Exceptions there are of course. There is the milkmaid in The Compleat Angler who sings Marlowe's song, Come live with me and be my love. And there is John Donne's parody of Marlowe's song angled to his love in which he said:
For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait;
That fish that is not catcht thereby,
Is wiser far, alas, than I.
Also, there is one who is mentioned negatively by William Gill Thompson in a Fisher's Garland, The Tyne Fisher's Farewell, made in 1824:
No more the sweet enamour'd maid
Trips lightly o'er the well-known plain,
To meet, beneath the woodbine's shade,
Upon thy banks, her faithful swain.
Why this striking omission in angling literature? One might say, why should maids be there? Well, they were prevalent in both the sea and the land pastorals. It is a very deep subject of which early angling writers were conscious. There is a clue to the mystery in Charles Cotton's lines to his love in his poem entitled The Retirement.
Oh my beloved nymph! fair Dove;
Princess of rivers, how I love
Upon thy flowery banks to lie;
And view thy silver stream,
When gilded by a summer's beam,
And in it all thy wanton fry,
Playing at liberty,
And with my angle upon them
The all of treachery
I ever learnt, industriously to try.
The subject is at least as discussible as nature's moods, but I'll let it go with Cotton. With Berners the central theme, I believe, is not the whimsy of innocence but the knowledge of meaning of peace. Could it be that she sought in angling the peace of solace? Her manuscript says so. What of her life?
We can learn little about her, as Alfred Duggan pointed out in Part I of this series, except by guesswork. The name Berners itself, which in her time meant "huntsman," or "keeper of the hounds," suggests a pseudonym. But she was someone, and we might as well stay with the nun of the Berners family.
Consider then a speculation on a curious coincidence. How did it happen that the first treatise on fishing in the English language came to be written shortly after the writing of the first treatise on hunting in the English language? And how did it happen that this first fishing treatise was derived from the first treatise on hunting? For it was.
The first known book on hunting in English was Master of Game by Edward, Duke of York, who was Master of Game, as was his father, Edmund of Langley, before him. Like the Treatise this book remains, in its field, a masterpiece unsurpassed. It is a translation, with the addition of five new chapters, of an older French work, the greatest of all hunting books, Gaston de Foix's Livre de Chasse.