NEW LIGHT ON OLD TROUT
In days of old when knights were bold
Such things were talked about
As Kings and Queens and swords and beans
And gentlemen and trout!
Due to the popularity of my recent exposition on fish facts: The Salmon - A Retrospective, I have been asked to continue my journey beneath the streams of England and beyond, upon a fascinating topic close to my heart. And so, I place before you, dear reader a feast of fish facts, served in my own sauce of humility and peppered with my gratitude. Ladies and gentlemen: the trout!
The complexity of the trout is one that has fascinated mankind since the dawn of time. Through the centuries the mystique of the trout has flourished to almost god-like proportions. Yet it was the Victorians who truly established the cult of the trout in their pursuit of pleasure and aesthetics, driving the poor old trout to near extinction! Under Victoria's reign, the trout became highly sought after in society. In fact, the noble fish was used in everything from cosmetics to jewellery, household ornaments, children's toys, and even furniture! But amidst all this extravagance there was one voice that struck a chord with the nation, that of John Ruskin: 'are we to let a fish dictate our destiny and decorum? Has the great bard taught us nothing?' He was of course referring to Shakespeare who secretly suspected the trout of harbouring malignant thoughts against humanity!
'Before Shakespeare the trout did not exist. He imposed upon it a tortured anguish that is truly beautiful!' [John Wharton. The Stage]
In 1901 Parliament passed a legislation outlawing any 'unnatural' use of the trout, and with the development of trout farming, the noble fish survived its first real threat of extinction. Poaching became rife and trout were passed from hand to hand at twice the price of gold, despite the severe death penalty for those caught mistreating the fish.
The notorious black magician, Aleister Crowley, is said to have ;sodomised a tender trout at the Cafe Royal to the astonishment of the assembled dining dignitaries'. (see The Trout In Witchcraft by Sylvia K. Adams)
At the outbreak of the First World War, the trout became currency as all coinage was melted down for the war effort. This had a lasting effect on the psychology of the trout, incurring its distrust of man, due to its new occupation as 'legal tender'. The trout once again skirmished with extinction due to an ever increasing inflation rate. As an example: during the year 1915-1916 the price of half a pound of butter reached an astonishing seventy-eight and a quarter trout! Things had to change, and after a public outcry the trout was scrapped as currency and the ration book was introduced.
The Trout In Literature
Lord Byron owned several 'sexual implements' made of trout skin which were said to induce 'sexual frenzy' (and haemorrhoids) on those who delighted in its practical effects. Keats found the trout a 'devilish concoction that gives the utmost pleasure to the utmost cad!' [The Secret Trout. Thomas Hardy]
Wilde, of course, was on more than familiar terms with that love the Greeks named troutaphilia and how much the man suffered for his trout passions is well recorded.
Housman, the poet and scholar, on the other hand, never manifested the desire he held for a handsome young trout during his college days at Cambridge and the mournful tones of unrequited love are ever present in his verse.
At Winchester there is a tradition known as 'tupping the trout' whereby each new boy files past the mounted trout (said to be the second cousin to the ninth earl of Bedford) and kiss its lips, singing:
Bless me with wings and I shall fly;
Bless me with feet and I shall walk.
Bless me with tears and I shall cry;
Bless me with lips and I shall talk!
[Trout, Sovereign And Empire. Manley Arbuthnot]
A Royal Stink
Warwick Castle is reputedly haunted by the 'undigested remains of a great trout feast given in honour of Sir Thomas Trufflehook of Salisbury' [Nowt So Queer As Trout. Duncan Harrington]
The famous Balmoral trout known as 'Uncle Bertie' is said to 'sing at the death of a King' [Of Trout And Monarchy. Sir Robert Dunn-Ellis]
Mystery still surrounds the 'phantom trout of Evesham', reputed to be the fourth earl of Doncaster!
In more recent times, the Queen Mother stipulated in her last will and testament that several hundred trout be placed in her coffin, much to the annoyance of the Archbishop of Canterbury. His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales was later heard to comment that 'with the passing of the old queen, a breath of fresh air runs through royalty once again!'
The largest trout ever recorded weighed in at an astonishing 5.8 kilos and was caught by James Snapper of Shrewsbury. Sadly its remains were mysteriously 'dispersed' on the way to Lichfield! But I come to the end of my journey and I shall leave you with the immortal words of John Lennon: 'Methinks a bad trip has occurred, for I am trout!'
Something fish this way comes. James Minton.
The trout: poet or fiend. Edward Steine.
The sentimental trout. Mary hardwick.
The trout bathers handbook. Brian Evans.
The trout in medieval England. Claire Davies.
Troutomania: origins and psychosis. Matthew Adams.