Frederic de Coninck Letters Translation Project
News of the arrival of Robert Oursel Jr. at Jamaica,
and Death of a Patriarch: Pierre Testart
January 13, 1693 - Letter #139 received from Mother.
Mother: January 7, 1693 - Le Havre
Received: January 13
Replied: May 18
My very dear son and my very dear girl
I received in due time the happy news of the delivery by your wife of a boy that you have named Jean. Alas, this name is most agreeable, and to recall it caused my tears to flow. Someday God will give you another son to name him Francois. May God give you joy in this and bless you all by his grace.
[Jean de CONINCK 1692-1774 married Suzanne Esther de RAPIN-THOYRAS 1710-1785]
I also received the letter that you wrote me together. You wish me an abundance of God's blessings. God willing they shall be realized if He finds it necessary for by well-being. My dear children, pray God that He shortens my days rather than prolongs them. That end would be for me a shelter from all the evil that threatens me, and so much adversity that I can hardly express it. My dear son and daughter, I fervently pray God for your prosperity that our good Lord and father of mercy pours abundantly these divine blessings on you and your family in the course of this year and the multitude that follow to your complete contentment. May God give his peace to all.
You are wrong to accuse Mr. Oursel. He knows he has little influence to turn his son [Robert Oursel Jr.] away from the voyage [to Jamaica], and I as well. However, I believe Robert is going ahead with it with the good counsel of our friends about this, and he hasn't been given good instructions regarding the subsidy of the two poor children. He has a great heart for them, and regards them as his own children. So I can shed no more light on this.
I am well persuaded that my daughter and her husband [Catherine de Coninck and Jean Camin] will take care of everything. He wrote your brother, Francois, but no response. Ten thousand # of income in rent would suit him well. O my God, have pity on me.
My girl, you mentioned that your little Jeannot has stomach trouble.
Have him take a little almond oil to softly draw the fire out of the fever which it soon dissolves. And give him some to soften his stool. It also serves as a purgative.
My girls Esther and Rachel assure you of their respects and wish you a new happy new year. Farewell. I kiss you and am your very affectionate mother...
PS - Tell 'Catin' and 'Marthon' that I pray God that He blesses them. Kiss them for me, and your 3 children.
January 26, 1693
Madame la Marie Torquin [ Written by Marie Camin, Frederic's wife ]
I received with much joy what you wrote me on 9 December because it filled in the silence which existed between us resulting from the... [Difficult handwriting, still to be translated...]
What I received from you lets me know that you que j'ai receu de vous me faisoit croire que vous me n'oubliez plus avoir et commence avec moi et la mort de mon oncle me le confirmois puisque de ne l'ai apritte que long tems apres par autruit. Mais cela n'en pasitre point que je n'en ai ete sensiblement l'autre. Je ne doute point que cette separation ne vous ai ete rud mais enfin il nous fait tous mourir. C'est pourquoi je prie Dieu, ma chere tante, qu'il vous veille consoler.
Je vous remercie des benediction que vus nous donnes dans cette nouvelle annee. Je vous la souhait avoir heureusses priant Dieu qu'il vous conserver en sante et prosperite et toute votre famille le seroit bien aistesdon aprendre des nouvelles et comme le porte ma cousine Manon ete qu'ils sont dans le pays ou ils sont. Je vous suis obligee de la post que vous prenes a ma sante. J'ai acouche le 2 de December dernier d'un garcon et non pas d'une fille comme on vous la dit. Je suis relevee en parfait sante, Dieu merci, et l'enfant le devient fort bien. Il est mon 5th, mais il ne m'en reste que trois: 2 garcon et une fille qui va un an et demi et qui est presentement malade. Ce qui me donne bien de la peine. Je n'ai eu quelle de fille ce que me causeroit bien du chagrin. Si Dieu me la viterois prontement sa sainte volonte soit fait.
Madam de Conink que tire ce jourd'hui sur Mr. van Hille 150 argent de France, qui est la somme que vous nous marques a 8 jours de velle payable a Londres de Mr. Etienne Eudelin, marchand de Rouen. Je vous asseure, ma chere tante, que vous nous fait bien du plaisir de nous remettre quelque notes car nous en avons bien affaire ayant ete ruine au ngosse qui nous avons entrepris et ayant bien de la peine au gagner notre vie. C'est pourquoi nous vous prions de nous remettre le plus que vous pourez et nous vous seront fort obliges. J'ai cherche parmis quelques papiers que j'ai les contrat que vous me mander. Je n'ai rien trouve pour les deroillettes mais j'ai trouve la copie du contrac de la acune de Jean Prenots. C'est le 11 de Fevrier 1662 que le contrac a ete fait par Claude Bouyonnies, et sa veuve a signe la copie qui en a ete fait par le prestre le 4th Juin 1680. Elle s'apelle Marie Hermans. Je ne sais si cela vous donnera quelque larmieu ce que je serai bien aise d'aprendre. J'ai apris que mademoiselle Chauquin est accordee a Mr. Michel. Je vus prie de lui faire mes baisemains et que je lui souhait toutes sorte de bonheur et du joie.
My husband instructs me to inform you of his respect. He has gone on a short trip for 15 days. May God be with him and keep him in good health. He greets my cousin Manon, and I do too. We wish her a happy new year. Adieu, my very dear aunt. I embrace you with all my heart and am... [Marie Camin]
February 1693[Some time in February 1693, the foursome: Daniel Crommelin, Isaac Crommelin, Robert Oursel Jr. and Jean(?) de la Chambre embarked on their questionable voyage of discovery to Jamaica...]
18 May 1693
Madame Caterine Crommelin
In due time I received your dear letter of January 7. I have since received more news from you via my sister. It is with plenty of sadness that I see that my brother insisted on going through with his sordid plans, stumbling about only to ruin everybody if he reaches his goal. But, again, I don't see it as a subject to be alarmed about if he were only beating a retreat and carrying away his own load of money which he still could have had. After that, one would have had a bargain because he's really incapable of running the business he envisions. He hasn't given me any satisfaction either regarding what I've written him, and I've...
received no more news from him. Besides, my dear mother, you mustn't be downhearted. Reflect on the fact that you have a large number of other children, and you have their love which they have the satisfaction of lavishing upon you, and it pleases God that you see how dear you are to us.
Houses along the Schiedam waterfront
As I was living in very cramped surroundings since the arrival of my nieces, I had to resort to buying a house. That is to say that I did it on the mortgage of my capital and by this means we have our own abode - a better deal than before, and the house belongs to me. Other than that my only needs are another bed and quill pens which are getting too expensive. My sister said not to worry about it since you have some furniture, and amongst other things there's a bed available at the home of my aunt du Chemin. [Catherine's sister, Esther Crommelin, married Pierre du Chemin in 1670. Her first husband was Jean Torin whom she married in 1665.]
If you don't mind making me the recipient, I will be most careful with the furnishings, and then if it pleases you, to have them removed into my care. I will follow your instructions immediately with great diligence. If you wish to do me this favor, please also kindly write my aunt about the bed and don't let on that I spoke to you about it. Attached is a letter for my sister 'Manon'. Please give it to her. I greet you affectionately and close with lots of love...
'Manon', younger half-sister of Frederic de Coninck
May 18, 1693
Miss Mary Oursel ['Manon']
I have received your letter with great joy. Thank you for your good wishes, and I am very grateful for the affection you show me. I have no doubt about its overarching sincerity. Be assured that mine is every bit as sincere for you, and that wherever it can have an effect on your interests, or render service to you, I will do it with the greatest pleasure in the world.
If you had wished to evade the persecution by coming to this country, I would have indeed shown you by my actions as well as by my words the attachment I have for you. My affection perhaps wasn't taken up because that didn't happen. Despite all, be assured that I will never forget you. We talk about you often but with regret that we cannot hold you, along with my other two sisters who I also embrace. I close with all my heart...
Francois Leguat Expedition Adventurers
Meanwhile, in another part of the world, Frederic's cousin, Jean Testart, son of Pierre Testart and Rachel Crommelin, was preparing to leave the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean (East Indies) where he and 8 other adventurous Huguenots had spent 2 years in an attempt to colonize the island. Now they had built a home-made boat and hoped to sail it to Mauritius to get back to civilization. An earlier attempt to leave on April 19, 1693 failed when their boat struck a rock. Details:
21 May 1693 - Final departure of the Francois Leguat Expedition adventurers from Rodriguez where they had spent 2 years, 1691-1693.
28 May 1693 - They encountered a storm at sea.
29 May 1693 - They arrive on a small bay of Isle Maurice (Mauritius).
June 1693 - They rest at Black River.
- The Governor pays a visit to Black River.
- The adventurers proceed in their boat to North-West Port.
- They carry their belongings to Flac, and thence by boat to S.E. port
- They are made prisoners at Grand Port and confined to their hut until mid-January, 1694 when they are seized by soldiers and put in the 'stombs'.
Southern half of Mauritius showing Flac in the region of Black River
from where they proceeded by boat to Grand Port where they were taken prisoner.
27 May 1693 - Letter #142 from Mother at Le Havre.DSC_6831.JPG
My very dear son
Yesterday I received your letter of the 18th of this month under cover of your sister that informs me of the death of Madam Camin on the 17th. Seeing a black seal on this letter, a trembling seized me so that I could hardly open it. There is always such profound bad news waiting for me. Alas, God's heavy hand is upon me and killing me under trials of all kinds. My bowels are even against me. And to harass me further, your brother does what he can.
He outlines in detail in a written diatribe that the moment your dear father died I affected him deeply because I didn't remarry at the end of the year instead of waiting nearly 4 years. [About 3 1/2 years elapsed between the death of his father, Francois de Coninck, and Catherine's marriage to her second husband, Robert Oursel Sr.] That is necessary [so that a young boy isn't fatherless for too long]. That is his reasoning which underlies his attitude. I would have been quite miserable to fall into the grip of this notion which he has. He claims that I sold silverware and gold chain which isn't true. O what a wretched individual! He knows I shared everything with you faithfully. I bid you, my dear son, to tell me if you know to whom he sold his gold chain at Rouen. If I had wanted to make ill use of it, it wouldn't have been done mentioning your name. I didn't give away heirlooms twice. On the contrary, and I take God as my witness.
Also, I always enjoyed the revenue from the 'Jardin' but for the last 8 years I haven't received a sou [penny] from it. I paid for the repairs to the big grille gate and a timepiece that came to Rouen. I have since maintained it because it was always being removed. It had a cover that went to the bottom and involved a process one had to follow. A lot has changed. What made you think that someone wanted to buy it from me? I wouldn't have liked that much and, besides, I would have replaced it. It's a pity that the boy has consumed his legacy having lost it grievously. Your brother is devious, hiding his plans. A lazy person never has anything.
As for the feather bed and coverlet which belongs to me and located at the home of my sister, du Chemin, handed down from your grandmother, I've instructed your sister to pick it up so that you can take it until some new instructions come along. I may need it myself, or one of your sisters, should they be able to come and visit you someday. I don't know if it's still at your aunt's home.
Returning to Madam Camin, I think that she would have left you and my daughter, your wife, whatever can be moved. I can be...
fairly sure of that. Mr. Camin and Madam de Vache will lose out. Anyhow, I must close. My dear son and my dear girl, may God keep you in good health this year and give you joy in the house that you've recently purchased. I kiss you along with all my little children. Your affectionate mother...
PS - Mr. Oursel is at Rouen with Manon.
Frederic de Coninck's wife
July 23, 1693
Madame Caterine Crommelin [Written by Mary Camin]
My husband came down with a fierce fever and, having today taken medicines, he isn't able to express even a fraction of the heartache we have on account of our brother. We don't know if it was God's will that he didn't put an end to his dismal plans, but you, my dear mother, you mustn't take things too much to heart or you will be grieved by it through excessive reflection. It is necessary that you be strong to console your other children who will certainly wish you in due time to be near them. So be near to those who will also give you comfort. But God did not allow it. He still wanted you to go through this trial. Don't worry, we will grow old and end with plenty of satisfaction. My sister Camin wrote you today to say that brother Oursel had arrived safely at Jamaica, apparently for some time already.
We received from my aunt du Chemin a bed with coverlet. We also have an old green couch which we received as per your instructions. We believe that my aunt Camin left us something to make curtains. I think I have everything...
except that which is still in transit with the carters. A cousin wrote my sister, but donating some items is impossible because he doesn't have much movement in his arms and legs right now. It will be for another time. My sister .... wrote saying that she can come to this country at the end of this summer. We will have much joy in that. Please greet her affectionately for me, as well as my other sisters.
The worst of the illness that my husband came down with is going away thanks to the relief of the quinquina which he began taking today. I do nothing for it myself. I'm told that one must give God great latitude, but to be well-nourished can also do much to keep us in perfect health if it pleases Him to keep us from catching the fever as well.
As for all my children, our two small nieces are extremely lively and actively doing their chores. They go to school in the morning and after dinner they do their homework. 'Marton' is beginning to talk. Francois is doing well, and my toddlers also.
August 28, 1693 - Letter #140 received from Mother.
Mother: August 22, 1693 - Le Havre
Received: August 28
Replied: August 31
My very dear son
I'm saddened to hear from your sister that you've caught a fierce fever but that the day after her letter you took quinquina. God willing it will bring you relief. This I look forward to finding out. Everywhere in this country a fever is going around. I am also troubled that my daughter, your wife, is also indisposed with fever and great fatigue. I think she probably got it from her children because poor kids seem to catch every nasty thing and can't give any relief to the mother. I've heard so much about people being sick. Ten days ago your sister Manon was taken ill with a fierce fever after about 24 to 26 hours. Presently it got twice as bad but now it's beginning to subside. However, she is still terribly weak. You see, my dear one, how much this good God afflicts me? I would bear all your misfortunes alone if I could.
I'm still being hounded by your older brother. He's no longer a son who I have much affection for. He's become a tiger in my place. He's a mean-spirited individual without heart and without honour, for if he had any courage, wouldn't he be working and applying himself to something? He isn't capable of being a merchant because he's also too careless. But at my behest Mr. Le Maistre offered him some work that would pay 800#. He would only have to live there and be very trustworthy. Or, if he wished, he could be at another location, but no, he would rather wear me down if he can. God give me patience. Goodbye for now. I embrace you. Your affectionate mother...
August 31, 1693
Madame Caterine Crommelin
Your letter of the 22 current gives me both joy and sorrow at the same time. I have the joy to see that you are apparently doing well, but sad to learn that 'Manon' [Marie Oursel] has taken ill. This unsettles me, so much the more because for some time there has been an outbreak of serious fever in every part of the country where you are. I can do nothing but pray God that He will bring her relief, and that it pleases Him to quickly restore her again to perfect health. I wish with all my heart that she could be here. The quinquina of Mr. du Chemin unfailingly takes away the fever. Since I tried it, I am reasonably well again, thanks be to God's grace. And my wife, who took it several times, never caught the fever at all. His son therefore took it as well which pleases me.
I don't doubt that you have much joy in learning that brother Robert arrived in Jamaica. That sentiment is shared by his older half-brother [Francois]. I'm sad, however, that he [Francois] has caused you so much distress. He's a slacker without precedent who doesn't wish to exert himself to do anything, not even accept the job that Mr. Le Maistre wished to offer him. May God touch his heart and have him go back to him.
The attached letter is from my wife which you asked to have put under cover of my sister's letter. But it arrived too late at Rotterdam. My sister had already sent her letter. We embrace you with all our heart, and pray God to preserve you and all those who belong to you. I close...
October 9, 1693 - Letter to Marie Camin from Frederic when he was in Amsterdam on a business trip.
I do not want you to be reproached, my dear wife, for not being a good husband. Therefore I wish to write you and give you the details of my life and activity since I left you. This would be to recover and share with you the highlights since I have a half hour at Overschie to wait for the boat. Thus I will jump suddenly to Tergou where I thought I might be able to gain admission to some cabaret in order to avoid the multitude of East Indian voyagers who made like devils at four o'clock and dried up the wine and the brandy wherever they passed by. Nevertheless in the end I found myself in a pub where by some manner of serving I managed to obtain for 1 p some bread, 1 p of cheese, and 2 p of beer, in all 4 sols which constituted my meal.
After that I was able to get myself well placed in a second boat thinking to avoid the first one which was loaded with Indian sailors. But I was trapped. As soon as I had taken my place, I was astonished to see a horrible number of these sly devils arriving with their clothes of painted fabric, singing, dancing, and with wooden pipes and opium in hand. I believed they had come to rush our boat. You can imagine the racket they made all night and the beautiful music which they sustained along with a band of monkeys that mingled their voices with theirs. But let's leave this Indian experience.
It would take me two pages to relate simply that I arrived in the morning totally exhausted to be in too much of a hurry. However, that didn't prevent me from galloping all day and concluding the purchase of 388 beautiful muscovie hides at 5 5/8 p per hide. I will load them on Monday for Schiedam. I will embark there also with Mr. Godefroy. I invited Mr. Camin to travel to the same place...
Please see if you can give us dinner on Tuesday. While waiting for my departure we will see if there is any way to discover any more news. I also hope to buy some barrels of oil. I think I can get it for f25.5 which is a big difference from the f34.5 that Mr. Radenpyl sells it to me for. Goodbye for now. I embrace you and our children. If time permitted I assure you that I am also as madly in love as when I would write you letters that would take you more than half an hour to read. Your dear and faithful husband, Frederic of Coninck. My respects to all those whom we love.
November 18, 1693
Monsieur Pierre Testart Jr. [in Amsterdam]
[Son of the 'patriarch', Pierre Ciprien Testart Sr. (before 1625-1693, Haarlem) whose first wife was Catherine Bossu. Their children included Anne Testart who married Daniel Crommelin, and Elisabeth Testart who married Jacob Crommelin. Pierre Sr.'s second wife was Rachel Crommelin, (older sister of Daniel) whose son, Jean Testart (of the Francois Leguat expedition, above), died while trying to escape from Mauritius off Madagascar. This Pierre Jr. was his brother, a year older than him. They were sons of Pierre Testart Sr. and Rachel Crommelin. Pierre Sr.'s third wife, Anne Baulier, bore him several more children and pre-deceased him a year earlier, in 1692.
With regard to this Pierre Testart Jr.:
Born 30 March 1663 St.Quentin
Died 3 May 1717 Amsterdam
Married (1) 27 May 1694 Amsterdam
Born 1671 La Rochelle
Buried 10 November 1708 Amsterdam, Walenkerk
Married (2) 22 December 1709 Amsterdam
Geertruyd Slicher, daughter of Mr. Elbert Slicher and
Catharina de Hochepied
Born 20 March 1684
Died 24 December 1742 ]
Although you didn't do me the honor to inform me of the death of my uncle, your father, I do not hesitate to write you. The amity and kinship which we have between us obliges me to do so.
I assure you that this news has touched me deeply. You have lost a good father who tenderly loved his children, and I lost an uncle for whom I had much esteem and affection. Naturally I greatly regret his loss. But as his age advanced, his continual infirmities did not promise him a long life. By His grace, God allowed him to flee the persecution by coming to die and be buried in a land of liberty according to the dictates of his conscience. This must be a consolation for you. Now you have given back entirely what it pleased God to send us. His providence knows better than we do as to what is necessary. I don't doubt that you'll be asking yourself why, and that you will have much to reflect upon. I pray God, cousin, that He strongly protects you, blesses you, and causes you to succeed in all your plans following the desires of your heart.
My wife greets you affectionately and extends the same wishes. Be assured that all that I can do by way of rendering you service, I will do with pleasure always. Please convey my very humble respects to my aunts Crommelin. I close with great sympathy for their grief...