CORYATE, THOMAS (1577?-1617), English traveller and writer, was born at Odcombe, Somersetshire, where his father, the Rev. George Coryate, prebendary of York Cathedral, was rector. Educated at Westminster school and at Oxford, he became a kind of court fool, eventually entering the household of Prince Henry, the eldest son of James I. In 1611 he published a curious account of a prolonged walking tour undertaken in 1608, under the title of Coryate's Crudities hastily gobbled up in Five Months Travels in France, Italy, etc. At the command of Prince Henry, verses in mock praise of the author, and intended originally to persuade some bookseller to undertake the publication of the Crudities, were added to the volume. These commendatory verses, written in a number of languages, and some in a mixture of languages, by Ben Jonson, Donne, Chapman, Drayton and others, were afterwards published (1611) by themselves as the Odcombian Banquet. The book contains a clear and interesting account of Coryate's travels, and, being the first of its kind, was extremely popular. It is now very rare, and the copy in the Chetham library is said to be the only perfect one. In the same year was published a second volume of a similar kind, Coryats Crambe, or his Coleworte twice Sodden. In 1612 he set out on another journey, which also was mostly performed on foot. He visited Greece, the Holy Land, Persia and India; from Agra and Ajmere he sent home an account of his adventures. Some of his letters were published in 1616 under the title of Letters from Asmere, the Court of the Great Mogul, to several Persons of Quality in England, and some fragments of his writings were included in Purchas his Pilgrimes in 1625. Coryate was a curious and observant traveller; he gives accounts of inscriptions he had copied, of the antiquities of the towns he passed through, and of manners and customs, from the Italian pronunciation of Latin to the new-fangled use of forks. He acquired a knowledge of Turkish, Persian and Hindustani in the course of his travels, and on being presented by the English ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, to the Great Mogul, he delivered a speech in Persian. His journeys were performed at small expense, for he says that he spent only three pounds between Aleppo and Agra, and often lived "competently" for a pennya day. Coryate died at Surat in 1617.
Coryate's Crudities, with his letters from India, was reprinted from the edition of 1611 in 1776, and at the Glasgow University Press (2 vols., 1905). The Odcombian Banquet was ridiculed by John Taylor, the Water Poet, in his Laugh and be Fat, or a Commentary on the Odcombian Banket (1613) and two other satires.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)