Frederic de Coninck Letters Translation Project
Catherine's Grief; New Babies; Death of Samuel Crommelin; Letter of Inquiry to Anne Testart
January 10, 1694 - Letter #141 received from Mother. Replied on February 15.
Mother: 26 December 1693
Received: 10 January 1694
Replied: February 15
Catherine Crommelin - Jean(?) de la Chambre Jr. - Jean de la Chambre - Robert Oursel Jr.
26 December 1693
I've had your letter for some time and meant to write you, my dear son, but I fear that others aren't in as much pain as I am and, alas, you didn't hear anything from me. Thus you learned somewhat late of the news that God unfortunately put to rest your brother Oursel. That's why I pray God that He shortens my days, so I won't have to suffer much longer. The good Lord has been against me in taking my dear children, two in 3 years. The last one leaving no children. However he regarded his little ones like they belonged to him. I was bitterly opposed to that miserable voyage for their sakes. This poor boy always claimed that he had many debts and that with God's help they would be retired from everyone should their affair go well. Also I'm told that he made them his heirs. Therefore, my dear son, don't be alarmed. God will permit all kinds of hardship from time to time.
As for your cousin Jean de la Chambre, it was he who proposed to your brother to undertake this miserable voyage, he having given his son as a partner, sending the two poor boys to live in that cursed country (Jamaica) which is the tomb of all the world. The desire of your brother wasn't at all to work for him but a desire, with the help of God, to raise up his house again. Our thoughts are not at all those of God. He put the poor son too early into his eternal rest. He leaves me to mourn with a broken heart and sees me shamed by your brother who had the inheritance of your dear father. He reminded me of a small fire. He was in a hurry and toward the end he spoke only of making a fortune.
Monsieur de la Chambre also cast his eyes on your dear father, closing his office and making an inventory of all the furniture and merchandise. Your brother had very bad advice from a braggart who wanted to be well known. This will not at all excuse your brother for the injury which he did me since he was a lazy person who only wanted to work on things that pleased him. It wasn't enough for him to be in possession of the goods of your sister Garelin, he went on to impoverish me by demanding my bread. I have enough trouble existing by being thrifty in light of the big changes taking place in the world which are weighing us down, especially the poor Huguenot who is burdened as much as can be. We can only endure by the grace of God.
For two months Mr. Oursel has been at Rouen. On the death of his son I had him go there in the fear that he might sink under the affliction and wish to be alone. He assures you, as I do, that death to him will be welcome. He is mortified and laments bitterly to everyone at Rouen.
My dear son, my letter on New Year's Day is to wish that God keeps you, your family and my daughter, your wife, in his divinity that you might go in all His ways, and enjoy much prosperity with blessings from heaven and earth, and that He might give us plenty of joy. Blessings always. These are my wishes which I have for you from God with all my heart. Please remember me to my 2 orphan darlings, and your child with love from me. I greet you affectionately. I am, your affectionate mother...
I received the letter you wrote me already some time ago. Monsieur, my dear brother, I thank you for the amity that you have kindly expressed and which I ask you to continue, also my sister, your dear Moitie. Be assured that mine will continue for the rest of my life. I wish you all sorts of blessings in the course of the year that will soon begin, as well as for all the others in which I pray God, Jesus gives plenty of joy and prosperity. I embrace you along with my sister and your small family. I am your very affectionate sister...
January 20, 1694 - Letter #143 received from Mother. Replied on February 15.
Mother: January 13, 1694 - Le Havre
Received: January 20
Replied: February 15
My very dear son and my very dear daughter
I believe you will have received my letter that I wrote you the day after Christmas. I received yours of 31 December. Thank you for your good wishes for this new year. God knows it's necessary for us to obtain some of his grand bounty. With regards to yourselves, I pray God with all my heart that He fills you all the more with his precious blessings and that in this year we might be able to embrace one another. This I ask God with fervor.
With regard to my dear son, and your little nieces, what I know about the affairs of your late brother Oursel, I declare to you before God, is as little as a new-born babe, and the same with Mr. Oursel. I already said to you that he made his will and made the little nieces his heirs. Your cousin Jean de la Chambre can tell you more about it than I who knows nothing. Upon his return he will come back, God willing, and be able to deal with all our concerns - a big braggart whom you are quite familiar with.
Don't worry about anything, my son; you are equally my children. No one is better than another, and nobody rises above another in this house. The major who we are billeting is the reason your sisters have taken a small apartment. They use it to cut lace in because our home was always so full of soldiers that lace quickly disappeared, and besides, the lace they were cutting had been given to them. In truth this is a store which sells nothing and I would never choose to do this kind of trade which was suddenly imposed upon us. So don't bother pulling at us through your letters of protest and, moreover, have no fear that you are being short-changed. Manon is most generous. If it hadn't worried your brother [Robert Oursel Jr.] she would have had 'Catin', and all three would have taken them from him to work for their best interests which is still my intention.
Your brother is still a thorn in our side who takes pleasure at my loss. He didn't even bother to write me on the death of your brother Oursel. You must write my brother Daniel in Jamaica regarding the personal effects of my poor Oursel.
Adieu. I embrace you and pray God that He gives you, my dear girl, a happy delivery. May he be a little Francois who raises up again one day the house of his grandfather. May God give whatever He pleases, and bless the others. Your affectionate mother...
Francois Leguat Expedition
Having fled in a home-made boat from Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean, Jean Testart and the Francois Leguat expedition adventurers landed on Mauritius hoping to regain civilization but, unfortunately, it happened to be a Dutch prison camp and they too were taken prisoner.
15 January 1694
Jean Testart and the adventurers on Mauritius are seized by soldiers and put in the 'stombs'.
(Jean Testart was the son of Rachel Crommelin and a cousin of Frederic de Coninck.)
18 January 1694
They are examined and placed under guard.
They are transported to a barren rocky islet at the entrance of Grand Port where he is stranded for a year.
The south-east Grand Port region of Mauritius where Jean Testart was confined
on a rocky islet offshore and where he eventually died in 1695 while trying to escape.
Click to enlarge. Map Source: Wikipedia
Today Mahebourg is one of the main fishing villages on the island. Built on the magnificent Grand Port Bay, it was founded in 1804 by the French Governor Charles DecaŽn. The Monday markets are among the biggest and best on the island and are held right next to the main bus station.
February 15, 1694
Madame Caterine Crommelin - at Le Havre, France
My sister gave birth last Friday at noon to a large, robust boy. [Abraham CAMIN was born in Rotterdam February 12, 1694 to Jean Camin and Catherine de Coninck. He became a koopman / boekhouder WIC. In 1716 he married his cousin, Catherine de Coninck, daughter of Frederic de Coninck and Marie Camin. Source:] I had gone that day to Rotterdam without knowing that she was so close to term. The birth pains began as the evening advanced. I left the mother and child in good health. I wish...
with all my heart that my wife will be the same. I don't want the sorrow of seeing such discomfort, but she has to have patience up to the month of May. My dear mother, since you want to name the child in case it's a boy, please do it even if it's a girl. And accept, I pray, that you be named as the Godmother. It's been a long time since I could ask you to do us this honor, but I always had qualms, even at present, in the hope that we would have the satisfaction of seeing you in this country. Apparently that won't happen yet, but only God knows what the future will bring. I thought I better not wait for that prospect so I hope you won't be upset if I have an alternate. Therefore you have the privilege to name the person who will fill your place to serve as Godmother if necessary. It would be nice if one of my relations who lives in Rotterdam did me this honor. I would not know how to resolve your coming here, besides with regard to strangers, we are in an age where strong compliments don't please many. That's why to invite a refusal, which would mortify me, or to not be given the grace of having you admitted, made me resolve to have godparents of my next child who are generally available. Nevertheless it will please me to have you choose who will serve in your stead, and I find this most agreeable. Please let me know your thoughts in this regard.
I have written almost three months ago, which is long enough, to my cousin Jean de la Chambre bidding him to take immediate care of the effects belonging to my late brothers de Coninck and Oursel. Meanwhile I've received no response which astonishes me. Please write him also, and please also write my uncle Daniel for me. I would do it if I could. Charity obliges me to do it, but also please do what you can from your end because without it I fear that things will go wrong. Furthermore, I don't doubt the good will of my late brother Oursel toward the orphans, but to tell the truth, in light of what happened, I believe he wasn't able to do other than what he did. Furthermore, I would appreciate it very much if my uncle would return it carefully and safely to them because I worry about the risks which make me tremble. My said brother paid his expenses in London; he paid them on his voyage, and during his illness which was long. Besides that he could have some miscellaneous debts. I give you to think about the remainder. May God see that things go smoothly.
I am well comforted in having sisters who have affection for these children. It would indeed be just and reasonable that I keep them for some time until they can go elsewhere because so many children will be a hindrance to me and annoy me somewhat. This will get worse as my family increases. 'Catin' begins to laugh at Mansseline [perhaps the family cat]. Once my wife is free of her pregnancy and in good health, she will begin to show her how to make lace. As for Marton, she has a more serious nature and doesn't learn easily.
Please assure my sister Manon that we are grateful for her good wishes. We will always have a lot of esteem and affection for her, and also for the two others. My wife embraces you affectionately. Please believe that I will always be...
March 8, 1694
Mademoiselle the Widow of Mr. Samuel Crommelin - [Madelaine Testart, in Haarlem, Holland]
[Samuel Crommelin (6 May 1629, St. Quentin - 4 March 1694, Haarlem) was the son of Pierre Crommelin and Maria des Ormeaux. He married Madelaine Testart (25 February 1638, St. Quentin - 15 August 1702 Haarlem), daughter of Ciprien Testart and Marie Bossu, on 27 April 1654 in St. Quentin. They had 23 (!) children, most of whom didn't survive infancy or childhood. Only two sons reached maturity: Pierre Samuel, born in St. Quentin on 14 October 1655, died in Haarlem on 19 July 1720; and Henry Samuel, born in St. Quentin on 11 July 1660 who married Jacoba Sophia van Wickevoort (1674-1732) in Haarlem on 5 May 1697, and died there in 1732.
Before fleeing France, Samuel was considered the richest man in Vermandois - the area of Picardy in northern France where the Crommelin flax and linen works was central to the region's economy. In 1685 he fled to Holland where he settled in Haarlem. Their 5th child, Anne Crommelin, married her cousin, Louis Crommelin, a.k.a. "Louis of Lisburn". There was great controversy in St. Quentin when Samuel's father, Pierre, died and he erected a tombstone on his father's grave. ]
I received yesterday evening the honor of your letter of the 4th of this month which informed me of the sad news of the death of my cousin, your husband. Your affliction touched me deeply and I take part in your present sorrow. May God mitigate your grief and give you consolation proportional to your great loss. This...
separation is harsh and difficult to bear, but after your grieving abates somewhat, find solace again in your Christian constancy and submit yourself with patience to the good pleasure of God. After weeping for the one who you could not keep, wipe your tears and think well of the happy state in which he presently dwells. Now for him there is no more need for struggle and regrets. As a matter of consolation, may God give you the grace to reflect upon the end of life which inevitably carries with it so much resignation to His will.
It must once again be for you a subject of joy amidst your sorrow that you have a large and beautiful family which can only be a source of strength, contentment, and consolation. I pray God with all my heart mademoiselle, my dear cousin, that He may protect and preserve you, and all those who belong to you. Honor me please with your affection and know that I am with great respect...
March 11 1694
Madame, the widow of Mr. Jacques Locquin - [Written by Mary Camin... still to be translated]
March 26, 1694 - Letter #144 received from Mother. Replied May 20.
Mother: March 21, 1694
Received: March 26
Replied: May 20
My very dear son and my dear girl
I duly received your letter of the 15th of last month. I mentioned that in case God gave you a boy to name him Francois in memory of your dear father. But no matter, you did me the honor to be the godmother but there were replacements for the godfather and godmother. I accept that and prayed it would be Mr. Camin and your sister who apparently is no longer a mother weighed down by affliction. I am perhaps recalling sadness. I don't leave off praying to God in my grief, night and day, for all my dear family. Big and small, may God pour out his blessings on them all and place in all your hearts the least misfortune and woe so that I might bear it alone, and that place and distance won't in the least ever diminish my affection.
I would like to be able to rid myself entirely of my affection for your brother, but for him I pray that he remembers that I'm his mother and that his chronic arguing will cease. May he take hold of the kindness I extend, and look for work without which he causes so much woe. I can't abandon him as long as some force enables me to love a hard and dishonest man.
As for your little nieces, your uncle Daniel Crommelin is executor of the will of your brother Oursel. He has this document and it's to him that you will have to write on all occasions. But it's necessary to raise a guardian in order to have one who has the power to act as a receiver because your uncle will want to have his discharge made soon, and a copy sent to him so that he'll be able to return something to you. I give you this advice because there's nothing else I can do.
I pray God, my dear girl, that He gives you a happy delivery and keeps you by his grace, and gives you the joy of a close-knit family. Your little niece will have to learn how to earn a living, and for that she will be obliged to you someday. Farewell my dear ones, one and all. I kiss you all and am your affectionate mother...
March 30 1694
Monsieur de la Chambre - [in London, England]
I had the honor of writing you last on November 24. I believe that Mr. Camin has written you since as well. We bid you to inform us whether you've learned anything more about the effects pertaining to my late brothers de Coninck and Oursel. I wrote you amongst other things that I believed that Robert had left behind some lace which I sent him from here, and that there would also be some of his property in Hamburg which belong to the children of my said brother Jean de Coninck of which Robert Oursel likely gave you some instructions before his departure for Jamaica.
I thought you would have responded to the above, and don't know to what to attribute your silence on a thing so just. Apparently you may have forgotten. Therefore I wish to remind you in God's name to inform me of what you know about his effects and their present status. As well, please advise what you know about various papers that my brother Oursel left regarding what he owed my little nieces which happens to be their only legacy. If they are not found, the children will lose and be without any resources except for the little that father Robert Oursel Sr. still owes them. This has been a fatal voyage that will ruin them because no one is forthcoming about their property, and I strongly fear that all is lost. It bothers me as much as though it were all my own property.
My uncle Daniel Crommelin, as I understand it, is planning to live in New York, if he isn't there already. I am well hindered on how to write to him and obtain from him what he has reclaimed. Again this is a blow which makes me fear that all is lost unless there's some kind of miracle. These poor children are being abandoned by everyone. Show a little more charity than the others monsieur, my cousin, and do something for these orphans. Undoubtedly God will repay you by heaping blessings on you and your family. I await therefore s.v.p. your response. At the same time please let me know how I might be able to write to our uncle Daniel. It is an urgent matter to withdraw promptly and securely the children's assets that he currently holds. I finish praying you to believe that I am entirely...
March 31 1694
Monsieur Pierre Testart [in Haarlem]
[Pierre Testart (born in 1663) was a year older than his brother Jean Testart who died in the Francois Leguat expedition (mentioned above) in Mauritius following an attempt to colonize the island of Rodrigues. At this moment Pierre would be unaware that his brother Jean was stranded on a barren rocky islet in southern Mauritius where he was confined for two years by an evil governor before dying in a solo escape attempt on 10 January 1696.
Both were amongst 7 children born to Pierre Testart and Rachel Crommelin. His father, Pierre, married 3 times to Catherine Bossu, Rachel Crommelin, and Anne Baullier. This Pierre married Judith Broussard 27 May 1694 in Amsterdam. She was born 1671 at La Rochelle and died in Amsterdam where she was buried 10 November 1708 at the Walenkerk. He re-married in 1709 to Geertruida Slicher (1684-1742).
In this letter, 34-year-old Frederic de Coninck gives some wise pre-marriage counsel to his nervous 31-year-old cousin, Pierre Testart.]
You would have been wrong, and you my would have rendered me an injustice if you believed that I didn't pick up on the matter that you alluded to. Far from it. In that I'm strongly sensitive, and never is news more agreeable to me than what you told me regarding your plan about entering into the state of marriage. If I may be permitted to judge from others beside myself, I dare to assure you that you won't regret it a bit. You will find in it an attractiveness that can't be matched even in the life of a prince. Above all, you can't be happier than being in the company of a person who makes one's reign...
charming. Worldly benefits as well as spiritual ones are to be found in a lady whose goodness is agreeable in both the spiritual and practical realm. One that is witty and charitable is a blessing who will make you the happiest of all men. You can't do better, my dear cousin. I congratulate you with all my heart and pray God that He blesses you, prospers you, and causes you to succeed in all things.
Furthermore, by what you said regarding the marriage proposal, I gather that one of you is more forward than the other, but even in that please console yourself. In brief allow me this expression: It remains for me only to wish you a long line of progeny. For this to happen, I wish that mademoiselle, your future wife, is also as fruitful as mine in the hard work of raising a child, and soon we will have two. It will be for the last time. You see that she isn't in bad shape, and she participates much in your joy. May God keep you. I am sincerely...
31 March 1694
Mademoiselle Daniel Crommelin - [Anne Testart, perhaps still somewhere in England, or, more likely, in Holland after having visited with her father, Pierre Testart, who died there a year previously.]
I take the liberty to write you requesting humbly that you inform me how I might write to my uncle, your husband. Undoubtedly you are aware that he is in possession of effects belonging to the children of my brother Oursel which he claimed after his death. The effects belong to my nieces, children of my brother de Coninck, who have been staying with me for some time. The question would be to obtain some assurance in this country regarding this matter. If you have occasion to have my uncle ship you something, perhaps you could include my appeal to have him make willing compensation. On the one hand it would be a saving, and on the other, it would avoid a lot of risks.
What bothers me is that my uncle wrote Mr. Camin [Frederic's brother-in-law] back in October that he would relinquish anything that he had beforehand at his disposal, but at the same time he said only that he would be leaving at the end of January for New York [from Jamaica] without mentioning what he intended to do, or how one could write to him.
I assure you this surprised us a great deal, therefore I appeal to you, my dear aunt, to do something in favor of these poor orphans whose present situation is deplorable and worthy of pity. They have been abandoned by everyone and, without the relief of God, they run the risk of sinking into dire straits. Therefore I request that you write to my uncle, advising him of their predicament. I will also write him but I would have to know where I can address my letter.
I will be able to replace their money in this country through friends, provided I receive a valid discharge by way of a receipt for which everyone would be happy. The sooner, the better! I doubt that my uncle will consider my appeal unreasonable. This being my wish, I hope for a joyful conclusion to this matter which touches me deeply. My wife and I greet you very humbly, as well as your aunt Catherine, and uncle Jacob. I close with an affectionate hug...