« السابقةمتابعة »
Ad Thomam Nostrum.
Cur, Coryate, tibi calcem Phœbeia Daphne
Coryate does not appear to have been much of a versifier, though he is said to have written a song in the Somersetshire dialect upon the excellency of the Bath waters : according to his own account, however, he had a rare extempore talent, which he employed on a very ludicrous occasion. He journied with a friend to the ruins of Troy, and was there by that friend (as Coryate very seriously relates in a letter inserted in Purchas's Pilgrims) dubbed the first Knight of Troy. Our traveller received the honour with these verses, with which his muse favoured him for the occasion:
Lo, here with prostrate knee I do embrace
In Priam's court, which time shall ne'er deface,
This noble knighthood shall Fame's trump resound
Our preliminary matter has extended beyond the limits we intended; but while some of our noblest poets are left without a single anecdote of their lives, so much curious intelligence has been given by contemporaries regarding this mad fool, or foolish madman, that we could not compress it. After a stupid oration by George Haunschildt, Professor of Eloquence at Marbourg, in praise of travel, and a letter of recommendation by Laurence Whitaker, a friend of the author, the work itself begins with Coryate's observations on France, to which he proceeded by Calais; from Calais he goes to Amiens, communicating with accuracy a great many particulars till then almost unknown in England. His journey was not very expeditious, for the last eight miles of the road to Paris occupied six hours. His observations upon every place of note are given under a se
The name of the Venetian Courtezan by whom Coryate was said to have been inveigled.
parate head, and those upon Paris and its vicinity fill many pages. Speaking of the foundation of the city and the origin of its Latin name, he ingeniously and humorously enough remarks, " but the name of Lutetia it doth well brooke, conveniunt rebus nomina sæpe suis, being so called from the Latin word Lutum, which signifieth durt, because many of the streetes are the dirtiest, and so consequently the most stinking of all that ever I saw in any citie in my life." This warrant for the etymology of Coryate it still retains. Of the Louvre and its gallery he thus speaks:
"After this I went into a place which for such a kinde of roome excelleth in my opinion, not only al those that are now in the world, but also all those whatsoeuer that euer were since the creation thereof, euen a gallery, a perfect description whereof wil require a large volume. It is deuided into three parts, two sides at both the ends, and one very large and spacious walke. One of the sides when I was there, was almost ended, hauing in it many goodly pictures of some of the Kings and Queenes of France, made most exactly in wainscot, and drawen out very liuely in oyl workes vpon the same. The roofe of most glittering and admirable beauty, wherein is much antique worke, with the picture of God and the angels, the sunne, the moone, the starres, the planets, and other celestiall signes. Yea so vnspeakeably faire it is, that a man can hardly comprehend it in his minde, that hath not first seene it with his bodily eyes. The long gallery hath at the entrance thereof a goodly dore, garnished with foure very sumptuous marble pillers of a flesh colour, interlaced with some veines of white. It is in breadth about ten of my paces, and aboue fiue hundred in length, which maketh at the least half a mile. Also there are eight and forty stately partitions of white free stone on each side of this long gallery, each being about some twelue foote long, betwixt the which there are faire windowes: the walles of the gallery are about two yardes thicke at the least. The gallery is couered with blew slatte like our Cornish tile. In the outside of one of the walles near to the Riuer Seine, there are foure very stately pillers of white free stone, most curiously cut with sundry faire workes, that giue great ornament to the outward frontispice of the worke. On the westside of the gallery there is a most beautifull garden diuided into eight seuerall knots. The long gallery when I was there was imperfect, for there was but halfe of the walke boorded, and the roofe very rude, the windowes also and the partitions not a quarter finished. For it is reported that the whole long gallery shall be made correspondent to the first side that is almost ended. At the end of the long gallery there were two hundred masons working on free stone euery day when I was there, to make an end of that side which must answere the first side that is almost ended."
CRIT. REV. VOL. IV. July, 1816.
Notwithstanding these exertions, our readers are aware that the work has not to this day been completed. Coryate a little over-states the length of the gallery, but in general, as far as we have been able to trace it, his information is correct, although it must have been most " hastily gobled up," as he expresses it, and without any of the aids from which our modern writers of travels have compiled so much. He seems to have had a most restless curiosity after facts. He was wonderfully struck with the numerous paltry bridges then existing over the Seine, and compared with the only one then existing in London, they might appear admirable.
"But to returne againe to the noble riuer Seine: There was building ouer it when I was in the citie, a goodly bridge of white free-stone, which was almost ended. Also there is another famous bridge in this citie, which farre excelleth this before mentioned, hauing one of the fairest streetes of all the citie, called our Ladies street, in French la rue de nostre Dame built vpon it. I haue heard that Iucundus a certain Bishop of this citie, built this bridge; of whom I haue likewise heard this elegant distichon :
Iucundus duplicem struxit tibi Sequana pontem,
He cals it Duplicem, because there was another bridge neare vnto that called the little bridge, built by the same man at the same time.
"Besides there are three faire bridges more built vpon this riuer, whereof the one is called the bridge of exchange, where the goldsmiths dwel, S. Michaels bridge, and the bridge of birdes, formerly called the millers bridge. The reason why it is called the bridge of birds is, because all the signes belonging vnto shops on each side of the streete are signes of birds."
From Paris he went to Nevers, and from thence to Lyons, afterwards entering Italy by Turin. At Versailles he mentions the custom of using forks in eating meat as a great singularity.
"Here I wil mention a thing that might haue been spoken of before in discourse of the first Italian towne. I obserued a custome in all those Italian cities and townes through the which I passed, that is not vsed in any other country that I saw in my trauels, neither doe I thinke that any other nation of Christendome doth vse it, but only Italy. The Italian and also most strangers that are commorant in Italy, doe alwaies at their meales vse a little forke when they cut their meate. For while with their knife which they hold in one hand they cut the meate out of the dish, they fasten their forke which they hold in their other hand vpon the same dish, so that
whatsoeuer he be that sitting in the company of any others at meale, should vnaduisedly touch the dish of meate with his fingers from which all at the table doe cut, he will giue occasion of offence vnto the company, as hauing transgressed the lawes of good manners, in so much that for his error he shall be at the least brow-beaten, if not reprehended in wordes. This forme of feeding I vnderstand is generally vsed in all places of Italy, their forkes being for the most part made of yron or steele, and some of siluer, but those are vsed only by gentlemen. The reason of this their curiosity is, because the Italian cannot by any meanes indure to have his dish touched with fingers, seing all mens fingers are not alike cleane. Hereupon I my selfe thought good to imitate the Italian fashion by this forked cutting of meate, not only while I was in Italy, but also in Germany, and oftentimes in England since I came home: being once quipped for that frequent vsing of my forke, by a certaine gentleman, a familiar friend of mine, one M. Laurence Whittaker, who in his merry humour doubted not to call me at table furcifer, only for vsing a forke at feeding, but for no other cause."
Our readers were probably not aware that the use of forks is of so late introduction, that Queen Elizabeth not only ate beef-steaks for breakfast, but that she was under the necessity of pulling them to pieces with "her fingers long and small," or that the instrument was first invented in Italy. Coryate was remarkable for employing one in 1611, after he returned, and it is obvious that in 1616 they were almost unknown in England from the following passage in Ben Jonson's "The Devil is an Asse," which was first acted in that year, and in which Meercraft, an imposing projector, proposes to obtain a patent for their manufacture, as a new invention for the saving of napkins, then used to wipe the fingers that had been employed in handling the meat. The extract is taken from the 4th scene of Act 5, in the folio of 1631.
Meercraft. Upon my project of the Forkes.
Meercraft. The laudable use of Forkes,
Brought into custom here as they are in Italy,
To the sparing of napkins. That, that should have made
I ha' procur'd it, ha' the signet for it.
A mighty saver of linnen through the kingdome,
The next place at which Coryate arrives is Milan; from thence he passes to Cremona, Mantua, and Padua, referring with much readiness and aptness to the various notices of these places in classical writers, and to some of the main historical facts connected with them. Addison, who followed him over this ground, is sometimes not more happy in his allusions of this kind, for which, and the facility of the style, the work of our English classic is chiefly to be esteemed. Coryate gives the subsequent curious relation of a custom in Padua, which also attracted the attention of Addison :
"At the west end of the hall neare to one of the corners there is a very mery spectacle to be seene: there standeth a round stone of some three foote high inserted into the floore, on the which if any bankerout doth sit with his naked buttocks three times in some public assembly, al his debts are ipso facto remitted. Round about the stone are written these wordes in capitall letters: Lapis vituperij & cessationis bonorum. I beleeue this to be true, because many in the Citie reported it vnto me. But belike there is a limitation of the summe that is owed; so that if the summe which the debter oweth be aboue the stint, he shall not be released: otherwise it were great vniustice of the Venetians to tollerate such a custome that honest creditors should be cousened and defrauded of the summe of thirty or forty thousand duckats by the impudent behauiour of some abiect-minded varlet, who to acquit himselfe of his debt will most wil lingly expose his bare buttockes in that opprobrious and igno minious manner to the laughter of euery spectator. Surely it is the strangest custome that euer I heard or read off, (though that which I haue related of it be the very naked truth) whereof if some of our English bank routs should haue intelligence, I thinke they would hartily wish the like might be in force in England. For if such a custome were vsed with vs, there is no doubt but that there would be more naked buttocks shewed in the terme time before the greatest Nobility and Iudges of our land in Westminster hall, then are of young punies in any Grammar Schoole of England to their Plagosi Orbilij, that is, their whipping and seuerely-censuring schoole-masters."
We now come to what has been always considered the most singular portion of Coryate's Crudities, viz. his "observations on the most glorious peerelesse, and mayden citie