A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

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University Rochester Press, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 467 pages
3 Reviews
Johnson wrote this generous biography - a veritable progress of a rake's rake - with enthusiasm and engaged fascination with Rochester (1647-1680)...Johnson's forte, in addition to the extensiveness of his information, is his strong narrative sweep: this is an exciting biography. Highly Recommended. CHOICE Of the glittering, licentious court around King Charles II, John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, was the most notorious. Simultaneously admired and vilified, he personified the rake-hell. Libertine, profane, promiscuous, he shocked his pious contemporaries with his doubts about religion and his blunt verses that dealt with sex or vicious satiric assaults on the high and mighty of the court. This account of Rochester and his times provides the facts behind his legendary reputation as a rake and his deathbed repentance. However, it also demonstrates that he was a loving if unfaithful husband, a devoted father, a loyal friend, a serious scholar, a social critic, and an aspiring patriot. An Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Rochester, James William Johnson is the author or editor of nine books and many articles treating British and American Literature.
  

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Review: A Profane Wit : The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Johnson has done a fine job of collecting obscure facts and references, but as a long-time scholar focusing on Lord and Lady
Rochester, I cannot credit many of the explanations provided in this book. Repeatedly I thought, 'No, that's not true' or 'That can't be right.' For instance, in one case Johnson infers that Lady Rochester had a miscarriage early in her marriage. What? I thought. That can't be. No other source had mentioned that. Then, scanning Treglown's edition of Rochester's letters, I saw that the earl was teasing his wife and saying he hoped all 'miscarriages' would be her maid's from now on. Treglown interpreted 'miscarriage' to be 'mistake,' as in 'miscarriage of justice,' a likelier inference. This is only one example of the many misinterpretations and mistaken assumptions that I have found in the book. Where, fror instance, is the proof that his future wife Betty spurned his advances until he quit drinking? It seems that Johnson's method is to take a stated fact or reference in a letter and make conjectures that are wide off the mark, sometimes joining 2 references that seem not to belong together; i.e., if the earl writes about his wife's sickness, he must be referring to the 'miscarriage.' At one point, writing about the dowager Countess, Rochester's mother, Johnson says she was made Groom of the Stole to the Duchess of York in 1667. No, that was Rochester's wife. His mother never hung about the court. Pinto, Greene, Wilson, and Treglown have much more credible insights and understand Lord and Lady Rochester with empathetic intuition. As someone who is writing 2 novels about Lord and Lady Rochester (the first, about their courtship, already accepted for publication), I will turn to this book for possible facts and timelines, but not for any conjectures. I combine many methods of research, for along with my Ph.D. in Restoration literature, I am using meditation and hypnosis to access the past and the akashic records.--Dr. Bunny Paine-Clemes 

Review: A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

User Review  - Leah Hepner - Goodreads

The narrative and the facts are excellent, but a psychosexual approach is so antiquated that some of the insights are ridiculous Read full review

Contents

The Rochester Legends
1
A Christian Upbringing 16471655
6
A Classical Education 16561659
21
Growing Debauched at Oxford 16601661
28
The Grand Tour 1662 1664
40
Campaigns and Engagements 1665
55
Pursuits and Conquests 1666
76
Mans Estate 1667
90
Flights and Disguises MayDecember 1676
245
Sessions Poetical and Political 1677
262
Scurvy Alarums 1678
281
Extremity on All Sides 16781679
295
An End of Communion 16791680
312
Sapience Angelical MayJuly 1680
327
Afterwards
344
Genealogical Charts
353

The Kings Pimp 16681669
103
Love Raised to Extremes 16691670
119
The Quintessence of Debauchery 1671
136
Sallies in the Country 16711672
151
Sodom 1673
164
New Scenes of Foppery JanuaryTune 1674
182
Dog Days and Masques JulyDecember 1674
199
Reversals and Recognitions 1675
212
Livy and Sickness JanuaryApril 1676
227
A LeeSt John
354
B Wilmot
355
Bertie
356
Stuart
357
Notes
359
Bibliography
428
Index of Proper Names
445
Subject Index for John Wilmot
460
Copyright

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