SC 1/53/44 – 1480 – Draft Letter from George Cely to Richard Cely the Elder (his father)

So, do you remember the wool deal that George made with John de Selemer of Gent, in the letter in the article two months ago? All pretty standard, with a repeat customer. Well this time, not so much.

This letter is a draft, kept by George who hoarded all his correspondence. We don’t know whether this was a draft of a letter that was sent, or a draft that was discarded completely or in part. And George is clearly furious.

It starts off civilly enough, although too civilly. George is clearly being extra polite given what he intends to say. By the end of the letter he is on the war path and intending to travel home, across the Channel, to tell his father ‘mor playnle be movthe’ what he thinks. The letter itself is pretty plain itself, extremely so when one takes into account the way George usually addresses his father.

The essence of the issue is that John, now recorded as John Descyrmer, was far from happy with the wool he purchased, so much so that he was going to sell it on, presumably at a loss, rather than use it. The perhaps unexpected aspect of this letter, is that George appears to be in agreement with John over the quality of the wool, and berates his father for its quality. ‘I nevyr whyst yow sent cursar woll to Calles for the contre than this last whas’ is a pretty damning statement. The Staple don’t seem to want to get involved and George tells his father their reputation is at risk if he sends the same quality of wool again. We get the impression that he feels left hung out to dry by both his father and the Staple.

In some ways this seems an odd outcome to the transaction, as one would assume that both George and John would have inspected the wool at the time of the transaction and been satisfied. However, this would most likely would not have involved fully unpacking the sarplers, and would suggest that a shell of decent wool surrounded the bad wool. This puts me in mind of winding, the practice that William Mydwynter and his fellows were summoned to London about in 1482, where lower quality wool was wound in to a sarpler in such a way that it was effectively hidden until a sarpler was completely unpacked.

The Celys always had a representative present when their sarplers were packed in the Cotswolds, so it seems highly unlikely that that person would be unaware of any issues, and George’s letter would seem to imply that it was his father who oversaw the packing of this particular shipment; he is very direct in addressing his father in this letter. I suspect that the merchants such as William Mydwynter wouldn’t have worried too much about how their purchasers chose to have their wool packed.

Malden's Transcription

Unfortunately Malden didn’t transcribe this draft, so I can only present the modernization based on Alison Hanham’s transcription.


Of Jesus 1480

Right reverend and worshipful father, after all due recommendation pretending, I recommend myself to you in the most lowliest-wise that I can or may. Furthermore, please understand that at my coming to the Syngsyon marte, I spoke with John Descyrmer of Gent, and he has made to me, and to diverse [members] of my fellowship here at the marte, great complaint of your middle wool which I sold to him. He swears to me forcefully that he has had of yours, in times past, better middle young Cotswold than this wool. They show me great unkindness that I deal with them in this manner. They tell me that you might have taken out of the 6 sarplers and a poke 2 sarplers of middle young. It is so because they would not quarrel with me. They do otherwise than they intended – they bought it for their own drapery, and now there is no man who will drape any of those sarplers at Gent, nor at Brugge, but he is going to bring them to the marte and sell them there, because of which I am right sorry [very upset/put out]. In good faith I cannot say where I write to you or know where. I have much work at Calais. Here I could have it appraised for Cotswold, but much option was against it amongst the Fellowship. In the service of Good, see better to the packing of your wool that shall come, or else your wool is likely to lessen that name that it has had here before in times past. I never witnessed you send courser wool to Calais for fells than this last was. I am resolved to come over to you when this marte is done, and then I will tell you more plainly by mouth.

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