Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858

15. Frühe europäische Quellen und Quellen aus der Zeit der East India Companies

9. Zum Beispiel: Thomas Coryat, 1612 - 1617

hrsg. von Alois Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858. -- 15. Frühe europäische Quellen und Quellen aus der Zeit der East India Companies. -- 9. Zum Beispiel: Thomas Coryat, 1612 - 1617. -- Fassung vom 2008-06-04. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen1509.htm                    

Erstmals publiziert als:

Early travels in India 1583 - 1619 / ed. by William Foster [1863 - 1951]. -- London [u.a.] :  Milford, Oxford university press, 1921. -- xiv, 351 S. : Ill. ; 19 cm. -- S. 234 - 241, 280 - 282. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/earlytravelsinin00fostuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-05-19. -- "Not in copyright." 

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-06-04


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008

©opyright: Public domain.

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

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Über Thomas Coryat

Abb.: Coryat auf einem Elefanten
[Bildquelle: a.u.a.O., nach S. 248]


Tom Coryat, 'the Odcombian Gallo-Belgic leg-stretcher,' as he called himself (in allusion to his birthplace and his pedestrian feats in Western Europe), is a figure familiar enough to students of seventeenth-century literature, though his fame is based almost as much upon his eccentricities as upon the merits of his published works. Here we are concerned only with his remarkable journeys in Asia ; and we may note in this connexion that, leaving out of account the Jesuit Stevens, he was the first Englishman to set out for India with no thought of trade, his motives being in the first place to see that strange country, and in the second to write a book about his experiences.

The son of a Somersetshire clergyman who had himself made some reputation as a writer of Latin verse, young Coryat was educated at Winchester and Oxford, leaving the latter with a great knowledge of the Classics, which his ready memory enabled him to turn to good account. After the accession of James I he obtained a small post in the household of Prince Henry and thus secured a footing in Court circles. Here he quickly made himself notorious by his irrepressible loquacity and his eagerness to push himself into notice ; and he became in consequence a general butt, alike at Court and in the famous club that met at the Mermaid Tavern, where Ben Jonson and his associates diverted themselves hugely at his expense. Fuller tells us that Coryat served as 'the courtiers anvil to try their wits upon ; and sometimes this anvil returned the hammers as hard knocks as it received, his bluntness repaying their abusiveness '. In general, however, Coryat put up very patiently with gibes and practical jokes, content to pay any price for the privilege of figuring on such a stage.

In his restless desire to distinguish himself, in 1608 he undertook a continental walking tour, traversing parts of France, Northern Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, and covering about two thousand miles—all on foot and in one pair of shoes. His account of his peregrinations appeared in 1611, dedicated to Prince Henry and bearing the characteristic title of Coryats Crudities, hastily gobled up in five moneths travells. A special feature of the book was an extraordinary number of commendatory [S. 235]  verses and epigrams, contributed by the wits of the day, in which the traveller's peculiarities were not spared ; but it had solid merits of its own, in its vivid and accurate descriptions of the places visited and the many shrewd observations scattered up and down its pages. Its success was so great that the author was encouraged to publish in the same year a supplement, entitled Coryats Crambé, or his Colwort twise sodden.

Elated by the notice taken of his travels, Coryat now determined upon a far greater enterprise. He would go overland to India, see the Great Mogul in all his glory, and ride upon an elephant. First, however, he visited his birthplace and, after delivering an elaborate oration, solemnly hung up in the church the pair of shoes he had worn during his continental journey. An ingenious commentator has found an allusion to this in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, where 'brave Master Shoetie, the great traveller ', is named among the inmates of the Duke's prison. This seems likely enough ; but it may be added that, as the play was produced in 1604 (though not printed till 1623), the allusion must have been introduced afterwards—possibly by some player induced thereto by the attention excited by Coryat's perambulations.

The earlier stages of Coryat's journey are described, from his own notes, in Purchas His Pilgrinies (part ii, book x, chap. 12). He started in October 1612, just before the death of his patron. Prince Henry. His first objective was Constantinople, to which place he went by sea. On the way he visited the islands of Zante [Ζάκυνθος] and Scio [Chios/Χίος], and made an excursion, with some of his fellow voyagers, to the ruins of Troy ; here the party indulged in some characteristic fooling, and Coryat was, by one of his companions, solemnly dubbed a Knight of Troy, to the astonishment—and perhaps disappointment—of some peasant onlookers, who imagined that he was about to be beheaded for some crime. Constantinople was reached in April 1613, and there the traveller found a hospitable friend in Mr. (afterwards Sir) Paul Pindar, the English Agent. Coryat tarried in the city and neighbourhood until the following January, and then, once again taking ship, he coasted down the shores of Asia Minor until he reached Scanderoon [İskenderun], where he disembarked and hastened up to Aleppo. After a fortnight's stay, he and another Englishman set out for Jerusalem by way of Damascus, The Holy City was reached in the middle of April, and there, after visiting all the sights, Coryat had his wrists tattooed with the Crusaders' fitched cross and other devices, as a memento of his visit (Terry's Voyage, ed. 1655, p. 64). This practice, by the way, is alluded to by Manucci as being a common one among Christians making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem ; and it is said that the late King Edward VII [S. 236] had something of the kind tattooed on his arm when he visited that city in 1869. After a visit to the Jordan the two Englishmen retraced their steps to Aleppo [حلب‎].1

 1 Terry states that Coryat sailed from Smyrna to Alexandria, went up the Nile to Cairo and back, and then took ship for Jaffa and so reached Jerusalem. This, however, is quite inconsistent with the traveller's own account, and evidently in this, as in other instances, the reverend gentleman's memory played him false.

Coryat spent four months in Aleppo waiting for a caravan, and then started on his long tramp eastwards, apparently some time in September 1614. He travelled by way of Diarbekr [Diyarbakır] (where a Turkish soldier robbed him of most of his money), Tabriz [تبریز], Kazvin [قزوین], and Ispahan [اصفهان] to Kandahar [کندهار]. Near the Indian frontier he met Sir Robert and Lady Sherley, coming in great state from the Mughal court (see p, 212). The former exhibited to the flattered author the Crudities and its supplement, which he had brought from London, and further excited Coryat's cupidity by promising to show them to the Persian Shah and urge him to bestow a princely reward on the writer as he returned through his dominions. Lady Sherley, more practical or more generous than her husband, gave the traveller a sum of money to help him on his road.

Still making eastwards, Coryat proceeded, by way of Multan [ملتان] (where he had the altercation with a Muhammadan described on p. 271) to Lahore [لاہور, / لہور], and thence to Delhi and Agra. Even now his journey was not at an end, for he found that the Emperor was at Ajmer [अजमेर] ; so thither the indefatigable traveller turned his steps, arriving, it would seem, in the early part of July 1615. He had spent in all ten months in trudging from Aleppo ; and not the least remarkable feature of his journey was that it was performed at an average cost of little more than twopence a day. The explanation is of course the hospitality and kindness of Eastern races, especially to wandering pilgrims ; also the fact that Coryat travelled in Oriental dress, was always ready to rough it, and had learnt to content himself with Spartan fare. All the same, he must have experienced many a hardship ; and it is much to his credit that he made so light of this aspect of his travels.

At Ajmer Coryat was comparatively in clover. He found there a little group of the East India Company's servants, ten in all, including William Edwards the agent, and a chaplain, Peter Rogers, who, later in the year, carried down to Surat [સુરત] and thence to England the first four of the letters here reprinted, and was commended in them by Coryat to the hospitality of the Mermaid Club. A travelling Englishman, especially one of some notoriety, was always welcome to a lodging in the Company's factory and a seat at the Company's table ; and [S. 237] so Coryat was able to rest himself in comfort after the fatigues of the journey, and enjoy at leisure the strange sights afforded by a city crowded with the retainers of the Great Mogul. Early in October came the news that Sir Thomas Roe had landed at Surat as ambassador from King James, much to the satisfaction of our traveller, who describes Roe as a 'deare friend' of his. Three days before Christmas the ambassador was met within a stage of Ajmer by Edwards and Coryat, and, sick and weary as he was, had to endure from the latter 'a long, eloquent oration' by way of welcome. However, Roe was not sorry, among the many troubles of the next few months, to distract himself with the conversation of Coryat, 'whom', he says in a letter to Lord Pembroke, 'the fates have sent hither to ease mee, and now lives in my house. He came heither afoote : hath past by Constantanople, Jerusalem, Bethlem, Damascus, and (breefly) thorowgh all the Turkes territory : seene every post and pillar : observed every tombe : visited the monuments of Troy, Persia, and this kings dominions, all afoote, with most unwearied leggs ; and is now for Samarcand in Tartarya, to kisse Tamberlans tombe : from thence to Susa, and to Prester Jhae in Ethiopia, wher he will see the hill Amara, all afoote : and so foote it to Odcombe. His notes are already to great for portage : some left at Aleppo, some at Hispan—enough to make any stationer an alderman that shall but serve the printer with paper. And his excercise here, or recreation, is making or reapeating orations, principally of my Lady Hartford.'

In all, Coryat spent about fourteen months in Ajmer. Some account of his doings there, including the oration he one day made to Jahāngīr in Persian (which he had now acquired, in addition to some Turkish and Arabic), will be found in the letters that follow. At last the time came for him to resume his wanderings. Roe was to accompany the Emperor in his progress southwards, and, since the march was likely to be an arduous one, only the ambassador's immediate attendants were to be taken, while the factory at Ajmer was to be dissolved as soon as possible after the departure of the Court. The only plan Coryat had formed (besides one of visiting the Ganges) was to return overland in the same way as he had come ; and for this Agra was a convenient stage. He therefore took the opportunity of the departure of two of the English merchants for that city on September 12, 1616, to accompany them thither. At the time of his arrival, Agra [आगराآگرا] was in the grip of the plague, but of this the intrepid traveller says nothing. One incident of his stay there is referred to by Terry (infra, p. 315) ; and from the same authority we learn that Coryat visited Akbar's tomb at Sikandra.

At the end of October 1616, when he wrote the last of his [S. 238] extant letters, Coryat was still at the capital, but was intending in about six weeks' time to make an excursion to Hardwār [हर्द्वार], on the Ganges, and then to set out for Lahore on his homeward journey. We now lose sight of him for several months ; but we know from Terry that he carried out his intention of visiting Hardwār, and that his tour included the famous temple of Jawāla Mūkhi, in Kāngrā [कांग्रा]. Evidently, however, he still lingered for some time at Agra after his return. Possibly his health had already been affected by the climate ; and since he was enjoying, as at Ajmer, the hospitality of the Company's factors, he was in no hurry to face the hardships of the long overland journey to Europe. In this uncertainty arrived a letter from Roe, written from the imperial headquarters at Māndu to one of the Agra factors on July 20, 1617, in which he expressed a desire to learn Coryat's 'purpose, for England or stay ; or, if I take any new course, whither hee will goe with mee' (Brit. Mus., Addl. MS. 6115, f. 205). At this time the ambassador was half expecting to receive by the next fleet instructions to proceed to Persia (the 'new course' to which he referred), and otherwise he hoped to sail for England early in 1618. His invitation offered Coryat the chance of either going with Roe to Persia in comfort by sea, and then resuming his land journey, or of taking a passage home in the same ship as the ambassador. Accordingly he made his way down to Māndu, and spent several weeks in Roe's temporary home there. During his time Coryat shared the quarters of Chaplain Terry, who tells us a good deal about his strange companion and his doings.

Evidently the rest at Māndu was very necessary, for hard living and much travelling had told severely upon Coryat's health. One day he fainted in the ambassador's presence and was with difficulty brought to his senses. Moreover, he was troubled with a presentiment—born doubtless of his enfeebled condition—that he would never live to reach England and give his expectant countrymen the promised account of the wonders he had seen. Soon his plans were deranged by a new turn of events. The letters from England absolved Roe from going to Persia, while the slow progress of his negotiations rendered it doubtful whether he would be able to return home for yet another year. All that was clear was that the ambassador must follow the Emperor wherever he went, whether (as was expected) to Ahmadābād [અમદાવાદ] or (as some of the courtiers hoped) to Agra. When Jahāngīr left Māndu on October 24, 1617, his real intentions were still uncertain ; and, perhaps in the hope that his destination would prove after all to be the capital, whence Coryat could set out afresh on the overland journey to Europe, our traveller started with Roe on October 29 to overtake the Emperor. Before, however, the party had got [S. 239] as far as Dhār [धार], it was known for certain that Gujarāt was their goal ; and thereupon, it would seem, Coryat decided to make his way down to Surat, where he was sure of hospitality at the English factory and might rest while he matured fresh plans. The date of his quitting the ambassador's camp seems to have been on or about November 13, 1617.1 Of the incidents of this last lonely tramp nothing is recorded. We only know that he managed to reach his destination, and that the English merchants there received him kindly—too kindly in fact, for they plied him with sack, which increased the dysentery from which he was suffering, with the result that he rapidly succumbed to the illness. The date of his death, at the early age of forty, was some time in December 1617.

1 This is inferred from an entry in the accounts of the Court Factory (India Office Factory Records, Miscellaneous, vol. xxv, f. 9), which shows that on that date Coryat paid in thirty-five rupees in cash and received in exchange a bill on the factors at Surat for the same amount. Two of Roe's letters to Surat (probably carried by Coryat) are dated November 11 and 12 respectively.

There was then no regular English burying-ground at Surat ; so the body was taken outside the city on the north and interred on the western side of the road leading to Broach. It is true that Terry, who, as Coryat's contemporary, might be supposed to know the facts (though he was not at Surat when the death occurred), declares that the traveller was buried at Swally [Suvali], 'amongst many more English that lye there interred' ; but he was writing nearly forty years later, and, as we have seen, his recollection was frequently in fault over matters of detail.1 The evidence on the other side is strong. Thomas Herbert, who reached India only ten years after Coryat's death, says that the body of a Persian ambassador, who had died aboard the English fleet at Swally, was 'conveighed to Surrat (10 miles thence), where they intombed him, not a stones cast from Tom Coryats grave, knowne but by two poore stones, there resting till the resurrection' (Some Yeares Travels, p. 35) ; while Dr. John Fryer, when at Surat in 1675, was shown, just outside the Broach Gate, the tomb of the Persian ambassador, 'not far from whence, on a small hill on [S. 240] the left hand of the road, lies Tom Coriat, our English fakir (as they name him), together with an Armenian Christian, known by their graves lying east and west' (New Account, p. 100). It may be added that some years ago Mr. (now Sir William) Morison, who was then Collector at Surat, made an unsuccessful search for traces of Coryat's grave, and came to the conclusion that it had cither been swept away or silted over by the periodical floods of the Tapti.

1 It should be mentioned that the Admiralty chart of the coast near Swally marks 'Tom Coryat's Tomb' ; but this is probably the monument at Rājgari, 'consisting of a dome resting on circular pillars', in a Muhammadan style of architecture, which, in the absence of any inscription or other clue, has been supposed to be the resting-place of the traveller (List of Tombs and Monuments in the Bombay Presidency). We know, however, that originally the grave had merely two small stones at head and foot, without an inscription ; and there is no reason to suppose that a later generation provided an elaborate monument.

In conclusion, a few words may be said regarding the literature of Coryat's Eastern travels. As we have learnt from Roe, the pilgrim left one batch of notes at Aleppo and another at Ispahan ; while presumably he had a third with him at the time of his death. The first instalment found its way to England and came into the hands of Purchas, who, as already noted, printed considerable extracts in the second volume of his Pilgrimes. Of the fate of the other two portions nothing is known. Their loss is much to be deplored, for Coryat had a true gift of observation and narrated fully and accurately what he saw, including many small details which other travellers have passed over as unworthy of notice. Had he lived to publish as full an account of his Indian journey as he had previously given of his travels in Europe, it would probably have ranked as high as the works of Fryer or Tavernier ; but unfortunately, all that we have from his own pen are the five letters here printed. Apart from these, there are some notes given to Purchas by Roe (see p. 276), and a few details and anecdotes preserved by Terry (p. 282). Finally, we may trace in Roe's journal and correspondence, as also in the map of India which he assisted Baffin to compile, items of information supplied to him by Coryat concerning parts of India which Roe himself had not visited. We have thus mere scraps of what might have been a feast. Our consolation is that even these scraps are better than nothing, and that, slight as they are, they contain much to make us remember with gratitude the eccentric wanderer who sleeps in an unknown grave on the banks of the Tapti.

Turning to the letters themselves, we may note that the first four were printed, almost immediately after their arrival in England, in a pamphlet entitled Thomas Coriate, Traveller for the English Wits : Greeting, illustrated with some rough woodcuts. Apparently this production excited considerable interest, for a reprint was issued with the same date.1 The fifth letter was published in similar form two years later, under the title of Mr. Thomas Coriat to his Friends in England sendeth Greeting, adorned by a picture of the author riding on a camel. [S. 241] In 1625 Purchas, in his Pilgrimes (part i, book iv, chap. 17), reprinted large portions of the first, third, and fifth ; and the fifth was again reproduced, five years later, in a volume containing the works of John Taylor, the Water Poet. The 1776 edition of Coryat's works gives the first four letters in full, while as regards the fifth it is content to follow the abbreviated version supplied by Purchas. Since then there has been no fresh edition of the letters from India, though Purchas's extracts from them were of course included in the recent reissue of the Pilgrimes, The text now given is from the British Museum copies of the 1616 and 1618 pamphlets, omitting the commendatory and other verses."

1 1616. Of course this would extend to March 24, 1617, according to modern reckoning.

[Quelle: Early travels in India 1583 - 1619 / ed. by William Foster [1863 - 1951]. -- London [u.a.] :  Milford, Oxford university press, 1921. -- xiv, 351 S. : Ill. ; 19 cm. -- S. 234 - 241. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/earlytravelsinin00fostuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-05-19. -- "Not in copyright."]

Text von Thomas Coryat

[S. 280] An Armenian, desirous to turne Moore, procured a noble-man to bring him to the King ; whom the King asked why hee turned Moore : whether for preferment ? Hee answered : No. Some few monethes after, craving some courtesie of the King, hee denyed it him, saying that hee had done him the greatest favour that could bee, to let him save his soule ; but for his bodie, hee himselfe should provide as well as he could.

The King likes not those that change their religion ; hee himselfe beeing of none but of his owne making, and therefore suffers all religions in his kingdome ; which by this notable example I can make manifest. The King had a servant that was an Armenian, by name Scander1 ; to whom, upon occasion of speech of religion, the King asked if hee thought either hee or the Padres had converted one Moore to bee a true Christian, and that was so for conscience sake and not for money ; who answered with great confidence that hee had one which was a perfect Christian and for no worldly respect would bee other ; whom the King caused presently to bee sent for, and, bidding his master depart, demanded why hee was become a Christian ; who rendred certaine feeble, implicite, Jesuiticall reasons, and [S. 281] avowed that hee would never be other. Whereupon the King practised by faire speeches and large promises to withdraw him to the folly of Mahomet, offering him pensions, meanes, and command of horse, telling him hee had now but foure rupias a moneth wages, which was a poore reward for quitting his praepuced faith ; but if hee would recant, hee would heape upon him many dignities ; the fellow answering it was not for so small wages hee became Christian, for hee had limbes and could earne so much of any Mahometan, but that hee was a Christian in his heart, and would not alter it. This way not taking effect, the King turned to threatnings and menacings of tortures and whippings ; but the proselyte manfully resolving to suffer any thing, answered hee was readie to endure the Kings pleasure. Upon this resolution, when all men expected present and severe castigation, the King changed his tune, highly commending his constancie and honestie, bidding him goe and returne to his master, and to serve him faithfully and truely ; giving him a rupia a day pension for his integritie. About two monethes after, the King, having beene a hunting of wilde hogges (a beast odious to all Moores), and accustomed to distribute that sort of venison among Christians and Razbootes, sent for this Armenian, master of this converted catechumen or Mahometan, to come and fetch part of his quarrie. The Armenian not beeing at home, this his principall servant came to know the Kings pleasure ; who commanded him to take up a hogge for his master (which no Moore will touch) ; which hee did and, being gone out of the court-gate, was so hooted at by the Mahometans that hee threw downe his present in a ditch and went home, concealing from his master what had passed. About foure dayes after, the Armenian comming to his watch, the King demanded of him whether the hogge he sent him were good meat or no ; who replyed hee neyther heard of nor see any hogge. Whereat the King, remembring to whom this hogge was delivered, caused the fellow to be sent for ; and examining the matter, had it confessed how he threw away the hogge and never carryed it home. The King pressing to know the reason, the poore fellow answered how he was mocked for touching it, and (it being a thing odious to the Moores) for shame he threw it [S. 282] away. At which he replyed : By your law there is no difference of meats, and are you ashamed of your lawes ? Or, to flatter the Mahumetans, doe you in outward things forsake it ? Now I see thon art neither good Cliristian nor good Mahumetan, but a dissembling knave with both. While I found thee sincere, I gave thee a pension ; which now I take from thee, and for thy dissimulation doe command thee to have a hundred stripes (which were presently given him in stead of his money) ; and bade all men by his example take heed that seeing hee gave libertie to all religions, that which they choose and professe they may sticke unto.

1 Possibly this was Mīrza Sikandar, father of Mīrza Zulkarnain (see p. 267n.). Father Hosten takes this view.

Zu: 10. Zum Beispiel: Thomas Roe, 1615 - 1619