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The Decline and Likely Fall of Sir Minnes

Well, apparently Sir Minnes is still alive, that is, as of 8/22/1666. It occurred to me that it might be entertaining to follow the gentleman's progress or, given that he's dying, regression. (I don't know how lethal the ague was 433 years ago, but I'm not optimistic for his chances.) So that's exactly what I'll do here, updating this post whenever Pepys makes a new reference to him.
8/22/1666: I perceive (Sir W. Pen) do look after Sir J. Minnes’s place if he dies, and though I love him not nor do desire to have him in, yet I do think [he] is the first man in England for it.
8/26/1666: Being come home, hear that Sir J. Minnes has had a very bad fit all this day, and a hickup do take him, which is a very bad sign, which troubles me truly.
(Almost two weeks have now passed with no further mention of Sir Minnes. But Pepys could hardly be faulted for neglect, as something came up in the meantime that deserved his full attention, namely the Great Fire of London. Check out Pepys' firsthand account of the fire here, starting with his entry of 9/2/1666. Great reading - though my hopes for the already-infirm Sir Minnes, in the midst of this devastation, have dwindled to almost nothing.)
9/17/1666: Thence by coach over the ruines, down Fleete Streete and Cheapside to Broad Streete to Sir G. Carteret, where Sir W. Batten (and Sir J. Minnes, whom I had not seen a long time before, being his first coming abroad) and Lord Bruncker passing his accounts.
9/25/1666: Thence took my wife home to dinner, and then to the office, where Mr. Hater all the day putting in order and entering in a book all the measures that this account of the Navy hath been made up by, and late at night to Mrs. Turner’s, where she had got my wife and Lady Pen and Pegg, and supped, and after, supper and the rest of the company by design gone, Mrs. Turner and her husband did lay their case to me about their lodgings, Sir J. Minnes being now gone wholly to his owne, and now, they being empty, they doubt Sir T. Harvy or Lord Bruncker may look after the lodgings.
(Not sure what to make of this: is Sir Minnes dead or not? What exactly does "gone to his owne" mean? Had he written "gone to his Maker", the meaning would have been obvious. A little help here?)
9/26/1666: Up, and with Sir J. Minnes to St. James’s, where every body going to the House, I away by coach to White Hall...
(Well, apparently Sir Minnes is still alive and well. Although Pepys' mentions of him are limited, Minnes seems to be getting around. Is it possible he kicked the ague?)
9/27/1666: Thence I by coach home to the office, and there intending a meeting, but nobody being there but myself and Sir J. Minnes, who is worse than nothing, I did not answer any body, but kept to my business in the office till night...
("Worse than nothing" sounds like a slam, so Pepys' apparent transition from pity for Minnes to scorn makes me think even more that the latter has fully recovered. I don't even know who Sir Minnes is - I haven't looked for any biographical information, lest I spoil the suspense over his fate - but he appears to be a work colleague of Pepys, so from now on there might be regular and very ordinary references to him. I'm starting to wonder if I should even continue this project - if Sir Minnes lived to a ripe old age and died an ordinary death there may not be much more of interest on the subject.)
10/3/1666: Sir W. Batten, Lord Bruncker, [Sir] W. Pen, come in, but presently went out; and [Sir] J. Minnes come in, and said two or three words from the purpose, but to do hurt; and so away he went also, and left me all the morning with them alone to stand or fall.
(Another mildly negative mention, but this doesn't seem to be going anywhere any longer. Unless Sir Minnes suddenly takes ill again, or escalates into an all-out blood feud with Pepys, I will probably stop following this thread.)
10/6/1666: So he gone I by water to Westminster Hall and thence to St. James’s, and there found [Sir] W. Coventry waiting for me, and I did give him a good account to his mind of the business he expected about extraordinaries and then fell to other talke, among others, our sad condition contracted by want of a Comptroller (footnote: "As Sir John Minnes performed the duties inefficiently, it was considered necessary to take the office from him."); and it was his words, that he believes, besides all the shame and trouble he hath brought on the office, the King had better have given 100,000l. than ever have had him there.
(Oh, great - not only is Minnes apparently healthy again, but now he's been relieved of his Comptroller duties. Which makes me think Pepys will now have little reason to mention him very much.)
10/7/1666: Little Michell and his wife come to dine with us, which they did, and then presently after dinner I with Sir J. Minnes to White Hall, where met by Sir W. Batten and Lord Bruncker, to attend the King and Duke of York at the Cabinet; but nobody had determined what to speak of, but only in general to ask for money...Sir J. Minnes and I home (it raining) by coach, calling only on Sir G. Carteret at his lodging...
(So Minnes is still in the official picture, and he's getting along well enough with Pepys to travel together to White Hall and back. This entry also has an interesting passage on Pepys giving the King and his advisers a rather frank assessment of the condition of the naval fleet, and offending some of his audience in the process. Pepys seems to regret his frankness, and frets a bit over what it might mean to his career.)
10/13/1666: But he (Sir W. Coventry) thinks it not a fit time to be found making of trouble among ourselves, meaning about Sir J. Minnes, who most certainly must be removed, or made a Commissioner, and somebody else Comptroller.
(So I guess Sir Minnes is still Comptroller after all, so I guess I'll continue on. After reading this, I wonder if the Commissioner role was where the politically well-connected but managerially-incompetent hacks were stashed.)

October 14, 2009 in Books | Permalink


I'm really enjoying keeping track of poor Sir Minnes through your attention to his plight. Here's hoping he continues his seeming climb to health!

Posted by: Levi Stahl at Oct 4, 2009 2:23:12 PM

Thanks, Levi, but as I've mentioned, I strongly suspect he's returned to full health and will soon become of minimal interest to me and other modern-day readers.

Posted by: Pete at Oct 6, 2009 1:52:00 PM