Frederic de Coninck Letters
Robert Oursel Jr. decides to become the orphans' guardian; Chasing overdue accounts;
Anne Testart to visit her father; Regrets at having left England
12 January 1692 - Letter #135 from Mother at Le Havre.
From mother: 12 January 1692 - Le Havre
Replied: 24 March
My very dear son and very dear daughter,
I received together your letters of the 31st of last month. You begin satisfied and then end by finding more faults with what I was told. I bid you to look into it. I don't know anything about it. I was at Le Havre.
You exhort me to take care of the poor orphans. It is fitting and it would have been just in giving their father a portion [of his inheritance money] as it was to you. You, however, were provided for. As for those who said to you that we are doing well in our affairs, I would rather that they had spoken the truth. Mr. Oursel isn't engaged in anything. I wish he would do some proper business to earn a few things which wouldn't be anything for him. In short, you must have patience a little longer since God has diminished us. May God bless you, my dear children, and give you the grace to prosper in your business.
You didn't mention anything about your plans ['to go to Ireland'], and nothing about what your brother thought about it. Perhaps he thinks that you stand firm on this notion. Anyway, he asked me to send you a letter of recommendation [for Ireland] which I did some days ago, and which I think you should have received by now. I know it's a little expression of my concern.
If it were God's will to give us liberty, it would seem like some mistake to me. It seems rather insensitive that it still hasn't happened yet. My dear ones, I kiss you both in turn, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the wishes that you made under God for me. May God return His blessings to you two-fold.
Your brother has no heart which makes it absolutely necessary that I take charge of him. I'm sad that he's annoyed that you asked him how he spends his time. Above all, don't speak to him about me. He would rather be with Caroline. If he wants something, I tell him he should work to save for it, after which he says that he's managed to accumulate a bit. He refused a job saying it didn't pay as much as other jobs he had before. Regarding the situation at Rouen, don't talk to him about that, and burn my letter.
Adieu my son and daughter. I am your very affectionate mother...
18 February 1692
Monsieur Jeremie Le Blanc [in Hamburg]
It is an extraordinary thing that it's necessary for me to write so many appeals to obtain something from you that happens to be so just. It's been a year and a half that I've...
been in anguish over this, and I bid you earnestly to render me justice. Nevertheless it seems to me that you make no effort and this itself is to mock me and brings me immediately back to another time when again nothing was properly concluded. I told you before in various ways to end this matter but it led to no reply. You simply didn't want to do it. I declare this is a real pleasant way to do business and unbecoming of you. Seriously, this behaviour is wrong and if I'm upset then you correctly read my thoughts, but perhaps even that will lead to nothing.
In short, I bid you once more in the name of God to render me prompt justice without delay. In doing so you are much more obligated since I ask it on behalf of 2 minors who no longer have a father or mother. I told you that their situation is desperate and one that cannot be concluded until I've settled with you. This is true. Therefore make haste I bid you, and this letter will be the last one that I'll write you on this subject. I again remind you of the omission on my lace that I bid you to make good. I am...
PS - This letter goes under cover of another friend who I pray will write you in my favor.
18 February 1692
Monsieur Pierre Godefroy [in London]
I take the liberty to send you the enclosure for monsieur Le Blanc. I believe absolutely that this man mocks me and that there's no other way to settle with him other than to have you get your hands on his effects. You promised to do something for me in this matter. I and the family will be most obliged to you. If you find my letter to Le Blanc to be too strong, then I'll write another one. Nevertheless I believe I restrained myself since I don't have a very high regard for the said monsieur.
I believe that Mr. Le Charpentier will have put in your hands the sum of f229:7, proceeds pulled for my account on Mr. Eudelin of Rouen at 90.75 exchange, and bank charges of 5.5. Kindly please remit this sum to me or rather send it in cash when the banks open up. Do this at your convenience since I'm in no hurry. The said Mr. Le Charpentier (please give him my regards) asked me for a receipt to send to Mr. Eudelin. Please tell him that I already sent one to France which discharges the said Mr. Eudelin. If, however, he insists on having one, I must comply, but I don't see what good so many receipts will do. For me it's just a nuisance.
I'm surprised there's so little demand for our leather. Please stain them to bring that to an end. Apply it to the cow hides if you can't do better. I have some others that are lighter and not so thick which will have more demand. Don't forget to send me the calves' hides with hair as soon as water travel opens up again. These people are always content to travel in a way that makes one tremble. I extend my best wishes and also for madamoiselle, your wife, and am...
PS - You lack a half dozen good clients. I cut up the calves hides so you might be happier selling these than the others. I will send them to you but you'll have to get 10.5f otherwise there's no sense doing it. I'm told that the value of lace has increased which might put an end to my stock. I hope you'll also be able to sell those of my late brother. I believe the demand for leather will pick up.
1 March 1692
Monsieur Pierre Godefroy
I hope this letter finds you returning to good health. This I wish with all my heart. Please don't bother sending my letter for Mr. Le Blanc but send back it to me or rip it up. I have received a letter from the said monsieur dated 5/25 [sent/received] of last month in which he sends me an accounting and remits...
f97: for the balance of what he sold, of which there is a great loss. He also instructs me to remove from him what remains in his possession. I wrote to my brother Oursel who a little while ago was declared administrator of the two minors, so that he can put that in order. However, I'm obliged by justice to sell the lace of the deceased, so please continue to be involved in this matter since little or none of it can be sold in our neighborhoods. When it's all sold, I will render an accounting to the said brother Oursel. I am well pleased that you managed to sell a part of it. I told Mr. Camin to send it all to you as soon as the waterways open up again.
When I said that the value of lace had risen, this wasn't simply in regard to mine for I consider myself fortunate to have any kind of plan one way or the other. What I heard is that it should be possible to sell whatever remains. I will receive f350 from Mr. Camin since you wish it. I'm not in a hurry and I can wait as I said before.
With regard to any renewals with the butchers, please wait a while longer. Because we are loaded with leather, we are well pleased to see if we will get from them the sale. Always keep the said butchers in a state of expectation. I'll give you a definite response within a month. Do what you can to get salt at a cheap price. It's impossible for me to furnish you that at present. As soon as you've sold the leather which you have, I'll send you more if you wish.
The day after I received your letter I met Mr. Nottemans here with his brother-in-law. They don't want to sell for less than 14.5. Mr. Nottemans still has about 200 pieces but when that's gone he doesn't plan to work anymore saying that he's lost a lot. I have since been to Rotterdam where I learned that Mr. Camin placed an order on England to buy 120 pieces. He offered Nottemans f14.25 but the other didn't want less than f14.5. I don't know if they reached an agreement since, but if that's so then it couldn't have been more than a shock to Nottemans. His brother-in-law has another customer who I didn't see.
The said Mr. Chamaiseurs must go to Amsterdam as soon as the canals are open. They said they will talk to you. From them you can make your assessments. Otherwise, I'm wholeheartedly at your service, and am...
1 March 1692
Monsieur Jean Durand
I learned from several friends that you were now established at Hamburg and that you are doing well in business. This gives me joy in the hope that at last you might give me the satisfaction that I've been asking from you for so many years. If you can't presently repay me all at once, at least remit a small part of it, and pay me off little by little. Or else, if you wish, I could make a withdrawal from you. If so, please advise how much I should withdraw on a promise to pay via letter.
Please reply and be done with an affair that has caused me plenty of anguish, or at least provide me with some consolation. I hope that you will comply with my request. It would be the way to restore our former friendship. In that hope and awaiting your letters, I wish you all manner of prosperity and offer you my services. I am...
4 March 1692
Monsieur Robert Oursel Jr. [in London]
I was pleased to receive your letter of the 5/15 of last month. This one will reach you via Mr. Nell who set out for England and was quite willing to do this.
The decision you made to declare yourself administrator during the minor years of our nieces is both generous and worthy of a good brother. I'm so much obliged to you I can hardly express it. These children held me cruelly in spirit without me being able to provide any solution. I swear as a man of honor that I would have spared you the trouble if my situation wasn't such as I had mentioned...
in my previous letters, but I promise that if God blesses me in the future, and if ever I see myself in improved circumstances, I will assist you as much as possible and do all I can for the said children. I leave it to your prudence to provide them with a good education. Above all, don't cause them to become too ambitious but maintain them in modest circumstances, being thrifty as much as possible, and have them learn various skills to enable them in good time to earn their living. I hope that you'll be able to obtain at least a portion of their estate revenue, that being a goodly sum. However, it's madness to talk meaningfully on this matter with our Messers. Even when you write Mr. Camin, I doubt he'll bother to reply to this plan. As for me, I no longer dare to speak to him about it.
Monsieur Le Blanc finally replied to me after much difficulty and has sent me an accounting that you will find hereby attached. You will see that he sold only at a loss. He duly remitted the said amount of m120: on which he paid f97: cash on Mr. Gaussen. There remains to be sold 23.5 dozen gloves and 7 cravattes. He told me to take them all away, or if we prefer, he would send them by post to Naarden. Perhaps you have some friends in Hamburg who would be happier than Le Blanc to sell them. However, I advise you to immediately put an end to this one way or the other by removing the remainder of the goods because this man has no integrity and he'll give you trouble following your instructions. I've written him the attached letter which you can send him under your covering letter. He requests a valid discharge which you will please send him after you find everything in order.
Regarding the situation you mentioned about what remains in my hands and those of Mr. Camin, see the note on the other side. The lace, according to the invoice of the deceased, amounts to about f1660. Some money was also found on his person but that shouldn't be reckoned in the accounting because it was used to pay for the expenses of his burial.
With regards to letters, I saw only one from his correspondent in Brussels. If there are others, he took great pains that I wouldn't see anything. When he was handling his luggage I cast my eye into his open suitcase, that's true, but he had opened it behind a folding screen that was between us, and he wouldn't call me over.
Mr. Godefroy sold some lace. I'll send him the remainder to sell as soon as the waterways are open because he has plans to do so sooner and more easily than me. There are about 1/3 left to sell, so far without loss, but as you know it's the most expensive ones and the ones of poorest quality that remain. I hope nevertheless that if there is a loss with these, it won't be a lot. When all are sold, I'll make a request to the magistrates of Rotterdam for their judgment so that I can place the net revenue in your hands. This I will do while you render an exact accounting. That's about all the light I can shed on this right now.
I've been in anguish for a long time over Mr. Camin's request to take back 20 busts which were for nearly three years in the possession of Mr. Jean de Grane. Please try to do this as soon as you can. I'm afraid it might be difficult and it could be a long time before we get around to it again.
I am a man entirely ruined. I greatly regret the moment I left England. It would have been a good plan to go and live in Ireland, but in my present situation it just isn't possible. On this subject, I can't help saying that you didn't tell me whether one could take advantage by way of some friends to obtain a small farm from some Irish rebels. I can see myself seeking refuge over there.
I don't know what our older brother is up to. I'm afraid that someday he will give us grief but maybe he won't succeed. I close by assuring you that I will always have great esteem and affection for you. My wife sends her regards and I as well. I am wholeheartedly...
4 March 1692
Monsieur Jeremie le Blanc
At last, after having been left to languish for a long time, I have received one of your letters dated 1/11 of last month with a tally that returns to the inheritors of my late brother m120: with a balance...
for sales in the amount of f97: which you remitted in currency on Mr. Simon Gaussen. I have sent your statement to my brother Oursel in London who a little while ago was declared administrator of the inheritance of the two minors. This is why you will have no difficulty following his instructions regarding what remains in your possession. If everything is found to be in order, he will give you a valid discharge.
I regret this affair has given you trouble and that it dragged out for so long. You know that it could have ended sooner. With regards, I am...
24 March 1692
Madame Caterine Crommelin
I received the honor of your 2 letters of 26 December and 12 January with another of recommendation. I don't know where my brother got the idea that I intended to go to Ireland. I told him that many people were planning to go there to live and that I would like to establish myself there as well, but at the same time I told him it wasn't possible for me to do such a thing. Having no capital and being entirely ruined, it's not enough to do such projects. These notions are simply fantasy unless you have the means to support yourself, and to execute such plans would require a considerable sum which we both lack.
Enclosed is a letter that I'd like you to give him. I can't understand why he didn't want to accept the job that was offered to him, prefering instead to do nothing and to be under your care rather than earning an honest living himself. Really, it's beyond me, and I can't imagine what reasons he can put forward to explain this.
With regard to our accounts, I ask for nothing more than to see it finished. What bothers me is that you believe everything you're told. Meanwhile there's nothing more true than that he [Robert Oursel Sr.] still owes me 8 to 10 pistoles according to the accounts without counting the enormous injustice he did me in the liquidation. Mr. Le Brun would be able to give you news about that. I must have patience about all this, but despite myself I still talk about it. Always having loved peace and equity, I will be recompensed of these losses when he wishes, and I won't refuse any reasonable settlement.
My uncle Daniel is now off the land. I'm told that my aunt, his wife [Anne Testart], is coming this Spring to see her father [Pierre Testart]. I believe they're ruined, and I have no idea what their intentions are. My wife and I embrace you and greet you humbly, and I am...
24 March 1692
Monsieur Francois de Coninck [in Rouen]
I was pleased to receive your letter of 11 December. I am indeed aware of the esteem you have for me. I bid you to always continue the same and be persuaded that I at the same time have plenty of affection for you, as well as for your activities and interests. I would be happy to be of service to you with all my heart.
Mother sent me a recommendation letter for Ireland. Apparently you told her that I had some inclination to go to this country, but at the same I told you that it was an impossibility since I'm entirely ruined. I find your expectation most noble and I would have been overjoyed to see us well established over there, but both of us lack the principal ingredient, namely plenty of capital. Without that there's nothing I can do. This is a country ruined by the war and it would mean surviving for some time with expenses and no income. It would mean hoping that God would turn things around but that's something we can't effectively do right now. Perhaps it's for another time.
I'd be pleased to know what you're doing with your time. I've heard it said that you could have been employed. Without knowing the reasons which prevented you from accepting it, I wish with all my heart that you will be able to find work of one kind or another. In doing that you will pull yourself outside of being self-centered and would not be like the vagrant who doesn't have or want anything at all. I bid you to receive this good advice as coming from a brother who has an interest in all that touches you, and who wishes ardently for your advancement.
One of my regrets is that mother takes so little interest in our side of the family. With regards to their children, it wouldn't surprise me if they follow in the tracks of their father. What's most displeasing is their haughty attitude. I can't send you the marriage contract of our late brother. I have no papers. All the written stuff is in London.
I wish you all sorts of satisfaction and contentment, and am entirely...