Coryate, Thomas

, the eccentric son of the preceding, was born at Odcombe, in 1577. He was first educated at Westminster-school, and became a commoner of Gloucester-hall, Oxford, in 1596; where continuing about three years, he attained, by mere dint of memory, some skill in logic, and more in the Greek and Latin languages. After he had been taken home for a time, he went to London, and was received into the family of Henry prince of Wales, either as a domestic, or, according to some, as a fool, an office which in former days was filled by a person hired for the purpose. In this situation he was exposed to the wits of the court, who, finding in him a strange mixture of sense and folly, made him their whetstone; and so, says Wood, he became too much known to all the world. In 1608, he took a journey to France, Italy, Germany, &c. which lasted five months, during which he had travelled 1975 miles, more than half upon one pair of shoes, which were once only mended, and on his return were hung up in the church of Odcombe. He published his travels under this title; “Crudities hastily gobbled up in five months travels in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia, Helvetia, some parts of High Germany, and the Netherlands, 1611,” 4to, reprinted in 1776, 3 vols. 8vo. This work was ushered | into the world by an Odcombian banquet, consisting of near 60 copies of verses, made by the best poets of that time, which, if they did not make Cory ate pass with the world for a man of great parts and learning, contributed not a little to the sale of his book.*


These verses were reprinted in the same year (1611), detached from the Crudities, with this title: “The Odcombian Banquet, dished foorth by, Thomas the Coriat, and served in a number of Noble Wits, in praise of his Crudities and Crambe too^Asinus Are portans Mysteria;” and with a prose advertisement at the conclusion, of which the following is a transcript, and may serve as a specimen of Coryate’s style: “Noverint universi, &c. ”Know, gentle Reader, that the therein booke, in prayse whereof all these preceding verses were written, is purposely omitted for thine and thy purses good; partly for the greatness of the volume, containing 654 pages, each page 36 lines, each line 48 letters, besides panegyricks, poems, epistles, prefaces, letters, orations, fragments, posthumes, with the commas, colons, full-points, and other things hereunto appertaining which being printed of a character legible without spectacles would have caused the booke much to exceed that price whereat men in these witty dayes value such stuffe as that; and, partly, for that one Whose learnmg, judgement, wit, and weight with Tom’s justtoa grain. “”Having read the booke with an intent to epitomize it, could he but have melted out of the whole lumpe so much matter worthy the reading as would have filled foure pages; but, finding his labour lost, and his hope fallen short, is resolved to defer it till the author of the “Crudities” have finished his second travels which being intended for a place farre more remote, is likely to produce a booke of a farre greater bulk: both which being drawne into an exact compend, as Munster, Barouius, the Magdeburgians, and other famous chronologers, have beene, may, perhaps, afford something either worthy thy reading, or supply thy need in such cases of extremitie, as nature and custome ofttimes inforce men unto.

Among these poets were Ben Jonson, sir John Harrington, Inigo Jones the architect, Chapman, Donne, Drayton, &c. In the same year he published “Coryate’s Crambe, or his Colwort twice sodden, and now served in with other Macaronic dishes, as the second course of his Crudities,” 4to. In 1612, after he had taken leave of his countrymen, by an oration spoken at the cross in Odcombe, he took a long and large journey, with intention not to return till he had spent ten years in travelling. The first place he went to was Constantinople, where he made his usual desultory observations; and took from thence opportunities of viewing divers parts of Greece. In the Hellespont he took notice of the two castles Sestos and Abydos, which Mu­saeus has made famous in his poem of Hero and Leander, He saw Smyrna, from whence he found a passage to Alexandria in Egypt; and there he observed the pyramids near Grand Cairo. From thence he went to Jerusalem; and so on to the Dead Sea, to Aleppo in Syria, to Babylon in Chaldea, to the kingdom of Persia, and to Ispahan, where | the king usually resided; to Seras, anciently called Shushan; to Candahor, the first province north-east under the subjection of the great mogul, and so to Lahore, the chief city but one belonging to that empire. From Lahore he went to Agra; where, being well received by the English factory, he made a halt. He staid here till he had learned the Turkish and Morisco, or Arabian languages, in which study he was always very apt, and some knowledge in the Persian and*Indostan tongues, all which were of great use to him in travelling up and down the great mogul’s dominions. In the Persian tongue he afterwards made an oration to the great mogul; and in the Indostan he had so great a command, that we are gravely told he actually silenced a laundry-woman, belonging to the English ambassador in that country, who used to scold all the day long. After he had visited several places in that part of the world, he went to Surat in East-India, where he was seized with a diarrhoea, of which he died in 1617.

This strange man, it is evident, had an insatiable desire to view distant and unknown parts of the world, which has never been reckoned a symptom of folly: nor indeed would Coryate have been so much despised if he had not unluckily fallen into the hands of wits, who, by way of diverting themselves, imposed on his weakness and extreme vanity, and nothing vexed him more than to have this vanity checked. Thus when one Steel, a merchant, and servant to the East-India company, came to sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador at Mandoa, where the mogul then resided, he told Coryate, that he had been in England since he saw him, and that king James had inquired about him; and that upon telling his majesty, that he had met him in his travels, the king replied, “Is that fool living r” Our traveller was equally hurt at another time, when, upon his departure from Mandoa, sir Thomas Roe gave him a letter, and in that a bill to receive 10l. at Aleppo. The letter was directed to Mr. Chapman, consul there at that time and the passage which concerned Coryate was this “Mr. Chapman, when you shall hand these letters, I desire you to receive the bearer of them, Mr. Thomas Coryate, with courtesie, for you shall find him a very honest poor wretch,” &c. This expression troubled Coryate extremely, and therefore it was altered to his mind. He was very jealous of his reputation abroad; for he gave out, that | there were great expectances in England of the large accounts he should give of his travels after his return home.

What became of the notes and observations he made in his long peregrinations, is unknown. The following only, which he sent to his friends in England, were printed in his absence: 1. “Letters from Asmere, the court of the great mogul, to several persons of quality in England, concerning the emperor and his country of East-India,1616, 4to, in the title of which is our author’s picture, riding on an elephant. 2. “A Letter to his mother Gertrude, dated from Agra in East India, containing the speech that he spoke to the great mogul in the Persian lauguage.” 3. “Certain Observations from the mogul’s court and East India.” 4. “Travels to, and observations in, Constantinople and other places in the way thither, and in his journey thence to Aleppo, Damascus, and Jerusalem.” 5. “His oration, Purus, Putus Coryatus; quintessence of Coryate; spoken extempore, when Mr. llugg dubbed him a knight on the ruins of Troy, by the name of Thomas Coryate the first English knight of Troy.” 6. “Observations of Constantinople abridged.” All these are to be found in the “Pilgrimages” of Sam Purchas. 7. “Diverse Latin and Greek epistles to learned men beyond the seas;” some of which are in his “Crudities.” Among his persecutors was Taylor the Water-poet, who frequently endeavours to raise a laugh at his expence. To Coryate’s works may be added a copy of verses, in the Somersetshire dialect, printed in Guidott’s “Collection of Treatises on the Bath Waters,1725, 8vo. 1


Biog. Brit. —Ath. Ox. vol. I. Fuller’s Worthies.