By James William Johnson
Of the glittering, licentious court docket round King Charles II, John Wilmot the second one Earl of Rochester was once the main infamous. concurrently favourite and vilified, he personified the rake-hell. Libertine, profane, promiscuous, he surprised his pious contemporaries along with his doubts approximately faith and his blunt verses that handled intercourse or vicious satiric attacks at the excessive and powerful of the courtroom. This account of Rochester and his occasions presents the evidence in the back of his mythical acceptance as a rake and his deathbed repentance. besides the fact that, it additionally demonstrates that he used to be a loving if untrue husband, a loyal father, a faithful pal, a significant student, a social critic, and an aspiring patriot.
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Extra resources for A Profane Wit : The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
There can be no doubt that Robert Whitehall contributed substantially to the debauching of John Wilmot. Anthony Wood, whose cynical gaze took in all aspects of life at Oxford, said flatly that the older man “absolutely doted” on the youth. 20 Growing awareness of pederastic activity led eventually to a report by Dudley Ryder (1762–1847) that “among the chief men in some of the colleges sodomy is very usual. ” A major scandal in the early eighteenth century caused Wadham, Rochester’s own college, to be dubbed “Sodom,” which wags call it to this day.
When he left Burford at the age of twelve or so, he took with him strictures and fears built into his mind by his schooling. This conversation with Burnet, in his last year of life, showed that John Wilmot never shook off some religious principles and their attendant emotions which, like his love of the Latin language, stuck with him until his dying day. qxd 9/20/04 1:18 PM Page 28 3 GROWING DEBAUCHED AT OXFORD (1660–1661) When my Lord came to Oxford he soon grew debauched. . ––Thomas Hearne, Collections There he first suck’d from the breasts of his Mother the University those perfections of Wit, and Eloquence, and Poetry, which afterwards by his own corrupt stomach, or ill juices after, were turn’d into poison to himself or others.
And now I am certain I shall conjure up a thousand conjectures as well as Interrogatories in your minds about it. . May be he is overwhelmed in Love he dares not reveal and was minded to obviate & remove all suspicion by palliating it with a contrary guise. . 22 Given young Rochester’s known good looks and his sleeping arrangements with Francis Giffard, it is small wonder that he should become the object of Robert Whitehall’s doting or that he would accept such attentions as natural. It is quite possible that Rochester became actively homosexual during his time at Oxford.