Frederic de Coninck Letters
Frederic flees to England
Another letter from Rachel Tacquelet
Marie Camin is captured at Dieppe and imprisoned at a convent
Frederic gives up his option to buy a farm near London
Worries about the dragonnades in Rouen
Romain De Hooghe's 1693 regional chart of Normandy,
extending from Rouen (red) to Abbeville (green) and centered on Dieppe (blue).
Le Havre (yellow) is at the mouth of the Seine on the left.
Click to enlarge. Source:
September 2, 1685 - Frederic, now at London, received Letter #99 from Mother at Le Havre.
31 August 1685
Le Havre, France
My dear son
I received yours of the 20th of this month. I was greatly surprised by your swift departure. I at least expected that you would come to say goodbye since we don't know if we'll ever have the joy of seeing you again - something which brought tears to my eyes, as it has again right now - and also the attitude between you and Mr. Oursel over the money. I don't want to excuse one or the other knowing only that both of you are abrupt. I regret I was so distant and, having so little ability to remedy things, I don't know why you said that I could. I really don't know what your quarrel is. Anyway, my son, put everything behind you and rest assured that Mr. Oursel will always be ready to be of service to you. I spoke to him about satisfying you before I received your letter because he could say farewell now that the vessel had returned loaded. He said he would do it and I would take care that he did. In 3 weeks he'll be in Rouen. So write him and don't think anymore about it. I would say that your engagement is a fine occasion to have him serve you and it would make me most happy. I pray God that He blesses you abundantly and causes all your desires to succeed.
Enclosed is the pressing instalment for your settlement for 1100# which should maintain you. You'll have to work hard and be resourceful while waiting for the rest, buying only what's necessary. Then presently, little by little, you'll have what you need. My dear son, I would like to be able to help you and it would be my total joy to be able to live in the midst of my dear family, but alas this is quite a sorrowful situation. I am indeed sad but the good God will bring this to pass someday in heaven because I see only strife and death in this country. He will protect us.
I regret that you didn't come to see me with Miss Mayon. I would have gladly paid for your trip. Since my return from Rouen I made a floor cushion for both you and your brother which I will send you some day. Your sister Manon thanks you very much for thinking of her and the kindness that you showed her.
I hasten to have Miss Mayon married but she still isn't finished which disturbs me. [Apparently Mayon (Marie Camin) was now at Dieppe after trying to finalize the settlement of the Abbeville estate that she and her aunt had inherited.] However, one must have patience in all things. I don't know if she will find the people to serve you in the French method. I also don't know if your brother will have finished his inheritance affairs. Goodbye my son. I kiss you. Mr. Oursel and your sisters greet you. Your affectionate mother...
PS - When you see our friends, please convey my affectionate greetings.
September 3, 1685 - Frederic, now at London, received Letter #98 from grandmother Rachel Tacquelet at St. Quentin.
Rachel Tacquelet writes again from St. Quentin, her old hometown, and center of
the Crommelin linen industry which she used to own with her husband, Jean Crommelin.
24 August 1685
Saint Quentin, France
My very dear son,
I have just received your letter of the 6/16 written from London. I thought you were now in Holland! My dear daughter, your good mother, told me that earlier, and that you expect to marry your sweetheart. I would have had joy learning that since I would be near you and I fear the risk in making the crossing. I pray the Eternel to have his good angel accompany you to protect you through all dangers and that He pours out His precious blessing on your holy matrimony. May it succeed to His glory, and to your well-being and contentment, to live in His fear on a farm like your uncle Daniel. I don't know if you will be far from him. He says he is managing alright and is working hard. I ardently pray the good God bless you, enabling you to live in peace with honor.
Some time ago my daughter, your mother, told me that your sweetheart was at Dieppe to do a division with her aunt [of an estate at Abbeville bequeathed by Marie Camin's parents]. I don't doubt you'll be told that Mr. Oursel reached an amiable accord with your brother regarding their differences which makes me happy. Also that their vessel arrived home safely well loaded which will be a big help to them in paying you off, dear son, by the grace of God.
As for the wedding gift I see that my daughter and your aunt du Chemin would give this and then you would get married. She believed this would be at Paris but you have since gone away. I had this way of giving you the 10 gold louis [coins] sooner but now, if agreeable, it will have to come with your fiancee. If she were still at Rouen it would have been easier.
I will say, dear son, that I just got over a bad illness with a strong fever but it pleased God to relieve me somewhat. Although my desire is to live with Christ, my hour still hasn't come. It still pleases God to leave me on the earth. I pray the Creator to strengthen us all and beg our Savior by His hand to please guide us so that we might live faithful to Him unto death. It is to His holy keeping that I commend you, along with all our friends. May He preserve the Testarts who salute you and all our relations. I kiss you all affectionately being, dear son, your good grandmother, Rachel Tacquelet
Marie Camin's Capture at Dieppe
There always came new prohibitions from the Counseil against leaving the kingom with ever-worsening penalties such as promising informants to receive part of the goods confiscated from those who fled. Yet they came, despite penalties degrading and corporal. All this only increased the resolve to leave by the most zealous and wise amongst the Protestants.
It led to a number of interesting people embarking at Dieppe but which met with an unfortunate outcome. A yacht of the King of England was in the harbor ready to return full of fugitives who had entered it during the night. Contrary to the respect and safety which is due at all times to vessels of a royal neighbour, a friendly power, the officer of Dieppe with clergy undertook to visit this one in order to, as they claimed, remove subjects of the King which they asserted were hidden aboard.
The captain of the yacht first became obstinate, refusing the inspection. He prepared his cannon, armed his crew, and he himself, with saber in hand, swore that, if he was not left in peace he would fire against the city and would lay low anyone who approached. The standoff continued until Mirandole, Lieutenant of the Governor's guards, arrived full of fury, screaming seditiously that all good catholics and subjects of the King who wished could take up arms against the Huguenots both inside and outside the vessel in order to extract the former. This turmoil gave a great scare to the Protestants who lived close to the harbor. They feared the disorder that would inevitably ensue if the yacht captain was forced to make good on his resolution to fire on those who approached, seeing that he was determined to do so when they saw him slash at the head of a young fool, de Tierceville, who unwisely drew near, sword in hand. If he hadn't retreated quickly, the calamity would have happened.
Marie Camin was imprisoned here before being sent to a convent.
As this situation happened in the evening, the officer and clergy withdrew until the next day. They kept the soldiers of the Chateau to guard the vessel and they armed some papist peasants to guard the avenues and roads which led to the port. These posed as sentinels at the intersections in the neighbourhood. This uncouthness forced the Protestants to return to their homes after the tumult began.
The sieur David Chauvel, viscount, restored the peace when he spoke to the captain of the yacht who finally consented to an inspection. Apparently he was convinced that no fugitives could be found since they had all been hidden well enough. Unfortunately one plank which someone had forgotten to nail down half-opened leading to the discovery and removal of several honest people who had taken refuge against the unbridled injustice which then pervaded the kingdom.
Some ladies from the better families of Rouen, found themselves engulfed in this disaster. All were put in prison or in the convents where they suffered a lot. Some were there for a long time, others less, according to the whim of the enemies. Some left only after renouncing their religion in the time of the dragonnades.
In the harbor of Dieppe there appeared a royal yacht from England. It received a lot of visitors who came to admire its amenities. The king's prosecutor, having some suspicions, gave the pilot an order not to leave without speaking to him first. The commander of the yacht objected on the grounds that the winds were fair now that he wished to leave and, besides, his yacht was an English vessel not subject to inspection. The prosecutor cited orders from his superiors and returned to the boat accompanied by the interpreter Levasseur. He said to the bailiff Boullard and other servants of the admiralty to stay on the quai where a throng of people were stationed.
The inspection was prompt in the usual places of the vessel. One of the rooms was examined more carefully, for, having noticed that the entrance below had been blocked and barricaded by various ropes and implements, he wondered whether this could be the hiding place for some fugitives. He looked over the floor of the room. He noticed one long board which didn't seem to fit properly at the joint. He pryed it apart using a strong Dutch knife that the interpreter had with him who quickly jammed his cane into the crack. Using both hands to turn over the board they discovered legs and arms that were furtively moving away, but it was too late. The officer, having uncovered the mystery, said to the English captain via the interpreter that he no longer had to pretend because the fugitives had apparently been taken by surprise, and he requested him to have the entrance disentangled to facilitate the removal of his captives right away. It pleased the king's prosecutor to count about ten attractive ladies of good standing who were taken by junior officers to his headquarters for questioning. He then informed the intendant and the minister of the arrest which he had come to make.
The ten ladies were set off again to three convents: the Religeuses Hospitalieres, the Ursulines and the Benedictines of Dieppe. They stayed there several months without giving any evidence of a true conversion except for mademoiselle Pain, the prettiest one, who married a prosecutor of the Parlement of Rouen. The nine others remained steadfast in their beliefs and were sent back by orders of the Court to their relatives who had taken care of their room and board in exchange for the priviledge of visiting them and strengthening them in their devotion to the gospel.
God does not give his invigorating grace, says the manuscript, to all those who suppose a belief in Him; He gives mercy to those who please Him and He abandons those who wish to live in their hardness, as the scriptures declare. This arrest gave rise to the following epigram:
The apostles of Jesus Christ
Were by Him made into fishers of men,
But one sees the times in which we live
As a king's prosecutor, pushing the same spirit,
Enters into a vessel, lifts the hatches,
And becomes the fisher of ten girls;
So that their false communion
Does not cross over to England,
The king, who conquered them by a soft war,
Forces them, for their own good, to accept true religion.
Source: (see P. 268)
September 10, 1685 - Letter from Frederic at London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, chez Madame Allard, Rue des Patissiers, in Dieppe (after her capture). - [Original first page is missing...]
It is only too true, my dear sweetheart, that our fears have been realized. You are a prisoner and perhaps being mistreated (1). I have this confirmed by a girl who fortunately escaped the barbarity of the tyrants. 'Wish to God that I were with you so that I could divide your suffering. That would be an unspeakable joy...
Let's therefore look to deliver you from the bad situation where you are. Firstly, I would say that you did wrong by gambling on this exteme risk. You received very bad advice to embark with so many people. I pray God that He does not allow you to be persecuted to the point which is talked about here. On the contrary, I pray that He wishes to give you a good and prompt release. If that succeeds, as one must hope, leave immediately for Rouen or Abbeville where you can join with a good faithful farmer with whom you can take to the road disguised as a peasant. Take the road to Arras, Tournay, or some other distant village which will take you to Nieuport where I will be waiting for you, or at Dover. Try to avoid going through towns where you might be recognized. Above all, play your role well and don't carry anything more than you need. Leave your most precious valuables in the hands of some friend who can be trusted to send it to me here, otherwise you could be robbed along the way. You could also go via Saint Quentin where you won't lack friends.
Frederic's fanciful escape route would have Marie travel to Tournay, then Nieuport (next to Dunkirk) where he would be waiting for her on the coast. Click to enlarge.
Finally, my dear mistress, get good advice and don't do anything unless it's absolutely safe, but what use is it for me to write you all this? You're probably not even in a position to put this into effect. My God, I'm nothing but an unfortunate soul mixing up more agony.
The mail hasn't arrived for two days so I don't have any of your letters which grieves me. I wrote you via the last courier dated 2/17. I continue to do what I can to sever our [farm] purchase in order to stay close to Mr. Crommelin, but I'm apprehensive about that because it will likely cost us a terrible amount. Indeed, I certainly could use your help to encourage me in this. Never have I seen a nation so interesting as this one, nor one that draws its affairs out so long which puts me in a terrible depression. Nevertheless, I won't overlook anything to get us settled. I will do all I can in the world for our advancement. I pray you to believe that all that I'm doing is for our betterment. I won't do anything hasty. Our friends give me their advice since a beginning must be made and nothing is undertaken lightly. We were unfortunate to have engaged such a poor correspondent.
My dear sweetheart, leave for Abbeville as soon as you get this letter if you are at liberty to do so, and inform me of your final resolution. Tell me what I should do and where I can wait for you. I won't rest until I hear from you, so write me to say all that I can do for you.
Goodbye, my dearest. I will pray to God for you. Your caring and faithful lover who shares in your misfortune.
(1) Here is an excerpt from Philippe Legendre's 'History of the Persecution at Rouen', page 80, where he mentions the capture of Marie Camin:"The Lady Gontier and her older daughter, the Ladies Elizabeth and Marie Vandale. The two daughters of sire Cardel, elder. The Ladies le Cornu, mother and daughter. The second daughter of sire Gontier and a Miss Camin taken from a yacht at Dieppe while they were passing over to England, and still others whose names we didn't get before we fell in divers times and ways into the hands of our enemies. God withdrew most of them without their having given in. They left there, some sooner, others later...”
September 1685 - Letter #99a from fiancee Marie Camin.
The affliction and sorrow that I am undergoing, my very dear lover, does not allow me to fully express my misfortune. You can inform Captain Coole that what has happened to me has put me in a pitiful state. The thought of our separation is killing me, and if the trouble I've had leads to my death, I surrender to the grace of God. My dear heart, one must submit to His holy providence. If it isn't His will that we should live together, may His will be done. But always be assured of my faith which will remain inviolate and that I will love you until my last breath. I will always be faithful even should we suffer the misfortune of never seeing each other again. My love will never diminish; never will anyone but you possess me.
In my sadness, I have the good fortune to have friends like those who occupy themselves on my behalf. I will never be able to express my thanks for their services. I'm also fortunate in not having been imprisoned like the others. Two guarantees were accepted for them to represent me. However, it is a matter that will cost me a lot which I don't think can be done with the money that I have. This saddens me.
Write your brother so that he will find you to keep you company. When you write me, don't mention anything about your affairs or what you're doing because I'm afraid that your letters will be opened. Address your letters under cover of Mr. Lelarge and don't mention my name at all on the cover of the letter that you write me.
Tell only Mr. Lelarge to write it so that no one notices that it's coming from London rather than Abbeville. Also change occasionally the title and seal. Write me in a veiled way. I am staying without clothes, without linen, and without anything. Take care to withdraw the yacht which is engraved in my memory. The enclosed note from Madame Lejeune will enable you to speak to the captain of the yacht whose name is Coole.
The paquet of letters which I instructed to be delivered to the master are, in fact, your letters and all my other papers. No doubt this affair is going to cause you immense grief, but there's no other remedy. It's a thing that should never have happened and something that I believe will cause a commotion. May God have pity on us all and me in particular. Thanks be to God I'm doing alright considering my situation. As for you, my dear lover, your mood, which I'm familiar with, will leave you overcome with sorrow. But take heart, I pray, and latch on to someone who can stay with you. When you write me, never mention your address or what you're doing. I will address all your letters to my cousin Durand. [One of the sons of Jacques Durand of Rouen who had settled in London.]
My dear one, let's always have hope despite our separation. The good Lord wishes it so also, and it's for us to submit ourselves to his will. He is good and full of mercy. It is He who is afflicting us, but He is also the One who will console us, and rest assured that all things turn out well for those whom He loves. Let's pray urgently that it pleases Him to send us what He deems expedient for his peace and our well-being, and that He gives us the grace not to murmur, and to have patience in the afflictions which it pleases Him to send us. Let's put a finger to our lips and whisper, "Lord, Thy will be done!" I am with all my heart... Mayon
September 24, 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
14/24 September 1685
My very dear sweetheart, I am so overwhelmed and full of pain that I don't know where to begin my complaints. I have wished to die several times in my life but it's now that I wish it more than ever. My God, my God, take me out of this world or have pity on me. Nevertheless your will be done.
Your dear letter, sweetheart, put me in such a deep sorrow that I don't know what will happen. I don't sleep at night, and I pass the day languidly alone in my room most of the time, or I'm just listless thinking about the misfortune that has befallen you. But even that counts for nothing compared to what I've just learned, which is that you have been ordered to be locked up in a convent for which an appeal went out. No, death with all its horror would not hold as much terror as this news which makes me shudder.
What do you want me to do, dear love, to get you out of this accursed place? What peril do you want me to be exposed to? Tell me and withold nothing. I'm up to any task. My life is yours; you know that. You can dispose of what little goods I have, so tell me, word for word, what I must do because I can't go on living like this. Dear Lord, help me or I'll succumb. Write me, dear heart, all that I can do and don't leave me to die miserable without getting your news. My thoughts assail me and leave me despondent. If it weren't for this horrid incident we'd be quite happy right now. We would be saying the most loving and sincere things that we could express. We have an inviolable love that will endure forever. In a word, we are one in heart and love, but since God does not want this for us so soon, let's take courage and not fail to seek His mercy. Let's kiss the hand that smites us. Undoubtedly it's for our sins that God is chastising us. We deeply regret having offended Him and may He forgive us. For you, my dear heart, take this in whatever way applies to your situation, but above all, do not offend God. No longer wish for death but rather live and preserve yourself for my sake. Think what state you are putting your dear and faithful lover in. Let's go on loving, my dear sweetheart, in spite of everything. I will never let you go, and never will I love another.
As soon as I received your letter I went 5 miles from here to where all the seafarers live to find out where your clothes might be, but the yacht had already set off again for Dieppe. I spoke to the wife of the captain who said that she thought she had your purse with all your jewelry. I also went to three or four other homes. One said that she had something, but that they were instructed not to return anything until their husbands had returned. Others said they didn't have anything, while others said that their husbands had carried back with them what they had.
I see by your memoir that you had given the master a package to keep. You should know that he has a very bad reputation here and that he was fired from his job. I've been to his place. I was told that he wasn't home although I'm certain that he was. Therefore I suspect that this may be lost. What I find annoying is that these people live so far away. Finally, I'll do whatever I can to retrieve your belongings. Speak to them at Dieppe so that they will write here explaining what can be returned to me. The yacht won't be here for a while because from Dieppe it has to go to Portsmouth. From there it returns to Dieppe or goes to Holland.
Write your cousin so that he'll give me the present value of his ticket so that if your property is confiscated only your worldly goods are seized. [Perhaps Frederic is trying to have her money transferred over to him.] I can forfeit our purchase of some f55 (pounds). [Frederic had placed an option to purchase a large farm at Greenway Court, Kent, near London which they had planned to buy and operate.] It's a lot of money, but what do you want me to do? We made a mistake. However, it's better that we suspend it sooner than later for according to God we will be recompensed when it pleases Him. I had envisaged being neighbors to Mr. [Daniel] Crommelin. We will be most unfortunate if we don't succeed. We would stay at his place while waiting for the month of March to arrive. He was most gracious to me and you also. But what good is it to think about all this when we can never see ourselves being there? I pray God with all my heart that He causes me to die and that He takes me back to Him.
There is great sadness here to learn about the havoc that the dragonnades are creating in France. Entire provinces are recoiling in fear and terror. Pray God that your faith does not succumb. My dear heart, your affliction touches me so deeply I can't express the displeasure I have. I'm more dead than alive, and I've never been so disgusted with life.
'Dragonnades' were the forced billeting of a number of Catholic dragoons in Protestant homes where the soldiers would beat, intimidate, and cause so much destruction that the homeowners would often abjure simply to get the soldiers to leave or behave themselves.
September 1685 - Letter #99b to Frederic in London from his younger brother, Jean de Coninck, at Rouen.
My dear brother,
Since it's said that bad news travels fast, I don't doubt that you are already aware of the misfortune that befell Miss Mayon along with all the particulars of her capture, including that of several other girls who were in the same yacht at Dieppe. They are all prisoners. The judge of the place has ordered that they be put in a convent where they had appealed to the Crown to be kept. They were granted this request, and they urged the judge at Dieppe that everyone involved in this matter be informed immediately and to send this information to the parlement [a court with law-making powers]. We are waiting to see how this all turns out. God willing we'll have a good report.
I assure you that this affair gives me great sorrow. However, if they get transferred here, we will try to go and console her, but I don't dare write. Nevertheless be persuaded that I will spare no expense in attempting to extract her from this unfortunate situation. Her cousin and family [Jean Camin, his wife Catherine de Coninck, and their children] aren't here any longer having been forced to flee which is a concern because that leaves only me. However, one must have patience and put everything in the hands of God believing that all will go well by His grace. Of this you must be persuaded. Your humble and obedient servant, Jean de Coninck
PS - Monsieur my brother, I believe that you have presently become a country person residing in a village. I wish you all sorts of prosperity. My husband is quite concerned about all these misfortunes that assail you. We don't know when we will be leaving. God willing He will have pity on us. We will live here [at Rouen] as long as we can manage. Marthe Duval
21 September/1 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
I just received, my dear lover, your letter of 24 September. I believe that you will have duly received the ones I wrote on 10/20, 14/24, and my last one of 17/27 under cover of my older brother [Francois] to whom I have given instructions to give you all that you need. Tell me as soon as you get this if that suffices, otherwise I'll arrange immediately for you to get all that you need. You know the offer I made you, which is that everything mine is yours and you can have access to this property as though it were yours.
I'm sorry, my dear mistress, that my letters have upset you. It certainly wasn't my intention. You didn't quite understand their meaning too well. You know, dear heart, that I love you more than I can say, and if you reflected on the letters that I wrote you, you will agree that I'm writing you not as a lover, but as a husband who loves and cherishes you a thousand times more than he does even himself. I tell you generally all that is in my heart and I don't hide anything from you. Please do the same, in God's name, and don't make me feel bad because I have more sorrow than I know I can bear. I'm like a man to whom life is nothing but a horror. Judge for yourself if anyone but yourself could make me feel this way. I'm quite satisfied that you have a high opinion of our relationship. We will have reason to thank God if you are allowed to leave.
Regarding our great transaction, I regret and am greatly saddened that it has dragged on for so long. [The purchase of a large farm, the place in the countryside on which Frederic apparently placed a down payment.] Come quickly and judge for yourself if what I told you is good. Do it without delay because things will expire!
I don't stop praying for you. I wrote my mother that she might write to console you, and also to my brother [Francois] that he sees you and keeps you company in case you get taken to Rouen, but don't go there unless it's necessary. Go as soon as you can to Abbeville or Amiens and do what I told you if there's no danger. Disguise yourself well and be bold. God willing that He will accompany and guide you in all that you will do.
I have received a small package for you consisting of 6 spoons and 6 forks, and a device for hanging keys. Cousin Cabinet was able to send all that he has. He couldn't ignore such a grand occasion. Speak to him via my brother because if the dragonnades go to Rouen, all will be lost.
Captain Coole is here. He went to Lindfor (?) where the King is now and has returned. I'll go to his place on Wednesday to remove what he has. I'll try to get whatever hasn't been lost. I went to see Miss Gontier today [no doubt one of Marie Camin's companions in misfortune] but she wasn't home. Since she's staying so far away, and my new shoes hurt so much, I'll have to try another time. On Friday I went to speak with my landlord [perhaps the vendor of the farm]... I fear that the departure of the people from the old palace worsens your cause. Write me often. I pray you give me more details. Tell me all that is on your heart...
There is beautiful land available for rent close to Mr. Crommelin, but I don't want to do anything without your opinion, therefore send it to me quickly. My uncle promised us his beautiful room while we wait to come together, so hurry lest my brother Jean gets here before you do! My dear heart, oblige me in certain other things which you haven't done until now. Show me more love and affection, and a bit more feeling. Connect more with my tenderness and above all, remember your thoughtful and dear and faithful lover, FDC.
29 September 1685 - St. Quentin
Godparents Samuel Mettayer, son of Pastor Samuel Mettayer,
and Caterine Marie Crommelin (1671- ) [age 13] daughter of
Samuel Crommelin and Madelaine Testart. She married
(1)Jean de Roulas, captain of the Swiss Regiment of Holsteyn-Norberg in 1699,
and (2)Jean Francois Le Rouzier in 1709 in Haarlem.
[This entry begins in the handwriting of pastor Samuel Mettayer
and appears to be finished in that of his son, Samuel. There
was immense tension around this time. Pastors had only 15 days
to leave France or be condemned to become a galley slave.]
Click to enlarge.
3 October 1685 - Frederic at London received Letter #100 from Mother at Le Havre.
1 October 1685
My dear son,
I received the letter that you wrote me under cover of Miss Mayon being at Abbeville. I gave you a quick reply and put yours under her cover for her to forward since I don't know your address. But she has since gone to Dieppe to settle matters with her uncle Locquin. So there are a lot of changes taking place.
My poor dear Mayon, who I lament without being able to console her, or apparently nothing can be done to release her which I don't doubt friends like Mr. le Vavasseur and similar have tried to do for her. I am with her in spirit continually. I hope the good Lord will remove her so that you can afterward be joined together. Nevertheless, my dear son, this does not minimize the situation. You must be careful in all things. The days are one nightmare after another and incomprehensible. The year has expired and now one must pay.
If it were possible I would like to be next to you to give you some comfort. I and your three sisters wish it so while everything here is going from bad to worse. Now there are terrible arrests which cause us to tremble.
Let me know how everything is going with you and how you are, and if all is at peace. I believe your sister [Manon, Marie Oursel] is home [at Rouen] where she will write you if God has raised her. [Perhaps she had been sick after a period of travel.] I wish the rest of us had the same happiness. Mr. Oursel leaves tomorrow for Rouen to finish up with your brothers. Our vessel left yesterday for Bayonne. The times are slow. May God guide it. I greet you with a kiss. I am your affectionate mother...
4 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
Your letters, my very dear mistress, are like blows from a sword that pierce me to the heart without causing me to die since I see in them only a continuation of the misery of having to wait. It is I, dear love, who am the cause of all the grief that you suffer. Again, if I could share it with you, it would be a joy that I don't know how I could express.
If you had never known me, undoubtedly you would have wanted to flee the persecution, but you would have chosen for your place of refuge some other country than this one which would have been less dangerous to get to. Therefore it's only because of me that you exposed yourself, and it was only to find out whether you were sincere and faithful that I unfortunately became the cause of so much grief suffered by a person who is so dear to me. Alas, O my God! I know that I'm nothing but a miserable sinner who isn't worthy to raise my eyes towards you, but O Lord, I repent. Give us grace for the love of the precious blood of your dear Son. Send us your consoling Spirit who regenerates us and who makes us to suffer with patience the evils that your providence wishes to visit upon us.
I wanted to leave several times, my dear heart, to go and find you but my relatives and friends were always opposed to the idea. They showed me that I wouldn't be able to do anything to help you. On the contrary; it would only delay your matters and inevitably I would be seized which would do nothing but aggravate the situation. Therefore I must be content to pray to God for you and to assist you from here in any way I can. I note that this is also your feeling and that you bid me to do this. I will do this for a while since you wish it, but be assured that if you suffer the misfortune to enter into a convent, then there will be no argument that will be able to restrain me. I will go to see you, my love, but this will be to pull you out of that cursed den, or to acquire the crown of a martyr. It will not be said that you alone will have this honor. I will partake in it jointly with you.
If I didn't fear God, and if it weren't a sin, I would say, go ahead: Change [abjure]. Do your devotions and play your role well so that you're taken out of that wicked place. But it would never please God for such an idea ever to enter my mind. You know that God gives you the grace to repent but at the same time He may ask again for your love by trusting in His actions. These considerations must encourage and strengthen you against temptations of any sort. Our religion is pure and holy. Declare it, my dear mistress, even unto death and may nothing deter you from serving the true and living God. Do not renounce [abjure] the Saviour of the world. You know what He says to those who will be blessed. Do not afflict yourself by doing otherwise, my love, and don't be the cause of my death. God is the master of all. He holds the hearts of men in his hand and can cause them to change when it pleases Him. This is why it's necessary to pray continually so that He will show us favour. If God were to abandon me even to the point where He withdraws His faith from you as you wish, I would pray that He disposes of me at the same time if this is His good pleasure. That way if we don't have the joy to be together here below, at least we'll be together in heaven where we will all live in freedom and sing His praises eternally.
I have plenty to complain about, my dear mistress, regarding your deeming it necessary that I have someone other than you. Have you already forgotten that I am your dear, your unique, your all? Is it necessary that I have to say once more that all that you are is all that I have in the world, and that you are the mistress who can dispose of my assets as you see fit? I've given you everything and I won't take it back unless I don't get a reply to this letter because I see that you have written about it to mademoiselle de la Croix. I also wrote eight days ago to my brother to give you all that you will need in the world. I wrote you under his cover and that letter went under the cover of Madam le Jeune. My brother informed me that he saw one of your letters which you wrote to your cousin who had fled [perhaps the son of Jacques Durand who fled to London] in which you said to him that you needed money and that the above would have to write you soon with an offer. This troubles me because I fear that his letter has been lost. Tell me where he is. It won't be difficult to get from him what you need. I'll write him about it immediately. I don't think he has much, but perhaps better than nothing. So please write me as soon as you get this letter and your instructions will be carried out without delay.
I've just received a letter from my sister at Anvers (Antwerp) saying that some days ago she arrived there with her husband, their two little daughters and Miss Torin [Esther Torin, daughter of Jean Torin and Esther Crommelin]. She makes no mention of her mother-in-law. I must write her tomorrow in order to find out what route they took so I can let you know. Perhaps you can use it if you find it has merit and if God allows you to go out from where you are but, my love, take better precautions if that should happen! Permit me to say that this was the biggest mistake you ever made in your life! Everyone has been talking about it here and they're astonished that a dozen people undertook to embark together from the most dangerous port in all of France!
I jumped out of bed the day before yesterday to pay a visit to Captain Coole. I took from him what belonged to you including a purse in which everything was present except for a louis d'or [gold coin] which was missing. The captain swore that he received it just as he gave it to me therefore it must have passed through other hands. He also returned to me a package wrapped inside your grey gown where nothing seems to be missing. There was another wrapped inside a skirt of black crepose in which there were 3 or 4 small packages of linen and a pair of embroidered shoes. He also gave me a package of papers and letters, which reminds me that yesterday while looking at the ones I wrote you, I saw one that had obviously been opened before it was turned over to you. It's the last one I wrote you at Abbeville when your cousin le Roi sent you off to Dieppe. That really disturbed me, and it was quite dishonest coming from Mr. le Roi who I didn't think capable of such a thing.
I also retrieved from the yacht's carpenter a bag containing a cape, chemise, aprons, handkerchiefs, and other stuff all bearing your initials. Let me know if there's anything else. The road mender told me that he had linen which bore your mark but that it didn't belong to you now because he got it from two men whom he knew well. You'll have to tell me who that might have been. I put together a package of your clothes and brought it to Mr. Browne for safekeeping who is greatly disturbed by your accident. He's the best man in the world. I dined several times at his home and each time we drank to your health. As for your purse, I'll guard it like a precious relic. It's enough for me to know that it belongs to you and thus it is dear to me. You haven't told me if everything inside belongs to you.
I am indeed unfortunate that an artist couldn't be found at Rouen who was skilled enough to do your portrait. This would have been a great consolation for me now. Tell me if you still happen to have mine. I still haven't heard from my landlord. I believe I've tumbled in your sentiments, my dear, by seeking a smaller place than the one we had. I will keep an eye open for something that will suit us. I will be wiser in the future and not do anything rash. You instructed me, my dear, to go to my uncle [Daniel Crommelin] to avoid any expense. It's true that I should do that since I'm being ruined here. I'll obey you but only after I've received a response to this letter after which I'll leave right away.
I won't mention what kind of life I'm leading here. Imagine seeing a person who is in despair, melancholic, pensive, and always with a tear in his eye. That's the state I'm in, and will be, until I see you again, my dear sweetheart, and until I embrace you. It's true that you are a lone orphan, and it's also true that I'm nothing special but, such as I am, I'll never abandon you. I'll always love you until my dying breath. It would be easier for me to forget myself than to ever forget you. Goodbye my dear life. Look after yourself for my sake, and console often your dear and faithful lover, FDC.
PS - If you have too much trouble getting the rest of your silverware to pass through, I think it would be better if you had it sold. I am inconsolable when I think that your cursed predators dare to hold you a long time. God willing that He sends me the patience of his servant Job. Certainly I'll die a thousand deaths until you come but I'll do that willingly if you want. Take special precautions and follow better advice than what you did before. I won't write you for eight days since that's what you want. Farewell my dear mistress. You leave here your dear and faithful Lover who will never be able to be consoled by anything but your coming.
7 October 1685 - Frederic at London received Letter #101 from Mother at Le Havre. Replied October 18.
4 October 1685
My dear son,
Yesterday I received your letter of 27 September that grieved me to see your affliction. But in all our affairs it is necessary to rest and leave everything to the providence of God. Nothing happens by accident. If our poor Mayon suffers, this is to glorify the name of Jesus Christ, since it's through cross and tribulation that one makes one's way to the kingdom of heaven. This good God will not abandon her. He will strengthen her more and more for his glory. It is the mark of His election to suffer for His name. My dear son, don't be so hard on yourself. He will deliver her. She was accompanied, being 10 girls. This is a big misfortune. There were many in the yacht.
I have appealed to your dear sister to bid urgently Mr. Dumont, her cousin, to ask Mr. le Gairchers, who is his friend, to do something for her. You know that when one dares to face this matter, fear takes hold. Do what you can where you are and guard well the things that come your way. There could be plenty of other things if others are taken.
I have received a letter from our dear Mayon the day before yesterday. I sent her a swift reply. Manon [Marie Oursel, her daughter] wrote her also. I was delighted by it because I wasn't certain of her condition. She was still at the Dieppe chateau but I don't know if she's still there. She gave me an address where she can be reached. It's likely she'll have to go into a convent. May God preserve her wherever she goes. Be assured, my poor son, that He will not abandon her. I'll write her as much as I can. She has enough to fear without having to worry about how it's affecting you as well.
I'm greatly surprised that you regret having rented your farm. It's not necessary to go so quickly, and see if you can learn what it's like living in the countryside. Your friends will give you plenty of advice. Anyway, I can't tell you whether you should sell it or not. I think you should get a small farm first while you learn how to manage it. God may be guiding you to give up the 55 pounds Sterling to break up your plans and prepare you for something better. Heed the counsel of your uncle [Daniel] and friends. You give me a lot of bother over this and I would gladly go over there to manage it if it were possible, but I must live and die here.
There are terrible arrests here for those who try to leave, and also one must abandon everything. We would have to leave with nothing at all because, although our vessel came back well loaded, the [whale] oil doesn't fetch a high price because of the troubled times. Now one gets under 30# over a long term. In short, my dear son, I find myself in great distress because of the affliction.
I wrote Mr. Oursel, who is at Rouen having left here last Tuesday, that he tries at Rouen to write you as soon as he gets my letter. I don't know when he'll be at Rouen again. He'll linger there as briefly as possible because there's much talk that we will have the dragonnades. Therefore we are in great dismay, something one dares say in a letter but not verbally. Therefore write Mr. Oursel gently. You left at loggerheads as always, but he can still serve you, and may God give us the strength to be able to come together one day. Then he would again provide you assistance, my son. I worry that you spend your goods so lightly that I die of sorrow. I wrote to have him speak to your aunt. She was instructed to give you the 10 gold louis [coins] from your grandmother [as a wedding present]. She asked you to wait until Mr. Duchemin obtained a passport. [Pierre Duchemin, wife of Esther Crommelin (Catherine Crommelin's sister), was born at Rotterdam and therefore a Dutch citizen. He was permitted to leave France easily.]
Rouen is lost. I have urged your brothers to get away from there. I kiss you, and your sisters send their greetings. May God bless you. Your affectionate mother...
PS - I wrote your uncle D[aniel].
PPS - Yesterday at Rouen there was a big commotion at the "Sacrifice of Abraham" [an inn] where Messers Le Page and Cartaut, minister of Dieppe, were lodged to take them prisoner. They were accused of holding an assembly at the home of Mr. Amsincq which wasn't true. [See the details of this matter in the 2nd part of l'Histoire de l'Eglise Reformee de Dieppe, I, p. 148]
- Antoine Le Page, son of Simeon, a goldsmith at Rouen, and of Mary de Tocqueville, minister at Dieppe since 1678, fled to Holland at the Revocation and there became, in 1695, minister of the Walloon Church of Rotterdam which he served until his death in 1702.
- Moise Cartaut, son of Moise pastor at Dieppe (died 1631) studied at Montauban. Named to Dieppe in 1653, where he exercised his ministry until the Revocation. He abjured in order to stay in France.
- Andre Amsing, a naturalized citizen from Hamburg, sugar merchant at Rouen, husband of Mary Dierquens. He abjured in order to arrange his flight to become a refugee at Hamburg. His wife having refused was thrown into a convent. (Bianquis, La Revocation a Rouen, p. 3.
8 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
I remember, dear mistress, that while saying your last farewell you said while embracing me tenderly, "Farewell my dear Lover. Perhaps I'll never see you again." It seems you anticipate such an unfortunate eventuality. You even complain that I haven't been responsive enough to your sensitivities. I won't say that what you accuse me of, dear heart, is wrong, but you know very well that my love for you is so big that regretfully I can't even find words strong enough to express it. Since I would only like to put forward my love for you and my faithfulness, even when we disagree I wouldn't disobey you. Yes, dear one, I will be faithful. I will love you until my last breath and nobody in the world will be dearer to me than you. God who looks upon the heart knows what I say is true. May God punish me and deprive me for evermore of his holy presence if what I say isn't the truth. I can say that the love I have for you exceeds the borders of reason. I cry in anguish night and day. I've shed more tears since your misfortune than in the whole rest of my life. You be the judge, my dear, of the state that I'm in. Alas, my God, if I don't see you again soon I'll languish for another long time.
Your letter of the first of this month put a little hope back in me since one courtcase will soon be over. God is merciful. Undoubtedly He will have pity for our tears. May He preserve you in that place and deliver you by His powerful arms. Come after that, dear heart, and don't delay. Everyone has arrived well at Rotterdam. I wrote them on Friday. Please don't take any money from my brother [Francois] because I will remit some when I get a response to the last letter I wrote you requesting instructions.
I already told you that I retrieved your clothes. The report I got from Miss Goutier mentions several chemises, however I only received one. Tell me something about the others. If I thought you would be free in the time that you suggest, I don't see...
...I have been running all day for that. We ought to engage tomorrow a fine lawyer on this subject. It's nearly midnight and time to go to bed. I'll write more in my next one. Farewell my dear mistress, my dear heart. You will always be everything to me so don't forget your dear and faithful...
11 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
Yes, my very dear heart, I will love you forever. I take God as my witness so that He alone will be the guarantor of the faith that I have sworn to you. He who alone knows the thoughts of a man will punish me and never give me mercy if I ever love another. He knows if I lie to you and aren't telling the truth. He would refuse me for evermore his holy paradise and show me no grace if you aren't the sole object of my love. It is you, my dear heart, you only who I love, and will love for the whole of my life. I'll adore you to the end and never know how to adequately express it. What misfortune, dear Love, that we had formed such happy plans to be together when all of a sudden we were ripped apart. Alas! O God, even though your wrath be upon us, take pity on us, O Lord, or we die.
What should I do, dear heart, and why don't you write me anymore after saying an eternel Farewell? Ah! You can't imagine what you've said to me, and the pitiful state you've put me in! Forgive me, my dear heart. I don't even know anymore what I'm saying. Forgive me for all this grief. No doubt you're giving up on the miserable folks who torment you and never give you peace. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Please, Lord, support your servant; give her your good Spirit who strengthens; who enables her to profess firmly your truth until death so that nothing will be able to turn her from steadfastness which is her duty to you. Make her to confess here below your Son Jesus, our Redeemer, even as you confess her before God who is our Father so that she will have fought the good fight so that you might put the glorious crown on her head, doing that in your midst while on your throne. All I can do, my dear heart, is to pray to our great God that He will deliver you by his powerful arm. This I do continually. Pray also for me, my sweet mistress, who am your dear Lover so that God sends me His Spirit of consolation to bear with patience the evil it pleases Him to send us, and so that I don't murmur against his holy providence.
In doing this, I ask you two things, my dear heart. Firstly I urge you to love God; to fear Him, and to be faithful unto Him until your last breath. I won't say anything more about this. You too are well instructed. Your letters edify me so much, in fact no letters in the world are better written and more consoling. I have them all. I will take precious care to preserve them. [Unfortunately these letters have not been recovered.]
The second thing I ask is that you love me always. Keep faithfully the love you have given me so that nothing in the world can turn you away from me. Love me, therefore, my dear sweetheart. Love your dear and only one. For me this will be a subject of joy, just knowing that I am always dear to you. Alas! What tears I've shed for you and will again!
I see that you instruct me to amuse myself. Can you really offer me such advice? Don't you know that you are my dear and faithful one; my only hope and joy? If your love wish is to be attached to mine, my desire is nothing less than to be united with you. Therefore the way to be joyous until I see you through this affliction and misery is to stop, dear heart, - stop, dear Lover - from saying things like that, and to console me in another way. If God doesn't have pity on me, I know what I will become because sorrow drives me to the point of death. You say that I should write so that your ticket [money in safekeeping with her cousin] gets returned. This I won't do. I no longer need anything since you aren't with me. The most deserted place in the future will be my home. This is where I'll spend the rest of my sad life and where all my complaints will resound. This is where I won't be interrupted by anybody, I pray God most fervently, and no doubt He will reflect on my cries and tears. Return to me, Lord, my dear companion and deliver her from the hand of her enemies and their grip. We are the children of God and it is in you only that we put all our trust. You see, dear heart, that I am inconsolable. Yes, I am, and I'll stay that way until I see you, and kiss you, my dear sweet mistress.
Let me know how you are being treated; everything that you're being told; and how long you expect to be held in that place. Above all, hide my letters and yours also because they will be taken from you. I don't know if you will have received my last letter. It was late when I carried it to the post office. I found the door shut so I managed to throw it into the office from over the wall. It went under the same cover as this one here. I'll wait for a reply to the one I wrote you eight days ago after which I'll proceed to get what you need.
Don't take anything from my brother [Francois]. He sent me back a letter that I wrote you under his cover. If I happen to be in the countryside [visiting with Daniel Crommelin], don't stop writing me because of that. As for me, I'll make known to you my news whenever I can. By this you will know, dear heart, what kind of life I'm leading and what kind of satisfaction I'm able to have. I still haven't made the big purchase [of the farm]. Some new chicanery was done to me that upset me. Take good care of yourself, I pray, and tell me how your health is. Right now I've got a cold and a bad headache.
Goodbye my very dear sweetheart, my dear mistress. I won't stop crying and moaning over you. Goodbye my dear lover; you are my everything. Goodbye my love; it's only for you that I wish to go on living. Once more, Adieu. I'll never love anyone other than you as long as I live and until I die. Your dear, tender, and faithful lover...
PS - Please greet affectionately for me all those who serve you, especially messieurs Allard and their families. I will try by every means to acknowledge the pains they have taken for you. Goodbye, my dear sweet heart. All arrived safely in Holland.
18 October 1685 - Letter from Frederic in London to his fiancee, Marie Camin, at Dieppe.
My dear mistress, I wish my prison were next to yours. Then I would consider myself in a better situation than the one I'm in now, and I would be able to bear with patience the misery that it pleased God to send us. But, my dear, providence would not want it so unless it was to prepare us for a bigger trial. O my God! O my God, come to my help and take pity on my misery. Relent, dear Lord, for we are your children!
If you can't sleep, dear heart, for love of me, rest assured that I sleep even less for you, and you think I'm being insensitive! Far from it, and as God is my witness, I do nothing but wail and moan night and day. I've got you so much on my mind that I often think of going to some place far away. It is you, dear heart, who causes my inner turmoil. What bothers me again is that you give me so little encouragement. Instead of giving me some brief details, you don't say anything! Tell me how you're being treated. Tell me if you have some freedom to walk in the garden; if anyone sees you or speaks to you. Tell me if anyone is working on your legal case and when you expect it might be over. Tell me about the other things I'd like to know, but don't tell me again that you expect to live the rest of your life in that cursed place! You're being cruel and inhumane, so please stop worsening my worries and agony. I charge you once more to tell me the truth and to hide nothing from me. Please lift, Lord, my woes!
My sister wrote me. She appears to be acutely disturbed by your situation. She says that she looks upon you now as her sister and indeed expresses her affection. Unfortunately she didn't mention what road she took which bothers me. I'll write her again tomorrow. She recounted a lady with two daughters who had been locked up in a convent for a long time. They skillfully escaped by jamming two small sticks in the wall and then used them to climb over.
Alas! Dear heart, even should you be fortunate enough to gain your freedom, I don't know how I could have you near me because the gates to the city are tightly guarded. Three children of the servant of Mr. Willet were arrested at Lille in Flanders. May God accompany you and send His holy angels to guide you over safe and remote roads that aren't too intimidating. Take careful measures because there will be no reprieve for you if you are recaptured. Rest in the providence of God who watches continually over the well-being of his children. You know that all their hairs are counted, and that nothing can be done without His permission. Rest, therefore, entirely on this great God and He will not forsake you.
Take money with you so that if you have the misfortune of being arrested, you can bribe the guards. Come and find me, my dear heart. Come to find your dear Lover and have compassion on the pitiful state in which he comes to you, whatever condition that may be. Take care of your health in your flight because this is too costly to neglect. I don't know why you don't want to take anything from me since what's mine is yours. I would only disguise you. This annoys and displeases me.
I believe I've received all your letters, your last one being the 10th. Please continue to write me. I would have reached my final desolation if I were any ordinary person who hadn't heard from you. I'm greatly worried that your letters are being intercepted causing them to be delivered late. Above all take care lest anyone observes you. It's better that you don't write me than that I lose you. I'm sorry that someone intercepts my letters and that yours are being delivered so late. I wrote you something via all the couriers. You should have received mine of the 4-8-11 and 15 of this month. Tell me if writing under the cover of madame le Jeune is alright.
I believe my brothers enroute replied exactly as I said in my last letter. The post is too strenuous for you. An open carriage will be better for you. My dear heart, for my sake please love me constantly even unto death and rest assured that I will die your dear and faithful Lover. Goodbye, dear. I'm dying of boredom here. I kiss you affectionately...
October 22, 1685 - Frederic at London received Letter #102 from Mother at Le Havre. Replied October 25.
15 October 1685
My dear son,
Fifteen days ago I received your letter under cover of your cousin Jean de la Chambre [in London]. I also wrote to your uncle [Daniel] a letter which I hope arrived alright. Since then I've had no news from you which bothers me, not knowing if you intend to sell the farm. In this day money goes quickly, and that worries me a lot. In all your enterprises you do as your mood dictates believing quickly all that one says to you. Nevertheless, in this one it's better to sell it than to be ruined entirely since it pleases God to hold you separate from what you like. I don't think you can manage it alone. Consult your friends.
You can imagine how much sorrow I have. I received a letter from our poor Mayon written on the 6th of this month from the convent des Urselines in Dieppe. They greatly resisted going to that infernal place. They are all there. I haven't received any news from her since. I quickly wrote her, but the gossip of the people is that the judge left the place saying he had no orders to have these poor girls put in the convent. God will come to their relief and deliver them. Let's immediately pray for them that God doesn't abandon them, and that their faith doesn't waver for they will undoubtedly have to bear up under a big battle ahead. But take courage! They will go out victorious through Jesus Christ.
Don't be discouraged, my poor son, for everything turns out well for those who fear God, for it is by this thorny way that we will succeed in reaching the kingdom of heaven. Because you only begin to understand this world, the way may seem rough to you, but, my dear child, one must receive all from the hand of God with patience. For me, I have suffered long in the world, but the suffering of this present time is nothing compared to the glory that is reserved for us in heaven. Therefore, let's take courage in all our afflictions because we are put here to experience all manner of things.
We've received news that the whole Church of Loudun has changed [abjured]. That is terrible. The doctors, apothecaries and surgeons have all closed their shops. We expect all the trades to do the same. Rouen is finished. Some say the threat of the dragonnades is imminent while others say they won't come at all, but that we'll be getting something just as bad. May God help us.
Mr. Oursel is again at Rouen. I expect him here shortly. I'm annoyed that you didn't leave anyone a general receipt because now he's worried that all the goods may be seized of those who have fled. Rest assured that we will do whatever we can to put one thing and another under cover. I believe he will have written you. Goodbye, my dear son. May God send an angel for us all. Please don't sign your letters, and date them as originating from Paris. Mayon greets you affectionately.