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OF MADELEY MANOR, IN THE COUNTY OF STAFFORD, ESQ.
IR-I have made so ill use of your former favours, as by them to be encouraged to entreat, that they may be enlarged to the patronage and protection of this book: and I have put on a modest confidence, that I shall not be denied, because it is a discourse of fish and fishing, know so well, and both love and practise so much.
You are assured (though there be ignorant men of another belief) that angling is an art: and you know that art better than others; and that this truth is demonstrated by the fruits of that pleasant labour which you enjoy, when you purpose to give rest to your mind, and divest yourself of your more serious business, and (which is often) dedicate a day or two to this recreation.
At which time, if common Anglers should attend you, and be eye-witnesses of the success, not of your fortune but your skill, it would doubtless beget in them an emulation to be like you, and that emulation might beget an industrious diligence to be so; but I know it is not attainable by common capacities. And there be now many men of great wisdom, learning, and experience, which love and practise this art, that know I speak the truth.
Sir, this pleasant curiosity of fish and fishing (of which you are so great a master) has been thought worthy the pens and practices of divers in other nations, that have been reputed men of great learning and wisdom: and amongst those of this nation, I remember Sir Henry Wotton (a dear lover of this art) has told me, that his intentions were to write a discourse of the art, and in praise of angling; and doubtless he had done so, if death had not prevented him; the remembrance of which hath often made me sorry; for if he had lived to do it, then the unlearned angler had seen some better treatise of this art, a treatise that might have proved worthy his perusal, which (though some have undertaken) I could never yet see in English.
But mine may be thought as weak, and as unworthy of common view; and I do here freely confess, that I should rather excuse myself, than censure others, my own discourse being liable to so many exceptions; against which you, sir, might make this one, that
it can contribute nothing to your knowledge. And lest a longer epistle may diminish your pleasure, I shall make this no longer than to add this following truth, that I am really,