One of the first texts I came across in my search for other English speakers who had got “Lost in Deutschland” and written about it was Coryate’s Crudities, the account of one Thomas Coryate, who set out from England in 1608 to walk to Venice, returning via Germany. Coryate’s record of his travels is indeed “crude” in its sense of meaning “raw, uncooked”, inasmuch as it is half-baked: despite setting out to write about his journey, Coryate displays at almost every turn an infuriating lack of focus and gets lost in often pointless detail, forgetting the overall dramaturgy of his really quite remarkable undertaking; despite the work’s historic interest, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
I’d imagine Tim Moore would agree. After all, he knows Coryate better than most, having set out in the early 2000s to retrace his route, original copy of the Crudities in hand. He too admits that Coryate is not an easy read, and yet over the course of his modern homage to one of the first ever travel writers, Moore grows strangely fond of this (during his lifetime) much maligned figure. Maybe because that’s because, as Moore admits, he shares many a characteristic with Coryate: he admits to their common predisposition to avarice, which drove Coryate to cover much of the journey on foot, stealing food as he went, and lead to Moore drive it in a clapped out Rolls Royce, pocketing as much toothpaste and shower-gel as possible in scuzzy hotels.
Moore’s style isn’t for everyone: with Coryate he shares a predilection for long sentences and diversions. The saving grace is that these diversions are much funnier and more self-aware than those of the really rather pompous Coryate, and that he has an exceptionally sharp eye for detail when observing foreign lands.
In short, if I’d have known about this when publishing Germany: Beyond the Enchanted Forest – A Literary Anthology last year, then I’d definitely have included it, both as a counterfoil to Coryate’s original and either as a part of either the last chapter showing a newly comic approach to writing about Germany, or as part of the very last chapter on creativity in the matter. After all, you have to be uniquely creative to come up with the idea of doing a modern Grand Tour, finding out about Coryate, and then opting to retrace his footsteps in a mauve velvet suit and a car so monumentally unsafe that it really shouldn’t be on the road – especially not a German autobahn.
Continental Drifter: Taking the Low Road withthe First Grand Tourist, Tim Moore, 2001 Abacus (London)