Sir John Mennes

Rowland Freeman, in Kentish Poets (1821) 2:28-31.

Sandwich in Kent, one of the most distinguished of the five ancient maritime towns, has been in all ages a nursery of those brave men, who, by their enterprize, have extended the bounds of knowledge, and increased the sum of national wealth; — by their skill, united with undaunted courage, have conquered and preserved to their country the absolute dominion of the ocean, and elevated her to the highest rank in the scale of nations; and, what is of far greater importance to their fellow citizens, have by repelling hostile invasion, preserved them from war and its horrors which have in succession visited every other community of people on the surface of the globe. If for ages the sound of cannon in the hands of foreign enemies has not been heard within the vallies of Britain, the sole and efficient cause has been the conduct of her seamen;-and if there be anyone class of men superior to all others, to which the meed of British praise and the debt of British gratitude, are pre-eminently due, it is that of her naval heroes.

Sir John Mennes was the third son of Andrew Mennes, Esq. of Sandwich, in Kent, by his second wife, Jane Blechenden, and born at that town May the 11th, 1593. His father being in good circumstances, he received a liberal education, and in due time was removed to Oxford, and placed at Corpus Christi College. He devoted himself to the sea service, and during a long life rendered himself conspicuous for his enterprise and knowledge of maritime affairs, his loyalty and his wit, and general literary attainments.

He held a place in the navy-office during the reign of James the First, and in that of his successor was appointed Comptroller of the Navy. During the grand rebellion as it is called, he took an active part both naval and military in favour of the crown, and was honoured with the dignity of knighthood at Dover in 1641, being at that time a Vice-Admiral. In the following year he commanded a ship called the "Rainbow" but was soon afterwards displaced from command by the authorities then in power, on account of his attachment to the unfortunate King. His name occurs in the account of the Kentish insurrection in favor of the King which took place in 1648, but how far he was actually engaged does not appear.

At the restoration he was reinstated in his office of Chief Comptroller of the Navy, and Charnock asserts, but probably erroneously, made Governor of Dover Castle. In 1661, he was appointed to command a ship named the "Henry," and received a commission to act as Vice-Admiral and Commander in Chief of the fleet employed in the North Seas. In the following year he was selected to bring back the Queen-Mother to England, and during his absence had the misfortune to lose his wife, who died at Fredville, the seat of John Boys, Esq. and was buried in the parish church of Nonington, where a monument was erected to her memory. This lady's name was Jane Liddell, of the family of Ravensworth Castle in the county of Durham.

Sir John Mennes himself survived until 1670, when he died February the 18th, leaving behind him the character of an honest, stout, generous, and religious man, whose company had always been delightful to the ingenious and witty. He was buried in the Church of St. Olave, Hart Street, London; where a monument exists to his memory.

Sir John Mennes is reported to have been the author of a Poem called "Epsom Wells," and several other fugitive pieces. In one instance only he published a collection of his poems, in conjunction with his friend Dr. James Smith, and their compositions are blended without any marked distinction. The volume containing the joint productions of these friends is exceedingly scarce, and not within our reach. It is a small Duodecimo of 101 pages, with the following title:

"Musarum Delicitae: or the Muses Recreation. Containing several pieces of poetic wit. The second edition. By Sir I. M. and Ia. S. London. Printed by I. G. for Henry Herringman, and are to be sold at his shop, at the sign of the Anchor in the New Exchange. 1656."

We regret that it is not in our power to lay before the reader more than one specimen of the wit and talent of this honest seaman. The following [Upon Sir John Suckling's most warlike Preparations], which is generally assigned to him, is of its kind unrivalled for excellence.