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CAST THIRD-STODDART ON ANGLING.
WE have been gradually ageing since the comet, but not till last spring were we persuaded-that we were positively old. Our glass it was not that told us the unpainful truth; for it has stood for a good many years with its face to the wall-a position it took up of its own accord that it might not at some sullen hour throw any disagreeable reflections on its gracious master. In early manhood we accustomed ourselves to shave in the dark, so we have not seen our os sublime since the King's visit to Scotland, except an occasional glimpse of our fine features, snatched stealthily, along with that of our still stately figure, as we have been passing in some festal hall before the mirror, that in its magnificent gilt frame seemed to reveal to our imagination Ourselves gliding along with a multitude of other changing shadows. We confess that sometimes when, standing on a primrose bank, we prepared to plunge into the liquid element, we have Narcissuslike bent over the fair image below, not without admiration of its fit proportions; but we have always hastened to break the charm that held us wrapt in a too delightful egoism, by plunging a somerset into the pool, sometimes perhaps in the vain hope of embracing a Naiad.
How then have we come to know that at last we are positively old? Have they who look out of the windows been darkened? Heaven be praised! we can still see a faint smile on our Mary's face while, seated at her own table, remote from ours, she lifts it up from tower or tree, seeming the one to crumble, the other to grow, at the delicate touch of her magic pencil, and we hear her voice distinctly as ever-though, not to disturb us, she speaks in a whisper to her doves pecking at
the window to remind their mistress that they live not on sunshine.
How, then—we ask ourselves once more-have we come to know that at last we are positively old? That passion, which once was a fever at our heart, is dead within us—we care not for angling-and without emotion we can look at the rod, exclaiming, we see, not feel, how beautiful thou art"arching in the sunshine from Mrs Phin's shop-window on a showery forenoon of spring!
We lived last summer all by ourselves in a house that would have held a hundred-far away among the hills— and as every glen and glenikin had its river, or its stream, or its burn, or its rill—the world who had heard of our retirement, though not of the precise place the hermit had chosen to consecrate and immortalise by a temporary sojourn, imagined in its wisdom that Christopher mounted his Sporting Jacket and his Pannier every morning, and never ceased angling till the sun sought the sea, and the rocks the wood. We never once threw a fly! Not that skill had parted from our right hand-or yet from our left—and we are ambidexter; but that all passion for the pastime utterly left our heart. We never once untied our book, though it contains tackle that would tempt the most timorous trout to be taken even during the stifling sultriness that sulphureously precedes a thunderstorm. As for our pannier, it was inhabited by a leash of leverets, who used to scamper about in it till they grew into positive-absolute hares-and then we let them cock their fuds away into the woods. Our Rod—a classical scholar sees in it the Roman Fasces-like "the Times, was out of joint." During the whole season we forgot our own gut as clean as if it had been the Gut of Gibraltar. FUIMUS TROES.
Nay-nay-you must not look so sad, my boys-for old Christopher sympathises still with the passion in your breast that burns no longer in his own-and a happiness he knew not of before now tranquillises his whole being, as he sinks away into dreams and visions filled with the murmur of waters, nor are such trances broken by the thunder of the cataract. Ah no! my boys! not broken deepened into
1 Thirlstane Castle, the seat of Lord Napier, amid the wilds of Selkirkshire, was occupied in 1834 by Professor Wilson and his family.
awfulness by the sound that intensifies the silence, as if it were life itself in the solitude prevailing over the mystery of death!
Why-we bade you not look so sad, my boys-yet here have we been maundering away in our dotage (no-no-no— from all parts of the house) so malagrugrously, that out of pure politeness your faces are as blank as so many lottery tickets. Ah! my dear boys! we close our eyes that we may see an Apparition. A loveliest lady all arrayed in greenand on her head—such is one of her many graceful fancies— with expanded wings-seeming to winnow the air as she moves along a Bird of Paradise. You are thinking now of the Queen of Fairyland-or haply of her who is sometimes seen by poet's eye among the sylvan sprinklings round about the edges of forest gloom-the Lady of the Wood. No Christian creatures they, though beautiful-admire we must, but we may not love them—and fear whispers, they are unhallowed, as affection would meet the preternatural's embrace. But thou in thy humanity art purer far than any Fay-as thou stoopest thy stately head-half to hide thy blushes, half to let thy lips meet ours-oh! that kiss! that kiss! Below her shoulders-on her delicate back, my boys, the heavenly hollow of her back-hangs a pannier by a belt buckled below and between her breast. And see, hindering the lid, the snout and tail of a-Fish. In her downy dexter fist a salmon-rod eighteen feet long-which now waving with arms of snow, she commands the river from bank to brae, and ten fathom off from the greensward that hides her small feet in primroses, lets drop the gorgeous mime among the very foambells formed by the nostrils of a grilse, that never more shall behold the sea! Ah! Alice Aglionby, the Angler of Eden! forty springs have come and gone seeking thee in vain among the rocks of the Barons' Wood-methinks the Nunnery yet looks sad for thy unforgotten sake-more dismal since that day has been the earth-deadened voice of Croglin in his subterranean dungeon, lamenting her who stepped into the seeming sunshine, and ere the clouds had shadowed it, was a corse on earth—a spirit in heaven.
We shall never angle more-but many a book on angling shall we read and review-not for the Magazine, mind ye— not for the Magazine—for we write little or nothing in it now
-our delight being to prose away by word of mouth, for hours together, on all manner of easy subjects, with a pen all the while in our hand-pretending that we are still a literary man and a voluminous author-and that we think nothing of writing a fifty-pound sheet between breakfast and dinnerwhereas the public would pity us if she saw us at a pinch66 doing something for this number"—at the rate of a semicolon an hour—a full stop at the close of the Longest Day. Yet verily we believe that we shall be able to review, even for the Magazine, books on Angling to the last. No long trains of ratiocination are required; and we have got an Automaton Amanuensis from Germany that relieves us from all manual labour, and assuredly, while writing an article to our dictation, he almost looks as if he were alive.
The last anglimaniacal volume we descanted on was Stephen Oliver's Scenes and Recollections of Fly-Fishing in the North of England; and we now turn to Thomas Tod Stoddart's Art of Angling as practised in Scotland. George Agar Hansard's useful manual, Trout and Salmon Fishing in Wales, we shall reserve for another and no very distant day; and we have long purposed a confabulation with those cunning craftsmen, Gregory Greendrake and Geoffry Greydrake, Esq., whose Angling Excursions in the Counties of Wicklow, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, and Cavan, take us over much new ground, and over much old ground, which we have not trod for many a day, nor ever again will do in the flesh. Captain Medwyn is an accomplished gentleman, but no angler, and his FlyFishing in Wales, though it contains much agreeable reading -unless he send a presentation copy-will never find its way into the library of the Walton Club. Wild Sports in the West of Ireland (is that the title?) is in all respects better; but neither does the author of these volumess—we take it upon ourselves to assert-angle like a mole-catcher. Some of the narratives about other sorts of queer fish than those which rise at a fly are highly spirited—and, far more than the Stories of Waterloo, gave earnest of those talents for invention and description, which are everywhere conspicuous in A Lifethree volumes, which we read at a hand-gallop in as many hours, and have seldom been more interested by any work of fiction; for extraordinary as the incidents are, and the characters rather uncommon, the whole " is a good bit of truth." Is the
writer of The Bashful Irishman an angler? He writes like a man who could give the butt. It was, in our opinion, the most amusing book of the season-the character of the hero is so admirably self-supported, that we more than once began to get angry with the author, as if he were treating too lightly rather serious matters; but therein is shown his skill and his power-for the autobiographer, unconscious of his own characteristics, does not confess his misdeeds, but avows and records them with a naïveté that comes absolutely to be engaging, and we are sure that no one ever read the memoirs to the end without being glad-we had almost said gratefulthat the Bashful Irishman escaped the gallows. Somebody told us that the author is the same gentleman who, a good many years ago, wrote Warreniana-very clever imitations of the styles of many of our living authors. He has both wit and humour-his vivacity is of the right sort-unaffected and fearless—and we hope his pen will not be idle, for he has not talent merely, but genius.
So has Tom Stoddart. The Lunacy or Death-wake, a Necromaunt, in Five Chimeras, an ingeniously absurd poem with an ingeniously absurd title-written in strange nambypamby sort of style between the weakest of Shelley and the strongest of Barry Cornwall, had yet here and there feeling and fancy, and could not have been kept down, generally, to such a pitch of poorness, without a wilful determination to be as silly as possible, and a curiosity, perhaps laudable, to ascertain how far a young poet might go without being confined in the man. We have seen occasional verses of Mr Stoddart's of much beauty, though stained with peculiarities which look like affectations; and there is a poem of his in Mr Watt's last Souvenir-"The Mythologist"-which though nearly unintelligible as a whole to us, and we venture to say, entirely so to himself, has some stanzas quite Coleridgean, full of the imagery of old Egypt. We have good hopes of him as a poet-if he will only be a little more rational, and after his long and intense study of all the Poetasters, will but read one or two of the Poets of England.
Mr Stoddart is devoted to the Gentle Art. We were going to say that his life is divided between Poetry and Angling; but we say better, that it is a compound of both-for he was born when the sun entered Pisces. He has been known