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. at the same time fashionable and vilified, he personified the rake-hell. Libertine, profane, promiscuous, he stunned his pious contemporaries together with his doubts approximately faith and his blunt verses that handled intercourse or vicious satiric attacks at the excessive and amazing of the court docket. This account of Rochester and his occasions offers the evidence at the back of his mythical recognition as a rake and his deathbed repentance. in spite of the fact that, it additionally demonstrates that he used to be a loving if untrue husband, a faithful father, a faithful buddy, a significant student, a social critic, and an aspiring patriot.
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Additional info for A Profane Wit : The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Balfour’s interest in “herbalizing” and the role of plants in medicine stimulated John Wilmot’s own interest in such matters, begun possibly as the boy listened to his Aunt Joanna exchange “receipts” with old Aunt Isham back at Ditchley. Balfour may even have seen to it that Rochester enrolled in M. Barlet’s course in “chymie” at the College de Camray for three weeks (“ten Crowns for the Course, and two Crownes for his Book”). 9 The many libraries and booksellers in Paris helped Balfour begin his campaign to seduce his pupil back to books and reading.
But the deeds of darkness proved too enticing to resist. qxd 9/20/04 36 1:18 PM Page 36 A Profane Wit impulses toward moral anarchy and his unyielding self-judgment, fomented in his adolescence, would conjoin in strange ways in his adult compositions, as critics have pointed out. 30 If Rochester learned much from him that did no good, Robert Whitehall actually helped the young student as a classicist and poet. Whitehall knew Latin of the scholastic variety, and he used it with an easy, Goliardic familiarity.
35 Certainly, the concluding statement of ambition to inherit the Royalist legacy of Henry Wilmot genuinely expressed the hope of John Wilmot––and his mother. The following year (1661), two more poems appeared under Rochester’s name: the Latin “In Obitum Serenissimae Mariae Principis Arausionensis,” on the death by smallpox of Charles II’s sister, the Princess of Orange; and “To Her Sacred Majesty, the Queen Mother, on the Death of Mary Princess of Orange,” its English accompaniment. Anthony Wood later wrote: [T]hese three copies were made, as ’twas then well known, by Robert Whitehall a physician of Merton college, who pretended to instruct the count .