John Pory

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John Pory
The title page of Pory's translation of Leo Africanus's A Geographical Historie of Africa (1600)
The title page of Pory's translation of Leo Africanus's A Geographical Historie of Africa (1600)
Died1636 (aged 63–64)
OccupationGovernment administrator, traveller, author, journalist
SubjectExploration, geography, travel

John Pory (1572–1636) was an English government administrator, traveller, and author of the Jacobean and Caroline eras;[1] he is widely considered to have been the first news correspondent in English-language journalism.

Life and work[edit]

Pory was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; he earned his bachelor's degree in 1592 and his Masters in 1595.[2] He was elected a member of Parliament from the borough of Bridgwater in 1605, and served until 1610. In 1607 Pory travelled through France and the Low Countries, and was involved in a plan to introduce silkworm breeding to England. He spent the years 1611–1616 travelling through Europe, to Italy and as far as Constantinople, where he was the secretary of English ambassador Sir Paul Pindar; for a portion of 1617 he served as the secretary to the English ambassador to Savoy, Sir Isaac Wake. Late in 1619, Pory travelled to the new English colony in Virginia as secretary to the governor, Sir George Yeardley. Pory spent the years 1619–1621 and 1623–1624 in Virginia; he served as the first Speaker of the Virginia Assembly, and explored Chesapeake Bay by boat in 1620. He returned to England and settled in London in 1624. Pory had accumulated a widespread acquaintance with influential people in a range of positions and locations, and maintained a vigorous letter-writing correspondence with them over the later years of his life.[3] Contemporaries described him as being addicted to both gossip and alcohol.

Early in his career, around 1597, Pory became an associate and protégé of the geographer and author Richard Hakluyt; Hakluyt later termed Pory his "very honest, industrious, and learned friend". Pory was also a friend of Sir Robert Cotton, William Camden, Sir Dudley Carleton, and other members their circles. It was at Hakluyt's urging that Pory engaged in his first literary effort, a translation of a geographic work by Leo Africanus that was published as A Geographical Historie of Africa (1600).[4] Pory also produced significant documents about the Jamestown colony in Virginia[5] and the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.


In London from the early 1620s on, Pory was associated with Nathaniel Butter in his efforts to create news periodicals for the English public.[6] Headquartered at Butter's shop at the sign of the Pied Bull, Pory was a "correspondent" in the literal sense, who maintained exchanges of letters with the wide variety of prominent people he had met and cultivated in his earlier public career. Other similarly-situated men of his generation, like John Chamberlain, played comparable roles in such correspondences and exchanges of news; Pory was atypical and perhaps unique in that he channelled his knowledge and contacts into commercial news ventures, Butter's early newspapers. Pory also ran his own manuscript news service, charging patrons for regular news reports; Viscount Scudamore paid Pory £20 for an annual subscription of weekly bulletins for the year 1632.[7]

In some respects, Pory was the first to do what many modern public figures do, moving among official posts, journalism, and positions in the private sector.

Influences and connections[edit]

Modern scholars who have studied Pory's published works and his correspondence have unearthed a range of linkages with important figures of his era, like John Donne[8] and John Milton.[9] Shakespeare may have borrowed from Pory's book on Africa for his Othello;[10] Ben Jonson used it for The Masque of Blackness. Pory's extant correspondence provides researchers with a wealth of detail about London and Court society in the period. He describes, among other things, the last hours of Sir Walter Raleigh, and brawls between nobles at the Blackfriars Theatre.


  1. ^ William Stevens Powell (1977), John Pory, 1572–1636: The Life and Letters of a Man of Many Parts, Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0-8078-1271-6.
  2. ^ "Porye, John (PRY588J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge..
  3. ^ Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of National Biography, 16, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 201–202CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link).
  4. ^ Johannes Leo Africanus; John Pory, trans. & comp. (1600), A geographical historie of Africa, written in Arabicke and Italian by Iohn Leo a More, borne in Granada, and brought vp in Barbarie. Wherein he hath at large described, not onely the qualities, situations, and true distances of the regions, cities, townes, mountaines, riuers, and other places throughout all the north and principall partes of Africa; but also the descents and families of their kings ... gathered partly out of his owne diligent obseruations, and partly out of the ancient records and chronicles of the Arabians and Mores. Before which, out of the best ancient and moderne writers, is prefixed a generall description of Africa, and also a particular treatise of all the maine lands and isles vndescribed by Iohn Leo. ... Translated and collected by Iohn Pory, lately of Goneuill and Caius College in Cambridge, London: George Bishop, OCLC 55162326; reprinted as Johannes Leo Africanus; Robert Brown, ed. (1896), The History and Description of Africa, and of the Notable Things therein Contained / Done into English in the Year 1600, by John Pory; and now Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Dr Robert Brown [Works Issued by the Hakluyt Society; no. 92], London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, OCLC 27435241CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link), 3 vols.
  5. ^ Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1907), Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606–1625, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 279–287, 351–355, OCLC 318440596.
  6. ^ Sabrina A. Baron (2001), "The Guises of Dissemination in Early Seventeenth-Century England: News in Manuscript and Print", in Brendan Dooley; Sabrina Baron (eds.), The Politics of Information in Early Modern Europe, London: Routledge, pp. 41–56, ISBN 978-0-415-20310-4.
  7. ^ Joad Raymond, ed. (1999), News, Newspapers, and Society in Early Modern Britain, London: Frank Cass Publishers, p. 41, ISBN 978-0-7146-4944-3, (hbk.), (pbk.)CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link).
  8. ^ R[obert] C[ecil] Bald; completed & ed. by W[esley] Milgate (1970), John Donne: A Life, Oxford: Clarendon Press, ISBN 978-0-19-811684-4.
  9. ^ Charles W. Durham; Kristin A. Pruitt, eds. (1999), All in All: Unity, Diversity, and the Miltonic Perspective, Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquenhanna University Press, p. 218, ISBN 978-1-57591-016-1CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link).
  10. ^ L. Whitney (1922), "Did Shakespeare Know Leo Africanus?", Papers of the Modern Language Association, 37, pp. 470–488. For the text apparently relied on by Shakespeare from Pory's book, see Amanda Mabillard (19 March 2000). "Sources for Othello". Shakespeare Online. Retrieved 12 October 2007..
A map of the continent of Africa from A Geographical Historie of Africa (1600).


Further reading[edit]

  • Imus, Teri L. (2005), Building the Black in England: John Pory's Translation of Geographical Historie of Africa by John Leo Africanus [M.A. thesis], Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska, OCLC 60494635.
  • Pory, John; Altham, Emmanuel; de Rasières, Isaack (1963), James, Jr., Sydney V. (ed.), Three Visitors to Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England during its First Seven Years, [Plymouth, Mass.]: Plimoth Plantation, OCLC 950518. Reprinted as Pory, John; Altham, Emmanuel; de Rasières, Isaak (1997), Three Visitors to Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England during its First Seven Years, Bedford, Mass.: Applewood Books, ISBN 978-1-55709-463-6, (pbk.).
  • Pory, John (1918), Norwood, Richard; Burrage, Champlin (eds.), John Pory's Lost Description of Plymouth Colony in the Earliest Days of the Pilgrim Fathers, together with Contemporary Accounts of English Colonization Elsewhere in New England and in the Bermudas, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Co, OCLC 504626527.
  • Powell, William Stevens; Pory, John (1952), John Pory on the Death of Sir Walter Raleigh (2nd ed.), Williamsburg, Va.: Institute of Early American History and Culture, OCLC 34535950.
  • Powell, William Stevens (Summer 1969), "Speaker John Pory: A Member of Parliament Helped Organize the First Representative Assembly in the New World", Virginia Cavalcade, 18 (5), OCLC 40063829.

External links[edit]