Fynes Moryson

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Fynes Moryson
Born 1566
Lincolnshire, England
Died 12 February 1630
Other names Fynes Morison
Known for Travel writing and social observation

Fynes Moryson (or Morison) (1566 – 12 February 1630) spent most of the decade of the 1590s travelling on the European continent and the eastern Mediterranean lands. He wrote about it later in his multi-volume "Itinerary", a work of value to historians as a picture of the social conditions existing in the lands he visited.


Moryson was the son of Thomas Moryson, a Lincolnshire gentleman who had been member of parliament for Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Fynes Moryson was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and after graduating he gained a fellowship for further study there.[1] From May 1591 to May 1595 Moryson travelled round Continental Europe for the specific purpose of observing local customs, institutions, and economics. He took written notes. From early 1596 to mid-1597, he journeyed to Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, Aleppo, Constantinople, and Crete, for the same purpose.[2]

In 1600, Moryson was appointed personal secretary to Lord Mountjoy, who was the head of government and commander-in-chief of the crown army in Ireland, then fighting against Tyrone's Rebellion. One of Moryson's brothers Sir Richard Moryson also held an upper level government appointment in Ireland.[3] When the rebellion ended in 1603, Moryson and Mountjoy both returned to England. Moryson remained Mountjoy's secretary until Mountjoy's death in 1606. Later Moryson wrote a book about the military and government affairs of Ireland during the years when he was there with Mountjoy.

In 1617, Moryson published the first three volumes of An Itinerary: Containing His Ten Years Travel Through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, Netherland, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Turkey, France, England, Scotland and Ireland. The Itinerary was originally intended to consist of five volumes. Only three were published in his lifetime. The fourth volume was preserved in manuscript in the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[1] In 1903, the bulk of the fourth volume was transcribed by Charles Hughes and published under the title "Shakespeare's Europe: Unpublished Chapters of Fynes Moryson's Itinerary. Being a survey of the condition of Europe at the end of the 16th century." Volumes I, III and IV of Moryson's Itinerary primarily cover Continental Europe and secondarily the Ottoman lands, with volume I being travel narrative and volumes III and IV being thematic discourse covering themes of customs and institutions. (Volumes III and IV also have short chapters on customs and institutions in England, Scotland and Ireland.) Volume II, on the other hand, is devoted to affairs in Ireland from 1599 to 1603.

Sometimes Moryson is a prejudiced and unreliable informant. His biographer Charles Hughes says "he had a sane charity for all men, except Turks and Irish priests",[4] which is another way of saying that he was prejudiced against Turks and Irish priests and is a poor source for information about them. His antipathy to Irish priests can be illustrated by a satirical verse in his Itinerary in which "four vile beasts" are said to afflict the Irish: lice, rats, priests, and wolves.[5]

It is believed that in this volume, it is the fist time that "Merry Christmas" is found in print. "...so suddenly as his wife and eldest son were taken, and himself hardly escaped at a backe window, and naked, into the woods, where he kept a cold Christmas, while my Lord hued plentifully in his house, with such provisions as were made, for him and his Bonnaghs and kerne to keepe a merry Christmas." [6]

Online Texts[edit]

The first three volumes of Moryson's Itinerary were republished in year 1907 broken up into four physical parts. In other words, the first three volumes were physically reprinted in four volumes with retention of the conceptual division into three volumes. These are downloadable at Archive.org:

  • Itinerary, Volumes I, II and III: 1, 2, 3 and 4

Also the conceptual fourth volume of Moryson's Itinerary, as published in 1903, is available from Archive.org. This volume is prefaced with a 45-page biography of Fynes Moryson written by Charles Hughes.

References and external links[edit]

  1. ^ a b  Lee, Sidney (1885–1900). "Moryson, Fynes". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 142–144. 
  2. ^ The biography of Fynes Moryson by Charles Hughes, published as a preface to one of Moryson's books in 1903, contains a Chronology of Moryson's Travels in the 1590s.
  3. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Moryson, Fynes". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ Biography of Moryson written by Charles Hughes in 1903, on page xlv as published in Shakespeare's Europe: Unpublished Chapters of Fynes Moryson's Itinerary: Being a survey of the condition of Europe at the end of the 16th century.
  5. ^ Moryson, Fynes, The Commonwealth of Ireland, Reprinted University College Cork 2010 p.241. Originally printed in Fynes Moryson's Itinerary, year 1903 page 193 (edited by Charles Hughes).
  6. ^ "When what to my wondering eyes...", Smart Art Press, 1997, Pages 54-55.
Political offices
Preceded by
George Cranmer
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
John Bingley