All the Angle(r)s

In my recently restarted audit of all things compleat--about 900 between 1600-1700, going by ESTC title searches, and about (gulp) 5000 between 1700-1800, I decided to do a little preliminary secondary research into what I imagined would be a largely overlooked body of literature. It gives me no end of pleasure, and absolutely no surprise, to have discovered Defoe adding his two cents to the genre--he gave us at least four "compleats," two of which duplicated the titles of long-running 17th-century works, one that I think deploys the trope ironically, and one--"A compleat system of magick"--that is rather more of a history and which therefore, I think, belongs to a different subgenre. (The boundaries between all these categories, are, as you'd expect, fairly porous, and if early novels frequently called themselves the histories of so-and-so, a lot of histories about non-human subjects did the same.)

As a sort of digressive point of interest, Defoe explains that those who were once called "Magicians" were nothing more than mathematicians, or Men of Science, who "stor'd with knowledge and learning, as learning went in those days, were a kind of walking Dictionary to other people" (2). Magic = Wisdom = Comprehensive Knowledge.

But back to my initial point--why, one wonders, did the North Dakota Quarterly decide in 2006 to make Izaak Walton's "The Compleat Angler" the focus of its interest to the tune of four complete articles, and why have the six most recent MLA entries turning up with a keyword search of "compleat" turned out to be about angling?

There is (he said because he couldn't resist) something fishy going on.

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