The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

V. Seafaring and Travel

§ 2. Coryats Crudities

To another class of books belongs the volume entitled Coryats Crudities, Hastilie gobled up in five moneths travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia, commonly called the Grisons country, Helvetia alias Switzerland, some parts of high Germany and the Netherlands; newly digested in the hungrie aire of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, 1611. Coryate was a literary oddity, and his book is a curiosity. The son of George Coryate, rector of Odcombe, and born in 1577, he was educated at Oxford, and entered the household of Henry, prince of Wales, by whose favour, together with the assistance of certain “panygericke verses upon the authour and his booke,” which Coryate procured to be written by his friends, the volume of travels was published. It has two supplements or appendixes, both issued in 1611, entitled Coryats Cramb, or his Colwort twise sodden, and now served with other Macaronicke dishes as the second course to his Crudities, and The Odcombian Banquet, dished foorth by T. the Coriat, in praise of his Crudities and Cramb too.

Coryate’s writings belong rather to the literature of travel than to that of discovery. In his Crudities, and in various letters written to his friends—the latter printed by Purchas and in the curious compilation entitled Thomas Coriate Traveller for the English Wits: Greeting—he displays acute observation and a lively understanding and appreciation of much that he saw. The oddity and extravagance of his manner are seen in the volume called Coryats Cramb, which consists mostly of encomiastic verses on his former Crudities, with addresses to great personages. There is a petition to Henry, prince of Wales, to “cherish and maintaine the scintillant embers of my diminutive lampe by infusing into them the quickening oyle of your gracious indulgence.” The king is addressed as “Most scintillant Phosphorus of our British Trinacria,” and the queen as “Most resplendant Gem and radiant Aurora of Great Brittaines spacious Hemisphere.”

After his continental journey, Coryate visited Odcombe, to hang up, in the parish church there, the shoes in which he had walked from Venice. In the next year, he set out on his journey overland to India, which was his most remarkable achievement, and he died at Surat. He visited Constantinople, Aleppo and Jerusalem, crossed the Euphrates into Mesopotamia and waded the Tigris, which was very shallow at the time, joined a caravan and, ultimately, reached Lahore, Agra, and the Mogul’s court at Ajmere. Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador to the Mogul, whose observations are in the collection of Purchas, says that he met Coryate in 1615. Purchas also prints a letter written by Coryate from the court of the great Mogul in the same year to L. Whitaker, animae dimidium meae, in which he describes his journey, and says that he enjoyed “as pancraticall and athleticall a health as ever I did in my life.” There is also a letter addressed to his friends who were accustomed to meet at the Mermaid in Bread street, “Right Generous, Joviall, and Mercuriall Sirenaickes”—and subscribed, “the Hierosolymitan-Syrian-Mesopotamian-Armenian-Median-Parthian-Indian Legge-stretcher of Odcombe in Somerset, Thomas Coryate.” In exaggerated language, he relates his experiences, and says he sends the letter by a reverend gentleman, whom he beseeches his friends to exhilarate “with the purest quintessence of the Spanish, French and Rhenish grape which the Mermaid yieldeth.” Both these letters are contained in the Traveller for the English Wits, in which Coryate says,

  • Erasmus did in praise of folly write;
  • And Coryate doth in his self-praise indite.
  • Coryate also sent commendations to his friends by name, including Purchas, “the great collector of the lucubrations of sundry classic authors.” Purchas likewise prints a letter addressed by Coryate to his mother, with an address in Persian which the Odcombian had delivered to the great Mogul, with sundry other observations.