Letters: 1649

Pages 1-8

The Letters of John Paige, London Merchant, 1648-58. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1984.

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2. to William Clerke
8 Jan. 1649
Yours of 20 Dec. per the Samuel [Capt. Matthew Wood] have received with the 11 pipes of wines which came ashore this very instant. The Rambla wines prove white and green; the Orotava vintage proves extraordinary rich but high colour. The wines, give them their due, prove well, and so I doubt not but shall give you a good account of them. Now my last unto you was per small vessel of Mr Paynter's of 26 Dec. via Falmouth, where I wrote you somewhat brief concerning the insurance on the Blessing [Capt. Barber]. I have £300 underwritten with much ado at 6 per cent for yours and Mr Paynter's accounts from thence [Tenerife] to Nantes, and tomorrow I am promised shall have the rest, £700, done at ditto rate. The times are so dangerous at present that scarce any man will underwrite a policy, being many ships of late taken by Irish men-of-war and the coast of France is as dangerous as ours at present. After I hear of her arrival at Nantes, shall insure the £1,000 backwards [to Tenerife] for Mr Paynter's and your accounts in half.

I cannot send you any bills of rates at present. I writ into France but the post is stopped through the new wars there between the Queen Regent and her subjects. Paris is at present strongly besieged by the Queen's army. What the event will be I know not. From Holland I do expect one daily, and here there are none made of late. But, however, I shall give you an estimate of what goods is worth here per advice. Ginger a good commodity, worth at present £4 per cwt; logwood from Campeche worth £15 per t; Varinas tobacco worth 14s per lb; hides worth 6½d per lb. Mr [Stephen] Slaney told me he sold those hides which you sent him in Capt. Pyle at aforesaid rate and cleared 10 per cent by them, as he says. Fine grana mesteque worth 32s per lb; campechena and sylvester a very drug. West India sugar worth £6 10s per cwt; Palma sugar worth £7 10s per cwt. In my last I wrote you of the prices of all, and since little difference, only 1d per lb in hides, which was a mistake in putting 7½d for 6½d. Your wines in Capt. Cheny are not yet landed, neither Mr Slaney's in Payne. …

3. to William Clerke
20 May 1649
… These serve to give you notice of the arrival of Mr Barber [the Blessing] at Nantes, who I hope by this time may be dispatched for Tenerife with linens and staves. I shall write you at large by Mr Sidrake Blake who may be ready with this ship. …

4. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
25 May 1649
I have received yours, 28 Jan., via Nantes which came to my hands about 20 days since by conveyance of Mr John Holle, by which I understand of the arrival of the Blessing [Capt. Barber] there, though somewhat long. She was given over for lost by the insurers here. I had £1,000 underwritten for your accounts according to order at 6 per cent, with much ado. Per advice from Mr John Holle I suppose by this time Mr Barber may be near ready to go for Tenerife with linens and pipestaves. The sum of your cargazon I know not but do expect advice from Mr Holle daily. When received, shall make insurance for your accounts. I have the policy ready drawn and they ask no less than 10 per cent from Nantes to Tenerife, which, for ought I see, the profit of your goods will not afford to give such a premium. However, I shall get what possible I can insured, but I think it will be little under abovesaid rate. The times are now very dangerous, and insurers will hardly underwrite upon any ship under 16 or 18 guns. Ten days since there was a ship of London, 14 guns, taken at her coming out of Nantes by one of the Prince's [Rupert's] frigates, so by that you may see the coast of France is very dangerous. By Gilbert Crane I doubt not but shall be able to give you a further account of this business, who may be ready within this 12 days. …

5. to William Clerke
28 May 1649
a. I have received yours, 21 Dec., with the 11 pipes of wines by the Samuel, Matthew Wood master. The Rambla wines proved white and green, but the Orotava wines proved the richest Canaries that ever came to England, by all vintners' reports, insomuch that many men were afraid to buy them, saying you had put molasses in them and that they were not natural from the grape. And truly, for my part, I never tasted such wines. I kept them until this month, being could not have a considerable price for them; and seeing the time of racking were at hand, and worser markets daily, I sold them at £20 5s per pipe ready money, one with the others. They made 10 pipes filled up within a gallon. Your wines in Capt. Cheny proved like those you sent me, rather whiter. Give them their due, they were the best wines that came to London this year, and so I make no question but you will have the best price made good to your account. Likewise Mr Stephen Slaney's wines proved well in Payne. Mr St John's, Mr Wilson's, Mr Bradgate's proved well; sold at £19 10s per pipe. Other small parcels proved indifferent, but abundance of high-coloured and foul wines this year.

Wines at present a very drug except extraordinary good. Sherry wines proved very well this year and likewise Malagas, and great quantities came home from those places. But I fear next year will come very few by reason the sickness is very hot at Cadiz and San Lucar, and now of late is come into Malaga and Seville, upon which our Canary principals here do begin to lay load. Ergo, Sidrake Blake goes as full as he can stow, and Steward hath 200 bales, and Crane, I suppose, may bring above 250 bales more. Doubtless if the sickness should continue in those places, Canary wine must needs be a great commodity next vintage, but now our vintners are grown so curious in their tastes that none but rare wines will serve their terms. What wines you send for your own account, I would wish to send those that are very good, although you send the less. In the Island a ducat or 2 you make a great difference, but here betwixt ordinary and very good wines there is above £4 or £5 per pipe.

I have written you in brief by Mr Peter Steward and sent you copy of my letter per Capt. Pyle; likewise I have written you and Mr Paynter by this ship concerning your Nantes business, to which refer you. I pray ask of Mr Paynter to see my cousin John Paige's letter of Plymouth wherein he writes of the delivery of my letters unto Capt. Pyle for you and Mr Paynter. I received a copy of yours 15 Feb. The original, I suppose, came in Mr. Mallen who is taken by the Prince's [Rupert's] ships in company with Mr Thomas, a ship of 28 guns which came from San Lucar worth £40,000, both being carried into Ireland. Likewise I received yours of 3 March, accidentally. I pray hereafter let the direction of your letters be of some other man's hand, being yours is known here by all our Canary merchants, and there are some which shall go nameless that do envy that you make use of me, so I am afraid they will intercept my letters.

5b . Per advice, Varinas tobacco worth 14s per lb; ginger worth £4 per cwt; logwood worth £15 per t; West India sugar worth £6 15s per cwt; grana mesteque worth 35s per lb; campechena and sylvester a drug; indigo of the best worth 4s to 4s 6d per lb; Palma sugar worth £7 15s per cwt; hides worth 7d and 7¼ per lb, in France worth 12 livres, in Holland worth 8d per lb. As the times are now few merchants govern themselves by bills of rates being they do tone [i.e. overstate the prices] ere 8 or 10 per cent.

At present little news and that is bad. I make no question but you have heard ere now of that fatal blow which was struck 30 Jan. last. Our gracious King was beheaded at Whitehall, to the disgrace of all our nation and the undoing of a flourishing kingdom that was. I here send you a book called 'The King's Meditations' [the Eikon Basiliké] which he wrote before his death. It is worth your reading, I think as good lines as ever you beheld with your eyes. Likewise I send you the whole narrative of his trial, sentence and speech on the scaffold. I shall be the briefer because I intend to write you by Mr Crane who may be ready 10 days hence. …

6. to William Clerke
30 June 1649
… I do here send you an English bill of rates per which you see how prices of commodities do govern here at present. Varinas tobacco is the only commodity to get money by here, worth 13s per lb. Hides worth 7d per lb. Likewise I do send you a bill of rates from Amsterdam which I received last post and another from Rouen where I find that hides are a good commodity. Caracas hides worth 16 to 17 livresper hide which is a good price, such as there may money be gotten by it.

Here are many ships freighted and freighting for the vintage, I mean for the Canaries. Malaga is so much infected that few ships will go there, and [to] San Lucar there goes none. The sickness is very hot in Seville; per advice from thence there have died 30,000 within this 8 weeks' time. The like hath not been known. Amongst all there came news yesterday of the death of our friend Mr George Cony and 3 English merchants more of Seville, and several more very sick of our nation. The Lord comfort them and cease that heavy judgement. The sickness is in all the country towards Madrid, and some say it begins there, which I cannot say of a certain. But it's a miracle that they did escape. Mr Richard Baker went from hence five days since for Madrid by land. Mr Leonard Clerke told me his correspondent was failed there, I take it Mr Smith. If you have any credits for any part of Spain, as I make no question you have, I would wish you as a friend to be very cautious how you draw your bills, for it would be a difficult thing to get acceptance in these perilous times.

For matter of your Nantes business I refer you to my general letter which I send you by this conveyance. If you and Mr Paynter can procure Diego Benitez' wines this year, it will be a fit parcel to load Mr Barber [the Blessing]. I know there will be many look after them because they proved so well this last year, better than Mr Rowland Wilson's and Mr St John's by 20s per pipe. In what I can serve you here shall find me as ready as any friend you have. …

7. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
30 June 1649
a. … [Y]esterday I received a letter of 28 June from Mr John Holle [at Nantes] wherein he writes me Mr Barber [the Blessing] was then there waiting for a wind to carry him away, which God send it to carry him to his desired port in safety. I have blamed Mr Holle in several letters why he did not dispatch Mr Barber away sooner because he was on monthly pay. His answer to me was that the master could not fit the ship sooner, which if it appear so it's reason he should abate you. I wrote Mr Holle to make a protest. I know not where he did or no. Likewise the ship was embargoed at Belle-Ile 10 days.

I here send you Mr Holle's letter which came to my hands 6 days since; likewise 2 notes, the one for damage and the other for freight paid him there; likewise an obligation of Mr Barber's for 9,200 Rs which he took of Mr Holle upon bomaria [bottomry]. Here goes a copy in English, which I caused to be translated. Now I here send you the invoice of what goods Mr Holle hath shipped aboard aforesaid ship and for your accounts in equal halves, it amounting unto 20, 169 livres, 9 sous, 9deniers, whereof Mr Holle writes me there is 1,500 livres for his account. You may please to take notice that I have insured on ditto ship for your accounts in equal halves £1,200 sterling at 5½ per cent with much difficulty. The 1,500 livres goes on aforenamed insurance; be it for Mr Holle's or your account, to me it's all one. By the names of the linens I can scarce know where all be proper, but for the major part I am persuaded that you have a pretty good cargazon. The bill of lading I have received, but shall keep that myself in case of loss, which God forbid. However, the policy is made very authentic, and I have the ablest men in London underwritten it, which may serve for your comfort.

7b. Mr Holle writ me hath sold your hides at 11 livres per hide, which is a very poor rate considering French money. By the bill of rates which I send you from Rouen, may see that the same commodity is worth above 20 per cent more. If you send another ship for France now or next spring, send her for Nantes and New Haven [Le Havre], which is the port of Rouen, where Mr Holle hath a very honest man to his correspondent by name David Conguard. To tell you truly, I know no design so hopeful, only I would wish you to have a ship of better force, which I shall freight upon 2 words advice if you like the design.

If at any time they write you the price of corn from France, the only way to make a right calculation is thus: you must note that their tons are different measure, so commonly they reduce it into Winchester measure, which is every bushel 8 gallons and every hanneck is 14 gallons just, by a measure which I brought from Tenerife last year. I am confident if you do not fall on to this trade, here are several that will. Our Canary principals do much envy that their factors, as they call them, should trade deeper than they and so much slight their employments. As I know you do not care for any man's, those words came from men's mouths which have formerly employed you both, and now, for what I perceive, would be glad you would accept of their business again. I leave you to judge. The men shall go nameless because I love peace. …

8. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
5 July 1649
I have written you at large per this ship, to which refer you, and sent you copy of all your Nantes business which Mr John Holle remitted me. I received a letter by the Amsterdam post, which came to my hands this very instant, wherein have advice of the arrival of 2 Hollanders there from Canaries just at the post's coming away, so that no man hath any letters come over.

Here came yesterday letters from Malaga and Seville per post, dated 12 June, wherein they write that in 8 weeks there have died 30,000 people of the plague in Seville; and whereas it was somewhat ceased in Cadiz and San Lucar, it now increases again. From Malaga per advice there die 400 per day and that both at Malaga and Seville there die many thousands for want of food. A hen is worth from 30 to 35 Rs, and an egg is worth 14 cuartos. By this you may judge the dearth. It is too true, for I saw several letters of what I write you, else should not have given credit to it. For San Lucar there goes no ships that I hear of, so that we are like to have no sherry sacks home this year, and I question where they have people left to vintage the wines. And for Malaga, as yet I know of but 3 ships bound there, men being very fearful to adventure, whereas formerly there used to be freighted 40 sail by this time. So that in all probability Canary wines will be a great commodity here, and I question not but the Islanders will make you pay accordingly. This I thought good to give you 2 words advice whereby you might be the better prepared against vintage. Upon this news our Canary principals are much encouraged this is a year to make them. I wish it may prove so. Here are freighted and freighting abundance of ships for the vintage. I make no question but you will have some of the Malaga chinches [i.e. wretches], being they are frightened from thence by reason of the sickness. Madrid as yet is clear, but very much feared, being several towns near it infected. Likewise it begins to come into Portugal, it being at Faro already. Your credits this year for any part of Spain are dangerous to draw as the times govern now.

I hope by this time Mr Barber [the Blessing] is safe arrived with you. I have insured £2,000 on him for your accounts in equal halves at 5½ per cent, with much ado, and £400 for Mr Paynter's particular account. Here is news of the death of Mr George Cony and 4 English merchants more of Seville. Per Mr Chalke [the Mary] I shall write you more at large. As yet no news of the galleons' arrival from Indies. They make account here that all the West India goods will come for Tenerife. No news from Mr White.

I fear he is miscarried. …

[P.S.] This letter goes by the Dover post to be sent aboard Mr Crane.

9. to William Clerke
1 Sept. 1649
Your welcome lines, 1 Aug., received yesterday via Nantes, where Mr Steward is arrived and consigned to Mr John Holle, as he [Holle] wrote me. If Sidrake Blake come there, as Mr Paynter writes me is, that place will be overlaid with India goods for a long time. I am very glad to hear Mr Barber [the Blessing] is safe arrived [at Tenerife] and that his goods came so seasonable a time, although cost you a little extraordinary for his quick dispatch, yet I question where those that come after will come off on better terms. (fn. 1) Mr John Holle and some friends here have freighted a ship of 150 ts, she being now at Gravesend and goes for Nantes to load linens and so for Tenerife to load West India commodities, and back again. The partners here would willingly give over the voyage since Steward's arrival, but I think it's too far gone. Mr Holle hath written me several letters to come in for a part. I have written him I like not the design because they cannot procure West India goods for Nantes linens, and secondly the ship will come in the worst season of the year for disposing of the goods, being vintage time, and likewise for the procuring of West India goods.

I perceive you intend Mr Barber shall come home with the first wines, which will be very well if prove good wines. I doubt not but to sell them for your most advantage as well as the best of them all, for as hitherto I have a very good fame with the vintners, and not of the ordinary, but of the best in London; and I know at the same price they had rather buy of me than of old Rowland Wilson, provided that my wines be equal with his, which very few men's were last year except your own.

I take notice you have a good parcel of West India goods by you which you intend to keep by you until next spring, which is better than to send it here, being at present will not turn very well to account. What will be hereafter I know not. What offers shall advise you of the needful per every conveyance I know of; the like shall desire from you. What you intend to have done, give timely advice, which is, as you well know, the main of all business. I here send you an English, Holland and French bill of rates, to which refer you. Likewise I here send you the Parliament act [of 28 Aug. 1649] for making all French wines contraband in England, which act hope will help somewhat towards the sale of our Canaries next year.

Mr Richard Lant is now in the West Country getting Toope's lading of pilchards, striving very much to have the first, but all will not do. God sending Mr Chalke [the Mary] well, I hope he will get the start of them all, he being now dispatched, staying only for a fair wind, which God send him. The others' pilchards are not yet all bought, they being very scarce and extraordinary dear, worth 8s 6d per m besides charges.

Here enclosed I send you a list of what ships are to load at vintage [Appendix A]. Whosoever's lot it will fall out to, I know not, but I am confident some will bring vidueños, for malvasías there will not be 2/3 part to load them, in my opinion. …

10. to William Clerke
8 Nov. 1649
I received yours, 1 Aug., per Mr William Cowes and likewise another via Bilbao of 23 Aug. under covert Mr George Clerke, which letter he sent me at Exeter, but the seal broken up. He tells me it was a mistake, which is his excuse. Hereafter you may do well to send my letters under no man's covert in regard I am sufficiently known. I perceive Mr Barber [the Blessing] is gone for the Barbary Coast. I wish he may return in time to be one of the first ships with wines. Per advice the vintage at Malaga and Jerez prove very bad both in quantity and quality, and there is no likelihood of any permission for French wines to be brought here as yet. I received a letter, 12 Oct., from our friend Mr Richard Baker of Madrid, who writes me that the sickness is ceased in Cadiz, San Lucar and Seville and the galleons arrived very rich. Here is abundance of Varinas tobacco come; not worth at present 5s per lb and like to be lower.

I wonder in all your letters you have not given any order for insurance homeward on Mr Barber. I shall be loath to exceed your order; yet if I hear our Channel be dangerous, I shall have something done for you, being conceive it is forgotten by you, otherwise your letter miscarried.

I doubt Sidrake Blake will be gone before this come to Nantes, which makes me the briefer, desiring you to be referred unto the joint letter which I write Mr Paynter and yourself per this via. I am very glad Mr Paynter and you consign your goods all under one mark. It is far better for you and more ease to me.


  • 1. In his accounts at 21 July 1649, Clerke listed a payment of 4,000 Rs. (c. £125) to Capt. General Pedro Carrillo de Guzman for 'the good dispatch of the Blessing'. Cf. 15, 19a, 20.