Born to an aristocratic family, Fynes Moryson (1566-1630) studied and later taught at Cambridge. He started travelling at the age of twenty-three. For four years he toured Germany, Flandres, Switzerland, Danemark and Poland. He returned to Britain in 1595, and in the same year started out on his journey to the Holy Land, Syria, Crete and Istanbul, in the company of his brother. The voyage lasted until 1597. While they were in Antioch, Moryson’s brother died from dysentery.
Moryson later travelled around Ireland and became active in politics during the period of the Nine-year War and the revolution that followed. He only started composing his chronicle in 1797. He wrote in Latin, and for his own diversion, basing himself on his notes. The work was published in English in 1616, in his own translation. The text is comprised of five parts. The first three are dedicated to the regions he toured and the last two describe the institutions, customs and traditions of those same countries. The chapters on Moryson’s travels in England and Ireland remained unpublished until 1903. The complete travel chronicles were republished in 1907.
His description of inns and his observations on the diet of various nations are remarkable and quite rare for his time. On the other hand, he is biased in his remarks on the Ottomans and the Irish, whom he disliked for different reasons. In spite of being one of the most important English travellers of Elizabethan times, Moryson’s text is true to the stereotypes that characterize 16th century travel chronicles. His culture leads him to seek for specific features in each space, to describe what he sees and to take notes. His work, free from editorial trends, is exemplary of a “pure” traveller of the late sixteenth century.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou