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The Earl of Rochester

martes, 27 de octubre de 2015

The Earl of Rochester

From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble:

Rochester, John Wilmot, second earl of (1647-80), lyric poet, satirist, and a leading member of the group of 'court wits' surrounding Charles II. He was born at Ditchley in Oxfordshire, his father was a Cavalier hero and his mother a deeply religious woman related to many prominent Puritans. In his early teens he was sent to Wadham College, Oxford, the home of the *Royal Society, and then went on a European tour, returning to the court late in 1664. At the age of 18 he romantically abducted the sought-after heiress Elizabeth Malet in a coach-and-six. Despite the resistance of her family, and after a delay of 18 months (during which Rochester fought with conspicuous gallantry in the war against the Dutch), she married him. Subsequently his time was divided between periods of domesticity with Elizabeth at his mother's home in the country (the couple had four children), and fashionable life in London with, among several mistresses, the brilliant actress Elizabeth *Barry, and his riotous male friends, who included the earl of Dorset (C. *Sackville) and the duke of *Buckingham. Wherever he was staying he tried to keep up the other side of his life through letters, many of which survive.rochester

Although Dr. *Johnson dismissed Rochester's lyrics, their wit and emotional complexity give him some claim to be considered one of the last important *Metaphysical poets of the 17th cent., and he was one of the first of the *Augustans, with his social and literary verse satires. He wrote scurrilous lampoons—some of them impromptu—dramatic prologues and epilogues, 'imitations' and translations of classical authors, and several other brilliant poems which are hard to categorize, such as his tough self-dramatization 'The Maimed Debauchee' and the grimly funny 'Upon Nothing'. He wrote more frankly about sex than anyone in English before the 20th cent., and is one of the most witty poets in the language. Although his output was small (he died young), it was very varied. *Marvell admired him, *Dryden, *Swift, and *Pope were all influenced by him (he was Dryden's patron for a time), and he has made an impression on many subsequent poets—*Goethe and *Tennyson, for example, and in modern Britain, *Empson and P. *Porter.

Rochester is famous for having, in Johnson's words, 'blazed out his youth and health in lavish voluptuousness'. He became very ill in his early thirties and engaged in discussions and correspondence with a number of theologians, particularly the deist Charles Blount and the rising Anglican churchman G. *Burnet, an outspoken royal chaplain who superintended and subsequently wrote up the poet's deathbed conversion. It was the final contradiction in a personality whose many oppositions—often elegantly or comically half-concealed—produced and important body of poems. See Complete Poems, ed. D. M. Vieth (1968); Poems, ed. K. Walker (1984); Letters, ed. J. Treglown (1980). There is a life by V. de Sola Pinto (1953, 2nd ed. 1964); see also Lord Rochester's Monkey (1974) by G. *Greene.


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