izaak Walton and The Arte of Angling, 1577.” In Studies in Honor of T. W. Baldwin, edited by Don Cameron Allen, pp. 185-204. Urbana, III.: University of Illinois Press, 1958.

[In the essay below, Goldman investigates similarities between the annonymous The Arte of Angling and Walton's The Compleat Angler.]

The Rev. Dr. George Washington Bethune, its first American editor, was, beyond question, one of the wisest and most learned of the many wise and learned men who, in the course of three centuries, have provided Walton's masterpiece with appreciative commentary and elucidative notes. Everywhere evident, his wisdom and...

(The entire section is 10443 words.)

David Novarr (essay date 1958)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Novarr, David. “The ‘Almost Incredible Story’ of George Herbert,” in The Making of Walton's Lives, pp. 301-61. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1958.

[In the following excerpt, Novarr develops the thesis that due to timing and subject matter, Walton was free to express his beliefs on religion to their fullest in The Life of Herbert.]

The Life of Herbert, perhaps even more than the Life of Donne, was a labor of love. The Life of Hooker was in many ways Walton's most arduous biographical task; the Life of Herbert conformed most closely to the desires of his heart. It appeared early in 1670, and, like the Life of...

(The entire section is 26348 words.)

R. C. Bald (essay date 1964)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bald, R. C. “Historical Doubts Respecting Walton's Life of Donne.” In Essays in English Literature from the Renaissance to the Victorian Age, edited by Millar MacLure and F. W. Watt, pp. 69-84. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964.

[In the essay below, Bald catalogs the historical inaccuracies and inconsistencies in Walton's Life of Donne.]

Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard the Third is a classic. It can be read with pleasure more than once, and one's interest in the presentation of the figure of Richard is independent of the fact that for over two hundred years doubts have been cast on More's veracity. The book, it has been...

(The entire section is 6609 words.)

Clayton D. Lein (essay date 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Lein, Clayton D. “Art and Structure in Walton's Life of Mr. George Herbert,” in University of Toronto Quarterly 46, No. 2 (Winter, 1976): 162-76.

[In the essay below, Lein posits that The Life of Mr. George Herbert represents the pinnacle of Walton's biographical writing, building upon his earlier foundation and adding unique elements of style which reflect Walton's view of Herbert.]

When Izaak Walton presented his Life of Mr. George Herbert as a ‘Free-will-offering,’ he provided a clue to its character. The other biographies, he would have us believe, he had been compelled to write, some to honour the obligations of friendship,...

(The entire section is 6942 words.)

Anna K. Nardo (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Nardo, Anna K. “A ‘recreation of a recreation’: Reading The Compleat Angler,” in South Atlantic Quarterly, 79, No. 3 (Summer, 1980): 302-11.

[In the essay below, Nardo explores the reasons for The Complete Angler's popularity, citing Walton's recreation of an imaginary, relaxing fishing trip and praising it as an exercise in the “unity of vision.”]

Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler is a puzzling book on two counts: its curious form and its immense and lasting popularity. Part fishing manual (detailing, for example, the feeding habits of the “Tyrant” Pike, the correct methods for scouring “gentles,” and the best recipe...

(The entire section is 4516 words.)

Raoul Granqvist (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Granqvist, Raoul. “Izaak Walton's Lives in the Nineteenth and the Early Twentieth Century: A Study of a Cult Object,” in Studia Neophilologica, 54, No. 2 (1982): 247-61.

[In the essay below, Granqvist traces the way in which 19th-century intellectual trends shaped the interpretation of Walton and his writings.]

Biography in the early nineteenth century was a thriving business. The improved printing facilities, the extension of literacy, and the Sunday school movement were factors that originated and inspired mass production of biographies. The attention paid to biography was widespread and generous. Obscure semi-celebrities, poets, smugglers,...

(The entire section is 7970 words.)

Anthony Low (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Low, Anthony. “The Compleat Angler's ‘Baite’; or, The Subverter Subverted,” in John Donne Journal 4, No. 1 (1985): 1-12.

[In the following essay, Low posits that in The Compleat Angler, Walton provides an alternate reading of John Donne's poem “The Baite.”]

Donne's aversion to pastoral landscapes and to country matters in general is well known.1 His one curious essay into pastoral, “The Baite,” has been variously interpreted: sometimes as a heavy-handed failure at conventional pastoral, sometimes as a light-hearted parody of the mode, and sometimes as an anatomy of love to which the pastoral elements are more or less...

(The entire section is 4727 words.)

William H. Epstein (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Epstein, William H. “Altering the Life-Text: Walton's Life of Donne.” In Recognizing Biography, pp. 13-33. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

[In the following excerpt, Epstein analyzes the structure of Walton's Life of Donne, pointing out the author's unique contributions to the biography genre.]

“Being speechless, and seeing heaven by that illumination by which he saw it; … he closed his own eyes; and then disposed his hands and body into such a posture as required not the least alteration by those that came to shroud him.”

(Walton's Life of Donne)


(The entire section is 11973 words.)

David Hill Radcliffe (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Radcliffe, David Hill. “‘Study to Be Quiet’: Genre and Politics in Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler,” in English Literary Renaissance, 22, No. 1 (Winter, 1992): 95-111.

[In the essay below, Radcliffe examines the issues of discourse, inclusion, and community in The Compleat Angler.]

Izaak Walton's famous discourse on angling and devotion exhibits the values of inclusiveness and heterogeneity rather than exclusion and methodical rigor. These are not values generally associated with discursive formations, nor is the “brotherhood of anglers” typical of what recent criticism regards as a discursive community. Walton's discourse can thus serve as a...

(The entire section is 6803 words.)

W. Gerald Marshall (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Marshall, W. Gerald. “Time in Walton's Lives,” in Studies in English Literature, 32, No. 3 (Summer, 1992): 429-42.

[In the essay below, Marshall analyzes Walton's use of time in his biographies by which he heightens the apparent piousness of his subjects.]

It is clear from the prefaces to a number of his later biographies that Izaak Walton becomes increasingly aware of time, especially as regards the long duration of his own life and the inherent burdens of growing old. He writes that “especially at this time of my Age … for I am now past the Seventy of my Age,” the compiling of his biography of Richard Hooker has become a “work of...

(The entire section is 5408 words.)

Jessica Martin (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Martin, Jessica. Introduction to Izaak Walton: Selected Writings, edited by Jessica Martin, pp. Vii-xxvii. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, Martin attempts to reconcile the persona of Walton as known through his writings with the facts of his life.]

In Winchester, on 9 August 1683, Izaak Walton wrote his last piece of prose—his Will. He was ninety years old. On 24 October he had it witnessed and sealed with the bloodstone seal John Donne had given him, which he habitually used. Some weeks later, on 15 December, he died in Winchester, when the weather was exceptionally cold.

From this once private document, which...

(The entire section is 8195 words.)

P. G. Stanwood (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Stanwood, P. G. “Walton's Fame and Influence.”In Izaak Walton pp. 78-101. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

[In the excerpt below, Stanwood offers an overview of critical scholarship on Walton since 1640 and discusses the reasons for enduring critical interest in Walton's works.]

Except for the period from 1676 to 1750, Walton's works have always been in print. Sometimes the Lives were especially renowned, sometimes The Compleat Angler was preeminent. But the unassuming linen draper's reputation has remained constant in a surprising way, and his works have been influential as well as generally fashionable. His readers have included notable...

(The entire section is 12665 words.)