CORYAT, Thomas (Tom Coriate). Odcombe (Crewkerne), Somersetshire 1577? — Surat ?.12.1617. British Traveller in India. Son of the Rev. George C., Rector of Odcombe, and his wife Gertrude. Studies at Winchester College and from 1596 at Gloucester Hall, Oxford, learning Greek and logic, but left without degree and seems to have had some years of aimless life. Then he became a kind of buffoon at the court of James I and later of Prince Henry. In 1608 he made a five months’ travel in Europe, perhaps with help of his father’s inheritance: Dover–Paris–Lyon–Turin–Milano–Venice–Chur–Basel, and down the Rhine and back to London. In 1612 he left for the East. From Constantinople he visited Greece and Asia Minor, then came to Aleppo, possibly visited Egypt (claimed by Terry, but never mentioned by himself), certainly Palestine and Libanon. Now he continued to Mesopotamia and Iran, came via Kandahar and Lahore to India, arriving in 1615 at Agra and in July to Ajmer, where he was favourably received by Jahangir. He lived in British factory there until September 1616, then back to Agra. He visited Hardwar, Kangra and Mandu, but then became ill and went to Surat for help. Died there of dysentery.
Coryat was an eccentric, conceited and colourful person and author and famous for that. He was passionate traveller, learned easily languages (including Persian and Hindūstānī) and often made exact observations, filling his books with various details. His extensive notes, seen by Roe who met him in Ajmer, were lost and only the five letters sent from Ajmer and Agra remain as published. The last part of his life is decribed by Roe and Terry in their travel books.
Publications: Coryat’s Crudities. Hastily 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… 1-3. L. 1611, new ed. 1-2. 864 p. Glasgow 1905.
– Thomas Coriate Traueller for the English Wits: Greeting, From the Court of the Great Mogul, Resident at the Towne of Asmer in Easterne India. 56 p. L. 1616 (4 letters); republ. in 1776, by Purchas 1-2, and by W. Foster (ed.), Early Travels in India, 1583–1619. Oxford 1921, 234-287.
– Mr. Thomas Coriat to his friends in England sendeth greeting: From Agra the Capitall City of the Dominion of the Great Mogoll in the Easterne India. 52 p. L. 1618 (one letter to his mother and some further material, ed. by J. Taylor).
Sources: A.J[essopp], D.N.B. 12, 1887, 259-261; *Foster 1921, 234-241 (introduction to Coryat); Oaten 1909, 162-164; Prasad 1980, 164-201 (with two portraits); M. Strachan, Literature of Travel and Explor. 1, 2003, 285-287; Wikipedia with portrait and further references.
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