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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.
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 remark 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;
"Tis full of pleasure, void of strife,
Are but toys,
For our skill
Breeds no ill,
But content and pleasure." &c.
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 ;
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.
Long had the bright Thealma lain obscure,
Her beauteous charms, that might the world allure,
By all the sons of folly trampled on,
Till your kind hand unveil'd her lovely face,
Happy old man!-whose worth all mankind knows
The ready road to virtue and to praise,
As long as Spenser's noble flames shall burn,
Your memory shall ever be secure,
And long beyond our short liv'd praise endure;
As Phidias in Minerva's shield did live,
And shar'd that immortality he alone could give.
June 5, 1683.
If these lines have any meaning, we must infer from them,
that Walton had some inheritance in the fame of Thealma.
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 rumi
"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
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
to make. The scene of the Thealma and Clearchus is laid in Arcadia, the primitive state of which country is thus beautifully described:
"Arcadia was, of old, a state,
Subject to none but their own laws and fate :
All was their own they had, they paid no rents;
An iron age succeeds to this golden one. Ambition, ava