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Reviews P.G. Stanwood, Izaak Walton, Twayne's English Authors Series, No. 548. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998. xvii + 124 pp. $28.95. by Clayton D. Lein Paul Stanwood's trim study of this overly neglected author is a very welcome addition to seventeenth-century studies. If there is little that is truly new, Stanwood nonetheless displays a striking ability to synthesize the work of others and to extend their insights perspicaciously and gracefully. The result is the finest general account of Walton's literary career currently available. Stanwood divides his study into five crisp surveys: an account of Walton's life and times; a consideration of his initial biographies of John Donne and Sir Henry Wotton; an analysis of his last three biographies, of Richard Hooker, George Herbert, and Robert Sanderson ; an essay on The Compleat Angler; and, to close, an informative overview of Walton's influence and reputation. Stanwood does well by the Lives. He characterizes each of them tellingly, deftly distinguishing their chief themes and characteristics, and argues that Walton as a biographer is "a disseminator not so much of recorded affairs but of culture and belief" (p. 12). He discerns a master plot behind all of the Lives: "description of early life, with selected illustrative events; a turning point, or climax, in the career; activity in a nobler calling; the accumulation of wisdom and contemplative benevolence; at last, decline into a holy death"; and he stresses their "common intellectual and theological outlook" (pp. 15, 50-51). These points are well taken, particularly in relation to the final versions of the Lives, although they have a tendency to undervalue many discrete differences between certain versions of the Lives. Equally commendable are his observations on Walton's approach to representing his subjects, memorably expressed in his observation on the Life ofSanderson, that "as with the other Lives, Walton manages to portray a remarkably sympathetic character who displays virtues without being overwhelmed by them" (p. 52). 94Book Reviews One of the persistent weaknesses of Walton scholarship and criticism is the separation of considerations of the Lives and The Compleat Angler. Rarely are the two joined in discussions, and one of the finest features of Stanwood's volume is his steady delineation of connections between Walton's texts. His opening commentary on The CompleatAngler, stressing the interrelationship between Walton's first two lives and the fishing manual, comparing them to a triptych, is a fine notion. Here, too, as in his treatments of the Lives, Stanwood provides alert accounts of Walton's larger narrative maneuvers, particularly (adapting ideas from David Novarr and Gerald Marshall) Walton's manipulation of time (pp. 47, 73-74). Throughout, Stanwood carefully places Walton's work in its larger historical and generic contexts, closely following the work of David Novarr on the Lives and Jonquil Bevan on The Compleat Angler. But he provides other useful contexts for reading and understanding Walton's works as well, offering Jeremy Taylor as a frame for the Life ofDonne, Henry Reynolds for The Compleat Angler, and, most impressively, as we might expect from a distinguished student of Richard Hooker, John Gauden's practices as a biographer to illuminate Walton's far superior (if biased) achievement in the Life ofHooker. Again and again, Stanwood points to Walton's dependence upon a host of earlier writers, while indicating at the same time how he consistently adapts their work "in a unique and flexible manner" (p. 15). Such discussions necessarily call attention to Walton's craftsmanship and complexities. Stanwood illustrates how Walton subtly infuses his opinions into his narratives and (through an examination of Walton's successive revisions of a key paragraph in the Life of Wotton) how he revises incessantly to clarify and sharpen positions taken in the biographies (pp. 27-30). In larger terms, he argues that Walton's "designs are as complex and mixed as the several forms to which he is indebted" (p. 66) and demonstrates that he is, in particular , "a master of narrative within narrative" (p. 48). His observation on The Compleat Anger may easily stand for all of his works: "most readers would not realize how keen is Walton's artfulness" (p. 66). Throughout these chapters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 93-97
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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