Jean de Queteville's son

3rd November 2015
The Reverend Jean de Queteville from the De Jersey, H, Vie du Rev. Jean de Quetteville &c, 1847, Priaulx Library Collection

Guernsey's first Methodist preacher Jean de Queteville writes about his son Jean in his Magasin Méthodiste of 1818, twenty-five years after the little boy's death. The portrait of de Queteville is from Henri de Jersey's Vie du Rév. Jean de Queteville, avec de nombreux extraits de sa correspondance, et un abrégé de la vie de Madame de Queteville, London: J Mason, and Guernsey: Mademoiselle de Queteville, St Jacques, 1847.

After the child's death, it was suggested to him that this was perhaps a punishment from God for a lack of faith, an idea which caused him great distress; but he cried out to the Eternal One, and was freed from that temptation, and from that moment on, he never showed nor indeed felt any impulse to grieve over the death of his beloved son; everything in him told him: The will of God is good, the Lord's will be done; and far from mourning, he blessed God for having saved his son from the miseries and dangers of this life, instead crowning him with glory and honour at his right hand for always. Later he had another son, who also died as a child and whom he happily gave as a sacrifice to his Eternal God. [Vie du Rév. Jean de Queteville &c., pp. 97-8.]


In Jean de Queteville's tender years.

1. My son Jean de Queteville was born at Montplaisir, in Guernsey, on the 12 November 1790; my wife and I had not sought the promised blessing for our children in vain, and especially so in his case. That promise was fulfilled in his regard: blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, Deut. 28, 4. It did not take us long to realise that his nature was so sweet, and so kind, that it is impossible properly to describe it.

2. From his first year he was different from most other children. As well as the sweetness of his temperament, he had other rare qualities; he was so lively, so intelligent, so good, so kind, so well-behaved, so happy; his personality was so gay and affable, that he would go along with anything. Here is a good illustration of this. We wanted to wean him; we gave him to his aunt, where he stayed half an hour; he cried for his mother, she took him back and laid him upon her breast and he, understanding that he had been separated from her in order to wean him, did not ask to suckle from the breast again.

3. As soon as he could talk, his love for his parents, for his sister (for he had but one sister then, 17 months older than him), and, in a word, for everyone he laid eyes on, was obvious in his manners and his behaviour. When he was given his favourite things, things which gave him the most pleasure, he would not start to eat them until he had gone halves with his sister: he would have done the same with any other child; nothing he had was too good for them, so thoughtful of others was he and so much goodwill did he bear to all.

4. He was healthy, strong, and vigorous, and so agile that he used to run through the house from one room to another, but running as hard as he could he would sometimes fall over and get a nasty bump; although he was hurt, he never complained. He only cried if he thought he might have upset his mother or father; he would get up straight away, kneel down, and ask forgiveness, in a really touching way, and when he realised that no-one was angry with him, he immediately returned to his usual happy self, and did not show that it still hurt.

5. He seemed to possess that love which lacked any suspicion of others' motives, and which banishes fear; he was not scared of anything, and feared no-one. His mother, frightened that if he went into the road he would be run over by the horses or carts, threatened him that if he did the soldiers might come and carry him off. But then one came into the yard, for some reason or other; he ran up to him, called him his cousin, and held out his arms to him in such a friendly way that the soldier gave him a kiss. The child came back full of joy and said, 'Mother, the soldier didn't do anything bad to me, he is my cousin, he kissed me!'

6. He was just two when, if poor people came to the door, he would go to meet them, shake their hand, calling them his cousins, or cousines; and then he would run to his mother, all happy, his arms outstretched, and ask her straightaway to give him something for them, which he would take to them with the best grace in the world, with a pleasure that was nearly ecstatic. How touching were his ways! The poor people too were always charmed to see him; he cared about their welfare with all his heart. But the last weeks before his fatal illness his love was still growing, he hugged and kissed the poor old women who came, dressed in rags, to ask for alms at the door.

7. I have never met anyone, neither child nor adult, in whom the love of his neighbour was more marked, than in this lovely child. He won everyone's heart as soon as he met them. When he was about two and a half, we had a mason laying a pavement outside our house; although he had never met him before, he went up to him like an old friend, held out his hand to him, called him cousin, and welcomed him joyfully: the mason, who was a pious man, loved him as though he were his own. The boy called him his 'man,' and spent most of his time with him.

8. He particularly loved modest and pious people; he knew how to tell them apart from others, although his love was extended to everyone, with no regard to outward appearance; but he thought that dressing up, in all its pomp and vanity, was a monstrous thing and against nature. He only liked good things, and good works.

9. Although he couldn't read (he was only one day off three years old when he died), through the Lord's grace he always called people by their correct name. He never wanted to say Mummy or Daddy; it was always, Mother and Father. When someone came to the house one day asking for his Mummy and Daddy, he replied, 'I don't have a Daddy or a Mummy, they are my Father and my Mother.' Although he often heard his sister called Suson, he never did that, he would always say 'Susanne,' &c.

10. This dear child loved prayer, and would often go off on his own to pray in secret. One time his mother went in to his bedroom, looking for him, and she found him on his knees, his eyes and hands raised to the sky; and although she came in and went out again, he did not seem to notice. One day he went and knocked on the door of a neighbour, herself a servant of the Lord, and asked her, 'Pray to God with me,' and once they had said the prayer, he said to her, 'Open the door for me,' and without saying another word to her he returned home. We pray with the family in the morning and in the evening, and he used to pray with us, but that was never enough. Indeed, whether you are young or old, when you hunger and thirst for justice you are not content with praying to God in the morning and in the evening, you want to do it more often, it is something you feel you actually have to do.

11. In the kitchen of the house next to ours there lived a family whose youngest child had caught smallpox. As our son had never had it, his mother forbade him to go near his little friend, whom he loved as life itself; and although it was a hard cross for him to bear, that he could not see his friend whom he loved so much, he nevertheless obeyed his mother, and stayed away. But one morning, his mother gave him a nice pear to take to school, which was in another part of the house in which lay the sick child; he hid the pear under his coat, explored the house, managed to get the pear to the child, breathed the infected air, and caught the illness, which was to cause his death in the end. So was he the victim of his own tender and truly brotherly love.

12. A few days later, when he began to feel ill, his mother put him to bed in his sister Marie's cradle; she was only eleven months old. At that moment, he seemed to have received divine notice of his imminent end, of his future happiness; for he said, Mother, I am going away,' and she answered, 'Where are you going?' and he said, 'I am going away with our good God, and I shall have a beautiful crown;' and as he said it he was totally transported with joy. At first, his mother paid little attention to it, but when he was in the full throes of his illness and covered with blisters she thought more about it.

13. He was ill for a fortnight, and during this time he suffered dreadfully; but with a quite extraordinary acceptance, for a child of his age, and perfect patience; he did not complain or make any moan. From this it is evident that his good Saviour had prepared him for the happy life in a place where nothing impure or dirty can find its way in, for the beautiful crown which he had shown him in his imagination before his great sufferings. The morning of his death, he was in his mother's arms, and he suffered so much, because his body was undergoing the most incredible convulsions, but he did not complain. First he tried to pray, and to join his hands, but his fingers were so full of huge blisters from the smallpox that he couldn't manage it, and as he was blind, he could not see why; he asked his mother to pray, which she did, as she thought; but since he kept asking her, they sent for me and as soon as we began to pray he gave it his complete attention, and became calm and peaceful as a lamb. The prayer was granted, in as much as for the three hours he had left after that, he suffered no agitation but remained in perfect peace, and was quite conscious, until that happy moment when he fell gently asleep in our Saviour, on the 11 November 1793.


From Jean de Queteville to Mr Brackenbury.

Guernsey, 28 November 1793.

[...] We have faced unexpected trials. Our dear little one died from smallpox, a week ago, and our two daughters have also fallen ill with the same; the elder looks to be in danger, but we still do not know how it will turn out. Our dear child was beloved of all who knew him. I have come across very few examples of people with as much love and tenderness as he had in him ... We cannot be grateful enough to God, that he has called him so early to enter into eternal rest. His eldest sister was warned of his death an hour before it happened; for she said: 'My brother will die, but he will have a beautiful crown; I want to die too and be crowned with him!' She was then at Mon-Plaisir, already sick, and she still is, so much so that she did not see him; and since he has died, she often asks after her sister and the rest of us, but has never inquired after her brother. I would not be surprised if she soon follows him. My whole desire is, that my children should be with God all their lives, in their death, and for eternity. I hope I may always praise his holy name for all his dispensations to me. [Vie du Rév. Jean de Queteville &c., pp. 266-7. This letter is translated from a French translation of an original in English, whereabouts unknown.]

See 'Romantic residence sold,' Victor Coysh's scrapbook, p. 84 (Strong room); he built 'De Quetteville,' his house in St Jacques, in 1780, 'along with four other houses for his five daughters.' 'The house is quaint and picturesque in a marked degree, the 3ft thick granite walls, the beautiful mantelpieces ...' 'The gardens with their scents of thyme, mint and herbs, form an absolute sun-trap ...' [Bought c. 1931 by Mr and Mrs Coventry.]