Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Voices from the Past: Hugh T. Sheringham (1909)

I found this epistle in the pages of The British Sea Angler's Society magazine (March, 1909). It is from a paper read by the great Hugh Tempest Sheringham to this society on 20 January 1909. Sheringham was a great writer in his own right who penned some wonderful books on angling, including editing the great The Book of the Fly Rod, a book he was working on when he passed away. Derrydale came out with a wonderful paperback edition of this about 15 years ago. It is this kind of writing that is sorely lacking in today's sporting magazines.

We know, too, that Walton had a high ideal of the angler, and the same thing may be said of others of the early writers. But now-a-days, the instructors, our friend John Bickerdyke, Mr. Cholmondeley Pennell, and the rest, do not worry themselves about our mental and moral fitness for the high art of angling. They say: "Go and get a rod: we do the rest." No doubt they are wise and right, yet I cannot help having regrets....

Yet, even if we are a thought less particular to-day, we are not bad fellows taken in the lump. There are cantankerous ones here and there, but on the whole the gospel of brotherly love preached so persuasively by Walton is a live and vigorous thing still. In one of the most charming of his essays, that which begins the volume Near and Far, Red Spinner describes how in the small hours of a spring morning, while waiting tackle in hand for his train, he discovered somebody else's fishing basket amongst some luggage, and how the two anglers found themselves afterwards in the same carriage. "Somehow," he goes on to say, "these fishing baskets by a silent and unassisted process do often gravitate towards each other in this friendly manner." We must all recognise the profound truth of this remark. Two Englishmen, strangers to one another, are by nature perhaps of all men the least likely to fraternise, but give each a fishing rod and they are strangers no longer. They know instinctively a great deal each about each, even to the wonderful stories each is burning to tell. Long may it be so, and if I read the spirit of modern fishing books aright, long will it be so.

-- Dr. Todd

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