1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Birch

John Taylor Esq., in Records of my Life (1832) 1:211.



I may relate an odd incident in the life of Dr. Birch. He was very fond of angling, and devoted much time to that amusement. In order to deceive the fish, he had a dress constructed, which, when he put it on, made him appear like an old tree. His arms he conceived would appear like branches, and the line like a long spray. In this sylvan attire he used to take root by the side of a favourite stream, and imagined that his motions might seem to the fish to be the effect of the wind. — He pursued this amusement for some years in the same habit, till he was ridiculed out of it by his friends. — His biographical work, well known by the name of "Birch's Lives," giving a brief history of many memorable characters noticed in our annals, displays great industry and research, but no great judgment or literary excellence; the work however is rendered valuable by portraits engraved by Vertue and Houbraken. The latter was the better artist, and it was said that when original pictures could not be found, a description of the person was sent to Houbraken, who resided in Holland, drew the portraits according to the description, and then made the engraving. It is hardly possible that Dr. Birch, who was a respectable man, could have practised such an imposition upon the public, even supposing it not likely to be discovered.