A page devoted to John Wilmot,
the Earl of Rochester
(1647-1680)



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In order to make these pages quicker and easier to load, they will be been broken into smaller, more easily digested segments. Here are links to make movement in the Rochester pages somewhat easier. I hope that they are of some use and/or interest.

[Introduction] | [Editions and Bibliography] | [Verse and Prose Works]

[Rochester Links and other Information] | [Escape]

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I shall be attempting to improve the nature of these pages from time to time. If you should have any suggestions, comments, or notice something glaring that I have missed, then please feel free to drop me a line at this address.



Introduction (a quick sketch: wait, it's going to be a bit more accurate...)

I have remarked the dearth of pages devoted to worthwhile subjects in this so-called 'world-wide web' of information and naughty pictures, particularly those subjects which interest me (which, by the bye, must therefore be considered 'worthwhile', quod erat demonstrandum). As a response to this callow and, dare I say, lewd behaviour, I have sought to provide users of this thusly named contrivance of computerised spiders to provide the following information.

John Wilmot, the notorious Earl of Rochester, lived between 1647 and 1680. In those short 33 years, he acquired a reputation in the court of the newly reinstated king Charles II as a poet and dramatist, and also as an incourigible brawler and rake. Born as the trauma of the English Civil War was winding down to a Commonwealth conclusion, he took quickly to the education of a gentleman, in the classics and in, by some contradiction, courtly behaviour. The Restoration of 1660 brought a tremendous change to England, one which would colour his behaviour for some years to come. Rochester's short life was rife with scandal and remorse, with acts of heroic bravery and of cowardice. He is implicated rather convincingly in an assault upon the poet Dryden, after some minor disagreement. His crimes were often pardoned by the King, although he did not always escape punishment for his misdeeds. On the whole, he is a fascinating character in the history of seventeenth century England, and one deserving of greater study.

A posthumous edition of his collected works was published in 1680 to some small scandal. Attributed to him are a number of letters, several hundred poems, and fragments of several plays, some of which may be spurious. These are collected in various editions, some of which, in an example of much-vaunted 'donnish' humour, were shelved by members of the Bodleian Library in the closed stacks under the Greek letter 'phi'. In the twentieth century there have been several editions of Rochester, although they have often been expunged or severely edited. Recent editions have been much more liberal in their reproduction of those texts that survive. Additionally, a biography of Rochester by the noted author Graham Greene, and recent critical editions of his work have led authors and other non-scholars to a new recognition and appreciation of his work, one of the most conspicuous of these being the subtle part played by Rochester's work in Colin Dexter's novel Last Bus to Woodstock and its subsequent adaptation for British television by ITV, which featured a lecture on Rochester by a character in the story.

The attraction of Rochester's work is twofold: first, there is the stark contrast between his writing, which, given his position in court and among the nobility, must represent a fairly accurate and real depiction of the way in which people might actually have spoken, full of the vulgarities of the age, of ages hence and since. Rochester's writing expresses the darker side of the age of Dryden and others. More importantly, though, is the fact of the tragedy of Rochester's own life. His early death, the anger, lust and fervour of his work makes him a figure worthy of interest and study.

The following page includes links to some of Rochester's work, links to other pages devoted to Rochester, as well as a bibliogrpahy of editions currently or recently in print. It will be ammended as more information becomes available.

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Editions and Bibliography and Things that I thought should be listed here

 

  • The Complete Poems of John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. Edited by David C. Veith. Harvard University Press: , 1968.
  • The Complete Works of the Earl of Rochester. Edited by Frank H. Ellis. Penguin Books, Ltd.: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1993.
  • The Earl of Rochester: Complete Letters. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1982.
  • Lord Rochester's Monkey. Graham Greene. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1988.
  • Dexter, Colin. Last Bus to Woodstock.. St. Martin's Press: New York, 1978.
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    Verse and Prose Selections

    A note on the verse and prose: it is my supposition here that all of Rochester's work falls very much in the public domain. However, to avoid inspiring the wrath of any particular entities (and in the interests of fairness), I have cited the particular edition or source from which these various poems come. No infringement of rights or privileges is intended.

    Against Constancy

    Tell me no more of constancy,
    The frivolous pretense
    Of old age, narrow jealousy,
    Disease, and want of sense.

    Let duller fools on whom kind chance
    Some easy heart has thrown,
    Despairing higher to advance,
    Be kind to one alone.

    Old men and weak, whose idle flame,
    Their own defects discovers,
    Since changing can but spread their shame,
    Ought to be constant lovers,

    But we, whose hearts do justly swell
    With no vainglorious pride,
    Who know how we in love excel,
    Long to be often tried.

    Then bring my bath and strew my bed,
    As each kind night returns:
    I'll change a mistress till I'm dead,
    And fate change me for worms.

    (Rochester, The Complete Works, Ellis, ed.)

     
    Constancy

    I cannot change as others do,
    though you unjustly scorn;
    Since that poor swain that sighs for you
    For you alone was born.
    No, Phillis, no; your heart to move
    A surer way I'll try;
    And, to revenge my slighted love,
    Will still love on and die.

    When kill'd with grief Amyntas lies,
    And you to mind shall call
    The sighs that now unpitied rise,
    The tears that vainly fall --
    That welcome hour, that ends this smart,
    Will then begin your pain;
    For such a faithful tender heart
    Can never break in vain.

    (The Oxford Book of English Verse, Q.)


    God Bless Our Good and Gracious King

    God bless our good and gracious kind,
    Whose promise none relies on,
    Who never said a foolish thing,
    Nor ever did a wise one.



    (Rochester, The Complete Works, Ellis, ed.)

     

    The Imperfect Enjoyment

    (coming soon, pun or no pun)

    Return

    Absent from thee, I languish still;
    Then ask me not, When I return?
    The straying fool 'twill plainly kill
    To wish all day, all night to mourn.

    Dear, from thine arms then let me fly,
    That my fantastic mind may prove
    The torments it deserves to try,
    That tear my fix'd heart from my love.

    When, wearied with a world of woe,
    To they safe bosom I retire,
    Where love, and peace, and truth does flow,
    May I contented there expire!

    Lest, once more wandering from that heaven,
    I fall on some base heart unblest;
    Faitless to thee, false, unforgiven -
    And lose my everlasting rest.

    (The Oxford Book of English Verse, Q.)



    Song

    Love a woman? You're an ass.
    'Tis a most insipid passion
    To choose out for your happiness
    The idlest part of God's creation.

    Let the porter and the groom,
    Things designed for dirty slaves,
    Drudge in fair Aurelia's womb
    To get supplies for age and graves.

    Farewell, woman! I intend
    Henceforth every night to sit
    With my lewd, well-natured friend,
    Drinking to engender wit.

    Then give me health, wealth, mirth, and wine,
    And if busy Love intrenches,
    There's a sweet, soft page of mine
    Does the trick worth forth wenches.

    (Rochester, The Complete Works, Ellis, ed.)



    Upon his Drinking a Bowl

    Vulcan, contrive me such a cup
    As Nestor used of old;
    Show all thy skill to trim it up,
    Damask it round with gold.

    Make it so large that, filled with sack
    Up to the swelling brim,
    Vast toasts on the delicious lake
    Like ships at sea may swim.

    Engrave not battle on its cheek:
    With war I've nought to do;
    I'm none of those that took Maastricht,
    Nor Yarmouth leaguer knew.

    Let it no name of planets tell,
    Fixed stars, or constellations;
    For I am no Sir Sidrophel,
    Nor none of his relations.

    But carve theron a spreading vine,
    Then add two lovely boys;
    Their limbs in amorous folds intwine,
    The type of future joys.

    Cupid and Bacchus my saints are,
    May drink and love still reign,
    With wine I wash away my cares,
    And then to cunt again.

    (Rochester, The Complete Works, Ellis, ed.)

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    Rochester Links

    Not surprisingly, with the comparative febrility of education in the United States (and, I fear, the United Kingdom) in the past twenty years, fewer people are acquainted with the works of John Wilmot. This seems ironic, because his work is exactly the sort of thing that English teachers have been looking for in order to inspire the interest of youngsters with spots and over-active libidinous tendencies. What better way to become conversant with the manners and morés of the 17th century could there be? (well, several, perhaps...) It is for this reason, tho', that the links are surprisingly few and far between. Here they are, then, in all their glory:

    The Links

    A page in England...
    (maintained by the very civil Mark Ynys-Môn, who has done a much better
    page than I have...)

    More to come when I get 'round to finding them...

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    This page last updated 15 july 1999.
    Comments and questions: to William Nedblake.