1867 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Chalkhill

Thomas Corser, in Collectanea Anglo-Poetica III (1867) 264-66.



This poem has been noticed at some length with copious extracts in the Retrospec. Rev. vol. iv. p. 230, and we cannot close our remarks without alluding to the fanciful theory which is there broached as to its author, viz. that Izaac Walton was not only the editor but himself the author of the poem, and that no such writer as Chalkhill ever existed, but was altogether a fictitious personage. It is quite evident that the writer of that article (generally understood to be Sir Egerton Brydges, but qu.) was utterly ignorant of the existence of John Chalkhill, and also of his presumed authorship of the poem of Alcilia. But that such a person existed, and was not a mere myth, is clear from two letters by Mr. Merryweather in the Gent. Mag. for 1860, vol ix, new series, in which he has shown from the Middlesex County Records, that towards the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Ivon or Ion Chalkhill Gent. was one of the Coroners for that County, and that he was in the habit of signing himself Jo. Chalkhill, as it is subscribed to the songs in Walton's Angler, published thirty years before Thealma and Clearchus: and as Walton in his preface to the latter speaks of it having been written long since, and the author dead, but as well known in his time, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that he might have been the friend of Spencer, and the author of these poems. It is possible also that the John Chalkhill, whose monument is in Winchester Cathedral, might be the son or other relation of the Coroner. We think likewise that from Walton's well-known probity, and honest, truth-loving, and straightforward character, he would not have published this poem with the name of his friend after his death, if it had not been his genuine production; and that it was contrary to his humility and simplicity of mind to speak of it if written by himself, in such terms as being "finely painted and feelingly expressed," and that he would not have said of himself that he was "generally well beloved, a gentleman, a scholar, very innocent and prudent, and his life useful, quiet, and virtuous." It cannot be doubted therefore that Chalkhill was the genuine author of this unfinished work, which circumstances may have prevented him from completing in his life time, and that his name must still be retained on the list of our authors of pastoral poetry. It should be remembered that Thomas Ken, the father of Walton's second wife Ann Ken, married for his second wife Martha daughter of Ion Chalkhill of Kingsbury, in the County of Middlesex, and of Northall in that County, Gent. who died about 1615, and who had a son, Ion or John Chalkhill, who was under twenty-five at that date; and that a presentation copy of Walton's Lives exists, in which he had written "For my brother Chalkhill, Iz. Wa." All this shows the connection between Walton and Chalkhill. Mr. Collier who has noticed Thealma and Clearchus in his Bridgew. Catal. p. 49, and has expressed his belief that both this poem and Alcilia were written by Chalkhill, has not alluded at all to the article in the Retrosp. Rev.