Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 An Angling Club from Georgian London


Professor Owen is accustomed to relate the following very amusing incident, which occurred in a Club of some of the working scientific men of London, who, with a few others, after their winter's work of lecturing is over, occasionally sally forth to have a day's fishing. "We have," says Professor Owen, "for that purpose taken a small river in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, and near its banks there stands a little public-house, where we dine soberly and sparingly, on such food as old Izaak Walton loved. We have a rule that he who catches the biggest fish of the day shall be our president for the evening. In the course of one day, a member, not a scientific man, but a high political man, caught a trout that weighed 3½ lb.; but earlier in the day he had pulled out a barbel of half a pound weight. So while we were on the way to our inn, what did this political gentleman do but, with the butt-end of his rod, ram the barbel down the trout's throat, in which state he handed his fish to be weighed. Thus he scored four pounds, which being the greatest weight he took the chair.

"As we were going away from home, a man of science,—it was the President of the Royal Society,—said to the man of politics, 'If you don't want that fine fish of yours, I should like to have it, for I have some friends to dine with me to-morrow.' My Lord took it home, and I heard no more until we met on the next week. Then, while we were preparing our tackle, the President of the Royal Society said to our high political friend, 'There were some very extraordinary circumstances, do you know, about that fish you gave me. I had no idea that the trout was so voracious; but that one had swallowed a barbel.'—'I am astonished to hear your Lordship say so,' rejoined an eminent naturalist; 'trout may be voracious enough to swallow minnows—but a barbel, my Lord! There must be some mistake.'—'Not at all,' replied his lordship, 'for the fact got to my family that the cook, in cutting open the throat, had found a barbel inside; and as my family knew I was fond of natural history, I was called into the kitchen. There I saw the trout had swallowed a barbel, full half a pound weight.'—'Out of the question, my Lord,' said the naturalist; 'it's altogether quite unscientific and unphilosophical.'—'I don't know what may be philosophical in the matter—I only know I am telling you a matter of fact,' said his Lordship; and the dispute having lasted awhile, explanations were given, and the practical joke was heartily enjoyed. And" (continued Professor Owen) "you will see that both were right and both were wrong. My Lord was right in his fact—the barbel was inside the trout; but he was quite wrong in his hypothesis founded upon that fact, that the trout had therefore swallowed the barbel,—the last was only matter of opinion."

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. I
London, 1866