Elie Brevint on people and things

5th January 2018
Boethius second book fourth verse © Priaulx library

More exceptionally interesting 17th-century observations from Elie Brevint. Brevint (1587-1674) was minister of Sark from 1612. His father Cosmé, also a minister, was a Huguenot refugee from Angoulême who had accompanied Helier De Carteret from Jersey in his colonisation of Sark. Transcriptions and microfilm of Elie's 14 Notebooks, which were found in a loft in Sark in the 19th century, are held in the Priaulx Library. They are written in French. The picture above is a detail from Boethius, In philosophia consolationem, Strasbourg 1501, one of the rare books in the Library’s collection.

December 1617. A certain lady, wife of a Blampied of St Lawrence, living at St Mary, gave birth to quadruplets, 2 boys and 2 girls, 2 live and two stillborn. The surviving babies were baptised and lived  about a week.

§64 Marginalia in the Discipline are written from the point of view of Sir Walter Raleigh.

François Monat, Englishman, canon at Elizabeth Castle, was a good fencer even in old age.

Ships. Vessels with a crow’s nest (hune) are called ships (navires); the others are barges and boats. Ships with crow’s nests pay higher fees for anchorage.

Melons. §120 Melons are sown in spring, in April or May and are picked in autumn when they turn yellow, which is the sign that they are ripe. Sometimes they never turn yellow, and sometimes they rot instead.

Funerals. §120  In Guernsey, if a Jurat, Minister &c, dies, or a tailor, cobbler, bugler, sailor &c, he will be carried to the Cemetery by persons of the same profession or by their sons, or even their wives, as many as can be arranged.

A Guernsey baker, called Guillaume Marie, married a poor refugee girl from Geneva called Claude, who had come to Guernsey as a servant of some Lady, their son was studying for the Ministry in London when he died, he sent from there some verses he wrote for Colette Marchand to comfort her about the sin of one of her daughters.

Gagnepain. §122 Monsieur De La Roche, from Poitou, married to a Flemish woman, kept a hostelry in the house of Zachary Gagnepain. §128 150 ecus offered to Zachary Gagnepain for the rent of his house for 3 years, to be paid in advance. §151 Judith Gagnepain, sister of Zachary and Samuel, and widow of Perrot Martin (the brother of Nicolas [Martin] du Bosq) is the woman who fell over in the road during the night; she spent a lot of time at Mr Baudouin’s in the Trophardi [Ed.: this was Nicolas Trohardy] house, then was maid to Mr Queteville’s wife until her final illness, and finally served Monsieur the Lieutenant for a short time, living in the late Thomas Le Marchant’s house.

Seigneurs De Carteret. §108 They say that the family of St Ouen once defied the Governor, who built forts and bulwarks to bring them down, and that a Seigneur of St Ouen was held prisoner in England and about to be executed; his wife had a baby and only stayed in bed a day before rushing over to England to rescue him; she was very beautiful and the King himself 'wanted to play dice with her,' as the song goes. They say too that their family has only ever had male heirs, and so has never changed its name although it is a very ancient family, unlike, say, the Rosel family, which has changed surname several times. §124 Sir Thomas Leighton used often to remark, as though it was something very unusual, that the current Monsieur Philippe De Carteret was the 12th or 13th heir male without interruption. §124 The Lords of St Ouen used to have an estate in Carteret (of which nothing is left but a ruin); the house and lands were confiscated a few hundred years ago by the King of France.

Guille Tanquerel, a handsome and good-natured man died in 1580. His wife Marie who looked very feeble survived him by about 10 years. They had five daughters; Elizabeth and Esther died in Sark [unmarried  §238], Judith, Marie, and Susanne were married in Guernsey and died there.

§124 Captain Darrell: a tall, thin and lanky man.

Gaillard. §141 In the time of Helier Gosselin, Bailiff, or of Compton or Guillaume Beauvais, certain Guernseymen by the name of Gaillard were tortured and hanged for a robbery they did not commit. The real robbers, while committing their crime, called out the name of these Gaillards, because of which they were accused and arrested, etc. Sometime later the guilty parties blamed each other and thus the innocence of the Gaillards was discovered.

§143 Algebra, a very difficult art.

Noel. §144 4 ecus left in the will of Philippe Noel were distributed by L. L. M. & Philippe De Carteret to Michel (?) Hamon and wife, Jean Perier, Marie Roger, Jean and Elie Vaudin, J. Le Riche, P. Vibert, and the family of M. Alexandre. §146 Guillaume Barzin bastard of Flamanville bought a piece of land from Jeanne Roland of Dielette for 20 ecus, of which 6 were lent to him by Jean Noel of Guernsey and were lost.

The first Sunday of Lent is called the Jour de Brandons. In the evening at St Martin in Guernsey the young men, for fun, carry torches made of rushes and similar.

Children have been dying of smallpox in Guernsey.

§150 Benjamin Poingdestre’s mother and a St Clement man who was known as the little curé went to Geneva and took with them the first wife of Guillaume Beauvoir, afterwards Bailiff.  Guillaume Beauvoir, Nicolas Gosselin, Mr Jean Queste and Remier and my father, all met in Geneva. This Beauvoir married secondly Lady Compton and was the father of Thomas Beauvais du Bosq and of Pierre Beauvais. This Lady Compton, the Bailiff’s daughter, had three husbands: Guille Beauvais, and a De La Marche, and thirdly Mr de Sausmarez of St Martin. She was a stuck-up woman, pleasure-seeking, who loved jewellery and anything gold or silver, mostly lavished on her by Pierre [sic] Beauvoir.

§152 Guernsey Bailiffs in the 60 years after Helier Gosselin: Edward [in fact Thomas] Compton, Englishman, Guill. Beauvoir, a Blondel Judge Delegate. Thomas Wigmore, a little man, useless &c. Louis de Vick and Mr Amyas de Carteret.

§156 Jean Bisson has a walled warren.

§158 A Fiddler: a player of the rebec, unskilled.

§176 They say that when someone is smothered to death, as when a mother suffocates her baby, the face of the person turns black and doesn’t stay white and pink as it does when someone has not died from suffocation.

§188 Names of rocks: Giraude, Pot à Beurre, la Couïhaye, le Gouliot, la Pescheresse, le Joli Coq, la Noire Pute, la Pierre Percée, l’Espak, la Homadière, la Rosière, Castel Robert, Brehon, les Ferrières, Sottize, &c. Other places : the Horse Straits, the Norman’s Straits (le pertuis au cheval, le pertuis au Normand) §200 Les Bretagnes : rocks to the west of Little Sark.

§188 Story told by Monsieur Merlin to Sir Thomas Leighton : Once in the Dauphiné there was a huge thunderstorm and people gathered in the church to ring the bells &c. When the storm had passed, everyone left and went back to their work, except for a black man and another man. The black man was contemplating the Church but the other man was terrified and trembling with fear at being left alone with this man who was so black. Thereupon the Moor noticed this and asked him, 'Who do you think I am?' And the man replied, 'I think you are the Devil from Hell and God keep you!'

Swimming. Pierre Langlois, who was a good swimmer, swam from under the new wall of the Eperquerie as far as the rock called the Pescheresse (against the tide, as there are always tides there, the current sometimes towards the Creux, and at other times towards the point of the Eperquerie) in order to bring back a sparrowhawk and a pheasant, which had both fallen into the sea.

When someone falls into the sea, the water enters his ears, nostrils, and mouth, so that if he is saved he is held upside down by his heels to let the water drain from his body. If the water is cold, it swells the arms and legs of even the best swimmers. This was how Thomas Way and the son of Androt Monamy drowned.

§198  No. 27 Robbery at night of François Vibert, who accuses Andrie Pipet of the crime.

Boots for Newfoundland cost 2 ecus.

§200 Jean Babin who lived at the Moinerie used to eat the sheep of Benoit Le Gros, and used to invite him to dinner; he lived in the house of [Jasper Darn?], and also in the Judge’s house, as a lodger, the tenant of William Smith; this Smith being a butcher or rather a brewer got fed up with this island and went to live in the farm of Mont Orgeuil Castle. He sold his share to Monsieur de St Ouen for 40 ecus, who sold the tenement on to Mr Robert Slowly. Smith was the Warden of Herm, where he died. Roger Babin [married] a Thomasse Ruant [Roualt?], a rather good-looking young woman from Jersey, who died in childbirth. Her husband sold all her belongings soon after (as he had nothing) to Pierre Le Broc, who paid him about 30 ecus. He and his father after the death of Edward Breyar went to live in Guernsey, the father becoming the victualler of the Castle and the son a soldier.

Thomas De France of Guernsey: apostate at St Malo.

They say there was a Lady who, after she had come to live in Sark, lived exclusively off rabbits’ tongues.

A certain Ferrière and a Sauvage, who worked for Nicolas Baudouin and had got a couple of housemaids pregnant, were forced to marry them by their master.

Charles du Pré and Nicolas Artur were appointed schoolmasters at St Peter’s, because they had particularly good handwriting. But Du Pré, who was a surveyor and constantly occupied and distracted with his professional duties, was kicked out of the school after a few months.

Olympe Etur, widow of Jean Roland, Laurence [first?] wife of Helier Gosselin, Bertranne wife of Monsieur Fautrart.

Jean Babin, the Constable, a big and powerful man, used to play bowls with Mr. George Powlett.

Edward Brayer was a big man and a labourer.

Those of the Religion robbed the Papists at Barneville, amongst whom were a carpenter called Poulain and his wife, who came over to the Islands.

Susanne Vaudin daughter of Noel was born with her after-birth.

Matthew Mauger son of Jacques is marrying Marie Le Moignan &c.

Monsieur Jean Queste loved his children too much; he dressed them in red and so on. God took all of them from him, and he grieved excessively.

Jean Tanquerel, Isaac Vaudin and Jean Le Broc junior were the last three whose marriages were conducted by my father in the Church.

Katherine Tanquerel lived 36 years in Sark, 12 years with her sister Izabel and 24 years with her husband.

On May 17th, 1613, Monsieur Charles Beauvais, Minister of Alençon, married in Guernsey Judith Beauvais, daughter of Mr [-].

A man called Marquand and another called Cardin, of St Ouen, found out at sea a part of a mast and some gold pieces that presumably came from some wreck or other. This was discovered when Cardin showed the gold coins around, and the two men were put in prison, where one of them died. They are said to have been tortured in the Castle, by having their hands or fingers and their heads garrotted with bow cord, but they still refused to admit anything.

 §232 Different types of Thomases. Thomas Knight le Deviseur (good storyteller). Thomas le Chanteur, the singer, that is Thomas Pegan who eventually married a widow in England and kept a pub, living in the Moinerie in the house that Andre Romeril has now. One year when he had a nice field of corn, he got up on a wall and put his hands on his hips and said 'Ooh .... gorgeous field have I.' Thomas le Faiseur, the maker, that was the nickname of Sieur Thomas Roo, because he was clever at things and industrious with his hands.

Matthew Warre died of the plague in Guernsey.

As old cormorants are very tough, some people bury them to soften them up.

§232 Mr Joshua Slowly spent six years at college, two at Southampton and four at Cambridge. That cost about 300 ecus.

They say that Philippe the son of Hion de Carteret and Philip Slowly, when they had a thirst on, could drink a quart of beer in one.

§236 The tenants of Little Sark pay Jean de Carteret nineteen quarters of wheat rent.

§238 An irreligious grace from Jean Le Gallez, Susanne Tanquerel’s husband, at Louis de Vic’s house:

Louange a Dieu. Viola bien disnaron[s]:
Si mieux nous avions, mieux nous prendrions.
Mais puisque mieux nous n’avons,
Il faut que nous en passons.
Si le souper etoit prest,
Il pourroit bien ou le disner est.

Chevalier. §240. Nicolas, Jean, Gideon Chevalier, brothers. The second a cobbler in Totnes, near Dartmouth, the third a seaman, drowned &c. Marie, Susanne (died unmarried), Sara, Elizabeth Chevalier, sisters. §244 The daughters of Jean Chevalier, who was married to the sister of Collas Remon of St Mary: Katherine, widow of Nicolas Du Pré, the eldest daughter who inherited her father’s house; [and also] 2. Isabel the wife of the brother of Philippe and Jean Le Montais who lived in London and died of the plague.  1. Wife of a cooper called Jean Erle, who killed a man and was hanged. 2. Of a Mr. Cornich, who was drowned. 3. Of Jean Moulin. 3. Of Sara wife. 4.  Of Jeanne wife of Mr William [Lee] the Surgeon. 4. Of Elizabeth wife of Mr Cornich who was Mayor and a rich merchant. Isabel and Elizabeth died.  If Remon had not frittered away his wealth, he would have ended up with the afore mentioned Katherine; Mr Cornich’s first wife, who was from Guernsey, begged him on her death bed to marry Elizabeth her maid, which he did, at night, to the great annoyance of many of the inhabitants of Southampton, because of the inequality of station &c. Amos Vaudin was taught the trade of coopering by Remon. R. Slowly bought the estate of Sara and Elizabeth Chevalier, taking it from Mr Lempriere; Collas Le Febvre was upset about this because he was the closest lignager. The ladies visited Sark and stayed at Pierre Vaudin’s house. [John Cornishe was mayor of Southampton in 1606; had a privateer, owned and was captain, called Mayflower 1598; see Spicer, The French-speaking etc. p. 148]

Some people reckon that the English call a woman named Cecily Sis for short, and that they call men named Jean, Jak.

In August 1589 Mr R. S. [Robert Slowly] had been to visit his mother and relations and was coming back in a large ship of about 25 tons. It was an English vessel loaded with horses. There was a thunderstorm, and he and his companions were attacked and robbed by privateers in a patache belonging to Monsieur de Chateauneuf, the Governor of Brest. These Bretons stole his money and all the clothes he had with him, except the ones off his back, and a trunk in which he had an IOU for £10 sterling and dress material for his fiancée, such as taffeta to make her an apron and other clothes. He married his fiancée the following Michaelmas (October); Jasper gave her a wedding dress.

§246 Water in Jersey flows towards the South, except the streams of the Moulin du Murier and the Moulin du Laicq. Streams in Guernsey, however, flow northwards, except for the stream that flows between St Martin and the Forest, from Jean de Vick’s mill.

Marie daughter of Jacob Hamon died in 1626 at St Martin, of the plague.

Trees in Sark. §260. A Serk arbres divers. Pommier, poirier, prunier, cerisier, mefflier, figuier, noyer, pescher, abricotier, chesne, fresne, orme, raulx, osier, tremble ou peuplier, & houx &c.

Old masonry in the ancient Sarkese style to be found in the wall, and garden wall, of the house that used to belong to Jean Hue.

Noel Vaudin’s tenement at Beauregard initially contained about 155 vergees, and only paid the tenant 12 quarters of wheat rent. But now it pays 15 of wheat and 5 of corn, even though it only contains less than 105 vergees. 50 vergees were taken from it, including the Orgerils that once belonged to Jean Noel and Jervais Mahié and now belong to Thomas De Carteret and Thomas Le Masurier. Samuel du Val also possesses 10 vergees of the land of that tenement.

§264. They say that Edward Blanche’s wife had a one-time only dowry of £50 sterling. Mr Fautrart acted as agent and lent Blanche about 100 ecus; Jean Noel 50 ecus; a Langlois who had married the sister of the wife of Jean Guille son of Paul, also lent him some money; and they say that the father had to guarantee the first and last sum.

§268 The second wife of Mr George Poulet had two brothers, Richard (who was Captain), and George Bingham; George was a very handsome man, and resembled Helier De Carteret, Seigneur de St Ouen. Mr Abraham Poulet, finding himself in England in the company of Captain Bingham, married his wife there at West Chester. He did not live long and left no children. He gave the rings of the first to the second that is, to the daughter of Jean De Carteret of Vinchelez.

§272 Daniel Dumaresq, Seigneur De Saumarez, was page to Sir Walter Rolle or Ralley, who was his guardian [qui en avait la garde noble, Ed.: as Governor, Raleigh took the place of the queen as guardian], and married him to an illegitimate daughter of his, who died of plague in London or Kingston. Then the Seigneur De Saumarez married his present wife.

§282 Swans [cygnes]: merchants from Barneville.

They say that God has sent us this summer of 1626 an abundance of cuttlefish, from the Roads as far as St Malo, without which people would have died of hunger.

§288 When Jean Heraut got married, he stayed the night at the Judge’s house (Robert Slowly), and he gave his daughter Rachel an écu. Rachel was the one who knitted a pair of stockings for Susanne Le Gros on behalf of Elie Paint, his mother providing the yarn and paying for the work.

The parish of Castel is divided into two soixantaines. One keeps watch at Castle Cornet while the other does the same in the parish, 4 men a night in turn, which works out at once a fortnight; the 4 whose turn it is to man the Castle have to be in Town by 5 o’clock in the evening and return at dawn, sometimes at 6 o’clock if they have to wait for the tide and the boat. &c.

Jacques Giffard son of Jean keeps a French school in London. His wife is from Guernsey; she is called La Chevalière and is the widow of a goldsmith who died of the plague, they had no children. She sews silk shirts; but both she and her husband are poor; Marie De Carteret and her daughters knit woollen shirts.

[From the French. DAB]