Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coryate, George

CORYATE, GEORGE (d. 1607), writer of Latin verse, was born in the parish of St. Thomas, Salisbury, whence he proceeded to Winchester School, and from there was admitted probationary fellow of New College, Oxford, 15 Dec. 1560. He was admitted to the B.A. degree in March 1564, and incepted as M.A. in July 1569. In the following year he became rector of Odcombe in Somersetshire, and thereupon resigned his fellowship. He appears to have had the knack of writing Latin verses from boyhood, and on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth visiting Winchester in August 1560, he was either set, or set himself, to write a copy of trumpery elegiacs which should be fixed on the door of the palace of the Bishop of Winchester. If any serious interpretation is to be found for the words prefixed to another copy of verses which follows, the queen gave the youth five pounds for his pains; whereupon he wrote another poem recommending her majesty to marry without delay. He can hardly have been more than fourteen years old when he tendered this piece of advice. While at Oxford he was evidently in needy circumstances, and in great measure had to live by his wits. He translated the whole book of psalms into Latin verse, a performance which happily was never printed, and has perished, but its completion was the occasion of another letter to Queen Elizabeth. He seems to have had no scruple about writing Latin verses to the nobility and others from whom there was any hope of getting a douceur. Once, at least, he addressed Lord Burghley, who sent him forty shillings in acknowledgment. On the occasion of the death of William, earl of Pembroke, he composed a silly elegy upon the deceased peer, whose son, Henry, lord Pembroke, made him his chaplain. At another time he sent some verses to the Lord-keeper Puckering, as well as to Archbishop Whitgift, besides writing epitaphs on Bishop Jewell and Archbishop Piers of York. His son inherited from him a considerable spice of the cunning and impudence which characterised that eccentric adventurer. He is registered as having ‘supplicated’ for the B.D. degree in July 1592, and as New College men were exempt from ‘supplication,’ this may have been a mistake of the registrar for Coryate's actual graduation. He was presented to the prebendal stall of Warthill in the cathedral of York, 17 Jan. 1594, but never rose to higher preferment. He died in the parsonage house at Odcombe, 4 March, 1606–7; ‘whereupon his son Tom, upon some design, preserving his body from stench above ground, till the 14th April following, 'twas then buried in the chancel of the church at Odcombe.’ He left behind him a widow, Gertrude, of whose parentage nothing is known. She survived her husband nearly forty years, and was buried near him 3 April 1645.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 774; Register of the Univ. of Oxford (Boase), Oxf. Hist. Soc. i. 254; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy); Posthuma Fragmenta Poematum Georgii Coryati, to be found at the end of some copies of Tom Coryate's Crudities.]

A. J.