Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parry, William (fl.1601)

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945444Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43 — Parry, William (fl.1601)1895Raymond Beazley

PARRY, WILLIAM (fl. 1601), traveller, is the author of ‘A New and Large Discourse of the Travels of Anthony Sherley, Kt.,’ in Turkey, Persia, and Russia (1601). He accompanied Shirley [see Shirley, Sir Anthony] in all his wanderings in the track of John Newberie [q. v.], Ralph Fitch [q. v.], and Anthony Jenkinson [q. v.], and his account is amusing and observant. He describes the outward route by Flushing, the Hague, Cologne, Frankfort, the Alps, and Venice to Aleppo. The Englishmen were arrested by the Turks in Cyprus on the slanderous information of Italians; released on payment of backsheesh, they had to make their way to Tripoli in Syria in a small boat. The Syrians, according to Parry, ‘sit all day drinking a liquor they call coffee, made of a seed like mustard.’ Embarking on the Euphrates at Birrah, after visiting Antioch and Aleppo, Shirley and Parry sailed down the river for twenty-three days, and so reached Babylon, where their merchandise was seized, and only half its value given back. Informed against by a ‘drunken Dutchman,’ they hurried on from Babylon, where Parry describes the ‘old tower of Babel, about the height of Paul's,’ into Persia. They were lucky enough to escape the Turkish frontier guards, who threatened ‘to cut them into gobbets,’ and, passing through the country of the Kurds, ‘altogether addicted to thieving, not much unlike the wild Irish,’ they received a warm welcome at Casben from the shah. Parry gives a short account of the Persian court, and the manners and religion of the people, and condemns them as ‘ignorant in all kinds of liberal or learned sciences, except in … horses' furniture, carpettings, and silk works.’ Persian coppers, he says, are like ‘our Bristow tokens.’ After very honourable treatment the Englishmen took their leave for Russia. They were two months crossing the Caspian in stormy weather; from Astrakhan to Moscow was a journey of ten weeks more, seven of them up the ‘mighty river of Volga.’ At the Russian capital the English travellers, though at first entertained by a ‘crew of aqua vitæ bellied fellows,’ soon fell under suspicion, were put in confinement, and vexed with ‘frivolous particularities,’ as if spies. The English merchants in Moscow went bail for them; and the visitors were allowed to go on their way, after witnessing a great church and state procession, in which a monstrous bell of twenty tons weight was dragged by 3,500 men, as Parry relates, ‘after the manner of our western bargemen in England.’

From Russia Parry returned home with some reputation for travel. John Davies (1565?–1618) [q. v.] of Hereford addressed to him a sonnet in praise of his daring. Parry's ‘Discourse’ was partly reprinted in Purchas's ‘Pilgrimes,’ and was reprinted by J. Payne Collier in his ‘Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature,’ 1864. On it was based ‘The Travailes of the three English Brothers,’ Thomas, Anthony, and Robert Shirley, a play, by John Day, William Rowley, and George Wilkins, 1607.

[Parry's Discourse. Other narratives of the same events, though without direct mention of Parry, are Shirley's own account of his Travels in Persia, 1613, and the Travels of the Three Brothers Shirley, 1825, containing reprints from all the narratives.]

C. R. B.