Cornwall, The Canaries and The Atlantic - The Letter Book of Valentine Enys 1704 - 1719
This volume forms Number 4 in a series covering "Sources of Cornish History" and is a distillation from the 1500 letters contained in Valentine Enys' letter book and covering his life and times as a Cornish merchant operating from Penryn to the Azores where he had spent some 20 years of his life up to 1702 when he was compelled to leave as a result of the Anglo-Spanish hostilities during the War of Spanish Succession.
As to the letter books themselves they form a most fascinating collection detailing the trials and tribulations; the life and times of an average merchant providing a most excellent insight into the socio-economic trading patterns, when many of his trading partners were to all intents and purposes "the enemy." In her editing of the included letters June has performed an excellent task of showing what, in the first decades of the 1700's was a comparatively "normal" trading pattern, where the risk of loss from enemy action and privateers was very real, and where trading with one's friends - who were in fact legally "the enemy" - would appear to have been acquiesced to by the authorities who generally looked the other way.
In summary, Valentine Enys was one of a number of English merchants trading to the Canary Islands and whom, after war was declared, were initially allowed to continue their trading operations by the Spanish, until relationships became such that he was effectively expelled. Purchasing a property at Penryn near his Cornish roots, Enys set about rebuilding his trade. In many ways he was what would be today looked upon as an entrepreneur trading in such commodities as might be available wherever he perceived opportunities for profit, and ranging from pilchards to cloth. Sadly on many of these ventures his financial expertise was not that it should have been, and whilst he appears to have lived modestly one could not say that in business he was a "high flyer." One of the particular charms of this collection of letters, is the very ordinariness of the man in question. Valentine Enys was a person like you or I - just an ordinary man. All in all this is a book, which in the most part is very well written, and certainly well researched. For those interested in the socio-economic trading patterns of the first quarter of the 18th. century a valuable insight into the business life and times.
published by The Institute of Cornish Studies, University of Exeter, ISBN 0 903686 76 7, price £10
Reviewed by David. B. Clement
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