A Profane Wit : The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester by James William Johnson

By James William Johnson

Of the glittering, licentious courtroom round King Charles II, John Wilmot the second one Earl of Rochester was once the main infamous. concurrently well known and vilified, he personified the rake-hell. Libertine, profane, promiscuous, he surprised his pious contemporaries together with his doubts approximately faith and his blunt verses that handled intercourse or vicious satiric attacks at the excessive and robust of the court docket. This account of Rochester and his occasions offers the proof in the back of his mythical popularity as a rake and his deathbed repentance. notwithstanding, it additionally demonstrates that he was once a loving if untrue husband, a loyal father, a devoted pal, a major pupil, a social critic, and an aspiring patriot.

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The Latin lines display an awareness of syntactic balance and contrast of the sort characteristic of later neo-classical English verse: Evadat forsan femina, Diva nequat. ) And the concluding couplet evokes a Platonic contrast between the transient beauty of the body and the complete, formal beauty (tota venustas) of the mind. 38 Of the three poems that could have been influenced by Whitehall, “To Her Sacred Majesty, the Queen Mother” is most like Whitehall’s own compositions. Its forty-eight lines display the verbal padding, irregular meters, and awkward syntax typical of Whitehall.

Left on his own, sharing the excitement of the day, John Wilmot fell under the tutelage of Robert Whitehall, a man not at all like Mr. Giffard and certainly not the kind of governor the countess would have chosen for her son. Like Anthony Wood, John Fell, and Robert South, Robert Whitehall was a constant fixture at Oxford. Before entering Christ Church as a student in 1643, Whitehall had been a pupil of Dr. Busby’s at Westminster. In 1648, when the Parliamentary Visitors asked him about his political sympathies, as a Royalist he committed a foolhardy act that Wood reported as follows: “My name’s Whitehall, God bless the poet, “If I submit the king shall know it: quoth Robert Whitehall to the Visitors, anno 1648.

In addition to unrecorded deaths of relatives, stillbirths, and infant deaths, four of his close male relatives died before he reached the age of twelve, including two half-brothers and, most importantly, his father. By the time he was twenty, Rochester was the only surviving male heir of his generation of Wilmots and Lees. His uncertainties and ambivalences about sexuality and money were caught up in his apprehensions about death. Death so filled his mind that, as Dr. ” These morbid obsessions lay in the future, however.

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