The Mermaid Tavern Club: A New Discovery

Michael Strachan introduces one of the most conspicuous members of this celebrated Jacobean drinking and dining club centred on the Mermaid Tavern in London; the eccentric ‘legstretcher’ Thomas Coryate.

A fanciful 19th-century depiction of Shakespeare and his contemporaries at the Mermaid Tavern. Painting by John Faed, 1851.

Everybody has heard of the Mermaid Tavern. Many still believe that it was the meeting place of a Society or Club with which Shakespeare was closely associated. Fewer people know that two letters written by ‘The  Odcombian Legstretcher’ Thomas Coryate, the author of Coryats Crudities, that splendid rag-bag of a travel book based on his European tour, have  hitherto provided the only indisputable contemporary evidence that the Mermaid Tavern Club  even existed.

Now, however, the discovery of a seventeenth-century Latin manuscript in the Bainbrigg Library at Appleby Grammar School has enabled us to corroborate some of the known facts and add some new ones.

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