DANIEL, Alexander (1599-1668). Autograph manuscript of an autobiography, entitled 'Discursus Vitae meae, cum quibusdam quorundam amicorum', also including copies of letters, and a quantity of verse and religious reflections, approximately 510 pages (on leaves numbered 1-264), folio (fraying at margins of ff.1-10, with slight loss of text, corners torn away on ff.236 and 237, with loss of approximately 40 words on 20 lines, short tear on f.242, with no loss of text, slight staining on ff.247-264, not affecting legibility), bound in 19th-century half calf (extremities rubbed).
Daniel's autobiography, which fills approximately 30 pages, begins with his parents' marriage in 1598 and ends in 1661, seven years before his death. It is composed in a somewhat haphazard fashion, apparently over a considerable period of time, and to some extent resembles a journal, in that Daniel contents himself for the most part with recording the events of particular significant days rather than forming a continuous narrative. Daniel's main concerns are the births and deaths, quarrels and financial arrangements of his family; and his own usually ill-fated business dealings, in particular the series of law-suits arising from his attempts to assert his rights as lord of the manor of Alverton over the recalcitrant borough of Penzance. Events of wider significance - the Civil War in particular - are reported fragmentarily and from a firmly Cornish perspective - to the extent that a 1643 battle at Stratton is regarded as being 'between ye Devonians ... & our Cornish'.
The charm of the narrative, whose tone is a mixture of the pious and the methodical, lies to a great extent in Daniel's phlegmatic forbearance in the face of an extraordinarily accident-prone nature, the flavour of which is provided by his record, at the beginning of the volume, of 'Certaine wonderfull prservations, memorable mercies, Gracious protections, & altogether undeserved Favors, of Almightie God shewed toward me', a 3½-page catalogue of falls from trees and horses, bouts of sickness, close encounters with soldiers and other near-catastrophes of a more eccentric nature. His copious verse is for the most part of a religious nature.
Part impoverished landed gentleman, part unsuccessful entrepreneur, half Dutch and half Cornish, Alexander Daniel lived a life notable only for this and his other autobiographical writings, of which two other volumes are known, one consisting of financial accounts, with letters, verse and 'chronological observations', the other containing copies of legal and estate records.